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IPA mark ʲ
IPA number 421
IPA character description superscript minuscule j
Unicode U + 2B2
HTML (dec.) & # 690;
X-SAMPA ' or _t
Kirshenbaum <pzd>

Palatalization describes the positional change of a sound by lifting the back of the tongue towards the hard palate ( Latin palatum ). The sound in question is thus shifted further forward (e.g. from / k / to / tʃ /).

Palatalisation is in the IPA -Lautschrift with the sign [⁠ ʲ ⁠] below: [ P , T , S ], etc. In the Keltologie and in the Slavic a transcription is commonly with the consonants used trailing strokes: / g ' /, / d ′ /, / f ′ / etc. as opposed to / g /, / d /, / f / etc.

The term palatalization is used in both synchronic and diachronic linguistics .

Languages ​​with palatal phonemes

Tongue position of the Russian non-palatalized sounds [b] and [p]

The process of palatalization, ie in which the back of the tongue is brought closer to the hard palate to the primary articulation addition, refers in the phonetics as a secondary articulation . In German as well, as in the other languages ​​of the world, there is a positional palatalization of consonants. There is a difference between the / k / in Kuh and in Kiel . When pronouncing the / k / in the keel , the tongue moves towards the hard palate in anticipation of the / i /. However, in German there is no difference in meaning when the other sound is used (“incorrectly”). In some languages, however, this process has a distinctive function, that is, a function of differentiating meaning.

Palatalization in the Russian language

Tongue position of the Russian palatalized sounds [b '] and [p']

The palatalization of consonants has a phonematic function in the Russian language , Belarusian and Ukrainian . Almost all consonants in Russian are spoken in a hard or soft (palatalized) form. Both pronunciation variants of the respective consonant sounds differ in meaning, that is, the palatalization is "phonologized" here.

A Russian hard “r” ( Cyrillic p ) and a palatalized (soft) “r” are two different phonemes in the Russian language. For example, рад [ rat ] (“happy (to be)”) and ряд [ rʲat ] (“row”) differ in the different pronunciation of р .

Palatalization in the Goidelic languages

In the Goidelic languages , i.e. H. in Irish and Scottish Gaelic , but only partially in Manx , palatalized and non-palatalized consonants are always distinguished phonemically in every position . That is, there are fully phonemized double strings of consonants in these languages . The only exception in many dialects is the "h" , since a palatalization of the "h" is not possible due to its physiology as a puff. As a substitute, the sound / x '/ ( / ç / ) is used in the other dialects in order not to leave a space in the double system.

This feature of the Goidelic languages ​​was created in archaic Irish (before approx. 600 AD) during complex morphophonological processes through apocopes (omission of final syllables) and syncope (omission of internal syllables). In Manx , which died out in 1974 but was revived , palatality is only phonemic in a few cases .

It is noteworthy that the presence / absence of palatalization in a consonant has an effect not only lexically , but also grammatically - morphologically . For example, in the first nominal inflection class, the genitive and the plural are formed exclusively by palatalising the final : amhrán / aura: n / ("Lied", Nom. Sg.) And amhráin / aura: n '/ ("Liedes" or . "Songs", Gen. Sg. And Nom. Pl.).

However, the palatality of every single consonant of every word has to be distinguished. Consonant groups are always palatalized as a whole or spoken not palatalized. In the spelling in Irish and Scottish, this is almost always accompanied by “a”, “o” and / or “u” (not palatalized) or “e” and / or “i” (palatalized) on both sides of the Consonants / the consonant group identified. These letters are sometimes only inserted for this purpose and then not spoken. In the Manx this is not the case due to the English- based orthography .

What is remarkable is the role of palatality in poetry. In traditional Irish poetry , the words rhyme according to the consonant classes described in the treatises on poetry , some of which differ significantly from today's classification patterns. Palatalized and non-palatalized versions of a consonant, however, do not belong to a class and therefore cannot rhyme. So dhamh / ɣav / rhymes with gar / gar / (/ v / and / r / belonged to a class), but not with déanaimh / d'eːniv '/ .

Linguistic change in sound through palatalization

In a diachronic view it was found that the sounds of a language change in the course of development . One of the phonetically determined reasons that contribute to sound changes in a language is palatalization.

Palatalization processes in Old English

An example of this type of palatalization is Old English : the Greek kyriakos became Old English cirice ([ tʃɪrɪtʃɛ ]). Palatalization also explains the difference between English chin and German chin .

Palatalization is also present in the case of the difference between Old English dæg and German day , since as a result of the palatalization of the / -g / to / -g j / and later / -j / a lifting of the tongue against the palatum and the / a / sich changed to / æ /.

Palatalization processes in Slavonic

In Ur-Slavonic there are several bursts of palatalization, the effects of which became distinctive features of the Slavic languages ​​compared to the other Indo-European languages. In the palatalizations of the Ur-Slavonic, the velars / g /, / k / and / x / became / ʒ /, / tʃ / and / ʃ / or / z /, / ts / and / s /, which were replaced by previous or the following vowels in the front row were triggered. In addition to the velars, the j-effect also affected other consonants.

First palatalization

The first palatalization has a regressive direction of action, i.e. H. a vowel acts on a preceding velar. The triggers are the vowels in the front row. In addition to the above-mentioned velars, the consonant group sk developed further to šč (today expressed by the Russian grapheme щ ).


  • drug-ъ > new Russian drug : no palatalization, since ъ is not a vowel in the front row
  • drug-ьb-a > nut. družba : palatalization g> ž , triggered by ь

further examples in New Russian: bog vs. božij , pekar ' vs. pečka , ploskij vs. ploščad '

Second palatalization

The second palatalization also has a regressive direction of action. It is caused by the vowels ì and i , provided that from the Indo-European diphthongs ai or oi incurred.


  • kěna (< kaina )> nut. cena
  • na oblakěchъ > na oblacěchъ
  • na nogě > czech na noze

The second palatalization was reversed in the declension paradigm and in the imperative of Russian (cf. na oblakach , na noge ), but has been preserved in other Slavic languages.

Third palatalization

The third palatalization has a progressive direction of action, i. H. a vowel (in this case ь, i and ę) acts on a subsequent velar.


  • otьkъ > nut. otec

Fourth palatalization

The fourth palatalization is a special case of the second palatalization, but between the velar and the vowel there is the consonant v . It is thus a matter of remote assimilation and not, as with the other palatalizations, of contact assimilation.

There are only two examples for the 4th palatalization:

  • květy > nut. cvety (cf. Polish kwiat )
  • gvězda > nut. zvezda (cf. Czech hvězda )

j effect

In the so-called j-effect , a consonant is palatalized by a subsequent j . In addition to the velars, this also applies to other consonants. In today's Russian, the products of this phonetic process are e.g. B. visible in the forms of the 1st person singular of many verbs of the i-conjugation (example: platit ' vs. plaču ). In the labials, the j effect is followed by an l (example: ljubit ' vs. ljublju ). Such a so-called L-epenthetic is also available in the name of the Russian city of Yaroslavl ( Jaroslavjь > Jaroslavlь ), which is named after its founder, Yaroslav the Wise .


  • Rainer Eckert , Emilia Crome, Christa Fleckenstein: History of the Russian language. Verlag Enzyklopädie, Leipzig 1983.

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