WAMPANOAG REVIVAL.

A few years ago I did a post about the pronunciation of the tribal name Wampanoag that wound up (thanks to reader Martin) discussing revival efforts as well; now Martin sends me a link to a very interesting Technology Review article by Jeffrey Mifflin on the revival, covering the ground from John Eliot’s 1663 Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe up-Biblum God naneeswe Nukkone Testament kah wonk Wusku Testament [Entire Holy his-Bible God both Old Testament and also New Testament], the first Bible published in Ameri­ca, to three-year-old Mae Alice, “the first native speaker of Wôpanâak for seven generations.” It’s well worth the read, and I hope there are many more such revivals.

Comments

  1. david waugh says:

    They could have taught the little girl a useful second language instead of this mummified half-understood nonsense. I don’t approve of children being made into cultural or linguistic museum-pieces. Has anybody more than a rough idea of how this language was pronounced? How badly distorted was its syntax etc. by the effort of translating a book which is the product of an utterly alien culture? It’s sad that languages die out but they do and once they’re dead they’re dead.

  2. mollymooly says:

    Aw, shucks, david. Let’s wait till Mae Alice is grown up and then ask her what she thinks about it.

  3. SnowLeopard says:

    Given the passage of time and the distortions that probably occurred during the reconstruction process, is this really the revival of a dead language or the birth of a new language inspired by historical antecedents? I guess I could see arguments either way, since we have no way to guess how the language would have changed over time if it’d survived.

  4. David Marjanović says:

    See, this is why I don’t regret staying up till after half past 2 at night.
    As for “useful second language”, she’ll most likely find Klingon easier than most of the rest of us! (Well, and French — nasal vowels.)

  5. SnowyLeopard: the same might be said of Israeli Hebrew.

  6. Or of Cornish.

  7. SnowLeopard says:

    John Cowan: I was thinking about that. And since we have no facts supporting either view, suggesting the language isn’t “authentic”, whatever that means, would probably just rile people unnecessarily.

  8. @david waugh, any complaints about hebrew while you’re at it?

  9. @david waugh:
    furthermore, if you took the time to read the article you might have noticed:
    And Baird is raising her three-year-old daughter, Mae Alice, to be bilingual, making her the first native speaker of Wôpanâak for seven generations. Teaching her people to speak and read Wôpanâak, she says, “is like taking care of your family.”
    nique ta mére, david waugh.

  10. Soyez sages, les enfants! David didn’t say anything to warrant that kind of insult. Please try to argue civilly.

  11. The article cited links to another article that explains the process Prof. Richards and the project are following for the dictionary a little more carefully.
    Ms. Baird’s Masters thesis gives a sense of the reconstructed grammar. Ken Hale’s principle of training native speakers as linguists will have to wait for Mae Alice or her peers (a primary school is in the works) to grow up and show an interest. But as for dedication to the enterprise, keep in mind that it is 15 years old already.
    As well as EEBO, which is mentioned in the second article (which truthfully explains that the rare Bible is only consulted when the scan is imperfect), the Eliot Bible and the Logick Primer and several other works are in Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans (1639-1800). For instance, if you have a BPL card, you have online access.
    Note that textual sources are not limited to the Bible, which being a translation might indeed have odd characteristics. Eliot really did start a tradition of native literacy. Goddard and Bragdon, Native Writings in Massachusett gathers over 150 documents of various sorts from the 1660′s through the 1750′s.
    As for the pronunciation, one of the clues is spelling variation among literate native speakers, who perceived it according to their own phonemes, rather than in terms of English like Eliot. Some example are given in “Native Writing Systems” in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 17: Languages
    Here is a longer bibliography of New England Algonquian languages.
    Just as an American or Indian Chinese restaurant may not serve food like any restaurant in China, but is no more different from them than they are from one another, I suspect the reconstructed language, though not the same as was ever spoken or what it would have become if native speaking had not ceased in the 19th century, is still a form of Wôpanâak.

  12. A recent book written by two Native Americans discusses many aspects of Wampanoag language. A Cultural History of the Native Peoples of Southern New England: Voices from Past and Present contains three appendices on the language – all from a Native perspective. Very informative.

