Palatalization and glide strengthening as competing repair strategies: Evidence from Kirundi


Alternations involving place-changing palatalization (e.g. t+j → ʧ in spirit – spiritual) are very common and have been a focus of much generative phonological work since Chomsky & Halle’s (1968) ‘Sound Pattern of English’. The interest in palatalization and its mechanisms (see e.g. Sagey 1990; Chen 1996; Bateman 2007) has somewhat obscured the question of how these processes fit into a wider typology of segmental alternations. What happens when palatalization fails to apply? Do other processes take its place and apply under the same circumstances? In this paper, I argue for a close functional and formal affinity between place-changing palatalization and one such process, palatal glide strengthening (e.g. p+j → pc). As evidence I present data from Kirundi (Bantu) on the realization of consonant + palatal and velar glide sequences within and across morphemes. As will be shown, palatalization and glide strengthening in Kirundi work in parallel, affecting different subsets of consonants. Specifically, palatalization targets C+j sequences with laryngeals, velars, nasal coronals, and – across morpheme boundaries – non-nasal coronals. In contrast, glide strengthening targets C+j sequences with labials and – within morphemes – non-nasal coronals. In addition, glide strengthening applies to within- and across-morpheme consonant + velar glide sequences, producing a set of outputs (e.g. m+w → mŋ) similar to C+j sequences. I further present a unified Optimality Theoretic (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004) account of these seemingly disparate phenomena as both arising from different rankings of constraints prohibiting consonant + glide sequences (parameterized by place and/or manner) and various feature-specific agreement and faithfulness constraints. Finally, I explore typological predictions of this account, reviewing several remarkably similar cases of C + glide resolution patterns from other languages, and outlining questions for further research on consonant-vowel/glide interactions.

This article is part of the special collection: Palatalization



palatalization, glide strengthening, phonological typology, Optimality Theory, Kirundi

How to Cite

Kochetov, A., (2016) “Palatalization and glide strengthening as competing repair strategies: Evidence from Kirundi”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 1(1): 14. doi:


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Alexei Kochetov (University of Toronto)



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