I è ìe i àe?

Mark Liberman’s recent Log post reports on the remarkable Bergamasco dialect of Italian:

According to “10 scioglilingua bergamaschi (con tanto di guida all’ascolto)“, Prima Bergamo 8/162018, the standard-Italian phrase sequence

Andate a vedere le api? Sono vive le api?
Go see the bees? Are the bees alive?

come out in Bergamasco as

“Ì a èt i àe?” “I è ìe i àe?”
[…]
For another example, Standard Italian

“Voi, dove andate?” “Io vado all’uva (alla vite). E voi?” “Io vado a vino.”

corresponds to Bergamasco:

“Ù, u if?” “A ó a öa. E ù?” “A ó a ì”

You can hear the sentences spoken by using the audio clips at the Log post.

Not worth its own post but too much fun to ignore: I recently noticed the odd Russian word леи [lei] ‘leather pads on riding breeches’ and wondered where it came from; turns out it’s from French ‘width, strip (e.g., of cloth),’ which is from Latin latus ‘wide.’ That was unexpected.

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    My Hispanic son tells me that the way to speak Andalusian Spanish is simply to omit all the consonants.

  2. I like saying in English ‘I don’t know’, m̀ḿm̄ (it works with any voiced nasal, or ɦ, too.)

  3. Stephen Carlson says:

    m̀ḿm̄: rather reminiscent of whistled languages.

  4. David Eddyshaw says:

    Where are the hummed languages? There’s a thesis in that for someone …

  5. Everett, Pirahã. Hum.

  6. Lars Mathiesen says:

    A æ u å æ ø i æ å, æ i å u å æ ø i æ å? was previously featured here. Just saying.

  7. (Everett, Pirahã, hum)

  8. !!!! I thought Bergamo was already linguistically interesting enough because of its name (I learned that it was originally named something like Bergheim by Germanic inhabitants, but a quick google search shows it goes back to Celtic?) and as the source of two separate English words, bergamot and Bergamask. It’s also my personal choice for the most pleasing of the regional Italian playing cards https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Carte_bergamasche.jpg

  9. Graham Asher says:

    “A æ u å æ ø i æ å, æ i å u å æ ø i æ å”

    That’s Swedish, isn’t it? From Dalarna or somewhere like that. I believe it means something like “there is an island in the river, and there is a river in the island” or some variant of that.

  10. Trond Engen says:

    “I am out on the island in the river, are you too out on the island in the river?”

    It’s Jutlandic. You can make similar constructions in Swedish and Norwegian dialects, but it’s hard do keep it up for that long. It’s simpler in dialects that are a) monophtongized b) apocopized c) lenited to zero d) keeping å < á as a preposition (instead of or in addition to < upp á)

  11. “Ì” for “Andate”: Straight Latin, looks like. Reminds me of Durer’s engraving “Melencolia I”: Does it mean “Melancholy, part 1” (there is no “Melencolia II”) or “Melancholy, go away”?

  12. Lars Mathiesen says:

    And of course vowel length is not marked, it would disambiguate about half of the apparent homonyms.

  13. Graham Asher says:

    “You can make similar constructions in Swedish and Norwegian dialects”. Yes – I should have said that I have seen one in Swedish but couldn’t find it by googling. It was (from memory):

    ä ä e ö i å å ä ä e å i ö

    in other words

    det är en ö i ån och det är en å i ön

    with colloquial or dialectal use of ‘det är’ for ‘det finns’.

  14. Roberto Batisti says:

    A dialect of Lombard, properly speaking (since it is by no way a variant or descendant of Standard Italian), Bergamasco has a reputation for incomprehensibility in Italy itself.

    This is mostly due to its propensity to drop coda nasals (regularly at word-end, often internally before voiceless stops, in both cases with no residual nasalization on the vowel) and intervocalic /v/ (also in sandhi). Moreover, it is well-known for turning /s/ to [h], although this is not reflected in the sample sentence.

    All of the above is true more generally of Eastern Lombard, including the very similar dialect of Brescia (which additionally realizes final /a/ as [ɒ ~ ɔ], Occitan-style).

    Apart from this, the ‘peculiar’ traits of Bergamasco are those common to all Lombard dialects: ū > /y/, ŏ > /ø/, loss of (most) final vowels, devoicing of final obstruents…

    In fact, for someone already acquainted with other Northern dialects it is not exceedingly strange, but I can see how the sum of those traits makes it sound quite ‘alien’ to people from the Center and South.

    I myself have gotten somewhat used to it thanks to my girlfriend of three years, who hails from Bergamo, but admittedly I still find it often hard to parse.

  15. Trond Engen says:

    Graham Asher:

    ä ä e ö i å å ä ä e å i ö

    in other words

    det är en ö i ån och det är en å i ön

    Being “in” an island is unidiomatic. I would think something like this:

    ä ä e ö i e å å ä ä e å å e ö

    “Det är en ö i en å och det är en å på en ö”

    … or maybe something recursive like:

    ä ä e ö i e å å e ö i e å å e ö i e å å e ö …

    “Det är en ö i en å på en ö i en å på en ö i en å på en ö …”

    This only works if there are central Swedish dialects that combine all three of: a) Norwegian-like feminine articles without -n, b) deictives without the initial d-, and c) å as a preposition. I’m quite sure about the former two, very much in doubt about the latter.

    That reminds me that I forgot one point that is helpful in the case of Jutlandic: e) using the preposed definite article. But we see that you can get away with the feminine indefinite article instead — at least in Norwegian and those Swedish dialects that likewise have lost the final n in feminine articles.

  16. “We owe you a yo-yo” and “Where were you while we were away” are illustrations of why defining approximants vs. vowels is hard.

  17. David Marjanović says:

    How? I don’t get it.

  18. In spectrograms, the approximants have well-defined formants, like vowels. It’s difficult to tell them apart by inspection.

  19. David Marjanović says:

    Ah, so spectrograms of these sentences are illustrations…

  20. Not just spectrograms. It takes some sophistry to argue why [aie] and [aiye] are different.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Obviously there isn’t any gap between them that would be impossible to articulate or something, but equally obviously [i] and [j] are different in the way that [ɪ] and [i] or [j] and [ʝ] are.

    Consider science. Some Standard English accents consistently use [j] in it, most consistently don’t, and I find the difference quite noticeable.

  22. That involves phonological information, features like duration of articulation and phonotactics. And, is i̯ a vowel or a consonant?…

  23. I have seen a statement recently that /j/ in some language has allophones [j] and [i̯]; this left me no more informed than before.

  24. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jc
    I think [j] is the consonant in yes
    and [i̯] is the vowel in mediocre or happy
    I think some English speakers say med [j] ocre, so that would be an example of allophonic use in English.

