The intraradical glottal stop in Philippine languages: Innovation or retention?

Robert Blust

Date of publication:

December 31, 2021

It is now well-established that many Austronesian languages, including those in the

Philippines, contain both simple morphemes, and morphemes that include a

submorphemic sound-meaning association within them, as with Ifugaw ukpít ‘to hold by

pressing s.t. between the knees, or between the elbow (or upper arm), and the side of the

body’, Naga Bikol yaʔpít ‘narrow (as a passage), tight (as clothes)’, Hanunóo tipít

clamps, holders, as used to fasten house walls down’, or Hiligaynon lágpit ‘rat trap’, all

containing a reflex of the Proto-Austronesian root *-pit ‘to press, squeeze together;

narrow’ (Blust 1988, to appear). However, unlike languages in other parts of this large

language family, Philippine languages have added an additional layer of complexity in

that these -CVC elements (known since Brandstetter 1916 as ‘roots’) sometimes appear

in the shape -CʔVC. The question addressed here is whether the glottal inclusions in

such cases are part of the original root, or are products of secondary change. Evidence

is presented in support of the latter position, but it is also noted that in a very few cases

a bound root appears to be identical to a CVCVC free morpheme (in the present case,

*piqit), suggesting that some -CVC roots derive from free morphemes of the shape


Because of inescapably contradictory evidence this matter is left open,

although it is clear that the great majority of submorphemic sound-meaning associations

had the shape -CVC.