Reductions of Trubetzkoy's phonemics to motor
1. Trubetzkoy has carried on Ferdinand de Saussure's
tradition of the “phoneme” as a symbol, and
therefore a member of the system of la langue; the
symbol is opposed to the signal, the articulation,
which belongs to the system of la parole. This is
Trubetzkoy's fundamental division between phonemics
2. Trubetzkoy supplements F. de Saussure's
treatment of the phoneme by insisting that the individual
phoneme is always to be defined in terms
of the system of phonemes of the particular language.
Trubetzkoy's basic phoneme is an articulation;
he is aware that the acoustic traits are scant,
variable and at present difficult to define. But
Trubetzkoy did not carry his study of the physiological
basis of the phoneme, the articulation, into
the specific apparatus of speech on which the system
of a language must depend. (100)
3. For both phonetics and for phonemics the
main types of phonological language systems are
important. The word stress in the breath groups
gives two obvious types; 1) the light, variable stress
and the resulting variable grouping within the
breath group of the language; 2) the heavy, fixed
stress with well-defined feet within the breath group
of the language.
4. Further, the nature of the syllable gives two
language types: 1) a system with nearly all syllables
open, i.e. without arresting consonant (chest-arrested,
but this is not noted as a specific mark);
2) a system with many syllables closed; an open
(chest arrested) syllable becomes notable.
5. These two classifications are related and the
most obvious main phonological types appear to be:
a) Breath groups with light, variable stress, and
varying rhythmic grouping into feet. Nearly
all syllables are open (without consonant arrest)
and there is rather little change at the syllable
frontier, owing to the absence of arresting consonants.
b) Breath groups with heavy, fixed word stress
and well defined feet, with many syllables
closed upon which the stress may fall. All the
phenomena of abutting, doubling and dropping
(singling) consonants appear at the syllable
frontier, in the form of “assimilation, sandhi,
6. It is in those terms that Trubetzkoy must
carry out his system of “oppositions”. An opposition
consists of a contrast of differentiation between two
“words” (in its lowest terms between two syllables)
due to a simple change of articulation; such an
opposition distinguishes two phonemes.
7. There are four movement units involved:
a) Breathing cycle; respiratory act modified for
speech: sentence, period, stanza.
b) Breath group; subdivision of the breath cycle:
phrase, verse line; due to the abdominal movements,
with or without intake of air.
c) Foot; rhytmic grouping of the syllables about
a single syllable due to the individual movements
of the abdominal muscles (vs. diaphragm)
for the stress and the grouping of the
syllables. It is usual for a language to distinguish
three grades of stress. Trubetzkoy recognizes
this as the function of producing culminations,
(p. 29, Gründzuge) — feet of verse and of prose.
d) Syllable; a chest pulse released by the chest
muscles (intercostals) or by a consonant; and
arrested by the chest muscles (intercostals) or
by a consonant. This syllable proves to be the
157movement peculiar to speech, as the note is
peculiar to singing.
8. Definition of the articulation:
Whether a distinction can be drawn between the
articulatory signal and the phoneme as a signal
according to Trubetzkoy, is left to later discussion.
For the discussions of phonetics at least, speech
consists of a series of articulatory signals. The
articulation, i.e. the phoneme, is to be the simplest
unit, the element of this train of articulatory signals.
9. The basis for Trubetzkoy's differentiation of
the phonemes is the change of meaning. If an articulatory
change affects the meaning of the “word”
(strictly it should be the meaning of the simplest
utterance possible, which is the syllable) then it
constitutes a “phoneme”. Trubetzkoy is clear that
this is to be a movement. He comments on the fact
that often the auditory signal varies, and that the
auditory description of the phonemes is scant and
10. We may say that the oscillograph records
show acoustic fusion and continuity. The extent to
which the sounds interpenetrate becomes apparent.
But the study of oscillographic records shows that
the interpretation must be in terms of articulatory
11. Thus Trubetzkoy's definition of the phoneme
becomes: “A controllable movement which
changes the meaning of the syllable.” This he recognizes
as a phonetic definition of the phoneme
(100, 17 and 20), and he makes haste to add that
the higher stages of phonological description are
free from phonetics.
12. This fundamental “opposition”, contrast,
differentiation, is the basis of the system: if it is due
to the presence or absence of a controllable movement,
it is counted a “correlation” e.g. correlations
of voicing, correlations of nasality. If it is due to
two different main movements (by different members)
it is counted a “disjunction” (98; 99, p. 235).
