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Re: Euphonic phonology (Was: 'Nor' in the World's Languages)

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Wednesday, August 9, 2006, 21:50
On 8/8/06, Henrik Theiling <theiling@...> wrote:
> [snip] > > Anyway, do others also have such a hard time finding personally > pleasing phonologies? I find it awefully difficult.
Reading over Philip's reply to Henrik's question, I realized that there are a number of ways to understand the word "phonology". As a practicing linguist (it's what puts bread on the table), I tend to think of the subject in different terms than most people around here seem to do. So when I say that I find it difficult to create a pleasing phonology, I do not mean that I find it difficult to come up with an inventory of sounds that I like, or even to design suitable rules for the realization of these sounds in context. Rather, the rules themselves need to fit together in a consistent and pleasing way that isn't always obvious until you try them out together. Let me give you an example of what I mean. In Miapimoquitch, I have a stress rule which stresses the first syllable of every word and every odd numbered mora thereafter. (Proclitics are excluded from the stress rule.) This means that a syllable which follows a heavy syllable is also stressed, yielding a sequence of two stressed syllables in a row. So in the word [táppùni] 'a rabbit', the first syllable is stressed by the initial stress placement rule. Since the first syllable is heavy and contains two moras, the third mora falls in the second syllable, so it is stressed by the "law of alternating stresses". In Miapimoquitch there is also a rule of intervocalic lenition. A voiceless stop which immediately precedes a stressless vowel is realized as a voiced fricative; for example, the word [píðɨ] 'see' is underlyingly /pitɨ/. Since the second vowel is stressless, the /t/ preceding it is lenited. These two rules interact, since lenition is dependent on stress placement. Over the years I've tinkered with both rules. Lenition used to apply to any intervocalic voiceless stop regardless of stress, and stress placement used to avoid stress clashes. I liked the idea of making lenition dependent on stress, but finally coming to grips with where stress would fall has taken quite a while. Now Miapimoquitch sounds "right", at least with respect to the interaction of stress and lenition. This is the kind of thing I thought of when Henrik posed his question; I've been wrestling with this (and other phonological issues) for quite a while now, and it is this part of the game which I find particularly challenging (and rewarding). Dirk


Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>