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

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <bpjonsson@...>
Date:Thursday, August 10, 2006, 12:57
Henrik Theiling skrev:
> Hi! > > Dirk Elzinga writes: >> 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. ... > > I actually meant all of the aspects. I'm not sure where I get stuck, > but I always get stuck in the long process of finding the sounds, > defining possible sound combinations, defining sandhi/mutations, etc. > and finally, what you say, making the overall system behind it > 'nice'. And for the mere sound, I cannot predict early enough how > the final language will be like when working towards it from single > sounds or even local sequences of sounds.
I certainly took you to mean all of these aspects, which I perhaps didn't express quite well when I wrote about liking sibilants, affricates and fricatives: it's not so much about liking these sounds in isolation as liking the effect of amassing them! :-) Ceartainly not pleasant, but pleasing to me. My fondness for vowel harmony certainly also is an expression of a concern with how sounds 'go together'.
> Anyway, Benct mentioned pleasing, pleasant, and mellifluous: I was > asking whether you manage to fit the phonology to your personal > taste, whatever that is. E.g. I discard most designs because I think > they are boring, thus not pleasing. OTOH, it is very hard to define > what I find boring -- the mere existence of a vowel systems as > boring as /a i u/ or /a e i o u/ is not boring to me. Yet, in > contrast to other posters, I find Quenya sounds boring (and > unpleasant).
While I don't find Quenya unpleasant I do find it rather boring. AFA T's languages go, I prefer Sindarin any day, and most people would probably say Sohlob is more reminiscent of the Black Speech (what little of it we have!). I was very pleased when I read T's whim that _mallorn_ be pronounced with /K/, even though it goes against the pronunciation rules given in The Lord of the Rings. It also means that you need to know the etymology of the word to know how an individual _ll_ should be pronounced, which is both frustrating and challenging, and thus in the end pleasing (to me).
>> ... 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; > > Definitely this was part of my quesiton, yes. And it's interesting > where you got stuck there. > >> 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).
Incidentally stress and rythm has been and is thé main problem with Sohlob phonology. My 'instinctive' pronunciation of unknown foreign words is with final stress, and thus my a-priori conlangs often tend in that direction at least initially. Then it dawned on me that the kind of sound changes I'd posited between Kijeb and Sohlob actually presuppose a rather strong word-initial stress. So the decision myst be that Kijeb had initial stress while Sohlob tends towards final stress. One possible path to get to this is by supposing a phrase/sentence final stress that is stronger than word stress. Not unlikely, I hope, in a verb-final language. I also decided that one of the dialects through loss of medial semivowels and /h/ acquired phonemically long vowels, and then I found that these long vowels attract stress. This would change the rythm of that dialect, which may carry over to the way its speakers speak the Classical dialect, which lacks native speakers at the point in fictional time I focus on. Sohlob has definitely acquired a more staccato rythm than what I had thought initially. Near absence of initial consonant clusters and high frequency of final clusters is a contributing (and pleasing) factor.
> Ah! I tend to get annoyed when the phonologies just don't work out > well. Often I feel any further tinkering only makes things worse. > Not very rewarding. This feeling seldom comes up for grammar issues > for me.
It definitely is the other way around for me, or rather it is the same problem, and the same annoyance, but with grammar rather than phonology!
> **Henrik > > >
Jörg Rhiemeier skrev:
> Hallo! > > On Wed, 9 Aug 2006 20:18:39 +0200, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote: > >> What about the *other* meaning of 'phonology'?(*) how many of us >> enjoy making up historical sound changes and groups of interrelated >> languages. > > I do, very much so. Old Albic is not meant to be a solitary > language; I am planning to build an entire family around it, and > already have drafts of the sound changes. I have concrete plans for > at least four further Albic languages, some ideas for a few more, and > Albic will in turn be part of a larger "Hesperic" language family.
Can you keep yourself from working on several or all of them in tandem? Do you find it or bad to work on the languages one at a time or in tandem? I tend to work on mine in tandem, having to live with the 'difficulties' caused by sudden changes of my understanding of one language/dialect or evolutional stage, which then must be retrofitted into the others. In practice the different related languages tend to spawn when I come up with several alternative 'design' details (in the synchronic or diachronic aspect), since I tend to assign the alternatives to different 'dialects' rather than choosing between them. In a sense Kidilib and Heleb are version 2.0 and 3.0 of Sohlob, only I have continued to make new releases of all three versions, while being interrelated and also depending on the Kijeb pre-language, which also keeps changing its 'synchronic' structure. Then there is also Linjeb(*) which is a separate and in some ways rather different descendant of Kijeb. (* The words _Kijeb_ and _Linjeb_ are Sohlob words, as I have not yet figured out what their 'native' names are. It has even taken a good deal of retrofitting to make a Sohlob form /kidz\i\b/ fit the historical phonology and the Kijeb root structure constraints. Luckily I can posit mutual borrowing and 'blending' of word forms between the different daughter dialects! :-)
> What regards Henrik's original question, I don't find it all to > difficult to come up with a satisfying phonology. That, like > morphology and syntax, is an easy part to me. I have difficulties > with vocabulary.
I find phonology not hard at all -- always pleasurable though it may get complicated! Grammar is more of a struggle while vocabulary is well-nigh impossible. I have used computer-generated vocabulary for my a-priori langs. I actually find it a pleasing challenge to design or configure a generator to produce all forms that satisfy the phonological constraints and none that violate them. It's all the easier since I despise the notion of the sound of words fitting their meaning. In fact Quenya would possibly be more interesting if the sound of its words were less 'fitting'. Also I usually place my a-priori languages in totally a-priori con-cultures, con-histories and con- geographies, rather than trying to 'explain' obscure words in various natlangs as you seek to do with Albic. NB I don't say it's wrong: I have ended up doing a bit of that with Mærik, and found it fun. Everybody is of course free to have fun in whatever way pleases them. (I rather doubt that conlanging can hurt any non-consenting sentient being!) -- /BP 8^)> -- Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch at melroch dot se "Maybe" is a strange word. When mum or dad says it it means "yes", but when my big brothers say it it means "no"! (Philip Jonsson jr, age 7)


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>