The Margi vowel system and labiocoronals


  • Ian Maddieson


Margi, vowel system, spreading, labio-coronals, phonetics, phonology


The vowel system of Margi, described by Hoffman [1963] as containing three high vowels and one low vowel, is reinterpreted as a two-vowel system with underlying contrast only of high versus low. A pervasive contrast of secondary articulations on consonants spreads features of rounding and backness to contiguous vowels, giving rise to the different high vowel qualities recognized by Hoffman. A morphological role for the secondary articulations can be identified. Given this new understanding of the vowel system, the claim that "labio-coronal" elements in Margi are single complex segments requires reevaluation. Arguments advanced by Sagey [1986] are shown to proceed from a wrong interpretation of a syncope process and an assumed underlying contrast between high vowels. Phonetic data and the absence of phonological arguments to the contrary suggest that the labiocoronal elements are consonant sequences. 1.