The temporal coordination of articulator movements: Are coarticulation and assimilation really synonymous?

Sidney A J Wood

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceedingpeer-review


The transition model (i) of classical phonetics distinguished between inevitable transitions between momentary target configurations (called coarticulation by Menzerath and Lacerda in 1933) and assimilation extending over a larger domain than a transition, implying reorganization of the input. By the 1950s it was clear that coarticulation extended beyond target configurations and involved more than two phonemes, and sub-cortical tug-of-war models (ii) came to be preferred, based on competition between phonemes for muscles and articulator movement [e.g., Öhman, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 39, 151–168 (1966)] and seeing coarticulation and assimilation as synonymous. Finally (iii) gesture queuing models [e.g., Kozhevnikov and Chistovich, Speech Articulation and Perception (1965)] delay gestures that are antagonistic to on-going activity, implying a cortical scanning procedure to survey on-coming input. Examples of articulator timing, analyzed from x-ray motion films of speech, are presented that favor (iii) rather than (ii). It is argued that much current controversy over coarticulation can be avoided if a cortical level of motor control and the distinction between coarticulation and assimilation were accepted again. The procedures and some data are presented in Wood [J. Phon. 19, 281–292 (1991)]. Poster presentation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
PublisherAcoustical Society of America
Publication statusPublished - 1994

Publication series

ISSN (Print)0001-4966

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


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