Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



The Kenyah languages of central Borneo form a distinct unit within the North Sarawak group of Austronesian languages. In northern Sarawak there is a well-defined contrast between types that have been called ‘Highland Kenyah’ and ‘Lowland Kenyah’. A key difference between these sets of closely-related languages is the reflexes of Proto-North Sarawak/Proto-Kenyah *b, *d, *j, *g and *bh, *dh, *jh, *gh, which are distinguished (usually as vs. , , , ) in Highland Kenyah, but show a complex set of innovations in some varieties of Lowland Kenyah. The most striking of these changes in the dialect spoken by the Lebu’ Vu’ Kenyah at Long Sela’an and Long Ikang, and the Long Tikan Kenyah at Long San, is the shift of voiced aspirates to phonetic implosives that were generalized to the reflexes of *b, *d, *j, *g as final syllable onsets, leading to merger of the two series. Because it was conditioned, this merger produced complementation between [b]/[ɓ], [ɟ]/[ʄ], and [g]/[ɠ] (*d lenited before implosion was generalized, preventing merger). Most remarkably, the reduction of Proto-Kenyah nasal-obstruent clusters in these dialects has begun to produce new instances of [ɟ] and [g], but not [b] and [d], creating contrastive implosives only at palatal and velar positions, a reversal of the distributional preference commonly associated with implosive stops in cross-linguistic perspective.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Blevins, Juliette
    2004Evolutionary phonology: The Emergence of Sound Patterns. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:  10.1017/CBO9780511486357
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511486357 [Google Scholar]
  2. Blust, Robert
    1969 Some new Proto-Austronesian trisyllables. Oceanic Linguistics81: 85–104. doi:  10.2307/3622814
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3622814 [Google Scholar]
  3. 1974The Proto-North Sarawak Vowel Deletion Hypothesis. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Honolulu: Department of Linguistics, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. 1995 Notes on Berawan consonant gemination. Oceanic Linguistics341: 123–138. doi:  10.2307/3623115
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3623115 [Google Scholar]
  5. 1998a Seimat vowel nasality: a typological anomaly. Oceanic Linguistics371: 298–322. doi:  10.2307/3623412
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3623412 [Google Scholar]
  6. 1998b The position of the languages of Sabah. Pagtanáw: Essays on Language in Honor of Teodoro A. Llamzon, ed. by Ma. Lourdes S. Bautista , 29–52. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. 2005 Must sound change be linguistically motivated?Diachronica221: 219–269. doi:  10.1075/dia.22.2.02blu
    https://doi.org/10.1075/dia.22.2.02blu [Google Scholar]
  8. 2006 The origin of the Kelabit voiced aspirates: a historical hypothesis revisited. Oceanic Linguistics451: 311–338. doi:  10.1353/ol.2007.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1353/ol.2007.0001 [Google Scholar]
  9. 2007 Òma Lóngh historical phonology. Oceanic Linguistics461: 1–53. doi:  10.1353/ol.2007.0016
    https://doi.org/10.1353/ol.2007.0016 [Google Scholar]
  10. 2010 The Greater North Borneo hypothesis. Oceanic Linguistics491: 44–118. doi:  10.1353/ol.0.0060
    https://doi.org/10.1353/ol.0.0060 [Google Scholar]
  11. 2013The Austronesian languages. 2nd revised edition. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics Open Access Monographs. Available atpacling.anu.edu.au/materials/Blust2013Austronesian.pdf (accessed11 July 2015).
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Chao, Yuen-Ren
    1936 Types of plosives in Chinese. Proceedings of the 2nd International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 106–110. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Goudswaard, Nelleke
    2005The Begak (Ida’an) Language of Sabah. Utrecht: Utrecht Institute of Linguistics / LOT Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistic.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Greenberg, Joseph H.
    1970 Some generalizations concerning glottalic consonants, especially implosives. International Journal of American Linguistics36.2: 123–145. doi:  10.1086/465105
    https://doi.org/10.1086/465105 [Google Scholar]
  15. Hajek, John , & John Bowden
    2002 A phonological oddity in the Austronesian area: Ejectives in Waimoa. Oceanic Linguistics411: 222–224. doi:  10.1353/ol.2002.0021
    https://doi.org/10.1353/ol.2002.0021 [Google Scholar]
  16. Haudricourt, André-Georges
    1950 Les consonnes préglottalisées en Indochine. Bulletin de la société de linguistique de Paris46.1: 172–182.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Hyman, Larry M.
    1975Phonology: Theory and Analysis. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Jensen, John Thayer
    1977Yapese-English Dictionary. PALI Language Texts: Micronesia. Honolulu: University Press of Hawai‘i.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Ladefoged, Peter
    1968A Phonetic Study of West African Languages: An Auditory-Instrumental Survey. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Maddieson, Ian
    1984Patterns of Sounds. (Cambridge Studies in Speech Science and Communication.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:  10.1017/CBO9780511753459
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511753459 [Google Scholar]
  21. Matisoff, James A.
    1975 Rhinoglottophilia: The mysterious connection between nasality and glottality. Nasálfest: Papers from A Symposium on Nasals and Nasalization, ed. by Charles A. Ferguson , Larry M. Hyman & John J. Ohala , 265–287. Stanford: Language Universals Project, Department of Linguistics, Stanford University.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Mithun, Marianne
    1996 Overview of general characteristics. Handbook of North American Indians, vol.171: Languages, ed. by Ives Goddard , 137–157. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Ohala, John J.
    1983 The origin of sound patterns in vocal tract constraints. The Production of Speech, ed. by P.F. MacNeilage , 189–216. New York: Springer-Verlag. doi:  10.1007/978‑1‑4613‑8202‑7_9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4613-8202-7_9 [Google Scholar]
  24. to appear. The aerodynamic voicing constraint and its phonological implications. Revealing Structure: Finding Patterns in Grammars and Using Grammatical Patterns to Elucidate Language, A Festschrift to Honor Larry M. Hyman ed. by Gene Buckley , Thera Crane & Jeff Good . Stanford: CSLI Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Passy, Paul
    1890Étude sur les Changements Phonétiques et Leurs Caractères Généraux. Paris: Firmin-Didot.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Ray, Sidney H.
    1913 The languages of Borneo. The Sarawak Museum Journal1.4: 1–196.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Soriente, Antonia
    (ed.) 2006Mencalèny & Usung Bayung Marang: A Collection of Kenyah Stories in the Òma Lóngh and Lebu’ Kulit Languages. Jakarta: Atma Jaya University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Vanoverbergh, Morice
    1972Isneg-English Vocabulary: Oceanic Linguistics Special Publication No. 11. Honolulu: University Press of Hawai‘i.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Walker, Alan T.
    1982A Grammar of Sawu. (NUSA Linguistic Studies in Indonesian and Languages in Indonesia 13.) Jakarta: Universitas Atma Jaya.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Wang, William S-Y.
    1971 The basis of speech. The Learning of Language, ed. by Carroll E. Reed , 267–306. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Wolff, R.
    1905Grammatik der Kinga-Sprache (Deutsch-Ostafrika, Nyassagebiet). (Archiv für das Studium deutscher Kolonialsprachen, 3.) Berlin: Georg Reimer.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): implosives; Kenyah; North Sarawak; phonology; typology
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error