Skip to main content

Phonotactics and the prestopped velar lateral of Hiw: resolving the ambiguity of a complex segment*

  • Alexandre François (a1)

Complex segments consisting of two phases are potentially ambivalent as to which phase determines their phonemic status – e.g. whether // is a stop or a nasal. This theoretical problem is addressed here with respect to a typologically unusual phoneme in Hiw, an endangered Oceanic language of Vanuatu. This complex segment, //, combines a velar voiced stop and a velar lateral approximant. Similar phonemes, in the few languages which have them, have been variously described as (laterally released) stops, affricates or (prestopped) laterals. The nature of Hiw // can be established from its patterning in tautosyllabic consonant clusters. The licensing of word-initial CC clusters in Hiw complies with the Sonority Sequencing Principle, albeit with some adjustments. Consequently, the well-formedness of words like /mejiŋə/ ‘berserk’ relies on // being analysed as a prestopped velar lateral approximant – the only liquid in the system.

Hide All
Anderson, Stephen R. (1976). Nasal consonants and the internal structure of segments. Lg 52. 326344.
Barbosa, Plínio A. & Albano, Eleonora C. (2004). Brazilian Portuguese. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34. 227232.
Blevins, Juliette (1994). A place for lateral in the feature geometry. JL 30. 301348.
Blevins, Juliette (1995). The syllable in phonological theory. In Goldsmith (1995). 206244.
Blevins, Juliette & Pawley, Andrew (2010). Typological implications of Kalam predictable vowels. Phonology 27. 144.
Blust, Robert (2009). The Austronesian languages. Canberra: Australian National University.
Breen, Gavan & Pensalfini, Rob (1999). Arrernte: a language with no syllable onsets. LI 30. 125.
Butcher, Andrew (2006). Australian aboriginal languages: consonant-salient phonologies and the ‘place-of-articulation imperative’. In Harrington, Jonathan & Tabain, Maria (eds.) Speech production: models, phonetic processes, and techniques. New York: Psychology Press. 187210.
Campbell, Lyle (1974). Phonological features: problems and proposals. Lg 50. 5265.
Charpentier, Jean-Michel & François, Alexandre (forthcoming). Atlas linguistique de Polynésie Française – Linguistic atlas of French Polynesia. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Cho, Young-mee Yu & King, Tracy Holloway (2003). Semisyllables and universal syllabification. In de Vijver, Caroline Féry & Ruben van (eds.) The syllable in Optimality Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 183212.
Chomsky, Noam & Halle, Morris (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.
Chumakina, Marina, Corbett, Greville G. & Brown, Dunstan (2008). Archi language tutorial. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, University of Essex.
Clark, Ross (2009). *Leo Tuai: A comparative lexical study of North and Central Vanuatu languages. Canberra: Australian National University.
Clements, G. N. (1990). The role of the sonority cycle in core syllabification. In Kingston, John & Beckman, Mary E. (eds.) Papers in laboratory phonology I: between the grammar and physics of speech. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 283333.
Crowley, Terry (2006). The Avava language of Central Malakula (Vanuatu). Edited by Lynch, John. Canberra: Australian National University.
Dench, Alan (1995). Martuthunira: a language of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Canberra: Australian National University.
Dixon, R. M. W. (1980). The languages of Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Doble, Marion (1987). A description of some features of Ekari language structure. Oceanic Linguistics 26. 55–113.
Donohue, Mark (2004). A grammar of the Skou language of New Guinea. Ms, University of Singapore. Available (September 2010) at
Donohue, Mark (2007). The Papuan language of Tambora. Oceanic Linguistics 46. 520537.
Edmondson, Jerold A. & Ziwo, Lama (1999). Laghuu or Xá Phó, a new language of the Yi group. Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 22. 110.
Evans, Nicholas (1995). Current issues in the phonology of Australian languages. In Goldsmith (1995). 723761.
Evans, Nicholas & Levinson, Stephen C. (2009). The myth of language universals: language diversity and its importance for cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32. 429448.
Ewen, Colin J. (1982). The internal structure of complex segments. In Hulst, Harry van der & Smith, Norval (eds.) The structure of phonological representations. Part 2. Dordrecht: Foris. 2767.
Foley, William A. (1986). The Papuan languages of New Guinea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
François, Alexandre (2002). Araki: a disappearing language of Vanuatu. Canberra: Australian National University.
François, Alexandre (2005). Unraveling the history of the vowels of seventeen northern Vanuatu languages. Oceanic Linguistics 44. 443504.
François, Alexandre (2009). Stress-driven sonority in Hiw, Vanuatu. Ms, CNRS & Australian National University.
