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CONLANG  March 2012, Week 1

CONLANG March 2012, Week 1

Subject:

Re: Historical phonology of Tirelat

From:

Alex Fink <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 7 Mar 2012 13:00:11 -0500

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On Tue, 6 Mar 2012 20:16:35 -0500, Herman Miller <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>The consonant inventory of modern Tirelat looks something like this:
>
>p b	t d	ts dz			k g
>m	n				N
>		r0 r
>f v		s z	s` z`	x G
>		K l
>w				j
>
>Now what I need to do is figure out how it got that way. 

Have you looked through your lexicon for lumpiness in the phoneme
distributions?  Sounds which occur more than they should be "expected" to
(probably the result of a merger), sounds which are nearly absent from
certain environments (probably reflect an old conditional change), ...  

Conversely, to give one example, if /j w/ are frequent and you try to
explain them away as arising from /i u/ in hiatus, you haven't actually
explained very much yet, since a distributional oddity remains.  Why did the
proto-language have so many hiatic clusters of vowels?  Most likely,
whatever did form them also formed hiatic clusters without /i/ or /u/ in
them; what happened to those?

>I know there've
>been some splits and mergers along the way. One that I've mentioned is a
>phoneme (call it /D/ for now) that merged with /d/ in one dialect and
>/r/ in another.
>
>orig.	dial. A	dial. B
>/vidu/	/vidu/	/vidu/
>/niDu/	/nidu/	/niru/
>/viru/	/viru/	/viru/
>
>One possibility is that this /D/ was actually /t/, and that modern /t/
>(maybe also /ts/ in some cases) descends from /t_h/. It's a little
>clearer what might have happened if you look at a broad phonetic
>transcription, where /d/ and /t/ between vowels weakened to [D] and [d].
>In one dialect the [d] changed to [D], and in the other both [d] and [r]
>changed to [4].
>
>orig.	later	dial. A	dial. B
>[vidu]	[viDu]	[viDu]	[viDu]
>[nitu]	[nidu]	[niDu]	[ni4u]
>[viru]	[viru]	[viru]	[vi4u]

That looks to work.  But you can get by with less change and less dialectal
divergence by doing [d] > [4] ([> r]) intervocalically in the second type,
and after that [D] > [d] in both.  This avoids the [d] > [D] in the first.  

AFAIK intervocalic voicing and frication generally apply to all places of
articulation (even when they don't it's rarely just the dental place. 
Tapping at the dental place alone is common though).  For the initial shifts
of *[t d] > [d D] that's no problem; you get mergers into the voiced
fricatives in other places.  But if your second posited [d] > [D] in dialect
A has parallels in other places, then you get rid of all the voiced stops. 
(Is that ok?)

>It's also possible that there may have been a voiced lateral fricative
>/K\/ in EMT, to account for the /l/ ~ /d/ variations between dialects in
>some words, but there may be other ways to account for that.

Yeah.  Clusters that resolve differently in different dialects are one. 
Perhaps Proto-Tirelat allowed /dl/ etc. (does modern Tirelat?)

Also, watch out for reconstructing èvery such variation into an original
phonemic difference; you are liable to get an unrealistic number or
distribution of proto-phonemes if you do.  If regular, Neogrammarian
explanations fail, the alternations might just come from dialect mixing, or
incomplete sound changes, or ...

Alex

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