On Mon, 28 Feb 2000, Kristian Jensen wrote:

> Barry Garcia wrote:
> >Anyway, I still admire the creativeness those who do use conventions like
> >caps for certain sounds, etc. It shows ingenuity, and willingness to work
> >with what you have.
> I guess I have to learn to accept those conventions if I am to share
> Boreanesian through email. Like you, I'm not too fund of mix-case
> representations either.
> >*note: i've always been fascinated more by languages with simple
> >phonologies than ones with complex phonologies (you can call me simple
> >:)). It may be why my personal language (formerly tilon nevo) is pretty
> >simple in it's sounds. It's also interesting how these languages with
> >small inventories of sounds make do with what they have.  That's not to
> >say I dont like languages with complex phonologies, on the contrary, they
> >are still very interesting.
> Actually, many languages with a small inventory of phonemes have
> quite complicated phonologies. The Ute languages come to mind. I'm
> sure Dirk could share.

I've hesitated getting into this thread, since I'm never sure
what people mean when they say "phonology" or "inventory". For
lots of people who aren't as interested in the sound patterns of
a language, the term "phonology" is often used to mean the list
of sounds found in the language. When the term "inventory" is
used, it is not clear if this is a comprehensive list of the
sounds which are actually uttered (a phonetic inventory) or a
list of only the sounds which are contrastive (a phonemic
inventory). For what it's worth, I make careful distinctions
among the different terms:

*  The "phonology" of a language is the *system* within which
the sounds of the language operate. It includes statements about
which sounds may occur adjacent to one another, effects of one
sound upon another ({as/dis}similation), and the like.

*  The "inventory" of a language, broadly speaking, is the list
of sounds which occur in the language. This list can be based on
the speech sounds which are uttered and perceived, in which case
it is a "phonetic inventory"; or it can be based on the sounds
which are distinctive or contrastive in the language, and which
disregards details of pronunciation which are not, strictly
speaking, necessary for the comprehension of an utterance. Such
an inventory is "phonemic".

So when Barry expressed his preference for languages with
"simple phonologies" I wasn't sure if he meant languages with a
small inventory of sounds (phonetic or phonemic), or a language
which has a relatively small set of conditions on the system
within which its sounds operate; there's a world of difference
there. And what Kristian says is true; some languages with a
small phonemic inventory have a rich and varied phonetic
inventory, and a correspondingly complex phonology. The Numic
languages (Uto-Aztecan) are like this. The language I work on,
Gosiute, has 11 consonants and 6 vowels in its phonemic
inventory, but upwards of 40 consonants and about 17 vowels in
its phonetic inventory (plus an emerging tonal contrast). The
phonology is straightforward, but intricate in its workings (I
got a disseration out of it!).

> The phoneme inventory in Boreanesian is not particularly big either;
> only 15 phonemic consonantal segments, and 4 phonemic vocalic
> segments. The problem is that, in addition to the fact that there are
> a few segmental sounds that are not readily represented in the latin
> alphabet, there are also phonemically _suprasegmental_ sounds;
> nasalization and phonation. The phonology itself isn't complicated
> either -- its fairly straightforward.

I really hope that Kristian can overcome his squeamishness about
ASCII representation of Boreanesian and share some of its
phonology with us; it is a remarkable piece of work!


Dirk Elzinga
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