  25. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think the difference between j and is actually a matter of syllabification: specifically, doesn’t make syllable boundaries. (In other words, the difference is not in the sounds themselves, and is only phonetic insofar as syllabification itself has phonetic correlates.)

    An illustrative case in Kusaal is dau “man” [dau̯]; the final sound of this word is no different from [w], but the word undergoes glottalisation of the vowel before pause, a feature which is regular for words ending in a short vowel before pause; in other words, the final [u̯] doesn’t pattern like a consonant. Similarly with tɔi “be bitter” [tʰɔi̯], which could otherwise just as well be written [tʰɔj] as far as the actual phonetics goes.

    Again, biaunk “shoulder”, which “sounds like” [bjãwk], in fact behaves phonologically as CVC in every respect; and Kusaal does not permit word-initial or word-final consonant clusters of any other kind than those involving sequences like these, so if you analyse the form as /bjãwk/ you end up with horrible and quite unnecessary complications in the description. Better, therefore, as [bi̯ãu̯k]. In Real LIfe, the distinction between phonetic and phonemic is actually not all that clearcut. Talk of “allophones” is just a convenient simplification of the messy reality.

  26. to avoid getting sidetracked into irrelevancies
    This is the Hattery, nothing language-related is irrelevant here. 🙂

  27. David Eddyshaw says:

    (I inadvertently trapped Hat into a non-sequitur by deleting both my irrelevant remark and the apology for it, after he’d already replied. But never fear, I will be making further irrelevant remarks in future. Nothing is wasted.)

  28. Stu Clayton says:

    Real-time dialog-editing in order to trap folks in non-sequiturs ! This could come in handy.

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    Taking Hat at his word:

    In Agolle* Kusaal, j and actually differ phonetically as segments: ia [i̯a] “seek” is distinguishable from ya [ja] “houses” when uttered in isolation [even though both have the same, mid, tone.] The onset of ia is slower and laxer. The sequence ia [i̯a] patterns throughout in Agolle Kusaal as a single phonemic short vowel, and ia “seek” can, like other vowel-initial words, be realised with a phonetic initial glottal stop; but it doesn’t have to be (in other words, it’s not like the situation in standard German.)

    On the other hand, Agolle Kusaal w and do not differ in sound at all. This asymmetry is common cross-linguistically, and has a close parallel in Romanian, where ia and ea are phonetically distinct, but ua and oa are not.

    *Toende Kusaal doesn’t have any of this, because it hasn’t undergone the historical vowel breaking process which produced ia ua in Agolle.

  30. Taking Hat at his word

    That was actually Hans (put on your bifocals!), but I am in complete agreement with him.

  31. equally obviously [i] and [j] are different in the way that [ɪ] and [i] or [j] and [ʝ] are.

    Even if there is no problem with [j] and [i], chances of coming across a borderline case are not the same.
    sheet – shit – *sh/j/t
    (but I do expect all sort of problems from [ ] too)

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    that was actually Hans

    Alas, I missed the window for going back and editing my post in order to make your comment appear to be a non sequitur …

    Perhaps it’s for the best. Undermining the principle of causality is fun, and all, but one wouldn’t want to take it too far and attract the attention of the Authorities.

  33. Roberto Batisti says:

    @drasvi: but then, the syllable peak is not the best place to look for a [i] : [j] contrast.
    Ante- (and maybe post-) vocalic position is where you could find it.

    Under some analyses, Italian could show a three-way contrast between /iɛ/, /i̯ɛ/ and /je/.

  34. @ Roberto Batisti :
    Under some analyses, Italian could show a three-way contrast between /iɛ/, /i̯ɛ/ and /je/.

    Do tell! Is it a phonetic contrast, too?

    @David Eddyshaw:
    So could you, would you equally write [dau̯] as [da.w]? (As long as we’re blithely mixing phonetic and phonological notation.)

  35. Lars Mathiesen says:

    There is no Authority!

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Y:

    would you equally write [dau̯] as [da.w]?

    Yes. I spent a lot of time on the theoretical aspects of diphthongs in Kusaal (there are lots, both of the diphthongs and the theoretical aspects) before the clear light of Linguistic Nominalism revealed to me that I was really only playing with terminology, and it didn’t really matter what I called things so long as people could see what I meant well enough. No ideas but in things, as a fellow-practitioner once remarked …

  37. DM: “Consider science. Some Standard English accents consistently use [j] in it, most consistently don’t, and I find the difference quite noticeable.”

    Is this what you’re noticing, or something else?

    “It is probably in his character to ask such a question at such a moment in such a tone and to pronounce the word science as a monosyllable.” —A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen griping to himself about another student’s “sharp Ulster voice”, then getting self-conscious about it.

    I could never figure out how science could be a monosyllable. Looks like someone had the same question at WordReference.com. There’s a link there to Forvo; OK, I can hear enfield (Female from United Kingdom) and jeno (Male from Canada) as one syllable, like signs with the final s devoiced, and the rest as two.

  38. John Cowan says:

    frowned upon by the Authorities

    Yes, indeed. The Valar are explicitly said to take a dim view of rule-breaking in verbal games.

    There is no Authority!

    Of course there is! Haven’t you seen those buttons that show that the wearer belongs to the Question Authority?

    The onset of ia is slower and laxer

    I wonder if [ĭ] with the IPA extra-short diacritic might not be clearer than [i̯] here.

    Romanian, where ia and ea are phonetically distinct, but ua and oa are not

    The WP article, which is all I know about it, makes them /ja/, /e̯a/, /o̯a/, /wa/ respectively, pretty much as written. The origin of the e-diphthongs is in breaking of stressed mid-high vowels, somewhat as in Spanish; in unstressed syllables they are /e/, /o/.

  39. David Eddyshaw says:

    There is no Authority!

    You are absolutely right to make this clarification. There is definitely no Authority. I would not like to think that I had inadvertently misled anyone on this point.

  40. David Eddyshaw says:

    @JC:

    I got the stuff about Romanian from

    http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0025100302001044

  41. @David Eddyshaw: Thank you. I worry about diphthongs (I know, I’m lucky to worry about such things), and this is encouraging.

  42. Stu Clayton says:

    No ideas but in things, as a fellow-practitioner once remarked …

    That’s a neat characterization of behaviorism in dealing with animate things. The Germans say wer nicht hören kann, muß fühlen. I hold with that.

  43. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Hausa say jiki ya fi kunne ji “the body hears better than the ears”, with the same sentiment.

    I don’t think Bill Bill would have approved, though.

