LINGUIST List 7.1172

Mon Aug 19 1996

Sum: Final consonants

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1., Sum: final consonants

Message 1: Sum: final consonants

Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 14:47:22 -0000
From: <>
Subject: Sum: final consonants

On the 5th of August, I posted the following query on Linguist List:

Dear linguists,

many languages in the world admit only vowels at the end of a word
(and at the end of a syllable as well): Japanese, Italian, most or all
Bantu languages, proto-Slavic etc.etc. Does anyone of you know
whether there are languages in which all words and/or syllables must
end in a consonant? I will be thankful four your help. If enough
answers come in, I will provide a summary.

There were many responses. Here is a list of the contributers. Thanks 
a lot to all of you:

John Atkinson 
Steven Berbeco
Richard DeArmond 
Jakob Dempsey 
Ivan A Derzhanski 
Bruce Despain 
Osamu Fujimura
Philip Hamilton 
Ronald Kephart 
Waruno Mahdi 
Tivoli Majors 
Mike Maxwell
Adriano P. Palma 
Robert Petterson
Ori Pomerantz
Larry Trask 
Allan Weschler 

Several people informed me that the statements I made on Italian and
Japanese are not quite correct. The answers were quite
heterogeneous. While most contributers agreed that languages not
allowing for words ending in a vowel are rare, improbable,
non-existent, counter-intuitive or similar, some argued that,
depending on the phonological framework, a restriction of this kind
need not necessarily be problematic. Osamu Fujimura has developed a
phonological framework which implies that in languages like English
and Swedish all syllables have a consonantic coda. He assumes, e.g.,
that all tense vowels should be analysed as sequences vowel + glide.
This is even clearer for some non-rhotic English dialects where, e.g.
words ending in /a:/ (California) take in intrusive /r/ whenever
followed by a vowel-initial word. So we might assume that /ar/ rather
than /a:/ is the representation in deep structure (Robert Petterson).

Some people pointed to languages that lack word final vowels even on
the surface structure. These are: Several West-Indonesian languages,
among them Sundanese (Waruno Mahdi). It is due to the fact that all
words seemingly ending in a vowel are spoken with a following glottal
stop. So the question would be what the phonological status is like.
Other such languages I got hints to were Yapese, Temiar, Shuar (a
Jivaroan language of Ecuador), Tagalog, Makassarese and languages on
Cape York, Australia, and certain reconstructions of Old Chinese. In
Oykangand, an Australian language that Philip Hamilton is doing
fieldwork on, words are strictly consonant-final and vocal-initial.

Carsten Peust
Seminar of Egyptology and Coptology
Goettingen or
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