(Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by eldin raigmore »

Creyeditor wrote: 20 Jun 2020 23:59
sangi39 wrote: 20 Jun 2020 23:53 WALS also, on occasion (as I believe is the case for resources like PHOIBLE) is beholden to its resources, and often it seems like the things it says about some languages are either wrong [...], or at least disputed [...].
That's why I really appreciate PHOIBLE also showing contradictory sources.
I like that about the Universals Archive too.
WALS.info does give information about possibly-contradictory sources. Maybe it just requires more effort on the part of the user to find it? At any rate I don’t think either PHOIBLE or WALS is as easy and intuitive and transparent, about finding the counterexamples etc., as the Universals Archive. But that may be due to the nature of the data, and what constitutes a contradiction.
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Post by jimydog000 »

So I've been thinking about alien languages, "exolangs".
What effect on the rest of the phonemes and diacronics an entity would have, if the aliens had:
1) breathing holes or tubes under the mouth. Like the Ood from Doctor who, or the ****ing prawns from District 9.
2) A bilabial lateral.
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jimydog000 wrote: 22 Jun 2020 15:46 So I've been thinking about alien languages, "exolangs".
What effect on the rest of the phonemes and diacronics an entity would have, if the aliens had:
1) breathing holes or tubes under the mouth. Like the Ood from Doctor who, or the ****ing prawns from District 9.
2) A bilabial lateral.
1. Even if they just had circular breathing like birds, instead of tidal breathing like us, maybe they wouldn’t have to pause for breath? Might make words and phrases and maybe even syllables different? OTOH maybe they wouldn’t have any ingressive phonemes like clicks or implosives? Maybe not any ejectives either?

2. I can’t say how it would affect their diachronics; but I think a bilabial lateral trill, for instance, would be cool! Could that make their language harder for humans to learn?

3. What are you smoking, and can I have some?
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jimydog000 wrote: 22 Jun 2020 15:46 So I've been thinking about alien languages, "exolangs".
Good! More people should!
[/quote]
What effect on the rest of the phonemes and diacronics an entity would have, if the aliens had:
1) breathing holes or tubes under the mouth. Like the Ood from Doctor who, or the ****ing prawns from District 9.[/quote]
Do the Ood have holes under their mouth? I didn't realise they'd been shown in that much detail! But then, I've only ever varied between 'casual watcher' and 'non-watcher', so it's easy to believe I just missed that.

Anyway, fortunately we have an example of this to extrapolate from: humans. Well, humans have their secondary breathing hole(s) above the mouth rather than under it, but obviously that doesn't make a substantive difference per se.

Humans are able to open and close their secondary hole (actually two holes at the terminus, but a single tube for most of its length), independently of closure of their primary hole. From this human example we can extrapolate a range of possibilities for non-humans.

But first, what happens with the human secondary hole? Well, it's usually closed. Opening it sends out a second stream of air, so in a way it's kind of like issuing a vowel at the same time as whatever sound is being made in the primary hole. Theoretically, this open/close distinction in the second hole can co-exist with (almost) any primary hole sound - but in practice, only a small number of sounds use an open second hole, usually either primary vowels or primary stops; in most languages, there are fewer of these with the secondary hole open than with it closed. This is all probably because having in effect a vowel co-articulated over the top of a another sound kind of blurs that other sound and makes its distinctions less clear. Notably, it's mostly only really worth opening the human second hole when the human is vibrating their vocal cords - the additional airstream through the secondary hole, without this vibration, is too weak to be distinctive - voiceless nasals do exist in some languages, but they're very rare. Diachronically, it is not uncommon for the opening/closing of the secondary hole to become slightly detached from the segments produced through the primary hole ('nasalisation' and 'denasalisation'), but this only rarely has a profound effect on long-term sound changes.

So how could a secondary hole differ from the human secondary hole?