  13. Very interesting indeed—thanks, Wr!

  14. david waugh says:

    I am grateful to Madame l for adding a word to my French vocabulary. You don’t revive a language by teaching it to one child. We each learnt our native language from the community we live in, not just from our mothers. What happens to the children of immigrants? Most have only a poor knowledge of their parents’ language.
    Hebrew is, so far, the only example of a successfully revived dead language and is likely to remain unique. Cornish is very much the affair of a small bunch of enthusiasts and the vocabulary etc. is completely inauthentic, having had to be extrapolated from even more exiguous remains than Wampanoag.

  15. lirelou says:

    There is nothing sad about the demise of a language. Rather, it’s speakers take up another language which often opens the doors to greater social and economic advancement. That said, I am sure some worthy is working on reviving the English of Chaucer’s day, before it became so horribly mangled by Shakespeare, Marlowe, and other scriveners of their ilk.

  16. michael farris says:

    lirelou, that may be true if the only (or at least overwhelming) concern is money and “social advancement”.
    Those whose priorities differ would probably disagree.

  17. “There is nothing sad about the demise of a language. Rather, its speakers take up another language which often opens the doors to greater social and economic advancement.”
    If this is true, why doesn’t the whole world just learn Chinese and forget the rest?
    I would agree that in general, when a culture forgets the old language spoken by a few, and picks up a new, more widely spoken language, the new language generally opens doors to economic advancement. (Social advancement, I’m not sure what that is).
    But certainly something, a great deal, is lost whenever a language is lost, and that’s sad. If we all just learned Chinese, all of the world’s non-Chinese literature would “enjoyed” in translation only. That example seems absurd, but that’s what happens on a small scale when any language is lost.
    In the U.S., for the sake of economic, and I suppose “social” development, it was official policy to eradicate Native American languages by mandating education in English only on reservations, and that policy succeeded in wiping out many languages.
    By contrast, today in Papua New Guinea, which hosts more languages (some 830) than any other nation, children are schooled exclusively in their native language in the early grades, and only later begin to learn Tok Pisin, the lingua franca, and English. This policy has succeeded in stopping the loss of language diversity–only 10 of the country’s languages are extinct, according to Ethnologue–while offering opportunities for economic advancement.
    The enlightened goal should be to encourage multilingualism among speakers of threatened languages, not a complete switch to a more broadly-spoken language.

  18. @l.h.: sorry if i offended the rules of civility here, politesse not being my strong point.
    but the Fact remains that dw did not read the article, as is further illustrated by his later comment:
    I am grateful to Madame l for adding a word to my French vocabulary. You don’t revive a language by teaching it to one child. We each learnt our native language from the community we live in, not just from our mothers.
    no problem with the french, mon vieux, there’s plenty more where that came from. and most of that came from latin.
    you do revive a language by teaching it to a child, that is exactly how it has been done. a cursory internet search on eliezer ben-yehuda might be a good place to start.
    if you take the time to actually read the article you may notice that the community is interested in it and some are learning it.
    i happen to have been born to a 15 year old wampanoag girl from gay head and raised by jews in the boston area, so excuse me if i find your cavalier attitude ill-informed, pompous and tinged with racism, but i do. and the very idea that you haven’t even read the article in question infuriates me. how much did ya pay for your fancy schooling? you got robbed.
    don’t even get me started on irish. and if you want to call it gaelic, fine, but the irish call it irish.
    ayn farkuckt kleinigkeit.

  19. jamessal says:

    Madame:
    Last person to carry on in this joint after a warning ended up in the alley with broken thumbs. Word to the wise. ;-)

  20. To elaborate on Martin’s point:
    There is nothing sad about the demise of a language.
    Funny how you always hear that from people who speak a language which is under no threat of extinction whatsoever. I’m not sure how lirelou would feel should – God forbid! – his mother tongue find itself under threat from Chinese, Sorbian, Lojban, whatever.

