While hearing something on the radio in Lisbon, I heard this phrase:

A lei diz que tu não podes... (The law says you can't...)

The word that interests me the most is the last one podes which is pronounced in rapid speech something like "pɔdʃ".

Could the last sound cluster "dʃ" be considered an affricate, or is there a requirement that the affricate be entirely voiced or devoiced?

  • I suspect that, unless there is a voiced/voiceless affricate pair in the language in question (like /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ in English), voicing is going to vary a lot because the affrication will allow much easier discrimination than an ordinary stop or fricative would, so when the voicing actually starts might not be crucial, starting the stop voiceless but with the fricative ending voiced. And there might not be much of a functional load, like /θ ~ ð/ in English. The functional load of that contrast is so low that it comes as a surpise to English speakers that there are two phonemes spelled TH. – jlawler Oct 26 '13 at 0:20
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    @jlawler, I think OP is talking about an affricate that starts out voiced and ends unvoiced. I think half-voiced affricates with the end voiced are quite common, since languages and their consonants tend to vary a lot with regards to voice onset time. – dainichi Oct 26 '13 at 5:05
  • I would argue, as a native speaker, that the unaspirated affricates of Mandarin, in fast speech, start voiced and end unvoiced sometimes. They definitely sound very different from usual unvoiced affricates found in other languages, which by the nature of affricates are usually strongly aspirated. – ithisa Oct 27 '13 at 2:38
  • If what @dainichi explanained is indeed what you're looking for, it's easy enough to create your own examples in English. If you're looking for "dʃ", you'll find it in "bad sheep", "good shape", "red shampoo", etc. In phonetics, (when building a TTS system, for example) we don't deal with words as units. Instead, each phoneme has a preceeding and succeeding context. And the context need not come from the same word. – prash Oct 27 '13 at 4:08
  • @prash, is the "dʃ" in e.g. "good shape" usually coarticulated? If not, maybe we're not talking about affricates at all? – dainichi Oct 28 '13 at 5:02

I think you might be conflating phonetic and phonemic voicing. If you are really talking about phonetic voicing, the answer is that it is quite common to find affricates that are only partially voiced. As @jlawler points out, the phoneme /dʒ/ in English is considered phonologically voiced, and it contrasts with /tʃ/. But phonetically, what is broadly transcribed as [dʒ] (as for the word judge) is often only partially voiced. In phrase-initial [dʒ] it is quite common for the stop closure to be completely unvoiced and for voicing to turn on at the beginning or partway through the fricative noise, and in phrase-final [dʒ] it is quite common for voicing to turn off before the fricative noise altogether or early on in the fricative noise. Even when the segment is in the middle of a phrase or word, flanked by vowels, it is not uncommon to see part of it devoiced. There are several cues to phonemic voicing in English, so even though there is the /tʃ/-/dʒ/ contrast in the phonology, there definitely is not a phonetic requirement that voicing continue throughout this phonologically voiced affricate. I haven't looked at spectrograms of Portuguese affricates, but I suspect that the same holds in that language. And, as @jlawler points out, in a language that doesn't have the phonological contrast that English has, there is likely to be even more flexibility phonetically. In fact, I would wager that languages with an absolute phonetic requirement that an affricate be fully (phonetically) voiced are rare.

Phonologically, if one believes in phonemes and features, each affricate is treated as a single unit and it either has the feature [+voice] or [-voice], so it doesn't make sense to talk about "partial voicing" of affricates in a phonological context. And in the Portuguese example, one wouldn't analyze the surface cluster in podes as a single phoneme, so it isn't a relevant example for phonological requirements on affricates.

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