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Some Boreanesian Phonological History (was: Boreanesian in the Web)

From:Kristian Jensen <kljensen@...>
Date:Sunday, November 4, 2001, 23:55
Roger Mills wrote:
> BTW, although I don't think I've seen any Boreanesian in posts lately if > ever, I'm under the impression it's East Asiatic-- and the name at least > hints at Austronesian influences. How then does it come by such an > apparently complicated phonology? ^_^
Other than some Japanese and Austronesian influences, the language developed in isolation. The language is an isolate spoken in what in our universe is roughly equivalent to the Bonin islands (although in my universe, the main island is a circa 40,000 sq km large island of komatiite -- the largest komatiite island in the world -- with boninite intrussions in the eastern coast and karst formations in the west). Over 20 thousand yrs ago, when sea levels were 100 meters lower than today, there was a chain of islands from Japan to mainland Boreanesia. It is through this chain that the first humans colonized Boreanesia. Then 10 thousand yrs ago, sea levels began to rise, sinking the island chain. Boreanesia became in effect completely isolated from the rest of the world for thousands of years until about the first millenium AD when the first Austronesians settled the southern coasts. The earliest Japanese influences are of a comparatively more recent date when the islands were held as a fief of the Daimyo Ogasawara Sadayori in the first half of the 17th century. Proto-B had a phonemic system of consonants and vowels like the following: *p *t *c *k *q *b *d *j *g *G *f *L *S *x *X *B *l *y *Y *R *u *r *i *@ *a That is, a system with the following phonemic places of articulation (POA): labial, apical, palatal, dorsal, and radical. Each of these with a series of voiced and voiceless obstruents and continuants, and vowels roughly matching the POA of consonants. Modern standard Boreanesian has merged dorsal and radical consonants, and *r and *@, while the palatal series are now laminal (except for *y which is still palatal). Nasality was suprasegmentalized so that the voiced segments became coresponding nasals or nasalized segments. Nasal harmony was certainly a part of Proto-B. But as the time went by, nasality was not the only thing that was suprasegmentalized. Vowel features of rounding and fronting became compatible with peripheral (labial, dorsal/radical) and laminal/palatal consonants respectively. Notice that the POA of vowels match the POA of consonants, and this has certainly influence how the suprasegmental- ization of vowel features is applied in the language. In the present language, one may profitably speak of vowel harmony for both frontness and roundness. However, the vowel harmony in Boreanesian is complicated by the fact that peripheral consonants are hosts to roundness but blockers of fronting, while laminal/palatal consonants are hosts to fronting but blockers of rounding. All of these developments must have already occured some time before the Austronesian influx. Austronesian and Japanese loanwords are subject to the whims of nasal and front/rounding harmony -- at least in the standard language. If it sounds complicated, well... that's because it is. -kristian- 8)