Phonological typology is a leading field in empirical linguistics today. It owes this privilege to a rich tradition of theoretical research on the sound patterns of language, and to a number of significant cross-linguistic comparative studies, based on databases such as UPSID, the WALS, etc. However, many domains of inquiry still await more detailed study within a typological framework, such as postvelar articulations, gesture coordination of gutturals and glottals within onsets and nuclei, emphatic articulations, the nature of breathiness and creakiness – in other words, voice quality and its sources and function in different languages. The laryngealist theory for proto-Indo-European has seldom been revisited on cross-linguistic grounds, and most consonant inventories defined nowadays as typologically creaky or breathy were until recently considered to be “glottalized” or “aspirated”. Discrete postvelar segments and/or glottalic features, although rare in European languages, do occur in a wide array of languages and language families, including Afro-Asiatic, Caucasian, Mayan, Totonacan, Altaic, Chukchi-Kamchakan, etc. Scholars such as André Martinet or Hagège & Haudricourt used to point out in their comparative or synchronic essays that languages tend towards what they called an “articulatory basis”; such as a fronting or palatal tendency, e.g. in modern Indo-European languages. This hypothesis is typically one that should be scrutinized, focusing more attention on languages that display tendencies towards a “back(ing) articulatory basis”, in order not only to examine what happens in the postvelar articulatory area and the glottis, but also to challenge feature theory – we prefer here to use postvelar instead of prevelar, in terms of continuity within the oral cavity, from the lips to the epiglottis.
This volume was originally designed as the proceedings from the Paris International Conference on Backing & Backness in Phonology (Institut Universitaire de France - Paris 3 UMR 7018 & LACITO-CNRS), may 2012. It progressively became an essay on Backness & Resonance, from a theoretical as much as from an empirical standpoint. The reader will be provided with plenty of linguistic data on a wide array of unrelated languages, critical insights on phonological backness, and a polyphony of theoretical and descriptive models, far beyond from a mere survey of data.