PAn consonant inventory (Blust 1999)

Loren Billings sgnillib at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 2 23:20:23 UTC 2009

Dear an-lang readers (CC: Josh),

At 22:22 (GMT+8) on Wednesday, 2 September 2009, I wrote:

> Blust (1999:34) does a really good job of explaining what he means by *N (some sort of coronal nasal). And no, Blust does not suggest on this page that this *N was voiceless.

Since writing that, I have been in contact with people and I now
modify the above statement. I also realize that Josh probably didn't
have access to Blust (1999). Thus, here's Blust's rationale (1999:34)
verbatim for *N: "Based on the phonetics of reflexes in Formosan
languages Ross (1992: 38) has suggested that *N (written *L) 'was a
dental lateral (possibly with fricative articulation in all or some
environments)', and I find his arguments generally persuasive, at
least with regard to place of articulation. Given the high probability
that *t was dental but that *d and *n were alveolar, it is possible
that *N was the nasal counterpart of *t, thus *t: *N (dental) vs. *d:
*n (alveolar)." [Ross 1992 = Malcolm Ross, "The sound of
Proto-Austronesian: An outsider's view of the evidence," _OcL_ 31,
23-64; the colons at the end of the gloss are not phonetic but rather
logical: read *t is to *N (dental) as *d is to *n (alveolar)/L.A.B.] I
now see as well that Blust at least indirectly supports the voiceless
analysis of *N with his proportional analogy, since both the alveolars
are voiced and the other dental is voiceless.

Someone named Trebor Tsulb (perhaps from Alsace?) also wrote:
> You'll see a full discussion of the phonetic values of PAN phonemes in:
> Blust, Robert.  2009.  The Austronesian Languages.  Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
> On page 547 it is stated that *C probably was a "voiceless alveolar affricate", *D probably was "a voiced retroflex stop" (which occurred only word-finally), *N probably was "a palatalized alveolar nasal", *S probably was "a voiceless alveolar fricative", *s probably was "a voiceless palatal fricative", and *R probably was an "alveolar or uvular trill."  The book is available through Pacific Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics at the Australian National University.

Gentle breezes to you all! --Loren


Loren A. Billings, Ph.D.
Associate professor of linguistics
Department of Foreign Languages and Literature
National Chi Nan University
Puli, Nantou County 545 Taiwan

An-lang mailing list
An-lang at

More information about the An-lang mailing list