First thought: internal shape. The human secondary tube is relatively small - similar in length to the primary tube, but much narrower. However, it is still larger than it needs to be - partly to deal with the possibility of mucus build-up, but also probably to be more of use linguistically. The enlarged tube creates greater resonance, making sounds louder, and brings the resonance down in pitch into the vocal range. And alien tube could be smaller - it could be narrower, or shorter. This would probably make "nasalisation" quieter and less carrying, but would also perhaps make it more distinctive, by raising its pitch more noticeable. Alternatively, it could be larger - more cavernous, or longer. This would help to make it louder and make 'nasal' sounds carry further, but would even further muddy the 'oral' sounds.

Second: entrance control. The human secondary hole can be opened, or closed. It is possible to only slightly open its entrance - but only with difficulty, and it's debateable whether any human language uses more than a binary distinction. It also tends not to open and close than quickly. This tends to help 'nasalisation' 'spread' to adjacent segments, and makes it impossible to do anything complicated, like a 'nasal trill' (rapid opening and closing) or 'internal nasal fricative' or 'internal nasal stop' (creating friction or a sudden air release into the secondary hole, respectively). Aliens could potentially do these things.


Third: exit controls. The human secondary control has almost no exit control: it's possible to narrow the exit slightly, creating a slightly fricative sound, but this is cumbersome and ineffective - it's not used regularly by any known human language. An alien tube, however, could have a more controllable exit.

Exit and entrance controls effectively work the same way, but with a resonant chamber between them - they're the equivalent of labial and velar consonants respectively. And as with the primary hole, both could be used at once, creating the nasal equivalent of 'co-articulated stops' and 'clicks' or 'implosives'.

Alternatively, an alien might LACK entrance controls for their secondary hole, and ONLY have exit controls. Instead of being able to switch like humans between 'oral' and 'nasal' sounds, they'd instead switch between 'nasal' and 'really bad cold' sounds (with the second chamber resonating but lacking power due to lack of output).

Fourth: cavity shape control. The human primary hole is easy to alter: the jaw and the tongue together provide a variety of shapes for the oral cavity, including the possibility of bottlenecks within the cavity (alveolar stops, for instance). The same could be true of the secondary hole too. It's hard to see why a 'tongue' would be present in the 'nose' (except maybe to remove mucus?). But it could certainly be more flexible, with would allow easy changes in pitch and possible bottlenecks. It could also be possible to form, or open, subsidiary cavities for added resonance.

All these features of heightened control in the secondary hole make secondary hole sounds more complicated and distinctive, which raise the possibility of using the secondary hole for entire phonemes, rather than as just a secondary articulation.



Having talked about the shape of the hole itself, the next question is how it relates to the primary hole. In humans, the bifurcation point is after the phonation equipment, but before the primary articulation equipment.

So, fifth: late bifurcation. The air goes into the secondary tube much later. Imagine your secondary tube opening into your palate, for instance. If you had that, but could still control the entrance to the secondary tube, then the airflow into the secondary tube could be influenced by a velar sound, for instance. In humans, a nasalised voiced velar fricative is just a plain nasal airflow (siphoned off before the velum) plus a voiced velar fricative. With a later bifurcation, you could in effect route a velar fricative THROUGH your nose instead of, or as well as, through your mouth. In other words, you could choose which oral cavity to send a sound through, making it easier to have a range of shapes and sizes of cavity.

Sixth: early bifurcation. Split the tubes before some of the phonation equipment. We can actually expand on this idea in a few ways.

The effect of post-phonation bifurcation is that our primary and secondary tube sounds need to have the same phonation. You can't have a voiced nasal and a voiceless oral at the same time, because the air to both tubes must pass through the larynx. If you branch the second tube off BEFORE the larynx, or equivalent, then you can indeed have one phonation on the oral flow and a plain phonation for the nasal flow, independently. You could even have larynges for both tubes independently!

The second issue here is air supply. Most human sounds rely on the lungs as the airbox, and the lungs of course feed both tubes. A small number of languages have sounds that instead use the part of the tubes: ejectives use the tubes above the glottis, as do pharyngeal clicks (i.e. before the bifurcation), while uvular clicks use the tubes above the uvular (i.e. after the bifurcation). Using pre-bifurcation closure to create this upper airchest means you can only nasalise the release, whereas using post-bifurcation closure means you can genuinely nasalise the whole click.