François, Alexandre (ms). Lexical reconstructions for proto-Torres-Banks (northern Vanuatu). LACITO-CNRS & Australian National University.
François, Alexandre (forthcoming). Where *R they all? The geography and history of *R loss in Vanuatu. Oceanic Linguistics.
Goldsmith, John A. (ed.) (1995). The handbook of phonological theory. Cambridge, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell.
Geraghty, Paul (1990). Proto-Eastern Oceanic *R and its reflexes. In Davidson, Jeremy H. C. S. (ed.) Pacific Island languages: Essays in honour of G. B. Milner. London & Honolulu: School of Oriental and African Studies & University of Hawaii Press. 5193.
Greenberg, Joseph H. (1978). Some generalizations concerning initial and final consonant clusters. In Greenberg, Joseph H., Ferguson, Charles A. & Moravcsik, Edith A. (eds.) Universals of human language. Vol. 2: Phonology. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 243279.
Hajek, John & Bowden, John (1999). Taba and Roma: clusters and geminates in two Austronesian languages. In Ohala, John J., Hasegawa, Yoko, Ohala, Manjari, Granville, Daniel & Bailey, Ashlee C. (eds.) Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Berkeley: Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley. 10331036.
Harris, John (2006). The phonology of being understood: further arguments against sonority. Lingua 116. 14831494.
Haspelmath, Martin (2007). Pre-established categories don't exist: consequences for language description and typology. Linguistic Typology 11. 119132.
Henderson, John K. & Dobson, Veronica (1994). Eastern and Central Arrernte to English dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press.
Hercus, L. A. (1972). The pre-stopped nasal and lateral consonants of Arabana-Waŋgaŋuru. Anthropological Linguistics 14. 293305.
Hume, Elizabeth (1998). Metathesis in phonological theory: the case of Leti. Lingua 104. 147186.
Hyman, Larry M. (2008). Universals in phonology. The Linguistic Review 25. 83–137.
Itô, Junko (1989). A prosodic theory of epenthesis. NLLT 7. 217259.
Jespersen, Otto (1904). Lehrbuch der Phonetik. Leipzig & Berlin: Teubner.
Kenstowicz, Michael (1994). Phonology in generative grammar. Cambridge, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell.
Kodzasov, S. V. 1977. Fonetika Archinskogo jazyka. In Kibrik, A. E., Kodzasov, S. V., Olovyannikova, I. P. & Samedov, D. S. (eds.) Opyt strukturnogo opisanija archinskogo jazyka. Vol. 1: Leksika, Fonetika. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Moskovskogo Universiteta. 185355.
Ladefoged, Peter (1971). Preliminaries to linguistic phonetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ladefoged, Peter, Cochran, Anne & Disner, Sandra (1977). Laterals and trills. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 7. 4654.
Ladefoged, Peter & Maddieson, Ian (1996). The sounds of the world's languages. Oxford & Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Lindblom, Björn (1983). Economy of speech gestures. In MacNeilage, Peter F. (ed.) The production of speech. New York: Springer. 217245.
Lynch, John (1983). On the Kuman ‘liquids’. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia 14. 98–112.
Lynch, John (2008). Liquid vocalization and loss in Central Vanuatu. Oceanic Linguistics 47. 294315.
Lynch, John (2009). Irregular sound change and the post-velars in some Malakula languages. In Adelaar, Alexander & Pawley, Andrew (eds.) Austronesian historical linguistics and culture history: a festschrift for Bob Blust. Canberra: Australian National University. 5772.
Maddieson, Ian (2008). Lateral consonants. In Haspelmath, Martin, Dryer, Matthew S., Gil, David & Comrie, Bernard (eds.) The world atlas of language structures online. Munich: Max Planck Digital Library. Available (September 2010) at
Mielke, Jeff (2005). Ambivalence and ambiguity in laterals and nasals. Phonology 22. 169203.
Milke, Wilhelm (1958). Zur inneren Gliederung und geschichtlichen Stellung der ozeanisch-austronesischen Sprachen. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 83. 5862.
Morelli, Frida (1999). The phonotactics and phonology of obstruent clusters in Optimality Theory. PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park.
Moxness, Mike (2002). Auye grammar. Ms, Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Ohala, John J. (1990). Alternatives to the sonority hierarchy for explaining segmental sequential constraints. CLS 26:2. 319338.
Ohala, John J. & Lorentz, James (1977). The story of [w]: an exercise in the phonetic explanation for sound patterns. BLS 3. 577599.
