I'd like to know if there's anything about /patitʰin/ that suggests itself as a reason why it might sometimes be pronounced [patikʰin]. I don't know what other words to look at to see if there's a pattern, so I need some sort of working hypothesis.


The language is Thai and the word is ปฏิทิน, which breaks down as ปฏิ + ทิน /pati + tʰin/ and means calendar. I didn’t give this information in my original question because I wanted to know how I should go about exploring what I’d noticed for myself (I’d come across a native speaker who pronounced this word [patikʰin] most but not all of the time) - I didn’t want to be told what rule of Thai phonetics would generate this pronunciation. I’m now updating the question in light of the comment from user6726, who took the time to give me some valuable guidance.

  • 3
    What language?? What word?? – curiousdannii Apr 9 '20 at 11:27
  • I think it's better not to say for the time being - I mean looking at those phonemes, is there an obvious trigger for the change in place of articulation? – rchivers Apr 9 '20 at 11:40
  • 1
    Any rules would be language specific. – curiousdannii Apr 9 '20 at 11:41
  • Yes of course. That doesn't mean they're arbitrary though - e.g. some changes anticipate the place of articulation of the next phoneme and some are holdovers from the last phoneme. What puzzles me about this particular case is that all the consonants are alveolar and the vowel is front, but the subject consonant moves backwards - I want to ask about that in principle so that I can figure out whether there is a rule at work. I don't expect that rule to apply to other languages. – rchivers Apr 9 '20 at 11:55

It's not clear whether you're asking about the synchronic phonological analysis or the historical source of the alternation. I would first try to understand what the synchronic pattern is, and then look into the diachronic cause. On that first point, this is basically a standard pattern of phonological analysis, so the usual questions arise. Why do you claim that the underlying form is /patitʰin/ when it is pronounced [patikʰin]? Maybe there are alternations like [patikʰin ~ patitʰan] where -in, -an are suffixes. Why do you assume /patitʰ/ and not /patikʰ/? Maybe there are roots with non-alternating final /kʰ/ but no roots with non-alternating final /tʰ/. Does the sound have to be aspirated, or are there parallel alternations for /t,d,s,z,n,l,r/? Why doesn't /t/ in the second syllable change? Maybe because it only happens in the last syllable of a word. Does it happen with any other affixes or just one? And so on. On other words, there are lots of facts about such an alternation that we would have to know in order to be able to say what the rule is.

Suppose that you have answers to enough of these synchronic questions and your interest is, what was the historical change involved. This is harder to answer, because not only do you have to do a synchronic analysis of this language, you have to do a similar analysis of related languages. This is remniscent of Carpathian Ukrainian dialects, where palatalized /t,d/ become [c,ɟ]. You might find that, if the apparent trigger is /i/, that vowel triggered palatalization and there was a change /tʲ/ → [c]. The connection to aspiration is that aspirated consonants have a noisy release, and vowels have their strongest anticipatory effect on noisy releases, so aspirates are more likely to be affected by the following vowel.

The change from to c is a compression of the reverse of the to change. The acoustics of and c are quite similar, so people hearing (intended) could analyze what they hear as c, which is virtually the same as . Of course, if you do not have any information on earlier stages of the language or on related languages, you can't test the specific historical scenario were convincingly.

I would start the analysis by getting a firm understanding of what the contemporary facts are, and then try to discover the causal mechanisms behind those facts.

  • Many thanks. It's the synchronic pattern I'm interested in but you've given me the steer I was looking for in terms of where to look next. – rchivers Apr 9 '20 at 16:16
  • 1
    At some point I hope you update this with the name of the language. – user6726 Apr 9 '20 at 17:57
  • OK, done 654321 – rchivers Apr 10 '20 at 10:29

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.