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Re: 'Yemls Phonemes

From:Matthew Pearson <matthew.pearson@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 20, 2001, 16:27
--- You wrote:
'Yemls has 4 vowels, distinguished for low vs. high and front vs. back, and
12 consonants. The syllabary is laid out with a column for each vowel and a
row for each consonant with an additional row for the null consonant.
Currently, each vowel and consonant is described as a phoneme. However, in
actual pronunciation a couple things occur. One is that how some of the
consonants are pronounced depends on whether the vowel is front or back,
e.g. /s/ is [s] before /u/ and /o/, but is [S] before /i/ and /e/. Another
is that /u/ and /i/ are eliminated under certain conditions, so that the
possibility of minimal pairs occurs distinguished only by [s] vs. [S].
If I understand correctly, that means that these should be reanalyzed as
separate phonemes (instead of both being /s/). Is that correct?
--- end of quote ---

Depends on how abstract you want your representation to be. If you want to say that
the /u/ and /i/ are there underlyingly, and are only deleted on the surface,
then you can get away with treating [s] and [S] as allophones rather than
separate phonemes. If high vowel deletion is a regular, predicatable process,
then I would say that would be the way to go--especially if the high vowels are
recoverable from context. However, if high vowel deletion is not (fully)
predictable, then things get trickier. Especially if the high vowels are no
longer recoverable from context once they've been deleted, it might be more
prudent to treat [s] and [S] as distinct phonemes.


Matthew Pearson
Department of Linguistics
Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
Portland, OR 97202
503 771 1112 x 7618