Ozanne-Rivierre, Françoise (1995). Structural changes in the languages of Northern New Caledonia. Oceanic Linguistics 34. 4572.
Parker, Steve (2002). Quantifying the sonority hierarchy. PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Parker, Steve (2008). Sound level protrusions as physical correlates of sonority. JPh 36. 5590.
Pfantz, Daryl & Pfantz, Mary (2005). Kuman language [Simbu province]. In Parker, Steve (ed.) Phonological descriptions of Papua New Guinea languages. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Summer Institute of Linguistics. 1926.
Piau, Julie Anne (1985). The verbal syntax of Kuman. MA thesis, Australian National University, Canberra.
Pike, Eunice V. (1964). The phonology of New Guinea Highlands languages. In Watson, James B. (ed.) New Guinea: the central highlands. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association. 121132.
Ramsey, Evelyn (1975). Middle-Wahgi dictionary. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Renck, G. L. (1975). A grammar of Yagaria. Canberra: Australian National University.
Renck, G. L. (ms). Yagaria organised phonology Data. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Summer Institute of Linguistics. Available (September 2010) at
Rivierre, Françoise (1975). Phonologie du nemi (Nouvelle Calédonie) et notes sur les consonnes postnasalisées. Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris 70:1. 345356.
Ross, Malcolm D. (1988). Proto Oceanic and the Austronesian languages of Western Melanesia. Canberra: Australian National University.
Ross, Malcolm D. (1998). Proto Oceanic phonology and morphology. In Ross, Malcolm D., Pawley, Andrew & Osmond, Meredith (eds.) The lexicon of Proto Oceanic: the culture and environment of ancestral Oceanic society. Vol. 1: Material culture. Canberra: Australian National University. 1535.
Ross, Malcolm D. & Næss, Åshild (2007). An Oceanic origin for Äiwoo, the language of the Reef Islands? Oceanic Linguistics 46. 456498.
Rumsey, Alan (2007). Musical, poetic, and linguistic form in Tom Yaya sung narratives from Papua New Guinea. Anthropological Linguistics 49. 235282.
Selkirk, Elisabeth (1984). On the major class features and syllable theory. In Aronoff, Mark & Oerhle, Richard T. (eds.) Language sound structure. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 107136.
Shaw, Patricia A. (1989). The complex status of complex segments in Dakota. In Gerdts, Donna B. & Michelson, Karin (eds.) Theoretical perspectives on native American languages. Albany: State University of New York Press. 337.
Sievers, Eduard (1881). Grundzüge der Phonetik, zur Einführung in das Studium der Lautlehre der indogermanischen Sprachen. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel.
SIL (2004). Wahgi organised phonology data. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Summer Institute of Linguistics. Available (September 2010) at
Steed, William & Hardie, Peter (2004). Acoustic properties of the Kuman voiceless velar lateral fricative. In Bow, Catherine (ed.) Proceedings of the 10th Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology. Sydney: Australian Speech Science and Technology Association. 346351.
Stell, Nélida (1972). Fonología de la lengua Axluxlaj. Buenos Aires: Centro de Estudios Lingüísticos.
Steriade, Donca (1982). Greek prosodies and the nature of syllabification. PhD dissertation, MIT.
Stucky, Al (1994a). Nii organised phonology data. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Summer Institute of Linguistics. Available (September 2010) at
Stucky, Al (1994b). Melpa organised phonology data. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Summer Institute of Linguistics. Available (September 2010) at
Stucky, Al & Stucky, Dellene. 1973. Nii phonology. In Healey, A. (ed.) Studies in languages of the Ok family. Vol. 2. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Summer Institute of Linguistics. 3778. Available (September 2010) at
Tryon, Darrell T. (1976). New Hebrides languages: an internal classification. Canberra: Australian National University.
Vennemann, Theo (1988). Preference laws for syllable structure and the explanation of sound change: with special reference to German, Germanic, Italian, and Latin. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Weijer, Jeroen van de (1993). The Manner–Place dependency in complex segments. Linguistics 31. 87–110.
Wittersheim, Éric (2009). Le salaire du poete – The poet's salary. Documentary film. Paris: CNRS-LACITO & Honolulu: Pacific Islands Development Program.
Wright, Richard (2004). A review of perceptual cues and robustness. In Hayes, Bruce, Kirchner, Robert & Steriade, Donca (eds.) Phonetically based phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 3457.
Young, Rosemary (1962). The phonemes of Kanite, Kamano, Benabina, and Gahuku. Oceania Linguistic Monograph 6. 90–110.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0952-6757
  • EISSN: 1469-8188
  • URL: /core/journals/phonology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 41 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 292 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd April 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.