[Lingtyp] Apostrophe highlighting morphological information

Thomas Diaz tsdiaz at buffalo.edu
Fri Sep 11 16:12:39 UTC 2020

Hello Jeff,

I have done fieldwork on a Torricelli language called Heyo, spoken in
northwestern Papua New Guinea, for my doctoral dissertation. In that
language, the glottal stop represents feminine singular in many instances.
The glottal stop is also a common phoneme in Heyo. In the example below,
all instances of morphs indicating feminine singular contain a glottal
stop, with the exception of the subject prefix w-.

ru'-a'                     kiy-a'           belu-'           w-a-po'
3F.Sg.Pro-3F.Sg   that-3F.Sg  one-3F.Sg   3F.Sg.Subj-Non.Fut-sit
that one [woman] was sitting

That being said, there is a rather important caveat, depending on the
intention behind the question. Heyo is not a language which is written with
much, if any, frequency. As such, there is no "standard" written language.
In talking with speakers about producing written materials in the language,
some speakers prefer using an apostrophe, as I do. However, some prefer to
write a glottal stop with a hyphen. So, the feminine singular pronoun ru'a'
would be written by some as ru-a-. In materials I produce, I use an
apostrophe, since using a hyphen would make interlinear glossing all but

If you would like more information on Heyo, or if you need clarification,
please feel free to ask. I hope my reply has provided at least some useful

Thomas S. Diaz (He/Him)
PhD Candidate
Department of Linguistics
University at Buffalo (SUNY)

On Fri, Sep 11, 2020 at 11:06 AM Jeff Siegel <jsiegel2 at une.edu.au> wrote:

> Greetings:
> I'm posting a question from a colleague in Germany:
> do you know of any language where the apostrophe represents a glottal
> stop and where it highlights morphological information? that is, the
> apostrophe (the glottal stop) only occurs at word-initial or word-final
> position or at morpheme boundaries. it would be great if you could give
> me an example. unfortunately i could not find any in the literature.
> Grateful for any replies.
> Thanks,
> Jeff
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