Hapax phonoumena

(edit: changed title as per Cev’s recommendation; there ought to be a standard term for these)

Some languages have contrastive phonemes that appear in only one root: for example, Norwegian /ʉi̯/ only appears in the word /hʉi̯/ hui and the derived verb huie; Arabic /lˤ/ only appears in /alˤlˤah/ ‘Allah’; Spanish /ui̯/ only appears in muy; and in standard American English, unconditioned /eə/ only occurs in the interjection ‘yeah’. (Interjections, of course, often have expanded phoneme inventories relative to the rest of the language—see English oink and boink, which have /oi/ before a non-coronal cluster—but these other two examples are of ordinary roots.)

According to Wikipedia, Dahalo has five such phonemes: /ⁿd̠ʷ/, /ᶮdʒ/ in /kípuᶮdʒu/ ‘place where maize is seasoned’, /ᵑɡʷ/ in /háᵑɡʷaraᵑɡʷára/ ‘centipede’, /ɬʷ/, in /ɬʷaʜ-/ ‘to pinch’, and /j/, in /jáːjo/ ‘mother’.

According to Blust’s Austronesian Languages, unconditioned nasal vowels only appear in one root in Bintulu and Miri: Bintulu has the negation marker [ʔã] ã and Miri has the minimal pair haaw ‘rafter’ : hããw ‘2sg’, but no other unconditioned nasal vowels are known in either language.

Mako /ə/ only appears in the past-tense suffix -tə, but it’s fully contrastive: every vowel can appear word-finally after /t/.

Qiang /ɦ/ only occurs in the interjection /ɦa/ and a directional prefix. (There are many other hapax phonoumena in the Qiangic languages; I won’t list them all.)

Hoyahoya /s/ only occurs in /sa/ sha ‘bone’. (/s/ is written sh because the other fricatives, /ʁ/ and /h/, are written gh and h.)

The Amuzgo syllabic velarized prenasalized bilabial trill only occurs in the word [ʃa˥m̩ˠʙˠ˥] ša1ṃb1 ‘antlion’.

Mianchi /ɬ/ occurs only in /ɬə̀/ ‘moon’ ( < PTB *s-la), and only for some speakers; others have /l/.

In some dialects of Mandarin, the final -iai only occurs in 崖 yái ‘precipice’.

Sometimes these phonemes are supported by loanwords.

Japhug /y/ occurs in Chinese loanwords, but only in one native root, /qaɟy/ ‘fish’.

Yadu /æ/ occurs in Chinese loanwords and one native root, /tsæm/ ‘girl’.

In Longxi, /h/ occurs in two loanwords, an onomatopoeic form, and /hàN háN/ ‘corridor’; and /v/ occurs only in words derived from Proto-Qiang *u ‘you’: /vù/ ‘you’ and its compounds, /vú lià/ ‘we (incl.)’ and its dual, and /vé ì/ ‘yourself’ and its dual and plural; however, /v/ may also be analyzed as an allophone of /u/ in word-initial position (pure [u] never appears word-initially), making these forms /ù/, /ú lià/, and /ué ì/, with a u-deletion rule for the reflexive.

Sierra Miwok /š/ occurs only in English loanwords and the exclamation /ʔiš·o·/ ‘Scat!’.

Sometimes they occur in several roots. Chechen /r̥/ only occurs in /vuor̥/ ‘seven’ and /bar̥/ ‘eight’. The closely related language Bats has /vorɬ/ and /barɬ/.

Sometimes they are supported by the morphology. In Finnish, the diphthong ey merged into öy except in the verb leyhyä, but it can still occur in derived words, when e- is adjacent to -U in a front-harmonic context.


6 responses to “Hapax phonoumena

  1. Pingback: Hapax phonotactica | nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

  2. Pingback: Phonological hapax legomena | Reaction Times

  3. sansdomino June 12, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    In Votic, /sʲ/ occurs natively only in śalko ‘foal’, and /rʲ/ natively only in ŕuuku ‘lath’ (they’re common enough in loanwords from Russian though).

  4. Pingback: Phonemic analysis is hard, let’s go shopping | nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

  5. Christina January 7, 2017 at 6:08 am

    In American Sign Language, the numbers 7 and 8 use handshapes not used by any other signs

  6. platanenallee May 24, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    [ɣ] in Russian

    In standard Russian, the letter г is pronounced as [g] when voiced, as [k] or (rarely) as [x] when devoiced.

    There are just a few words in which it is pronounced as [ɣ], the sound that is used in place of [g] in southern dialects, but that is otherwise absent from standard Russian.

    One is the interjection ага ‘aha’. Another is бухгалтер ‘bookkeeper’, a loan word from German, and its derivatives. And, curiously, there are the words Бог ‘God’ and господь ‘Lord’ that secular people tend to pronounce with a [g], but religious people always say with this otherwise non-standard [ɣ] sound. It’s almost like choosing whether to capitalize ‘God’, only in spoken language.

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