The analysis of complex phonetic elements in Bura and the syllable


  • Ian Maddieson


phonetics, Bura, Margi, coarticulation


This paper examines those complex phonetic elements in Bura (and related languages such as Margi) which have been described by earlier scholars as unitary segments having a labial-alveolar double articulation. Several kinds of observations at the phonetic level show that this description is incorrect. Instead these segments are shown to be composed of a phonetic sequence of a labial articulation and an alveolar one. The analysis of the "labial-alveolars" as a sequence of phonological elements is also shown to be appropriate. If they are viewed as unitary segments represented by a single matrix of features there are problems with selecting correct feature values. If they are represented as two feature matrices linked to a single segmental position an invalid distinction is introduced between this representation and the same two matrices linked to separate segmental positions. On the other hand, representation as two independent segments accounts for vowel length adjustments and for resyllabification. Although unusual syllable-initial consonant clusters are posited in this analysis, these clusters are heterosyllabic when an appropriate environment occurs and violations of the universal syllable canon are minimized.