A Case for the Phonetic Feature [Tongue]
Based on the autosegmental principles of phonemic licensing, this article argues a case for the phonetic feature [tongue] to function as a cover label for all true consonants that are articulated with a tongue stricture. The case evolves from a qualitative analysis of two strategies of the adaptation of Gîkûyû loanwords from English: vocalic epenthesis and velar softening. Vocalic epenthesis is an assimilation strategy which focuses on the front high vowel, /i/. This vowel is regularly inserted in the environment of the true [+con.-voc.] consonants, which are also articulated with a tongue stricture. Unlike the back vowels /u/ and /o/ which regularly occur in the environments of labials and the liquid respectively, the constraint of /i/ epenthesis is not generalizable by any set of recognized phonetic features. Velar softening concerns a foregrounding of Dahl's Law of Dissimilation in the Gîkûyû phonological structure. This strategy defines the suppletion of the back voiceless plosive, /k/, to the homorganic voiced fricative, /γ/, in the environment of the voiceless obstruents of the tongue stricture. Once again, it seems impossible to capture a definitive constraint of the suppletion process by reference to the current set of phonetic features.