So, moving the bifurcation before the glottis, for instance, would mean you could have nasalised ejectives. Alternatively, you could put a secondary air chest onto the secondary tube - which could potentially create very loud, trumpet sounds.

Having some sort of air chest on one of the tubes would also mean you could breath in while speaking, without having to make implosives. This would be useful, but probably not revolutionary.



-----------------


Would having the nose below the mouth make any particulary difference? No. Although it would make it easier or more likely to have an earlier bifurcation, I suppose, since that would let the secondary tube (which has to be longer with an earlier bifurcation) be shorter than it otherwise would have to be.


----------


Of course, the big question is why a species would have its nose below its mouth. It makes little sense. The primary reason to have a separate nasal tube that bypasses the oral cavity is that it lets you breath when your mouth is covered or full - but most covering things cover you from below, so your under-nose would already be below the waterline by the time your mouth was covered. Admittedly, it would still let you breath with your mouth full, but that's only retaining an advantage of the overnose, not an actual advantage to having an undernose. Contrariwise, it's usually useful to have your eating hole low, because most food is below you, both for herbivores and carnivores, and because eating from lower in your head makes it easier to continue to see while you eat. So there's reasons both to have a high breathing hole and to have a low eating hole, so it would be weird to have them upside down - I can't see any advantages to this. I don't think it's so improbable that it would be impossible, but it certainly would strike me as unlikely.




-----


Anyway, just a few thoughts there, hope something's useful.
2) A bilabial lateral.
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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by LinguoFranco »

So, I've begun my first serious attempt at making a Proto-Lang to use as a basis for my main conlang, and I have a few questions.

-How much depth should I put into the earliest stage of the Proto-Lang before I start applying sound changes and and other tweaks? How much of the morphology, grammar and lexicon should I have before I do it?

-Is there a guide somewhere on how to make a Proto-conlang for beginners?

-Should I start out with my language being analytic and then have become synthetic over time?
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LinguoFranco wrote: 02 Jul 2020 00:11 So, I've begun my first serious attempt at making a Proto-Lang to use as a basis for my main conlang, and I have a few questions.

-How much depth should I put into the earliest stage of the Proto-Lang before I start applying sound changes and and other tweaks? How much of the morphology, grammar and lexicon should I have before I do it?
Enough to establish a strong pattern.
Remember a proto-conlang can be completely regular, without allomorphy or allophony or sandhi.
Edit: Or exceptions.
Etc.
500 lexical items + 100 grammatical items is plenty. It might even be overkill.
Grammar = morphology + syntax.
If your protoconlang is purely isolating and perfectly analytic its grammar will be all syntax; it won’t have any morphology.

-Is there a guide somewhere on how to make a Proto-conlang for beginners?
I’ll bet there is, but I’ve never heard of one.

-Should I start out with my language being analytic and then have become synthetic over time?
That’s a very good idea. But it’s up to you.
Edit: That is, making your protoconlang analytic but your conlang synthetic is a good idea.
Don’t make your protoconlang have gone through any changes.
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Salmoneus wrote: 23 Jun 2020 00:09
I just assumed that the Ood would be breathing through these tentacle things, I'm not sure they were actual tubes on the show. I've come to think about this concept because it could be an evolutionary turn to have a longer air canal so that the entities could be able to survive in a toxic swamp, and then later in the cold, or high altitude.
Now that I'm thinking about it again, perhaps this alien originally had its breathing at it's chest or lower neck and then it moved upwards when it developed smell.
eldin raigmore wrote: 22 Jun 2020 17:10
1. Even if they just had circular breathing like birds, instead of tidal breathing like us, maybe they wouldn’t have to pause for breath? Might make words and phrases and maybe even syllables different? OTOH maybe they wouldn’t have any ingressive phonemes like clicks or implosives? Maybe not any ejectives either?