  21. Has anybody more than a rough idea of how this language was pronounced? How badly distorted was its syntax etc. by the effort of translating a book which is the product of an utterly alien culture?
    Actually, yes Mike, we do.
    Collector: Gordon M. Day
    Date: May 3 1961
    Location: New Bedford, Mass
    Speaker: Chief Wild Horse
    Nation/language: Wampanoag
    Description: Recording of the last speaker of Wampanoag dialect, a medicine man of the Mashpee Division, Sagamore of the New England Federation of Indians, and a representative of the League of North American Indians.

    -the product of an utterly alien culture, where broken thumbs are not even commented on. BTW, the country club called, they want your brooks brothers whale pants back.

  22. my apologies, meant David, not Mike, not Evelyn nor Civil. your utterly alien white man names all sound the same, culturally, to me. you don’t know how sorry i am.
    i suppose i should be thanking you for rekindling my interest in the wampanoag language. do not hesitate to contact me if you need anymore nasty french.
    (nique ta mère, BTW, is a french rap group, but i doubt you’d understand them because they’ve made up a kind of new language utilizing a combination of verlan and different arabic dialects precisely so You can’t understand it. ta race may have been a better phrase choice in that instance. bof. the difference between living in the real world and the world of theory is vast.)

  23. Madame, I am at a loss to understand your hostility. No one here is attacking you or your ancestry. Surely we can have a discussion on the value of reviving languages without people getting treated like axe murderers for disagreeing with you.

  24. jamessal says:

    Yeah, I was just trying to inject a little levity, since the tone seemed way out of step with the content. I guarantee you, madame, your thumbs are perfectly safe.

  25. oluf mostad says:

    Since the Europeans arrived in North America, we have tried to wipe out the original inhabitants with slavery,outright genocide,disease,ethnic cleansing,forced assimilation etc. So maybe every child in New england should learn some Wampanoag. And if you don’t like it, go back where you came from.

  26. bulbul: “I’m not sure how lirelou would feel should – God forbid! – his mother tongue find itself under threat from Chinese, Sorbian, Lojban, whatever.”
    In fact, in some parts in the United States, the very presence of Spanish has triggered among the Anglos a hysterical reaction and the very absurd allegation that English is being endangered by Spanish.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    ta race may have been a better phrase choice in that instance.

    Clarification: On les nique tous! On nique leur race, with r pronounced [ʁ], means “we’ll wipe the football field with the other team, no matter what that team’s composition” in the proche banlieue.
    (And “football” means “soccer” of course.)

  28. marie-lucie says:

    As for “useful second language”, she’ll most likely find Klingon easier than most of the rest of us!
    As far as I know, Klingon is based on the Miwok and Costanoan families, which are native languages from California, usually included within the larger Penutian group, which includes languages spoken along the Pacific Coast. Wampanoag I understand to be an Algonquian language from the Atlantic Coast. The two groups have nothing in common and Wampanoag-speaking Mae Alice would have no more of an advantage in learning Klingon than any random sample of speakers of other non-Algonquian languages.
    It is true that Algonquian languages have some distant relatives on the West Coast, where a wide variety of language families were once spoken, but Klingon is not linked in any way to those distant relatives of Wampanoag.

  29. Dick Grune’s article explores the possibility of a connection between Mutsun (the language Okrand did for his thesis) and Klingon, and rejects it. Klingon is definitely Californian in style, but specific links with Castanoan aren’t really there. In particular, the dauntingly arbitrary table of verb agreement suffixes, where subjects and objects are fused, is much more Uralic than anything in North America.

  30. michael farrism says:

    Indivisible affixes that indicate subject and object are found in SAmerica (Aymara and I assume some others).

  31. David Marjanović says:

    The two groups have nothing in common

    In terms of grammar typology, from the point of view of Standard Average European, they aren’t all that dissimilar as far as I know. I didn’t mean to imply any deeper similarities, let alone phylogenetic relations.

  32. marie-lucie says:

    I didn’t mean that Klingon was based exclusively on Miwok and Costanoan. Also, it was not meant to be too foreign and difficult, as it would have been with fused subject-object affixes. Note that the Yokuts language, which is now considered to be closely related to Miwok and Costanoan, lacks the affixes in question and has independent pronouns.