  44. the body hears better than the ears: “I wanted my head to appear smaller, and the easiest way to do that was to make my body bigger. Because music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.” —David Byrne (on “why the big suit”)

    Also reminds me of …

    Orr was not a fast reasoner. In fact, he was not a reasoner. He arrived at ideas the slow way, never skating over the clear, hard ice of logic, nor soaring on the slipstreams of imagination, but slogging, plodding along on the heavy ground of existence. He did not see connections, which is said to be the hallmark of intellect. He felt connections – like a plumber.
    The Lathe of Heaven

    But see here for a critique of that as a false dichotomy.

  45. David Eddyshaw says:

    Neither the German nor the Hausa is meant quite so positively …

    I share the reviewer’s distaste for Art with a Message (even when I agree with the Message), though the Art is sometimes good enough that the Message becomes a mere minor irritant in the background; The Dispossessed manages that, especially as it even-handedly undercuts the Message.

    I haven’t read The Lathe of Heaven. If the Message is just “le coeur a ses raisons que le raison ne connaît point” I’d be OK with it. But I have to be in the right mood for full-on Zhuangzi; otherwise it brings out my Confucian tendencies.

    [Following some of the links from the Nonfat Pig site, I’m not surprised at his dismissive attitude of The Lathe of Heaven; not the kind of book likely to appeal to him on first principles, I would guess, regardless of artistry, or the lack of it.]

  46. Roberto Batisti says:

    @ Y:

    I discussed some examples of /jV/, /wV/ vs. /iV/, /uV/ here. There are words where /jɛ/, /wɔ/ come from Latin ĕ, ŏ and somehow still pattern as vocalic nuclei, which we could write as /i̯ɛ/, /u̯ɔ/; and words where /jV/ or /wV/ contains a purely consonantal onset. The difference is mainly seen in initial position, where the former take the antevocalic allomorphs of the article, the latter the anteconsonantal one: l’ieri [lˈjɛːri], but lo yacht [loˈjɔtː], lo iettatore [lojettaˈtoːre]; l’uomo [lˈwɔːmo] but il walkman [ilˈwɔlkmen].
    I doubt, however, that the phonetic realization is perceptibly different.

    Still another case is that of an etymological hiatus /i.V/, /u.V/: these often realized as [jV], [wV], but a more accurate, disyllabic pronunciation is always possibile. In initial position they too take antevocalic articles, of course: l’iato [liˈaːto].
    Internally, both /jV/ and the ‘diphthongs’ /i̯ɛ/, /u̯ɔ/ are — or should be — always monosyllabic: [ˈpjeːno] < Lat. plēnus and [ˈpjɛːde] < Lat. pĕdem. For etymological hiatuses, both possibilities exist: sapienza < Lat. sa.pi.ĕn.ti.a is normally [sa'pjɛnt͡sa], but [sapiˈɛnt͡sa] is possible, e.g. in poetry.

    To sum up: there is no single context where all three sets are realized differently, but their behaviors do not overlap completely. At quite an abstract level, they could be kept apart. Granted, they are increasingly treated the same way in actual pronunciation. “Lo iato” gets about 50.000 ghits, compared to less than 10.000 for “l’iato”. if I myself say [liˈaːto], it is more a conscious affectation — partly to make the word exemplify itself, ‘haplogy’-style — than anything else.

  47. David Eddyshaw says:

    The difference is mainly seen in initial position, where the former take the antevocalic allomorphs of the article, the latter the anteconsonantal one: l’ieri [lˈjɛːri], but lo yacht [loˈjɔtː], lo iettatore [lojettaˈtoːre]; l’uomo [lˈwɔːmo] but il walkman [ilˈwɔlkmen]. I doubt, however, that the phonetic realization is perceptibly different.

    That is very interesting. It reminds me of French h aspiré.

    Kusaal has an analogous phenomenon with various synchronically absolutely homophonous prefixes a-, which induce different sandhi behaviour in the preceding word depending on whether the prefix derived historically from *ŋa- or *ya-: like French h aspiré, it’s a case of a purely phonological phenomenon surviving the historical loss of its conditioning factors – just like Germanic umlaut, in fact, though applying across word division*.

    How one interprets all this synchronically is presumably going to depend on where you decide to draw an (arbitrary) border between phonetics and phonology. It doesn’t seem conducive to clear description to make German umlaut into a phoneme, but making h aspiré into an honorary consonant which just happens to be a bit inaudible actually simplifies matters no end. And after all, people seem to have no scruples nowadays about positing lots of (equally inaudible) floating tones to make tone sandhi phenomena come out right.

    *Insular Celtic initial mutations arose as an instance applying across word division, of course. It wouldn’t help at all to describe modern Welsh mutations via a system of virtual final vowels (say) on preceding words; apart from anything else, the system has got so altered by analogy over the centuries that you could scarcely make that work at all, and even if you did, the result would be quite different from any actual historical reality anyway. On the other hand, Thurneysen’s Old Irish grammar actually does use little superscript symbols at the ends of words to show what sort of mutation follows: the origin of the system was still recent enough at that stage for this still to be a perspicuous way of presenting the data.

  48. @David Eddyshaw: I don’t generally have a problem with art designed to carry a social-political message, although I think that authors often try to cram too much message into their works, to the ultimate detriment of the final product. Sometimes Le Guin was fairly successful with the messages in her writing, but other times she ended up overdoing it. (In what I have to say below, there are some spoilers, so anyone who has not read one or the others of the novels that I discuss may want to pass over some of what I have written without reading it.)

    Personally, I prefer The Lathe of Heaven to The Dispossessed by a wide margin. Part of that is definitely that The Lathe of Heaven is better if you know your way around Oregon and (old) Portland specifically. However, even without all the little geographical bonuses that I got when reading it, I would absolutely like The Lathe of Heaven better. There is a sort of message to The Lathe of Heaven, but there is a sort of message to almost any work of fiction that attempts an honest exploration of human nature. In The Lathe of Heaven, the message arises naturally out of the story. Occasionally, Le Guin’s narration makes explicit pronouncements; one I remember prominently is that while there were many versions of Heather, none of them—not George’s lawyer, nor his wife—could continue to exist when her ethnicity became impossible; Heather’s African-American background was too basic to her existence. However, even this pronouncement really only makes sense contingently, within the specific fictional reality of the story; so it does not come across as too preachy.

    In contrast, The Dispossessed seems to be trying way too hard to make a point. Even if it is advertised as a tale of an ambiguous utopia, the viewpoint the narration invokes is too one-sided to make that “ambiguous” seem like an honest self-assessment. In fact, I feel like the story almost falls apart completely near the end, around the point when the protagonist commits his sexual assault.* The reader is seemingly expected to blame the decadence of the capitalist Urrasti society (and perhaps the general frailty of human nature) for what Shevek does, but that seems extremely problematic.** After that episode, however, the story degenerates further, and the implied comparison between Annares and A-Io becomes so morally one-sided that it seems practically pointless. For much of the story, we see Shevek visiting a nation-state that, while it definitely has some distinct cultural issues, seems to be recognizably similar to the contemporary Earth’s Cold War West. Annares versus A-Io feels like a potentially fair comparison to make, up until the later state turns out to be a murderous, fascistic, oligarchic, military regime. Suddenly all the nuance found earlier in the story is rendered moot. This makes the book’s message quite clear, but the strongest narrative support for the message feels like it was produced by illegitimate literary cheating.

