The sounds of Amazonia

Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald

in The Languages of the Amazon

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199593569
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739385 | DOI:
The sounds of Amazonia

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Unlike their Andean neighbours, Amazonian languages tend to have just one liquid phoneme (frequently, a flap). Some have no liquids at all. There are usually more affricates than fricatives. A typical Amazonian vowel system includes a high central ɨ, something not typical for the Andes. We start with a bird’s eye view of consonants in Amazonian languages, and move on to unusual and rare sounds and sound systems. We then turn to syllable structure. Some Amazonian languages have large systems of nasal vowels; in others, nasalization, and glottalization are phonological processes. Many Amazonian languages have stress systems. Tones tend to be found in areal clusters, to the north and to the south of the River Amazon. There are very few Amazonian languages with more than just two tones. Some languages lose their tones as they become obscolescent. In Appendix, ‘How Amazonian languages compare with their neighbours’, we discuss South American languages spoken in the vicinity of Amazonia.

Keywords: phonological system; vowel; consonant; stress; tone; sound; nasalization; glottalization; vowel harmony; languagr obsolescence

Chapter.  9702 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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