Vowel epenthesis in loanword adaptation: Representational and phonetic considerations

Yvan Rose*, Katherine Demuth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


The phenomenon of loanword incorporation has long proved an intriguing object of study. Recent developments at the phonetics/phonology interface have generated renewed interest in the mechanisms of loanword adaptation, raising questions about the possible representational versus phonetic underpinnings of this process. This paper examines aspects of English and Afrikaans loanword incorporation into the southern Bantu language Sesotho, focusing specifically on the process of vowel epenthesis. It finds that the place features of the epenthetic vowel, as well as the direction from which these features are copied, is completely predictable, but only if contrastive feature specification is assumed. It also shows that phonetic/perceptual effects, where present, are confined to a limited domain. The paper concludes that, although representational and phonetic factors may both play a role in loanword adaptation, it is the language-specific phonological phenomena that are central to this process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1112-1139
Number of pages28
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Feature specification
  • Loanword adaptation
  • Phonology
  • Segmental representation


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