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Re: Deriving vowel harmony diachronically (was Re: Can realism be retro-fitted?)

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Sun, 21 Jan 2007 13:23:30 +0100

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 Hallo! On Sat, 20 Jan 2007 21:06:43 -0600, Eric Christopherson wrote: > How did you go about deriving vowel harmony? (Jörg, same question!) I > have some ideas about it, but I'd like to see how others go about it. OK. Pre-Proto-Albic (Proto-Indo-Albic, or whatever you may want to call it) had only three vowels: *a, *i and *u. What happened is that the vowel features [+open], [+front] and [+round] became autosegmental, i.e. they bound to morphemes rather than to segments. A further change was that all roots acquired the feature [+open], independent of the vowel they actually contained. This probably was because the stress was on the first root syllable. So most roots have only [+open] attaching to them (*a was the most frequent vowel in Pre-Proto-Albic), while some have either [+open] and [+front] (those that had the root vowel *i) or [+open] and [+round] (those that had the root vowel *u). In most affixes, the feature [+open] was lost where present, resulting in vowel positions with *no* feature attaching to it. There were thus six possibilities: 1. [+open] only (mostly in roots) 2. [+front] only (mostly in affixes) 3. [+round] only (mostly in affixes) 4. [+open]+[+front] (mostly in roots) 5. [+open]+[+round] (mostly in roots) 6. no feature (affixes only) Now, in Proto-Albic, the vowels are realized by attaching the autosegmental vowel features to the vowel positions. Where a morpheme has two vowel positions, both vowels are realized the same because the same features attach to them. Thus, you can never have a root which contains two different vowels. The resulting vowels are /a/ for type #1, /i/ for type #2, /u/ for type #3, /e/ for type #4 and /o/ for type #5 in the list above. What about type #6? This resulted in a vowel *borrowing all features from the nearest vowel*, i.e., vowel harmony. In the next stage, Old Albic, another process - umlaut - kicked in. If a morpheme has only *one* vowel feature attached, this feature spreads to the preceding morpheme. This results in lowering high vowels before /a/, fronting back vowels before /i/ and rounding unround vowels before /u/. This results in two new combinations of features not occuring in Proto-Albic, and thus in front rounded vowels: 7. [+open]+[+front]+[+round] > /2/ 8. [+front]+[+round] > /y/ The result is the seven-vowel system of Old Albic. Now to your scheme. > The idea I have for a language I'm working on involves the construct > state form of nouns. > - Early in the development of the language, construct nouns end in /i\/. > - Intervocalic /p/ came to be pronounced [p\] or [B]. > - Central vowels adjacent to /w/ or one of the fricative allophones > of /p/ get rounded. (It might even be plausible for [p], [p:], and > [m] to condition this rounding, but IMHO it seems a little more > realistic for only [p\], [B], or [w] to condition it, because in > those cases the lips are open somewhat, whereas with [p] and [m] the > lips are completely closed.) > - Rounded central vowels shift to back. These would lose their close > association with fricative allophones of /p/. > - Unrounded central vowels shift to front. This makes perfect sense. > The development of some example endings so far: > (here k stands for any consonant besides /w/ or /p/) > aki\ > aki > eki\ > eki > iki\ > iki > @ki\ > eki > i\ki\ > iki > oki\ > oki > uki\ > uki > > (here p stands for fricative /p/ or /w/) > api\ > apu (or maybe Qpu; not sure if /a/ is subject to rounding) > epi\ > epu > ipi\ > ipu > @pi\ > opu > i\pi\ > upu > opi\ > opu > upi\ > upu > > - Because of the relative abundance of -uCu and -oCu (and possibly - > QCu) forms, coupled with the relative scarcity of -uCi and -oCi forms > (and nonexistence of -QCi forms), stems with back vowels and final > consonants *other* than /p/ or /w/ will analogically adopt the -u > ending. I'm sorry but I can't follow. Are /p/ and /w/ so overambundant that they occur more frequently than all other consonants combined? I'd expect the -oCi and -uCi forms to be more frequent than the -oCu and -uCu forms. Or does the abundance of /i\/ and /@/ have to do with this? > [...] > > I'm not sure what to do with it next. Quite possibly, -epu and -ipu > will be changed by analogy to either -epi/-ipi or -opu/-upu. On the > other hand, they might stay around; vowel harmony is sometimes not > 100% consistent throughout a language. Also, the current endings > remind me of the distribution of possessed forms in Ainu, which seem > to show either inconsistent vowel harmony or inconsistent vowel > *dis*harmony, depending on the analysis. In fact my system is > directly inspired by Ainu. I wonder if the Ainu endings evolved in > some similar way! > > Besides the final vowel, this also leaves an ablaut pattern, where > some words with a front vowel internal to their non-construct form > and a back vowel in their construct form, a pattern which could also > be analogically extended or leveled. > > I welcome any comments on this scheme (especially as regards the > plausibility of its steps), as well as anyone else's ideas on how > vowel harmony could develop. Apart from the point commented above where I couldn't follow because your analogy seems to go uphill, it makes perfect sense to me. ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf