Andrea Hoa PHAM

University of Florida


Sound changes and Vietnamese syllabic structure


This paper presents a number of synchronic changes which are found in Vietnamese dialects. These changes are seen in all elements within the syllable, at both segmental and suprasegmental levels. Comparative evidence suggests that many of the changes are producing a simpler syllabic structure. For example, there is reduction of the initial consonant cluster to a single segment; the elimination of a final glide; or the reduction of the number of tones and the number of places of articulation in the final position. However, changes do not always indicate simplification.
Two case studies will be closely examined: 1) The loss of palatal and alveolar consonants in the dialects of central and southern Vietnam. This phenomenon illustrates the ‘wave model’ of theories of sound change; 2) The re-phonemicization of the initial cluster Cw- through merger and split where the consonant is not alveolar or palatal results in a new vowel in the Quang Nam dialect. The emergence of a new phoneme illustrates the complexity of sound change, especially when the changes are drastic and come in bundles.