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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 8:06 am 
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All right, so the title's deliberately evocative--I know that all languages have some degree of allophony. What I'm really interested in is languages that have the least allophony. I know languages with very small phoneme inventories can have some crazy allophones (you know, like Pirahã apparently having [k] as an allophone for /hi/). Does the opposite hold true--do languages with very large phoneme inventories have very little allophony? For example, what kind of allophony does Ubykh or !Xóõ have? (I know Ubykh has a lot of vowel allophony, but among the consonants, at least.) And are there other factors that can impact the amount of allophony a language has, aside from just the size of the phoneme inventory?

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 9:10 am 
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I think languages with (C)V syllables, particularly the Polynesian and Bantu languages, would have very little allophony as there are fewer environments to influence the consonants.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 9:36 am 
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Frislander wrote:
I think languages with (C)V syllables, particularly the Polynesian and Bantu languages, would have very little allophony as there are fewer environments to influence the consonants.


There may be few logically possible conditions for allophony but they certainly make use of the ones they have available. Hawaiian /w/ > [v] before (adjacent to?) front vowels.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 10:25 am 
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A common one is /t/ > [s] before /i(ː)/.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 10:27 am 
Avisaru
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Frislander wrote:
I think languages with (C)V syllables, particularly the Polynesian and Bantu languages, would have very little allophony as there are fewer environments to influence the consonants.

Even with (C)V syllables, the quality of the V can often have an allophonic effect on the C, or vice versa. For example, the Bantu language Sotho has /l~d/: [d] is used before the closest vowels /i/ and /u/, while [l] is used before all of the other vowels. I don't remember which ones, but there are other languages where high vowels cause allophonic aspiration of preceding voiceless plosives. And of course, non-phonemic processes of palatalization such as /s/ > [ʃ] / _i are common.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 11:09 am 
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There are probably two contrary processes here.

Languages with small inventories will have plenty of allophony, as sounds spread out to fill the space: you can have /w/ be [v] in some places, or /t/ be [s] in others because there are few other phonemes for these ones to 'compete' with for space.

Languages with large inventories should have less allophony. But there's a problem.

Languages with large inventories tend to be languages with complex phonotactics. And complicated phonotactics will also probably lead to plenty of allophony, because the phonemes can be places in a wider array of contexts.

[Complex phonotactics produce lots of allophony, which is one reason why they end up with large consonant inventories, as the conditioning environments for that allophony are lost!]

So I would suspect that on average you'd find the narrowest range of allophony among nondescript languages with mid-sized inventories.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 12:18 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
So I would suspect that on average you'd find the narrowest range of allophony among nondescript languages with mid-sized inventories.


So something like, I don't know, Swahili?

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 12:32 pm 
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As far as I know the only allophones Welsh has are the devoiced nasals. I could be wrong though.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 1:49 pm 
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Sumelic wrote:
there are other languages where high vowels cause allophonic aspiration of preceding voiceless plosives.


What would motivate that?


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 1:58 pm 
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I'd reason all languages have allophony, simply because not all languages contrast all human sounds. Even in languages like Ubykh there's plenty of room for allophony: [h~hʷ~hʲ~ɦ], [l~ɫ], [m~m̥] .

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And are there other factors that can impact the amount of allophony a language has, aside from just the size of the phoneme inventory


Sprachbund: bi-lingual speakers start to normalize phoneme inventories of one another (european [ʀ]).


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 2:26 pm 
Avisaru
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TSSL wrote:
Sumelic wrote:
there are other languages where high vowels cause allophonic aspiration of preceding voiceless plosives.

What would motivate that?


Hmm... I found a book that says it might be because it takes longer to release the oral pressure buildup: https://books.google.com/books?id=TFUTD ... on&f=false

Here's another book that discusses changes like this (mostly phonologized, though, not allophonic) in some African languages; it seems to often be linked to affrication of coronal stops: https://books.google.com/books?id=5_a3j ... on&f=false

Apparently, aspirated plosives may occur allophonically in some cases for French speakers before /i/ and /y/ (environments where coronal plosives may also become affricates for some speakers), as well as before /u/ : http://ling.snu.ac.kr/jun/under_phono/sample_paper.pdf

In a way, this reminds me of the affrication of coronals in Japanese before /u/ and /i/; I wonder if these phenomena are related. On the other hand, it looks like in some Japonic languages, aspiration was actually inhibited before high vowels for some reason: https://books.google.com/books?id=aun8B ... on&f=false


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 3:41 pm 
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Sumelic wrote:
In a way, this reminds me of the affrication of coronals in Japanese before /u/ and /i/; I wonder if these phenomena are related.

