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the poop on voiced uvular stops

From:dirk elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Wednesday, October 27, 1999, 4:30
On Tue, 26 Oct 1999, Nik Taylor wrote:

> Daniel Andreasson wrote: > > Another thing is that we have /q/ but no voiced equivalent. > > That's not very unusual at all. A lot of langs have /q/ but no voiced > uvular stop. Which makes sense, if you think about it. /G"/ is (at > least I think so) harder to make than /q/, due to the narrow space > between the glottis and the uvula for vibrating.
Well, almost. Voicing is the periodic vibration of the vocal folds. Vocal fold vibration occurs when there is airflow across the glottis; this airflow occurs when air pressure below the glottis is greater than air pressure above the glottis. In the production of a nasal consonant, the pressure differential is relatively easy to maintain since supraglottal air can escape through the nasal cavity. However, when the vocal tract is completely occluded in the production of a stop this pressure quickly equalizes since the air has no place to escape. This means that a voiced stop will be of shorter duration than a voiceless stop, no matter what place of articulation. If the stop is bilabial, expanding the oral cavity by puffing the cheeks will help to maintain the pressure differential necessary for voicing. The further back the closure is, though, the less volume there is, and the quicker the pressure will equalize. A uvular stop is about as far back as you can go, so it's not surprising that voiced uvular stops are relatively rare. The vocal folds have just as much room to vibrate, it's just that the pressure essential for voicing equalizes so quickly (because of the small volume) that a voiced uvular stop doesn't get much a of a chance to be heard. Lots of articulatory effort, but not much perceptual payoff. As far as voicing goes, then, the most unmarked stop inventory would be something like: t k b d Notice no voiceless [p], and no voiced [g]. I believe this is the Furbish stop inventory (Ray, Jeff? Do you remember?). Perhaps the conlanger responsible for that bit of work knew something about voicing ... Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga "All grammars leak." -Edward Sapir