Does anyone know of a citation for /k/ becoming palatal before a front vowel? Or anything that says labials are less likely than velars to become coarticulated with neighbouring vowels?

  • Hello Madelaine, and welcome to Linguistics SE! Just making sure, are you looking for papers/books about this? Is this your question? – Alenanno Mar 8 '12 at 20:41
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    Can you clarify whether you are interested in synchronic phonological alternations, or diachronic sound changes? – user483 Mar 9 '12 at 2:37

In native Turkic phonology, [k] and [ḱ] are allophones; [k] only occurs in a back environment, while [ḱ] only in a front environment. The same goes for [g] : [ǵ] and [l] : [ĺ], and no other consonant. Examples from Turkish:

[kara] 'black' : [ḱere] 'time(s)'

[ak] 'white' : [eḱ] 'addition'

In loanwords, however, this distribution is disturbed, e.g. [ḱ] can occur in a back environment in Turkish ([kar] 'snow' : [ḱar] 'profit'), but [k] still can't occur in a front environment. In Bashkir, where the opposition has shifted from [k] : [ḱ] to [q] : [k], the latter can be found in a back environment, too, but I'm not sure whether [q] can be found in a front one.

All examples off the top of my head, but can be found in probably any Turkic grammar. (Only I'd suggest, if you settle for Turkish, that you use e.g. Ersen-Rasch (in German) or Stachowski (in Polish) because all English grammars I know of are not terribly good in my opinion.)

As a counter example, in Polish, *[k] and *[g] have been conserved in all surroundings except before [i] (< *[y]) and [e], where, in the Middle Ages, they > [ḱ] and [ǵ], respectively. Examples:

*[kara] 'penalty' > [kara], *[gnetõ] 'I squeeze' > [gńotẽ]

*[kyjь] 'stick' > [ḱij], *[nogy] 'legs' > [noǵi]

*[kъlъ] 'fang' > [ḱew], *[gъzъ] 'gadfly' > [ǵes]

But, in Polish exactly the same thing happened with *[p] and *[b].

All examples from Mańczak W. 1983, Polska fonetyka i morfologia historyczna, Warszawa.

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  • Your statement that in Turkish /k/, /g/ and /l/ "and no other consonant" is subject to palatalisation is true of the dialects of Istanbul and the coastal regions. In Anatolian Turkish all consonants (including the labials) are palatalised in the neighbourhood of front vowels. – fdb Apr 6 '14 at 22:43

Palatalisation of /k/ before front vowels happens all over the place: Russian, Greek, Turkish, Persian etc. etc. Historically it happened in proto-Indo-Iranian.

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