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sketch for melodic phonology

From:Estel Telcontar <estel_telcontar@...>
Date:Thursday, September 18, 2003, 0:50
Here's a sketch for a phonology of a musical language.  I call it
"melodic", because there is only one note at a time.

Basic units:

beat: a beat is the equivalent of a syllable.  A beat can have anywhere
from 1 to 4 notes in it.  The number of notes per beat is highly
relevant, the length of the individual notes is not so important.

note: a note is the equivalent of a phoneme.  There are 7 possible
values for a note, like the 7 different notes of a scale, not counting
the octave.
Whether the scale's major, minor, or modal doesn't really matter; the
note just has to be in the same position of the scale.  So if your
tonic was C, and a word contains the 4th note, it won't be a phonemic
difference if you use f-natural or f-sharp.

This gives 2800 theoretically possible beats:
7          1-note beats
7^2 = 49   2-note beats
7^3 = 343  3-note beats
7^4 = 2401 4-note beats

(Although some of these may be forbidden for phonotactic reasons I'm
not yet aware of.)

Other information:
Tonic: Every utterance begins with (and usually ends with) a
pitch-fixing word, which is one beat of the tonic, and serves to
identify to the hearer what the tonic is.

Key: Absolute pitch is irrelevant.  The type of key -  major, minor,
etc., can be used to convey emotional information.

Rhythm (within the beat): Rhythm within the beat is somewhat variable.
As long as each beat contains the correct number of notes, the relative
lengths of the notes can vary, and this variation can also be used to
express non-lexical information.  So a three-note beat could have 3
notes of even length, two short notes then a long note, or a long note
then two short notes.

Rhythm (beat and higher): All the beats in a given portion of speech
are approximately the same length.  Acceleration and deceleration can
be used to convey extra-lexical information, as long as they are
gradual enough that one doesn't confuse partial beats and full beats.

Stress: I haven't figured out the role of stress yet, whether it occurs
regularly after a fixed number of beats, or whether it's variable, and
can be used to callattention to certain beats.


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