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LINGUIST List 21.3508

Fri Sep 03 2010

Qs: Typology of Vocalic Fricativization

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        1.    Matthew Faytak, Typology of Vocalic Fricativization

Message 1: Typology of Vocalic Fricativization
Date: 01-Sep-2010
From: Matthew Faytak <mfaytakuchicago.edu>
Subject: Typology of Vocalic Fricativization
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I am a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago currently
performing research that will be put toward writing my honors thesis. In
the course of this research, I aim to investigate potential correlations
between a type of vocalic fricativization and various other aspects of
language (lexical tone, isolating morphology, the presence of complex
consonants, etc).

The type of vocalic fricativization I hope to investigate defines what Bell
(1977), in his study of syllabic consonants, dubs an "apical [vowel]
system". This phenomenon is present when a language *consistently*
realizes some vowel phoneme, frequently from the close front/central
set /i ɨ y ʉ/, as a fully-voiced syllabic coronal obstruent in a given set of
conditions.

As I see it, it is crucial to differentiate this sort of phonological pattern
from other lower-level phenomena: in an "apical" vowel system, the
relevant fricativization does not vary with rate of speech, and voicing is
retained. This excludes phonetic processes along the lines of vowel
elision and alternation of high devoiced vowels with fricatives (as in
some Central Asian Turkic languages, see Kaisse 1992, in Language),
which tend to vary with rate of speech. Additionally, spirantization
processes (phonological though they may be) are not of interest here.

I hope to include additional types of fricativization in my eventual
analysis, moving beyond Bell's limited "apical" system: labiodentalized
vowels, for instance, have been reported in the Grassfields Bantu
languages of West Africa (see Connell 2000, "Fricative Vowels in
Mambila").

The languages I plan to analyze, then, include such examples as
Mandarin Chinese, with its syllabic alveolar and retroflex fricatives
consistently realized in place of *[i] when preceded by alveolar or
retroflex fricates, and Len, where a "fricative vowel" identified with /ɨ/ is
realized consistently as [v̩] before "a subset of consonants" that "have
labiodentality associated with them" (see Connell 2000: 237).

I would like to request, then, that any of you familiar with any and all
languages fitting (or nearly seeming to fit) the above specifications
point out their existence. One of the problems I have begun to confront
(and the reason for this query) is that no typology of fricativization in
general exists. Furthermore, the genetic location of such languages is
somewhat unpredictable beyond an abundance of examples in the
Sino-Tibetan family, Ngiti and Lendu among the Nilo-Saharan
languages, and the aforementioned Grassfields Bantu languages. I
hope to take steps toward a typology of phonological fricativization in
the course of this research, and any and all suggestions as to the
contents of this typology would be greatly appreciated.

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
                            Phonology
                            Typology

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