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Phonology/orthography sketch

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 13:07
This is a phonology/orthography sketch for a
lang which as yet lacks a name, a vocabulary and
a grammar.

## Vowels

|    i   u       y       w       /i  y       i\(*)   u/
|    e           a       o       /E          a       O/

(*) /i\/ has allophones [u\], occurring next to
labial and labiouvular consonants and [@], which
occurs when unstressed and as a free allophone
when stressed.

## Consonants

|    p   t   c   k               /p  t   tS  k/
|    b   d   j   g               /b  d   dZ  g/
|    f   s   x   h   q           /f  s   S   x   X_w/
|    v   z   i   y   w           /v  z   j\  G   R_w/(**)
|    m   n   ni  ny  nw          /m  n   J   N   \N_w/
|        r l                        /r l/

(*) The voiced ficatives have approximant
allophones [v\ D j M\ w], occurring mainly between
a vowel and a consonant.

The main wickedness in the orthography lies in the
fact that the letters _i w u y_ are used for both
consonants and vowels. Generally speaking these
letters are consonants when standing next to
another vowel letter and vowels elsewhere. The
main source of ambiguity is when two of these
letters occur next to each other: potentially
there are two different words spelled _iy_, one
pronounced [ji\] or [j@] and the other [iG]. It
could be argued that what distinguishes them
phonemically is stress placement, the one being
/i'i\/ and the other /'ii\/, so that every
instance of [j\ G R_w] or [j M\ w] is an
unstressed juxtavocalic allophone of a vowel
phoneme, and the ambiguity lies in the failure of
the writing system to mark stress. Incidentally
the two words _iy_ would be disambiguated if a
suffix beginning in a voiceless consonant would
follow, being then written e.g. _iytas_
//i'i\tas// vs. _ihtas_ //'ii\tas// due to
devoicing assimilation of voiced fricatives before
a voiceless consonant.

Incidentally the writing system can distinguish
between word-final /J N N\_w/ and /ni ni\ nu/,
since the latter are written _n'i n'y n'w_, but
this device is not extended to distinguish e.g.
_i'y_ /ji\/ from _iy_ /iG/. The spelling _i'y_ may
occur to write two vowels with an hiatus between
them rather than a consonant followed by a vowel
-- which incidentally would imply that the
phonemic distinction between high vowels and
voiced fricatives is not merely one of stress vs.
lack of stress, although it may still be so on the
morphophonemic level.

Phonetically there exists [H] or [j\_w] as
allophones of /j/ next to a rounded vowel or
/w/, and of /w/ next to /i/. The writing system
writes this allophonic sound with _u_ in spite
of its occurrence being wholly conditioned by
adjacent sounds: a word spelled _uintou_ could
only be /wintoj/; a spelling _wintoi_ could not
be a distinct word, but only an unusual,
although phonemically more 'correct', spelling of
the same word. Similarly _au_ or _eu_ could
never occur without a following conditioning _i
u w o_; a spelling _euor_ would always represent
/ejor/ and might be derived from a word _ei_.
Similarly _euir_ would be /ewir/, possibly
derived from an _ew_.

Thus this writing system both makes a rather deep
phonemic analysis WRT high vowels and voiced
fricatives and is blatantly subphonemic WRT [H].

Any comments?

/BP 8^)>
Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch atte melroch dotte se
  "C'est en vain que nos Josués littéraires crient
  à la langue de s'arrêter; les langues ni le soleil
  ne s'arrêtent plus. Le jour où elles se *fixent*,
  c'est qu'elles meurent."           (Victor Hugo)


Peter Collier <petecollier@...>
Lars Mathiesen <thorinn@...>