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Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:48 am
by Ars Lande
As I said over in the Conlang fluency thread, I'm working on an English descendant.

It is intended to be the primary language of a cluster of space habitats (well, each habitat would have its own dialect naturally, sometimes quite divergent, but I'm keeping things simple for now), somewhere in the fourth or fifth millenium.

The speaker's ancestor would have picked English as a common tongue, but it would usually not be their native language. More precisely, I'd expect English to be a native language for about 30% of them. The rest would have a sufficient command of the language; the language would thus show influence from various superstratums (superstrata?) but no creolization.

Basically, I'm following this approach:

1. Pick a dialect of English that would be likely to be chosen as a lingua franca.
2. Apply a series of changes removing most of the salient features of english (clusters, large vowel inventory, and so on), so as to produce a result that would be plausible, and aesthetically pleasing (to me, anyway).
3. Profit.

I have a good idea of what I'd like to in step 2, but not so sure about step 1.
The obvious choice is, of course, General American. I can't really think of any good reason to pick another dialect. Some variety of British English might have a chance, but even in Europe people try to imitate American English rather than RP. But, if you have any objections, I'd be interested in them.
But, since we're not building space habitats any time soon, I need to project General American a bit into the future, before I do what I please with it. And here, not being a native speaker is a major bother.

Do any of you have suggestions on what changes to implement ?

A few specific questions:
- Should I introduce the NCVS? So far I did, but I have doubts. And I'm worried about the specifics. Should I have: [æ] > [ɛə] or [ɪə]
- And how about the cot-caught merger?
- The pin-pen merger?

Any ideas? I'm open to all suggestions.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:14 am
by Herr Dunkel
I'd say keep "PIN : PEN" seperate, but merge "COT : CAUGHT" - I'm personally not for NCVS in English descendants, but that's because my Englangs are all spoken in Europe anyway.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:55 am
by Burke
I'm with herr dunkel on those mergers, but also wouldn't go for radical sweeping changes either. I think, even though a large number of the people are non-native, that many of the clusters and vowel distinctions would effectively remain. Think about it this way. These folks are all going to have children. The accent they speak English with will not be inherited like genes are. Since it is the agreed upon language, why would you not have the native speakers teaching the children English? When they are small, sure they will have quirks in speaking. Think of all the kids under age 4 or 5 that struggle with th sounds or r. My brother had trouble with both into essentially 3rd grade. But if they have an adult teaching them, that person becomes the authority, so to speak, on the subject to them. They will be able to recognize the phonemes in place, and would eventually learn to reproduce them, albeit with small changes likely because of quirks they might develop amongst themselves. Words coming from other languages in, that makes a degree of sense. The kids could use them as slang to hide meaning from adults potentially, or just to sound cool.

The big reason I say this is because, growing up with Greek, I don't speak with a foreign accent (I do have a Boston Accent though). And many of my friends grew up speaking other languages at home too, whether it be Italian, Russian, Spanish, or Chinese. Small accents will develop, but not new dialects over night. Think about poorer regions of Big cities in the US about a century ago. Each neighborhood would have a language from the old country. One would be polish, or italian, &c, but the kids at school would learn English, and because they started young, the accent is minimal. My grandmother talks about this all the time. She grew up in the Quebecois/French region of her city, a few blocks down there were the Polish, then the Italians. She could speak clear English to any of them and get responses, but they still had their family's language. Really, the point I'm getting at is that kids, even if they are forced a new language at school, are VERY good at learning it and using it according to the standard that is in place and taught by teachers.

