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Phoneme diversity: questions

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  • Joao S. Lopes
    1) Why some languages, for example, Polynesian, have so few consonants, while Caucasian have dozen of them? Could we infer that older Human languages have few
    Message 1 of 12 , Nov 18 6:07 PM
      1) Why some languages, for example, Polynesian, have so few consonants, while Caucasian have dozen of them? Could we infer that older Human languages have few or many phonemes?
      2) Is there any study about growing or reduction of phoneme diverstiy along the evolution of language? Why and how can phonemes be "created"? A people can "add" phonemes to its lanaguage, or additional sounds always came from adstratal or superstratal source?
      3) Why it seems that Western IE proto-languages had no palatals?
      4) Is there any study about distribution of particular phonemes across the world? For example, rounded vowels (ö/ü) or uvular R?

      Thanks,
      Joao S. Lopes

    • Bhrihskwobhloukstroy
      Ad 3: Schrijver s Law PIE */e/ Latin /a/ after pure velars implies palatal / velar opposition in a Western IE language
      Message 2 of 12 , Nov 19 4:28 AM
        Ad 3: Schrijver's 'Law' PIE */e/ > Latin /a/ after pure velars implies
        palatal / velar opposition in a Western IE language

        2013/11/19, Joao S. Lopes <josimo70@...>:
        > 1) Why some languages, for example, Polynesian, have so few consonants,
        > while Caucasian have dozen of them? Could we infer that older Human
        > languages have few or many phonemes?
        > 2) Is there any study about growing or reduction of phoneme diverstiy along
        > the evolution of language? Why and how can phonemes be "created"? A people
        > can "add" phonemes to its lanaguage, or additional sounds always came from
        > adstratal or superstratal source?
        >
        > 3) Why it seems that Western IE proto-languages had no palatals?
        > 4) Is there any study about distribution of particular phonemes across the
        > world? For example, rounded vowels (ö/ü) or uvular R?
        >
        > Thanks,
        >
        > Joao S. Lopes
        >
      • caotope
        ... Natural variation. The number of consonants can range from few to plenty even within a single language family. Areal patterns occur (already
        Message 3 of 12 , Nov 19 8:21 AM

          > 1) Why some languages, for example, Polynesian, have so few consonants, while Caucasian

          > have dozen of them?


          Natural variation. The number of consonants can range from few to plenty even within a single language family. Areal patterns occur (already Proto-Polynesian had a rather meagre consonant inventory) but there do not seem to be any overarching geographical motifs (several other Oceanic languages have considerably larger inventories).


          > 2) Is there any study about growing or reduction of phoneme diverstiy along the evolution
          > of language? Why and how can phonemes be "created"? A people can "add" phonemes
          > to its lanaguage, or additional sounds always came from adstratal or superstratal source?

          Conditional splits, combinatory reductions etc. create new "indigenous" phonemes all the time. Nasal vowels in French would be a simple example. "Loanword phonemes" can certainly occur but my impression is that it's more common for phonemes found in contact languages to develop on an inherited basis; considering French again, its front rounded vowels developed not in Germanic loans but by internal developments.

          > 3) Why it seems that Western IE proto-languages had no palatals?

          Why should they? Plenty of languages from all kinds of language families have no palatal/postalveolar consonants other than the basic glide /j/.

          > 4) Is there any study about distribution of particular phonemes across the world? For
          > example, rounded vowels (ö/ü) or uvular R?

          Phonological typology is an thriving field of research. For a starting point, check out the World Atlas of Language Structures: http://wals.info

          _j.
        • richardwordingham
          ... palatal / velar opposition in a Western IE language Or velar / uvular. Richard.
          Message 4 of 12 , Nov 19 10:02 AM
            In cybalist@yahoogroups.com, <bhrihstlobhrouzghdhroy@...> wrote:

            > Ad 3: Schrijver's 'Law' PIE */e/ > Latin /a/ after pure velars implies
            palatal / velar opposition in a Western IE language

            Or velar / uvular.

