Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 11 : 4 April 2011
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.
         L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.



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Bilabial Assimilation in Urdu: An Acoustic Analysis

Zafeer Kiani, M.Phil. Student, Abdul Qadir Khan, Ph.D. Student and
Nadeem Haider Bukhari, Ph.D.


There is a difference in the pronunciation and orthographical representation of a word. There are certain phonological processes in languages which govern these variations. This paper gives a brief overview of bilabial assimilation that occurs in Urdu. This phonological process has been identified through an analysis of a set of data from Urdu. It is found that the acoustic properties of the nasal sound before bilabial plosive are more like those of /m/ in VCV context. It shows that Urdu speakers change the alveolar nasal /n/ with bilabial nasal /m/ whenever the alveolar is followed by any of the bilabial plosives, i.e. /p/ and /b/.

1. Introduction

More than 220 million people in the Sub-continent regard Urdu as their mother tongue. Urdu is actively used by 400 million people in India and Pakistan in their daily life at work and home. Outside the Subcontinent, large Urdu speaking communities are found in the United States of America, Unikted Kingdom, Mauritius, South Africa, Yemen, Uganda, Singapore, Nepal, New Zealand and Germany.

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and an official language of the State of Uttar Pradesh in India. It unites all people and all communities, whatever their mother tongue is. Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and one of the state languages of India and has more than 60 million first language speakers and more than 100 million total speakers in more than 20 countries (Gordon 2005).

By the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Urdu had developed into a highly stylized form written in a Persian-Arabic script. After 1947, Urdu became the national language of Pakistan, though Pakistan inherited no land where this language was a local language. Now in all major cities of Pakistan, people speak Urdu at home and at work.

There may exist some words that are not often pronounced the way they are supposed to be pronounced. This results in phonetic and phonemic transcriptional contrasts. The environment in which these changes take place can be studied and phonological rules can be developed to explain these changes.

When linguists record words as sequence of basic sounds in that language, the result is termed as phonemic transcription. This is distinguished from phonetic transcription, which goes beyond this to give more details of how it is pronounced (Fromkin, 2000: 489). The spelling system for Urdu is much more consistent than English. Since each letter of Urdu corresponds to one sound, representing each letter by its basic sound can roughly be called phonemic transcription.

There are a few exceptions though, such as in the case of /?/ sound produced by the combination of two letters. This orthographic type phonemic transcription can be used to develop phonological rules in Urdu, by studying how they vary in Phonetic transcription. (Wali, 2003).

The collective set of rules, defined for these languages, are stated next from Fromkin (p. 520-566), Napoli (Napoli, 1996) and Clark & Yallop (p. 99-104).

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Zafeer Kiani, M.Phil. Student
Department of English
University of AJK

Abdul Qadir Khan, Ph.D. Student
Department of English
University of AJK

Nadeem Haider Bukhari, Ph.D.
Department of English
University of AJK

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