13. ln actual speech the simplest utterance, the
smallest actual unit proves to be the syllable which
Trubetzkoy, following De Groot, characterizes as
the prosodic unit and which is comparable to the
note in music. (100, pp. 17, 83, 84, 85, 166). He
cites Motor Phonetics as to the handling of the syllable.
Variants of a syllable can be distinguished,
but nothing less than a syllable can be uttered. In
the same fashion, variants of a note are possible, but
nothing less than a note can be sung. The phoneme
is the symbol designed to represent this speech signal.
The phoneme represents a speech signal which has no
independent existence but must occur in a syllable.
It can be put on paper but it remains an articulatory
symbol whose meaning is the speech signal.
14. Phonetics deals with the apparatus of the
articulations and their relations. In this system of
movements the breath group proves to be the
simplest movement which cannot become implicit
in a rate-modified pattern; the characterized factors
of the syllable, (i.e. vowel and consonant) may
“drop” to reappear at the proper rate; but the
breath does not drop.
The breath group, however, is not bounded by
syllables as auxiliary movements; syllables do not
stop and start the breath group; the order of syllables
and nature of the syllables is incidental.
15. The syllable, however, the peculiar movement
of speech, is a pulse which is released and
arrested in specific fashion (by chest muscles or by
consonant articulation) and the pulse is emitted
through a vocal canal which has a specific shape
which is termed the vowel.
16. The fundamental distinction, opposition,
then, is between the shaping vowel movement which
opens the vocal canal, and the releasing or arresting
consonant movement, which constricts the vocal
canal. Both the acoustic analysis from Stumpf's
time, and also the study of the articulations has led
to a division of the vowels, the shape qualities, into
two series, with three cardinal positions or main
vowels. The starting point of both series may be
made the most open position of the vocal canal for
the syllable pulse. This gives the vowel ah, [a].
The extreme narrowing of the front orifice at the
lips gives oo, ou [u]. The extreme narrowing of the
rear orifice, tongue to palate, gives ee [i]. The series
a-u has a single main resonance, zone (formant)
158indicating that the mouth cavity is acting as a single
resonator with orifice. The series a-i has two
resonance zones (formants) indicating that the
mouth cavity is acting as a pair of coupled resonators
with an orifice between.
17. Between these three cardinal vowels there
are two graduated vowel series. In English the
vowels a-i are ɑ, æ, ɛ, e, I. And between a-u are
u, u, o, U. This gives an English vowel system of
perhaps 12 vowels, without including diphthongs,
and the various reductions toward shwa produced
by the heavy English word stress.
18. Many languages have combinations of the
two basic positions, in which both the front orifice
and the rear orifice are narrowed. Shwa (dark-e,
French e muet) is the most common; it can be looked
on as the ‘neutral vowel’, i.e. the vowel produced
by the least possible movement of the vocal apparatus
for the emission of the syllable pulse. The
series of German Umlauts and the French u belong
to this combined series and account for an additional
four or five vowels in these European languages.
In English most of these can be looked on as the
result of reduction of a simple vowel toward shwa.
Thus the English vowel system could be reduced
to perhaps 13 vowels. But usually some 15 to 18 are
recognized and notated. This variation shows that
they are not due to presence-absence conditions of
shape, but to a graduated series of positions. This is
common to many phonetic “disjunctions” (to use
19. The consonants are auxiliary movements which
release and arrest the syllable pulse, in lieu of a release
or arrest by the intercostal muscles. Sometimes
the auxiliary movement merely assists the chest
release and arrest. Thus the consonant always has
a mechanical function; it is part of the mechanism
of the syllable pulse and therefore subject to the
conditions which vary the syllable mechanism and
which are apparent at the syllable frontier. The
basic disjunction of Phonologie (Phonemics) is that
20. While the consonants present many types of
specific presence-and-absence of a given movement
and therefore group in correlations, there are also a
large number of disjunctive relations. There are
several organs which give the main stroke of the
consonant articulation: the lips (and jaw), lips and
teeth, tongue tip, tongue blade, tongue rear, glottis
and adjacent structures. In the case of the tongue,
the bearings of the stroke to the palate may vary
in position, making a graduated series of positions
which may include and group together rear,
blade, and tip. Such a graduated series, involving
all the tongue, is sometimes convenient in explaining
certain diachronous phonetic changes (cf. French
development Caesar to César.)
