A comparative study of depression in Bantu, Khoisan and Chinese Wu – laryngeal settings and feature specifications

Xiaoxi Liu, Nancy C. Kula


This paper aims to provide an overview of our current understanding of depressors by offering a comparative perspective of the types of depressors from Bantu, Khoisan and Chinese Wu. Depressor effects in Bantu/Khoisan, on the one hand, and Chinese, on the other, are hardly dealt with together leaving a more holistic approach untapped. This paper begins to bridge that gap by bringing together current findings to establish the full scope of depressor effects, from which future analyses can then build on. It is systematically observed that depressors in these languages are not restricted to voicing only. Rather, they range from voiced and breathy sounds – the most unmarked – to voiceless unaspirated sounds and even voiceless aspirated sounds as the most marked depressor type. The expansion of depressors to voiceless aspirated sounds is particularly interesting, since these sounds are traditionally assumed to correlate with a high pitch which is characteristic of high tone. Thus, the laryngeal configurations for voiceless depressors are examined and compared between Bantu, Khoisan and Chinese Wu. Proposed feature analyses for depressors are also discussed and compared.


depressors; Bantu; Khoisan; Chinese Wu; laryngeal specification

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5842/54-0-774


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ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

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