Date of Award

Winter 1-6-2012

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

B.A.

Department

Honors College

Faculty Advisor

Haiyong Liu

Abstract

Languages are composed of sounds that are produced by the vocal organs. These sounds can be split into two categories, voiceless and voiced. In general, based upon the International Phonetic Alphabet, there are more voiced sounds possible than voiceless sounds, with vowels, nasals, and approximants inherently voiced. After analyzing the separate phonetic inventories of 9 Asian languages representative of the major Asian language families (Arabic, Burmese, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil, Turkish, Vietnamese), it was found that all of them except Mandarin Chinese had far more voiced sounds than voiceless sounds as well. After isolating only stops and affricates, all the Asian languages were found to have more voiceless phonemes than voiced. In regards to voicing and devoicing rules, the data shows that there are more devoicing rules than voicing rules, which might be explained by the fact that most languages have more voiced phonemes, so naturally in order for a change in voicing to occur, it would be more likely for the larger number of voiced sounds to become devoiced, simply by probability. In addition, since languages possess more voiced than voiceless sounds, it would make sense to have more devoicing rules in order to create a voiced and voiceless alternation in order to avoid misinterpretation of sounds. These conclusions may not be valid because the sample size of the data is too small and a more thorough analysis of voicing and devoicing rules in Asian languages would need to be conducted.

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