LINGUIST List 7.956

Sun Jun 30 1996

Sum: Front rounded vowels

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1., Front rounded vowels

Message 1: Front rounded vowels

Date: Sat, 29 Jun 1996 11:27:00 CDT
From: <>
Subject: Front rounded vowels
About a month ago, I posted a query concerning the extent to which the
existence of front rounded vowels (henceforth, FRVs) was an a real
phenomenon. Specifically, I asked whether it was true that no native
language of the Americas had FRVs. I received just a few replies. But at
one point I got bounced from the LINGUIST list, which may indicate problems
with my email connection. So if anyone replied to me but doesn't see their
name here, let me know and I'll try to rectify the problem!

The replies were from "A" (, Waruno Mahdi
(, Don Davis (, Alexandra Y.
Aikhenvald (, John E. Koontz (, and
Heriberto Avelino (

Hopi is said to have a mid FRV, although at least one respondent was
uncertain whether this was really true, or whether it was just a case of the
phonetic symbol (umlauted o, in the Americanist tradition) being used for
orthographic purposes to represent some other sound; or perhaps the FRV is
"only" an allophone of some other vowel. Another respondent mentioned
Chichimeco (Otomanguean, Mexico) as having FRVs. I haven't been able to
verify this, although I have a query in to someone who may be able to
confirm or deny it. (Some partial references were given on Chichimeco:
"Lastra, Yolanda 'Chichimeco Jonaz' in Handbook of Middle American Indians
197?. Vol.?? Literature. Or some articles of Moises Romero.")

Finally, one respondent stated that the Ge (or Je) language family of South
America (e.g. Kayapo, Kaingang, and others) and the Maku family (Daw = Kama
and Kakua) of South America have FRVs. I don't know anything about most of
these languages, but if "Kakua" is "Cacua" (of Colombia, Macu family; the
"c" instead of "k" is a result of Spanish spelling), then at least this one
is incorrect: I verified with a linguist currently working in this language
(Marilyn Cathcart) that it does not have FRVs. (The vowel system of Cacua
is [i e a u] + a _back unrounded_ vowel; perhaps this latter vowel caused
the confusion.)

I had also asked whether FRVs were found in areas other than Europe and
Turkic/ Mongolian parts of the world. I was reminded that Mandarin
Chinese (and other dialects??) has an FRV, but at the same time warned
that some early writers on SE Asian languages described as FRVs what are
actually back unrounded vowels.

Finally, concerning the origin of FRVs in Indoeuropean languages, I had
presumed that they could not have come from Proto-Indoeuropean. But
Waruno Mahdi said "that which is conventionally reconstructed as PIE *eu
could have been such a vowel."
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