The phonology of Óma Lóngh Kenyah as described by Soriente (2006) shows strinking typological difference from its nearest relatives. Contrary to a pattern of avoidance that is almost universal in Austronesian languages, it has developed final palatals, including voiceless unreleased palatal stop (written -j), and a palatal nasal (written -ny). In violation of universal tendencies in phonological systems, it has also innovated a voiceless velar nasal (but no other voiceless nasals) in final position. Out of a Proto-Kenyah six-vowel system in which tense mid vowels occurred only word-finally, it has developed three new vowels and an unusual system of soube vowel harmony that requires both High-Mid avoidance and Tense-Lax agreement. Even more surprisingly, a typologically bizarre connection between the tenseness/laxness of the penultimate vowel and the shape of the final syllable is present in one subclass of bases, but emerges clearly only through a historical analysis. Together, these innovations add to an already impressive picture of north-central Borneo as a "hot spot" for rapid phonological change, include changes that do not appear to be phonetically motivated.
Oceanic Linguistics – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Jul 30, 2007