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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2003 8:38 pm 
Dudicon wrote:
The most plausible explanation for the ubiquity of the a i u system is simply that it makes the most efficient use of the vowel space of any three vowels. Essentially, those three vowels have the most distance between themselves of any set of three vowels.


e, (low back) a and u has just as much space as i,a,u, and offers the further benefit of having a vowel in each of the three height levels.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2003 8:41 pm 
Smeric
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But why not /a/ /M/ /y/ instead? We could call it the Amy system.

I can't offer any support for the baby theory, because it's just what I would like to be true, rather than what I think actually is true. But anyway, at a young age babies don't really emulate the speech patterns of their parents. I'm thinking like 6 months old. Even in America, where /a/ is rare or nonexistent in most dialects, the babies tend to prefer /a/ over all other vowels and then /e/ /i/ /u/ /o/. At least, I read that somewhere in a book about children's speech.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 12:37 am 
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Hmm, universals (he said, attempting with both hands and a massive wrench to get the thread back on track).

I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, I think universals have been over-sold and under-understood. As has been pointed out, most of the 'universals' that have been posited are statistical expectations to which exceptions are known. In addition, a very useful question to ask about any purported universal is: does it apply to sign languages too?

On the other hand, once you know things about a lot of languages, there are certain ideas that seem not like brilliant departures from the norm, but like ignorance. Since we were talking about vowel systems, let's say someone comes up with /?:, ?, o/. Is that smart or stupid? I'd probably be unimpressed by it, since vowel systems tend to spread themselves out in vowel space, and because marked features like rounding, length, and nasalization don't tend to occur on just one vowel in a system. (But the fact that all the vowels are back might be rather interesting-- perhaps it's a response to a slightly different physiology.)

In my experience, the real universals are the ones it takes long, hard thought to violate-- the ones that (to borrow a metaphor from Douglas Hofstadter) are found not by dialing the knobs to an unusual setting, but by installing new knobs on the box.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 5:49 am 
jburke wrote:
e, (low back) a and u has just as much space as i,a,u, and offers the further benefit of having a vowel in each of the three height levels.

That is true for a standard vowel diagram, yes, but how is it if you compare the audible difference? I suspect there's a bit more difference in the formants for i a u than for e a u. Just my 2 cnts though.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 9:44 am 
Sanci
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It is true that most "universals" are general patterns and most of them are broken by a very small number of languages. However, there are some that truly are universal, such as all languages having pulmonic consonants (in particular voiceless stops) and I believe front and back vowels. Also, all languages have nouns and verbs.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 9:49 am 
Lebom
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civman2000 wrote:
Also, all languages have nouns and verbs.


Ah, you'd best confer with Jeff on that one before you write it in any books.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 11:14 am 
Miekk0 wrote:
jburke wrote:
e, (low back) a and u has just as much space as i,a,u, and offers the further benefit of having a vowel in each of the three height levels.

That is true for a standard vowel diagram, yes, but how is it if you compare the audible difference? I suspect there's a bit more difference in the formants for i a u than for e a u. Just my 2 cnts though.


e,a,u and i,a,u are of equal distinction to my ears. There may be some subtle differences, but they're so small that they couldn't account for the widespread choice of i,a,u.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 11:26 am 
Dudicon wrote:
civman2000 wrote:
Also, all languages have nouns and verbs.


Ah, you'd best confer with Jeff on that one before you write it in any books.


Thanks, Dudicon.

We know with a high degree of certainty that the above wasn't true in the past; e.g., Proto Iroquois had unified morphology and apparently no semantic distinction between nouns and verbs (and it is, in this respect, the template for Noyahtukah). All Iroquois formal nouns are of recent innovation; and the nominal morphologies of the Iroquois languages are crude and simplistic compared to the verbal morphologies.

The same was true of Algonquian, but you have to go further back to see it; even by the time of Proto Algonquian formal nouns had begun to evolve (though they were clearly secondary in importance to verbs). This is where it gets interesting. The Salishan and Waskashan languages are likely ancient offshoots of Proto Algonquian's ancestor, and in some of them it has been claimed that there is no formal distinction between nouns and verbs; Nootka, e.g. I haven't fully investigated the Salishan and Wakashan families yet, so I can't give my own opinion, but it wouldn't surprise me if this were true. Some have contested it--likely to save some theory or other of universal grammar; but Sapir definitely believed it, and I tend to trust his instincts. It would definitely fit with what we know about Algonquian's past.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 11:47 am 
jburke wrote:
Dudicon wrote:
civman2000 wrote:
Also, all languages have nouns and verbs.


Ah, you'd best confer with Jeff on that one before you write it in any books.


Thanks, Dudicon.

We know with a high degree of certainty that the above wasn't true in the past; e.g., Proto Iroquois had unified morphology and apparently no semantic distinction between nouns and verbs (and it is, in this respect, the template for Noyahtukah). All Iroquois formal nouns are of recent innovation; and the nominal morphologies of the Iroquois languages are crude and simplistic compared to the verbal morphologies.

