LINGUIST List 6.960

Tue Jul 11 1995

Sum: Buccalization

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. "Larry Trask", Summary: Buccalization

Message 1: Summary: Buccalization

Date: Tue, 11 Jul 1995 09:35:05 Summary: Buccalization
From: "Larry Trask" <>
Subject: Summary: Buccalization

Several weeks ago I posted a query asking for instances of
"buccalization", the development of a glottal stop into an oral stop.
The reason for the query was that I'm compiling a catalogue of
lenition and fortition types for a textbook, and this was the only
type in my catalogue I couldn't find an example of.

I received seven responses. None of them turned up an absolutely
ironclad example of a glottal stop developing into an oral stop,
though the things that did turn up were nonetheless striking. Four
languages were cited.

MARU, a Tibeto-Burman language, has turned syllable-final zero into
[t] or [k], depending on the preceding tone. It is possible, but not
certain, that this change proceeded via glottal stop. (Robins
Burling, 1966, `The addition of final stops in the history of Maru',
_Language_ 47: 581-586; Anatole Lyovin, 1968, `Notes on the addition
of final stops in Maru', _Project on Linguistic Analysis_ 7 (Berkeley).)

MANDARIN CHINESE optionally allows syllable-initial zero to be
realized as any of several segments, including a glottal stop, a velar
nasal, or a velar or uvular voiced continuant. (Yuen-Ren Chao, _A
Grammar of Spoken Chinese_, p. 20.) There is reason to believe that
some of these initial zeros derive from earlier glottal stop.

WINNEBAGO has undergone the change [-r?]- > [-t?-] between vowels,
and, if I understand the reply correctly, the rhotic itself may be
epenthetic in origin.

AMERICAN ENGLISH has its celebrated case of `no' > `nope', possibly
via glottal stop. The same is true of `yep', if this derives directly
from `yeah' and is not analogical. (And I have noted that I myself
sometimes have `welp' for `well'.)

That's it. It really does look as if the glottal region is a vast
sink from which no segment ever returns. It is not obvious why this
should be so, since, as one respondent points out, the development of
[?] to [p], [t] or [k] under the influence of neighboring [u], [i] or
[a] does not seem intrinsically implausible, and indeed it is reported
that early European linguists working in southeast Asia sometimes
misheard and mistranscribed glottal stops in exactly this manner.

My thanks to Richard Coates, Lance Eccles, James Kirchner, Bill
Mahota, John Koontz, David Solnit and Scott Delancey for their

Perhaps I should also have inquired about cases of [h] > oral segment,
but I didn't think of it. Any further information in this vein will
be gratefully received.

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
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