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Re: Germanic vowel correspondences (was: Scots.)

From:Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>
Date:Monday, July 21, 2008, 13:42
Am 21.07.2008 22:33:56 schrieb(en) John Vertical:
> conditional lengthening, shortening, raising, lowering, fronting, > breiking and so
Do you do something to words like "either" and "ceiling" or are you declaring that "ei" is permitted to be ambiguous? ...
> No, it's not surprizing that *some* shared chances occur. When you > have /au > ai/, but /& A/ and no /a/ it's to be expected the difthongal nuclei > would shift > to match either. The eerie part here is that it happens in the *same* > counterintuitiv fashion as in OE, with fronting with the back glide > and yet, > backing with the front glide.
Well ... okay so Australian English probably never had [au ai], it has [a a:] (i.e. central qualities) and it doesn't have [A A:] (i.e. back qualities). There is apparently evidence that from [@u @i] in some dialects the first target went straight down, whereas in others it continued in the direction that makes the diphthong the greatest ... which is of course just a continuation of the original [uu ii] > [@u @i] trajectory. (I have seen some people say the change was in fact [ii > ei > &i > ai > Ai], but given things like Canadian rising and the Scottish vowel length rule I don't think this is tenable.) Obviously the same "it never was [au]" argument can't be maintained for OE because there [&A] comes originally from PIE *a+*u, but the notion that the diphthong wants to be maximal isn't so hard and the only way to make a larger movement from [au ai] is to make them [&u Ai]. Having done that, our natural tendency to say only what's necessary will make the second segment approximate the first more and more (ultimately ending in a monophthong) so in that regard the changes [@u au] > [&u] > [&O] > [&A] > [&:] are all perfectly natural changes --- indeed, the way I describe it here it's what you'd *expect* should happen (unlike the rather more common [au > Ou > O:] change). What's really freaky is that the only two cases of it happening that I can point a finger at are in the same language at different times, more than that it's happened twice. FWIW I think PGmc *au is found in the North Germanic languages as [2y] --- which could've began the same way as OE [&A].
> And on front rounded vowels, they're very much a Western to Central > Eurasian > areal feature - so why's English so intent to front its back round > vowels even > on different continents? Could it be that once they have even the > slightest bit > of fronting, acquired in EME or something, they are "over the hill" > so > to speak > and inevitably bound towards the front of the palate?
Well English and German and (to some extent?) Dutch all had Great Vowel Shifts of a sort even though well at least English vs German/Dutch was unrelated and clearly distinct. An unconditional u > y change is a pretty common one. The only examples I can point to right now are IE languages --- only because I know 'em better --- and they've all occurred at very different times and in situations where I think influence can be ruled out (the cases are Greek, Icelandic (actually /U/), French and of course ongoing in contemporary English). And just because Australia and North America aren't part of western or central Eurasia doesn't mean they can't've been influenced by speech forms in that area as much as any language. Mandarin has /y/ and accounts for a large proportion of the EFL speakers in Australia today (although the change probably predates them). Germans and Scandinavians apparently made up a large proportion of immigrants to America in the past. But yes, I wouldn't rule out [u:] being slightly fronted for a long time. Nor would I rule out the fact that the change has gathered steam at the same time being the result of mutual influence; American English is heard in all parts of the world, the Australian tv show "Neighbours" has already been accused of spreading phonetic, lexical and grammatical oddities of Australian English to England, it's only been 40 years or less since Australia and New Zealand have really been independent of the UK (as much them turning their back on us as us wanting to go it alone), and much as it might pain New Zealanders to admit it, we might be different countries, but we're not different nations -- they get our tv and we get their dole bludgers :) And also don't forget that one of the most common contexts of English /u:/ is immediately after [j] --- hardly a surprise it should want to front! -- Tristan. (maybe a little too defensive? ;)