21 votes

Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

Probably the best-known and most often-cited example of this is Danish. Danish is generally said to have around 17 or 18 consonant phonemes, a fairly invariant number. The number of vowel phonemes ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
12 votes

Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

The conventional understanding of "phoneme" is that it is a segment. There is vast disagreement over what constitutes a "segment". Given that, one example of a language with many ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
11 votes
Accepted

Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

I have yet to see anyone bring up the Iau language of West Papua, Indonesia, which has only 6 phonemic consonants (not counting allophony) but 8 vowel qualities even before accounting for diphthongs ...
Arcaeca's user avatar
  • 344
11 votes
Accepted

Have ejective consonants ever arisen on their own?

It is almost true, in the sense that there are nearly no cases of ejectives unambiguously developing and clearly without external influence. There are two good candidates, though: Yapese and Waimoa. ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
8 votes

Does any living language contrast /kʷ/ and /kw/?

In theory, yes. Tashlhiyt Berber is said to have a contrast, but that does not mean that there are any minimal pairs. That article points to literature, saying that it is generally agreed that they ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
6 votes

Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

In general, languages with fewer consonants will have more vowels (and vice versa), so as to have as many unique syllables as possible and preserve redundancy. (Danish is an exception.) Hawaiian has ...
nearsighted's user avatar
5 votes
Accepted

If these letter pairs are used to distinguish two words in any language

Basically you're asking if each of these distinctions is phonemic in any language. Here's a partial answer: k q Arabic and Biblical Hebrew ɲ ŋ Swahili, Mapos Buang n ɳ Sanskrit ŋ ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
5 votes

If these letter pairs are used to distinguish two words in any language

You can self-answer your questions by using the simple interface to the UPSID database. You can play with the query interface (it is not really tuned to find pairs of given sounds, but you can search ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
5 votes

If these letter pairs are used to distinguish two words in any language

A long question! Here is a partial answer. Most languages that have /q/ also have /k/ as a distinct phoneme. As you’ve suggested, the distinction may be realized in part on surrounding sounds: uvular ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.1k
4 votes

Why are languages with average vowel inventory size scattered?

I'm going to take a guess that what your professor meant by "widely scattered" is referring to the location of the articulation of the vowel in the mouth, and not geographically. The reason for this ...
b a's user avatar
  • 2,775
4 votes

Fewest number of vowels in a Germanic language?

Tok Pisin and East African (Kenyan, Tanzanian) English both have the 5-vowel systems /i u e o a/, and no vowel length contrast, both features of Swahili.
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
4 votes

Does any living language contrast /kʷ/ and /kw/?

Just because a language contrasts two sounds, doesn't mean there should be minimal pairs (cf. English /h/ and /ŋ/). The IPA uses a plain w to symbolise the [w] sound (war) and a superscript ʷ for ...
Mellifluous's user avatar
  • 1,389
4 votes

Does any living language contrast /kʷ/ and /kw/?

Thai can be what you are looking for. It has onset clusters /kw/, /kʰw/. Quite often, they are realized as labialized velar consonants /kʷ/, /kʰʷ/. However¹, final stops like /-k/ are accompanied by a ...
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
3 votes

Languages that have phonemic aspirated post-alveolar affricates

You can search for the segment [tʃʰ] at Phoible and get quite an impressive list of languages having it. Clicking on Mundari as a randomly chosen example confirms that it contrasts with non-aspirated [...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
3 votes

Why are languages with average vowel inventory size scattered?

The best resource on this question is the WALS map, which calls into question the claim. Before calling it into question, we'd need to determine what the actual claim is, in particular what makes a ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
2 votes
Accepted

Are there any languages that use rapidly repeated or stammered/stuttered sounds for differentiation?

Gemination of consonants (and long vowels) as a sound phonologically distinct from single consonants (or short vowels) is a feature common to many languages. Here is a selection of minimal pairs of ...
iacobo's user avatar
  • 3,112
2 votes

Are there languages that disallow initial vowels and lack glottal stop?

There's an Australian language Lardil that has both of the features the OP is asking for: there's no phonemic glottal stop, in fact, there are no glottal consonants each syllable starts with a ...
Mellifluous's user avatar
  • 1,389
2 votes

Are there languages that ban t+S (esh) sequences but have a č phoneme?

There are many languages that wouldn't permit a sequence like /t/ + /ʃ/ because it involves either coda /t/ (in the case of heterosyllabic /t.ʃ/ or a tautosyllabic stop-fricative complex coda /tʃ./) ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.1k
2 votes

Are there languages that ban t+S (esh) sequences but have a č phoneme?

English is a prime example, but that is a matter of analysis. One problem with the question as asked is that it mixes alphabets, contrasting tS (IPA tʃ) and č. The letter č is not IPA, so to normalize ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
2 votes
Accepted

What are good sources for finding phoneme inventories for languages?

PHOIBLE is probably the best free source. Searching by language allows you to get a list of all distinct segments in the language's phonological inventory. It does not provide a detailed description ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,322
2 votes

Is there any site where I can find the list of natural languages that dont have a list of phonemes?

There is not such a site. Also, a site might have a list but a language doesn't have a list. Maybe you mean that the language has phonemes, which you could put in a list. All spoken languages have ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
2 votes

Languages that have phonemic aspirated post-alveolar affricates

Sanskrit, and most other Indian languages, have (at least in the script) a four-way distinction of c - ch - j - jh. I would have to rummage a bit in the dictionary to establish minimal pairs.
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.2k
1 vote

Is there a database/website etc. where I can check which languages have two or more given segments and which treat them as separate phonemes

There is no database that provides that information for more than a handful of languages. You would need (1) an accurate list of phonetic segments systematically used in a language, for many languages ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
1 vote

What fraction of compound phonemes actually exist in natural language?

First, a word about what a phoneme is: a phoneme is "a sound" which a language uses as one of its primitive elements for constructing utterances. For instance /p/ in "paper, spit". It turns out that ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
1 vote

Why are languages with average vowel inventory size scattered?

It is mainly a consequence of basic statistics: Languages with an average¹ vowel inventory are also the most frequently occurring languages, the distribution thins out very quickly towards the more ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar

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