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45Yet more on voiced stops

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  • Pavel Iosad
    Jun 7, 2002
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      Hello All,

      Answering my question on Quenya intervocalic -d-'s, Ivan wrote:

      > The prime directive is: No /d/ in Quenya
      > except in the combinations /ld nd rd/ (LR:1155).

      Which leads us to the problem of a proper phonological analysis of
      Quenya. To wit: are the 'nasalised' voiced stops /mb nd ñg/ single
      phonemes, or biphonemic sequences?

      I hold it is the latter.

      But evidence is scanty, and I would like to discuss this question with a
      more knowledgeable company. So what would the assembly's opinion be,
      taking into account the following pieces of evidence:

      1) Consistent use of the word _combinations_ in Appendix E when
      referring to Grades 2 and 4 seems to argue that the sequence is
      biphonemic.

      2) These groups were clearly considered "long" for purposes of stress in
      early (and later) Sindarin, as per LR:1089 (it appears I am using a
      different edition than Ivan above). This would imply that in the
      structure of a word like _*periandath_ the _a_ in the penult qualifies
      as a vowel followed by two consonants, ergo /nd/ is biphonemic. This
      meets two objections - even early Sindarin is not Quenya (though I'd
      assume the phonological workings of the two would be exceptionally
      similar), and the second of a more fundamental nature. If we assume /nd/
      is monophonemic, the stress would still fall on the penult in this case,
      since /nd/ (be it mono- or biphonemic) is an impermissible onset, since
      no word in Quenya begins with it. On yet another hand, this latter
      argument could be taken as evidence for the biphonemic status of the
      group in question, as the restriction could then be explained in terms
      of the restriction on initial clusters in Quenya.

      3) There is little reason to distinguish /nd/ from /ld/ and /rd/. The
      latter are clearly biphonemic. It would then seem that a voiced stop is
      in a strong position when clustered with an alveolar sonorant. It is
      unclear whether /b/ shifted to /v/ after /l/ as a matter of some later
      dialect, or of a regular phonological process (since it appears that the
      Elves themselves did use _lb_ (LR:1095)). To clarify: /g/ shifted to a
      voiced /h/ regularly in Ukrainian and southern Russian dialects,
      however, there was no process of a regular voiced stop > homorganic
      voiced fricative shift. The only argument to see nasalisation as
      phonemically relevant attribute is its typological justification.
      Otherwise, we could as well argue that /ld/ is a phoneme while /nd/ and
      /rd/ are biphonemic. This doesn't seem likely at all

      4) However, there are clear cases of metathesis (e.g. in the past tense
      of basic verbs). A biphonemic sequence yielding a single phoneme is not
      at all impossible (cf. the conduct of Slavic *tj and *dj). Why would
      *_tek-ne_ yield *_tencë_? An answer might be positing not a metathesis
      (i.e. not the development of two sounds), but a nasalisation of the last
      consonant of a CVC- root as a phonological process a bit like the Irish
      attenuation and broadening (caolú and leathnú). Such an interpretation
      seems to be an argument for the monophonemic status.

      Overall, I still think the biphonemic interpretation is the better one,
      not the least because it is the less complex one. I am sure there is
      more to it than the outline above.

      Any comments?

      Pavel
      --
      Pavel Iosad pavel_iosad@...

      'I am a philologist, and thus a misunderstood man'
      --JRR Tolkien, _The Notion Club Papers_
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