However, on the other side, if the situation arises that you have something like in India, where some people learn English and then teach it to the children, that is how serious change in the language will take place.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:05 am
by Salmoneus
It really doesn't matter in the slightest which dialect you pick. Consider: many modern dialectical features have only been around 50 years, or a century. Few dialectical features go back more than a couple of centuries. You're talking about a language spoken three thousand years from now. Even assuming humanity hasn't evolved into an aquatic cyborg hyperrabbit hive mind by then, you're still talking about the difference between modern english and pre-proto-Germanic. That's more than enough time for any contemporary dialectical differences to be flooded out by changes and restorations and interdialectical borrowing and whatever else.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:15 am
by clawgrip
You might want to look at how things work in Singlish, since "picked English as a common tongue, but it would usually not be their native language" more or less perfectly describes the situation that led to its creation. I've looked briefly at it and there are some interesting things going on, both with grammar, such as the introduction of productive reduplication, complete loss of the definite article in the basilect, reassigning of English words to unusual/unexpected functions (the complex and confusing uses of "one"), and phonology, like dropping lax vowels and rare consonants like /ð/, and interestingly, Cantonese discourse particles being borrowed into the language with tones intact, despite Singlish not otherwise having tone.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:27 am
by Ars Lande
Salmoneus wrote:It really doesn't matter in the slightest which dialect you pick. Consider: many modern dialectical features have only been around 50 years, or a century. Few dialectical features go back more than a couple of centuries. You're talking about a language spoken three thousand years from now. Even assuming humanity hasn't evolved into an aquatic cyborg hyperrabbit hive mind by then, you're still talking about the difference between modern english and pre-proto-Germanic. That's more than enough time for any contemporary dialectical differences to be flooded out by changes and restorations and interdialectical borrowing and whatever else.


Well, yes and no.

No, because the effect can be cumulative over time. Given the current version of the sound changes I use, I could have either English cat > "Futurish" /tʰo:/ or cat > [t͡ɕʰi:] depending on whether I start with the NCVS or not.
Yes, because no one will be able to second-guess it because of the cumulative changes.

You might want to look at how things work in Singlish, since "picked English as a common tongue, but it would usually not be their native language" more or less perfectly describes the situation that led to its creation.


I'll definitely look at it. Though Southern Chinese dialects played IIRC a large role that would have no direct equivalent in the setting I propose.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:42 am
by clawgrip
Yeah, naturally, but it is definitely interesting. I especially think that the taking of completely regular English words and reassigning them to specific and completely non-English purposes could be a fun idea to play with. Singapore English. A grammatical description by Lisa Lim is where I got basically all my information, so if you can find it somewhere (Google Books has selections of it) it might give you some ideas.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 8:59 am
by legolasean
In the last proper descendant i have been trying to make, I merged the whole auxiliary system, and made some prefixes...
Exempli Gratia:
E: John had just visited his grandma.
NPDoE: John just ha'visit his grandma.

Also--- you can decide to borrow, for example, vocabulary and grammar from, let's say, Chinese. Why? Cuz there are many immigrants from Asia in the US.

E: I wanted to eat some spaghetti last night.
NPDoE+ChB: I ha'want to eat some myantyaos last yé.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:38 am
by Basilius
Salmoneus wrote:It really doesn't matter in the slightest which dialect you pick. Consider: many modern dialectical features have only been around 50 years, or a century. Few dialectical features go back more than a couple of centuries. You're talking about a language spoken three thousand years from now. Even assuming humanity hasn't evolved into an aquatic cyborg hyperrabbit hive mind by then, you're still talking about the difference between modern english and pre-proto-Germanic. That's more than enough time for any contemporary dialectical differences to be flooded out by changes and restorations and interdialectical borrowing and whatever else.

This isn't a valid objection.

For example, consider starting off a dialect without the whine-wine merger, and having two different reflexes for these diaphonemes. Some obvious considerations:

(1) Such dialects have already been marginalized in North America.

(2) The distinction in question is not supported by any other standard or widespread varieties of English (in Britain, Australia, India, ...).

(3) The distinction is difficult for non-natives, and is usually ignored (rather than artificially maintained) in teaching English to foreigners.

(4) Something rather unusual must happen for the merger to get reverted.

Therefore, it does matter whether you have this merger or not in your proto-dialect; specifically, it's not plausible not to have it.

But any other common merger needs an assessment, in this respect; one cannot just accept all of them, for some of them are mutually exclusive, and some tend to be stigmatized, etc.

* * *
Garlic: the immigrant communities you mention had huge level of exposure to specific local varieties of NAE.

Ars Lande explores a completely different situation, where most people are fluent in English but haven't lived in Anglophone countries (USA or Canada, in particular).

