LINGUIST List 7.37

Tue Jan 9 1996

Sum: Retroflexes

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. paul manansala, Re: Retroflexes

Message 1: Re: Retroflexes

Date: Tue, 09 Jan 1996 15:14:19 PST
From: paul manansala <>
Subject: Re: Retroflexes

Thanks to the following people for responding to my query on retroflex

	Jeff Marck
	Joel Nevis
	Cassian Braconnier
	Martin Weikmann
	Allan Weschler

*Jeff Marck, coauthor of the Saipan Carolinian dictionary, wrote that
the full stop used to mark syllabic consonants in Palauan are not
retroflex consonants. He noted that east of Palau many Micronesian
languages used the retroflex *t' derived from the prenasalised *nt and
*nd of Proto Oceanic. The following initial consonants are retroflex:

 Kiribatese (Gilbertese) ram'a 'forehead, house gable'
 Marshallese dem'a- 'forehead, gable'
 Kosraean (moton-)sro 'forehead'
 Pohnpeian (Ponapean) taam' 'forehead'
 Chuukese (Trukese) chaamw 'forehead'
 Puluwatese r'aamw 'forehead'
 Satawalese rhaamw 'forehead, house gable

*Joel Nevis noted that Hmong has the following retroflex stops:
	<r> unaspirated voiceless stop
	<rh> aspirated version
	<nr> prenasalized
	<nrh> prenasalized

*Cassian Braconnier offered that the many African languages also
contain retroflex consonants.

*Martin Weikmann reminded us that retroflex consonants are most
abundant in the languages of India:

"Velars k kh g gh (ng)
 Palatals c ch j jh (~n)
 Retroflexes .t .th .d .dh .n see Mark 1*)
 Dentals (alveolars) t th d dh n
 Labials p ph b bh m

1*) In Phonetical transcription --- as you might know --- the
retroflex sounds are written differently: with some long limb below
the character pointing towards right."

Martin also made the interesting observation that in Marathi, English
words containing dentals so that stops (d, t) are transcribed into the
retroflex consonants of Devanagari, while the nasal sound is usually
transcribed in dental form. Also, retroflex nasals and laterals are
never found at the beginning of the word. I might add that in
Dravidian, retroflex consonants do not, or only very rarely, occur in
the initial position.

*Allan Wechsler informed us that retroflex stops, nasals and laterals
are common in the indigenous languages of Australia.

Paul Kekai Manansala
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