  33. No, I was saying (six years ago) that Klingon does have fused subject-object prefixes, quite unlike Costanoan. Indeed, Klingon was meant to be arbitrary and difficult, as the phonology shows:

    There is a voiced unaspirated retroflex stop and an unvoiced aspirated alveolar stop, but no other coronal stops

    The high front vowel is lax, the high back vowel is tense

    There are voiced and unvoiced velar fricatives but no velar stops

    There is a voiceless uvular stop and affricate but no fricative

    The basic syllable shape is CV(C), but three and only three coda consonant clusters are permitted, namely /wʔ/, /jʔ/, and /rɣ/ (/r/ is apical). As far as I know it is a universal that codas are more restricted than onsets, but Klingon violates this.

  34. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Now that John has revived a thread from 2008 I’d like to add my two cents about whether it’s worthwhile for a young person to learn an obscure language. (I think I missed the original thread, or maybe in 2008 I hadn’t started following LanguageHat.)

    Maud Menten is a name that every biochemist knows — maybe not the “Maud”, but certainly the “Menten” — even if they don’t know (as many of them don’t) that she was a woman and a Canadian. As a child growing up in Harrison Mills, British Columbia, she learned to speak Halkomelem*, and is said to have retained the ability all her life, though I don’t suppose she found anyone in Pittsburgh to use it with. As the daughter of Anglo parents from Ontario she didn’t, of course, learn it as her first language, but she learnt it from friends at school. I think that shows a lot of respect for the culture of others. But why not learn something more useful, one might ask (as indeed one did at the beginning of this discussion)? My answer is that learning a really exotic language like Halkomelem prepares the mind for the idea that not all languages are just like English, and will make learning “useful languages” seem quite easy. In fact Maud Menten did learn others, and became fluent in French, German, Italian and Russian.

    *I know almost nothing about Halkomelem beyond the fact that Maud Menten could speak it. I think it’s one of the Salish languages that consists mainly of consonants.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    JC, Fused subject/object prefixes exist in some North American languages too.

    Affixes which combine two or even three distinct grammatical meanings or functions are historically due to sound mergers which erase boundaries and make affixal sequences unanalyzable. Examples are the verbal endings of most if not all Indo-European languages, most of which are reconstructed as sequences in PIE. The existence of fused affixes then means that originally separate affixes have been used together for a very long time until there is no longer any consciousness of their separateness. This is quite common with pronouns, especially those for 1st and 2nd persons. For instance, if French had never been written and a writing system was developed relying on the most spoken forms, phrases such as je te dis ‘I’m telling you’ and tu me dis ‘you’re telling me” would probably be written as chte di and tum di respectively, “fusing” the 1st and 2nd pronouns together. In written and formally spoken French, the negative ne can separate the two pronouns, as in je ne te dis pas ‘I’m not telling you …., but ne is rarely found in spoken French in everyday life (since the originally intensive pa has become sufficient to indicate the negative), and would most likely completely disappear if the language lost its written form or formal spoken register, leaving chte di pa and tum di pa respectively for the negative counterparts, keeping the original pronouns together in all types of utterances and resulting in “fused pronouns”.

  36. marie-lucie says:

    David Waugh: What happens to the children of immigrants? Most have only a poor knowledge of their parents’ language.

    This happens when the parents know enough of the new community’s language to use IT in speaking to their children. The children then may have a passive command of the parents’ language (from hearing it spoken by them) but not an active command. When two generations are immigrating together (eg a young couple with their parents or older relatives) and continue living in the same household (especially with the older people looking after the children) the children learn both the family’s language and (when playing with other children) the dominant language. A problem arises if the older child is bilingual but speaks the dominant language to their younger siblings.

    Cornish is very much the affair of a small bunch of enthusiasts and the vocabulary etc. is completely inauthentic, having had to be extrapolated from even more exiguous remains than Wampanoag.

