Re: Why Consonants?
|From:||R A Brown <ray@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, February 17, 2007, 19:10|
Catching up on email after 2.5 days absence - just a few points on this
H. S. Teoh wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 16, 2007 at 02:03:45PM -0500, Leon Lin wrote:[snip]
>>1. Vowels are smaller when writing, it can be seen that the vowels
>>aeiou all stay between the baseline and the midline (ok, well maybe
>>the dot of the i doesn't), but many consonants have strokes jutting
>>out all over or under: bdfghjklpqt
> This is only a peculiarity of the Latin alphabet.
Absolutely! The Greek vowel η (lower-case eta) has a descender.
If one wants a writing system where all the consonants are the same
size, then it's not exactly difficult to design one. The written medium
has no relevance to the phonetic vocoids & contoids or to phonological
vowels & consonants.
Indeed, much confusion occurs when one does not properly distinguish
between written 'vowels' & 'consonants', vocoids (phonetic vowels) and
contoids (phonetic consonants), and phonological vowels and consonants.
The three categories - writing, phonetics, phonology - ain't the same.
H. S. Teoh wrote:
> Classical Greek has some pretty long vowel sequences, although they are
> rare. I can't think of an example off my head, though. Maybe Ray Brown
> can give an actual example.
Like χαμαιευναι (khamaieunai) :)
>They are basically multiple diphthongs coming together.
Exactly, so we have semi-vowels/ approximants as well as phonetic vowels.
T. A. McLeay wrote:
> On 17/02/07, Aquamarine Demon <aquamarine_demon@...> wrote:
>> For one, vowels define syllables, while
>> consonants never do. In other words, when you're counting the number of
>> syllables in a word, you're counting the vowels, not the consonants..
> Well, that kinda begs the question. Languages like American English or
> Croatian allow various segments more usually considered as consonants
> to be vowels. Of course, as a consequence one then (quite reasonably)
> says that in American English, /r\=/ is a vowel.
Exactly!!! The simplistic idea that _a, e, i, o, u_ are 'vowels' and all
the rest are 'consonants' is, to say the least, misleading. Indeed, it
would seem from observations #1, #2 and #3 that the mail which began
this thread is concerned exclusively with written 'vowels' & 'consonants'.
> There's also the concept of "vocoids" and "contoids" which allow for a
> less circular definition, but I'm pretty sure [l, r\] (and all
> approximants) are classified as "vocoids" in that system, yet they're
> usually *not* nuclei.
No, they are all _phonetically_ vowels, since they are produced without
any (or very slight) audible friction, but generally they functions as
contoids (see below). However, in some languages (including some
varieties of English) some can indeed function as vocoids (syllabic
The terms _contoid_ and _vocoid_ were coined by the American phonetician
Kenneth Pike to distinguish between phonetic and phonological notions of
vowel ans consonant, thus:
vowel - sounds articulated without a complete closure in the vocal
tractor with a degree of narrowing in the vocal tract so as produce
consonant - sound made by complete closure or a narrowing of the vocal
tract so as to produce audible friction.
vocoid (phonological vowel) - a unit which functions as the nucleus or
center of a syllable.
contoid (phonological consonant) - a unit which functions at the margins
of a syllable.
The meaning of 'consonant' in the subject heading "Why Consonants?" is
not IMO clear in this thread.
Nid rhy hen neb i ddysgu.
There's none too old to learn.