For example can a voiced pharyngeal fricative [ʕ] develop into the Voiceless bilabial fricative ⟨ɸ⟩? Are there places of articulation that don't directly develop into different places of articulation?

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    Rhotic consonants spring to my mind. See e.g. Chabot (2019).
    – Nardog
    Jul 31, 2019 at 9:21
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    About every sound change is possible and that includes fairly unintuitive changes. The glottal stop is possibly a sound that can hardly change into something else. A regards your specific question, see Japanese hu > fu.
    – user23769
    Jul 31, 2019 at 9:58
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    The glottal stop phoneme is frequently pronounced as a [j] or [w] in Salishan languages, as well as other sounds. It is commonplace for a sound change to simply lose some allophones of a phoneme and retain others (like English /h/ losing [x]).
    – jlawler
    Jul 31, 2019 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


In the subculture of constructed-language enthusiasts, there's an acronym ANADEW: "whatever you proposed for your conlang, A Natlang Already Did it Except Weirder". In other words, pretty much any bizarre sound change you propose has a precedent somewhere.

For your specific case, a series of shifts like ʕ → ʔ → h → ɸ in certain environments is absolutely possible; while I don't think any language has actually gone through this exact pattern, each of the individual stages is well-attested.

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