    * Things are further complicated by that fact that Le Guin evidently changed her ideas about the role that sexuality would play in the story part way through, and she never completely revised the earliest chapters of the books to make them align perfectly with the rest of the story.

    ** It is naturally difficult to write a convincingly relatable protagonist who also engages in sexual assault. However, we can compare how Stephen R. Donaldson handled a protagonist who commits a rape near the beginning of Lord Foul’s Bane. Within the setting of The Land,*** what Covenant does is clearly several degrees worse than what Shevek does in The Dispossessed; and although the physical circumstances that cause the men to loose control are qualitatively similar, through Donaldson’s entire original trilogy, there is never any suggestion that (according to the moral calculus of The Land***) the blame for the crime has to fall on Covenant—even if he being heavily manipulated by Lord Foul.

    *** Of course, the strongest defense of Covenant’s actions is he believes the whole thing to be a hallucination. I have noted previously that I do not actually think that Donaldson’s ontology of what constitutes real versus unreal is actually consistent.****

    **** Apparently, contrary to what I recently wrote, I do sometimes use a slightly more complicated footnote graph topology, with the same footnote (as *** above) referenced in multiple locations.

  49. Thank you both.

    The question as you put it, David, “where you decide to draw an (arbitrary) border between phonetics and phonology” is at the crux of it. If all I was doing was describing a language and wanted to write it down for the first time, my inclination would be to ignore the phonology entirely, be phonetically precise, and let future phonologists argue about what the proper abstractions are, and what of them should be part of te transcription. Where it gets tough is when you try to come up with a practical orthography, even more so when it’s for second-language learners. Would readers be prompted to correct pronunciation more by <aya> or by <aia>?

    This reminds me of the search for Hawai‘i. Linguists have since the early 19th century been trying to figure out the etymology of it and its cognates (Savai’i in Sāmoa, etc.), used all over East Polynesia as the name of an ancestral land, but no satisfactory etymologies have suggested themselves until in 1996 Melenaite Taumoefolau, a Tongan linguist, noticed that Proto-Polynesian *sau ‘ariki, a chiefly title, fit the bill. The supposed simplicity of Polynesian phonology had more than a century tripped linguists who looked for cognates of -wa-, not of -ua-.

  50. *redface* That German proverb whooshed right over my head, I should’ve looked it up.

    I don’t think Le Guin’s purpose in The Lathe of Heaven was to deliver a message, I think it was to write a Philip K. Dick novel, and the messageyness just grows out of the story. However, I don’t think anything in the story is the narrator’s explicit pronouncement: everything is from one character or another’s point of view. The passage about how Heather couldn’t exist in the world of gray people says explicitly “That’s why she’s not here, he [George] thought.” Obviously he’s meant to be right, but it’s still George’s voice saying it.

    The one that’s top-heavy and capsizes under its message is “The Word for World Is Forest”, imho.

  51. Roberto, yes. I was just disagreeng with that [i]-[j] are analogous to [i]-[ɪ]. There is huge asymmetry in distribution of English phonemes and sounds. No wonder that one pair is more confusing for Y.

    “sh/j/t” stood for “asymmetry”

    But you are right, practically it is a position where both [i] and [j] are possible that can also have something confusing in it. [i ~ j]. Perhaps, Italian /iɛ/ and /je/.consistently sound very differently.

  52. David Eddyshaw says:

    (arbitrary) border between phonetics and phonology

    On reflection, I think I’m in danger of overstating the case in putting it like that. Misstating it, to be honest. Some sort of border between the two is absolutely essential: it’s impossible to describe any aspect of a language, including its sound system, without fairly massive abstraction. Furthermore, the great majority of the allocation of sounds into phonemes in any given language is entirely unproblematic.

    More to the point, the problematic boundary is not so much the one between phonetics and phonology as the one between both of those and morphosyntax. Things like treating h aspiré as an actual phoneme are out of the question if your linguistic dogma forbids allowing higher-level phenomena (like the form of the article in this case) to interfere with your phonemicisation. [And you will be accused of Absolute Neutralisation and be absolutely neutralised.]

    There is no reason a priori to adopt such a ban, unless you’re some sort of Chomskyite* who believes that the Master has given us a revelation of How Human Language Works; nevertheless, there could be wholly practical reasons for adopting such a ban. It might be done purely to simplify the dauntingly complex task of grammar-writing, on the grounds that the task is actually beyond our poor monkey brains unless it is artificially segmented into wholly distinct subtasks; or it might even turn out that a hermetic separation between phonology and morphosyntax is a fruitful approach, frequently leading to new insights into the structure of newly described languages – insights which would have been lost if one had taken the illegitimate shortcut of allowing the levels to bleed into one another.

    No prizes for guessing whether I think that is actually the case; but it could be the case. In principle, the matter could be settled empirically.

    *It’s not just Chomskyites**, to be fair. Lots of schools prioritise theory over data, and to be even fairer, you have to do that to some extent even to get started. You can’t begin without abstracting away from some of the facts. It’s what you do next that matters.

    **Come to that, The Sound Pattern of English is an egregious example of not adopting the dogma that Absolute Neutralisation is streng verboten. Don’t know if ANC subsequently repudiated this; I suspect not, his usual modus operandi being the retcon, i.e. claiming that all his previous work is compatible with his later work if correctly interpreted. But I don’t think that positing unobservable entities would have bothered him very much at any stage of his intellectual progress anyway.

  53. Suddenly all the nuance found earlier in the story is rendered moot. This makes the book’s message quite clear, but the strongest narrative support for the message feels like it was produced by illegitimate literary cheating.

    Damn. I’ve been wanting to reread it for years — I loved it decades ago — but now I’m afraid to.

  54. @ktschwarz: I definitely agree that the message of The Lathe of Heaven arises organically out of the story. I had not thought that the plotting of the book was so reminiscent of something that might have been written by Dick, although now that you mention it, I definitely see the similarity. I wonder whether the author saw the likeness to Dick’s work herself. And I guess I just misremembered how the necessity of Heather’s absence was explained in the story; I remembered if feeling like an authorial pronouncement at the time, even if it was apparently mediated through George’s thoughts.

