Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

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 ending. Thus: 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.


Benct Philip Jonsson <conlang@...>