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CHAT: More enter-bringings

From:Jesse S. Bangs <jaspax@...>
Date:Wednesday, March 1, 2000, 19:19
Well, Robert got a warm enough welcome, so I figured I'd de-lurk and
introduce myself as well.  I actually popped on and off was on this list
a few years ago, but I had to leave far too soon--this time I'll stick
around (I promise).  Name's Jesse, 17 years old, and my main conlang is
Yivríndil ("Yivrindil" with an acute accent on the second 'i', since the
diacritics don't always go through the mail), if perchance anyone
remembers me.  I've been conlanging for quite a while, and Yivrindil is
actually very complete--there's a pretty exhaustive grammar available for
anyone that wants to write me and ask for it.  However, I have several
other half-done projects that I've worked on, like related languages,
diachronic stuff for Yivrindil, and I recently started with Pazri, a
fictional IE lang.

Since phonology's the topic of the day, I think I'll start with a problem
that's been bothering me lately.  I've traditionally described
Y(ivríndil) phonology with seven phonemes: /i I e I a o u/, with
dipthongs /ai oi ui ao/.  (I'm using IPA symbols throughout since the
orthography is naturalistic and somewhat arbitrary, and might be
misleading--and I don't feel like explaining it in detail right now.)
However, I've recently thought about re-describing the system to
eliminate /i/ and /e/ as distinctive phonemes with a generative approach.

Here's the main arguments: /i/ and /e/ occur in complementary
distribution with the dipthongs /ai oi ui/ and share some
properties--they're all rare in noun nuclei, but are the normal results
of a "vowel lengthening" mutation required in some morphological
processes.  For example: ['aras]/[ar'aisEva] "land/my land" and
['ElEd]/[El'edEva] "home/my home".  There's also extensive neutralization
between /I E/ and /i e/--the former are disallowed finally and before
vowels and some consonants.  Thus, it might be convenient to describe [i
e] as underlying dipthongs /Ii Ei/, even though those phonetic forms
never occur on the surface.  Allophonic rules would describe /I E/ --> [i
e] for the other appropriate environments.

This solution requires me to posit the existence of another phoneme /i/,
though, which would only occur as the second element of a dipthong
(either that or a whole bunch of messy diacritic stuff).  I'm not sure
which is more elegant--the original description, or the revised
generative solution.  (I suppose it partly depends on your view of
generative phonology in general).

Anyway, that's what I've been working on.  Glad to be back--the two days
that I've already been here have been as fascinating as I remember.

Jesse S. Bangs   Pelíran
"What have I become?  My sweetest friend,
Everyone I know goes away in the end"
--Trent Reznor