Voiceless Bilabial Stop - Occurrence

Occurrence

The stop is missing from about 10% of languages that have a . (See voiced velar stop for another such gap.) This is an areal feature of the "circum-Saharan zone" (Africa north of the equator, including the Arabian peninsula). It is not known how old this areal feature is, and whether it might be a recent phenomenon due to Arabic as a prestige language (Arabic lost its /p/ in prehistoric times), or whether Arabic was itself affected by a more ancient areal pattern. It is found in other areas as well; for example, in Europe, Proto-Celtic and Old Basque are both reconstructed as having but no .

Nonetheless, the sound is very common cross-linguistically. Most languages have at least a plain, and some distinguish more than one variety. Many Indo-Aryan languages, such as Hindi, have a two-way contrast between the aspirated and the plain (transcribed as in extensions to the IPA).

Read more about this topic:  Voiceless Bilabial Stop

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