Parsing Salish Consonant Clusters
Sonya Bird [+]
University of Victoria
Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins [+]
University of Victoria
Salish languages are characterized by highly complex sound systems, with large consonantal inventories as well as long and complex consonant clusters (Czaykowska-Higgins & Kinkade 1998), as in for example the Nxaʔamxcín word snkɬxwpáw’stn ‘clothesline’ (Czaykowska-Higgins & Willett 1997). The details of how these long clusters are syllabified are complex, and various analyses of them have been proposed (Bagemihl, 1991; Czaykowska-Higgins & Willett, 1997; Shaw, 2008; Urbanczyk, 1996). One relatively consistent finding across Salish languages is that, stem-initially, obstruent-obstruent (OO) clusters are allowed but obstruent-resonant (OR) clusters are not, which seems to contradict predictions made by the Sonority Sequencing Principle. While the syllabification of consonant clusters in Salish languages has generated much scholarly work over the past 25 years, it has primarily been in the area of phonology, with almost no instrumental analysis of the pronunciation of these clusters, and therefore no indication of what that instrumental analysis might tell us about syllabification. The goal of this paper is therefore to provide the first systematic phonetic study of Salish consonant clusters, and to answer two questions: what transitional elements exist within consonant clusters, and what do these transitional elements tell us about how clusters are syllabified? For example, is it really the case that OO clusters are allowed, but OR clusters are not? As a starting point, we will consider clusters in Nxaʔamxcín (Interior Salish), extracted from a 30 minute long text recorded with a fluent elder in 1991. Auditory and acoustic analysis will be conducted on these clusters, with particular focus on OO clusters in different morphological domains, and on the transitional elements which may or may not occur within them (voiced and voiceless schwas; consonantal releases). By taking a phonetic approach to syllabification in Salish languages, we will be able to 1) evaluate whether (and how well) the Sonority Sequencing Principle (SSP) and sonority hierarchy hold up for Salish syllable structure, and 2) compare accounts of Salish syllable structure based on the SSP with accounts based more directly on phonetic factors, such as perceptual recoverability (Henke, Kaisse & Wright 2012).