The (inter)dental approximant, which we symbolize as [ð̞], of the Philippine language Kagayanen has been claimed to be both phonemic and a retention from a proto language (Olson, et al. 2010)‡. It is the goal of this paper to demonstrate how the (inter)dental approximant compares with the claimed phonemic inventory of Proto-Austronesian and to give a possible explanation for the variety of reflexes of *l seen in the Philippine Languages2 (PL). The suggestions in this paper for the phonetic value of *l are based on phonetic detail of the (inter)dental approximant described by Olson and Mielke (2007) and other descriptions from Philippine Languages.
In historical linguistics our assumptions about a proto-language’s phoneme inventory are limited by our understanding of the phoneme inventory of the daughter languages. Without the right observations on the daughter languages, we are liable to make invalid conclusions about their proto forms. There has been a lack of attention given to the phonemic status of the (inter)dental approximant because of its categorization as an allophone of [l] or in the cases of its reflexes with [r]. This oversight has affected the perceived options available in the reconstruction of the phoneme inventory of PAn.
‡ Olson et al.(2010) was still in press at the time of this presentation and was originally written in the abstract as Olson et al.(2009a). For clarity and ease of access the citation has been updated to the formal publication.