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Re: Old Albic Update: An autosegmental view of the vowel features

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 6, 2005, 20:38

"David J. Peterson" wrote:
> > Hey Jörg, > > Neat!
> It occurs to me, looking at your phonology found here: > > > A2=ind0406c&L=conlang&F=&S=&P=47209 > > That Albic lacks a [-open, -round, -front] vowel (i.e., [M]). This > leads to three questions: > > (1) Could this vowel possibly occur, or is it impossible?
It cannot occur because there are no roots without (positive) vowel features attached. "Featureless" vowels occur only in affixes, and these borrow their vowel features from neighbouring morphemes. I actually considered adding /M/ to the system at some point, but decided to leave it the way it is.
> (2) Do only positive features spread?
> (3) Can we see a sample word with the other vowels of Albic?
Sure. Take for example, the noun _broca_ `bear', which is autosegmentally represented thus: [+open] [+open] [+open][+open] [+round] | [+round] / | | | | / | br°c- -° --> br°c- -° --> broca The morpheme /-a/ triggers a-umlaut which has no effect because the vowel in /broc-/ is already open. The plural is _brøci_: [+open] [+front] [+open][+front] [+round] | [+round] / | | | | / | br°c- -° --> br°c- -° --> brøci The morpheme /-i/ triggers i-umlaut, adding the feature [+front] to the vowel in /broc-/. The dual is _brocu_: [+open] [+round] [+open][+round] [+round] | [+round] / | | | | / | br°c- -° --> br°c- -° --> brocu The morpheme /-u/ triggers u-umlaut which has no effect because the vowel in /broc-/ is already rounded. The locative case of the latter is (the morpheme /-m/ forms the objective stem): [+open] [+round] [+open][+round] [+round] | [+round] / | \ | | | / | \ br°c- -° -m -°l --> br°c- -° -m -°l --> brocumul Here, vowel harmony occurs in the suffix /-°l/ which is realized as [ul]. The vowelless morpheme /-m/ is skipped. The instrumental case: [+open] [+round] [+open][+round] [+round] | [+front] [+round] | [+front] | | | | |/ | br°c- -° -m -° --> br°c- -° -m -° --> brocymi Here, i-umlaut affects /-u/. Because now two features attach to it, it does not umlaut /broc-/ (which in this case wouldn't have any effect anyway, see above). Again, /-m/ is skipped. As I hope is clear, all three vowel features ([+open], [+front] and [+round]) behave the same, namely according to the following rules: 1. Vowel features bind to morphemes; all vowels in the morpheme (there is a small number of bisyllabic roots in Old Albic, e. g. /semel/ `wheat' or /macal/ `flesh') receive all the features binding to the morpheme. 2. Vowel harmony: If a morpheme contains a vowel position but does not carry any vowel feature, it inherits all vowel features from the nearest (in the direction towards the root) morpheme that carries vowel features. (All roots carry vowel features, so there always is such a morpheme, either the root itself or another affix which has its own vowel features.) 3. Umlaut: If a vowel feature is the only feature binding to a particular morpheme, it spreads to the preceding morpheme. Morphemes without vowel positions are transparent: the vowel feature spreads to the nearest preceding morpheme that has a vowel position. If that morpheme has two vowel positions, both vowels are umlauted. (Example: the instrumental case of _macal_ is _meceli_.) If hereby a morpheme receives a vowel feature it already carries, no change occurs. Precedence is from right to left: if a morpheme receives a second feature through umlaut, it no longer causes umlaut itself. It might be elucidating to know what happened diachronically, in the prehistory of Albic: In Pre-Proto-Albic, there were only three vowels: *a, *i and *u. (Of these three vowels, *a was much more frequent than *i and *u, possibly because several different vowels merged into it. This is why so many Old Albic roots have /a/ as the root vowel. Compare the predominance of *e in PIE.) Accent always was on the root; affixes were unaccented. This accent conditioned a kind of ablaut (similar to the state of affairs in Proto-Indo-European, which might be a sister language of Proto-Albic): accented unaccented *a ~ *@ *e ~ *i *o ~ *u An intermediate stage probably was with *ai and *au as the reflexes of *i and *u in stressed syllables. The difference between the accented and the unaccented vowels was that the accented vowels had the feature [+open], the unaccented ones the feature [-open]. This means that roots could only contain the vowels *a, *e or *o, and affixes only *@, *i or *u. (This distribution, however, was to some degree messed up by later changes such as borrowings, but the constraint against *@ as root vowel never fell.) In the next stage, the positive vowel features became autosegmental. Proto-Albic (the ancestor of Old Albic and further yet to be explored languages) had essentially the same system as Old Albic, but without the umlaut rule, and front rounded vowels did not yet occur. The North and West Albic languages don't have front rounded vowels until today, but South Albic (which classical Old Albic belongs to) innovated the umlaut rule leading to the occurence of front rounded vowels.
> A cool system!
Thank you! Greetings, Jörg.