Deriving vowel harmony diachronically (was Re: Can realism be retro-fitted?)
|From:||Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>|
|Date:||Sunday, January 21, 2007, 3:07|
On Jan 19, 2007, at 5:19 AM, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:
> Of course /a i u/ is a perfectly possible vowel system. May
> the other vowels have arisen as positional allophones? In
> Kijeb i let umlaut phenomena transform a 3-vowel system into
> an 9-vowel system, which then shrinks to 6 or 5 vowels
> through mergers -- the merger patterns being different in
> different dialects -- and the rise of vowel harmony, which
> then in one dialect turns again into an 8-vowel system
> through loss of intervocalic /j w G h/ and
> monophthongization of the resulting diphthongs which gives
> rise to front rounded vowels which did not exist in the 6-
> vowel system. Phew, got all that ;-)
How did you go about deriving vowel harmony? (Jörg, same question!) I
have some ideas about it, but I'd like to see how others go about it.
The idea I have for a language I'm working on involves the construct
state form of nouns.
- Early in the development of the language, construct nouns end in /i\/.
- Intervocalic /p/ came to be pronounced [p\] or [B].
- Central vowels adjacent to /w/ or one of the fricative allophones
of /p/ get rounded. (It might even be plausible for [p], [p:], and
[m] to condition this rounding, but IMHO it seems a little more
realistic for only [p\], [B], or [w] to condition it, because in
those cases the lips are open somewhat, whereas with [p] and [m] the
lips are completely closed.)
- Rounded central vowels shift to back. These would lose their close
association with fricative allophones of /p/.
- Unrounded central vowels shift to front.
The development of some example endings so far:
(here k stands for any consonant besides /w/ or /p/)
aki\ > aki
eki\ > eki
iki\ > iki
@ki\ > eki
i\ki\ > iki
oki\ > oki
uki\ > uki
(here p stands for fricative /p/ or /w/)
api\ > apu (or maybe Qpu; not sure if /a/ is subject to rounding)
epi\ > epu
ipi\ > ipu
@pi\ > opu
i\pi\ > upu
opi\ > opu
upi\ > upu
- Because of the relative abundance of -uCu and -oCu (and possibly -
QCu) forms, coupled with the relative scarcity of -uCi and -oCi forms
(and nonexistence of -QCi forms), stems with back vowels and final
consonants *other* than /p/ or /w/ will analogically adopt the -u
aki\ > aki > aki
eki\ > eki > eki
iki\ > iki > iki
@ki\ > eki > eki
i\ki\ > iki > iki
oki\ > oki > oku
uki\ > uki > uku
api\ > apu or Qpu > apu or opu?
epi\ > epu > epu
ipi\ > ipu > ipu
@pi\ > opu > opu
i\pi\ > upu > upu
opi\ > opu > opu
upi\ > upu > upu
I'm not sure what to do with it next. Quite possibly, -epu and -ipu
will be changed by analogy to either -epi/-ipi or -opu/-upu. On the
other hand, they might stay around; vowel harmony is sometimes not
100% consistent throughout a language. Also, the current endings
remind me of the distribution of possessed forms in Ainu, which seem
to show either inconsistent vowel harmony or inconsistent vowel
*dis*harmony, depending on the analysis. In fact my system is
directly inspired by Ainu. I wonder if the Ainu endings evolved in
some similar way!
Besides the final vowel, this also leaves an ablaut pattern, where
some words with a front vowel internal to their non-construct form
and a back vowel in their construct form, a pattern which could also
be analogically extended or leveled.
I welcome any comments on this scheme (especially as regards the
plausibility of its steps), as well as anyone else's ideas on how
vowel harmony could develop.