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  Home > Conferences > Back(ing) Glottal & Guttural Patterns in Onsets and Nuclei

International Conference
Back(ing) Glottal & Guttural Patterns in Onsets and Nuclei


2-4 May 2012
Paris, France

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3
Maison de la Recherche
4 rue des Irlandais 75005 Paris
(the same informations on their website)


backingOrganizing Committee:
Samia Naïm (CNRS-Lacito) &
Jean Léo Léonard (IUF, CNRS-LPP & Paris 3)


An international conference on postvelar articulations, gesture coordination of gutturals and glottals with onsets and nuclei, the nature of breathiness and creakiness, its sources and function in the world's languages.
Phonological typology is a leading field in empirical linguistics today. It owes this privilege to a rich tradition of theoretical research on the sound patterns of language, and to the number of significant cross-linguistic comparative studies, based on databases such as UPSID. However, many domains of inquiry still await more detailed study within a typological framework, such as postvelar articulations, gesture coordination of gutturals and glottals within onsets and nuclei, the nature of breathiness and creakiness, and its sources and function in different languages. The laryngealist theory for proto-Indo-European has seldom been revisited on cross-linguistic grounds, and most consonant inventories defined nowadays as typologically creaky or breathy were until recently (or continue to be) considered to be glottalized or aspirated. Postvelar sounds, backness coarticulations and glottalic features, although rare in European languages, do occur in a wide array of languages and language families, including Afro-Asiatic, Caucasian, Mayan, Totonacan, Altaic, Khoisan. Martinet argued that languages tend towards what he called an articulatory basis; for example, most European languages exhibit a fronting or palatal tendency. It will be interesting to focus more attention on languages that display tendencies towards a back(ing) articulatory basis, and to examine what happens in this domain. Such work should take into account categorical and typological shifts. The BACK(ING) International Conference will focus on three topics: 

  • Categories: properties and features of glottalized onsets (implosives and ejectives) and gutturals (uvulars, epiglottals or pharyngeals) and nuclei (checked or interrupted vowels).
  • Functions, distribution & constraints: insertion and synchronisation of these backing features in a wide range of prosodic and morphological domains (syllabic and metrical templates, inflectional stems), degrees of mobility (light and heavy backing features, anchors and sites).
  • Change and backing feature shifts: sandhi, assimilation and dissimilation, compensatory processes.

Moreover, the Backing Meeting will be an opportunity for specialists of various specific fields of phonology to:

  • Discuss the diversity of `backing` models - examining empirical approaches, with paradigms such as Laboratory Phonology, Feature Geometry and Structural Dialectology at the forefront of discussion. 
  • Highlight endangered languages: the description of Backing in endangered and scarcely documented languages using first-hand data is strongly encouraged. 
  • Enhance empirical criticism, revisiting models relying on second-hand data critically, or contrasting previous available data with new observations and empirical insights.

Samia Naïm contact
Jean-Léo Léonard contact

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