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Summary Details

Query:   The Behavior of Labiovelars
Author:  Joaquim Brandão de Carvalho
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonetics

Summary:   The research I am doing concerns, not labiovelars in particular, but
phonological primes in general, the question of whether they should be seen
as binary or monovalent, their hierarchy (if any), and several
markedness-related issues. In this respect, the status of labiovelars, as
well as that of retroflexes for example, remains unclear both in terms of
internal structure and markedness. I believe that this is largely due to
the fact that
such consonants are restricted to specific linguistic areas, mainly in
Africa, of which I am not a specialist. The descriptions I read (on Kru
languages plus Igbo and Ngbaka) didn't shed any light on the object of my
query. The sort of information I am looking for could be formulated as
follows. Retroflex
consonants, for example, can be shown to be 'coronals,' not only in
articulatory terms, but also by their processual behavior, since they
undergo several rules also affecting such consonants as /t d s z/, etc.
How, then, do labiovelars, which are both labial and velar in articulatory
terms, behave? Are they primarily labial or velar on the basis of
processual evidence? or can they be shown to belong to both classes
according to the process involved?

There were 14 responses. Thanks a lot to the following people:

William Awumey
Michael Cahill
Jakob Dempsey
Laura Dimock
James L. Fidelholtz
Arnaud Fournet
Shigeto Kawahara
John Kingston
Terry J. Klokeid
Elizabeth J. Pyatt
Katie Schack Tang
Rolf Theil
Tim Thornes
Pete Unseth

Something that was not quite explicit in my post, I'm afraid, is that I
meant labiovelars of the kp, gb-type, like those found in many west and
central African languages, not of the much more widespread kw/gw/w-type. I
am sorry for the misunderstanding.

Here are some references for the debate on the primary place of labiovelars
: Ohala and Lorentz (1977)
Padgett (1995) (, and a response to
this paper by Mike Cahill in NELS proceedings. There is a further response
from Padgett in an article that appeared in Language (also available from
his website).

Mike Cahill himself, who has been working on this issue for a while
was kind enough to send me the handout of his LSA presentation (2006).
Two points follow from his work:
1) contra Ohala, according to whom kp-labiovelars (KP) should be viewed as
both labial and velar, nasal place assimilation should not count in
considering primary place of KP, this type of data being influenced by the
(variable) articulatory timing of velar and labial closure (whence the
velar nasal is not the sole possible result);
2) when nasal place assimilation is filtered out, four facts at least - (a)
co-occurrence restrictions, (b) KP-allophony, (c) neutralization, and (d)
blocking of vowel harmony - tend to show that [labial] is the primary place
of KP in a variety of languages.

Once again, thank you very much for your help.

Joaquim Brandão de Carvalho

UFR de Sciences du Langage
Université Paris 8
2, rue de la Liberté
F-93526 Saint-Denis cedex
UMR 7023 CNRS Structures formelles du langage

LL Issue: 19.523
Date Posted: 14-Feb-2008
Original Query: Read original query


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