Are palatal consonants articulated by multiple tongue gestures (coronal and dorsal) or by a single gesture that brings the tongue into contact with the palate at several places of articulation? The lenition of palatal consonants (resulting in approximants) has been presented as evidence that palatals are simple, not complex: When reduced, they do not lose their coronal gesture and become dorsals; instead, they manifest reduced linguopalatal contact while retaining their anterior place of articulation. The frequently-reported deocclusivization of the Brazilian Portuguese (BP) palatal nasal may support this claim. However, the linguopalatal configuration of this sound has not been studied directly. Electropalatographic evidence from three speakers of BP (compared with data from three speakers of Peninsular Spanish) demonstrates that the palatal nasal is frequently realized as an approximant. There is no evidence of anterior occlusion in BP's post-palatal, lenited nasal. Under conditions of focus/hyperarticulation, there is no evidence of stronger/more anterior occlusion. We argue that the articulatory target of the BP palatal nasal is neither occluded nor anterior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-502
Number of pages26
JournalLanguage and speech
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Peninsular Spanish
  • electropalatography
  • nasals
  • palatals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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