21. It is convenient to treat Trubetzkoy's
elaborate classification of the phonemes by proceeding
from the largest classified groups to the
smallest. This follows Trubetzkoy's own basic
22. The fundamental distinction is between the
vowel and the consonant. The movement differentiation
depends on the fact that the vowel
represents the shaping of the vocal canal for the
emission of the syllable pulse, and the consonant
releases or arrests the syllable pulse. As Trubetzkoy
puts it, the vowel opens the vocal canal and the
consonant constricts it; and he cites Menzerath's
discussion (100, p. 83-84).
23. In English, as an example, this fundamental
distinction makes two classes:
The vowels, some 15 perhaps; and the
Consonants, some 24.
The movements involved are functional in relation
to the syllable pulse.
24. The next largest division is between the
releasing and the arresting consonants. This is not
often cited in English and in German because, with
few exceptions, the consonants function as both
releasing and arresting.
The releasing consonants include w, wh, y, and
h which function only as releasing (23 in English).
The arresting consonants include -ng, which functions
159only as arresting (21 in English). This is
true also of the glottal stop (ʼ) which does not
occur in normal English.
The movements involved function in the syllable
25. The distinction between the voiced and
unvoiced consonants, on the other hand, is nearly
The number of voiced consonants exceeds that of
Voiced consonants: b, v, y, m, w, d, th, z, j, dj,
l, r, n, ng — 14 in English.
Unvoiced consonants: p, f, wh, t, s, th, sh, ch,
k, h — 10 in English.
This is not a functional movement; it is not
essential to the function of the syllable pulse; it is
a controllable movement which may be added or
subtracted from the consonant complex; an accessory
movement which is an aspect of the syllable
factor. It is not, however, simple; it is the pressure-differential
complex with the apposition of the
26. The distinction between the occlusive (stop)
and the continuant is generally recognized and is
There are the occlusives: p/b, t/d, k/g, ch/dj —
8 in English.
There are the continuants: f/v, w/wh, m, s/z, sh/zh,
n, l, r, ng, h — 14 in English.
The distinction is not functional and it is not due
to the presence or absence of a single movement.
It describes the closure of the consonant as tight,
or leaky; the muscles involved are as various as the
members involved. It is an accessory movement.
27. Still smaller classes are determined by the
member involved e.g.:
Labials: p, b, f, v, wh, w, m — 7 in English.
These may be sub-divided into stops and continuants:
labial stops: p-b
continuants: f-v, wh-w, m
or into voiced and unvoiced labials:
voiced: b, v, w, m
unvoiced: p, f, wh.
In such groups appear the unidimensional pairs
which Trubetzkoy emphasizes: p-b, f-v, wh-w.
In German, Trubetzkoy cites 13 of 190 contrasts
(100, p. 62) which are counted the simplest
“oppositions” (contrasts, differentiations). Though
the simplest, they are not to be counted especially
significant. The pluri-dimensional groups are much
more common, since they involve contrasts between
articulations of different members.
28. There are various cross-classifications sometimes
The sonants, including the vowels and the voiced
consonants — 28 in English.
The continuants, including the vowels and the
continuant consonants — 29 in English.
A graded series of constrictions might be made
from the most open vowel, ah, through the “liquids”
(n, l, r, ng), to sibilants, and finally to occlusives;
but it has no significance. The one relation between
the vowels and consonants which is important is in
the case of the cardinal vowel u and the consonant
w; and the cardinal vowel i and the consonant y.
If the constriction of the u is forced to closure, and
suddenly released, the result is the consonant w. If
the construction of the i is forced to closure, and
suddenly released, the result is the consonant y. This
interplay appears in some phonetic changes.
29. It is easy to see, when the movements of
Trubetzkoy's classifications are analyzed, that the
bases for phonemic classification are varied:
a) Essential functional movements: vowel shaping,
consonant arresting and releasing.
b) Presence or absence of a movement factor in a
complex: voicing, or nasalization.
c) Articulatory member concerned in the particular
consonant: labials, linguals, etc.
It is apparent that many classifications are
possible. Most commentators on Trubetzkoy's
elaborate system make haste to add that other schemes
are possible. But it is clear that his network
of contrasts proves to be a system of related movements
whose control leads to the significant shifts
160which change the meaning and are therefore significant
30. On occasion these differentiations appear in
graduated series, as in the vowel series from ah to i
and from ah to u. The choice made from language
to language is arbitrary, as to the steps chosen and
stereotyped. For instance, the series of positions on
the palate, bearings for the tongue strokes, which
again form a series, is significant, for example, in
the shift of the Latin gutturals to the modern
31. It is obvious that a reference to the speech
apparatus organizes and explains the elaborations of
Trubetzkoy's system, and at the same time makes
it apparent that other schemes are quite as feasible.
