On the Phonological Derivation and Behavior of Nasal Glides

R. L. Trigo Ferre, 1988

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This thesis presents a unified phonological approach to the emergence of nasal vowels from the reduction of vowel plus nasal consonant sequences (in our terms nasal ‘absorption’) in a number of unrelated languages.  Nasal ‘absorption’ is studied in the context of other phenomena which play a role in this process: the appearance of optional weakly articulated velar nasals after nasalized vowels, the appearance of nasalized ‘transitions’ or of nasal stops between nasal vowels and certain consonants, the exceptional susceptibility to ‘absorption’ processes and to processes which neutralize a consonant’s point of articulation which certain nasal consonants have, depending on their position in the word.

I claim that nasal ‘absorption’ occurs when the occlusion of a nasal stop is removed or weakened considerably to the point where it is a glide.  A nasal glide without any place features, [N], is shown to derive by a process which simultaneously reduces obstruent stops to glottal stops in Japanese, Choctaw and Malay.  Material from Chinese, Caribbean Spanish and Choctaw are used to provide supporting evidence for the role of [N] in nasal ‘absorption’.  The nasals which are most susceptible to ‘absorption’ are shown to be those which are most susceptible to weakening processes that diminish the magnitude of their oral occlusion or remove that occlusion altogether.

I show that the reduction of nasal stops to [N] causes spreading of nasalization from the nasal onto neighbouring vowels and need not be accompanied by the deletion of the nasal segment, though it often is.  When the glide [N] is not deleted, it is often interpreted as a consonant and subsequently velarized to [ŋ].  I argue that in many languages nasals in homorganic NC stop clusters do not undergo ‘absorption’ because ‘absorption’ targets [N] in these languages.  Place assimilation is shown to be a potentially feature changing operation which may occur before or after the creation of [N].

The analysis of nasal ‘absorption’ which posits an intermediate stage with a ‘floating’ [+nasal] autosegment cannot explain why nasal ‘absorption’ is bled or blocked by place assimilation.  I question the basis upon which ‘floating’ nasal features have been assumed to ‘drift’ over segmental material in Capanahua and argue that ‘floating’ nasality in Terena and Coatzospan Mixtec are revisited.  Certain facts of Aguaruna provide the basis for an argument in favor of representing derivationally ambiguous forms as having more than one underlying form.  Thus, the fact that in certain cases the exact ordering of a nasal element in the word cannot be known does not constitute sufficient evidence for the existence of a ‘floating’ nasal feature that is unordered with respect to surrounding segments.

I establish the existence of vocalic nasal glides and continuants derived from nasal stops in Basari.  The possibility that vocalic nasal glides may participate in ‘absorption’ processes is also considered.

Thesis Supervisor:         Morris Halle

Title:                             Institute Professor

Table of Contents

Framework                                                                                                                  8

            0.1       Feature geometry                                                                                  8

            0.2       Phonolgoical rules                                                                                 13

            0.3       Thesis blueprint                                                                         19

Chapter 1         [N]: Phonetic description and derivation                                                25

            1.1       Japanese                                                                                              32

            1.2       Choctaw                                                                                              39

            1.3       Malay                                                                                                   41

Chapter 2         [N]: velarization                                                                                    45

            2.1       Syllable attrition processes                                                                    45

                        2.1.1    Uradhi                                                                                      57

                        2.1.2    Murut                                                                                       59

                        2.1.3    Chukchi                                                                                    64

                        2.1.4    Polish                                                                                       68

                        2.1.5    Spanish                                                                                    71

            2.2       The underlying placelessness of velars                                       81

                        2.2.1    Triggers of place assimilation                                                     84

                        2.2.2    Targets of place assimilation                                                      89

                        2.2.3    Dorsal transparency                                                                  90

                        2.2.4    Dorsals, laryngeals and the OCP                                               98

            2.3       Conclusion                                                                                           101

Chapter 3         [N]: absorption                                                                         104

                        3.1.1    On the nature of debuccalization                                                105

                        3.1.2    Typology and distribution debuccalized vs. ‘absorbed’

nasals                                                                                       111

3.2       Ordering nasal debuccalization before nasal ‘absorption’                       116

            3.2.1    ‘Absorption’ and the preservation of vocalic point of

                        articulation                                                                                117

            3.2.2    [N] and the spreading of nasality                                               118

            3.2.3    Place assimilation and nasal ‘absorption’                                   127

               Aguaruna                                                                      129

               Capanahua                                                                   136

               Western Muskogean                                                     143

               Panamanian Spanish                                                     148

3.3       Conclusion                                                                                           156


Chapter 4         Floating vs. drifting nasality                                                                    164

            4.1       The problem                                                                                         164

                        4.1.1    Terena                                                                                      174

                        4.1.2    Coatzospan Mixtec                                                                   180

                        4.1.3    Drifting nasality and derivational ambiguity                                 191

            4.2       Conclusion                                                                                           194

Appendix                                                                                                                     195

            A.1      Stricture variation among nasals                                                 195

            A.2      Nasal glides and continuants in Basari                                        198

            A.3      When is the velar nasal a continuant                                                       202

                        A.3.1   Tucanoan                                                                                 205

                        A.3.2   Gokana                                                                                    213

            A.4      Vocalic nasal glides and nasal ‘absorption’                                            216