Debuccalization or deoralization[1] is a sound change or alternation in which an oral consonant loses its original place of articulation and moves it to the glottis ([h], [ɦ], or [ʔ]).[2] The pronunciation of a consonant as [h] is sometimes called aspiration, but in phonetics, aspiration is the burst of air accompanying a stop. The word comes from Latin bucca, meaning "cheek" or "mouth".

Debuccalization is usually seen as a subtype of lenition, which is often defined as a sound change involving the weakening of a consonant by progressive shifts in pronunciation. As with other forms of lenition, debuccalization may be synchronic or diachronic (i.e. it may involve alternations within a language depending on context or sound changes across time).

Debuccalization processes occur in many different types of environments such as the following:[3]

  • word-initially, as in Kannada
  • word-finally, as in Burmese
  • intervocalically, as in a number of English varieties (e.g. litter [ˈlɪʔə]), or in Tuscan (the house /la kasa/[la ˈhaːsa])
  1. ^ Trask, R. L. (1996), A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology, London and New York: Routledge, p. 106
  2. ^ O'Brien (2012:2)
  3. ^ O'Brien (2012:8–10)

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