The August 2012 issue of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association contains, as usual, several interesting and informative items.
The lead article, by Christina Esposito and Sameer ud Dowla Khan, concerns contrastive breathiness in consonants and vowels. Various languages have contrastive breathiness on voiced obstruents, as in the case of Hindi bʰ etc.; some have contrastive breathiness on semivowels or vowels, as in Zulu j̤e̤ɓo ‘yes’ (my example, not the authors’). A very few languages have both contrastive breathy-voiced vowels and breathy-voiced aspirated consonants, including the Gujarati and White Hmong that the authors here analyse. Since both involve breathy voicing during the vowel, the crucial question is, how is the CʰV type distinguished from the CV̤ type?
The authors studied Gujarati minimal triplets such as ba̤ɾ ‘outside’, bʰar ‘burden’, baɾ ‘twelve’, and White Hmong triplets such as da̤ ‘lie, fool’, dʰa ‘separate’, da ‘yellow’ (these are also tonally distinct). They found that in both languages consonantal breathiness is initially breathier than vowel breathiness. The timing of the breathiness also differs, being later for vowel breathiness than for consonant breathiness. (I summarize.)