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Summary Details

Query:   Glottal Stops
Author:  Mark Donohue
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonology

Summary:   Regarding Query:

Dear Linguistlisters,

a couple of weeks ago I posted a query about glottal stops, as follows:

Dear all,

Glottal stops in north Australian languages are phonotactically constrained
to only appear in codas; some languages of adjacent Indonesia with glottal
stops either show restrictions on their position (Sawu/Hawu: glottal stops
cannot begin words) or evidence for repositioning (Palu'e: glottal stops
cannot begin a word, and vowels preceding a medial glottal stop show
closed-syllable allophones.

Does anyone know of anything addressing the position in which glottal
may appear? I'm not talking about initial epenthetic glottal stops in
languages such as Tagalog, but underlying segments that appear to
onset realisations.

(I've added the standard references to the phenomenon in Australian
languages below.)

A number of people have responded in one way or another (thanks to
Peter Austin, Eric Bakovic, Claire Bowern, Ellen Broselow, John King, John
Koontz, Fiona McLaughlin, Pamela Munro, Sharon Rose, and Jennifer Smith).
The bottom line is approximately the article by Steve Parker, who discusses
Chamicuro (and mentions a number of other South American languages), in
which laryngeal segments are only felicitous in coda positions, where they
contrast with oral segments; there are no glottal stop or h onsets. I call
this the 'bottom line' because the documentation and consideration of
analysis in Parker (2001) really covers the ground about as thoroughly as
could ever be hoped; and everyone who recommended any literature to me
recommended this article. This is by no means the first paper on the
subject; for a start, there's Parker (1994), but I think Aschmann (1946)
was the first to report glottal asymmetries; but it is remarkably thorough.

Further literature essential to this question is Broselow (2001, 2003),
discussing the languages of South Sulawesi (Austin reports on Sasak, from
southern Indonesia; the data sound very similar to some of the languages
discussed in Broselow 2001).

Similar situations to the Chamicuro one can be found elsewhere:


''in Seereer-Siin, an Atlantic (Niger-Congo) language spoken in Senegal,
there are two kinds of glottal stops, phonemic and epenthetic. Phonemic
glottal stops show up in codas, generally as the last C of a CVC verb stem,
as in fi? 'to do' and ga? 'to stutter' - when tense or aspect markers are
added, those glottal stops may then become onsets. Epenthetic glottal
stops show up word-initially in underlyingly vowel-initial words.'' (-
Fiona McLaughlin)

In North America:

Something like the situation you describe is absolutely true of the
Muskogean family of North America, where glottal stops appear (perhaps) to
have originated as the realization of some prosodic feature. Every language
of the family that I've heard has some glottal stops, always, I believe, in
coda, but they are fairly rare except in the Western languages, Choctaw and
Chickasaw. Analyses of Choctaw vary, but at least some regard the glottal
stop as phonemic, and it is always in coda position. In Chickasaw, which I
work on, it's definitely phonemic. It occurs only in coda and intervocalic
position. In intervocalic position either it is actually /'h/, where the h
is inaudible (e.g. in the positional verb wáyya'a, clearly /wáyya'ha/) or
it occurs before a suffix that does not resyllabify with a preceding
glottal stop (e.g. in the nominative form of 'dog', ofi'at /ofi'#at/.
(These intervocalic glottal stops are relatively weak compared to the coda
ones.) In coda position glottal stop may be final, as in ofi' 'dog' or
preconsonantal, as in bo'li 'to hit (once)'. (- Pam Munro)

and John Koontz notes that:

I have seen an article by Pat Shaw addressing the status of h and ? and of
Ch and C?, Dakotan. However, I do not have the reference.

... the Mississippi Valley Siouan languages (Dakotan, Dhegiha,
Ioway-Otoe-Missouria, and Winnebago) have a well developed but rare set
ejective stops and glottalized fricatives which are lacking elsewhere. In
Mandan, which is intermediate in various ways between Mississippi Valley
and Crow-Hidatsa, there are stem-finals that are missing in many contexts
(e.g., __#) but appear when various V-initial suffixes are added to the
stem. These stem-finals are -r and and -h and -? and occasionally
combinations, i.e., -?h. For example, ter- 'dead' occurs as te in wa'?ote
'corpse' and as ter in tero?s^ 'he's dead'. Or toh- 'blue' occurs in pato'
'bluehead' (a kind of duck) and to'ho?s^. Or wiN?h- 'blanket' in wiN'?he
'blanket (with -e absolutive) but wiN''? ropxi 'buffalo robe'. (Not sure
how the ? is explained here.) (Note that VN = a nasal vowel, and V' = an
accented vowel.)

