Structure in mind, structure in vocal tract

  • Adamantios I. GafosEmail author
  • Jens Roeser
  • Stavroula Sotiropoulou
  • Philip Hoole
  • Chakir Zeroual


We update our understanding of the view that grammar regulates inter-segmental temporal coordination and present an extension of that view to a new domain: we argue that inter-segmental coordination is basic to prosody. It is the glue joining segments together differently in different languages (here, illustrated with examples from Arabic and Spanish) and orchestrates their unfolding in ways corresponding to constructs posited in theoretical analysis. The correspondence is one between organization in mind-brain and organization in vocal tract. Moreover, for both mind-brain and vocal tract, the organization is phonological and abstract. It is so because it holds over segments of various identities: in Arabic, the first segment in / Open image in new window / is not prosodified as part of the same unit as / Open image in new window / and this holds true also for / Open image in new window /, / Open image in new window / and so on, regardless of sonority. In contrast, in English or Spanish, a different organization holds. Crucially, uniformity in organization (same organization presiding over sequences with varying segmental makeup) does not imply uniqueness of phonetic exponents: prosodic organization is pleiotropic, simultaneously expressed by more than one phonetic exponent. Finally, two properties of coordination relations are underscored: lawful flexibility and abstractness. The first is revealed in the degrees of freedom with which movements corresponding to any given effector begin; the second in invariances of task-relevant kinematic signatures regardless of the effectors implicated in any given segmental sequence. Once again, abstract phonological structure is mirrored in vocal tracts via coordination relations holding across physiology and the particular modes of its operation.


Coordination Moroccan arabic Spanish Electromagnetic articulometry Syllables Prosody Pleiotropy 



Thanks to Astrid Assmann and Nomiki Koutsoumpari for help with data measurements. Philip Hoole acknowledges support from German Research Council Grant HO3271/3-1. Adamantios I. Gafos, Jens Roeser and Stavroula Sotiropoulou acknowledge support from ERC Advanced Grant 249440 and, for AIG and SS, German Research Council Grant SFB 1287, Project C04.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adamantios I. Gafos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jens Roeser
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stavroula Sotiropoulou
    • 1
  • Philip Hoole
    • 3
  • Chakir Zeroual
    • 4
  1. 1.University of PotsdamPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Nottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK
  3. 3.Ludwig Maximilians University MunichMunichGermany
  4. 4.Faculty of Letters and Human SciencesMohammed First UniversityOujdaMorocco

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