The Kukuya language, Kikukuya [kìkýkçȳā], also transcribed Kukẅa and known as Southern Teke, is a member of the Teke dialect continuum of the Congolese plateau. It is known for being the only language claimed to have a phonemic labiodental nasal /ɱ/. The name comes from the word kuya "plateau".
|Native to||Republic of the Congo|
The five vowels are /i e~ɛ a o~ɔ u/, which may be long (double) or short. Other vowel sequences do not occur. /u/ is realised as [y] in the environment /ɲuni/ ([ɲyni]) and also before [j] or another [y], as in the name Kukuya [kýkçȳā].
Prenasalized voiceless consonants are aspirated. Depending on speaker and region, the sound represented by ⟨y⟩ may be either [j] or [z], apart from the word "with", which is always [jà]. The labiodental nasal is realized as [ɱʷ] before /a/ and as [ɱ] before /i/ and /e/; Paulian (1975) suggests that this is due to a conflict between labialization and the spread front vowels. The velar stop is [k] word initially and typically [ɡ] between vowels; there is a similar alternation with [t] and [ɾ]. /mpf/, /ɱʷ/, /n/ and especially /d/ are uncommon. /h/ is found in a single highly frequent word, /hé/ ('also').
Cw sequences are rare and only occur before unrounded vowels; they include /tw/ [tɕɥ], /sw/ [ɕɥ], /ndzw/ [ndʒɥ], /jw/ [ʑɥ], /kw/ [kɥ]. (C cannot be /f, l/.) It may be possible that the frequent sounds [pf, bv, ɱʷ] (which occur before /i a u, i e a u, i e a/, respectively) are phonemically /pw, bw, mw/, but Paulian (1975) argues against this analysis. Cj sequences such as /pj, kj/ are also rare (a dozen cases) and only occur before /a/. It may be possible that the frequent sounds [ts, dz, ɲ] are phonemically /tj, dj, nj/, but they are not restricted as to following vowels and Paulian (1975) argues against this analysis. Diachronically, Kukwa affricates derive from stops before close vowels or vowel sequences, and /pf/ derives from *k rather than *p. The labiodentals are not found before /o/. /n/ is not attested before /u/, and /ŋ/ is not found in underived words before /i, u/.
Prenasalized affricates are generally transcribed mf, mv, ns, nz. Phonemic neutralization may occur when consonants are prenasalized:
Syllables are primarily CV, with some CwV and CjV; vowel-initial syllables do not occur. Roots (not counting nominal prefixes and the like) are of the forms CV, CVV, CVCV, CVVCV, and CVCVCV. In the latter case, the middle vowel is neutralized. There are only six medial consonants, /k [ɡ], t [ɾ], n, m, l, p [b]/, and six combinations of medial C2C3 in the case of CVCVCV words, /–n–m, –t–p, –t–k, –l–p, –l–k, ?/.
Paulian (1975) posits both tone and stress, with tone being high or low, though not every syllable is assigned a tone: there are five word-tone patterns in the language. Vowels may carry two tones to accomplish this.
A phonemic labiodental nasal, /ɱ/, has only been reported from this one language. It is "accompanied by strong protrusion of both lips", being [ɱʷ] before /a/ and [ɱ] before /i/ and /e/, perhaps because labialization is constrained by the spread front vowels; it does not occur before back (rounded) vowels. However, there is some doubt that a true stop can be made by this gesture due to gaps between the incisors, which are filed to points by the Teke people and would allow air to flow during the occlusion; this is particularly pertinent considering that one of the words with this consonant, /ɱáá/, means a 'gap between filed incisors'. Because of these factors, Teke /ɱ/ might be better characterized as a labiodental nasal approximant ([ʋ̃] in IPA), rather than a nasal occlusive.
Given its rarity, it is worth providing some minimal pairs with other consonants:
The labiodental nasal is a type of consonantal sound. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɱ⟩. The IPA symbol is a lowercase letter m with a leftward hook protruding from the lower right of the letter. Occasionally it is instead transcribed as an em with a dental diacritic: ⟨m̪⟩.
It is pronounced very similarly to the bilabial nasal [m], except instead of the lips touching each other, the lower lip touches the upper teeth. The position of the lips and teeth is generally the same as for the production of the other labiodental consonants, like [f] and [v], though closure is incomplete for the fricatives.
Although commonly appearing in languages, it is overwhelmingly present non-phonemically, largely restricted to appear before labiodental consonants like [f] and [v]. A phonemic /ɱ/ has been reported for the Kukuya language, which contrasts it with /m, mpf, mbv/ and is "accompanied by strong protrusion of both lips". It is [ɱʷ] before /a/ and [ɱ] before /i/ and /e/, perhaps because labialization is constrained by the spread front vowels; it does not occur before back (rounded) vowels.It is doubted by some scholars that a true stop can be made by this gesture because of gaps between the incisors, which for many speakers would allow air to flow during the occlusion; this is particularly pertinent considering that one of the words with this consonant, /ɱáá/, means a 'gap between filed incisors,' a practice of the local people. The /ɱ/ might be better characterized as a labiodental nasal approximant than as a nasal occlusive.
Nonetheless, it is common phonetically, as it is a typical allophone of /m/ and /n/ before the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v], as in English comfort, circumvent, infinitive, or invent. In Angami, it occurs as an allophone of /m/ before /ə/. For Drubea, [ɱ] is reported as an allophone of /v/ before nasal vowels.A proposal to retire the letter ⟨ɱ⟩ was made at the Kiel Convention, at the same time the extensions to the IPA were presented, with the labiodental nasal to be transcribed solely by ⟨m̪⟩, but the proposal was defeated in committee.Minaveha language
Minaveha, or Kukuya, is an Oceanic language of Fergusson Island in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea.
Note: The Guthrie classification is geographic and its groupings do not imply a relationship between the languages within them.