            Richard.
          • Joao S. Lopes
            For example, from Latin to Portuguese: k, g, p,t, b, d, r, s, m,. n,l idem h zero u+V v i+V j (z^) Portuguese has s^, z^, z, uvular R (rr),l^, n^, all
            Message 5 of 12 , Nov 19 6:07 PM
              For example, from Latin to Portuguese:
              k, g, p,t, b, d, r, s, m,. n,l > idem
              h > zero
              u+V > v
              i+V > j (z^)
              Portuguese has s^, z^, z, uvular R (rr),l^, n^, all absent in Latin (at least, in Classic).  Romance palatals came from clusters with -L and -Y.

              Portuguese vernacular has no "h", but it's present in foreign words and well-accepted; in some dialects and regions (as in Rio de Janeiro), the pronnouncing of uvular R is almost identical to H. In the opposite way English interdental th is hard to accept.

              JS Lopes


              Em Terça-feira, 19 de Novembro de 2013 16:02, "richard.wordingham@..." <richard.wordingham@...> escreveu:
               

              In cybalist@yahoogroups.com, <bhrihstlobhrouzghdhroy@...> wrote:

              > Ad 3: Schrijver's 'Law' PIE */e/ > Latin /a/ after pure velars implies
              palatal / velar opposition in a Western IE language

              Or velar / uvular.

              Richard.


            • bowlweevils
              This is in Nederlands: http://www.kennislink.nl/publicaties/de-talenrijkdom-van-afrika But the general point is that the area with the widest range of
              Message 6 of 12 , Nov 20 10:32 AM
                This is in Nederlands:

                http://www.kennislink.nl/publicaties/de-talenrijkdom-van-afrika

                But the general point is that the area with the widest range
                of languages in terms of number overall, and in terms of
                phonemic diversity, are in Africa. Which should not be much
                of a surprise since the location of origin for languages in
                general have greater diversity due to divergence over time
                and lack of sustained interaction between dialect groups.

                Which leads to the secondary areas of great diversity in
                phonemes and languages in general, New Guinea and
                (pre-contact) Australia.

                As for the Caucasus region, if you are accepting of the
                standard model of modern human dispersal out of Africa,
                there are two ways out: through the Sinai Peninsula, and
                more likely through the Arabian Peninsula at the narrow
                southern end of the Red Sea.

                What we get from that is a human migration across southern
                Asia and into New Guinea and Australia, which become
                isolated for uncertain reasons, but also become areas of
                high linguistic diversity.

                The route to Europe also has two possibilities: through
                Anatolia and across the Caucasus. I am not an expert here,
                but I think that Anatolia had much linguistic diversity
                before Greeks and Persians began fighting over it.

                The Caucasus is much less hospitable to human civilization,
                and may function as an isolating region, both from a general
                definition of isolation from peoples outside of the region,
                and within the region in a manner similar to New Guinea:
                small groups of people who have difficulty traveling across
                a mountainous area.

                Now to get super-speculative. The Caucasus was also a region
                where Homo sapiens neandertalis survived the longest and
                interbred with Homo sapiens sapiens. If they had language,
                some of this language may have contributed to the diversity
                of languages in the Caucasus region both in terms of
                phonemic diversity and general language diversity.

                Again, that is highly speculative.

                But overall, phonemic diversity seems to exist to the
                greatest extent in regions where you'd think it would: the
                area of origin of modern humans (Sub-Saharan Africa) and in
                areas that were colonized early that had barriers to mixing
                of groups (New Guinea, Australia, Caucasus).

