Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 March 2016
This study explores the phenomenon of uvularization in the vowel systems of two Heishui County varieties of Qiang, a Sino-Tibetan language of Sichuan Province, China. Ultrasound imaging (one speaker) shows that uvularized vowels have two tongue gestures: a rearward gesture, followed by movement toward the place of articulation of the corresponding plain vowel. Time-aligned acoustic and articulatory data show how movement toward the uvula correlates with changes in the acoustic signal. Acoustic correlates of uvularization (taken from two speakers) are seen most consistently in raising of vowel F1, lowering of F2 and in raising of the difference F3-F2. Imaging data and the formant structure of [l] show that uvular approximation can begin during the initial consonant that precedes a uvularized vowel. Uvularization is reflected phonologically in the phonotactic properties of vowels, while vowel harmony aids in the identification of plain–uvularized vowel pairs. The data reported in this paper argue in favor of a revision of the catalog of secondary articulations recognized by the International Phonetic Alphabet, in order to include uvularization, which can be marked with the symbol [ʶ] in the case of approximation and [χ] for secondary uvular frication.