In this French Wikipedia article on the pronunciation of Occitan, semi-nasalization of the preceding vowel is mentioned. For example, from the table of consonants:

-n final
muet en général ([n] dans certains mots)
auvergnat, limousin : muet en général ([ⁿ] dans certains mots : semi-nasalisation de la voyelle précédente)
provençal, niçois, vivaro-alpin : [ⁿ] (semi-nasalisation de la voyelle précédente)


-n final
silent in general ([n] in certain words)
auvergnat, limousin : silent in general ([ⁿ] in certain words : semi-nasalization of the preceding vowel)
provençal, niçois, vivaro-alpin : [ⁿ] (semi-nasalization of the preceding vowel)

What exactly is meant by semi-nasalization in this context, for example compared to the nasal vowels of French? And is [ⁿ] a standard IPA symbol for this concept? Looking it up on Wikipedia, I see the symbol is used for a "nasal release" which appears to be a different concept.

  • 4
    I don't think nasalisation can be an all-or-nothing thing because the velum has a range of positions. This from Wikipedia: "A few languages, such as Palantla Chinantec, contrast lightly nasalized and heavily nasalized vowels. They may be contrasted in print by doubling the IPA diacritic for nasalization: ⟨ẽ⟩ vs ⟨ẽ̃⟩. Bickford & Floyd (2006) combine the tilde with the ogonek: ⟨ẽ⟩ vs ⟨ę̃⟩. (The ogonek is sometimes used in an otherwise IPA transcription to avoid conflict with tone diacritics above the vowels.)" – rchivers Apr 17 '20 at 10:42
  • @rchivers I agree, but that notation only works if the language has two levels of nasalization. As far as I can tell, Occitan only has one level which is apparently less than full nasalization. So using the normal tilde would be misleading, and using two tildes would imply a stronger nasalization, not a weaker one, no? – S. T. Veje Apr 17 '20 at 11:31
  • Yes - I had taken it from the quote that there is no standard way of notating weak nasalization, but it looks from the answer below as though you can just put it in brackets. Otherwise, maybe your could repurpose the diacritic in ă as a half-tilde - I don't know whether it is already used in the IPA system. – rchivers Apr 17 '20 at 13:32

Standard IPA certainly would use a tilde over the vowel instead. But use of superscript "n" for nasalisation is often seen, e.g. in the most common systematic romanisation of Xiamen and Taiwanese Hokkien Chinese, pe̍h-ōe-jī.

What semi-nasalisation means in this case has to be put into context with "full" nasalisation in standard French pronunciation. Diachronically, loss of final /n/ from Vulgar Latin / Old French has led not only to phonetic nasalisation of the vowel, but also to the deletion of the final nasal stop. For example, the French pronoun on has no consonant at all when pronounced in the standard way /ɔ̃/.

Synchronically though, in environments that cause liaison, the vowel is completely denasalised. This includes restoration of the nasal stop consonant, and in northern metropolitan French, a slight shift in the vowel back to its cardinal point, viz: on a [ɔ.na].

What is interesting about Occitan is that it has "both": a nasalised vowel can be followed by a nasal stop consonant, which in isolation is typically the velar one: hence [kɑ̃ŋ] for quand (cognate across both French and Occitan). Having both can result in the sounds being perceived as "semi-nasalised" by French speakers; that is certainly what many hear in the accent méridional of French.

However, there is plenty of variation within Occitan, and actually the concept of a nasal release or off-glide is actually attested in Provence, hence "to split" can be pronounced as [reˈfẽⁿdre] as well as a completely deleted nasal consonant [reˈfẽdre]. Note how this is closer to the canonical use of this IPA notation in e.g. Lingala nzámbe [ˈⁿza˥.ᵐbe˩].

  • Ah, so if I understand you correctly, what semi-nasalized means here is not "the vowel is less than fully nasalized" but "the vowel is nasalized without dropping the consonant entirely"? – S. T. Veje Apr 17 '20 at 16:34
  • @S.T.Veje Yes, more or less. Of course, that doesn't stop the vowel from being phonetically nasalised to a lower extent. – Michaelyus Apr 17 '20 at 19:35

As I understand your excerpt, they are talking about nasalization.

Nasalization is transcribed with this symbol (upper tilde): ẽ.

You can add parenthesis to indicate that it is a partially nasalized vowel: ⁽ẽ⁾ (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extensions_to_the_International_Phonetic_Alphabet)

  • So [ⁿ] is not a common or standard notation, then? – S. T. Veje Apr 17 '20 at 11:32
  • It never has been a standard notation for nasalisation. – amegnunsen Apr 18 '20 at 11:17

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