Phonotactic restrictions on ejectives
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Phonotactic Restrictions on Ejectives. A Typological Survey ___________________________ Carmen Jany [email protected] This presentation. Introduction Language sample Restrictions Based on syllable structure Based on position and co-occurrence Ejectives & Phoneme Inventory

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Phonotactic Restrictions on Ejectives

A Typological Survey


Carmen Jany

[email protected]

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This presentation

  • Introduction

  • Language sample

  • Restrictions

    • Based on syllable structure

    • Based on position and co-occurrence

  • Ejectives & Phoneme Inventory

  • Summary & Conclusions

Introduction l.jpg

  • This paper: examines phonotactic restrictions of ejective stops and phoneme inventories

  • Sample: 27 mostly unrelated languages, but from 3 major geographical areas

  • Goal: to find general tendencies in phono-tactic restrictions and possible explanations

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  • Ejectives occur in 18% of the world’s languages (Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996)

  • Strongly regional geographic distribution (Maddieson 2004)

  • Ejectives are non-pulmonic egressive consonants produced with closed glottis while occlusion in the oral cavity

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  • Generally no sharp division between ejectives and plosives + glottal stop

  • Ejectives are mostly voiceless stops (only voiceless ejective stops examined in this paper)

  • Tendency to occur only at same places of articulation as other stops in same language

  • Occurrence hierarchy: velar > dental/alveolar > bilabial > uvular (Maddieson 1984)

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Language sample

  • Ejectives found in 3 areas: the Americas, Africa, the Caucasus

  • This study: 27 languages, 19 from the Americas and 4 each from other 2 areas

  • Still great genetic diversity (see handout)

  • Materials used: grammars & secondary sources (see handout)

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Language sample

Source: WALS

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  • Two main types:

    • Ejectives do only or do not occur in certain positions (not in coda, leftmost in morpheme)

    • Ejectives can only or cannot co-occur with certain segments (not with other ejectives, only with identical ejectives)

      => Position within syllable/word & co-occurrence with other segments within syllable/word

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  • Both types depend on phonetic & phono-logical context (segments that precede/follow)

  • Both types can be attributed to articulatory & auditory features

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Syllable-based restrictions

  • Often described in grammars which cover positional restrictions

  • Both: positional & co-occurrence

  • Limitations to onset/coda position in syllables/words & to onset/coda clusters

  • However: complex onsets/codas not in all languages & sometimes vaguely described

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Syllable-based restrictions

  • Expected restrictions for phonetic reasons: stops not always released in coda position => ejectives limited to onset position (absence of audible release would eliminate contrast)

  • Blevins (2004): in general, fewer contrasts in coda position than in onset position

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Syllable-based restrictions

  • Information on positional restrictions only for 21/27 languages

  • 8/21 languages do not allow ejectives in coda position (no mention of word-edges)

  • Assumption: Languages with no restrictions always release coda stops (avoiding neutralization of contrast)

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Syllable-based restrictions

  • Restrictions on consonant clusters for articulatory and auditory reasons

  • Clusters show similar restrictions in onset and coda position

  • Cluster information missing for 11 languages

  • 9 lack complex onsets & 7 complex codas

  • A few restrictions (see handout)

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Syllable-based restrictions

  • Explanations for restrictions to following segments:

    • Blevins (2004): Ejectives commonly contrast with other stops before sonorants, but not before obstruents and word-finally

    • Steriade (1999): Ejectives depend on right-hand context because they are postglottalized

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Syllable-based restrictions

  • Explanation for restrictions to preceding segments:

    • Articulatory difficulty and perceptual complexity (see Bella Coola ban on two-ejective clusters)

  • Ejectives only in roots: 3/27 languages (may be related to affixing pattern and positional restrictions)

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Position/Co-occurrence restrictions

  • No restrictions reported for 6 languages

  • Restrictions for 5 languages syllable-based

  • Positional restrictions:

    • Ejectives occur at the left edge of a domain (stem-initial, leftmost in morpheme)

  • Explanations: Initial position perceptually more salient; stops tend to be released initially

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Position/Co-occurrence restrictions

  • Co-occurrence restrictions based on similarity

  • Some languages allow only very similar segments (homorganic, same laryngeal features), others only dissimilar segments

  • Some languages allow only identical segments to co-occur

  • Some languages ban co-occurrence within morpheme or root

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Position/Co-occurrence restrictions

  • Explanation (MacEachern 1997): Restrictions based on auditory similarity and identity

    • 4 Patterns, each with subset of restrictions of next pattern forming implicational hierarchy

    • E.g. pattern 4 with most restrictions: co-occurrence of extremely similar no, but identical yes

    • Co-occuring elements on scale of similarity: identical – very dissimilar

  • Syllable-based co-occurrence restrictions also based on similarity (ejective not next to glottal stop)

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Ejectives & Phoneme Inventory

  • Maddieson’s (1984) claims tested

    • a) Ejectives in the same places of articulation as other stops in a given language

    • b) Certain places of articulation are preferred over others: velar > dental/alveolar > bilabial > uvular

  • a) and b) mostly confirmed

  • Two contradictions: Tzutujil, Hupa

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Summary & Conclusions

  • Restrictions either positional of co-occurrence

  • Positional: ejectives at left edge (syllable or other domain)

    • Articulatory explanation: lack of stop release in coda position

    • Auditory explanation: marked segments in perceptually more salient position

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Summary & Conclusions

  • Articulatory and auditory reasons working together:

    • Lack of an audible release in coda eliminates phonetic cue for contrast perception resulting in laryngeal neutralization

  • Co-occurrence limitations based on auditory similarity

    • Languages differ where they set the point at which similarity becomes unacceptable (dissimilar-identical)

    • Languages also vary with respect to the domain of the restriction (root, morpheme, syllable, word)

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Summary & Conclusions

  • All phonotactic restrictions of ejectives can be explained in terms of articulatory variation and ease and on perceptual complexity and similarity

  • Given that languages vary with respect to articulatory features and with regard to perceptual similarity, different restrictions found cross‑linguistically

  • Cross‑linguistic phonetic analysis is needed to have experimental confirmation of these tendencies

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Thank you!