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Re: Allophone Problem

From:T. A. McLeay <conlang@...>
Date:Wednesday, June 6, 2007, 12:06
Joseph Fatula wrote:
> I'm having a problem analyzing the phonemes of a language. The sound > [e] only appears before voiceless consonants, while [i] can appear in > any other environment. This leads me to think that they're allophones > of each other, except for the following problem. Voiceless fricatives > become voiced between vowels, yet the [e] in such cases remains unchanged: > > - [nef] > [neva] > - [niv] > [niva] > > Among words with the "-a" suffix, this [e] vs. [i] distinction is the > only thing showing the difference between words like [neva] and [niva]. > Are these minimal pairs? Are [e] and [i] separate phonemes?
I’d say no. I quick example that I think’s comparable from my dialect of English: Amongst others, I have two sounds in my dialect of English, which I shall denote (in spite of the phonetics): [i:\] and [i:]; [:\] is the half colon (ˑ) that denotes a half-long vowel. The shorter one only occurs before voiceless sounds, the later in other environments. Hence: - beat [bi:\t] - beed [bi:d] - leak [li:\k] - league [li:g] However, [t] is voiced and both [t] and [d] are flapped between a vowel and an unstressed vowel: - hurt [h2:t] ~ hurting [h2:4IN] - gird [g2:d] ~ girding [g2:4IN] This process does not alter the length of the previous vowel, even when it was phonetically conditioned: - beat [bi:\t] ~ beated [bi:\4@d] - beed [bi:d] ~ beeded [bi:4@d] My dialect does otherwise have a regular phonemic contrast of length between other vowel pairs (e.g. "hut" [hat] "heart" [ha:t], "pull" [pu5] "pool" [pu:5]), so a distinction could be made, but the only reason I'm aware of it is because of my linguistic background. HTH, -- Tristan.