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Hallo!

As my work on the new and revised grammar of Old Albic advances,
I am going to give a report on two matters which have recently been
given my attention, and have gotten close to the final result.

As you may remember, Old Albic has both short and long vowels,
with all possible combinations of the features [+open], [+front]
and [+round], except the null combination which occurs in some
affixes but is realized by adopting the features of the nearest
vowel.  Thus, the basic vowel qualities are /a e i o ø u y/:

        a  e  i  o  ø  u  y
[open]  +  +  -  +  +  -  -
[front] -  +  +  -  +  -  +
[round] -  -  -  +  +  +  +

The first new finding is that long vowels (which occur only in
stressed open syllables, having been shortened in all other
environments) have two different intonation contours: the
*thrusting tone*, which has one peak of stress, and the *slipping
tone', which has two peaks.  The thrusting tone is transcribed
with an acute accent (á é í ó ǿ ú ý), the slipping tone with a
circumflex accent (â ê î ô ø̂ û ŷ); the Old Albic script uses two
different length markers.  However, the long vowels differ from
the short vowels not only in length.  Rather, while short vowels
are lax, long vowels with thrusting tone are tense, and long
vowels with slipping tone are slightly diphthongized, beginning
tense and ending lax:

Tr. IPA  Tr. IPA   Tr. IPA
a   [ɐ]  á   [a:]  â   [aɐ]
e   [ɛ]  é   [e:]  ê   [eɛ]
i   [ɪ]  í   [i:]  î   [iɪ]
o   [ɔ]  ó   [o:]  ô   [oɔ]
ø   [œ]  ǿ   [ø:]  ø̂   [øœ]
u   [ʊ]  ú   [u:]  û   [uʊ]
y   [ʏ]  ý   [y:]  ŷ   [yʏ]

(Tr. = transcription)

(I hope the IPA symbols and the two accented |ø|s make it through.)

As long vowels occur only in stressed open syllables and are
shortened in closed and unstressed syllables, some vowel length
alternations occur in the language.  For instance, the locative
case of _mor_ 'shadow' is _môrol_: the underlying stem has a
slipping-tone long vowel which is shortened in the base form
because the syllable is closed. In the locative case, the /r/
following the vowel belongs to the second syllable, and the
long vowel, being stressed, is not shortened.

The different intonations are a result of the different origins of
the long vowels.  Proto-Albic had no vowel length distinction; the
long vowels of Old Albic result either from the loss of a following
consonant, which results in thrusting tone, or from the contraction
of two vowels in hiatus after the loss of an intervening consonant,
resulting in slipping tone.

Now to the second discovery.

As I stated earlier, vowel features in Old Albic behave
autosegmentally: they are associated with morphemes rather than
segments, while on the segmental tier, only vowel positions exist,
to which the autosegmental vowel features attach.  A while ago,
I wrote in 

http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0707A&L=CONLANG&P=R908&D=0&H=0&O=T&T=0

> ObConlang: Old Albic could be analysed as having just one vowel phoneme
> with vowel features being suprasegmental (they indeed behave quite much
> like tones do in some African languages), and it wouldn't surprise me
> if some razor-witted phonologist could analyse even that single vowel
> phoneme away :)

Actually, while I would not call myself a "razor-witted phonologist",
my wit is at least sharp enough to analyze the vowel position away
- they are inserted along the following rules:

1. In a root with two consonants, the vowel goes between the consonants.

2. In a root with three consonants, if the first consonant is a
   (phonological) stop and the second a liquid (or semivowel), the vowel
   goes between the second and the third consonant.

3. Otherwise, in a root with three consonants, if the second consonant
   is more sonorous than the third consonant, the vowel goes between the
   first and the second consonant.

4. Otherwise, the vowel is inserted twice, once between the first and
   the second, and once between the second and the third consonant.

5. In a suffix with one consonant, the vowel is inserted before the
   consonant. In a prefix with one consonant, the vowel is inserted
   after the consonant.

6. In a suffix with two consonants, the vowel is inserted before the
   first consonant if the first consonant is more sonorous than the
   second, otherwise between the two consonants. In a prefix with two 
   consonants, the vowel is inserted after the second consonant if
   the first consonant is a stop and the second a liquid, otherwise
   between the two consonants.

There are, however, some forms which seem not to follow these rules,
such as the root _alb-_ 'Elf'. These exceptions can be remedied by
assuming that there is a consonant involved which has been lost.
This consonant is reconstructed for Proto-Albic and symbolized *3;
it is assumed to have been a laryngeal sonorant of some sort, perhaps
the same sound as Arabic ‘ayn [ʕ]. It has also left some other traces,
such as long vowels resulting from the loss of this consonant between
vowels or before consonants.

This means that in a way, the only segmental phonemes of Old Albic
are the *consonants* (including the mute consonant *3).  Yet, I would
not call Old Albic a "vowel-less" language; the vowel features, even
if they are autosegments rather than segments, are real, and realized
as surface vowels.

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