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Further comments on Kawakami

From:jesse stephen bangs <jaspax@...>
Date:Friday, March 15, 2002, 1:25

You have lots of vowels, and you say that there aren't any diphthongs.  If
so, then how are vowels differentiated across syllable boundaries?  Are
there epinthetic glides?  Glottal stops?  I assume not glottal stops,
since that's a phoneme, but you never say what.  (You could probably leave
this out in the learner's grammar, but I wanna know.)  AFAIK, there is
very very few languages that allow lots of consecutive vowels without some
hiatus strategy, either stops or short glides or breathy [h]'s or
whatever.  The same applies to hiatus between words ending in a vowel and
beginning with a vowel.

Speaking of h, I dislike your orthographic decision for indicating it.  It
works for the learner's grammar, I suppose, but in general I think that
conlang orthographies should strive to be phonemic except where
historically justified.  (This, of course, begs the question of native
script and conhistory &c, and if the answer lies there, that's fine.)
Also, using left and right-facing apostrophes is fine, but I wouldn't let
Word do it for me.  That's too unpredictable and doesn't cross platforms
very well, as you've already found out.  I'd go the other way and use {h}
in all positions, and simply say that {h} is [?] intervocalically.  In the
same vein, I'd prefer an orthography that doesn't spuriously distinguish
[w] from [u] if they're allophonic, although now that I think about it the
orthography would get difficult if you needed to distinguish [awa] from
[a.u.a.], which seems to be possible.

I'm fascinated by the system to mark subjects, although I'm also a little
confused.  You introduce the markers a/au/ae/e/u as if they're articles,
then explain their use as discourse markers.  However, they still seem
like part of the noun phrase--determiners, mostly--until the sentence "E
tikili mokomoko."  Here you separate the word 'e' from its noun
'mokomoko.'  Something has to give.  Either these aren't articles at all,
or the stative verb is really an adjective.  No one lets you put the main
verb between the noun and its article, not even Ancient Greek (and if they
don't do it, then I feel pretty safe saying that no one does.)

Again, if the discourse markers aren't articles at all, why talk about it
as if they were?  I don't think this is merely a matter of taste--this
would actually introduce a lot of needless errors into a learner's speech
that could otherwise be avoided.

The whining verbs are fabulous.  A bitch to learn, I'm sure, but a great,
creative, natural feature.  You're a tad unclear though--are the
accompanying adverbs absolutely necessary or simply preferred by speakers?
You say "Using these adverbs isn't absolutely necessary, as far as meaning
goes," but aside from this the adverbs look pretty mandatory.

Kinship terms.  Ugh.  I had to learn these bastards for Thai, and I didn't
like it any better then, either.  Plenty naturalistic, so I can't really
complain there, but it's not to my taste.

OK, I think that's all.  This is pretty long--hope it gets you thinking.

Jesse S. Bangs

"If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are
perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in
frightful danger of seeing it for the first time."
--G.K. Chesterton