2. I can’t say how it would affect their diachronics; but I think a bilabial lateral trill, for instance, would be cool! Could that make their language harder for humans to learn?

3. What are you smoking, and can I have some?
1. Great point.
2. Maybe, though it could sound just like a /w/. I got the idea when someone was saying how the Turians of Mass Effect wouldn't have bilabials.
3. Only the dankest fantasy Marijuana. I like to smoke it in my spacesuit when I go into space. Traverse galactic sea, inhaler of the riff-tree.
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LinguoFranco wrote: 02 Jul 2020 00:11 So, I've begun my first serious attempt at making a Proto-Lang to use as a basis for my main conlang, and I have a few questions.

-How much depth should I put into the earliest stage of the Proto-Lang before I start applying sound changes and and other tweaks? How much of the morphology, grammar and lexicon should I have before I do it?
As much as possible. Ideally you'd have a proto-proto-lang fully worked out. And a proto-proto-proto-lang, and so forth. Of course, this is physically impossible because of the infinite regress, so you sort of have to work out your own balance between perfectionism (making it as good as possible) and completionism (actually 'finishing' anything).

And obviously, what you plan to do with the proto-lang will have a bearing. If it's a language with only one descendent, and you intend that daughter to completely, radically change - for instance by lopping off final syllables and hence losing all of the case marking - then you probably don't need to work as much on, say, the details of case-marking in the mother. On the other hand, if you're hoping that this proto-lang will have a dozen different daughter languages, all of which will be developing complicated irregular patterns, then you probably need a much more completely-realised proto-lang.

I'd also say that it's not a binary 'have this detail or don't have it' issue. Often you may not feel it necessary to work out some small detail, but you may want to have a general idea in your head anyway. For instance, you might not want to work out a proto-proto-lang and all the sound changes to the proto-lang... but you might want to have a vague idea what sort of processes have been going on, so that you have a sense of phonotactics and phoneme distribution in your daughter language (eg, which consonants or clusters should be rare, which ones only appear in certain contexts, etc).
-Is there a guide somewhere on how to make a Proto-conlang for beginners?
The key thing is that proto-langs are just langs. If you're starting from scratch with the proto-lang, just make a language, and then see what you can derive from it. Of course, if you're starting with some preconceptions of what the daughter should look like, then you might need to be more careful in making a proto-lang that can actually straightforwardly produce your daughter.
-Should I start out with my language being analytic and then have become synthetic over time?
No.
Or rather: there's no reason you should do this, no.

You could do that. Or you could start out synthetic and become more analytic over time. Or synthetic>synthetic, or analytic>analytic.

I'm actually playing with some ideas now for a language family that gets moe synthetic over time from an almost entirely analytic parent. But in my case, that's because my instinct is always to do the opposite: I'm usually always thinking about leniting this, dropping that, and so forth, so doing the opposite is a bit more of a challenge to me.

Going from more to less synthetic probably makes it easier to produce realistic irregularities and complexities. But it's certainly not impossible to do that in an analytic>synthetic context either. And in any case, there's a place for more regular languages anyway. So... take your pick, really.
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jimydog000 wrote: 03 Jul 2020 10:00
Salmoneus wrote: 23 Jun 2020 00:09
I just assumed that the Ood would be breathing through these tentacle things, I'm not sure they were actual tubes on the show.
I just assumed that the tentacle things were, you know, tentacles. I assumed that their orb-things with the pipe into their mouths were artificial respirators.
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Salmoneus wrote: 09 Jul 2020 14:54Ideally you'd have a proto-proto-lang fully worked out. And a proto-proto-proto-lang, and so forth. Of course, this is physically impossible because of the infinite regress, so you sort of have to work out your own balance between perfectionism (making it as good as possible) and completionism (actually 'finishing' anything).
I like the etymological irony of that. Latin perficiō meant 'to complete', and so did compleō...
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Yes, I'm eking out a nuance there arising from the vagueness of the concept of completing something (giving it everything it needs, vs giving it everything it should have) and the ambiguity of abstact nouns (a concluded process or the process itself regardless of conclusion). More generally English 'to perfect' has become more specifically about abstract qualities, rather than physical elements; 'complete' can also be used this way, but is often more literal.
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Ser wrote: 09 Jul 2020 17:40I like the etymological irony of that. Latin perficiō meant 'to complete', and so did compleō...
I’d have thought to perfect something would be to make it all the way through,
while to complete something would be to fill it up.
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eldin raigmore wrote: 09 Jul 2020 23:19I’d have thought to perfect something would be to make it all the way through, while to complete something would be to fill it up.
My comment alluded to a difference between Latin and English. In Latin, perficiō was mostly used in the sense of 'to finish/complete sth', and only by extension 'to bring sth to perfection'. Lewis & Short's dictionary gives the example cibos ambulare (perficere) 'to finish the food by walking; to digest it by walking' from a letter of Pliny the Younger.

