Journal of the International Phonetic Association

On the categorization of ejectives: data from Witsuwit'en

Richard Wright a1, Sharon Hargus a2 and Katharine Davis a3
a1 University of Washington, Seattle
a2 University of Washington, Seattle
a3 Conversational Computing Corporation


Results of an acoustic study of root-initial /t th t'/ for eleven speakers of Witsuwit'en (Athabaskan) are presented. Values averaged across speaker means suggest that Witsuwit'en ejectives have a brief period of creaky voice and slow rise time at vowel onset relative to the voiceless unaspirated stops. However, there is considerable inter-speaker variation in VOT and f0 perturbation, with negligible correlation between these measures, contrary to the predictions of the ejective typologies proposed by Lindau (1984) and Kingston (1985). Results of a perception study indicate that the ejective-voiceless unaspirated contrast is more difficult than the other laryngeal contrasts even for native listeners. Implications of the Witsuwit'en data for the categorization of ejectives are discussed.