    Like languagehat with The Dispossessed, I loved The Word for World is Forest when I read it in college,* but I am a bit leery of rereading it, since I expect it will feel pretty heavy handed the second time around. Even the first time, there were parts of it that seemed really over the top, like how the Terrans are constantly doped up on hallucinogens, and how Selver is repeatedly identified as a new kind of Athshean god. The flatness of the (stereotypically scarred) villain also might also seem more of a problem on a second reading. Even the first time I read the book, he seemed a lot less frightening than Dr. Haber from The Lathe of Heaven.

    * In college, having access at MIT to the world’s largest public collection of science fiction and fantasy, I took the opportunity to read a lot of it. Picking and choosing novels to check out was often the biggest challenge, although there were plenty of resources (including a database of “good” books kept by the MIT Science Fiction Society itself). One of the resources I used was Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials;** since I like science fiction with interesting aliens, I used that to help me pick out interesting books to read. The inclusion of the Athsheans in Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials was what prompted me to read it first (or maybe second) among Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle novels. Similarly, that was why my introduction to van Vogt was via his best novel, The Voyage of the Space Beagle. Other books that I picked up specifically based on Barlowe’s implied recommendation included The Gods Themselves, Fire Time,*** Ensign Flandry, Midnight at the Well of Souls, The Dosadi Experiment, The Legion of Space, and Solaris.

    ** I found the subsequent Barlowe’s Guide to Fantasy a lot less interesting, primarily, I think, because so many of the illustrated entries are of humans or humanoids. I thought the cavewight was also extremely poorly rendered.

    *** Fire Time was probably the second novel I read by Poul Anderson, and it definitely introduced me to Anderson’s tendency to wrap his stories up far too quickly. Having laid out a fascinating setting and introduced creative plot elements, he has a tendency to end things in a surge of immense violence, without having followed up on many of the most interesting questions he has introduced.

  55. David Marjanović says:

    I’m way too tired tonight to do this thread justice, so here are just the most urgent responses:

    Sorry for springing the full load of IPA on everyone. In properly proper IPA, [ai] is a sequence of two syllables; the “inverted breve underneath”, as in [ai̯] or [i̯a], is used to mark vowels as subsyllabic, i.e. as a part of a di- or triphthong that is not a syllable nucleus. (…Whether it’s always possible to decide which part of a diphthong, let alone triphthong, is the syllable nucleus is another question. People who say no use the tie bar to transcribe diphthongs, as in [a͡i]; this has a tradition for German, where, funnily enough, it’s painfully obvious that it’s always the first part of any diphthong that is the syllable nucleus.)

    What I’m trying to say is that there is a phonetic difference that is best transcribed as [i̯] vs. [j]. Diphthongs in [i̯] are all over West Germanic, closed syllables in [j] are all over Slavic, and these are very easy to tell apart by listening.

    The trick is on the phonological level: there don’t seem to be any forms of human language that contain both of these things and contrast them as separate phonemes, except Central Franconian. (And most phoneticists and phonologists seem to be blissfully unaware of Central Franconian. The dialects of Cologne and Maastricht may not be spoken on Malaria Mountain in the Jungle of Madness, but they might as well be, it seems.) Whether you analyze the mainstream English PRICE vowel, phonetically [ɑɪ̯], as a diphthong phoneme /ai̯/ or as a vowel-plus-consonant sequence /aj/ doesn’t seem to matter much for which gets you the neater analysis of the sound system as a whole.

    Incidentally, there is at least one report of languages with [a̯i]-type diphthongs whose subsyllabic parts can hardly be explained as consonant phonemes. I’ve had the PDF for at least ten years, but never got around to reading it. Maybe tomorrow…

    Romanian, where ia and ea are phonetically distinct, but ua and oa are not

    The WP article, which is all I know about it, makes them /ja/, /e̯a/, /o̯a/, /wa/ respectively, pretty much as written.

    That’s the prescriptive standard. According to the linked paper, people pronounce ia and ea measurably differently and also have no trouble telling them apart in recordings, while for ua and oa they’re reduced to random guessing. Seeing as ua is pretty much limited to French loans, while ia, ea and oa are all native and common, that’s not surprising.

    *sau ‘ariki

    …so why isn’t it Hawali‘i?

    The only hypothesis I knew is that it’s from hāwai, “to steam like when you pour water on a stove”, and -‘i, “the place where”. Semantically that’s perfect; I have no idea if vowel length is supposed to go up in a puff of smoke like that (in this kind of derivation or anywhere).

    Also… how come Hawaiian is fine with such words as Kaua‘i?

  56. What I’m trying to say is that there is a phonetic difference that is best transcribed as [i̯] vs. [j].

    But it is nothing like [j] and [ʝ]. The latter is fricative and you know it by its hissing sound. It can even be a syllable nucleus, but it will remain [ʝ], because it is fricative.

    /a͡i/ /ai̯/ /aj/ must have phonetic correlates, but as long as we define everything in terms of syllables, we are speaking phonology and prosody. These are “under construction” for any given langauge. You can’t expect two native speakers to hear the same thing everywhere.

    PS descriptions are “under construction”, not phonologies.

  57. Diphthongs in [i̯] are all over West Germanic, closed syllables in [j] are all over Slavic, and these are very easy to tell apart by listening.

    But these are also different languages. Why is German Mai necessarily /mai̯/ and not /maj/, phonetically speaking?

    …so why isn’t it Hawali‘i?

    The /r/ loss is sporadic, but is witnessed in this case in Tongan hou ’eiki. The hypothesis is that it was borrowed from an early stage of Tongan into Proto Nuclear Polynesian. In fact it forms a doublet in Hawaiian, alongside auali‘i ‘royal, chiefly’ (Why *s>∅? I don’t know. Maybe an early borrowing from something like Tahitian hauari’i ‘kingly government’, before Hawaiian dropped the h.)

    hāwai-‘i is pretty wild. I haven’t heard of this one before. is a variant of the causative ha‘a~ho‘o < *faka, plus wai ‘water’, so hāwai means, roughly ‘to water’ (Pukui and Elbert’s dictionary lists one occurrence, in a description, written down in the 19th century, of how to make an earth oven.) The cognates in other languages would look quite different. I don’t know where that locative comes from. Plus semantically ‘the place of watering’ is utterly arbitrary unless you have a good story to explain it.

    Also… how come Hawaiian is fine with such words as Kaua‘i?
    That’s a tough question. The answers are, sometimes you can’t tell if the glide is phonemic or secondary; sometimes you can tell in slow deliberate speech but not in fast speech; sometimes you can tell when the reflex of *w isn’t a glide, e.g. in those varieties of Hawaiian in which it is [v] or [ʋ].

  58. John Cowan says:

    In contrast, The Dispossessed seems to be trying way too hard to make a point.

