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Re: THEORY: Yivríndil phonology problems

From:And Rosta <a.rosta@...>
Date:Saturday, March 11, 2000, 2:26
[I've taken 'THEORY' out of the header, because IIRC 'THEORY' is for
general linguistic theory or theorizing about natlangs. But theorizing
about conlangs is sufficiently on-topic as to require no tag.]

Jesse S. Bangs:
> >Jesse: > >> 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/, > > > >should that second I be E? > > Yes. To recap, the phonemes are traditionally /i I e E a o u/, > orthographically {í i é e a o u} > > >> Here's the main arguments: /i/ and /e/ occur in complementary > >> distribution with the dipthongs /ai oi ui/ > > > >If that is really true, then you could or even should treat all 5 as a > >single phoneme. Or do I misunderstand you? > > Oops, wrong term. They don't have complementary distribution, like > allophones of the same phoneme--perhaps I should have said "parallel > distribution," meaning that they occur with the same sorts of > restrictions and patterns of occurence, like members of the same set.
I understand.
> >>(snip) There's also extensive neutralization > >> between /I E/ and /i e/--the former are disallowed finally and before > >> vowels and some consonants. > > > >So they contrast just before certain consonants? Which? > > Well, to give the allophonic rules: > /E/ --> [e] before y, yy, and perhaps h, and before all vowels > /I/ --> [i] in the same cases, and finally > /e/ and /i/ are [e i] in all positions. > > Therein lies the ambiguity, since given final or prevocalic [e], it's > uncertain whether the phoneme is really /E/ or /e/.
From the above, final /E/ and /e/ contrast.
> By orthographic > convention, final [e] is always spelled {é}, but prevocalic [e] varies > lexically. There's even an orthographic "minimal pair": éos "to you" > and eos "there have been". Both are [e.os]. The orthographic situation > is pretty muddy, then, and exposes the problem with deciding *which* > phoneme is actually present. > > >> Thus, it might be convenient to describe [i e] as underlying dipthongs > >> /Ii Ei/, > > > >Why? > > Most importantly because it explains the vowel-lengthening forms--you > could describe vowel-lengthening as simply "add -i- after the final > vowel", then "add -(e)va for the 1sg possessive". This would mean that > [ElEd]--[EledEva] would in underlying forms be /ElEd/--/ElEidEva/, just > like /aras/--/araisEva/. Otherwise you need a special rule to specify > what "long" /E/ and /I/ are. This also eliminates the neutralization > problem--since /e/ would no longer exist, you wouldn't need to worry > about how to describe ambiguous cases of /E/ vs. /e/.
This is pretty knockdown argument, IMO. [= a convincing one].
> >> 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 > > > >Why? Assuming that it is old /i/ that is reanalysed as a diphthong, why > >not analyse it as /I+I/ and the other diphthongs as A+I, E+I, O+I and > U+I, > >which looks pleasingly elegant. That leaves you with 5 vowel phonemes, > >A, E, I, O, U. > > I *could* do this, but the problem is that those vowel combinations > aren't necessarily dipthongs. For example, you have {anoiva}--[an'oiva] > "my affection" vs. {ano'il}--['ano.Il] "affectionate" (the apostrophe in > Yivríndil orthography indicates a syllable break between two vowels). I > need to explain why sometimes o+i becomes a diphthong and sometimes it > doesn't, either by saying that the diphthongs contain a different phoneme > that *always* forms a diphthong, or by supposing the existence of a > "diaresis phoneme" which prevents diphthongization. (For various > reasons, this problems doesn't exist with a+i, but it does exist for > every other vowel.) I actually might do the latter, but in all honestly, > neither solution is all that elegant, since they both require some ad hoc > creation of phonemes. Hence my continuing muddle.
I may be misunderstanding you somewhere, but it seems that introducing an obligatorily diphthonging phoneme or an antidiphthonging diaretic phoneme is not at all appropriate, at least from a mainstream phonological perspective. Surely what you need is to accept that syllabification is not fully predictable from phonemic structure, and in some cases, namely for vowel + I, the syllabification of the sequence must be stipulated on a word-by-word basis.
> BTW, I'm subscribed to this list in digest form, so my reply time might > lag a little bit--sorry!
And I do my conlang mail only at weekends. --And.