Breathy vowels are not phonemic in Kedang (Eastern Indonesia)

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Breathy vowels are not phonemic in Kedang (Eastern Indonesia)

Type: Article / Letter to editor
Title: Breathy vowels are not phonemic in Kedang (Eastern Indonesia)
Author: Klamer, M.A.F.Shi, M.Swenne, J.Chen, Y.
Journal Title: Oceanic Linguistics
Issue: 1
Volume: 59
Start Page: 1
End Page: 22
Pages: 22
Issue Date: 2020
Abstract: Breathy phonation refers to the laryngeal setting where the vocal folds are lesstense and make less contact than in “modal” phonation, which consequentlyleads to continuous leaking of voiceless airflow, giving rise to the perceptionof breathiness in a speech sound. In Austronesian languages, contrastivebreathy segments are very rare. For the Austronesian languages of IslandSoutheast Asia, only one language has been reported to have phonemicallybreathy vowels: Kedang, a language spoken on Lembata island, in easternIndonesia. In this paper, we revisit the earlier analysis that in Kedang, breathinessdistinguishes phonemic “breathy” from “modal” vowels. Presenting evidenceof distributional, acoustic, and etymological nature, we argue that theso-called breathy onsetless vowels do not appear to be similar to breathyvowels described in the literature. Their “breathy” nature may have a historicalsource in initial glottal consonants that were lost, but is currently used as aphonetic strategy that is intended to enhance the perceptual contrast betweensyllables with a phonemic glottal onset versus onsetless syllables. We alsosuggest that the glottal stop in Kedang is phonemic in all positions and indicatea possible historical trajectory for its development.
Sponsor: NWO

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