Tuesday, 16 November 2010

switching airflow

The graphic you see alongside is taken from Ladefoged and Maddieson's The Sounds of the World's Languages and shows aerodynamic data for a Sindhi word with ɓ.

The comments on yesterday’s blog raise several interesting questions (ignoring for the moment those relating to Arabic emphatics).

VP asked
How does one pronounce a vowel that immediately follows an implosive? Is the airstream for the vowel also ingressive, or does it suddenly change direction to be egressive?

The answer is that in every case — as far as I know — the vowel following an implosive consonant has an unremarkable pulmonic egressive airstream. Note though, that this means that not only does the direction of airflow change, but so in principle does the identity of the initiating cavity. Since voiced implosives (the usual kind) actually involve a combination of airstreams, we can say that in the sequence ɓa there is a constant pulmonic egressive airstream, but that in the first segment it is accompanied by a glottalic ingressive component.

In a vowel-ejective-vowel sequence such as ap̕a the air flow is egressive throughout, but the initiating cavity for the consonant is glottalic — and takes place during a glottal closure, ʔ, that interrupts the egressive pulmonic airstream used for the surrounding vowels.

Clicks have a velaric ingressive airstream, but this is always combined with a velar articulation that interrupts what is normally an egressive pulmonic airstream. So in aǀa (= old aʇa) we have an ordinary pulmonic-air sequence aka with the velaric ingressive operation taking place entirely during the hold phase of the velar plosive.

Ejectives never cluster with implosives. The ingressive pulmonic airstream mechanism appears always to characterize entire utterances rather than individual segments. Reverse clicks are only paralinguistic: they certainly never cluster with ordinary clicks. So we can formulate the universal that we never get an abrupt reversal of the direction of airflow within the same initiating cavity as we pass from one segment to the next in speech.

Glen Gordon asked rhetorically
Ejectives can evolve into implosives or pharyngeals and back again, can't they?
The most striking related instance of which I am aware is in the Nguni languages of southern Africa. There we find a regular correspondence between the z of (isi)Zulu and the ejective of the closely related (si)Swati. We see this in the name of the latter language, which is also known by its Zulu name of Swazi.

The Wikipedia page on Nguni languages gives these example sentences meaning “I love your new sticks”:
Zulu Ngi-ya-zi-thanda izi-ntonga z-akho ezin-sha
Swati Ngi-ya-ti-tsandza ti-ntfonga t-akho letin-sha
in which all four instances of Zulu z correspond to Swati t (= t’).

So how did this correspondence come about? What kind of consonant could historically have given rise on the one hand to a pulmonic-air voiced fricative and on the other hand to a glottalic-air voiceless plosive? (I can confirm from my own observation that this Swati consonant is indeed ejective.)

It may be relevant that Zulu z is a ‘depressor’ consonant, one of the set that cause the pitch of the following vowel to start lower than it would otherwise do. That perhaps provides a link to the change at the glottis, but the possible pathways of change still seem pretty obscure. Perhaps someone knowledgeable about proto-Nguni can comment.

Or, mutandis mutatis, of some other relevant language family.
(Map taken from here)

1 comment:

  1. Ejectives never cluster with implosives. … Reverse clicks are only paralinguistic: they certainly never cluster with ordinary clicks. So we can formulate the universal that we never get an abrupt reversal of the direction of airflow within the same initiating cavity as we pass from one segment to the next in speech.
    That about sews it up. Most illuminating. (Fibre optics?) A good job I didn't finish my attempt to stick my oar (needle?) in in response to vp's question before you posted yours.

    But you had said in your second para

    Most of the implosives found in the world’s languages are voiced. That means that the rarefaction in the pharynx and mouth (the glottalic ingressive mechanism) is combined with a simultaneous vibration of the vocal folds dependent on a pulmonic egressive airstream. Interestingly, in my experience learners generally find this combined airstream easier to produce than the purely glottalic one that is needed for voiceless implosives.

    And I had often engaged in idle speculation whether that easier production had anything to do with any tendency for the rarefaction itself to actually cause some sort of vibratory leakage at the glottal end as well as the characteristic implosion at the buccal end. Anything in that?

    And certainly I agreed with Glen Gordon about not 'being blinded by these discrete words ("implosive", "ejective" and "pharyngeal", for example) which attempt to compartmentalize features of a language that are much fuzzier in practice.' I have always said the only important thing about an "emphatic" is that it should not be "non-emphatic", just as with any other distinctive feature with a fancy name, and it is very evident that the actual realizations of that "emphasis" and "non-emphasis" exhibit more allophony than most. So I do not come under Glen's accusation of finding it shocking that such a widely spoken language as Arabic should show variety among speakers.

    What I did admit yesterday was that I found the realization of ṭā (Standard Arabic /tˤ/) (on what I meant to say was a "spectrum from Tripoli to Algiers" rather than a "spectrum from Libya to Algiers")"startling", whatever its distribution within that spectrum, or indeed whether or not what I thought were implosive realizations varied to ejective with some sort of epiglottal involvement. I also said it was odd that ḍād (Standard Arabic /dˤ/) doesn't necessarily seem to go with it, which is the opposite of what you would expect with an implosive. For Alex Bellem, with proper research behind her on the subject, the reverse seemed to be the case, with variable implosivisation of an Arabic emphatic in dialects where the 'Daad' is a stop. I was thinking the reason for my having got the opposite impression from Alex might be that Daad also turns up as a fricative in the spectrum of dialects I was referring to, and is therefore not so often a candidate for implosivization as ṭā (Standard Arabic /tˤ/). I had suspected this fricative might be some sort of Classicism, but now you tell us of

    regular correspondence between the z of (isi)Zulu and the ejective t̕ of the closely related (si)Swati.

    which may be due to the fact tha z is a 'depressor' consonant.

    Riveting! This makes me wonder whether this indeterminacy between fricative, lateral and stop in the behaviour of Daad (which is notorious for having misbehaved abominably all over the place ever since the descriptions of the early grammarians) may be due to a similar prosodic effect of the "emphasis".

    I'm surprised nobody mentioned it on the "Danish" thread re the word 'mad' ‘meal’. It might seem that Arabic is not the only luġat al-ḍād "language of the Ḍād". I've added a link there to a fun clip of the "no L" in 'med'.

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