    Le Guin herself said that the sound of axes being ground is occasionally audible. She also said this:

    The origin of my book The Dispossessed was equally clear [as the origin of LHoD], but it got very muddled before it ever became clear again. It too began with a person, seen much closer to, this time, and with intense vividness: a man, this time, a scientist, a physicist in fact I saw the face more clearly than usual, a thin face, large clear eyes, and large ears—these, I think, may have come from a childhood memory of Robert Oppenheimer as a young man. But more vivid than any visual detail was the personality, which was more attractive—attractive, I mean, as a flame to a moth. There, there he is, I have got to get there this time…

    My first effort to catch him was a short story. I should have known he was much too big for a short story. It’s a writer’s business to develop an infallible sense for the proper size and length of a work; the beauty of the novella and the novel is essentially architectural, the beauty of proportion. It was a really terrible story, one of the worst I have written in thirty years of malpractice. This scientist was escaping from a sort of prison-camp planet, a stellar Gulag, and he gets to the rich comfortable spoiled sister planet, and finally can’t stand it despite a love affair there, and so re-escapes and goes back to the Gulag, sadly but nobly. Nobly but feeblemindedly. Oh, it was a stupid story. All the metaphors were mixed. I hadn’t got anywhere near him. I’d missed him by so far, in fact, that I hadn’t damaged him at all. There he stood, quite untouched. Catch me if you can!”

    All right. All right, what’s-your-name. What is your name, by the way? Shevek, he told me promptly. All right, Shevek. So who are you? His answer was less certain this time. I think, he said, that I am a citizen of Utopia.

    Very well. That sounded reasonable. There was something so decent about him, he was so intelligent and yet so disarmingly naïve, the he might well come from a better place than this.

    (from the Pig)

    She must have realized the paradox of her writing a book to achieve an end (communicating a Taoist message).

    But she did not: she wrote it to tell us about Jor Jor, the Man in the Middle.

    I have nothing against novels of ideas.

    Good, because whereas The Dispossessed is, her other books are not. Because they are sf and fantasy, they use ideas to tell stories. LHoD is about what it is to be a traitor and what it is to keep faith, not about The Problem of Gender and how to solve it. The Telling is about stories and storytellers, not about the destruction of Taoism-the-religion at the hand of the Chinese government, though that was the inspiration for it. Or as she says about another author: what kind of solution is it to the Problem of Evil to drop a magic ring into a volcano?

  59. @John Cowan: A longer version of that quote:

    Those who fault Tolkien on the Problem of Evil are usually those who have an answer to the Problem of Evil—which he did not. What kind of answer, after all, is it to drop a magic ring into an imaginary volcano?

    I suspect Moorcock was among those who she felt believed (with enormous self regard) themselves to have solved the Problem of Evil, thus justifying their criticism of Tolkien.

  60. building on JC’s comment:

    le guin (like delany, russ, and a few others) is remarkable partly because of her commitment to thinking and writing about what she was trying to do in her work, and what she thinks about it, with a few years or decades perspective. she did not have a high opinion of her early work (including Left Hand, the Dispossessed, Forest, and a lot of the other books that get talked about the most). but that’s largely about her (self-described) inability to write women as people at that point, not because of the relationship between the ‘literary’ and ‘political’ aspects of the work – as if those are separable things!

    Even the first time, there were parts of it that seemed really over the top, like how the Terrans are constantly doped up on hallucinogens, and how Selver is repeatedly identified as a new kind of Athshean god.

    i want to point out that these are the least fictional parts of the novel! le guin doesn’t announce it in an author’s note the way atwood does about the details of The Handmaid’s Tale – but that’s because she’s an actual sf writer, not a Literary Author embarassed to be slumming.

    the former is a constant in the military practice of colonizing and imperial armies, from the british navy (using rum), to the nazi military (using amphetamines), to the u.s. in viet nam (a wide variety of substances). i assume there are papers out there on the practice with our PIE-speaking horsemen (using alcohol, cannabis, soma, or whatever)…

    and the latter comes (through the cultural specifics of the book’s ethnographic lens) from an equally commonplace pattern in resistance to colonization & imperialism. depending on the cultural context, you get prophets, saints, avatars, divinely annointed kings, or full-on deities (which aren’t exactly distinct categories once you look at the details) just about everywhere you have a conquest.

  61. David Eddyshaw says:

    but that’s because she’s an actual sf writer, not a Literary Author embarassed to be slumming.

    Preach it, Sister!

  62. @rozele: To be clear, I wasn’t suggesting that those particular plot elements were over-the-top unrealistic, but that they were so very obviously present to support the story’s intended message.

    I’m not convinced that Le Guin was so unable to write female characters early in her career. I think Takver, for example, is the most interesting character in The Dispossessed. That is not to say that some of her early writing did not seem startlingly sexist—especially A Wizard of Earthsea; and although The Tombs of Atuan is a female-centered novel, it still has some readily apparent weaknesses in the construction of its female characters. The author’s dissatisfaction with her earlier work eventually led her write Tehanu, which I think is, contra to what John Cowan said, very much intended to be a “novel of ideas” about the Problem of Gender, even if the relationship to the real-world Problem of Gender is sometimes only metaphorical.

    Of course, Tehanu was just one more development in Le Guin’s often-changing conception of what kind of world the Earthsea she was writing about really was. Although the first three novels are famed for presenting a kind of fantasy world that was hardly to be found in earlier fiction (especially fiction for children)—with Iron Age technology and generally swarthy heroes—earlier on, Le Guin used the setting for a soft parody of a very conventional western fantasy. “The Rule of Names” features virgin-eating dragons and a decidedly hobbitish primary viewpoint character, who is diminutive, lives underground, and dines on fried bacon and liver (with the parody component coming from the fact that this character is actually the villain).

  63. Roberto Batisti says:

    i assume there are papers out there on the practice with our PIE-speaking horsemen (using alcohol, cannabis, soma, or whatever)…

    In the middle of a 1995 paper by the esteemed Indo-Europeanist George Dunkel — discussing possible Mycenaean survivals in 1st-millennium Greek and the reflex of *-oNs-/*-osN- clusters — there is a whole paragraph devoted to PIE drug-use. That passage is all the more wonderful as it utterly unrelated to the main theme of the paper.

  64. @Brett: i didn’t think you were being dismissive – i’m just always fascinated by the ways that things that are part of our everyday world (like psychoactives as a central part of imperial military discipline, or direct divine inspiration for armed resistance) can be received as exotic when we encounter them in an sf context. it’s part of what makes me find samuel delany’s analysis of sf & fantasy as structures of reading (rather than thematic genres) so compelling…

    and while i think more highly of early le guin than she sometimes sounded like she did, her self-criticism is generally solid. i think the differences are clearest with the minor characters: between, say, ged’s hedge-witch aunt in A Wizard of Earthsea and aunty moss in Tehanu and The Other Wind… and her parodic eye stayed crisp all the way through (“The Rule of Names” is pretty delicious!)…

    @Roberto: i’ll have to go look for it!

