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Conorthography (phonology)

From:Mangiat <mangiat@...>
Date:Monday, November 20, 2000, 14:17
Hi guys!

I'm trying to renew the spellng of my dialect, the dialect of Como,
Galloitalic group of Romance languges. There is today a semi-official
spelling of the vernacular, as established about 30 yrs ago by a local
folkloristic and cultural association (la Famiglia Comasca) which yearly
publishes some books and a notorious calendar which every 'veer Cumasch' has
at home. This spelling is based on some thoughts published by a poet, P.
Collina, in a booklet which criticized the traditional spelling used in
Milan, which was rather irrational, because its aim was to represent the
sound of the lombard tongue with a italian-looking orthography. Collina
proposed a spelling based on the spoken word. The problem is that this
system is not consistent everywhere (especially in the rendering of vowels
and final consonants) and the same word can be written in two different ways
in the same phrase. An exemple? The sentence 'the lake Como is a beautiful
lake' is rendered as 'ul lagh de Comm l'è un bell laagh', /Ul lak de kOm lE
mbEl la:k/ where the second laagh (lake) is written with two <a> because in
the latter case the  /a/ is pronounced longer than in the former. You'll
notice that such a system is rather difficult to learn, because there are
vowels, as well, which do not behave as such: tacch /takk/ (heel), ie, will
never be lenghtened to *taacch; ben /beN/ (good), even if it undergoes the
process, will always be written as ben. You'll notice that such a system has
to be quite irregular.

My aim is here uniform the spelling. But to understand my proposal is
necessary an analysis of the phonetic system of the dialect.

(Kirsh. IPA)


            lab dnt alv vel
stops    p b  t d     k g
frics      f v   s z  S
affrics          tS dZ
                   ts  dz
nasals     m    n   n^
liquid              l
vibrant             r
approx      w       j


high     i   y               u
mid        e Y
                E    O
low              a

Some considerations:

I have considered the pronounciation used in Como town and its
surroundings... going on the lake would mean meet vowels mixed up, and I
don't want to describe all the changes and considerate them in this brief
survey... it'd mean something as find an uniform English spelling : )
As in many Northern dialects (not only Galloitalic: this is an areal
feature) there are not 'double' consonants (geminates) within the word;
there are two vowels the Italian tongue ignores (/y/ and /Y/); there is no
/l^/ sound as in Italian 'aglio' /al^o/, completely replaced by /j/ (aj
/aj/). Interestingly the dialect of Como lacks the sound /o/.



1) Voiced consonants in final position are always devoiced. This had already
been noticed by Collina in his dissertation about the traditional spelling,
and, even if he introduced this element in his reform, he is not always
consisten on the matter, generating some confusion especially in the
derivation of feminine adjectives: there are, indeed, couplets as vecc/vègia
(old), while a more rational orthography would give vegg/vègia.

2) /v/ in intervocalic position, if derived from Latin /b/, is rarely
pronounced (80% no, 20%yes), while if derived from Latin /p/ it is generally
pronounced, but it may not: al vureva /al vure.a/ (he wanted) pR VOLEBA
generating a hiatus; cavèj /ka'vEj/ ( pR CAPILLU. There are some
words with a stable form (as cavèj always pronounced /ka'vEj/), but there
are a lot with alternate forms, such as imperfect tense's
endings -evi, -evat, -eva etc. (how is this called? I remember someone
mentioned this phenomenon some weeks ago speaking about English phonology).

3) /s/ in a cluster with a voiced consonant is pronounced as /z/ (spelass
/spe'las/, but sbajà /zba'ja/)

4) /s/ in a cluster with an unvoiced consonant is pronounced in a mid way
between /S/ and /s./.


1) The vowel /E/ in unstressed syllables becomes /e/, as it happens in
Common Italian (Tuscanian): bell /bEl/ (beautiful) belee /be'le/ (beauty,

2) The dialect of my town, as I have already said, lacks /o/. This causes
some inconveniences. Common Italian (Tuscanian), indeed, replaces /O/ with
/o/ in unstressed syllables. Here /O/ in unstressed syllsbles becomes /u/.
Thus we have mi odi /mi 'Odi/ (I hate) and udià /u'dja/ (to hate). This and
the next allophonic variation were intended as irregularities by some
grammarians, but they are extremely regular. Unfortunately they didn't have
a phonologist nor a
conlanger to analyse the speech : )

3) The vowel /Y/ has an allophone /u/ in unstressed syllables: mi möri /mi
'mYri/ (I die) and murì /mu'ri/ (to die); ögg /YdZ/ (eye), ugiaa /u'dZa:/
(glasses). Locatelli's vocabular lists a word, möröö, which seems not to
undergo the process... but this same word sounds particularly strange to me.


And now let's come to the funny part : )


I've decided to retain here the original system, which is strongly Italian
based. The dialect is strongly innovative and there is no need (as in
Sardinian) to mark /k/ with <k>, when /k/ has generally become /tS/ also in
clusters: ciav /tSaf/ pR CLAVE (key). So I've retained the Italian scheme:

/k/ and /g/ are translitterated with <c> and <g> when before /a/ /o/ /u/ /Y/
and /y/ and with <ch> and <gh> when before /E/ /e/ and /i/.

/tS/ and /dZ/ are translitterated with <ci> and <gi> when before /a/ /o/ /u/
/Y/ and /y/ and with <c> and <g> when before /E/ /e/ and /i/.

/p/, /b/, /t/ and /d/ are obviously translitterated as <p>, <b>, <t> and <d>

/f/ and /v/ as <f> and <v>. Even if /v/ is not always pronounced
intervocalically, I've decided to write it always. Moreover, there are a
couple of words in which the /v/ from a pR *p is nontheless deleted
everywhere:  pR PAUPERU > povar /pO:r/, generally translitterated as <pòor>
is a good exemple.

/m/, /n/ and /n^/ as <m>, <n> and <gn>, as they are in Italian.

/l/ and /r/ as <l> and <r>; nothing special, here : )

/j/ is written <j> when intervocalic or word finally; <i> in diphthongues.
/w/ is always written <u>.

/S/ is translitterated with <sci> when before /a/ /o/ /u/ /Y/ and /y/ and
with <sc> when before /E/ /e/ and /i/.

/s/ is rendered as <s> unless it is in intervocalic position, where it's
written <ss>.

/z/ is found only in intervocalic position and in clusters with voiced
consonants; it's always rendered as <s>.

The problems come with /ts/ and /dz/. They're not allophones: panza /pantsa/
and ranza /randza/ show this alternance. Locatelli, in his Vocabulary and in
his 'Piccola Grammatica del Dialetto Comasco' decided to write /ts/ with <z>
and /dz/ with <z acute> (the Polish letter), whereas he used <s> for /s/ and
<s acute> for /z/. The inconvenient is that this system, a very good one,
uses two letters no typewriter here around used to have and which costantly
lack in every normal computer. My idea is this:

/ts/ rendered as <zz> when intervocalic (as we used <ss> for intervocalic
/s/) and as <tz> if in a cluster.
/dz/ rendered as <z> everywhere.

OK, next time the vowels. Tell me what ya think.