Apart from the ? from *k and *x in Omaha-Ponca, the reconstructed
*?-(initial) verb stems, and the phenomena in Mandan just sketched, most
glottal stops in Siouan languages are epenthetic initials. Winnebago is
unique in having epenthetic initial h instead.

It's a bit off the track, I've always though that the descriptions of heavy
reduction of stem initials in Northern Australian subfamilies sounded very
reminiscent of the sorts of things hypothesized for Siouan. However, for
Siouan, we do not have the convenience of known relatives with the longer
initial sequences intact. We just have traces of extra *wa- and *wi-
prefixes in some of the subfamilies, combined with the commonness of
clusters initially - the cannonical root is *CCV(C) and sometimes *CV(V) -
and an alternation between long (CV-) and short (C-) for various prefixes
occurs. The short forms tend to occur with the *CV(C) stems.

(There's a recent post of the Siouan list related to this; John had more to
say, and I've edited him heavily here, in the interests of brevity.)

Adding to the mystery of the glottal stop, Marianne Borroff reports that
V?V and VhV sequences behave as VV sequences in Yatzachi Zapotec , and
like VCV sequences (where C = supralaryngeal consonant). Marianne has a
forthcoming dissertation that discusses the non-consonantal nature of
glottal stops in more detail.

A few other languages do suspiciously similar (glottal stops only in coda)
things - see Deibler, and a number of Goroka-area languages from New
Guinea, and some very nice discussion in Hinton. The language I'm looking
at is reasonably close, geographically, to Hinton's Tugun. In Palu'e no
codas are allowed (though there is evidence that this constraint is
relaxing), while glottal stops may ONLY appear in codas.

-Mark Donohue
Monash University

-Aschmann, Herman. 1946. Totonaco phonemes. International Journal of
American Linguistics 12: 34-43.
-Borroff, Marianne. 2003. Against an ONSET analsyis of hiatus resolution.
Ms., SUNY Stony Brook. ROA #586 [].
-Broselow, Ellen. 2001. Uh-oh: Glottal Stops and Syllable Organization in
-In E.V. Hume, N.S.H. Smith and J.M. van de Weijer, eds., Surface Syllable
Structure and Segment Sequencing. HIL Occasional Papers 4: 77-90. Leiden:
Holland Institute of Generative Linguistics.
-Broselow, Ellen. 2003. Marginal phonology: phonotactics on the edge. The
Linguistic Review 20: 159-193.
-Deibler, Ellis W. 1987. The function of Glottal Stop in Gahuku. In John M.
Clifton, ed., Datapapers in Papua New Guinea languages Volume 33: Studies
in Melanesian orthographies: 23-30. Ukarumpa: Summer Institute of
-Evans, Nick. 1995. Current Issues in Australian phonology, in Goldsmith J
(ed) Handbook of Phonological Theory, 723-761, Oxford: Blackwells.
-Harvey, Mark. 1991. Glottal stop, underspecification and syllable
structures among the Top End languages. Australian Journal of Linguistics
11 (1): 67-105.
-Hinton, Bryan Douglas. 1991. Aspects of Tugun phonology and syntax. MA
thesis, The University of Texas at Arlington.
-Parker, Steve. 1994. Laryngeal codas in Chamicuro. International Journal
of American Linguistics 60, 261-271.
-Parker, Steve. 2001. Non-optimal onsets in Chamicuro: An inventory
maximised in coda position. Phonology 18, 361-386.
-Wood, Ray K. 1978. 'Some Yuulngu phonological patterns.' In Papers in
Australian Linguistics No. 11. [Pacific Linguistics A51.] Canberra: Pacific

LL Issue: 17.3293
Date Posted: 12-Nov-2006
Original Query: Read original query


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