Re: Euphonic phonology (Was: 'Nor' in the World's Languages)
|From:||Yahya Abdal-Aziz <yahya@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, August 9, 2006, 8:32|
On Tue, 8 Aug 2006 Henrik Theiling <theiling@...> wrote:
> Anyway, do others also have such a hard time finding personally
> pleasing phonologies? I find it awefully difficult.
>Christian Thalmann replied:
> Not at all, I absolutely love making phonologies. Disappointingly
> (?), I usually end up with rather simple vowel systems, and no
> hard-to-pronounce consonants. But maybe that's just the recipe
> for pleasing phonologies? It seems to work for Quenya, IMHO the
> hallmark of pleasing phonology.
> Dirk Elzinga replied:
> I too find it difficult. It's a fairly easy thing to collect a list of
> sounds that are appealing in themselves, but to get them to work
> together in a pleasing, or at least convincing fashion is the real
> trick. I like the sound of the language I work with professionally
> (the Goshute dialect of Shoshoni), but I didn't want Miapimoquitch to
> be an acoustic copy of it (which it was, when it was still called
> Tepa). I've been working hard to get the sound of Miapimoquitch right,
> and I think I almost have it. I'm still not sure about stress and
> intonation, though ...
> Kate <snapping.dragon@...> replied:
> I do, although for me it's more about how the language looks than how
> it actually sounds. Since I create most of my languages for stories,
> how the language looks in transliteration is important to me. (And I'm
> picky about the transliteration not being too inaccurate or ambiguous,
> too.) I probably spend more time trying to balance what I consider
> interesting and pleasing with what's sensible and pleasing in
> What I wonder, is does anyone have the same problem when it comes to
> morphology, syntax, etc? Sometimes I end up tossing a whole language
> because I don't think it's elegant enough, enough though there are at
> least ten different reasons that doing that is silly.
Generally, I'd go along with Christian here. I tend to avoid difficult
consonant clusters or fine vowel shadings, for reasons both of euphony and
simplicity. I like my vowels to have a high degree of allophony or free
variation, which limits the total number of vowel phonemes possible; and for
consonants, I don't find using three sets of contrasts, eg voice,
retroflexion and aspiration, to distinguish two phonemes terribly practical.
These are all personal preferences, and have nothing to do with what
phonemes the world's speakers do use, and everything to do with my own
background and the biases that creates.
Kate says she tosses a language that, for ten reasons, she shouldn't; but
for one, overriding one, she does - it offends her sense of beauty. I
reckon that is a valid artistic choice. The only fault I could find with
this procedure is that it's rather wasteful! ;-) Now, we do have some tools
that will help us get a foretaste of how a candidate morpheme will affect
the sound and look of a language. Perhaps using these would help Kate and
Henrik find out sooner, rather than later, whether a proposed addition will
accord with their aesthetic intentions for a language?
For example, I've now got to the point with Uiama that I need to generate a
few dozen verb roots. I already have the declension of the verbs pretty
well mapped out, so I know exactly what suffixes to add. Luckily, at this
point, all Uiama verbs are regular! So each verb form will consist of root
+ suffix. It follows that I can generate all these forms quite simply using
a spreadsheet in, say, Excel. Placing the possible suffixes across the top,
and verb roots down the left, I can make a table that simply concatenates
root + suffix for every table position. To try out a new root, I need only
add it to the Root column, and copy the formulae from the last row down one;
then I can eyeball all forms immediately.
We can take this incremental approach one step further. Start with a simple
collection of a few common phonemes, maximally contrastive; say f t l k a e
u; and one or two syllable patterns, eg CV, CVC. Generate a few syllables
using only these sounds and syllable patterns. Then generate all disyllables
using a spreadsheet, as above, throwing all these syllables into both a left
column for the first syllable and a top row for the second. Eyeball the
results. If you don't like anything, remove it completely. For example,
you might come up with "kafka", and you're an anti-existentialist, so you
ban this combination. You need to decide whether to ban a syllable pattern
CVC or a phoneme f; alternatively, you might split the syllable pattern into
CaC, CeC, CuC, and ban only the first.
Now you've got a whole pile of disyllables you like. If you want
trisyllabic words, you could add them to the left column. Or you might
decide if it's OK in disyllables, it's OK in longer words.
This way you generate a whole pile of word forms up to the maximum length
you're happy with. Then if you want to try the effect of adding another
phoneme or syllable pattern, just extend the table with it and eyeball the
new patterns it makes.
This method suffers from "combinatorial explosion" - if you double the
number of rows and columns, you increase the number of cells fourfold.
Sooner or later, this may run into the limitations of your machine. But
judiciously applied, it could be helpful in getting a flavour of the effects
of your design choices.
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