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The category of approximant sounds has been defined and redefined by leading phoneticians and recognized by the International Phonetic Association; nonetheless, within this class of sounds, semivowels, rhotic sonorants and other approximants such as  are not clearly differentiated. In a recently-published study, Martínez-Celdrán (2004) proposes a new definition which considers approximants as a category composed of several subclasses of sounds. In this paper, an acoustic analysis of the approximants  in Galician is presented. We will show that open and closed approximants, stops and fricatives present statistically significant differences both in duration and intensity, demonstrating the pertinence of the categorization postulated by Martínez-Celdrán.
The aim of this paper is to show that the approximant feature refers to a phonetic class which includes other subcategories of sounds, such as semi-vowels, rhotics, laterals and a subset of consonants. The consonants – due to the lack of articulatory precision – keep neither the obligatory closure for stops nor the aerodynamic characteristics required to produce a turbulent airstream, as is characteristic of fricatives. I am referring to these sounds as [[Voiced bilabial fricative] [Voiced dental fricative] [Voiced palatal fricative] [Voiced velar fricative]]. Moreover, I suggest a new definition of the approximant feature, which points out that the outflow of non-turbulent airstream is caused by either the opening of the organs or the lack of articulatory precision, or even both phenomena together.
Spanish is by far the most widely spoken Romance language, used by about 350 million people mainly in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. The language variety described below is formal Spanish spoken in Castile (Central Spain) by educated middle-aged speakers.
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