Three-Way Contrast of Secondary Articulations in PIE

Rich Alderson alderson+mail at
Thu Mar 15 23:48:58 UTC 2001

On 12 Mar 2001, David White wrote:

> Now I am thoroughly confused.  The analysis with three contrasting
> consonantal qualities is seemingly presented as a fact at first only to be
> dismissed as wrong later.  If "[a]-quality", which leads to the conclusion
> that there is no /a/, is an illusion, then how are there three qualities?

The analysis of the obstruents as occurring in three series, to wit, plain,
palatalized, and labialized, is unremarkable.  Presumably, your confusion stems
from my comments on Kuipers' re-analysis of "plain":

>> He then proceeds to re-analyze the plain series as having a feature "open",
>> which he symbolizes with a superscript <a> to match the superscript <j> and
>> <w> of the palatalized and labialized series respectively, and postulates
>> that with the addition of this feature, we need not have any phonemic vowel
>> at all in Kabardian.

That is, in order to motivate a completely vowelless analysis of the phonologi-
cal system of Kabardian, Kuipers introduces an _ad hoc_ feature which he calls
"open" and symbolizes as a superscript <a> on the formerly undecorated plain
series.  This feature must then be present on every obstruent which does not
color surrounding vowels by fronting and/or rounding them, and since the color
of any vowel is thereby predicted by the coloration of the surrounding obstru-
ents, there is no need in his analysis for any phonemic vowel at all.

This latter claim ("no phonemic vowel at all") is what I referred to when I

>> This analysis flies in the face of everything we know about permissible
>> phonological systems and naturalness.

However, as I pointed out briefly,

>> Later studies of the language have found that the proper analysis requires
>> that there be two vowels, /a/ and /I-/ ("barred i").

so there is no need for his "open" feature, since the analysis that caused him
to propose it was fatally flawed in any case.

								Rich Alderson

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