Breathy phonation refers to the laryngeal setting where the vocal folds are less tense and make less contact than in "modal" phonation, which consequently leads to continuous leaking of voiceless airflow, giving rise to the perception of breathiness in a speech sound. In Austronesian languages, contrastive breathy segments are very rare. For the Austronesian languages of Island Southeast Asia, only one language has been reported to have phonemically breathy vowels: Kedang, a language spoken on Lembata island, in eastern Indonesia. In this paper, we revisit the earlier analysis that in Kedang, breathiness distinguishes phonemic "breathy" from "modal" vowels. Presenting evidence of distributional, acoustic, and etymological nature, we argue that the so-called breathy onsetless vowels do not appear to be similar to breathy vowels described in the literature. Their "breathy" nature may have a historical source in initial glottal consonants that were lost, but is currently used as a phonetic strategy that is intended to enhance the perceptual contrast between syllables with a phonemic glottal onset versus onsetless syllables. We also suggest that the glottal stop in Kedang is phonemic in all positions and indicate a possible historical trajectory for its development.


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pp. 37-58
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