                [Quote-tail deleted. -BMS]
              • Bhrihskwobhloukstroy
                (Homo sapiens, Homo Neanderthalensis; no more sapiens sapiens nor sapiens Neanderthalensis)
                Message 7 of 12 , Nov 20 2:42 PM
                  (Homo sapiens, Homo Neanderthalensis; no more sapiens sapiens nor
                  sapiens Neanderthalensis)

                  2013/11/20, jamiepolichak@... <jamiepolichak@...>:
                  > This is in Nederlands:
                  >
                  > http://www.kennislink.nl/publicaties/de-talenrijkdom-van-afrika
                  >
                  > But the general point is that the area with the widest range
                  > of languages in terms of number overall, and in terms of
                  > phonemic diversity, are in Africa. Which should not be much
                  > of a surprise since the location of origin for languages in
                  > general have greater diversity due to divergence over time
                  > and lack of sustained interaction between dialect groups.
                  >
                  > Which leads to the secondary areas of great diversity in
                  > phonemes and languages in general, New Guinea and
                  > (pre-contact) Australia.
                  >
                  > As for the Caucasus region, if you are accepting of the
                  > standard model of modern human dispersal out of Africa,
                  > there are two ways out: through the Sinai Peninsula, and
                  > more likely through the Arabian Peninsula at the narrow
                  > southern end of the Red Sea.
                  >
                  > What we get from that is a human migration across southern
                  > Asia and into New Guinea and Australia, which become
                  > isolated for uncertain reasons, but also become areas of
                  > high linguistic diversity.
                  >
                  > The route to Europe also has two possibilities: through
                  > Anatolia and across the Caucasus. I am not an expert here,
                  > but I think that Anatolia had much linguistic diversity
                  > before Greeks and Persians began fighting over it.
                  >
                  > The Caucasus is much less hospitable to human civilization,
                  > and may function as an isolating region, both from a general
                  > definition of isolation from peoples outside of the region,
                  > and within the region in a manner similar to New Guinea:
                  > small groups of people who have difficulty traveling across
                  > a mountainous area.
                  >
                  > Now to get super-speculative. The Caucasus was also a region
                  > where Homo sapiens neandertalis survived the longest and
                  > interbred with Homo sapiens sapiens. If they had language,
                  > some of this language may have contributed to the diversity
                  > of languages in the Caucasus region both in terms of
                  > phonemic diversity and general language diversity.
                  >
                  > Again, that is highly speculative.
                  >
                  > But overall, phonemic diversity seems to exist to the
                  > greatest extent in regions where you'd think it would: the
                  > area of origin of modern humans (Sub-Saharan Africa) and in
                  > areas that were colonized early that had barriers to mixing
                  > of groups (New Guinea, Australia, Caucasus).
                  >
                  > [Quote-tail deleted. -BMS]
                  >
                • caotope
                  ... Actually no, that is not an expected result. Genetically, Africa is linguistically relatively uniform, with most languages of the continent belonging to
                  Message 8 of 12 , Nov 21 1:09 PM
                    > But the general point is that the area with the widest range
                    > of languages in terms of number overall, and in terms of
                    > phonemic diversity, are in Africa. Which should not be much
                    > of a surprise since the location of origin for languages in
                    > general have greater diversity due to divergence over time
                    > and lack of sustained interaction between dialect groups.

                    Actually no, that is not an expected result. Genetically, Africa is linguistically relatively uniform, with most languages of the continent belonging to only two families: Afrasian and Niger-Congo. These have come about relatively late in the global scheme of things. Only sporadic islands remain that could represent original variety (the best-known cases being Hadza, Sandawe, and the recently identified Bangime).

                    There are the numerous "Khoisan" groups too, which, contra Greenberg, have not been satisfactorily related to each other, but they have definite typological commonalities, e.g. the presence of clicks (which have also been introduced to their Bantu neighbors).

                    > Which leads to the secondary areas of great diversity in
                    > phonemes and languages in general, New Guinea and
                    > (pre-contact) Australia.

                    Not quite right either. New Guinea has vast genetic diversity of languages, but the area also has a high tendency towards rather minimal phoneme inventories for some reason, which limits the possible variation. Australia is also home to a large number of language families, but is incredibly homogenous in terms of phoneme variety in particular.

                    A much hotter bed of linguistic variety is found in NW America (particularly California), probably much for the same ultimate reasons as at the Caucasus: the mountaneous topography has allowed a large variety of ethnic groups to coexist. The area of the eastern Himalayas also shows a similar effect, though this must be secondary, as most languages in here are known to be Sino-Tibetan or Austronesian.

