On Jan 19, 2007, at 5:19 AM, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:
> Of course /a i u/ is a perfectly possible vowel system. May
> the other vowels have arisen as positional allophones? In
> Kijeb i let umlaut phenomena transform a 3-vowel system into
> an 9-vowel system, which then shrinks to 6 or 5 vowels
> through mergers -- the merger patterns being different in
> different dialects -- and the rise of vowel harmony, which
> then in one dialect turns again into an 8-vowel system
> through loss of intervocalic /j w G h/ and
> monophthongization of the resulting diphthongs which gives
> rise to front rounded vowels which did not exist in the 6-
> vowel system. Phew, got all that ;-)

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.

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.

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. Thus:

aki\	> aki	> aki
eki\	> eki	> eki
iki\	> iki	> iki
@ki\	> eki	> eki
i\ki\	> iki	> iki
oki\	> oki	> oku
uki\	> uki	> uku

api\	> apu or Qpu > apu or opu?
epi\	> epu	> epu
ipi\	> ipu	> ipu
@pi\	> opu	> opu
i\pi\	> upu	> upu
opi\	> opu	> opu
upi\	> upu	> upu

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.