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Re: OT: English and front rounded vowels

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <melroch@...>
Date:Sunday, December 9, 2007, 15:05
Interestingly us speakers of Germanic languages which have front
rounded vowels tend to identify English unrounded central vowels with
our rounded front vowels! For me and other Scandinavians who have a
/3\/ English /3/ pretty naturally gets identified with it, but for
others it surely falls in with /2/. For Swedes English /@/ becomes
/8/, and _love_ may even become [lYwv], although of course our /8:/
[Yw] ought rather to be identified with English /u(:)/ which is [u\:]
to many.

BTW I made a glitch when describing Scandinavian breaking. The vowel
following in the next syllable after a stressed short *e needn't be
final, only unstressed, *eCa > jaC and *eCu > jQC > j2C, and I should
also have mentioned *eCi > iC. Thus skjöldr has genitive skjaldar and
dative skildi, the two latter with originally long and hence preserved
unstressed vowels.


2007/12/8, T. A. McLeay <conlang@...>:
> Eric Christopherson wrote: > > On Dec 5, 2007, at 7:07 PM, T. A. McLeay wrote: > >> In English, the high front rounded vowels were unrounded towards > >> the end > >> of the Old English period. Mid front rounded vowels were either lost > >> much earlier, or generally not written. Decent (;) dialects of English > >> have since re-created them from things like [u:] and [@:]. > > > > A rounded [@:]? Does that belong to the phoneme which in rhotic > > dialects is /r=/? In which case, I wonder if that's why German /2/ > > and /9/ sometimes get pronounced in English as /r=/, e.g. > > _Göthe_ /"gr=t@/, _danke schön_ /"daNk@ Sr=n/. > > I don't think it has much to do with the fact that (some) Australians, > Kiwis and probably Londoners have a vowel somewhat like [2:] or [8:] for > rhotic /r=/, but instead the same thing which motivated the rounding > also motivates associating /2:/ with the more dominant unrounded [@:] > variant of /3:/. This gets a bit technical; I don't know how much you > know about phonetics, so I'll try to explain everything. I apologise in > advance if that's too much or too little; it's probably both unless you > know this already. The pretty pictures at the end of this wants to be > viewed in a fixed-width font, so if that's not your default, copy it > into Notepad (or some other plain-text editor). > > As I'm sure you know, sounds are made up of waves. Pure tones are simple > sound waves, and can be described accurately with a single frequency (by > definition). More complex sounds, like vowels, use more complex waves > that need to be described with more than one frequency/resonance/ > formants. The lowest of these, the fundamental frequency (denoted F0) > determines pitch, and is used contrastively in tonal languages. Vowel > quality, however, is determined by a few higher ones. In most languages, > these are F1 and F2 (these are called the first and second formant, or > just eff-one, eff-two). Some languages also consider F3. (These formants > are always in order of frequency, with low numbers corresponding to > lower formants, but two adjacent formants can essentially overlap, more > below.) > > F1 corresponds pretty simply to vowel height: high vowels have a lower > F1, and low vowels have a higher F1. > > Vowel backness is represented in F2; back vowels have a low F2, front > vowels have a high F2. Because F2 picks up wherever F1 left off, low > vowels that have a higher F1 will cause F2 to be a bit higher, too, but > this doesn't mean the vowel is less back than a higher back vowel. > > Vowel roundedness is represented by both F2 and F3: rounded vowels have > a lower F2 and a lower F3 than the corresponding unrounded vowels. It is > for this reason that most languages don't contrast rounding, but instead > round (non-low) back vowels and keep the rest unrounded. Hence, the > speakers of most languages can pretty much ignore F3 because its > relative value will be implied by F2. But German and French speakers who > make the contrast will obviously need to pay attention to it. > > Now then, this becomes relevant to the "Göthe" thing because a German > producing [e] might say something with a mid F1, a high F2, and a high > F3. When they produce [2], they might say something with a mid F1, a mid > F2, and a low F3. Us non-rhotic English speakers proceed to ignore the > low F3 and hear a mid F1 and a mid F2. A vowel like this can correspond > to one of two vowels (x = unrounded, o = rounded): > > > If F3 is not especially low: If F3 is low: > --------------------- --------------------- > \ | \ | > \ | \ | > --------x---------- ----o-------------- > \ | \ | > \ | \ | > ---------------- ---------------- > \ | \ | > \ | \ | > ------------- ------------- > > > (If these piccies don't come up for you, there's two vowel charts. The > one on the left shows a central unrounded vowel, whereas the one on the > right shows a central-to-front rounded vowel.) > > Hence, we non-rhotic speakers are inclined to associate foreign [2:] as > our own /3:/, regardless of whether /3:/ is rounded or not. (Today the > IPA symbol [3:] is defined as being contrastively unrounded, but when > English IPA systems were designed, by the 1980s, [3] was merely an > alternative mid-central vowel contrasting with [@] but otherwise just as > adaptable in quality.) > > Now, whether Americans using /r=/ for foreign [2:] is because they're > influenced by similar happenings I'm not entirely sure. I would be > leaning towards the first because I think if you plot F1 against F2 of > /r=/ you end up with something in the vicinity of [U]. > > (Now, the Australian and Kiwi habit of using [2:] for /3:/ can be > explained by noting that we're not in the habit of paying attention to > F3, so it can be changed quite easily, and noting further that we've > developed quite front rounded vowels for our /u:/ and the offglide of > our /ou/. Speakers are lazy and uninclined to use two methods to get the > same effect (i.e. a mid F2), and so rather than using front vowel + > rounded lips for /u:/ but a mid vowel + unrounded lips for /3:/, we've > gone for the front vowel + rounded lips in both cases.) > > > A related thing I've been wondering: How rare is it for front rounded > > vowels to become back rounded vowels? I don't think I've ever run > > across that sound change, but it seems plausible to me. > > It's happened in Old English -> Middle English before liquids, which > were probably dark. e.g. much <- mycel, worry <- wyrgan. > > In Mongolian, vowel harmony operates between two groups called > non-pharyngeal (e u o) and pharyngeal (a U O). These were formally > called front and back. Also /U O/ are spelt with the same cyrillic > letters used for Russian /u o/ (i.e. у о), whereas /u o/ are spelt with > the same letters used for /y 2/ in turkic languages (i.e. ү ө). I don't > know if the old names for these groups and the orthography represent a > historical pronunciation or not. > > -- > Tristan. >
-- / BP