In all probability, they were taught an idealized approximation of GA, or of RP, or even a compromise between the two.

Besides, they had difficulties with some cross-linguistically less common distinctions.

* * *

With the above in mind, I think pin=pen has no chances. As for cot=caught, I dunno; taking myself as your prototypical non-native, it certainly causes some difficulties for understanding (in its native realization), and if I merge the vowels myself (which may indeed happen), the result will be also identical with the vowel in law (not in father).

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:26 am
by Ars Lande
Basilius wrote:Garlic: the immigrant communities you mention had huge level of exposure to specific local varieties of NAE.

Ars Lande explores a completely different situation, where most people are fluent in English but haven't lived in Anglophone countries (USA or Canada, in particular).

In all probability, they were taught an idealized approximation of GA, or of RP, or even a compromise between the two.

Besides, they had difficulties with some cross-linguistically less common distinctions.



That's it, with a caveat: they would have been taught an approximation of a future GA. (Let's assume 22nd century for the sake of argument). So they might have learnt English with the cot/caught merger, or indeed the NCVS, provided the change is sufficiently widespread, especially in a 'standard' variety of the language by then.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:37 am
by Burke
Ars Lande wrote:
Basilius wrote:Garlic: the immigrant communities you mention had huge level of exposure to specific local varieties of NAE.

Ars Lande explores a completely different situation, where most people are fluent in English but haven't lived in Anglophone countries (USA or Canada, in particular).

In all probability, they were taught an idealized approximation of GA, or of RP, or even a compromise between the two.

Besides, they had difficulties with some cross-linguistically less common distinctions.



That's it, with a caveat: they would have been taught an approximation of a future GA. (Let's assume 22nd century for the sake of argument). So they might have learnt English with the cot/caught merger, or indeed the NCVS, provided the change is sufficiently widespread, especially in a 'standard' variety of the language by then.



My b, will keep this in mind going forward.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:55 pm
by Travis B.
To include the NCVS in this is to assume that the NCVS will transform from being a regional dialect feature to becoming part of a future GA, which does not seem all that likely from the present perspective. (It seems much more likely that future GA will include the Canadian Raising of /aɪ̯/, as talked about on other threads here.)

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:11 pm
by Radius Solis
NCVS: I'm with Travis; who knows whether and how much it's going to spread. A hundred years from now maybe it'll cover most of the country, or maybe it will have retracted to just a few small pockets, or vanished entirely. Pretty much up in the air, at this point.

Pin-Pen: lacking in General American and I don't know if it's making any inroads into it. However, it is spreading on the west coast - California and PNW English speakers sometimes have it, now, and in fifty or a hundred years we'll probably all have it on this end of the country.

Cot-Caught: this has largely stabilized, hasn't it? AFAIK the isolect between them has not changed much in recent decades. I think the smart thing would be to keep the merger, though, because if vowel qualities are going to be collapsing into a smaller system, it seems rather likely that the existence of this merger in at least some of the colonizing speakers would motivate it to spread among those having trouble keeping so many vowels apart.

Travis B. wrote:(It seems much more likely that future GA will include the Canadian Raising of /aɪ̯/, as talked about on other threads here.)

I'm not so sure; is it really spreading? It looks more, to me, like one end of a feature continuum: the further north you go, the more likely it is to be raised in some (or most?) environments; the further south, the less likely, and furthest south of all you just get the low monophthong [a:]. The eastern half of the continent is usually divided into dialect regions that (except for NYC up through New England) are roughly horizontal east-west zones; South, South Midland, (North) Midland, Midwestern, Canadian. It looks to me like it's all shaping up into a good proper dialect continuum as time goes on.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:29 pm
by Travis B.
Radius Solis wrote:NCVS: I'm with Travis; who knows whether and how much it's going to spread. A hundred years from now maybe it'll cover most of the country, or maybe it will have retracted to just a few small pockets, or vanished entirely. Pretty much up in the air, at this point.

At least from what I have read at the present it seems to be spreading... but westwards, into the Dakotas, not southwards or eastwards. But for it to take hold on a space colony would require it to be substantially widespread to have at least made its way into GA, i.e. not just in the Great Lakes area through the Dakotas.

