I'm quite confused whether Schwa is meant to be phonetic or
phonemic and, indeed, what a phoneme is in the Schwa

On 26/07/2011 20:17, Peter Cyrus wrote:
> On Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 9:55 AM, Michael

> The idea of a phoneme is an abstraction of phone :

A _set_ of phones, surely?

David Crystal writes: "The notion of a phoneme allowed 
linguists to group together sets of phonetically similar
phones as VARIANTS, or 'members', of the same underlying

> we
> posit that the Ps in *pot spot top* are all
> manifestations of a single underlying thing, even though
> they sound different,

We posit that the three phones are positionally conditioned
variants of the phoneme /p/, i.e. they are members of the
set of phones denoted /p/.

> and then we can play with that
> thing, for instance recognizing it in Greek ψ

Wait - if we're talking of ancient Greek, where ψ was first
used, it was a convenient way of representing three separate
phonemic combinations, i.e. /pʰs/, /ps/ and /bs/ which were
all pronounced [ps].  In early Greek it was generally
written ΠΣ but they clearly felt uncomfortable with writing
the phonemes /b/ and /pʰ/ as Π before /s/, so they went for
a separate letter to denote a sound in which three phonemes
were realized the same way.  I guess Schwa would not permit

I'm not sure of the phonemic status of ψ in modern Greek - I
leave that to others.

> and German pf.

? I understood that German <pf> represented a single
_affricate_ sound, i.e. [[p͡f], i.e. /p/ has got as much to
do with /p͡f/ as, in English, /t/ has to do with /ʧ/. Though
it would appear that Schwa has symbols only for
dental/alveolar affricates and not for any others, which
seems to me odd in a script that it designed to be


On 26/07/2011 21:02, Peter Cyrus wrote:
 > That means that the same sound (phone) is represented by
 > two different letters in the two languages.  But
 > accepting that Shwa is phonemic implies accepting that
 > Shwa is NOT phonetic.

Yep - I agree: if Schwa is phonemic, it implies it is not
phonetic.  BUT -

 > That said, English in Shwa uses a separate letter for the
 > dark LL at the end of syllables.


So Schwa ain't phonemic after all! Or is it phonemic with
some sounds (e.g. plosives consonants) and not with others
(e.g laterals)?  If so, why the different treatments?

As I say, I'm not at all clear whether Schwa is meant to be
phonemic or phonetic.  I find it very confusing.

On another matter:

n 26/07/2011 17:55, Michael Everson wrote:
 >> - I hope it will turn out to be beautiful
 > Which is in the eye of the beholder, of course.

Yes, indeed it most certainly is.

 > Though
 > the gaits make it unbeautiful to me, since they prevent
 > inter-gait legibility.

Personally, I find the Arabic script far more beautiful than
Schwa's pseudo-abjad gait.

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