Kenji Schwarz wrote:

>On Tue, 19 Jan 1999, Kristian Jensen wrote:
>> It appears that tonal conlangs are common enough. But I dare say
>> that there are not many conlangs with contrastive phonations.
>> Some languages contrast creaky voice, modal voice, and breathy
>> voice at the syllable level. I have heard that many Austro-
>> Asiatic languages do this as well as a few Amerind languages. In
>> any case, it is quite rare the world over. Could this account for
>> why this might be rare
>Ah-ha!  Not so fast!  It just so happens that my other conlang,
>Sayat, has a _sort_ of distinctive phonation feature.  As a member
>of the little-known Pseudo-Tungusic language family (a branch of
>that greater conlang, Altaic), Sayat has "vowel harmony", which is
>fundamentally based on tongue root retraction/advancement.  The
>actual phonetic effect of this is most clearly heard as
>pharyngialization.  In Sayat, word stems are marked as either
>"hard" or "soft" ("hard" being pharyngialized), and all affixes
>change their vowel quality to match.
>I have no idea how to represent this in ASCII IPA, so I'll skip
>examples. It's essentially like those examples of Turkish vowel
>harmony we've all read about in introductory linguistics books --
>just that the distinctive feature is really tongue
>root/pharyngialization, not height/frontness.
I knew I couldn't be the only conlanger on the list who has thought
of something like this, although tongue root (TR) features isn't
quite the same as phonation. Actually, I haven't heard of many
conlangs with a vowel harmony based on TR features. This really
sounds interestingly kewl and suspiciously naturalistic. 8-)

Can you pronounce these pharyngealized vowels yourself? I have some
data on a tungusic language called Even in a book titled _The Sounds
of the World's Languages_. There are some sample words and eight
x-ray tracings of the vocal tract of a Even speaker articulating
both the plain and pharyngealized vowels. But even with all these
data, I find it extremely difficult to pronounce the pharyngealized
vowels as they are described to me. I have yet to hear them though.
I myself have no problem in pronouncing the phonation contrasts in

>> Anyone else dare challenge the uniqueness of Boreanesian? 8-)
>Wouldn't dream of it :)  How does this work across syllable
>boundaries -- is there any tone sandhi ('phonation sandhi'?) ?
No there isn't. The phonation of major syllables remains constant.
Phonemically, creaky syllables always end in a glottal stop /?/ and
clear syllables always end in a glottal fricative /h/ (or
voicelessness). But there is a sort of regressive assimilation
process of the glottal coda of major syllables in colloquial speech.
As a rule, the /?/ in creaky syllables assimilates with the
following consonant and becomes corresponding stops in colloquial
speech. The /h/ (or voicelessness) in clear syllables remain
constant. Both of these lead to some sounds I find particularly
pleasing across syllable boundaries; pre-stoped nasals, geminate
stops, and pre-aspirated nasals and stops. I also find voiceless
sonorants at syllable codas rather pleasing. The only thing is I'm
not as fond of are creaky coda sonorants - I suppose I can't please
all my aesthetic tastes if I wanna be naturalistic. Besides,
creakiness somehow fits naturally within the Boreanesian
phonological framework.

-Kristian- 8-)