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THEORY: Yivríndil phonology problems

From:Jesse S. Bangs <jaspax@...>
Date:Saturday, March 4, 2000, 19:36
>Jesse: >> Since phonology's the topic of the day, I think I'll start with a
>> 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.
>>(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/. 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/.
>> even though those phonetic forms >> never occur on the surface. Allophonic rules would describe /I E/ -->
>> e] for the other appropriate environments. >> >> This solution requires me to posit the existence of another phoneme
>> 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
>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. BTW, I'm subscribed to this list in digest form, so my reply time might lag a little bit--sorry! Jesse S. Bangs Pelíran "Is it nods of approval or the truth that you want?" -Steve Taylor