14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999


What Speakers of Australian Aboriginal Languages Do with their Velums and Why: The Phonetics of the Nasal/Oral Contrast

Andrew Butcher

Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

Pre-stopped nasals, either as phonemes, or as major allophones of nasal consonants, are a well-documented feature of certain Australian languages - mostly concentrated in the southern and central areas of the continent. A study of nasality in connected speechi n a wide variety of Australian languages,w ith and without phonologised pre-stopping, shows the same tendency is even more widespread at a phonetic level. This kind of perseverative velic closure, apparently well established in Australia, is rare in the world context. This paper considers the putative phonetic origins of this phenomenon in terms of unusual parameter settings for velopharyngeal control: a higher degree of stiffness for the opening gesture and a closer resting position. A possible perceptual explanation for these settings may be found in the need to preserve clear spectral cues to the place of articulation of postvocalic consonants in languages with up to seven places of articulation for nasals

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Butcher, Andrew (1999): "What speakers of Australian aboriginal languages do with their velums and why: the phonetics of the nasal/oral contrast", In ICPhS-14, 479-482.