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179i and y in Quenya: two phonemes or one?

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  • Ales Bican
    Aug 4, 2002
      I thought about it today: are sounds _i_ (as in _Quendi_) and _y_
      (as in _Yavanna_) two phonemes or variants of one phoneme in

      As far as I can see they seems to agree with Trubetzkoy's third rule
      (they never occur in the same phonetic environs) and not to agree
      with the forth rule (one does not occurs beside the other).

      However, we have words like _aiya_. I am not convienced that this
      can be an evidence of _y_ and _i_ occurring beside each other, as
      _i_ is here a part of the diphtong _ai_. Furthermore, Tolkien also
      spelled this sequence as _aia_ and _áya_, cf. _vaháya_ (LR:47),
      _vahaiya_ (SD:247) and _vahaia_ (SD:312) (note that it is in fact
      the same text). These spellings are not ambiguous.

      Hence I think the two sound occurring in _Quendi_ and _Yavanna_
      are two variants of one invariant /i/ -- [i] being a vocalic allomorph
      and [y] a consonantal one. Well, perhaps it was obvious. In Czech,
      _i_ and _y_ are two phonemes, so I tend to treat them so. (And
      perhaps it is not obvious at all; in that case I am prepared for any

      Ales Bican

      ps. I realize this letter is rather impolite, for it assumes silently
      the knowledge of what is allophone/phoneme (variant/invariant) and
      Trubetzkoy's rules as presented in his _Grundzüge der Phonologie_.
      I know there are objections about the rules, but as I have said,
      I am open to corrections. In case you would like to know the rules,
      I could present them.

      Mi dissero che a quell'epoca per quindici giorni e quindici notti
      i retori Gabundus e Terentius discussero sul vocativo di _ego_,
      e infine vennero alle armi. (Umberto Eco, _Il nome della rosa_)

      [There is certainly nothing "impolite" about using such common linguistic
      terms as "allophone" and "phoneme" without definition. This is a
      linguistics list, after all, and even general dictionaries will define
      these terms adequately. And you quite adequately summarize Trubetzkoy
      where necessary. If anything is unclear to someone, they can ask for
      clarification, either on list or off. Carl]
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