Jörg Rhiemeier wrote:
> 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] -  -  -  +  +  +  +

OK - not an uncommon set of vowels.

> 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.  

Seems to be some problem with ø-circumflex. Indeed, I cannot 
find any Unicode representation of this; as far as I can 
tell on a quick investigation, Unicode has symbols for ø and 
  ǿ only (with corresponding upper-case forms also). Is this 

I assume, both by the use of the acute diacritic and by the 
use of the term "thrusting", that this is a rising tone. 
The description of the "slipping tone" sounds like the 
Mandarin 3rd tone. Is this right?

 > 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.)

No problem with the IPA symbols nor with the ø with an 
acute. It's just the ø with the circumflex that's the 
problem, as I observed above.  Darn limiting technology!

I suppose the long thrusting ones could be regarded as 
having the tense vowel throughout while the slipping ones 
shift from tense to lax, i.e. you could, for example, use 
the representation:
Tr. IPA  Tr. IPA   Tr. IPA
a   [ɐ]  á   [aa]  â   [aɐ]

Can we think in terms of short vowels being monomoraic and 
long ones bimoraic? How does the double peaking on the 
slipping tone work?

> 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.  

..which means that if it were not for the two different 
sorts of long vowel, vowel length would not be phonemic. But 
there is, so we must give them some sort of phonemic status.

> 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.

Yes, I follow this. But as one who has got used to things 
like _môr_ /mo:r/ "sea" in Welsh, and the monosyllable with 
circumflexed vowels in Sindarin, this goes against the grain 
for me.  While I go along with vowel shortening in closed 
syllables in polysyllabic words and, indeed, in 
monosyllables where the syllable is blocked by two or more 
consonants, the shortening in monosyllables before a single 
consonant might be reconsidered?    ;)

> 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.


> 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.

All that these six rules seem to me to do is to predict 
_where_ the vowel will occur, but not what the vowel will 
be.  It means that speakers of the language would probably 
manage quite well with a script that indicated only 
consonants.  But although one unfamiliar with the language 
would be able to work out where the unwritten vowels should 
be, I don't see any way s/he could work out what the vowel 
was.  Or have I missed something?

> 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.

No problem - such things happen in natlangs.

> 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; 

Nor would I    :)

> the vowel features, even
> if they are autosegments rather than segments, are real, and realized
> as surface vowels.

Of course they are.  From what I have gleaned about the 
autosegmental phonology theory, it appears to postulate more 
than one tier of phonological represents.  According to SIL 
"Each tier is made up of a linear arrangement of segments. 
The tiers are linked to each other by association lines that 
indicate how the segments on each tier are to be pronounced 
at the same time." If such an analysis is applicable to Old 
Albic, doesn't it mean that the consonant phonemes are on 
one tier and the vowels on another tier? On the 'consonant 
tier' the _position_ of the vowels are unambiguously 
defined; on the 'vowel tier' the vowels which fill those 
positions are defined.

Clearly Old Albic is not a vowel-less language.  The 
analysis being proposed seems to be putting consonant and 
vowel phonemes on different tiers, but not removing vowel 
phonemes a such.  Or have I entirely missed something 
somewhere along the line? (I'm not a "razor-witted 

SIL, however, defines 'autosegmental phonology' thus; 
"Autosegmental phonology is a non-linear approach to 
phonology that allows phonological processes, such as tone 
and vowel harmony, to be independent of and extend beyond 
individual consonants and vowels."

This looks to me remarkably similar to the 'Prosodic' 
approach of J.R. Firth in the 1950s.  If this so, I'm not 
really clear how this does actually apply to Old Albic.

Nid rhy hen neb i ddysgu.
There's none too old to learn.