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There is [d̚] in the official IPA chart, and it's very confusing for me. My native language is Korean, whose unreleased stops are either voiceless or nasal.

If a voiced stop is unreleased, that would make a closed oral cavity with vibrating vocal cord. That's exactly same as de-nasalized nasal. So [d̚] equals [n͊]. is this true?

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Phonetically, stop sounds ([t d n] etc) are distinguished by a complete closure of the vocal tract. Nasal sounds ([n]) allow air to escape through the nose; oral/non-nasal sounds ([t d]) do not.

The nasal/oral distinction is pretty easy to measure phonetically, so phoneticians are happy about that. But the voiced/voiceless distinction is a bit less obvious. The most popular measurement I've seen used is the voice onset time (VOT)—in other words, how much time is there between when the closure opens, and when the vocal cords start vibrating?

  • If the VOT is positive (the closure opens, there's a delay, then voicing starts), that's an aspirated stop
  • If the VOT is zero or very small (the closure opens and voicing starts at the same time), that's a tenuis or voiceless unaspirated stop
  • If the VOT is negative (voicing starts, there's a delay, then the closure opens), that's a voiced stop

So what does it mean for any of these to be unreleased? That means the closure doesn't open at all. So there's no way to have an "unreleased aspirated" stop. But you can have voicing happen during the closure, or not: this creates the distinction between unreleased voiced and unreleased tenuis stops. An unreleased voiced stop is indeed exactly the same as an unreleased "denasalized nasal"—the only difference between phonetic [d] and [n] is whether the nasal passage is open or not.

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  • How can voicing start with the airway completely closed (assuming no nasal escape)? Don't the vocal cords need some kind of airflow to be able to vibrate? Personally, I'd have guessed that an unreleased voiced stop would tend to mean the voicing doesn't stop until the closure happens, while in an unreleased voiceless stop it probably would (then voicing times vary a bit by language, anyway). – LjL Oct 12 '19 at 23:48
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    Which is possible until supraglottal pressure equals subglottal pressure. – user6726 Oct 12 '19 at 23:49
  • @user6726 you're right... I can actually produce voicing (short, but repeatedly) with my nose and mouth completely shut. I had tried a moment before your answer and "couldn't", but evidently things become easier once you actually think they may be possible ;-) – LjL Oct 12 '19 at 23:52

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