LINGUIST List 17.3293

Sun Nov 12 2006

Sum: Glottal Stops

Editor for this issue: Kevin Burrows <>

Directory         1.    Mark Donohue, Glottal Stops

Message 1: Glottal Stops
Date: 08-Nov-2006
From: Mark Donohue <>
Subject: Glottal Stops

Query for this summary posted in LINGUIST Issue: 17.2946 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 constrainedto only appear in codas; some languages of adjacent Indonesia with glottalstops either show restrictions on their position (Sawu/Hawu: glottal stopscannot begin words) or evidence for repositioning (Palu'e: glottal stopscannot begin a word, and vowels preceding a medial glottal stop showclosed-syllable allophones.

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

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

A number of people have responded in one way or another (thanks toPeter Austin, Eric Bakovic, Claire Bowern, Ellen Broselow, John King, JohnKoontz, Fiona McLaughlin, Pamela Munro, Sharon Rose, and Jennifer Smith).The bottom line is approximately the article by Steve Parker, who discussesChamicuro (and mentions a number of other South American languages), inwhich laryngeal segments are only felicitous in coda positions, where theycontrast with oral segments; there are no glottal stop or h onsets. I callthis the 'bottom line' because the documentation and consideration ofanalysis in Parker (2001) really covers the ground about as thoroughly ascould ever be hoped; and everyone who recommended any literature to merecommended this article. This is by no means the first paper on thesubject; 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, fromsouthern Indonesia; the data sound very similar to some of the languagesdiscussed 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. Phonemicglottal 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 areadded, those glottal stops may then become onsets. Epenthetic glottalstops show up word-initially in underlyingly vowel-initial words.'' (-Fiona McLaughlin)

In North America:

Something like the situation you describe is absolutely true of theMuskogean family of North America, where glottal stops appear (perhaps) tohave originated as the realization of some prosodic feature. Every languageof the family that I've heard has some glottal stops, always, I believe, incoda, but they are fairly rare except in the Western languages, Choctaw andChickasaw. Analyses of Choctaw vary, but at least some regard the glottalstop as phonemic, and it is always in coda position. In Chickasaw, which Iwork on, it's definitely phonemic. It occurs only in coda and intervocalicposition. In intervocalic position either it is actually /'h/, where the his inaudible (e.g. in the positional verb wáyya'a, clearly /wáyya'ha/) orit occurs before a suffix that does not resyllabify with a precedingglottal stop (e.g. in the nominative form of 'dog', ofi'at /ofi'#at/.(These intervocalic glottal stops are relatively weak compared to the codaones.) In coda position glottal stop may be final, as in ofi' 'dog' orpreconsonantal, 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 ofCh 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 setofejective stops and glottalized fricatives which are lacking elsewhere. InMandan, which is intermediate in various ways between Mississippi Valleyand Crow-Hidatsa, there are stem-finals that are missing in many contexts(e.g., __#) but appear when various V-initial suffixes are added to thestem. These stem-finals are -r and and -h and -? and occasionallycombinations, 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 surehow the ? is explained here.) (Note that VN = a nasal vowel, and V' = anaccented vowel.)

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

It's a bit off the track, I've always though that the descriptions of heavyreduction of stem initials in Northern Australian subfamilies sounded veryreminiscent of the sorts of things hypothesized for Siouan. However, forSiouan, we do not have the convenience of known relatives with the longerinitial sequences intact. We just have traces of extra *wa- and *wi-prefixes in some of the subfamilies, combined with the commonness ofheavyclusters initially - the cannonical root is *CCV(C) and sometimes *CV(V) -and an alternation between long (CV-) and short (C-) for various prefixesoccurs. 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 tosay, and I've edited him heavily here, in the interests of brevity.)

Adding to the mystery of the glottal stop, Marianne Borroff reports thatV?V and VhV sequences behave as VV sequences in Yatzachi Zapotec , andnotlike VCV sequences (where C = supralaryngeal consonant). Marianne has aforthcoming dissertation that discusses the non-consonantal nature ofglottal 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 NewGuinea, and some very nice discussion in Hinton. The language I'm lookingat is reasonably close, geographically, to Hinton's Tugun. In Palu'e nocodas are allowed (though there is evidence that this constraint isrelaxing), while glottal stops may ONLY appear in codas.

-Mark DonohueMonash University

REFERENCES:-Aschmann, Herman. 1946. Totonaco phonemes. International Journal ofAmerican 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 inSulawesi.-In E.V. Hume, N.S.H. Smith and J.M. van de Weijer, eds., Surface SyllableStructure and Segment Sequencing. HIL Occasional Papers 4: 77-90. Leiden:Holland Institute of Generative Linguistics.-Broselow, Ellen. 2003. Marginal phonology: phonotactics on the edge. TheLinguistic 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: Studiesin Melanesian orthographies: 23-30. Ukarumpa: Summer Institute ofLinguistics.-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 syllablestructures among the Top End languages. Australian Journal of Linguistics11 (1): 67-105.-Hinton, Bryan Douglas. 1991. Aspects of Tugun phonology and syntax. MAthesis, The University of Texas at Arlington.-Parker, Steve. 1994. Laryngeal codas in Chamicuro. International Journalof American Linguistics 60, 261-271.-Parker, Steve. 2001. Non-optimal onsets in Chamicuro: An inventorymaximised in coda position. Phonology 18, 361-386.-Wood, Ray K. 1978. 'Some Yuulngu phonological patterns.' In Papers inAustralian Linguistics No. 11. [Pacific Linguistics A51.] Canberra: PacificLinguistics. Linguistic Field(s): Phonology