, Coronal is the name of a feature
from which some speech sounds are built up. In articulatory
terms it means the sound is produced with the tip
of the tongue
raised from its resting position. The possible places it can move range from between the teeth to the height of the hard palate
, so this covers a wide range of sounds: dental
, and palatal
. The term 'coronal' is therefore too vague to be used in phonetics
In phonology however it is one of the fundamental featural terms. Phonology deals not with precise shades of sound but with how sounds are organized within a language. Often the coronal sounds group together as a natural class; for example, assimilation or palatalization might apply to just the coronal sounds and no others.
The coronal sounds in English are t d th n l r s z sh ch j.
The term was introduced to phonology by Chomsky and Halle in their The Sound Pattern of English (1968), commonly referred to as SPE. In their original view features were binary so all sounds were either [+coronal] or [-coronal]. Those that were [-coronal] included all other places of articulation such as bilabial or velar, as well as things like vowels.
Later work refined the picture to introduce unary features. In this more economic formulation, sounds have a Place node which might or might not be filled. Consonants made in the oral cavity have a Place, and glottal stops and aspirates lack it. The Place can be filled by one (or on occasions more) of several unary features, namely Labial, Coronal, or Dorsal.
While there are rules that apply to Coronal segments (formerly termed [+coronal]), we never find rules that refer to their complement, [-coronal], so this reformulation rules out that negative feature.
Since languages often have several coronal places, we need further terms to distinguish them. Underneath the Coronal feature are two more binary features, [anterior] and [distributed]. Anterior refers to where the tongue is in relation to the alveolar ridge, and distributed refers to how broad a contact the tongue makes. So with the English sounds, the two dental th sounds are [+anterior, +distributed], the alveolar t d n l s z are [+anterior, -distributed], and the postalveolar sh ch j are [-anterior, +distributed].
I've heard both possible pronunciations, with stress as in córoner or as in coróna.