The final elements for Trubetzkoy are these contrasts
due to controlled movements. He does not
always think in terms of syllables, or of breath
groups, and he loses sight of the fact that the basic
utterance is never less than a syllable. Strictly
speaking it is never less than a breath group composed
of a single syllable. Within the syllable, and within
the breath group, the individual signals may or may
not appear in the familiar pattern; they may shift
position and they may disappear to reappear. This
is true of individual contrasts, of individual phonemes,
and even of individual syllables. This confronted
Trubetzkoy in the guise of “neutralization”.
The contrasts which he counted essential to a system
of phonemes was lost.
32. The problem of “neutralization”, and Trubetzkoy's
proposal of an “archiphoneme”, clear
up if one refers to the movements underlying the
speech process. An examination of the conditions
will show that rate or stress has changed and has
affected the movements involved, but that the
complex pattern of signals of the syllable as a
whole, or breath group as a whole, carries the meaning;
and that a change of rate or stress will lead to
the reappearance of the lost contrast within the
pattern. This is a commonplace in any system of
phonetics and will be found in any and all rapid
movement patterns: in writing, in the playing of
musical instruments. The same processes which
appear in speaking appear also in singing.
The pressure on the arresting consonant in a
language like German forces it to become surd
when the rate is rapid or the stress is heavy.
The closure of a stop may become imperfect and
a leaky variant appears; so the Greek thalatta becomes
With a heavy word stress, the vowels of the unstressed
syllables are neutralized, i.e. they are
reduced toward shwa, and it is impossible to distinguish
the original vowel, although a shift of stress
brings back the original shape and quality.
The arresting function of a consonant is often
neutralized; the consonant arrest is replaced by the
chest arrest, and the consonant either shifts to the
releasing function in the next syllable or drops.
33. Another phase of the speech movements
which Trubetzkoy does not provide for in his
logistic classification, but which can be handled by
a direct reference to movement, is the connection
between these “phonemes”. The release of the
syllable is unlike the arrest of the syllable. The feet
and the breath groups and the breathing cycle are
articulated as all movements must be. The connections
and the stops and starts of movements are
parts of the pattern to be perceived and produced.
34. “Junctures” are a part of the coordination
of movements, and must present various phases in
the system of movements which constitutes speech.
Speech is a modification of the breathing cycle.
The largest movement complex to be organized
and articulated will be that of the breathing cycle,
the differentiation of sentence, period, or stanza.
The opening of the sentence will be marked by the
rapid intake of air through the mouth. The expiration
will be slow, consisting of a series of stages,
marked by the action of the abdominal muscles
giving stresses (Trubetzkoy's culminations), and
sometimes marked by pauses and sometimes by
brief intakes of breath. At the close of the expiration,
the vocalization ceases; there is a pause and
the rapid intake for a new clause. The fundamental
boundary indicator (Grenzsignal) is the
161pause and the abrupt intake of breath for the next
35. The breath group is set off by its pause or
brief intake, and is marked by the stress or stresses
of the abdominal muscles which give the “culmination”
to the breath group. Within this breath
group the syllables are joined. Between little clusters
of syllables, the feet, there may appear abutting or
double consonants which link the syllables, or
rather, link the closing and opening syllables of the
feet composed of syllables. Assimilation and sandhi
occur at the syllable frontier. This is a specific
type of “juncture” in that the constriction for the
arrest of the last syllable of the foot fuses with the
constriction for the release of the first syllable of
the next foot. The movement form involved is
characteristic and is considered in detail in the text.
In languages with heavy “word stress”, as in English
and German, the syllables are affected by the stress.
The syllable on which the heavy stress falls tends to
lengthen (either in the vowel, or the arresting
process). Meanwhile the unstressed syllables are
reduced; the vowels approach shwa or may disappear.
On occasion the syllable itself disappears
(Aladad and Aragon become “Al-dad and Ar-gon”,
36. The more detailed questions of “juncture”
concern the movements of the syllable. The opening
of the syllable is marked by a releasing movement,
which may be of the chest in an “open syllable”,
or may be of a consonant acting with the chest.
The function of the consonant is specific and there
may be differences; w, wh, h function only as
releasing consonants; they are always boundary
indicators. Continental phonologists are accustomed
to distinguishing two types of English “l”. The
bright l is always releasing and is therefore an indication
of the release of a syllable.
