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Re: 4 phonemes, was: Another phonological extreme

From:Vasiliy Chernov <bc_@...>
Date:Monday, July 24, 2000, 18:07
On Sat, 22 Jul 2000 15:29:05 -0600, dirk elzinga
<dirk.elzinga@...> wrote:

>I'm noticing an interesting property of the conlangs with vanishingly >small inventories. It seems that the smaller the inventory, the more >the elements of the inventory look like features rather than segments.
Yes, with this last system I felt that, too. But - sorry if I failed to make it clear enough - my intention was to make them work like real segments. For example, if you have a stem ending in |-kan| /ku/, you can add the suffix |-a-| and get |-kana| /kana/, then add |-i-| and receive |-kanai| /kami/. Or insert the infix |-i-| to obtain |-kain| /pe/, then |-kaina| /pina/ and |-kainai| /pimi/. I think the right term for these elements is 'deep phonemes'. The whole deal looks for me like morphonology rather than phonology proper, but note that by now I've avoided any neutralizations. Where I'm failing at the moment is that I get the surface system with some gaps that look unjustified by the surface system itself. E. g., it allows for /-ut-/, /-at-/ and /-as-/, but not /-us-/. Not too unnatural, but I'm afraid such a system will tend to violate such bans in onomatopoeic words and in borrowings, which will cause various morphological problems. I'm trying to find a way to make it more symmetrical. But combinatorics (in the mathematical sense) doesn't let me :(
>Take the following examples from Vasiliy's post on a 4 phoneme >language: > >On Sat, 22 Jul 2000, Vasiliy Chernov wrote: >> >> Deep level - >> >> C: k n >> V: V1, V2 (probably _a_, _i_) >> >> Syllable structure: (k/n)V(n) >> >> Then various vowel combinations contract to produce combinations /wV/ >> and /jV/. Then the consonants and glides develop as follows: > >(Change these around to /Vw/ and /Vj/ to avoid a problem later on; see >below.) > >> kw /p/ >> kj /t/ >> k /k/ > >Okay. First off, you actually have a six-segment inventory, since you >use |w| and |j| below.
I think I don't. |w| and |j| don't appear immediately on the 'deep' level, they only emerge from vowel contaction.
>But that's okay by me; six is still pretty >tiny.
Oh, if they were six, I'd have so much space for manoeuvers :) !
>First, |k| represents nothing more than "stop"; its articulation as >Dorsal is the default. When combined with |w| it is a labial stop, >hence |w| represents nothing more than Labial articulation, and |j| >represents Coronal (or perhaps more narrowly Apical) articulation. > >> nw /m/ >> nj /n/ >> n /l/ > >Here |n| represents Sonorant; the default is Lateral, and with >articulatory specifications |j| and |w|, |n| also receives the >specification Nasal when combined with |j| and |w|. > >> w /v/ >> j /s/ > >This is nice; the default Labial is a voiced fricative, and the >default Apical is the sibilant /s/. > >> The result is: >> >> Surface level - >> >> C: /p t k m n l v s/ >> V: probably /a i u @/ > >This system is the result of the following articulatory >specifications (defaults are in parentheses): > >Apical/Front |j| >Labial/Round |w| >(Dorsal) >Stop |k| >Nasal |n| >(Lateral) >(Sibilant) >High |y| (see below on vowels) >Low |a| ( " " " " ) >(Voice) >(Fricative) > >Six elements. >
<quote snipped>
>If V1 is |a| (Low) and V2 is |y| (High), then adding the "coloring" >segments |j| and |w| gets you the following set: > >|yj| = /i/ >|yw| = /u/ >|aj| = /e/ >|aw| = /o/ >|y| = /@/ >|a| = /a/ > >a six vowel system. >
<another snip>
> If |y| and |w| *follow* the vowels as well as the >consonants, there need never be a conflict.
Yes, this system is nice. But, if I get it right, it's yours, Dirk. Do you join The Minimizer Conspiracy? Membership is non-exclusive. Phonomaximalism Heritage Champions even enjoy certain privileges ;)
>This reminds me of Dependency Phonology; in that particular brand of >phonology, basic articulatory instructions are construed as relations >between even more primitive elements (represented by single lower-case >letters). The precise dependency relations obtaining among the >elements gives rise to full inventories and phonological processes. >Neat!
Any pointers?
>> Basilius > >Dirk
Basilius again