Distributive and Acoustic Analysis of [q’] and [ʔ] Consonants in Megrelian

The phonemic systems of Georgian and Zan (Megrelian-Laz) languages coincide with each other. The difference is minimal: 1) the so-called neutral vowel [ə]; 2) the glottal plosive (stop) consonant [ʔ], which in the linguistic literature is qualified variously. It is shared that [ʔ] and dorso-uvular ejective [q’] are the allophones of one phoneme. It should be noted that [q’] falls within the system of fricatives; though following the fricative on-glide, it is chara­cterized by occlusion as well. Here, too, the classification necessitates the consideration of syntagmatic level (e.g., in “harmonic” clusters [q’] will be found alongside the fricatives [γ] and [x]: [bγ], [px], [p’q’]…). Because of that, some phoneticians used to qualify it as a “spirantoid” (Akhvlediani, 1999, pp. 90, 294).

Our synchronic distributive and experimental analysis shows that [q’] and [ʔ] are different phonemes. In particular, it has been stated that the distribution of [ʔ] is: #-V, V-V, #-v(ვ), -S-v(ვ) (and the same for [q’]). Although for the [q’] : [ʔ] opposition there is no minimal pair, many examples of con­trastive distributions are attested, on the basis of which we can consider [q’] and [ʔ] not as the positional variants of [q’] phoneme, but as two different phonemes in the Megrelian consonant system.

This is also confirmed by the typological point of view, because in the languages with glottalization, usually the /ʔ/ phoneme is presented. The paper will present a distributive and experimental-phonetic analysis of [q’] and [ʔ].

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