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Re: buffer vowel

la lojbab. cusku di'e

> Yes the vowels will tend to spread as far as possible.  But there is
> still some vowel space that is not used in most dialects.
> Rather than trying to define a specific buffer sound, that mnight be
> difficult for some speakers bvecause unnatural, I would prefer to leave it
> speaker dependent.  Indeed buffering is largely an involuntary reaction to
> difficult sounds and the amount we buffer may vary from time to time based
> on how much we are concentrating on speech.

Reluctantly, I have to weigh in on And's side here, after much mental
muddling while writing the phonology paper.  The phonology is broken in
the area of buffer vowels.

The principal trouble is that buffering is done for the speaker's benefit
(unlike the pronunciation of "'" as [T] (theta) which is supposed to be
for the listener's benefit), but if the listener has learned an unbuffered
dialect, he will not have space in his Lojban vowel map for the speaker's
buffer, and will stuff it into one of the other slots ("i" or "y" or
whatever), causing mishearing.

> Length is also important.  While Lojban vowel phonemes have no defined
> length, in practice, the buffer sound is shorter than any vowel, whatever the
> dialect.  I have tended in practice to lengthen my hyphen schwas when I am
> aware of buffering, to heighten any contrast.

I have added a note to the phonology paper saying that those who use buffers
should pronounce their "real" vowels longer, thus:  [kI la: ma:] where
[I] is the buffer and [:] is the IPA vowel length diacritic.

Unfortunately, I fear that although the phonology is broken, it may be
too late to fix it.  Either we have to define the buffer as a definite
though optional vowel, or we have to revise the morphology to allow
buffer-hyphen equivalence (meaning that "patfymamta" and "patfmamta"
mean the same thing -- currently the latter is a dubious le'avla).
This is scary, although it might work if it turns out that all le'avla
that are banned either fail the slinku'i test or involve nonstandard
medial consonant triples like "tfm" which is "t/f/m".

But if neither strategy can be made to work, then we just have to choke
down buffering as a known flaw in the language.

John Cowan					cowan@ccil.org
		e'osai ko sarji la lojban.