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Re: Phonological terminology question

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 18, 2003, 1:53
From: "Garth Wallace" <gwalla@...>

> I'm also a little unclear on how epiglottal and pharyngeal consonants > are a pharyngeal fricative a choking sound? Because that's > what I get when I try it.
Oh God, these took me forever to master. I'm sporadically studying Hebrew and Arabic, so I had to figure these out. I had to look around for a detailed description of what goes on with a pharyngeal consonant. What happens is that the throat muscles above the glottis (that's where the pharynx, treachea and esophagus meet) contracts at the sides, a type of "gurgling" sound that also causes a backing of adjacent vowels, which also become "pharyngealized" (Maltese "gha" with a stroke through the "h" is a pharyngealized /a/). There is no such thing as a pharyngeal stop (that would be painful!), just the two fricatives in Arabic, voiceless and voiced. It's very easy to miss the mark and produce uvular fricatives. If you can close off the throat and produce a stop, that's uvular, not pharyngeal. Incidentally, modern Hebrew gives the sound of "heth" as a uvular voiceless fricative (IPA chi) and "ayin" as glottal stop. Not only Semitic languages have the pharyngeal consonants, but other non-Semitic languages in the Afrasian language/phylum: Egyptian (but not Coptic), the Berber languages, and the Cushitic languages, including Somali and Oromiffa. And these consonants also appear in other families, usually with larger, more "exotic" consonant inventories: Northeast Caucasian (i.e. Daghestani), Khoisan and Salishan are just a few examples. And Tech (here we go again...). Now the epiglottal consonants, which are extremely rare (I know of no natlang with them), most likely involve a "choking" type of sound. They occur as voiceless stops (IPA glottal stop with stroke), voiceless fricative (IPA small capital H) and voiced fricative (IPA reversed glottal stop with stroke, or voiced pharyngeal mark with stroke). I have NO idea how these are actually produced, and they seem uncomfortable just thinking about them; I have a pretty sensitive neck-throat region. However... I've seen a symbol used by Sergei Starostin in his reconstruction of Proto-North Caucasian: that would comprise both NW Caucasian which includes Abkhaz and Kabardian, and NE Caucasian which includes Chechen and Daghstani languages like Avar and Dido, the language not the singer. This is the IPA glottal stop (resembles a question mark) with a small horizontal stroke or tick, the epiglottal stop. That could be an epiglottal stop or some sort of pharyngeal ejective, a scary sound indeed! ~Danny~ People living in grass houses should not get stoned.


Garth Wallace <gwalla@...>
Tristan <kesuari@...>