LINGUIST List 5.813

Mon 18 Jul 1994

Sum: Ape Language, Fricative voicing asymmetries

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Michael Kac, Ape Language Controversy: summary update
  2. Jane H. Stuart-Smith, Summary: fricative voicing asymmetries

Message 1: Ape Language Controversy: summary update

Date: Tue, 5 Jul 1994 17:31:35 -Ape Language Controversy: summary update
From: Michael Kac <>
Subject: Ape Language Controversy: summary update

Several weeks ago, I summarized the responses I received to a
query regarding the ape language controversy and the extent to
which the issue was still live post Terrace et al. I received several
post hoc additions which I communicated earlier; here are a few

Derek Bickerton, _Language & Species_, Chicago 1990 (University
of Chicago Press)

Susan Fischer, "Sign Language and Linguistic Theory," in C. Otero,
ed. _Noam Chomsky: Critical Assessments_ vol. 4.

Language and Communication 14.1, dedicated to the
subject of primate communication, includes 8 papers on the
subject. Authors: Barbara J King (Guest Editor); Donald H
Owings; Marc D Hauser; Rose A Sevcik & E Sue Savage-Rumbaugh;
Stuart Shanker; Philip Lieberman; Kathleen R Gibson; T J Taylor.

My thanks to:

M.M.H. Bax
Chris Pringle
Susan Fischer

Michael Kac
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Summary: fricative voicing asymmetries

Date: Fri, 15 Jul 1994 15:51:01 Summary: fricative voicing asymmetries
From: Jane H. Stuart-Smith <>
Subject: Summary: fricative voicing asymmetries

A couple of weeks ago we posted a request for examples of historical
phonological developments in which either s becomes voiced but the
other fricatives don't, or vice versa. We received a number of
interesting and very useful replies, for which we are grateful to
all respondents. Here is the promised (and customary) summary:

I believe that s => r / V__V also occurs in the history of Old English, but
suspect you have that example in mind already.

The Siouan languages have regularly corresponding voiceless fricatives
(modulo the effects of s ~ s^ ~ x sound symbolism), but most of the
Mississippi Valley group voice some fricatives in *V'__ V somewhat


Old English voiced f th s but not sh or x (leaf/leave, mouth/mouthe,
house(n)./house(v.) -- the verbs normally had vocalic inflections --
but not bishop (OE biscop) or laugh(e) (OE hleahhan). Medieval
northern German, Dutch, and the Kentish dialect of English had voicing
BEFORE voiced segments of f th s but not sh or x (Vater, now devoiced
again, Kentish vat; das < *dhat < *that; See (Du. Zee); but not in
mischen, machen), and so on. Icelandic voiced intervocalic fricatives
but I've forgotten the details -- see the standard handbooks. Germanic
also had rhotacism, cf. was/were, lose/lorn, etc.

... Tamil fricativizes postvocalic stops and voices some of
them, but I think does not voice s. I don't know a Tamil ref. offhand.

There are scores of diachronic and synchronic examples. Especially
see the handbooks on Romance linguistics (Pope, Rohlfs, etc.), and the
standard diachronic phonetic texts, e.g. Grammont 1933.

[We think Stampe is referring to rhotacism here. Assuming that
rhotacism typically involves the development s->z->r, it is an
example of s (but not necessarily other fricatives) becoming voiced.]

(From Kevin Donnelly)

This is not what your are looking for but might be of interest. In
the Irish Gaelic of Conamara the "slender" (i.e. palatised) s has gone
nearly all the way to z.

(Jules F. Levin)
2) There are South Slavic (Serbo'Croation?) dialects where intervocalic
/zh/ passes to /r/, so that SCR _mozhe_ 'one can' becomes synonymous with
_more_ 'sea'. True, this doesn't fit the specifics of your inquiry, but
it is a phonetic variation on a phonological theme. And I'm certain there
are other cases scattered around.

(1) Spanish s < Lat s, but zero/beta < Lat f, eg.
ROSA > [rosa] but STEPHANU > [esteBan]
(2) Tuscan z/s < Lat s but f < f
[rO:za]/[rO:sa] but [stefano]

... look at Rohlfs' Historische
Grammatik der Italiensiche Sprache und ihre Dialekten (Sic!) vol. 1 only.
There will be more info in there.


Many thanks to all who replied.

--- John Coleman & Jane Stuart-Smith
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue