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USAGE: Finnish and English vowels (was: Adapting non-Latin scripts)

From:John Vertical <johnvertical@...>
Date:Thursday, May 25, 2006, 10:50
> > Digress: > > We actually tend to view most of ours as sequences of multiple > > vowels - only the 8 monofthongs are seen as independant phonemes. > >Umm... So does that mean a word like /kAt/ you'd consider to rhyme >with a word like /pA:t/?
No. The first has one /A/; the second has two. Nor would /pAAt/ rhyme with /pAkAt/, since this has two syllabes; the other has only one. So it's a trade-in of phonemic length for phonemic syllabicity. Here's a neat minimal triplet: /v\AAn/ "but" /v\A.An/ "venerable.GEN" /v\AA.An/ "scales.GEN". All three are audibly different, but what exactly is going on is a bit hard to describe. Besides duration, tonality and laxing also have some part in it. (An epenthetic [?] can however be used as an easy alternativ.)
> > A syllabe-final glide interpretation works too, but then at least > > an additional schwa must be positioned. > >(I also thought there's a set of diphthongs >/ie/, /y2/, /uo/, which I can't see how you'd interpret them as >having syllable-final glides.)
That's where that additional schwa comes in: /i@ y@ u@/. Long vowels will be /ij yv\ uv\ e@ 2@ &@ o@ a@/. It's something of a cheat, but it works, and makes the system a nice regular 4x8 block. (The rare [iy ey] can be explained as front-harmonic allophones of /iv\ ev\/, usually [iu eu]; this, however, might require that roots with only /i e/ must still underlyingly possess either front or back harmony...) -I should stress that this system is my own invention and would probably be scowled on by professional Finnish linguistics.
> > From *our* POV, an analysis of English as /i i: e ei & A A: Ai Au > > o o: oi ou u u: @/ (7 basic vowels + combinations) of course works > > just fine, but you might protest...
>[Mark J. Reed wonders: > > Well, you can of course use whatever phonemic symbols you want, > > but assuming even an approximate phonetic connection, I can't > > imagine what phonemic distinction you are capturing via /A/ vs > > /A:/. > >[I assume John was referring to the vowels commonly transcribed as >/V/ as in "come" vs /A:/ "calm". That is a perfect length >distinction in Australia (albeit with a low central vowel), and I >could easily see how a Finn learning English would use it even for >American or British sounds.]
You are right; that is the distinction I was going for. FWIW, my (Finnish) /A/ is actually a central [a\] regardless of length... [Mark again:]
> > Ah, that does make sense It didn't occur to be because, given the > > phonemic status of /@/ in his list, I don't see a need for a > > separate /V/ phoneme; the "stress" feature takes care of that, and > > it's already necessary for other distinctions in English... > >For American English, perhaps, but "hiccup" ["hIka_"p], with /V/ in >an unstressed syllable, is a good exception to that rule for >Australian English, and I think some/most/all British English. > >(But then, his list I think was American, or at least rhotic; there >is no equivalent of the vowel /3:/, unnecessary in American English, >but necessary for Australian and RP ... although then it's to >distinguish "hurry" /hVri/=[ha_"r\i] from "furry" /f3ri/=[f2:r\i], >which I suppose you could do in a somewhat abstract way with only >/A/ and /@/. It'd be funny to consider /@/ a long vowel, though.) > >-- >Tristan.
And again, that's exactly what I was doing. I gess I could also consider adding /@:/, but that would leave /@/ as only occuring in unstressed syllabes. For phonetic reasons, I'll rather merge it with /@:/ than /V/. Sounds like a better match to my ears. Yet another possibility would be to use a syllabic /r/ there.
> > BTW, I dout regularization would suffice to solve all problems of > > English...
>No-no, that's not what I meant. I was suggesting we the Latin >alphabet could be used to phonemically spell the English language if >we completely redid the orthography.
Yeah. That works. Of course, without a central regulating body, it'll never actually break into usage... I suspect English orthography won't get any major revamps until it's already broken down into a full-grown language family a few centuries from now. I hope to get at least minor fixes in before that, however. John Vertical


Tristan Alexander McLeay <conlang@...>