    As far as I know, Cornish is not well documented, but its remains are not the only source of models. It is close to Welsh and Breton, which provide examples of sound correspondences with Cornish and models of word formation which may be relatively secure. Of course, typically Cornish features might not be recoverable.

  37. Affixes which combine two or even three distinct grammatical meanings or functions are historically due to sound mergers which erase boundaries and make affixal sequences unanalyzable.

    Indeed, but in Klingon the situation is extreme. Klingon is not pro-drop, and Klingon pronouns are not marked for case (the word order is rigidly OVS). As you can see from the lists below, there is very little resemblance between the independent pronouns and the verb prefixes. There is clear syncretism between 3sg and 3pl in both subjects and object, and the prefix is zero when both subject and object have the same number, with the exception of 3pl-3sg. In naming the functions of the prefixes, I write “1sg-2sg” for “transitive with 1sg subject and 2sg object”.

    1sg: pronoun /ǰɪx/, intransitive prefix /ǰɪ/, 1sg-2sg /qɑ/, 1sg-3sg /vɪ/, 1sg-1pl zero, 1sg-2pl /ʃɑ/, 1sg-3pl /vɪ/.

    2sg: pronoun /ʃox/, intransitive prefix /bɪ/, 2sg-1sg /čo/, 2sg-3sg /ɖɑ/, 2sg-1pl /ǰu/, 2sg-2pl zero, 2sg-3pl /ɖɑ/.

    3sg: pronoun /ɣax/ (person) or /ʔox/ (non-person), intransitive prefix zero, 3sg-1sg /mu/, 3sg-2sg /ɖu/, 3sg-3sg zero, 3sg-1pl /nu/, 3sg-2pl /lɪ/, 3pl-3pl zero.

    1pl: pronoun /mɑx/, intransitive prefix /ma/, 1pl-1sg zero, 1pl-2sg /pɪ/, 1pl-3sg /wɪ/, 1pl-2pl /rɛ/, 1pl-3pl /ɖɪ/.

    2pl: pronoun /ľɪx/, intransitive prefix /ʃu/, 2pl-1sg /tu/, 2pl-2sg zero, 2pl-3sg /bo/, 2pl-1pl /čɛ/, 2pl-3pl /bo/.

    3pl: pronoun /čax/ (persons) or /bɪx/ (non-persons), intransitive prefix zero, 3pl-1sg /mu/, 3pl-2sg /nɪ/, 3pl-3sg /lu/, 3pl-1pl /nu/, 3pl-2pl /lɪ/, 3pl-3pl zero.

    Reflexive and reciprocal forms are expressed using the intransitive prefix and the object-only pronouns /ʔɛɣ/ and /čuq/ respectively. I write /č/ for the voiceless palatal affricate, /ǰ/ for its voiced counterpart, and /ľ/ for the voiceless aspirated lateral affricate.

    I think it would be extremely difficult to reconstruct the origins of these prefixes!

  38. David Marjanović says:

    In particular, the dauntingly arbitrary table of verb agreement suffixes, where subjects and objects are fused, is much more Uralic than anything in North America.

    It’s said to be modeled after some Sino-Tibetan languages in the Himalayas. I can’t remember if Okrand himself said that in a YouTube video and can’t watch them again right now.

    The high front vowel is lax, the high back vowel is tense

    So are the mid vowels: the vowel system is [ɪ ɛ ɑ o u], a rather distorted scheme by earthly standards.

    There are voiced and unvoiced velar fricatives but no velar stops

    No, there are no velar consonants at all. I still haven’t found an opportunity to fix this on Wikipedia, but the fricatives it transcribes as velar – gh, H – are loudly, clearly, gratingly uvular in Okrand’s own pronunciation, which you can hear in his YouTube videos and which I have heard in meatspace after the last time ‘u’ (an opera in Klingon) was shown on Earth (in Berlin).

    There is a voiceless uvular stop and affricate but no fricative

    See above for the fricative. However, Klingon is the only language in the galaxy that distinguishes /qʰ/ from /q͡χ/!

    *I know almost nothing about Halkomelem beyond the fact that Maud Menten could speak it. I think it’s one of the Salish languages that consists mainly of consonants.

