Felix Rau

Leiden University




Glottal Constriction in Gorum


Gorum, a South Munda language spoken in India, exhibits a rich inventory of sounds with heightened glottal stricture. These sounds can be grouped into three types of phenomena:


glottal stop [Ɂ]

glottalised (voiced) obstruents [ˀb] [ˀd] [ˀɟ] [ˀg]

creaky phonation of vowels, e.g. [a̰]


Such phenomena are common in Munda languages; yet Gorum is the only one in which creaky voice has been analysed as phonemic. Also, it is the only Munda language to clearly show a direct reflex of the putative Proto-Munda (or possibly Proto-Austroasiatic) creaky register (N. Zide 1976, Zide & Zide 1987, Diffloth 1989).

Previous phonological analyses of the above-mentioned phenomena differ: Aze (1971, 1974) analyses them as one prosodic feature of glottalisation, associated with the syllable rhyme. Zide (1963, 1982), on the other hand, treats the glottal stop and the creaky voice as phonemes, but analyses voiced obstruent glottalisation as a non-phonemic process. Either account has advantages as well as disadvantages. However, neither can explain the complete data: Aze fails to account for the difference between rhymes such as V̰n, Vˀd and Vʔn; Zide cannot explain the distribution patterns of the different glottal phenomena. In fact, I believe there is evidence that – from a synchronic perspective – all three phenomena have phonemic status. Nevertheless, I claim that for a comprehensive understanding of glottal constriction in Gorum it is necessary to look beyond the level of single phonemes, and take into account syllable structure, the prosodic structure of words, and historical-comparative evidence.


Aze, R. (1971), Parengi (Gorum) Phonemic Summary, Summer Institute of Linguistics and Deccan College, Poona.

Aze, R. (1974), ‘The Status of Glottalization in Parengi (Gorum)’, Proceedings of All India Conference          of Linguistics, 1972, 84--95.

Diffloth, G. (1989), ‘Proto-Austroasiatic creaky voice’, Mon-Khmer Studies 15, 139-154.

Zide, A. R. K. (1963), ‘Gorum (Parengi) Phonology’, Unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Pennsylvania.

Zide, A. R. K. (1982), ‘A Reconstruction of Sora-Juray-Gorum Phonology’, PhD thesis, University of Chicago.

Zide, A. R. K. & Zide, N. H. (1987), ‘A KM Laryngeal as a conditioning factor for s-loss in Sora-Juray-Gorum’, in George Cardona & Norman H. Zide, ed.,Festschrift for Henry Hoenigswald: on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, Narr, Tübingen, pp. 417-431.

Zide, N. H. (1976), ‘ ‘3’ and ‘4’ in South Munda’, Linguistics 174, 89-98.