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Summary Details

Query:   Summary: Uvulars/pharyngeals and glottal stop
Author:  Randall Gess
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonology

Summary:   The following, belated summary is of responses to a query I sent to Linguist List on May 1, asking for synchronic or diachronic alternations between uvular fricatives (or approximants) and glottal stop. I would first like to thank those who responded to my query, whose names appear below. The word limit prevents me from listing other cases I have found myself, or from offering my proposed explanation for these alternations. Anyone interested can email me and I can send a handout from a recent talk that included discussion of this alternation.

Mark Donohue suggests that in the Alor-Pantar languages the best reconstruction for something that surfaces synchronically as [k], [x], [h], [?] and zero in different languages and different positions, is the voiceless velar stop with a uvular allophone.

In a more speculative case, Dominic Watt notes the possibility of an alternation which might exist (or might have existed), between a uvular fricative and glottal stop in some conservative, rural dialects of Northumbrian English. Northumbrian English is somewhat famous for the ?Northumbrian burr?, a rhotic realized as a uvular fricative (or approximant), now probably well on its way to extinction. In more progressive dialects of Northumbrian (most particularly those of the urban centers Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, and Durham), where rhoticity has disappeared, ?speakers have the option of inserting *either* a linking [r] or a glottal stop in contexts where a word historically ending in /r/ is followed by a vowel-initial word. So, for example, on the Tyneside Metro (subway trains) you?ll hear taped announcements saying either ?Stand clea[r] of the doors please? or ?Stand clea[?] of the doors please??. Now, in this case the rhotic is an alveolar or post-alveolar approximant. But Watt speculates that, ?in the rural hinterland to the north of Tyneside, the alternation - assuming the variety in question is now variably rhotic or fully non-rhotic, *and* that it has retained the uvular fricative in spite of the loss/attrition of rhoticity - could well be one where sequences like ?car alarm? can be pronounced either as ?ca[R] alarm? or ?ca[?] alarm??.

Several respondents to my Linguist List query pointed to developments of pharyngeals and epiglottals to glottal stop.
According to Martin H?mmel, in some Sardic dialects there is a change of [k] to glottal stop, and that in neighboring dialects there is a parallel change of [k] to a fricative which varies, according to Contini?s (1987) instrumental study, between a velar, uvular and epiglottal articulation. According to K?mmel, Contini states explicitly that this fricative is a lenition product of /k/, and that the glottal stop in the other dialects is a secondary development of the fricative. In the fricative dialects, the change occurs in postvocalic and intervocalic position, while in the glottal stop dialects, the novel segment also occurs in absolute initial position, this possibly also ?a secondary generalization?. H?mmel further reports that in some Semitic languages (i.e., Akkadian, (Neo-)Aramaic, New South Arabian Soqotri, dialects of Tigrinya, a number of South Ethiopian languages (especially Amharic), and also in some varieties of modern Hebrew), there is a development from a voiced uvular fricative to a pharyngeal (or epiglottal) fricative that later becomes a glottal stop. (The Aramaic shift was also pointed out to me by Robert Hoberman, although he states that the shift involved both voiced and voiceless uvulars.)

Ghil ?ad Zuckermann points out that in Modern Hebrew, the original Hebrew voiced pharyngeal fricative is normally not realized, but is realized as glottal stop when in postconsonantal position in uncommon words. In addition, the original Hebrew voiceless pharyngeal is realized in Modern Hebrew as a uvular fricative.

Kimary Shahin states that ?in Arabic the voiced pharyngeal fricative (which is probably actually an approximant) is sometimes output as glottal stop?.

LL Issue: 14.1707
Date Posted: 16-Jun-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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