I've heard that this affrication in Japanese and some other languages is thought to be related to sulcalisation, which is common allophonically before high vowels. Don't know if that's an alternative explanation for the same phenomenon as the 'longer to release' idea, or two phenomena that happen to have the same result...

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 5:53 pm 
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Pedantic but perhaps important note: all languages have allophony, because phones are analog, and phonemes are discrete. Say the same sound a hundred times and you'll get a little cloud in your feature space.

Plus, each context modifies the sounds. k is different before o or u, n is different initially and finally. A word will sound different in quick speech. Plus there's all the tiny differences that allow you to recognize individual voices.

Whether or not the variation gets reported in a grammar may well depend on the ear, the thoroughness, and the background of the grammarian.

Snarky response: what about Esperanto? Its spelling is claimed to be "phonetic", so technically it has no allophony...


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 6:17 pm 
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zompist wrote:
Pedantic but perhaps important note: all languages have allophony, because phones are analog, and phonemes are discrete. Say the same sound a hundred times and you'll get a little cloud in your feature space.

Plus, each context modifies the sounds. k is different before o or u, n is different initially and finally. A word will sound different in quick speech. Plus there's all the tiny differences that allow you to recognize individual voices.

Whether or not the variation gets reported in a grammar may well depend on the ear, the thoroughness, and the background of the grammarian.


I was going to say this if you didn't. There logically cannot be a language without allophonic processes because no sounds can be reproduced with 100% precision and all sounds are affected to at least a minor degree by preceding or following sounds. (All consonants are at least slightly palatalized before front vowels unless there's at least a slight non-front onglide, for example, simply because your tongue can't instantly teleport from one position to the next.) At best there are languages that only have very minor allophonic variation.

Quote:
Snarky response: what about Esperanto? Its spelling is claimed to be "phonetic", so technically it has no allophony...


I've always hated how glibly and incompletely Zamenhof tried to describe his language, and how often later Esperantists insist that there's nothing missing. Granted, I rather dislike Esperanto in general.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 7:14 pm 
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Chengjiang wrote:
zompist wrote:
Pedantic but perhaps important note: all languages have allophony, because phones are analog, and phonemes are discrete. Say the same sound a hundred times and you'll get a little cloud in your feature space.


I was going to say this if you didn't. There logically cannot be a language without allophonic processes


I wasn't going to say this, because I read the OP, which says it already.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 6:40 am 
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Salmoneus wrote:
Languages with large inventories should have less allophony. But there's a problem.

Languages with large inventories tend to be languages with complex phonotactics. And complicated phonotactics will also probably lead to plenty of allophony, because the phonemes can be places in a wider array of contexts.

On the other hand, since the narrower acceptable ranges for each phoneme have still not gone anywhere, combinatory effects should be perhaps rather expected to collapse into morphophonology. If a language underlyingly allows both //kw// and //kʷ//, or allows both //ts// and //tˢ//, I would definitely expect these to be realized as the same — not for them to allow a "mildly labialized allophone" of /k/ and a "mildly affricated allophone" of /t/. (Exceptions happen, of course — see e.g. Polish.)

Another thing though is that we perhaps should not measure the bare size of the inventory, but also keep an eye on its feature economy. A fricative subsystem /f s ʃ v z ʒ/ is exactly as large as /f s sʰ z ħ ʁ/, but I for one would expect the latter to have more allophony (e.g. the existence of an aspiration contrast /s sʰ/ enables the possibility of [fʰ] as an allophone of /f/, while the existence of a pharyngeal place of articulation enables [ʕ] as an allophone of /ʁ/).

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 12:04 pm 
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dyolf wrote:
As far as I know the only allophones Welsh has are the devoiced nasals. I could be wrong though.

Those are contrastive and so, by definition, not allophonic.

