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W Syllabry (was Re: Orthographies with lotsa diacritics (was: Ogoneking theConsonants))

From:Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>
Date:Saturday, May 27, 2000, 18:20
Kristian Jensen wrote:
> Has anyone tried designing an orthography equally cluttered > with diacritics and special characters?
Not a Romanized orthography, but the native syllabry for Watakassí is filled with diacritics, sometimes a character can have as many as four diacritics. The syllabry contains characters for all combinations of CV (except w and y), as well as CLV. There are diacritics for codas (f, s, v, z, n), for gemination *of the following consonant*, for long vowels, for beginning of high pitch (romanized as acute), and for "second vowels" (e.g., <kai> = <ka> plus <-i> diacritic, and <pya> = <pi> plus <-a> diacritic) and even third vowels (e.g., <pyai> = <pi> plus <-a> and <-i> diacritics). There's also a character for <l>. It is often morphologically driven, rather than phonetically, so that, for instance, <waflaazázi> (days) is written as waf-laa-záz-i, because waf- is the gender 6 plural prefixes, and -i is the plural suffix (the second z is actually an underlying form that is silent in the singular, which is walaazá). Phonetically, it would be wa-flaa-zá-zi, but that would require a different initial character for the root (fla instead of la), and the plural suffix wouldn't be as visible, being different for every word (as it is, it's always -i). I'm considering using forms like <na> for the prefix <na->, even when simplified to <n->, thus <nlakús> (man) would be written na-la-kús, the contraction to n- is perfectly regular for that prefix, thus it would require merely a basic knowledge of Watakassí grammar (presumably a little difficult for people learning Watakassí as a second language, but people who have it as an L1 would find it easy). Also, the orthography contains things like <twi> (TU with -i diacritic, or TU followed by I), which is pronounced /pi/ and written as <pi> in my romanization, these result from morphemic boundaries, like <zipikú> (more beautiful), which is the comparative (infix -tu-) of <ziikú>. So, <ziikú> is written zi-i-kú (it is written as that, and not as zi with long diacritic, for historical and morphological reasons), and the comparative is written zi-tu-i-kú. Also, altho forms like <kkla> can exist orthographically, they are not pronounced that way (<kkla> is pronounced the same as <kla>). A geminate consonant cannot be followed by <l>, <w>, or <y> (note that <sy>, <ty>, and <zy> are considered single consonants, thus <ssy> is pronounced /S:/) A complication exists for <j> (/dZ/). For a long time, <j> was written as <dy> (altho the two are distinct phonemes), namely, <ja> was <di> with <-a> diacritic. There was ambiguity between <dya> and <ja>, but <j> is a rare enough phoneme that the problem was rare. But, a solution was invented anyways by an influential scholar. <dy> continued to be written in the old way, but to indicate <j>, a line was drawn thru <di>, so that <ja> is written as <di-with-line> and <-a> diacritic Historically, it was pretty simple, there were only CV syllables, and only one diacritic. In Common Kassí, there were 6 vowels, a, e, i, o, u, and ë (e-umlaut, /@/), and 10 written consonants (p, t, k, q, b, d, g, m, n, r). The one diacritic was the "fricative diacritic". The syllabry had been adapted from a language wherein fricatives had evolved from allophones of stops, hence the use of a special diacritic when the phonemes had split. [Side question: is that how the Japanese voicing diacritic evolved? There seems to be a lot of variation between voiceless and voiced pairs that would suggest that] So, with the fricative diacritic, one could write f, s, h [from k], v, and z. When the Kassí adopted this syllabry, they added a "stress" diacritic, in effect, an underline, this evolved into the modern pitch-accent system. Common Kassí had a CV(C) syllable-structure, so to represent those, the schwa series was used, but that created ambiguities. For instance, kasë could either be /kas@/ or /kas/. Several methods were used for disambiguating, but the one that was eventually adopted was to place one syllable above another to make complex syllables, thus, /kas/ would be <ka> placed above <së>. The schwa-series evolved into diacritics, with <rë> having an interesting development. In the evolution of Common Kassí to Standard Watakassí, combinations of r (which later, when not lost, became /l/) and consonant became geminate consonants, thus, _karsá_ became _kassá_. Consequently, <rë> became a diacritic indicating that the *following* consonant is geminated. In addition, Common Kassí had phonemic /j/ and /w/. These were indicated by combining <hi> or <hu> with <h-vowel>, so that /wa/ was <hu> above <ha>. Later, with the loss of h and q, the old q-series took over for consonant-less vowels and for indicating "w" and "y". Series of letters like <këra> became consonant-l clusters, such as <kla>. The characters became written in a system like for writing /kas/, namely, <kë> above <ra>, these evolved into ligatures. Combinations like <pya> were written as <pi> above <a>, creating the secondary vowel diacritics. Solitary <l> evolved from the old <rë>, e.g., CK <karëtená> became MW <kaltiná>, but whereas other cases like that merely merged with previously existing diacritics (e.g., *<pasëtá> would become *<pastá>), and so were replaced with the previously-existing diacritics, there was no diacritic for <-l>. Syllable-final stops later on became fricatives, so that -p and -f merged, -t and -s, etc., the fricative diacritic was dropped from the coda diacritics. Final -k and -g became [x] and [G], which later were both lost, lengthening the previous vowel, so that, for instance, /pak/ --> /pax/ --> /pa:/. So, old <kë> became the long-vowel diacritic (-k was more common than -g) Also, when the old phonemes /e/ and /i/ merged, and /o/ and /u/ merged, the differences were dropped. In some cases, the form with /i/ was kept, and /e/ dropped (for instance <di> from <di>), and in others, /e/ was kept, and /i/ dropped (for instance, <pi> from <pe>), largely determined by which was simpler to write (quite even, actually, 6 of the -i syllables come from the old -e, and four from -i, while 5 of the -u come from -o, and five from -u). -- "If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!" - Ralph Waldo Emerson "Glassín wafilái pigasyúv táv pifyániivav nadusakyáavav sussyáiyatantu wawailáv ku suslawayástantu ku usfunufilpyasváditanva wafpatilikániv wafluwáiv suttakíi wakinakatáli tiDikáufli!" - nLáf mÁldu nÍmasun ICQ: 18656696 AIM Screen-Name: NikTailor