    Well, yes – other than that, though, there are intriguing similarities to Klingon in the sound system. :-)

    pronoun /ɣax/ (person) or /ʔox/ (non-person)

    There are not two but three genders: beings capable of using language, body parts, and everything else.

    the voiceless aspirated lateral affricate

    Incidentally, Wikipedia is correct that tlh [t͡ɬ̝] is not aspirated, contrary to what I expected. It is, however, such an extreme fortis (pronounced with so much air pressure through such narrow slits) that the fricative part is almost a trill. It’s really impressive to hear.

    Like in English, only the plosives are aspirated. And also like in English, they lose their aspiration at the ends of syllables; this doesn’t seem to be documented anywhere, but Okrand’s pronunciation leaves no doubt.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    ‘u’

    Ah, automatically formatted quotation marks. I’ll use a proper ʻokina this time: ʻuʻ.

  40. I trust the IPA at the Klingon Language Institute, which comes from Okrand, more than I do his own pronunciation.

  41. David Marjanović says:

    Does it come from Okrand? The only name mentioned on the page is Mark Shoulson (who, incidentally, should be killed where he stands for what he does to some of the sounds…)?

    And if it does, well, Okrand is an Americanist, isn’t he? I wouldn’t trust an Americanist’s IPA. :-)

  42. David Marjanović says:

    Oops. Okrand is mentioned, in the third person, as having (once had?) trouble with [r].

  43. Mark is a friend of mine, so I certainly cannot assent to his assassination.

    Here’s what the Klingon Dictionary says:

    gh This is not like anything in English. It can be produced by putting the tongue in the same position it would be in to say English g in gobble, but relaxing the tongue somewhat and humming. It is the same as Klingon H (see below), but with the vocal cords vibrating at the same time.

    H This is also not like anything in English, but it is just like ch in the name of the German composer Bach or in the Yiddish toast l’chaim, or the j in the Mexican city of Tijuana in Baja California. It is produced in the same way as Klingon gh, but is articulated with a very strong, coarse rasp. Unlike Klingon gh, the vocal cords do not vibrate in saying Klingon H.

    [...]

    q Similar to English k in kumquat, but not quite that. The tongue position for English k is like that for Klingon gh and H. To produce Klingon q, the main body of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth at a point farther back than it does for gh or H. [...]

    That seems definitive to me: q is uvular, gh and H are velar, and thus to be transcribed [ɣ] and [x] respectively. (By the way, I made a mistake in my own transcriptions: for /ʃ/ read /ʂ/ throughout.)

    Marie-Lucie is an Americanist, and ain’t nothing wrong with her IPA, y’know.

  44. marie-lucie says:

    I am indeed an Americanist (though unacquainted with the vast majority of Amerindian languages, including Klingon), but I haven’t quoted any IPA lately.

    I am curious about the difference between Klingon /gh/ and /H/ since they are said to be “the same”: why two symbols then?

    As for the Klingon “fused pronouns” as cited by JC (quite a job to transcribe accurately!), they are of course artificial, so they cannot be illustrative of how such pronouns devalop in actual languages. I cannot comment on the Sino-Tibetan case.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    Oops! Sorry, I missed the point that /gh/ is voiced and /H/ voiceless. Please ignore the paragraph about them.

  46. David Marjanović says:

    This is also not like anything in English, but it is just like ch in the name of the German composer Bach or in the Yiddish toast l’chaim

    Yiddish uses an unmistakable [χ]. This sound is one of the most salient characteristics of Yiddish from a German point of view.

    In some German accents, like both of mine, the ach-Laut is consistently [x] (if anything a bit more fronted than the Russian one), but in much of Germany it’s [χ] at the ends of words behind back vowels; in generally the same places, short /a/ is back or at least central. In short, tens of millions of people pronounce Bach with [χ].

  47. Quite right: indeed my mother (from the Hesse-Thuringia border, but a Standard speaker, as I have said before) used [χ] and [ɑ] quite regularly, and consequently so do I when pronouncing German words. But Okrand explicitly states that Klingon gh/H are enunciated at the position of English [g] and [k], and I don’t see any way around that.

