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Re: Consonants and Vowels

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  • Alex Fink
    ... Sure, correlation is not necessarily-have-to-ation. Though it s worth dropping in the point that, on the surface, Ubykh passes for a rather more
    Message 1 of 81 , Apr 20, 2013
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      On Sat, 20 Apr 2013 00:51:52 -0500, George Corley <gacorley@...> wrote:

      >On Sat, Apr 20, 2013 at 12:35 AM, Alex Fink <000024@...> wrote:
      >
      >> AFAIK, different ways in which phonologies can be complex seem to actually
      >> _correlate_ with each other.
      >
      >Giant consonant inventories and giant vowel inventories don't necessarily
      >have to go together. Ubykh has 84 consonants and only two vowels (maybe
      >three depending on the analysis). Also, looking up ǃXóõ quickly shows
      >that, while it has a ton of suprasegmental features on vowels, it only has
      >five vowel qualities (the ones you should expect).

      Sure, correlation is not necessarily-have-to-ation.

      Though it's worth dropping in the point that, on the surface, Ubykh passes for a rather more normally-shaped language: it's got a lot of labialisation and palatalisation contrasts that mostly manifest as colouration on adjacent vowels. Indeed, a language of normal shape can turn into a Ubykh by the simple expedient of changing the place where the featues of rounding and palatalisation are moored -- I don't know whether Ubykh itself did this, but Marshallese certainly did. Point being, huge inventories aren't necessary these crazy inaccessible things; you can get them quite easily by moving around where a few features nest; you could even have a language which might reasonably be analysed both ways.

      >> For _me_ the kitchen-sinkiness of a phonology manifests not so much in raw
      >> numbers as in _non-systematicity_ of application of the contrasts. If you
      >> take e.g. clicks seriously, you'll be likely to look into them, notice that
      >> they naturally tend come in series with three to five places times a
      >> similar number of manner/phonation contrasts to the non-click consonants.
      >> This may well come with taking other phonological contrasts seriously.
      >> A kitchen-sinker who learns of clicks, on the other hand, will take their
      >> conlang and put in one click, to sit inside the one ejective, one
      >> implosive, one this, one that. The result of this is probably rather
      >> smaller than the former!
      >
      >Yes, this is one way you can add things "without regard to the system" and
      >thus completely balls things up. I'd still say that you could go overboard
      >even with regular series. In fact a kitchen sink lang might end up with
      >too much symmetry in a way that is uninteresting or implausible, such as
      >making a huge fricative system that is perfectly symmetrical with plosives,
      >or (even worse) including full series of laterals, approximants, and trills
      >that are symmetrical with your plosives.

      Yeah, good point. Though I think a fricative system that's perfectly symmetrical with plosives (at least in place; phonation's something else) isn't a sin, and is common enough in the wild; usually people err (if I can say "err") on the side of _even more_ fricatives than that.

      >At the worst, the kitchen sink
      >langer might end up realizing that they're adding sounds that are
      >physically impossible (such as one conlang I saw that tried to put in a
      >voiced counterpart to the glottal stop.

      Phonology is more flexible than phonetics, though. You should ask Roger about the Oceanic language which, it's reasonable to say, phonemically does have voiceless and voiced glottal stop! They descend from *k *g, and I think the "voiceless" one is realised as longer and tenser than the "voiced" one, in a way that correlates with the way genuine voiceless-voiced pairs are.


      This brings to mind another phenomenon in conlangs that, to me, has a similar "pasting things on without care" feel to kitchen-sinkiness. Some conlangs have a phonological inventory which is unproblematic per se, but its deployment is unnaturally lopsided, and gives the impression of exoticising some of its members.
      The conlanger will start with, say, an English-like inventory, and so all their favourite words with long histories, and all the Dick and Jane stratum of words, will use phonemes only drawn from this set. Then they'll later add some stuff and not really integrate it, but only use it in coinages made thereafter: so the inventory will contain ejectives or uvulars or whatnot, but they'll be restricted to more rare or obscure words.


      On Fri, 19 Apr 2013 16:41:09 -0700, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:

      >I think many of us went through that phase. :) My Ebisédian certainly
      >suffered from that... I did have some cool ideas to base the language
      >on, but the excitement of discovering this list and realizing, "wow, you
      >mean, I'm not the only one who's insane enough to invent languages for
      >fun?! There's an entire community of people into this stuff?!" -- made
      >me a little over-excited, shall we say? So I was throwing in every crazy
      >thing I could think of. Like a kitchen-sink phoneme set,

      What about Ebisédian phonology is kitchen-sink, do you think? I don't see it. Its main oddity from my point of view is the big gap in the vowel space near [e], leading to crowding elsewhere (but you don't like [e], correct?). Even the breathings aren't so bad; there are plenty of languages where underlyingly word-initial vowels have glidy realisations (for instance, Armenian and some of its neighbours do this with [e o]; there's an Australian language I'm never going to remember that does it for all V). Admittedly, the glides here are usually high glides, but this must pass through a stage where they're not so high (i.e. are nonsyllabic lower vowels), ne?

      >Then after that, I got me some major complex clausal structures to
      >rework -- the current subordinate clause structure and prose structure
      >are able to handle some non-trivial tasks (they can express, e.g., the
      >narrative in the Legend of the Kutakaranim that I posted recently), but
      >I'm not perfectly happy with them. They just feel so ... stilted and
      >artificial.

      You should point out which these were. I'm curious what your thoughts are, but probably won't mamage to recover them just by digging through the gloss.

      On Sat, 20 Apr 2013 00:01:45 -0700, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:

      >Ebisédian tried to make approximants out of every vowel, including
      >things like /a/. :-P Well, I retconned that into [G] or non-syllable
      >/a/, but still...

      Sabasasaj has a glide that alternates with [a], too; it's [?\], the voiced pharyngeal approximant.

      Actually, when I revisited another old sketch of mine, temporary name Ssrdwyanw, awhile ago, I set up a diachrony which had non-syllabic [a] turning into [r\`]. This is pretty shaky ground, yes, but hey, the reverse process is certainly attested... if nothing else, call it hypercorrection, or an incipient change which got its direction reversed.

      Alex
    • Leonardo Castro
      ... I had this kind of problem in my hometown; after a long time not going there, I wasn t able to understand some slangs my cousins spoke on the streets. But
      Message 81 of 81 , May 1, 2013
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        2013/5/1 Padraic Brown <elemtilas@...>:
        >> parse grammatical constructions, interpret meaning -- all within a
        >> second or so before you're unable to keep up. I know people who are
        >> excellent at reading/writing English, but falter at the slightest turn of
        >> phrase or colloquialism in conversation. Throw in local dialects /
        >> slang, and you easily have the situation Widstrand found himself in.

        I had this kind of problem in my hometown; after a long time not going
        there, I wasn't able to understand some slangs my cousins spoke on the
        streets. But they were young people that are always inventing new
        slangs.
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