Journal of the International Phonetic Association


The trills of Toda

Siniša Spajića1, Peter Ladefogeda1 and P. Bhaskararaoa2

a1 Phonetics Laboratory, Linguistics Department, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543, USA.

a2 Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 4 Nishigahara, Kita-ku, Tokyo 114, Japan.

A hundred years from now a large number of presently spoken languages will no longer be viable means of communication, and the distinctive sounds that they contain will have disappeared. Of the nearly seven thousand languages in the world listed by Grimes (1992), about ten per cent are spoken by around a thousand people or less. As the speakers of these languages grow old, and their children go to schools in which the main languages of the country predominate, phoneticians will no longer have access to the wide variety of sounds currently in use. Toda, a language spoken by about a thousand speakers in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, has some unusual sounds that will probably not exist in our great grandchildren's times. Among them are the six trills which this paper will describe. Tongue tip trills occur in about one third of the world's languages (Maddieson 1984). None of the languages in Maddieson's sample has two contrasting apical trills without secondary articulations, although they have been reported in Malayalam (Ladefoged 1971). To the best of our knowledge only Toda has three contrasting trills; and almost certainly no other language has surface contrasts between palatalized and non-palatalized versions of three lingual trills. Toda is a rich source for trill-seeking phoneticians.