The same was true of Algonquian, but you have to go further back to see it; even by the time of Proto Algonquian formal nouns had begun to evolve (though they were clearly secondary in importance to verbs). This is where it gets interesting. The Salishan and Waskashan languages are likely ancient offshoots of Proto Algonquian's ancestor, and in some of them it has been claimed that there is no formal distinction between nouns and verbs; Nootka, e.g. I haven't fully investigated the Salishan and Wakashan families yet, so I can't give my own opinion, but it wouldn't surprise me if this were true. Some have contested it--likely to save some theory or other of universal grammar; but Sapir definitely believed it, and I tend to trust his instincts. It would definitely fit with what we know about Algonquian's past.


How many proto-langs are there is the New World? Have you made use of Proto-Iroquois?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 12:00 pm 
langfiend wrote:
How many proto-langs are there is the New World? Have you made use of Proto-Iroquois?


I don't know the total number, but quite a few. The ones I know best are Protos Algonquian and Iroquois; ones I've looked at are Protos Algic and Salishan; and I've heard of Protos Quechuan (from Mark), Caddoan, and Ute-Aztecan. But there are undoubtedly more.

And, yes, I've made use of PI, as I said--it's the inspiration for Noyahtukah morphology. I also used the phonological shifts from PI > Mohawk as inspiration for Noyahtukah > Hano?atsi. (Basically, if it's Algonquian or Iroquois, I've probably used it at some point in some manner.)


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 12:24 pm 
Avisaru
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Which raises the question, Jeff, do these languages place greater focus on verbs than nouns, or rather the lack of a distinction, based on personal psychology (that is, *kinesthetic, I'm not familiar with the term itself, so forgive me if I'm wrong), or is it just a feature of the language?

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 12:32 pm 
Nikolai wrote:
Which raises the question, Jeff, do these languages place greater focus on verbs than nouns, or rather the lack of a distinction, based on personal psychology (that is, *kinesthetic, I'm not familiar with the term itself, so forgive me if I'm wrong), or is it just a feature of the language?


The PI lack of a formal noun-verb distinction was accompanied by a lack of semantic distinction. Even today, most Mohawk "nouns" are really verbs (people call them nouns because they fill the same syntatic role that formal nouns do--but morphologically and semantically, they are verbs.)
And even Mohawk formal nouns are generally associated semantically with some kind of motion or process--after all, they all evolved from verbs.

In the introduction to Noyahtukah morpohology I wrote an account of all this. You might find it useful in understanding how it all fits together; the intro is posted on my blog:

http://www.livejournal.com/~daszeria

I won't claim that every word of the description of the mindset is absolutely accurate, but it's generally in the right direction. (This is art, and necessitates my own embellihsments and filling in of gaps where no information is available).


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 5:47 pm 
Sanci
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Quote:
We know with a high degree of certainty that the above wasn't true in the past; e.g., Proto Iroquois had unified morphology and apparently no semantic distinction between nouns and verbs (and it is, in this respect, the template for Noyahtukah). All Iroquois formal nouns are of recent innovation; and the nominal morphologies of the Iroquois languages are crude and simplistic compared to the verbal morphologies.

The same was true of Algonquian, but you have to go further back to see it; even by the time of Proto Algonquian formal nouns had begun to evolve (though they were clearly secondary in importance to verbs). This is where it gets interesting. The Salishan and Waskashan languages are likely ancient offshoots of Proto Algonquian's ancestor, and in some of them it has been claimed that there is no formal distinction between nouns and verbs; Nootka, e.g. I haven't fully investigated the Salishan and Wakashan families yet, so I can't give my own opinion, but it wouldn't surprise me if this were true. Some have contested it--likely to save some theory or other of universal grammar; but Sapir definitely believed it, and I tend to trust his instincts. It would definitely fit with what we know about Algonquian's past.


Heh, I guess my old linguistics textbook is wrong then...

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 5:51 pm 
civman2000 wrote:
Quote:
We know with a high degree of certainty that the above wasn't true in the past; e.g., Proto Iroquois had unified morphology and apparently no semantic distinction between nouns and verbs (and it is, in this respect, the template for Noyahtukah). All Iroquois formal nouns are of recent innovation; and the nominal morphologies of the Iroquois languages are crude and simplistic compared to the verbal morphologies.

The same was true of Algonquian, but you have to go further back to see it; even by the time of Proto Algonquian formal nouns had begun to evolve (though they were clearly secondary in importance to verbs). This is where it gets interesting. The Salishan and Waskashan languages are likely ancient offshoots of Proto Algonquian's ancestor, and in some of them it has been claimed that there is no formal distinction between nouns and verbs; Nootka, e.g. I haven't fully investigated the Salishan and Wakashan families yet, so I can't give my own opinion, but it wouldn't surprise me if this were true. Some have contested it--likely to save some theory or other of universal grammar; but Sapir definitely believed it, and I tend to trust his instincts. It would definitely fit with what we know about Algonquian's past.


Heh, I guess my old linguistics textbook is wrong then...