  48. David Marjanović says:

    …I think I wrote nonsense about German. It’s not all back vowels, but only the lower ones, /a/ and /ɔ/, as makes good phonetic sense. I’ll shut up now before I shoot my mouth off on the only word with /oːx/, hoch.

    Okrand explicitly states

    Oh, I forgot that it’s Okrand himself you’re quoting. It’s quite surprising and confusing that he so strongly implies Yiddish has a velar fricative – it’s plainly uvular, and so is Okrand’s pronunciation of Klingon. I guess I should write to him…?

  49. I’ve written to Mark inviting him to contribute. If he emails me, I’ll report here.

  50. David Marjanović says:

    Perfect.

  51. Note that I’m referring to Mark Shoulson, not Marc Okrand. I don’t have access to the latter.

  52. OK, David, Marc Okrand is your responsibility.

  53. Quoth Mark Shoulson:

    Okrand’s pronunciation (and mine) is pretty uvular. I think it’s like Arabic خ, but my knowledge of Arabic phonology isn’t that great. We definitely pronounce it with sort of a “trill” and not just a fricative, if you know what I mean.

    Alas, خ is ambiguous between [x] and [χ]: WP says that [χ] is classical, but [x] is now much more common.

  54. Clearly this must be settled with bat’leths.

  55. Indeed, especially because it’s betleH in Klingon, and so ends with one of the disputed fricatives.

  56. So how does Worf say it?

  57. Michael Dorn can’t pronounce Klingon very well, but Worgh [sic] undoubtedly says [bɛtʰlɛx]. By the way, it seems that betleH is a reduced form of the noun-noun compound batlh ‘etlh ‘honor-sword’. Even for Klingons, it seems, two occurrences of ultra-fortis [tˡɬ] (a voiceless lateral affricate) in consecutive syllables is hard to enunciate.

  58. Then again, since Worf is by upbringing a Belarusian, he may have something of an accent in Klingon too.

  59. David Marjanović says:
    We definitely pronounce it with sort of a “trill” and not just a fricative, if you know what I mean.

    That sounds uvular. It’s hard to avoid when pronouncing a uvular fricative, and much more common than the undisturbed fricative in the relevant languages I’ve heard.

    Alas, خ is ambiguous between [x] and [χ]: WP says that [χ] is classical, but [x] is now much more common.

    Huh. I’ve been told the opposite, possibly on Lameen Souag’s blog or a Wikipedia talk page: [x] is the most prestigious version, but [χ] is much more common (likewise [ɣ] vs. [ʁ] for ﻍ). All Arabic I’ve ever heard in enough detail used [χ] (and [ʁ]), but that really isn’t enough to exclude accidental sampling bias.

  60. There’s no doubt that Marc and Mark pronounce their fricatives as uvulars, but it does not follow that Martz (recté Matlh), Marc’s native informant, did so.

  61. David: … the only word with /oːx/, hoch.

    There is some wide regional form of German – Bavarian ?- in which Tochter is pronounced with /oːx/ – I think. There are probably other such words in there, such as roch.

    The different flavors of “o” are something I barely take note of. What does force itself on my attention is that every vowel in every position is likely to be pronounced in a completely different way in some form of German. Only the consonants can be relied on for recognition, more or less – up to voiced/voiceless variants.

    A cod neo-Darwinian take: consonants provide the skeleton (stability), vowels provide the plumage (variability). Selection and restabilisation are provided by Schulklausuren.

  62. Well, OK, I take that back about roch. I can’t find any internal recordings of that with /oːx/ – when I really pay attention to the sounds. But I am certain about Tochter with /oːx/, I can hear it clearly in my mind’s ear.

  63. The same is true of the various accents of English, of course. But in Spanish both the consonants and the vowels vary, and in the Polynesian languages the vowels are rock-stable and the consonants play musical chairs. The more it changes, the samer it gets.

