South African Journal of African Languages

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Some differences between clicks and labio-velars

WG Bennett


Click consonants and labio-velar consonants are commonly grouped together, as complex segments – consonants having two simultaneous articulations in different places. While this grouping makes intuitive sense, it is not adequately supported. Complex segments appear to be unattested except for clicks and labio-velars; they are not an independently motivated class of sounds. A careful review of the facts reported in previous work reveals that the phonetic and phonological similarities between clicks and labio-velars are less significant than is commonly assumed. The conclusion of this paper is that unifying clicks and labio-velars as a natural class of complex stops is not empirically justified, and does not help explain the properties of either one.

South African Journal of African Languages 2014, 34(2): 115–126
AJOL African Journals Online