Chemehuevi orthography (was: Re: non-English WEB sites)
|From:||Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>|
|Date:||Friday, April 25, 2003, 19:00|
On Friday, April 25, 2003, at 09:59 AM, John Cowan wrote:
> Iain E. Davis scripsit:
>>> establish a practical orthography. This work is mostly
>>> finished, but there are some details which need to be worked
>>> out. (I'll be happy to elaborate if there is interest.) After
>> I suspect, though, that there are
>> many on the list that would be interested in the orthography as it
>> and what problems you have yet to overcome.
> Yes, indeed! Please suppliy as many details as you have time for,
Okay. All of the remaining issues that I have identified center around
the phonology of the language, so it might be useful to talk about some
of the phonological properties of Chemehuevi. I'm sure that clitics
will present a problem for the orthography (are they part of the word,
are they separate words, etc), but since I don't know much about them
yet, I'm going to wait to see what they do with them.
0. First, some words about the inventory. Chemehuevi has a relatively
small inventory, though lexicalization of allophonic alternations has
increased it somewhat in comparison with related Shoshoni, where
lexicalization processes aren't as pervasive. So here is the inventory
p t t_s (t_S) k k_w ?
v r G G_w
m n N
m_? n_? N_?
(I will use [ts, kw, n?] etc for [t_s, k_w, n_?] from here on out)
i 1 u i: 1: u:
This inventory is pretty straightforwardly represented by the following
p t ts (tc) k kw '
v r g gw
m n ng
m' n' ng'
i ü u ii üü uu
Three comments on the choice of symbols.
i. My original proposal had <q> for [N] and <q'> for [N?]. These were
rejected in favor of <ng> and <ng'>. Fine with me; it is an odd mapping.
ii. My original proposal had <c> for [ts]. This was also rejected
without much comment in favor of <ts>. Also fine, and probably a better
choice, as I'll get to in a bit (I'll also explain the [tS] => <tc> as
iii. I originally had <e> for  and <ee> for [1:]. The speakers
favor <ü> (u-dieresis). I resisted this change a bit more, but the
elders insisted that  was "more like a 'u' than an 'i'", so I gave
in -- it really is pronounced more like [}] (barred-u) than like 
1. Southern Paiute, as described by Sapir, and Bunte and Franklin,
contains numerous voiceless vowels, whose presence is predictable.
Historical evidence (which in this case consists of J.P. Harrington's
field notes from the early part of the 20th century) shows that
Chemehuevi also had predictable vowel devoicing. Currently however, the
language has no voiceless vowels. All word medial vowels which were
once voiceless are now fully voiced, and all word final voiceless
vowels are now deleted, though they appear upon suffixation. Here's an
[aipatsin] 'my boy'
The _i_ of /aipatsi/ only emerges when a suffix like /-n/ is attached.
We know that _i_ belongs to the noun stem since the quality of the
vowel preceding the possessive suffix varies unpredictably with the
stem; so for [aipats] the vowel is [i], for [naro?] 'shirt' the vowel
is [o] ([naro?on] 'my shirt'), for [paGap] 'shoe' the vowel is 
([paGap1n] 'my shoe'), etc.
This vowel deletion becomes particularly interesting when the
accusative suffix is involved. The accusative suffix has the form -(j)a
([j] only shows up when the stem-final vowel is _a_). Since the rule
which deletes word-final vowels is relentlessly consistent, the
accusative suffix never shows up (except as -j for -a final stems), and
the accusative is marked by the realization of the otherwise silent
[aipats] 'boy.NOM' (from /aipatsi/)
[aipatsi] 'boy.ACC' (from /aipatsi-a/)
[naro?] 'shirt.NOM' (from /naro?o/)
[naro?o] 'shirt.ACC' (from /naro?o-a)
So the orthographic problem is whether to represent these final vowels
or not. That is, should /aipatsi/ be written <aipats> or <aipatsi>? I
can see good reasons for doing it either way; I can also see drawbacks.
I'm hoping that the Chemehuevis themselves will settle on a solution
which makes sense to them. Personally, I lean towards not including
final vowels, but I'm willing to let them decide.
2. Content words which are phonetically monosyllabic must have a long
vowel. Because of word-final vowel deletion, this vowel may alternate
with a short vowel when suffixes are attached. Here's an example:
[t1:mp] 'money, rock'
[t1mpin] 'my money, my rock'
[t1:mpan] 'my mouth'
The vowel of 'money, rock' is lengthened because of the "minimal word"
requirement that phonetic monosyllables have a long vowel but it short
otherwise, as becomes apparent when the possessive suffix is attached.
On the other hand, the word 'mouth' always has a long vowel, which is
also apparent when the possessive suffix is attached.
The orthographic problem here is whether to represent this predictable
vowel lengthening in the orthography or not. That is, whether 'money,
rock' and 'mouth' are homographs
tüümp 'money, rock; mouth'
tümp 'money, rock'
I'm leaning towards the second representation, but again, I'll let the
3. With only 12 remaining speakers, you'd think that dialect variation
is gone. But the elders are insistent that they speak differently from
each other (and they do; no point in denying it). Some of these
differences are just too insignificant to worry about, while others
will be fairly transparently represented. I don't want to ignore any
differences, but there needs to be some way to decide whether a
distinction is worth noting or not. One of these is the distinction
between [ts] and [tS]. In Harrington's and Carobeth Laird's material,
there is a distinction made between the two affricates. Press's grammar
was done with the collaboration of informants who did not have this
distinction. So what I am proposing is that for those who make this
distinction, [tS] should be written <tc> and [ts] as <ts>. Those who
don't make this distinction will still read <tc> as [ts]. For this
reason, I prefer the representation <tc> for [tS] rather than <ch>; it
seems easier to me to remember to pronounce <tc> as [ts] than to
remember to pronounce <ch> as [ts], since <tc> and <ts> are visually
parallel. (Besides, Sapir used <tc> in his work on Kaibab Southern
I've only found a handful of words where it comes up. These include:
witci'its 'little bird'
pu'intcats 'mouse (field or house)'
müntcats 'lamb (of mountain sheep)'
(all of these words have a final _i_, BTW)
4. Here is the first sentence of a text about Great Horned Owl in the
proposed orthography; it might give you a feel for what Chemehuevi will
look like. (Unfortunately I don't know enough yet to give you an
Muhumpüts kanigaimih, piwawa'iv suukusu tuakaiy. Süntünüyaaya ma
niaagantüa. Naata'ik kamüyahimih, 'ügapüa 'ukay kamünookainguminkah,
Great Horned Owl was living with his wife and their one son. Sütünüyah
was his name. Every day they would go jackrabbit hunting. When evening
came, they would pack in the jackrabbits and shake the snow off before
the entrance of the house when they arrived.
So these are some of the outstanding issues in Chemehuevi orthography,
as I see it. I'm looking forward to meeting with the elders this summer
and getting this worked out.
"I believe that phonology is superior to music. It is more variable and
its pecuniary possibilities are far greater." - Erik Satie