The Velar Ejective in Proto-Agaw

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Conference Title

39th Annual Conference on African Linguistics

Publication Date



Appleyard (2006) claims that although glottalized consonants were present in Proto-Cushitic (PC), they were lost in pre-Proto-Agaw but returned in some Agaw languages solely due to language contact with Ethio-Semitic (ES) languages. In this paper the author argues that the velar ejective should be reconstructed for Proto-Agaw (PA), mostly as an original reflex of PC. Careful examination of other Cushitic languages, cautiously using Ehret (1987, 1995) and Orel & Stolbova (1995), reveals 38 etyma which suggest that the velar ejective should be part of the inventory of PA. The Blin form bäräk'- 'flash', for example, compared with other forms from Cushitic, suggests reconstruction of a PA (and PC) form with ejectives, e.g., East Cushitic *bark'-/birk'- 'lightning'. Using Occam's razor, it is more likely that Blin preserves the original Cushitic velar ejective, rather than having lost it and then regained it from languages with which it had no contact. Another reason to reconstruct ejectives is due to the directionality of sound change. A change from ejective velar stop to voiceless velar fricative is a more plausible trajectory than the reverse. Finally, in several Agaw languages, glottalization plays a role of phonemic contrast, where the ejective is unrelated to any ES loan and thus more likely to be part of an original PA contrast. This study contributes to a more thorough understanding of the reconstruction of Proto-Agaw and thus of Proto-Cushitic in general. It also deepens our understanding of various sound changes involving ejectives.


This paper is openly available on the web.

The definitive paper can be found on the website of the Cascadilla Proceedings Project at: http://www.lingref.com/.

Publisher Statement

© 2009 Paul D. Fallon.