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CHAT: Glottalized consonants

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Friday, May 14, 1999, 19:48
Hey, since we're on the subject -- and thanks to Ed Heil for posting that
info on language universals -- I found a sort of "universal" of sorts in how
many languages have a three-way stop distinction of voiceless, voiced and
glottalized/ejective (or something similar, like plain, aspirated and
ejective, all voiceless).  From my personal studies, I came up with a list
of languages that have glottalized consonants:

Indo-European: of modern languages, only Armenian (Eastern) and Ossetic
(note that these languages are spoken in the Caucasus region); Sindhi
somehow came up with voiced implosives (in addition to the voiceless,
voiceless aspirate, voiced and voiced aspirate of most Indo-Aryan
languages).  However, I have a hunch that Proto-Indo-European (or maybe
Pre-Indo-European), could've had ejectives -- I've read an alternative
rendering of t-t'-d instead of the traditional t-d-dh.  (This could explain
Grimm's Law.)  I'm doing this with my conlang Callistic.  Of course this
would raise some controversy...

Altaic: Proto-Altaic probably had ejectives.  Turkic and Mongolian languages
do not as far as I know, but maybe Tungusic/Manchu?  (Also, Korean does if
you consider it Altaic.)

Kartvelian: absolutely.  All four languages including Georgian.  In fact,
you have p'-p-b, t'-t-d, c'-c-j (c = [ts]; j = [dz]), c^'-c^-j^ (c^ = [tS],
j^ = [dZ]) and k'-k-g.  Mingrelian distinguishes two uvulars q'-q, but no G
(but <gh> [gamma] probably came from the voiced uvular stop <G> of
Nostratic, if you believe in Nostratic -- which by the way could've had
eight or nine ejective stops/affricates).

Caucasian: all three Caucasian families have ejectives, and lots of 'em.
Chechen (NE Cauc.) has a phonology a lot like unto Georgian, Avar (and other
NE Cauc./Daghestani languages) also has an ejective lateral, and Abkhaz (NW
Cauc.) has p', t', ts', ts'w, ts.' (retroflex), ts.'w, tc,' (palatalized),
k', k'w, q' and q'w IIRC.  Adygey and Kabardian similar.  (Whew!  I'd hate
to see what Ubykh has...)

Afro-Asiatic: Ejectives are found in South Semitic, including Ge'ez,
Amharic, Tigrinya, and the other Ethiopic languages.  Cushitic (Somali, Beja
etc.) has them I think, and Chadic as well -- Hausa has ejective k', but
implosive b' and d' and a glottalized y'.  (The ejectives of Proto-A-A and
Proto-Semitic became "emphatic" velarized consonants in Arabic, Biblical
Hebrew, and Aramaic; Berber languages also have emphatics instead of
ejectives.  Egyptian lost the ejectives however.)

Niger-Congo: this I'm not too sure about.  I think Igbo has ejectives; that
or some other related language has a *five* way setup for stops
(t'-th-t-dh-d or something like that; remember there is often a series of
simultaneous labial-velar consonants in non-Bantu languages like Yoruba and
Igbo: kp-gb-ngm-xf?).

Khoisan: sheesh, don't even go there, lol.  You got ejectives, clicks,
ejective clicks, and what not.  (I used to have a list of all the consonants
of !Xo~o handy, but I have a tendency to lose things easy.)

Of the Native American languages, these I know of:

Na-Dene: most certainly; Tlingit, Haida, Eyak and the Athabaskan languages
including Najavo and Apache have ejectives as well as voiceless and voiced
stops; these can be found in the form of dental stops, lateral affricates
<tl dl>, postalveolar affricates <ch j>, and velar stops -- at least.

Salishan: yep, plenty of those too.

Mayan: oh yeah, definitely.  Don't know which ones though.

Quechua: most Quechuan languages -- I can only think of Cuzco right now --
have a three-way stop apparatus: ejective-aspirate-plain, all voiceless.

Aymara: also the three-way stop system; there may be one- or two-way
influence with Quechua on phonology as well as lexicon, syntax etc.

I want to say Eskimo-Aleut and Uto-Aztecan as well, but I don't know too
much about these families.  Anybody?

Anyway, I happen to be somehow fascinated with glottalized consonants (and
other sounds that tickle your throat).  Pertaining to conlangs, somebody
mentioned Vulcan (I know tlhIngan Hol doesn't have ejectives).  Two of my
conlang projects have them: Tech and Callistic.  Tech has a six-way stop
system: voiceless and voiced plain, voiceless and voiced aspirate, voiceless
ejective and voiced implosive, which result from fortition and lenition
distinction of the Nostratic three-way stops/affricates.  (I'm still working
on the system; I can't seem to get it right -- maybe this is OCD ;)

(The official classification of Tech by the way is Language Isolate, with
possible Afro-Asiatic affiliation.)


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