Prestopping of nasals and laterals is only partly parallel

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Pre-stopped nasals and laterals occur in several Australian languages, but why? Nasal pre-stopping likely enhances cues to place of articulation contrasts (Butcher 1999, 2006). Though recent work proposes that lateral pre-stopping does likewise (Keyser & Stevens 2006: footnote 7; Loakes et al. 2008), the supporting argumentation appears unconvincing upon scrutiny. With reference to enhancement theory, articulatory phonology, and articulatory and acoustic phonetics, I speculate on: plausible diachronic sources of pre-stopped nasals via stochastic and functional processes; the extension of pre-stopping to laterals through a drive for regularity in the organisation of gesturally complex segments (Browman & Goldstein 1995; inter alia); and explanations for the asymmetrical prevalence of pre-stopping across places of articulation (Hercus 1972). Both language use and innate universals are crucial.


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