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The renowned historical linguist Hans Henrich Hock once commented that, for reasons that are not well understood, there sometimes appear "curious gaps" in the bilabial slot of languages' series of obstruent phonemes. Hock based his comment on the observation that if a language lacks a voiceless stop at one of the cardinal points of articulation, the missing segment is almost always /p/. Labial Instability in Sound Change (Explanations for the loss of /p/) explains the driving force behind this phenomenon. The theory advanced by the book accounts for why, over time, languages lose the /p/ sound more often than any other voiceless stop (sounds of a similar class). The book describes the phenomenon of "labial instability" in articulatory and acoustic terms. Labial Instability in Sound Change argues for a particular school of sound change (John Ohala's phonetic theory) while clarifying the complex relationships among speech perception, acoustic and articulatory phonetics, language typology, and sound change.
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Richard E. McDorman studied linguistics at the University of Virginia and University of Chicago, as well as philosophy and ancient history at the University of Miami. He has taught English, Spanish, and Latin at the college level, and currently works as a linguist and program director for an international language services company in Miami, Florida. An author of ESL textbooks and articles on phonetics, phonology, and historical linguistics, Mr. McDorman has a variety of research interests, including language change, Indo-European linguistics, and African American English (AAE).
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