A multifaceted approach to understanding unexpected sound change. The bilabial trills of Vanuatu’s Malekula Island
Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/15510
This paper demonstrates that unexpected sound changes are best explained by an approach that accounts for different motivations: phonetic, structural and social. Here, we focus on a multifaceted investigation of the crosslinguistically uncommon bilabial trills to show the complex interaction between different drivers of sound change. In this paper, we highlight and examine the prenasalized voiced bilabial trill mʙ and plain voiceless bilabial trill P [ʙ̥] found in a number of Oceanic languages spoken on Malekula Island in Vanuatu. We offer a comparative-historical analysis, and we identify the various forces that have led to the emergence and persistence of mʙ and P in Malekula languages: the historical articulatory environments, the particular make-up of the consonant inventories of these languages, complementary sound changes and phonological processes, contact with non-Austronesian languages, and in-group identity attachment. Furthermore, we offer a hypothesis for the relative timing of these factors on the historical pathway of Malekula’s bilabial trills.
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