LINGUIST List 5.219

Thu 24 Feb 1994

Disc: Labiodental nasals

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  1. Peter Ladefoged, Re: 5.186 Labiodental Nasals
  2. Joseph P Stemberger-1, Re: 5.175 Sum-Nasals

Message 1: Re: 5.186 Labiodental Nasals

Date: Wed, 23 Feb 94 18:58 PST
From: Peter Ladefoged <IDU0PNLMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 5.186 Labiodental Nasals

re 5.175 labiodental nasals

 In response to queries about labiodental stops and nasals, here are
some paragraphs from a forthcoming book (we hope, soon) Sounds of
the World"s languages, Peter Ladefoged and Ian Maddieson.

The use of the labiodental place of articulation is largely restricted to
fricatives, so we will defer most of the discussion of that place until
Chapter 5. There is, however, no doubt that at least for fricatives there
is a contrast between bilabial and labiodental articulations. We do not
know whether true labiodental stops occur in any language, although
they have been reported among languages of Southern Africa, where
the symbols [**] and [**)] have been used for their transcription since
at least Doke's 1926 study of Zulu. Guthrie reports that "there is a
labiodental plosive which is distinct from the bilabial plosive, e.g. **a
'shine', -bar- 'give birth to' " in a language in the Nyanja-Tumbuka
group that he called Tonga (Guthrie 1948: 61). We have not heard
this language, and are unsure how it relates to languages with similar
names in the region. In the nearby Tsonga dialects of South Africa
Baumbach (1974, 1987) reports labiodental affricates. Significantly,
when an assimilated nasal occurs before these affricates, Baumbach
affirms that it shares the labiodental place, just as a nasal before the
labiodental fricatives v, f does. Therefore, these sounds are not
sequences of a bilabial plosive followed by a labiodental fricative. If
they are indeed true affricates with a complete stop closure, then the
stop portion of the affricate must be labiodental in place. Words
illustrating these sounds, together with some other contrasting labials,
are given in Table 2.2.

Table 2.2. Words illustrating some of the labial consonants of the
XiNkuna dialect of Tsonga (from Baumbach 1974, 1987).
[In phonetic transcription, not reproduced here]

We have heard labiodental stops made by a Shubi speaker whose teeth
were sufficiently close together to allow him to make an airtight
labiodental closure. For this speaker this sound was clearly in contrast
with a bilabial stop; but we suspect that the majority of Shubi speakers
make the contrast one of bilabial stop versus labial-labiodental
affricate (i.e. bilabial stop closure followed by a labiodental fricative),
rather than bilabial versus labiodental stop. Sounds described as
labiodental affricates also occur, for example in German, in which the
stop closure is bilabial, although the fricative release is labiodental.

Labiodental nasals occur in many languages. As in Tsonga they are
usually the result of coarticulation with a following labiodental
fricative. The Yoruba word efE~ 'want, like (imperfective)' is formed
by preposing an imperfective marker consisting of a syllabic nasal with
no inherent place to the verb stem fE~. They have, however, been
reported as segments contrasting with both bilabial nasals and
labiodental fricatives in the Kukuya dialect of Teke. Paulian (1975)
describes these sounds as "realise comme une occlusive nasale,
labiodentale, toujours sonore; l'occlusion se produit entre les dents du
haut et l'interieur de la levre inferieure; elle est accompagne d'une forte
avance des deux levres." We do not know if a true occlusive could be
made with this gesture, when we take into account the gaps that often
occur between the incisors.

References Baumbach, E. J. M. (1974). Introduction to the Speech
Sounds and Speech Sound Changes of Tsonga. Pretoria, van Schaik.

Baumbach, E. J. M. (1987). Analytical Tsonga Grammar. Pretoria,
University of South Africa.

Doke, C. M. (1926). The Phonetics of the Zulu Language.
Johannesburg, Witwatersrand University.

Guthrie, M. (1948). The Classification of the Bantu Languages.
London, Oxford University Press for the International African

Paulian, C. (1975). Le Kukuya-Langue Teke de Congo (Phonologie;
Classes Nominales). Paris,
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Message 2: Re: 5.175 Sum-Nasals

Date: Wed, 23 Feb 1994 12:23:00 Re: 5.175 Sum-Nasals
From: Joseph P Stemberger-1 <>
Subject: Re: 5.175 Sum-Nasals

Regarding Nick Reid's summary about labiodental nasals.

In the UPSID data base (presented in the now-out-of-print book PATTERNS OF
SOUND by Ian Maddieson at UCLA), there is one language listed as having a
PHONEMIC labiodental nasal: Teke. I know nothing about Teke other than the
phonemic inventory presented in the book. It's possible that whoever wrote
the grammar/phonetic description of the language erred in some way (such
as saying that the labiodental nasal is phonemic when it's in fact
allophonic), but it might be good to look into.

By the way, in reference to the Geoff Pullum quote that presupposes that the
IPA shouldn't
have symbols for sounds that are allophonic in all languages... I disagree
with that. As a phonologist, I find it annoying when I have no symbols to
describe the results of assimilation. I hate using the palatal nasal
symbol for the palatoalveolar nasal in the english word CHANGE, and am
annoyed that there is no symbol for the palatoalveolar stop that begins
the word TREE. A phonetic transcription system has many purposes, one of
which is fine transcription that would be useful in discussions of
language acquisition. If an ESL researcher wants to characterize a foreign
speaker's pronunciation of INFORMATION as non-native because a labiodental
nasal is never used, or TREE as non-native because it has an alveolar stop
instead of a palatoalveolar stop, it's nice to have a way to indicate
those differences in the transcription. Whether the sound is ever phonemic
in any language is not always a concern.

---joe stemberger
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