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Phonemic vowel and consonant length.

From:Steven Williams <feurieaux@...>
Date:Sunday, February 2, 2003, 4:51
I've a few questions that've been eating away at my soul for a while. So...

1. I know Estonian has three degrees of phonemic vowel length, as did a few
dialects of Sanskrit. How common is this three-tiered vowel length distinction?
Are there any languages with _more_ than three levels of length?

2. I heard tell that Old Japanese lacked a phonemic vowel length distinction, but
modern Japanese does--I may be wrong, but I'm sure there's a language somewhere
that's gained the contrast somehow, where there was none before. How would this
come about?

3. Quite a few languages hold phonemic consonant length contrasts--Italian,
Japanese, Finnish and so on. Is it at all common, or even possible, to have a
three-level distinction? In stops?


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