I thought that for today I’d recycle a blog entry from seven years ago, seeing that it may well still be of interest.
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My colleague Olaf Lipor tells me that the International Phonetic Asssociation is considering recognizing a further new symbol, in order to cater for the voiced linguolabial trill, a sound-type recently discovered to be used contrastively in Caslon and Ki-Flong, languages spoken on the island of San Serriffe.
Linguolabials, articulated by the tongue tip against the upper lip, are very rare in the languages of the world. Nevertheless linguolabial plosives, fricatives, and a nasal are known to occur in a cluster of languages in the island state of Vanuatu. Among these languages are Tangoa and Vao. But until now there had been no report of a linguolabial trill.
The way in which the IPA would symbolize the new sound is with the ‘combining seagull below’ diacritic, U+033C, thus [r̼].
Incidentally, we are hoping to have the Serriffean phonetician Dr Charis Doulos, a native speaker of Caslon and the person who first described the linguolabial trill, come to UCL Phonetics & Linguistics as an academic visitor at this time next year. She will no doubt be willing to act as a language consultant for our practical phonetics class, so that the students can have the opportunity of observing the sound first-hand and of learning to perform it to the native speaker’s satisfaction.
The island of San Serriffe sprang to world fame as a consequence of a feature article in the Guardian newspaper, published on 1 April 1977, the tenth anniversary of its independence. But at that time its native languages had not been thoroughly investigated.
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Since writing the above, I have come across a report of an Amerindian language, Santo Domingo Coatlán Zapotec, in which this sound is now, excitingly, further attested, though disappointingly not as part of the phonemic inventory: