LINGUIST List 7.1502

Fri Oct 25 1996

Sum: Affricates (st>ts)

Editor for this issue: Susan Robinson <>


  1. Szigetvari Peter, Sum: affricates (st>ts)

Message 1: Sum: affricates (st>ts)

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 15:09:30 EDT
From: Szigetvari Peter <>
Subject: Sum: affricates (st>ts)
Here is a summary of the responses I received to my query three weeks ago.
The original posting was the following:

>Many write and many say that fricative+stop clusters practically never
>become affricates. This does happen though in child language: s+t->ts.
>Do you know of any "adult" language that does this or something similar?

I thank the following people for their answers (in the temporal order of
their messages):

Wenchao Li <>
Miguel Carrasquer Vidal <>
Joe Stemberger <>
Mark A. Mandel <>
Thomas Widmann <>

==========WENCHAO LI========================================================
>I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but in Middle Chinese
>transliterations of Sanskrit buddhist terminology, clusters such as "sk" are
>often substituted with affricates such as "ts" or "tS" (retroflex).

>Wenchao Li
>Lady Margaret Hall

==========JOE STEMBERGER====================================================
>You're right that things like /st/ --> [ts] do happen in child phonology,
>as does /sp/ --> [pf]. But I would like to point out that it's a fairly
>small minority of children who do that, at least for the acquisition of

>And for /st/ --> [ts], there's always the possibility that it's a
>metathesis rather than affrication. Some children also show metathesis for
>the other /s/-clusters: /sk/ --> [ks], /sp/ --> [ps]. Also fairly uncommon
>across children.

>Perhaps the existence of affricates in child phonology for such clusters is
>related to the fact that fusion/coalescence of two consonants in a cluster
>is not all that uncommon: /sp/ --> [f] (perhaps 10%-20% of English-learning
>children). Between a stop and a fricative, two types of coalescence are
>possible: one that yields a simple consonant (a fricative) or one that
>yields a complex one (preserving both the [-continuant] of the stop and the
>[+continuant] of the fricative. It's more common for a simple segment to
>result from the coalescence, but occasionally the more complex affricate

>If such coalescence is less common in adult languages/diachronically, then
>perhaps that's why affricates rarely if ever show up as the realization of
>clusters like /st/ and /sp/.

>---Joe Stemberger
> University of Minnesota

==========THOMAS WIDMANN====================================================
>The only example I can think of is Georgian where the prefix 'cha'
>(down) is derived from she-da (> sh-da > shta > tsha > cha), but as far
>as I know, this was never a regular sound shift. On the other hand,
>affricates are much more common than fricative+stop clusters--but
>stop+stop and affricate+stop clusters are very common, too).

>Thomas Widmann

>ONF Thomas Martin Widmann || Tl.+995/32-224918
>Barnovi str. 185, apt. 3 | | Lernu Esperanton!
>380062 Tbilisi Georgia | CAESAR*NON*SVPRA*GRAMMATICOS | Stud (Ling. & CS)

==========MIGUEL CARRASQUER VIDAL===========================================
>In colloquial Dutch, "-sp" often becomes "-ps", as in "wesp" (wasp)
>> "weps". [Initial "ps-", on the other hand, becomes "sp-" (psychiater
>> spichiater)] English ask > axe is another example.



>Miguel Carrasquer Vidal

==========MARK A. MANDEL====================================================
>While I have no data to contribute on the specific question you ask, I did
>recently (7-785) ask LINGUIST readers a different question about
>affricates, namely, whether uvular affricates exist in human languages.
>The answers were affirmative and varied.

>I mention this in case the data are useful to your research. My summary
>of the responses appeared in issue 7-838. (I was going to attach a copy,
>but I can't find it on my disk.)

	[Mark later found the file and sent it. I don't include it,
	however, as it appeared in LINGUIST.]

> Mark A. Mandel :
> Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
> 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA :

Apparently the LINGUIST community has no knowledge of any [st]->[ts] change
in "adult" languages, apart from the rather marginal Georgian case (Thomas
Widmann). Incidentally, I myself thought of another case: the Greek letter
Z, which represented [zd], came to be pronounced [dz]/[z] in later periods.

Taking the change to be metathesis, as Joe Stemberger suggests, parallelled
by [sp]->[ps]/[pf] and Miguel Carrasquer Vidal's Dutch examples, is unlikely
in my case: my informant consistently does the affrication for [st] and never
for [sp] or [sk]. In addition, he only does it word-medially and word-
finally, word-initial sC clusters become C.

Peter Szigetvari
E\"otv\"os Lor\'and University (ELTE)
Budapest, Hungary
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