It is interesting to see that Lewis & Short and Smith & Hall's dictionaries are at odds about perficiō vs. absolvō. The former pair think perfectus/perficiō is better to express what we mean in English by 'perfect', while the latter pair thinks absolūtus/absolvō (and the noun absolūtiō) is more adequate.

Smith & Hall also give interesting workarounds such as adjectives like summus 'highest', optimus 'best', extrēmus 'final', and phrases like nēmō in quō nihil aut dēsīderētur aut reprehendātur (Quintilian 10) "no one in whom nothing is lacking or reprimandable" = 'no one absolutely perfect', and:

Brutus noster misit ad me orationem suam habitam in contione Capitolina, petivitque a me ut eam ne ambitiose corrigerem ante quam ederet. Est autem oratio scripta elegantissime sententiis, verbis, ut nihil possit ultra. (Cicero, Ad Atticum 15.1)
Our Brutus sent me the speech he gave of the contention at the Capitol [about keeping Julius Caesar's benefits for veterans], and asked me to mercilessly correct it before he published it. It is in fact an incredibly elegant speech in both ideas and words, [if nihil = adverb] to a point it isn't possible to be more so / [if nihil = subject pronoun] to a point nothing could surpass it.
(I.e. "a speech so elegant in ideas and words that it is simply perfect")
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Post by jimydog000 »

So I was going through a LCS worksheet on how to make an ergative system. (ergativity is not the point I'm making though).

And one of the exercises is as so:
"Translating a sentence with a ditransitive verb into our made-up language would be trivial if we had a preposition like English "to" in our made-up language, or a dative case. Unfortunately, we don't.
How would you translate "The man gives the book to the woman"? Think up at least
two strategies, and discuss them:"

Among others, I came up with this strategy (in English):

The man give book give woman.

Is this completely ANADEW? And I'd like to think the second give could get converb marking or something nice like that.
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jimydog000 wrote: 10 Jul 2020 13:04Among others, I came up with this strategy (in English):

The man give book give woman.

Is this completely ANADEW? And I'd like to think the second give could get converb marking or something nice like that.
I don't know of a language that does this with ditransitives, but Mandarin does that with adverbial phrases sometimes.

我看書看得不多。wǒ kàn shū kàn de hěn duō
1SG read book read ADV very much
'I read quite a lot.'
(得 de, glossed as "ADV", simply marks the beginning of an adverbial phrase in this case.)

Note that while you can skip the first 看 kàn, skipping the second one creates an ungrammatical sentence. You can say "1SG book read ADV very much" with the same meaning, but you can't say *"1SG read book ADV very much".
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While it seems possible, doing it with verbs seems a bit unlikely to me.

That's because you'd be using the same verb to mean two different (indeed almost opposite) things.

What does certainly happen is constructions like "The man take book give woman", and I imagine you can find things like "the man donate book benefit woman" - because the ditransitive effectively involves two events (what happens to the book and what happens to the woman), so you can use one verb for each.

But in your construction, you use an identical verb for both events, as though the events were equivalent.

