Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Status of Italian rising

From:Mangiat <mangiat@...>
Date:Sunday, December 8, 2002, 22:43

This is the English translation of a question I'm going to send to my
teacher of linguistics in the forthcoming future. I'd like you to have a
look, before... thanks;-) That's abour the status of Italian rising

I can't figure out why linguists tend to describe both the components of
falling diphthongs as vocoids (with high /i/ and /u/ lacking sillabicity),
while only the second element of rising diphthongs is hold as a vocoid and
the first one is described as an approximant (a contoid). Turning over the
problem in my hear I've got to the impression that this solution was
verbatim imported from descriptions of English and/or German phonologies,
where it actually makes sense, and exploited to fit the Italian situation-
which it doesn't fit like a glove.

Under the functional POV, indeed, only considering [j] and [w] vocoids
lacking sillabicity not only when they immediately follow the syllabic
sonority peak (falling diphthongs) but also when they precede it (rising
diphthongs), would allow us to mantain the traditional simple explanation of
the conditions governing the allomorphy of masculine determinative article:
[il] and [lo] both show up before contoids (under certain given conditions
we may skip for our purposes);
[l] shows up before all of the vocoids, both syllabic
({ART}+{unico}>['luniko]) and asyllabic ones ({ART}+{uomo}> [']).
[u] and [w], as you may see, behave the same way, both as vocoids,
determining the eligibility of [l] as article. We could consider them
allophones of the same phoneme /u/, showing up in different syntagmatic
contexts characterized by two different suprasegmental structure:
input: / vs. /
output: [uniko] vs. [wOmo]
When /u/ is a syllabic nucleus [u] appears; otherwise we get [w].

If we considered [j] and [w] approximants, the abovementioned rule should be
rewritten, getting a bit less straightforward:
[il] and [lo] both show up before all of the contoids except the
approximants /j/ and /w/;
[l] shows up before all of the vocoids, but also before the approximants /j/
and /w/.
This description would also introduce the distinction between 4 different
phonemes, /i/, /j/, /u/ and /w/, where 2 (/i/ and /w/) would work.

In English, on the other hand, the conditions governing the allomorphy of
indeterminative article show that [j] and [i] actually behave differently,
and they should be considered different phonemes, the former contoid in
nature, the latter vocoid:
[@] appears before contoids: {ART}+{yard}> [@ jA:d]; /j/ is a consonant;
[@n] shows up before vocoids: {ART}+{evening}> [@n i:v@nIN]
If we considered [j] an allophone of /i/ appearing in some given syntagmatic
contexts characterized by a particular suprasegmental condition similar to
the one we postulated for Italian, we'd obtain *an yard, which is

Well, this is the first part... I'm working at a second part, which includes
examples from German, too... but I still have to work about it... Comments
are obviously welcome! And excuse me for my rough translation...



Josh Brandt-Young <vionau@...>