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Messy orthography (Re: Sound change rules for erosion)

From:Isidora Zamora <isidora@...>
Date:Thursday, November 20, 2003, 18:14
This was supposed to have gone to the list.  Unfortunately, I did not check
the address in the To: field before I sent and it went directly to Heather
instead.  So I'll try again.  My apologies, Heather.

At 02:52 PM 11/19/03 -0800, Heather Fleming wrote:
>Sound changes are fun. I also highly recommend setting up your orthography >before you run your sound changes, especially your vowel shifts, because >that makes things nice and messy.
Oh, please! :-) That's why the Trehelo had the sense to overhaul their orthography (at least once.) Sound changes for Trehelo are nowhere near complete or set in stone, but they almost certainly involve the shortening of word-final long vowels and complete loss of word-final short vowels in order to end up with labialized consonants at the ends of words. And with modern literacy rates at no more than 30%, you really don't need to make things any harder on people by insisting on spelling [tat_w] as <tatwi> or <tatui> instead of <tatw> 'leaf'. (Though I think their alphabet uses some sort of ligature for my <tw> digraph.) (And, BTW, those voiceless stops are both heavily aspirated, but I didn't transcribe it.) And I am definitely *not* setting up the orthography before their vowel harmony rules go into effect and then later cease to be productive. Once they stopped harmonizing the vowels and mostly forgot what was underlying the harmonized versions, they had the good sense to start spelling things the way they sounded. (Not that that didn't leave them with a bunch of interesting relic forms in the language to complicate speaking and spelling.) If I were to set up the orthography and then keep it the same after the sound changes, I would have to spell the Trehelo word for 'fox' as <siotune> (which is the proto-form, and quite possibly attested in writing somewhere) and pronounce it as [So?On]. That's a little too far out of synch for my sanity, so I spell it <shohon>. I did think of a neat thing this evening to do to do with the Trehelo labialized obstruents. I've been saying that there were two grammatical genders in the language. Some of the nouns take their plural in -in, and some of them take it in something else. I think I thought of something a little wicked to do with the "something else." A reasonable way to divide up the genders would be roots that end in a consonant vs. root that end in a vowel. (Of course, some of the roots that used to end in a vowel no longer do, and I'll have to decide what to do with those words both in the proto and the modern language. I may have to make some major adjustments to my thinking. The -in suffix may have originally been simply -n. I think I have a good idea how to deal with these, and it is suitably messy. I just have to find a way to entirely eliminate the distinction in vowel length.) In any case, if the second gender is nouns which originally ended in a consonant (and still do), then I can make the plural suffix for that gender *-ua in the proto-language, and here's what happens: First of all, all /u/'s before another vowel --> /w/. Then the /w/ is dropped and the preceeding consonant is labialized. Final short vowels are dropped entirely. (Up above, you saw how *tatui --> tatwi --> tat_wi --> tat_w by this process.) This process has some ramifications for words ending in a consonant taking their plural in *-ua. Let's try a hypothetical noun <cet> [ket]. *cetua --> cetwa --> cet_wa --> cet_w What that means is that, in the modern language, the singular of the noun is /cet/ and the plural is /cet_w/. The second gender in Trehelo is made up of nouns that form their plurals by labializing the final consonant, whatever that consonant happens to be. (I think I'm kind of glad that I am not required to speak this language for communication purposes.) There are also plenty of consonant-final nouns in the modern language that do not form their plurals by labialization. Anyhow, I think I've done my weirdness for the evening and should probably go and do something with my children before I send them to bed. Isidora


Nik Taylor <yonjuuni@...>
Isidora Zamora <isidora@...>