37. In a rapid train of syllables, the arresting
consonant of the preceding syllable appears in the
releasing position of the following syllable. This
shift marks the opening of a new but closely connected
syllable, i.e. one within the foot. One may
generalize and say that the presence of an arresting
consonant, either alone or in an abutting (doubling)
pair, marks the foot division within the breath
38. The “junctures” within the syllable are
coordinations of the auxiliary movements of the
syllable pulse; they are often overlapping or concurrent:
the releasing consonant's back stroke overlaps
the vowel; the arresting consonant's beat stroke
overlaps the vowel. Continuants of all sorts fuse
with the adjacent vowel because of the common
movement; liquids and sibilants may be concurrent
with, or may replace the vowel.
39. The constituents of the compound consonants
fuse as far as possible. Rousselot notes that
the beat strokes of the constituents are as near
simultaneous as possible. A special “juncture” is
often formed when the arresting consonant fuses
with the releasing consonant of the next syllable.
Vice versa, at the close of a foot the compound
arresting consonant may divide into an abutting
consonant marking the “juncture” with the following
40. The junctures of vowels and consonants are
indicated by the fact that the vowel is the shaping
movement for the syllable pulse, and the consonants
may be the releasing or the arresting movements
for the syllable pulse; the “junctures” are of delimiting,
auxiliary movements for the main movement.
41. The series of junctures and the related units
of utterance may be summarized:
Inter-clause (breathing cycle): the rapid intake
indicates the sentence or stanza.
Intra-clause, inter-phrase: the pause and intake
mark the frontier between phrases.
Intra-phrase, inter-breath group: the pause and
possible intake mark the frontier between
Intra-breath-group, inter-foot: the culminating
stresses and the arresting consonant (abutting,
double also) division of compound consonants
mark the frontier between the feet.
Intra-foot, inter-syllabic: shifts from arresting
to releasing, fusion of consonants to compound
consonants, various sandhi changes,
162mark the frontier between syllables.
Intra-syllabic, inter-phonemic: shaping, releasing
and arresting (delimiting) functions, movement
fusions of compound consonants mark
connections within the syllable.
42. Music furnishes an analogy to the units of
utterance and the so-called junctures:
Inter-period: Pauses, final cadences, mark the
Intra-period: inter-phrase: pauses, rhythm, harmony
mark the phrases.
Intra-phrase, inter-figure: grouping accents, harmonic
progressions, voice leadings, mark the
Intra-figure, inter-note: specific beats mark the
notes; staccato, legato, portamento mark the
Intra-note: attack and termination (staccato,
legato) swell of long note.
43. We may note that the coordinations of the
movements of speech are of various types. Aside
from the simple controllable movement which
may be present or absent in a movement complex
(as in nasalization, aspiration), we may also consider:
44. Movements may be bound. The process in
hand is due not to a single member, or muscle
group, but to a complex process. The following
movements are common:
a) Voicing is due not only to the apposition of
the vocal folds, but also to the contraction of
the chest muscles producing pressure from beneath
and the lowering of the larynx-mass,
which reduces the pressure above. It is properly
called the “differential-pressure complex.”
b) The lips do not function alone but are always
bound to the movements of the jaw.
c) The tongue, front and back, the larynx-mass,
and the jaw-and-lips, all figure in the formation
of the cavity or cavities and orifices of
d) The abdominal-diaphragm contraction reinforces
and groups the chest pulses forming the
stresses and the foot-and breath-groups.
e) The manipulation of the vocal folds is reinforced
by variations in the shape of the vowel
cavities in the production of musical pitch in
singing, and of intonation in speech.
45. Movements may be mutually exclusive:
a) The movement of a consonant excludes the
movement of a vowel, and vice versa. A semivowel
is a consonant closely related to the
extreme position of the vowel orifices but it
is in no wise partly a vowel.
b) The shaping of each vowel excludes the shaping
of other vowels; there is a definite limit to the
number of combinations, “Umlauts”, of the
front and back positions.
c) Many movements like the up and down
movement of the jaw, and the forward and
backward movement of the tongue, are the
same movement in reverse and of course
46. Movement processes may be considered as
conditioned by other movements:
a) Aspiration and the emphatics are due to a
combination of movement factors.
b) Long and short syllables and vowels are due to
several processes, in which both the force of
the chest movement and the resistence of the
articulations have a part.
c) Rate changes condition a variety of articulatory
movements at the syllable frontier.
d) Stress and rhythmic phrasing prolong and
diphtongize the vowels of the stressed syllables,
and reduce the vowels of the unstressed
syllables, and may eliminate syllables.