Radius Solis wrote:Pin-Pen: lacking in General American and I don't know if it's making any inroads into it. However, it is spreading on the west coast - California and PNW English speakers sometimes have it, now, and in fifty or a hundred years we'll probably all have it on this end of the country.

So far GA and dialects in the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes region seem to have no signs of inroads from this, but there is just a chance it could catch on in a space colony if it manages to really catch hold along the Pacific coast, with pin-pen-unmerged pronunciation becoming increasingly marginalized as, one hand, a more conservative feature of GA and, on the other hand, a dialectal feature in the Midwest and Northeast.

Radius Solis wrote:Cot-Caught: this has largely stabilized, hasn't it? AFAIK the isolect between them has not changed much in recent decades. I think the smart thing would be to keep the merger, though, because if vowel qualities are going to be collapsing into a smaller system, it seems rather likely that the existence of this merger in at least some of the colonizing speakers would motivate it to spread among those having trouble keeping so many vowels apart.

I agree that even though it does not seem to be going anywhere IRL, on a space colony with a significant non-native population it is likely that it could spread there, due to the resulting bias towards merging vowels.

Radius Solis wrote:
Travis B. wrote:(It seems much more likely that future GA will include the Canadian Raising of /aɪ̯/, as talked about on other threads here.)

I'm not so sure; is it really spreading? It looks more, to me, like one end of a feature continuum: the further north you go, the more likely it is to be raised in some (or most?) environments; the further south, the less likely, and furthest south of all you just get the low monophthong [a:]. The eastern half of the continent is usually divided into dialect regions that (except for NYC up through New England) are roughly horizontal east-west zones; South, South Midland, (North) Midland, Midwestern, Canadian. It looks to me like it's all shaping up into a good proper dialect continuum as time goes on.

It seems less specific to the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest than the NCVS is, and at least in threads about Canadian Raising in the past Canadian Raising of /aɪ̯/ always seemed to be pretty widespread in the northern part of the eastern US, whereas marked NCVS seems to really be something found just in Michigan, northern Illinois, Wisconsin (and along southern coastal areas of the other Great Lakes) and which is leaking into Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:10 am
by Ars Lande
Thanks for the comments, guys.
On NCVS, I thought of it because it has spread awfully close to dialects GA is based on, it didn't seem too unlikely that it could be adopted as a feature of GA. (Though Canadian reason might too, and for the same reasons).

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 4:50 pm
by R.Rusanov
Radius Solis wrote:... The eastern half of the continent is usually divided into dialect regions that (except for NYC up through New England) are roughly horizontal east-west zones; South, South Midland, (North) Midland, Midwestern, Canadian. It looks to me like it's all shaping up into a good proper dialect continuum as time goes on.


I don't think this is true, at least from all the research that I've seen.

Dialects in AmE are very very divergent from the horizontal stripes pattern, in part because the geography is different between America and, say, Wendish Germany (which was colonized horizontally), and also because there were political and ethnological concerns that let to the mixing of many dialects spoken by the first settlers in given regions, unlike places that were settled by homogenous offshoots of earlier communities. As this map seems to agree with:

http://aschmann.net/AmEng/index_collection/AmericanEnglishDialects.gif

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:48 pm
by Travis B.
Ars Lande wrote:Thanks for the comments, guys.
On NCVS, I thought of it because it has spread awfully close to dialects GA is based on, it didn't seem too unlikely that it could be adopted as a feature of GA. (Though Canadian reason might too, and for the same reasons).

The matter is that the area that GA proper originated, northern parts of the Lower Midwest, are close to being impinged upon by the NCVS, but GA and varieties allied to it are presently spoken much more widely today than just there, and certainly most of its speakers today do not live there. Consequently, the overtaking of the original native range of GA by the NCVS would not affect most people who speak GA and GA-like varieties today.

(It should be noted that the reason why GA got in the position it is today due to the massive internal resettlement after WW2, which seeded much of the US with people from the (non-NCVS) Midwest, and in particular resettled the West Coast with Midwesterners, essentially erasing the English varieties already spoken there and replacing them with ones descended from a general mix of English varieties spoken by Midwesterners. Hence GA dying out in its original range would not affect the rest of the US much without another such internal resettlement, which is highly unlikely.)