                    > Now to get super-speculative. The Caucasus was also a region
                    > where Homo sapiens neandertalis survived the longest and
                    > interbred with Homo sapiens sapiens. If they had language,
                    > some of this language may have contributed to the diversity
                    > of languages in the Caucasus region both in terms of
                    > phonemic diversity and general language diversity.

                    The languages of the Caucasus are probably mainly relicts from various prehistoric expansions thruout the millennia (much as is the case of Ossetic and Armenian), not ultimately indigenous. Also, recent newcomers aside, the area's language diversity here too reduces to just 2-3 language families, so much of the variety is again clearly secondary.

                    Altogether: synchronic phoneme variety in an area does not correlate particularly strongly to the genetic variety of language lineages. If the conditions are right, unrelated languages can apparently relatively quickly (over a millennia or three) evolve towards a similar typology, while related languages can just as well typologically diverge to the point of seeming unrelated at first glance.

                    _j.
                  • Joao S. Lopes
                    My main question is: how can a phoneme be added to a lanaguage inventory without being substratal, superstratal or adstratal? JS Lopes Em Quinta-feira, 21 de
                    Message 9 of 12 , Nov 21 6:46 PM
                      My main question is: how can a phoneme be "added" to a lanaguage inventory without being substratal, superstratal or adstratal?

                      JS Lopes



                      Em Quinta-feira, 21 de Novembro de 2013 19:10, "johnvertical@..." <johnvertical@...> escreveu:
                       
                      > But the general point is that the area with the widest range
                      > of languages in terms of number overall, and in terms of
                      > phonemic diversity, are in Africa. Which should not be much
                      > of a surprise since the location of origin for languages in
                      > general have greater diversity due to divergence over time
                      > and lack of sustained interaction between dialect groups.

                      Actually no, that is not an expected result. Genetically, Africa is linguistically relatively uniform, with most languages of the continent belonging to only two families: Afrasian and Niger-Congo. These have come about relatively late in the global scheme of things. Only sporadic islands remain that
                      could represent original variety (the best-known cases being Hadza, Sandawe, and the recently identified Bangime).

                      There are the numerous "Khoisan" groups too, which, contra Greenberg, have not been satisfactorily related to each other, but they have definite typological commonalities, e.g. the presence of clicks (which have also been introduced to their Bantu neighbors).

                      > Which leads to the secondary areas of great diversity in
                      > phonemes and languages in general, New Guinea and
                      > (pre-contact) Australia.

                      Not quite right either. New Guinea has vast genetic diversity of languages, but the area also has a high tendency towards rather minimal phoneme inventories for some reason, which limits the possible variation. Australia is also home to a large number of language families, but is incredibly homogenous in terms of phoneme variety in particular.

                      A much hotter bed of linguistic variety is found in NW America (particularly California), probably much for the same ultimate reasons as at the Caucasus: the mountaneous topography has allowed a large variety of ethnic groups to coexist. The area of the eastern Himalayas also shows a similar effect, though this must be secondary, as most languages in here are known to be Sino-Tibetan or Austronesian.

                      > Now to get super-speculative. The Caucasus was also a region
                      > where Homo sapiens neandertalis survived the longest and
                      > interbred with Homo sapiens sapiens. If they had language,
                      > some of this language may have contributed to the diversity
                      > of languages in the Caucasus region both in terms of
                      > phonemic diversity and general language diversity.

                      The languages of the Caucasus are probably mainly relicts from various prehistoric expansions thruout the millennia (much as is the case of Ossetic and Armenian), not ultimately indigenous. Also, recent newcomers aside, the area's language diversity here too reduces to just 2-3 language families, so much of the variety is again clearly secondary.

                      Altogether: synchronic phoneme variety in an area does not correlate particularly strongly to the genetic variety of language lineages. If the conditions are right, unrelated languages can apparently relatively quickly (over a millennia or three) evolve towards a similar typology, while related languages can just as well typologically diverge to the point of seeming unrelated at first glance.

                      _j.


