Vowel Harmony Q
|From:||David Peterson <thatbluecat@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, January 22, 2004, 1:55|
There are not a small number of vowel systems that have just four vowels,
where the four vowels are /a/, /e/, /i/ and /o/. I was wondering: Would a vowel
harmony system be possible where the relationship was a Z relationship?
(That is, put those vowels into the places they'd fall into on the vowel space,
and connect them with a Z.) What that would entail is, first, abandoning the
current thinking for vowel harmony, and then going back to underspecified
vowels. To be more concrete...
Vowel 1: I
/I/ > [i] / V[-back]_
/I/ > [o] / V[+back]_
Vowel 2: E
/E/ > [e] / V[-back]_
/E/ > [o] / V[+back]_
Vowel 3: A
/A/ > [e] / V[-back]_
/A/ > [a] / V[+back]_
In actuality, you'd have four underspecified vowels, but two would behave
identically: O and E. For the others, when the high vowel wants to show up as
front, it goes to its closest counterpart, which is [i]. When it wants to
show up as back, it has a choice of [o] and [a], since those are the sounds
available. The higher of the two is [o], so it shows up as [o]. With the mid
vowels, they're on the same level, so they behave as expected. The low vowel
behaves like the high, but in reverse: When it's back, it shows up as the
lowest back vowel possible, which is [a]. When it's front, it shows up as the
lowest front vowel possible, which is [e]. What this would lead to is a very
strange looking system, such as the following:
tan = bird
lis = dog
-tAs = ben.
tantas = "for the bird"
listes = "for the dog"
-kEl = dat.
taNkol = "to the bird"
liskel = "to the dog"
-pIr = enessive (on)
tampor = "on the bird"
lispir = "on the dog"
Is such a system feasible? Do any four-vowel languages like the above even
have a vowel harmony system? Or how about three vowel languages? For some
reason it doesn't seem likely.