47. Position Analysis:
Sometimes it is proposed to recast Trubetzkoy's
system of “oppositions”, contrasts, and differentiations,
in terms of the positional distribution of the
phonemes. What phoneme may come before, between
or after given phonemes is made the basis for
a definition of the specific function of the phoneme.
The sign designs, the list of phonemes, are to be
163defined by the occurrence of the sign events as they
actually appear in language.
48. It is easy to see that the phonemes cannot
take position until they have been isolated, differentiated,
and designated by some process. Trubetzkoy's
basic “contrasts”, are essential to determining
the phoneme alphabet before anything can
be said of the preferred and tolerated positions of
various phonemes in reference to each other. There
can be no “privileges of position” until there are
entities to assign the privilege.
49. In addition, the function of the factors in
the syllable, of the syllable in the breath group, of
the breath group in the clause, cannot be determined
by mere observation of the possible distribution
of the phonemes. Some of the changes with rate
and stress of syllable, foot, breath group and clause
will be left quite unexplained.
50. Position, both with and without the substitution
of other phonemes, is an important factor in the
analysis of the phonemes, once the phonemes are
known. But of course it is useless until the phonemes
have been determined by some independent
51. Position, as indicated by phonologists, is
always in reference to a functional element in the
syllable, as the terms ‘post-vocalic’ and ‘pre-vocalic’,
‘syllable-initial’ and ‘syllable-final’ illustrate. The
basic distinction recognized by, everyone, though
sometimes minimized, of vowel and consonant, is
actually a reference to a difference in function of
the vowel core and the accompanying articulation.
52. The effect of varying rates shows the functional
difference. As far as mere position is concerned,
there should be no difference between
CVO and OVC; both merely represent a vowel
adjacent to a consonant. But the series CVO,
CVO… may run to 8-10 per sec., while the
series OVC, OVC… cannot exceed 3.5-4 per
sec. When consonants are adjacent, much depends
on whether they are compound consonants or
abutting consonants. If compound, their rate may
be very rapid; tree, tree… may be uttered at 8
per sec. The vowel occupies about half the interval,
so that the rate of the t, r may be as high as 30 per
sec. If the consonants are abutting, as in that reel,
the arresting t must drop as the rate increases to 4
per sec. Position within the syllable and position
between syllables proves to be very different for the
54. Thus a characterization of articulations by
mere position is unsatisfactory. Position with
reference to the units, syllable factors, syllables,
breath groups, is fundamentally important. The
connection, the stress, and the rate of the articulatory
movements determine the nature of a “position”.
55. The positional analysis does not take into
account the difference between coordinations which
are determined by the movement apparatus of all
speech, and the preferences of a given language.
Languages may exclude all arresting consonants,
as do the South Sea Island languages, and Japanese
in the main. A language may not tolerate a syllable
opening with a vowel which is true in general of
the Semitic group., A language may avoid compound
consonants, as is the case with most of those
just mentioned, or it may be very rich in compound
consonants, as are the Russian, German and
56. In addition to these matters of structure,
most languages show preferences and aversions for
particular combinations which might not seem out
of place in their systems. It is arbitrary that w, y,
and h in English are always releasing, and the -ng is
always arresting. Tl- and dl- do not appear in English,
although pl-, bl-, and kl- and gl- are common.
Sb-, sd-, sg-, zl-, etc. are not tolerated; ts-,
ps, ks- occur only in foreign words, although they
are common in the arresting position. Although
the contrast between delta and theta is preserved
in the present Greek, the sonants b, d, g must be
represented by mp, nt, nk (or gamma-kappa).
57. Greek and Spanish have the theta-delta
sibilants so familiar in English, but most of the
European languages are without them, though they
once had them. English has lost the ch so prominent
in German. English cultivates a variety of
164lingual sibilants, while the Semitic tongues specialize
in gutturals unfamiliar to Europeans. The
presence or absence of particular articulations, and
the choice of the vowel system of a language, seem
rather arbitrary and accidental.
58. Such traits are subject to rapid change;
neighboring, unrelated languages borrow phonemes.
The Zulu “clicks”, borrowed from the
Hottentots and Bushmen, are a striking illustration.
It is hard to say whether the glottal stop appearing
in the Midlands and the south of England is a
survival from the Danes or a thing sporadic. Such
traits can be noted, but they are evidently matters
of habit formation and not the result of a language
mechanism and its various coordinations.165