  65. David Marjanović says:

    DM: “Consider science. Some Standard English accents consistently use [j] in it, most consistently don’t, and I find the difference quite noticeable.”

    Is this what you’re noticing, or something else?

    Something else: [ɑɪ̯] vs. [ɑɪ̯j] before the second vowel.

    “You’re Einstein, sir! I mean you’re the E to the m c squarrrred! Like a double-clock-speed microchip, sir! We’re number one in SCIYENCE!!!”
    – the Science Advisor in Civilization II if you’ve been playing well. Also, one of the LLoggers transcribes his own speech that way.

    Why is German Mai necessarily /mai̯/ and not /maj/, phonetically speaking?

    You say “phonetically”, but use phonemic notation (slashes instead of brackets). Which do you mean?

    Phonetically, if you say [maj] in German, you have a strong Slavic accent, and everybody will notice. That’s what I’m talking about.

    hāwai means, roughly ‘to water’ (Pukui and Elbert’s dictionary lists one occurrence, in a description, written down in the 19th century, of how to make an earth oven.)

    …Oh.

    Looks like somebody read that description, misunderstood the word, and came up with the story…

  66. Well, then, [mai̯] vs. [maj]. I don’t understand what you mean by “a strong Slavic accent”, in other words what is the articulatory distinction you draw bretween i̯ and j? As far as official IPA usage goes, I think the distinction between these two symbols is fundamentally phonemic, not phonetic. One is a half a nucleus, one is a coda. They may be pronounced differently, but the IPA doesn’t say if and how.

  67. My error: the loss of Proto Polynesian *r in *ʔariki > Tongan ’eiki is not sporadic, but regular.

  68. David Marjanović says:

    They may be pronounced differently, but the IPA doesn’t say if and how.

    One is a vowel, the other is an approximant.

    That’s the same quality and quantity of difference as that between the approximant [j] and the fricative [ʝ], or the voiceless approximant [l̥] as in Lhasa and the voiceless fricative [ɬ].

    The only reason to deny the difference is the phonological fact that only Central Franconian distinguishes the two as (parts of) separate phonemes. Phonetically, “they’re all as different as A from B” (Henry Higgins).

  69. Roberto Batisti says:

    Phonetically, if you say [maj] in German, you have a strong Slavic accent, and everybody will notice. That’s what I’m talking about.

    Isn’t the difference due to the fact that in (Standard) German “/ai/” is actually [ae̯], so that [ai̯] with a truly high second element would stand out?

    Not that I can’t tell the difference between [mai] and [maj], but I would associate the latter with French maille. In fact, I have heard Francophone classicists pronounce the Greek ending -αι precisely as if it were French -aille, and the consonantal nature of the final sound was very noticeable. Is the Slavic-accented pronunciation of German /ai/ comparable to that?

  70. PlasticPaddy says:

    @dm
    Here is Verena Altenberger with what I suppose is her natural Austrian accent (and dialect).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbdOfi2_7cg
    When she plays Magda, what I hear in the /ai/ words is more the Slavic a. Similarly here (content is rather robust):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AyPTyDczdU

  71. David Eddyshaw says:

    There are several distinct issues to disentangle in this.

    Firstly: what is a diphthong?
    The standard definition is that it’s a sequence of vowels which belong to only one syllable. This is already a can of worms, as “syllable” inhabits an uneasy interzone between phonetic and phonemic and the actual demarcation of syllables in any given language is often problematic, with peculiar edge cases. It generally turns out that the language you know best is the one in which it’s hardest to come up with an airtight definition of “syllable” … (I recall a paper by a German speaker pointing out that German is unique among the world’s languages in this regard.)

    Rapidly moving along, the next question is: how can a vowel be non- or sub-syllabic?
    The usual definition of the inverted breve symbol is that it marks a non-syllabic vowel, but there is actually more than one way that this can come about in phonetic terms:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semivowel

    Although a reduced-salience vowel in a diphthong may be higher than its corresponding “normal” vowel, it ain’t necessarily so; it may or may not have more friction; it may be shorter, but this is not universal either: languages may have diphthongs of one, two or three morae. Kusaal has diphthongs of both one and two morae with e.g. a constrast between the sequences both written au in gbauŋ [g͡baʊ̯ŋ] “skin” and maŋgauŋ [maŋgaʊŋ] “crab” (where I use the inverted breve to mean “non-moraic” rather than non-syllabic.) Kusaal also has three-mora sequences like [aʊ:] but there are good language-internal reasons for regarding these as disyllabic.

    The fact that German ai-diphthongs end in an approximant [j] whereas Slavic Vj sequences end in a fricative [ʝ] is thus a contingent fact about German rather than a manifestation of a linguistic universal that the less salient element of a diphthong is always an approximant.

  72. I recall a paper by a German speaker pointing out that German is unique among the world’s languages in this regard.

    I’m beginning to think people should be forbidden from trying to analyze their own languages. (One benefit is that it would rid the world of Chomskyism.)

  73. David Eddyshaw says:

    The onlooker sees more of the game …

    I think the real problem is that in analysing your own language there is a huge temptation to resort to introspection, which a terrible way of trying to ascertain the facts even regarding your own idiolect. Some of us are strong enough to resist the temptation, but perhaps even they should be told: No, it’s too perilous.

  74. David Marjanović says:

    Isn’t the difference due to the fact that in (Standard) German “/ai/” is actually [ae̯], so that [ai̯] with a truly high second element would stand out?

    [e̯] is a deliberately artificial feature of stage pronunciation that is not used anywhere except on famous stages. You’re still right that the second element is usually more [ɪ̯] than [i̯]; but [i̯] is within the observed range. Behold Homer Simpson saying “d’oh” in German 12 times; almost all of these contain [i̯].

    Verena Altenberger with what I suppose is her natural Austrian accent (and dialect).

    (Lots of code-switching.)

    The clips from the movie are all cut out, so we only get to hear one sentence in her Polish accent; that contains only one ei, and there I can’t tell if it ends in [i̯] or [j].

    Similarly here (content is rather robust):

    As funny as that is, I think it’s all fake; the ei in there is a downright Austrian [ɛɪ̯].

    Not that I can’t tell the difference between [mai] and [maj], but I would associate the latter with French maille. In fact, I have heard Francophone classicists pronounce the Greek ending -αι precisely as if it were French -aille, and the consonantal nature of the final sound was very noticeable. Is the Slavic-accented pronunciation of German /ai/ comparable to that?

