Conscious manipulation of the phonetic substance

A number of the languages of Borneo also have preploded final nasals, which have arisen from word-final simple nasals in syllables that have a non-nasal onset. These are perhaps best known from the Land Dayak-Kendayan ([kənᵈájaᵗn]) Dayak area of southern Sarawak and adjacent parts of the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, but they have a geographical distribution which is very similar to that of postploded medial nasals. The term ‘nasal preplosion’ was coined by Court (1967) in a brief description of the phonology of Mentu Land Dayak. In this language nearly all final nasals are preceded by a brief voiceless oral onset, as in əsɨᵖm‘sour’, burəᵗn ‘moon’, or turaᵏŋ ‘bone’. The exceptions fall into two classes: personal names, and bases in which the final syllable begins with a nasal consonant. While the first class of exceptions evidently is motivated by conscious manipulation of the phonetic substance for purposes of marking semantic fields, the second is due to purely phonetic factors. Phonetic information on vowel nasality is poorly reported for most AN languages, but relatively good data is available for the languages of Borneo, and in these it is clear that vowels are most strongly nasalised by a preceding primary nasal consonant in a process that can be described as ‘onset-driven’ nasal harmony (Blust 1997c). Coda-driven nasal harmony is generally absent, but some minor leakage of nasality into vowels that precede a final nasal must take place in most languages, or final nasals would be universally preploded. The preplosion of final nasals can therefore be seen as a strategy for blocking nasal spreading in the ‘wrong’ direction. When a final syllable begins with a nasal consonant this is impossible, as in Mentu Land Dayak inəm ‘six’. The oral element in a preploded nasal is voiceless in some languages, such as Mentu Land Dayak, voiced in others (as Bau/Senggi Land Dayak), and mixed in Bonggi, spoken on Banggi Island north of Sabah, where Boutin (1993:111) reports -ᵇm, -ᵈn, but -ᵏŋ.

Robert Blust, The Austronesian Languages

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2 responses to “Conscious manipulation of the phonetic substance

  1. Pingback: Conscious manipulation of the phonetic substance | Reaction Times

  2. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2016/05/29) - Social Matter

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