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The history of word-initial geminates in Kelantan Malay

Monday 15 April 2019
Descriptive and Anthropological Linguistics Discussion Group
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 1
2311 BZ Leiden


While word-initial geminates are cross-linguistically rare, they are found in a handful of languages (Thurgood 1993, Muller 2001). Kelantan Malay, often known to be one of the most aberrant Malay dialects, is one of the few languages that exclusively have geminates in word-initial position. In this talk, I report on word-initial geminates in Kelantan Malay and their phonological history.

All consonants, except for glottals and glides, can appear geminate in Kelantan Malay. I show that disyllables with initial geminates in Kelantan Malay can be traced back to historical trisyllables, and initial geminates arose from antepenultimate vowel loss and subsequent cluster assimilation. For instance, Sanskrit kapāla > **kpala > ppalɔ ‘head’ and Proto Malayic *(mb)Ar-jalan > **bjalan > ɟɟalɛ ‘to walk’. The process of cluster assimilation was nevertheless conditioned: obstruents did not assimilate to following liquids, and voiceless obstruents did not assimilate to following voiced obstruents, hence *bAlakaŋ > blakɛ ‘back’ and *tiŋɡələm > tɡəlɛ ‘to sink’. 

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