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Re: Minyeva Babel Text

From:Roger Mills <romilly@...>
Date:Saturday, May 11, 2002, 18:35
Jesse Bangs wrote:
(re Garrett Jones' Minyeva):

>> I did look at your phonetics page, and I'm baffled by your "vowel" /r/. >> If you're describing the sound found in "bird" in rhotic American >> dialects, it's a retroflex approximant, and not a vocoid at all.
>> if it's a round mid-central vowel, as you said, then it's not like >> American /r=/.
I don't agree here. American (rhotic) /r/ is realized as a retroflex approximant in initial, intervocalic and postconsonantal position (rose, berry, brick). In the env. V__C it is realized as retroflexion of the vowel-- bird, part [b3^d, p_hA^t]-- (replaced in non-rhotic dialects with length [b3:d, p_ha:t], and the odd [3^] > [3j] in older NYC and Deep South.) In rhotic dialects the entire phonetic sequence [V^] can be called a vocoid, in that it functions as the syllablic nucleus. It is true that there is sometimes rounding in the vowel-r of "bird, her" etc., just as there is-- for some speakers-- in consonantal [r], but it's strictly sub-phonemic. (Final -Vr is a separate problem, [V^] in __#, but [Vr] when a vowel follows, even in the non-rhotic dialects.) So IMO it would be entirely possible to have a phonemic vowel [3^], or rounded [3\^], in a language, and it could just as well be symbolized /r/-- provided there is not also a consonantal /r/. This is the case, IIRC, in Chinese. (A lot of learners and conlangers, I think, consider Engl. [3^] a difficult and ugly sound; personally, I like it, probably because my dialect has it.) You could have a language with strict CVCV structure, but with contrasts like [paka] vs. [pa^ka]. Surely you'd want to posit phonemic "retroflexed vowels" in that case??? Perhaps /paka/ vs. /päka/ (or any other handy symbol) rather than /paka/ vs. /parka/ (violates CVCV). SPECULATION: One _could_ posit a series of phonemic "retroflexed vowels" for English /I^, E^, A^, O^, 3^/ --not sure about /U^/-- that occur only in the env. (C)__C (e.g. mono-morphemic beard, Baird, bard, board, bird). But it would be obtuse to do so, not only because it multiplies entities, but also because it creates a problem with the occurence of the same vocalic nuclei in (C)__# (beer, bear, bar, as well as cases like care/cared/caring, etc.) where the [r] can reappear. The situation with VrC is quite comparable to other diphthongal vowels [aj, aw] as well as the sequence /...VlC.../ (where the /l/ also vocalizes/drops in some envs./dialects e.g. palm [p_hA:m] or [p_hQ:m] , help [hEwp]), and such considerations (phonetic similarity, similar patterning with the other approximants/"semivowels" /w j l/, permissible morpheme structure etc) make it more sensible (in Engl.) to phonemicize the retroflexed vowels as sequences of V-r. The status of nasal vowels in French is comparable-- there are minimal pairs of [V~] : [V] where it is impossible to identify the conditioning nasal, so that the nasal vowels must be called "phonemic"-- presse /prEs/ vs. prince /prE~s/; but other cases where nasal/non-nasal alternate-- mon cher vs mon ami, parfum vs. parfumerie. Unfortunately I don't recall how classical phonemics handled this problem, but it would have been one of the difficult areas of that theory.