On Mon, 12 Jun 2000, Kristian Jensen wrote:

> Just curious as to how lip plates would affect the
> phonology of a language. Do cultures with lip-plates
> have labial sounds at all in their respective languages?

Upper or lower lip? I can imagine that a linguo-labial (tongue
and upper lip) could serve as an acceptable acoustic substitute
for a bilabial. But this means that lip plates could only be
worn in the lower lip.

> There can't be rounded vowels, can there?

Well, strictly speaking I suppose not. But if rounding is seen
as enhancing the retraction of the tongue body ([+back]) by
making the front part of mouth larger, I don't see why there
couldn't be round vowels. They're just not *distinctively*
round, but are rather distinctively back. Rounding just makes
the distinction plainer.

> There are
> also cultures where only about half of the community
> wear lip-plates (e.g. only men). Would that create a
> situation where there are two different phonologies for
> the same language (e.g. men don't have rounded
> vowels, while women and children do)? Or would there
> always be one phonology per language (e.g. the language
> completely lacks rounded vowels)?

See above. If the relevant distinction is really back vs front,
then rounding only serves to enhance backing and is not
distinctive in and of itself.

So, are we to assume then that Boreanesians wear lip plates? :-)


Dirk Elzinga
[log in to unmask]