I was looking at the Wikipedia page on the Wa Language and came across something strange in the consonant table: the consonants [mʰ], [nʰ], [ɲʰ], [ŋʰ], [rʰ], [jʰ], and [lʰ]. Not only are they aspirated nasals, trills, and approximants, which I have never seen before, but the IPA symbols represent voiced consonants, meaning they are both voiced and aspirated. It is very unlikely that they are meant to be breathy voiced, because there is a prenasalized breathy voiced series [ᵐbʱ] [ⁿdʱ] [ᶮɟʱ] [ᵑgʱ], as well as a breathy voiced fricative [vʱ], all of which have ʱ after them to clearly indicate that they are breathy voiced.

What is the exact nature of these consonants? Are they voiced for the duration of the consonant's hold, voiceless for a brief period of time after the release, and then voiced again for the vowel? Are they simply meant to be voiceless aspirated like [m̥ʰ] or even just [m̥]? Or is the table even correct? No sources are given.


1 Answer 1


The fact of there being "prenasalized" as well as voiced consonants with this property does not make it at all unlikely that the segments are breathy voiced. You would need to read the phonetic work on this language to know why the distinction is said to be one of breathy voicing -- the Wiki page points you to Watkins, Justin William. 2002. The phonetics of Wa: experimental phonetics, phonology, orthography and sociolinguistics. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, which is the ultimate source for this table.

  • 2
    Thanks for the source, I didn't see that. What I meant was that the prenasalized consonants and the voiced consonant were all indicated to be breathy voiced with a following ʱ (superscript h with hook), while the non-fricative sonorants had a following ʰ (superscript h without hook), so from that, it looks like the creator of this table intended to indicate some difference in the sounds' phonation. Because the ʱ's all come after stops and fricatives, and the ʰ's all come after non-fricative sonorants, and because the whole table was added in one edit, I don't think it's a typo.
    – Zgialor
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 13:37

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