As some of you may already know, in Georgian language there exist a huge strings of consonant clusters which are said to be pronounced without an intervining vowel, like for example /brdɣvnis/ and /vpʰrt͡skʰvni/

However, is the statement that long consonant clusters in Georgian are pronounced without any sort of epethentic vowel true phonetically speaking?

  • How do you define "vowel" phonetically? This isn't a rhetorical question—it's not an easy thing to define, and will be important to the answer.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 5:24
  • 1
    To me, it definitely sounds like there are epenthetic vowels in those recordings. As far as I can hear, I would transcribe them as [bə̯dɣoˈnis] and [fpʰə̯ʈskʰʊ̊ˈni]. In the second word, they’re unvoiced vowels (presumably because the preceding consonants are unvoiced), but acoustically, perceptually, they are definitely there. Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 12:16
  • @Draconis I would define it as a voiced sound produced with relatively little restriction of the oral cavity that can form a nucleus of a syllable. Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 12:41
  • @JanusBahsJacquet is the plosive element in [ʈs] retroflexed? Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 12:46
  • @LinguisticsFanatic That’s how I hear it. Or perhaps the short schwa-like vowel is r-coloured, it’s hard to tell the difference from just listening to a recording. Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 12:51

1 Answer 1



The exception to this is /v/, which is often realized as [w] (or the phonetic equivalent [u]) between two consonants. Despite this, however, it is still phonemically non-syllabic.

I disagree that a voiceless vowel is to be analyzed as present in any capacity in the second word you provided. There is no difference between a voiceless vowel and aspiration, thus we may interpret any voiceless vowel as just being part of the aspiration of its preceding consonant.

Phonetic analysis (and therefore transcription) is primarily about accuracy, but also about effective communication. Instead of [hɛlp], we may also transcribe English "help" as [ɛ̥̆'ɛlp], but that would be obfuscating the message.

  • how would you explain the schwa-like sound between /b/ and /d/ in the first recording? or between /v/ and /pʰ/ in the second recording? Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 23:03
  • I don't hear any schwa-like sound in the areas you highlight. I can perhaps use Praat to look into them in more detail, as my ears could of course be failing me. Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 14:23
  • sorry I meant to say between /pʰ/ and /ts/ instead of /v/ and /pʰ/. Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 12:38

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