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184Re: i and y in Quenya: two phonemes or one?

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  • atarinke
    Aug 6, 2002
      Ales Bican wrote:

      > I thought about it today: are sounds _i_ (as in _Quendi_) and _y_
      > (as in _Yavanna_) two phonemes or variants of one phoneme in
      > Quenya?

      Hrm... I don't quite like the idea of having a consonant and a vowel
      as one phoneme (but I haven't read Grundz├╝ge, so what do I know ;). I
      guess it could be possible however and if one accepts such a view one
      might also want to look at /w/ and /u/. I do however have a few
      objections to adopting it in this case.

      Firstly, others (Hans and Petri I think) have already mentioned that
      you'd have to think of diphthongs and the palatalised consonants as
      separate phonemes in order for such a view to work. Whether one
      prefers /Cy/ together with /i/ or /C/+/y/ with /i/ and /y/ seems like
      a matter of choice but a choice does seem necessary.

      Secondly, I think I might have found a (admittedly single) possible
      minimal pair distinguishing them, namely _heruion_ (IX, p291) meaning
      "of lords" and an unattested but probably possible word _heru-yon_,
      "lord-son". Now, _heru-yon_ is unattested and would in all
      probability be seen as quite archaic (yondo being the standard form)
      but I would still say it's a possible Quenya word. I here think that
      the /i/ in _heruion_ is syllabic while the /y/ in _heru-yon_ is not
      so the difference in meaning would come across.

      Now, this is not a good minimal pair, I know. In part because one of
      its constituents is made up by me, in part because they differ in the
      position of the stress as well. But I do think _heru-yon_ is a
      possible Quenya word, even if _heru-yondo_ or _heruion_ (with the
      patronymic -ion suffix) would be more probable. And the difference in
      stress lacks importance in this case since stress in Quenya does not
      carry any information (is not phonemic), correct?

      On the other hand, I'm a physics undergrad, not a linguist, so all of
      the above might just be (and probably is) nonsense. Anyway,

      sincerely
      Martin Blom
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