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Re: /W/ without /w/?

From:Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Date:Friday, November 12, 2004, 6:37
Dan Saunders wrote:
> I have a question about a recently started conlang: Is there any > universal I > don't know about that prevents a language from having the unvoiced > labial-velar approximant, /W/, without it's voiced counterpart, /w/? or > /m_0/ without > /m/? I would like to add these features, but wish to know how 'realistic' > they are. Thanks. Dan. >
Yes, there probably is a sort-of universal regarding that. Phonologically, things like /W/ and /m_0/ are considered "more highly marked", and tend not to be present unless the "unmarked" ("natural") version is also present. It's rather like IPA symbols; if you cite "IPA [p]" you are _by definition_ referring to a voiceless, unaspirated bilabial stop, with pulmonic, egressive airstream (and IIRC some other things too), consequently those features do not have to be mentioned. Similarly in phonology, resonants in particular (e.g. w, r l y and nasals; vowels too) are assumed to be voiced; they are said to be unmarked for the feature "voiced". Presence of voiceless versions thus requires that voicing be marked +/- for the entire category, leading to a less economical = more highly marked system. The same applies to front-rounded and back-unrounded vowels, which tend not to occur unless the "normal" front-unround and back-round vowels also occur. This business of marked/unmarked/highly marked was quite important in Generative Phonology-- among other things, it determined how many features you needed to specify in your various rules; whether it's still used, or relevant, in more recent theories, I know not. But anyway, in a conlang (especially if it's meant to be alien) "universals" are there to be violated :-)))