To put it another way: for us, it's obvious that both the woman and the book can be an object of the verb 'give'. But if our verb 'give' were monotransitive, taking only one object, it's not clear that that would still be true. It's probably more likely that we'd use one verb for what you do to gifts, and another verb for what you do to the recipients of gifts.

As I say, it's certainly not impossible that some language uses an identical verb for both. In fact, if pressed, I'd probably bet that some language does do this. But I'd expect it to be much less common than serial verb constructions with two different verbs. I think?
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The only diphthongs in my setting's Spirittongue language are [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯]. While that's unremarkable in-and-of itself, I'm here to check on the proper name for their relationship with [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw]. Considering [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] (before consonants) and [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] (before vowels) don't contrast, are [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] allophones of or in complementary distribution with [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯]? Based to similarity to [ç, x] in German, I'm fairly sure the pairs are in complementary distribution.
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yangfiretiger121 wrote: 13 Jul 2020 17:52 The only diphthongs in my setting's Spirittongue language are [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯]. While that's unremarkable in-and-of itself, I'm here to check on the proper name for their relationship with [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw]. Considering [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] (before consonants) and [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] (before vowels) don't contrast, are [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] allophones of or in complementary distribution with [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯]? Based to similarity to [ç, x] in German, I'm fairly sure the pairs are in complementary distribution.
If I understand correctly that [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] only occur before consonants and [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] only occur before vowels, then yes, it sounds like they're in complementary distribution with one another.

Does either pair occur word-finally, without a following consonant or vowel?

Edit: Wait, what do you mean by "allophones of or in complementary distribution with"?
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Post by yangfiretiger121 »

shimobaatar wrote: 13 Jul 2020 18:08
yangfiretiger121 wrote: 13 Jul 2020 17:52 The only diphthongs in my setting's Spirittongue language are [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯]. While that's unremarkable in-and-of itself, I'm here to check on the proper name for their relationship with [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw]. Considering [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] (before consonants) and [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] (before vowels) don't contrast, are [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] allophones of or in complementary distribution with [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯]? Based to similarity to [ç, x] in German, I'm fairly sure the pairs are in complementary distribution.
If I understand correctly that [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] only occur before consonants and [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] only occur before vowels, then yes, it sounds like they're in complementary distribution with one another.

Does either pair occur word-finally, without a following consonant or vowel?
Yes, [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] occurs finally. An example is Ýy [ɛ̀ːˈwɛ́ú̯], the chaotic neutral-aligned afterlife.
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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by shimobaatar »

yangfiretiger121 wrote: 13 Jul 2020 18:11
shimobaatar wrote: 13 Jul 2020 18:08
yangfiretiger121 wrote: 13 Jul 2020 17:52 The only diphthongs in my setting's Spirittongue language are [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯]. While that's unremarkable in-and-of itself, I'm here to check on the proper name for their relationship with [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw]. Considering [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] (before consonants) and [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] (before vowels) don't contrast, are [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] allophones of or in complementary distribution with [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯]? Based to similarity to [ç, x] in German, I'm fairly sure the pairs are in complementary distribution.
If I understand correctly that [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] only occur before consonants and [ɛ́ːw, ɛ̀ːw] only occur before vowels, then yes, it sounds like they're in complementary distribution with one another.

Does either pair occur word-finally, without a following consonant or vowel?
Yes, [ɛ́ú̯, ɛ̀ù̯] occurs finally.
Thank you for the clarification.

I think I'd describe the situation like this: [ɛ́ú̯] and [ɛ́ːw] are both allophones of the phoneme /ɛ́ú̯/, with [ɛ́ːw] occurring before vowels and [ɛ́ú̯] occurring elsewhere (before consonants and word-finally). Likewise, [ɛ̀ù̯] and [ɛ̀ːw] are both allophones of the phoneme /ɛ̀ù̯/, with [ɛ̀ːw] occurring before vowels and [ɛ̀ù̯] occurring elsewhere (before consonants and word-finally).
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