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mar. 23/05/2017 Atelier HELAN2: Myriam Lapierre (UC Berkeley): Post-oralization and devoicing of nasal consonants in Panará, and the implications of this phenomenon for the internal classification of Jê languages
ISH, A. Frossard

The role of phonetic naturalness in the grammaticalization of phonological processes has long been of interest to the study of sound change. In particular, the phenomenon of post-­‐ nasal stop devoicing has attracted a lot of attention in this debate. A number of authors (Pater, 1996, 1999; Hayes, 1999; Hayes & Stivers, 2000) have proposed a universal bias for avoidance of post-­‐nasal stop devoicing (*NT), articulatorily grounded in the fact that leakage of airflow through the nasal cavity upon closure of the velum should promote vocal fold vibration rather than inhibit it. Post-­‐nasal voicing, then, is considered more natural than post-­‐nasal devoicing. That said, a number of counter-­‐examples to this constraint have been observed from Bantu languages, including Tswana (Hyman, 2001; Coetzee et al., 2007; Coetzee & Pretorius, 2010) and Shekgalagari (Solé et al., 2010). In light of this debate, this study provides novel data from Panará, a severely understudied Northern Jê language spoken in the Brazilian Amazon. Panará exhibits a process of post-­‐oralization and devoicing of nasal consonants when they appear before oral vowels (1). Nasal consonants are only fully nasalized when they precede nasal vowels (2). (1) /m, n, ɲ, ŋ/ → [m͡p, n͡t, n͡s, ŋ͡k] / __ V (2) /m, n, ɲ, ŋ/ → [m, n, ɲ, ŋ] / __ Ṽ Acoustic data from post-­‐oralized and devoiced nasal consonants was collected from a total of 12 speakers of Panará. Stimuli consisted of the carrier sentence [ĩkjẽhẽ katõsyrĩ X] (I repeat X), where X is one of 13 target words beginning in an underlying sequence of nasal consonant plus oral vowel (NV). Participants repeated each target word five times, and this yielded a total of 780 tokens of post-­‐oralized and devoiced nasal consonants. Preliminary findings suggest that there is indeed no vocal fold vibration during the oral closure and release of Panará NCs, and that immediately adjacent vowels are, in fact, fully voiced. These results are especially interesting in light of comparative data from other Northern Jê languages. The Northern branch of Jê languages includes Panará, Timbira, Kĩsêdjê, Tapayuna, Mebêngôkre, and Apinayé. Of these languages, only Panará clearly exhibits devoiced post-­‐ oralized nasals at a synchronic level. Other languages1 of the family have the phonetically natural alternation whereby post-­‐oralized nasals are voiced (3). (3) /m, n, ɲ, ŋ/ → [m͡b, n͡d, ɲ͡ʒ, ŋ͡g] / __ V The comparative data thus suggests that Panará may also have had voiced post-­‐oralized nasals, as in (3), at an earlier stage of its phonology. The presence of a synchronic and categorical process whereby nasal consonants are post-­‐oralized and devoiced in Panará, as in (2), is a challenge to theories claiming that a diachronic change from ND --> NT is phonetically unnatural and unexpected (Flemming, 1995; Hayes, 1999). Specifically, this diachronic change can be considered a “sound change for the worse,” as it involves a natural phonological process becomming unnatural. Furthermore, there is no clear historical or funtional motivation for such a process to have arisen in Panará. This study thus contributes to the body of literature suggesting that sound changes may not always be phonetically-­‐grounded.


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