    Exactly.

    (I’m not sure how universal that is within French, but it’s definitely common.)

    which belong to only one syllable. This is already a can of worms

    Yes, but not so much at the end of a word or if enough consonants follow.

    (And although I haven’t read most of the literature on that, I don’t find syllables harder to define in German than in, say, English. But when you try to describe all Standard German accents as a single sound system, you run into trouble and have to contrive such things as ambisyllabic consonants.)

    Semivowel

    That’s a useful concept in phonology (for many languages), but not for comparative phonetics, where it serves instead to obscure differences.

    it ain’t necessarily so; it may or may not have more friction; it may be shorter, but this is not universal either:

    Yes, yes, yes! 🙂

    is thus a contingent fact about German rather than a manifestation of a linguistic universal that the less salient element of a diphthong is always an approximant.

    We seem to be in violent agreement – my point is exactly that glossing over these contingent facts as if they didn’t exist loses something.

    (…though my claim is that the German ones end in vowels, the Slavic ones in [j]. And I prefer to reserve “diphthong” for those that end in vowels.)

  75. David Eddyshaw says:

    the former [being doped up on hallucinogens] is a constant in the military practice of colonizing and imperial armies

    This ties in neatly with my longstanding observation that ethnic groups prone to conquering their neighbours speak SOV languages (all exceptions can be shown by Transformational Grammar to be merely apparent exceptions.)

    The mechanism is now clear: the speakers are so out of their heads that they forget about the verb, which if present at all is tacked on at the end in what is clearly an afterthought construction.

  76. David Marjanović says:

    My dialect goes completely overboard with afterthought constructions. I should assume my grandma’s maiden name Hintersteininger, listen to the Russian impfederal anthem a few times and go conquer Siberia or something.

    (And resurrect that Wikipedia, ебьона мать.)

  77. Siberia is like Afghanistan or Texas: you can place it under your jurisdiction, but you can’t conquer it.

  78. David Marjanović says:

    Bummer.

  79. John Cowan says:

    The onlooker sees more of the game

    But there is an equal and opposite proverb, “The toad beneath the harrow knows / where every separate tooth-point goes.” A recurring theme of my comments at Academia.edu is “Y’know, English does that [bizarre language thing] too if you look at it like this.” Or as I said about Germans being indigenous to Germany, some things are just too large to notice.

  80. David Eddyshaw says:

    “The toad beneath the harrow knows / where every separate tooth-point goes.”

    Not for long enough to have time to publish, though.

  81. First of all, here’s the pronunciation of Mandarin 毛, máo (as in Zedong). The word is, beyond question, monosyllabic. But is there any reason to write it /mao̯/ and not /mao/, if there’s no reason to confuse it with a disyllable? Phonetically speaking, the stable part of the /o/ is only slightly shorter than that of the /a/, and since it isn’t a high vowel, the approximant/vowel issue doesn’t apply.

    I’d like to know if we all could agree on the following:
    1. Some languages distinguish phonetically between V₁V₂ and V₁V̯₂. Some languages don’t.
    2. In languages that don’t, the V̯ notation is necessary in fewer circumstances.
    3. In languages that do, if the articulatory differences between V₁V₂ and V₁V̯₂ can be represented by the IPA, e.g. as [ai] vs. [aj̞̆] or [aĭ] (and vs. [aj]), that might be more helpful in some circumstances.
    4. In languages that do, if the articulatory differences can’t be easily represented by the IPA, it’s better to use the V̯ notation, with the understanding that its phonetic realization is language dependent, and that you might not be able to produce it correctly based on the IPA alone.
    5. Even if the V/V̯ difference in articulatory distinction can be expressed by IPA phonetic notation, V̯ may be more convenient, again given that we know what what it means for the language in question.

    How about it?

  82. @Y: You get a one card penalty for discussing the pronunciation of “Mao.”

  83. David Marjanović says:

    But is there any reason to write it /mao̯/ and not /mao/, if there’s no reason to confuse it with a disyllable?

    This is a question about Mandarin phonology, not one about phonetics. Phonetics, what it actually sounds like, is what I’m talking about; I’m not talking about how the language treats this sequence of sounds.

    For the sake of completeness, what I hear here is [mäɔ̯]: there’s a phonetic diphthong that starts with an unrounded open central vowel*, has that as its nucleus (louder and even longer than the other part), and ends with an open-mid rounded back vowel. How I analyze it, as a fan of two-vowel interpretations of the Mandarin sound system like this one, is /maw/, with a phoneme /w/ at the end that happens to have vowels as its syllable-final allophones. The “actual” vowel phoneme is still central, but that’s a contingent, uninteresting fact that doesn’t need to be spelled out once you know it’s Mandarin.

    It goes farther. A widespread nonstandard pronunciation of ao is just [ɑ], giving those accents a phonemic contrast between the unrounded open central and the unrounded open back vowel. By the analysis I linked to, even this [mɑ] is still /maw/ on the phonemic level – in Mandarin, not necessarily (or likely) anywhere else.

    * For French reasons, the IPA long ago made the unfortunate decision to use the symbol [a] for the unrounded open front vowel that is much less common worldwide than the central one. The central one can’t even be spelled unambiguously; I’ve slapped the diacritic that means “centralized” (not necessarily “central”) on the symbol for the front one because I happen to have that ready-made on my keyboard.

    You get a one card penalty for discussing the pronunciation of “Mao.”

    …but it just means “hair”… 🙂

  84. Roberto Batisti says:

    * For French reasons, the IPA long ago made the unfortunate decision to use the symbol [a] for the unrounded open front vowel that is much less common worldwide than the central one. The central one can’t even be spelled unambiguously; I’ve slapped the diacritic that means “centralized” (not necessarily “central”) on the symbol for the front one because I happen to have that ready-made on my keyboard.

    In fact, I stubbornly refuse to use [a] for anything else than an unrounded open central vowel. It is my impression that many, if not most, professional linguists actually do the same. I do encounter [ä] from time to time, and it always takes a second to remember what it is supposed to stand for.

  85. There’s a logic in using a plain symbol for the end-members, however rare, if that’s what was guiding them. The rounded equivalent ɶ is even rarer.

  86. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Then what do you use for C4? 😀

    [a̟]?

  87. Roberto Batisti says:

    Yes, I’d rather use a diacritic for the rarer sound. But I think that in most contexts [æ] will do – until everybody switches to canIPA, that is…

    @ Y: indeed, [ɶ] is even rarer, but at least it doesn’t usurp the symbol of a similar but typologically much more common sound. 😉

  88. David Marjanović says:

    in most contexts [æ] will do –

    Sounds quite different to me; at least use [æ̞]…?

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