  64. marie-lucie says:

    German “-och”

    I am surprised to find this transcribed phonemically with a long vowel, thus /o:x/, in words like hoch and Tochter. I haven’t listened carefully to German in a while, but those words have always seemed to me to have a short vowel, thus /ɔx/ (unless [o:] and [ɔ] are considered allophones of each other rather than separate phonemes).

  65. I don’t think of hoch as having a long vowel either, but it definitely has a close o, unlike Tochter (though I take Stu’s word for it that some people say Tochter that way).

  66. marie-lucie says:

    hoch has a closed o, unlike Tochter

    Is the difference due to the presence of initial h in hoch?

  67. marie-lucie: I am surprised to find this transcribed phonemically with a long vowel, thus /o:x/, in words like hoch and Tochter.

    It’s true that the “o” in hoch is “closed”, if by that you mean that the lips are constricted slightly, so that it feels as if the vowel arises more to the front of the mouth – as I would put it. In Standard German Tochter is “more open”, and consequently more to the back of the mouth.

    I didn’t know that the “:” signifies “long”, but the “o” in hoch is certainly drawn out a bit. One should not be misled by the shortness of the written word, and any preconception that German is “barked” and “clipped” . If I may use a crude analogy with English, hoch has the same vowel-duration as “doze”, whereas the first syllable in Tochter has the same vowel-duration as “dot”.

  68. I wouldn’t need recourse to such crudities if I learned a little IPA. I have tried, but I just can’t concentrate on phonemes, or phones, or whatever they’re called. To me they’re like parts of electronic equipment. I need to use this equipment, but I’m content to know little about it works or what the parts are called.

  69. marie-lucie: Is the difference due to the presence of initial h in hoch?

    It just occurs to me: the dialect in which Tochter is pronounced with /oːx/ is Kölsch ! The word begins with a “d” sound, not “t”, and is written Doochter.

  70. David Marjanović says:

    Still haven’t tried to contact Okrand.

    There is some wide regional form of German – Bavarian ?- in which Tochter is pronounced with /oːx/ – I think. There are probably other such words in there, such as roch.

    Not Bavarian in any case. For Tochter, perhaps what made you think of Bavarian is that Bavarian dialects lack [ɔ] and use [o] instead, often resulting in a merger because vowel length is not phonemic in Central Bavarian and nearly so in South Bavarian (I don’t know about North). This wouldn’t account for roch, however, which is a passé simple and therefore doesn’t exist south of the Weißwurstäquator; I read it aloud as [ʀɔxː].

    The different flavors of “o” are something I barely take note of. What does force itself on my attention is that every vowel in every position is likely to be pronounced in a completely different way in some form of German. Only the consonants can be relied on for recognition, more or less – up to voiced/voiceless variants.

    Absolutely.

    A cod neo-Darwinian take: consonants provide the skeleton (stability), vowels provide the plumage (variability). Selection and restabilisation are provided by Schulklausuren.

    I think that’s right! :-)

    Is the difference due to the presence of initial h in hoch?

    Nope. Hoch is the one word with a long monophthong in front of /x/, and I’m sure this must be due to dialect mixture.* Even Hochzeit “wedding” has /ɔ/. Initials never have such influence in… any kind of German I’m aware of.

    * Regularly you’d expect *hoh */hoː/, and that’s exactly what the rest of the declension suggests: hoher, hohe, hohes; hohem, hohen; höher /ˈhoːɐ ˈhoːɛ ˈhoːɛs ˈhoːm̩ ˈhoːn̩ ˈhøːɐ/ – compare zäh “tough”, which has zäher, zähe, zähes; zähem, zähen; zäher. My Central Bavarian dialect has not lost short /x/, and so everything is regular there: /hox ˈhoxɐ ˈhoxɛ hoxs ˈhoxm̩ ˈhoxn̩ ˈhɛxɐ/ just like /t͡sax ˈt͡saxɐ ˈt͡saxɛ t͡saxs ˈt͡saxm̩ ˈt͡saxn̩ ˈt͡saxɐ/ (where /a/ is the most common umlaut of /ɒ/).

    The word begins with a “d” sound, not “t”

    Looks like this part of the High German consonant shift hasn’t reached that far north.

Speak Your Mind

*