Not an uncommon fault for textbooks; I don't depend on them. Then again, a noun-verb distinction can be considered a "universal" in the sense that it's a tendency, while not an absolute.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 6:32 pm 
Lebom
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Mercator wrote:
But why not /a/ /M/ /y/ instead? We could call it the Amy system.


A bit late, but I've got a reply to that. Back vowels get their distinctive sound from the greater length of the part of the mouth which is used to shape the sound, and front vowels from corresponding shortness. Rounding of the lips lengthens the "tube", and so a rounded back vowel sounds a bit "more back" and an unrounded front vowel sounds a bit "more front", so the /a/ /u/ /i/ is definitely more distinct than /a/ /M/ /y/.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 7:16 pm 
Avisaru
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Is that it? The 'universal' is all languages have at least two from /p, t, k, or ?/? That isn't so much a universal as a sweeping generalization.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 10:32 am 
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Universals of Tone

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 1:34 pm 
Avisaru
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jburke wrote:
Nikolai wrote:
Which raises the question, Jeff, do these languages place greater focus on verbs than nouns, or rather the lack of a distinction, based on personal psychology (that is, *kinesthetic, I'm not familiar with the term itself, so forgive me if I'm wrong), or is it just a feature of the language?


The PI lack of a formal noun-verb distinction was accompanied by a lack of semantic distinction. Even today, most Mohawk "nouns" are really verbs (people call them nouns because they fill the same syntatic role that formal nouns do--but morphologically and semantically, they are verbs.)
And even Mohawk formal nouns are generally associated semantically with some kind of motion or process--after all, they all evolved from verbs.

In the introduction to Noyahtukah morpohology I wrote an account of all this. You might find it useful in understanding how it all fits together; the intro is posted on my blog:

http://www.livejournal.com/~daszeria


page not found.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2007 7:59 pm 
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jburke wrote:
Addendum:

E.g., consider the most common tri-vowel set: i,a,u. There are other sets of three vowels that are just as distinct (e,a,u, with the /a/ as a low back vowel, e.g.), but they're nowhere near as common.


You're revealing your language's basic assumptions about the world. Quranic Arabic, for example, didn't distinguish between [i e] or [u o].

As Nuntar(?), said earlier, [i] is farther from [a] than [e], but this is ignoring the general realizations of /a i u/ in many systems. In Quechua, they are much closer to [6 I U] than anything else. I believe Zomp's theory on this is that without other vowels to block them from sliding inward a little, they... slid inward a little.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 10:01 pm 
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Rodlox wrote:
page not found.
This thread is a million years old now, parts of it arent going to make sense. For example, I was known as Mercator back then. And how often does Zomp post in L&L nowadays?

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 1:27 am 
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Soap wrote:
And how often does Zomp post nowadays?


(fixed). Not very often.

schwatever wrote:
You're revealing your language's basic assumptions about the world. Quranic Arabic, for example, didn't distinguish between [i e] or [u o].


What? What does that have to do with anything? And how is that his "language's basic assumptions about the world"?


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 5:12 am 
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schwhatever wrote:
As Nuntar(?), said earlier, [i] is farther from [a] than [e], but this is ignoring the general realizations of /a i u/ in many systems. In Quechua, they are much closer to [6 I U] than anything else. I believe Zomp's theory on this is that without other vowels to block them from sliding inward a little, they... slid inward a little.


Actually, Quechua /a/ is realised something like [{] by native speakers. Classical Arabic /a/ may have been closer to [{] aswell (given that plenty of dialects realise long or short */a/ as [E]). So what we have is /a/ actually moving *towards* /i/ in a tri-vowel system. What Vohpenonomae was suggesting was a system of /e u A/, which if we take the "vowels spread out across the available space" trend, looks perfectly possible. However, it does go against the "a language tends to have more front vowels than back vowels" trend.

Schwatever: Staaaay awaaay from sapir and whorf. They might be vaguely right, but not to the extent that "OMG UR VOWELS IZ IMPEEDING UR THOUGHTS" isn't retarded. Also IIRC voh speaks fluent Mohawk and an Algonquin language whose name I've forgotten.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 5:27 pm 
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Gremlins wrote:
Schwatever: Staaaay awaaay from sapir and whorf. They might be vaguely right, but not to the extent that "OMG UR VOWELS IZ IMPEEDING UR THOUGHTS" isn't retarded. Also IIRC voh speaks fluent Mohawk and an Algonquin language whose name I've forgotten.


Algonquian language. And it's Cheyenne.

Also, agreed with the staying away from the Whorfian stuff. I mean, to a small extent I think the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has some stuff right, but ... but large-scale it's nonsense.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 9:34 am 
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Rodlox wrote:
jburke wrote:
In the introduction to Noyahtukah morpohology I wrote an account of all this. You might find it useful in understanding how it all fits together; the intro is posted on my blog:

http://www.livejournal.com/~daszeria


page not found.


Um, Google?

http://www.geocities.com/rtoennis/

:P

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 3:59 pm 
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I read somewhere that [a] was a sound in every language. But now I have nagging doubts...


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