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:15 pm
by Buran
I found this descendant of General American. Maybe it will give you a few ideas?

Also, on pin/pen: I'm a Vancouverite, and I don't have it. I've noticed that "bowl" and "old" for me are [bo:l] and [o:ld], not [bowl] and [owld] ([ow] > [o:] before L). Has anybody else noticed this or heard of it? Also, "let's go" turns into "tsgo"; "What's going on?" beocomes "tsgoin on?", etc.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:32 pm
by Matrix
Adjective Recoil wrote:Also, on pin/pen: I'm a Vancouverite, and I don't have it. I've noticed that "bowl" and "old" for me are [bo:l] and [o:ld], not [bowl] and [owld] ([ow] > [o:] before L). Has anybody else noticed this or heard of it? Also, "let's go" turns into "tsgo"; "What's going on?" beocomes "tsgoin on?", etc.


Ooh, I'm also in the Lower Mainland, and I also have that bowl and old thing. And yeah, if I'm not being particular with my pronunciation, "Hey man, what's going on?" is [ʔɛɪ mæn | tskoɪ̯n ɑn].

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:24 pm
by Buran
Matrix wrote:
Adjective Recoil wrote:Also, on pin/pen: I'm a Vancouverite, and I don't have it. I've noticed that "bowl" and "old" for me are [bo:l] and [o:ld], not [bowl] and [owld] ([ow] > [o:] before L). Has anybody else noticed this or heard of it? Also, "let's go" turns into "tsgo"; "What's going on?" beocomes "tsgoin on?", etc.


Ooh, I'm also in the Lower Mainland, and I also have that bowl and old thing. And yeah, if I'm not being particular with my pronunciation, "Hey man, what's going on?" is [ʔɛɪ mæn | tskoɪ̯n ɑn].


Looks like Future Vancouver English has lost initial /h/, /ts/ has become a valid onset, and /ow/ > /o:/ before /l/. There's also vowel length in stressed syllables (long vowels before voiced consonants), and Canadian Raising.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:56 am
by clawgrip
I don't think this is limited to Vancouver. In speech I very often, maybe even almost always drop initial unstressed vowels, as well as function word initial /h/. I can very easily imagine myself saying things like Tsgo.
If he's ready I'm ready. :> Fe's ready I'm ready.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:29 am
by finlay
Nor is it limited really to a region. It's just that this kind of thing is underreported.

Fun fact: I once had the chance to get a t-shirt with IPA on it via my uni's linguistic society, and I wrote quite a broad transliteration of "if you can read this you're cool"... For the first part i wrote something like [I_0fjy] - my teacher pointed out that i could do [f:jy] instead but I decided I wanted it to still be at least vaguely recognizable.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 6:24 am
by Salmoneus
clawgrip wrote:I don't think this is limited to Vancouver. In speech I very often, maybe even almost always drop initial unstressed vowels, as well as function word initial /h/. I can very easily imagine myself saying things like Tsgo.
If he's ready I'm ready. :> Fe's ready I'm ready.

Unless the 'he' is being emphasises, I'd go further - zready 'm ready too. I tend to drop not just syllables but entire words utterance-initially.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:09 am
by clawgrip
I don't think I'd completely drop "if" in this sentence...it seems to lose too much meaning otherwise, even with context.

Re: Constructing a proper descendant of English

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:19 am
by Nortaneous
I'd have something like [(t)sg̥oɾ̃ɔn] and [fiz ɹɛ.ij‿aːm ɹɛ.i] I think initial tsC clusters would simplify to sC.

Cot-caught will probably hit my dialect in another generation or two; people (from the non-merging parts of the West Coast) have remarked on my [ɔ] being close to [ɑ], and I think the only difference is rounding. If I have to distinguish them, /ɔ/ comes out as a diphthong [ɔ̠ə̯], with a backed and more properly [ɔ]-like onset; but that's not the same as the [uə̯] which some Yankee accents have for /ɔ/ (and which my father has in 'on' but no other word, for some reason).