                    • Brian M. Scott
                      ... Phonemic split. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonological_change#Split Brian
                      Message 10 of 12 , Nov 22 7:09 AM
                        At 9:46:42 PM on Thursday, November 21, 2013, Joao S. Lopes wrote:

                        > My main question is: how can a phoneme be "added" to a
                        > lanaguage inventory without being substratal, superstratal
                        > or adstratal?

                        Phonemic split.

                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonological_change#Split

                        Brian
                      • Etherman23
                        I read a study years ago (unfortunately I don t recall the author) which compared phoneme diversity of modern languages to ancient languages and found no
                        Message 11 of 12 , Nov 22 2:20 PM

                          I read a study years ago (unfortunately I don't recall the author) which compared phoneme diversity of modern languages to ancient languages and found no significant differences. 



                          ---In cybalist@yahoogroups.com, <josimo70@...> wrote:

                          1) Why some languages, for example, Polynesian, have so few consonants, while Caucasian have dozen of them? Could we infer that older Human languages have few or many phonemes?
                          2) Is there any study about growing or reduction of phoneme diverstiy along the evolution of language? Why and how can phonemes be "created"? A people can "add" phonemes to its lanaguage, or additional sounds always came from adstratal or superstratal source?
                          3) Why it seems that Western IE proto-languages had no palatals?
                          4) Is there any study about distribution of particular phonemes across the world? For example, rounded vowels (ö/ü) or uvular R?

                          Thanks,
                          Joao S. Lopes

                        • caotope
                          ... There is also a third option that is a hybrid of these two: the phonemization of an allophone thru the adoption of loanwords. Frequently it seems that an
                          Message 12 of 12 , Nov 24 8:34 AM
                            > ---In cybalist@yahoogroups.com, <bm.brian@...> wrote:
                            > > At 9:46:42 PM on Thursday, November 21, 2013, Joao S. Lopes wrote:
                            > >
                            > > My main question is: how can a phoneme be "added" to a
                            > > lanaguage inventory without being substratal, superstratal
                            > > or adstratal?
                            >
                            > Phonemic split.
                            >
                            > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonological_change#Split

                            There is also a third option that is a hybrid of these two: the phonemization of an allophone thru the adoption of loanwords.

                            Frequently it seems that an allophone is recognized as distinct already before it actually acquires phonemic status, which allows a phone to be used in loanwords even in positions where it is not predicted by the previous phonological rule. The distinction between /f/ and /h/ in Japanese, for example, has this kind of a history: in old vocabulary only /ha he hi ho/ and /fu/ are allowed, but in recent loanwords /f/ is also allowed before other vowels (e.g. /fooku/ "fork"). /v/ in English seems to be an example as well, I think?

                            A fourth somewhat similar option possible is the extension of an allophone into a phoneme thru analogy (though I am unsure if there are any completely unambiguous examples known of this). Suppose e.g. a language where /s/ has an allophone [S] before /i/; also suppose that there is a class of words whose stem ends in -i in most forms, but in -a in certain inflected forms. If [S] is analogically introduced to inflected forms also before /a/, then its contrast with [s] will have ceased to become phonologically predictable and we'd have to consider it a separate phoneme.

                            It may be possible to still analyze a phoneme of this sort as morphophonologically secondary, if a form such as /muSa/ is taken to be underlyingly //musi+a//.

                            Some changes of this sort have been associated with consonant gradation in Finnic. For one example, in Proto-Finnic [N] originally occurred only as an allophone of /n/ (or, equally well, /m/) before /k/, including its weak grade allophone [g]. Eventually [Ng] was assimilated to [N:], which would have granted /N/ the status of a phoneme, strictly speaking. However, as consonant gradation remained a conditioned morphophonological process, this could still have been considered the weak grade of //nk//, and so still no underlying //N// would need to be posited. - In Modern Finnish though, the status of /N/ has been reinforced thru the adoption of loanwords such as _anglo-_ /aNlo/, _magneetti_ /maNneetti/, _tango_ /taNNo/.

                            _j.
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