One thing that might influence allophony is the existence of a strongly-enforced normative codified pronunciation standard. I would expect that being hyperaware of nonstandard variations would make one more aware of pronunciation variations in general. Moreover, these are most common in situations where the standard variety is learned explicitly by most speakers.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:25 pm 
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re: Japanese, some languages (e.g. O'odham) had all high vowels condition palatalization

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:09 am 
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I think Finnish has very little allophonic variation. The only major things I can come up with are /n/ having the allophones [m n ŋ] and /h/ with several allophones.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 2:20 pm 
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How would you define "major" allophonic variation?

Some cases of allophony in Finnish include:
• prosody-related variation in length (e.g. short vowels become half-long at the end of a short trochaic stress group)
• variation between dentals and alveolars (probably speaker-dependant, but e.g. I have fairly systematically /rt̪/ → [rt͇])
• /sr/ → [sɹ]
• usual combinary effects with labialization or palatalization (/ju/ → [ɥu], /li/ → [lʲi])
• some degree of free variation in mid vowel height (I typically have [e ø̞ ɔ] for /e ö o/)
• some vowel-harmony-related issues (/e/ → [e̠] when back-harmonic)
• relatively free variation /v/ → [ʋ ~ v]
• variation in number of contacts in /r/ (i.e. [ɾ ~ ɾɾ ~ ɾɾɾ ~ …])

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2016 6:43 am 
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Tropylium wrote:
• prosody-related variation in length (e.g. short vowels become half-long at the end of a short trochaic stress group)
• variation between dentals and alveolars (probably speaker-dependant, but e.g. I have fairly systematically /rt̪/ → [rt͇])
• /sr/ → [sɹ]
• usual combinary effects with labialization or palatalization (/ju/ → [ɥu], /li/ → [lʲi])
• some degree of free variation in mid vowel height (I typically have [e ø̞ ɔ] for /e ö o/)
• some vowel-harmony-related issues (/e/ → [e̠] when back-harmonic)
• relatively free variation /v/ → [ʋ ~ v]

Okay, I didn't know about these. Anyway, what I was thinking of was variation that you can actually hear if you listen very carefully. Now, of course it's a fuzzy definition, and it varies from person to person. But I understood it like the OP wanted to hear about our impressions, rather than spergingly clear evidence (which is impossible for anyone to give).

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2016 11:40 am 
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Qwynegold wrote:
Tropylium wrote:
• prosody-related variation in length (e.g. short vowels become half-long at the end of a short trochaic stress group)
• variation between dentals and alveolars (probably speaker-dependant, but e.g. I have fairly systematically /rt̪/ → [rt͇])
• /sr/ → [sɹ]
• usual combinary effects with labialization or palatalization (/ju/ → [ɥu], /li/ → [lʲi])
• some degree of free variation in mid vowel height (I typically have [e ø̞ ɔ] for /e ö o/)
• some vowel-harmony-related issues (/e/ → [e̠] when back-harmonic)
• relatively free variation /v/ → [ʋ ~ v]

Okay, I didn't know about these. Anyway, what I was thinking of was variation that you can actually hear if you listen very carefully. Now, of course it's a fuzzy definition, and it varies from person to person. But I understood it like the OP wanted to hear about our impressions, rather than spergingly clear evidence (which is impossible for anyone to give).

The entire point behind allophony, though, is that your average monoglot speaker can't hear the difference; we're trained to hear the sounds our language distinguishes phonemically and sort of tune out the rest. For example, it took me some time to hear [ɾ] because my brain automatically parses it as /t d/.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2016 5:08 am 
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I wouldn't go that far - native speakers can sometimes be aware of allophony. Allophones sometimes get their own letters, for instance. But it's true that speakers are often not aware of allophony, sometimes even if they're told about it. I've had people flat out refuse to believe there's a difference between aspirated and unaspirated voiceless stops in English, for instance.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2016 7:07 pm 
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I would presume that second-language learning informs people's understanding of their native languages' allophony at least somewhat.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:30 pm 
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Tropylium wrote:
I would presume that second-language learning informs people's understanding of their native languages' allophony at least somewhat.

Yes, hence my emphasis on "monoglot speakers." Learning French, for example, is what made me conscious of aspiration, flapping, and debuccalization, prior to my interest in linguistics.

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