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Buffer and Vowel phonology

>This is toljbo.  English sentences are generally massively ambiguous,
>but that hardly ever creates comprehension problems, because they're
>easily disambiguable pragmatically.  Yet Lojban still eschews mainly
>harmless grammatical ambiguity.  But when it comes to phonology, you
>take the opposite view, and think that mainly harmless phonological
>ambiguity is fine.

No.  It is pragmatic.  I may eventually learn to speak fluent Russian,
without (many) grammatical errors (and I will recognize them upon
thought when I make them), but I know that I will never sound like a
native Russian.  Similarly, I will never sound like a native

People often give up on learning a language because they cannot manage
to achieve their image of "good enough".  In the area of phonology, I
therfore want the standard for "good enough" to be as low as possible -
not only is the goal there impossible in the first place, but it is
especially hard to learn phonology from net communications, using
paper/pencil/keyboard.  It is, on the other hand, apparently possible to
learn the grammar and vocabulary to a point of fluency or near fluency
without ever talking to another Lojbanist, as you and Nick and Ivan and
Goran among others have proved, and even though the Lojban grammar is
far more complicated to describe than the phonology.

So my goal is simply to set a simple ideal, and then to define as wide a
pragmatic range around that ideal as possible, as being "acceptable" and
not stigmatized.  I don't want Japanese and Chinese to be afraid to try
learning Lojban because of the consonant clusters as Americans are to
try to learn Chinese with its tones, Hindi with its aspirations, or
Georgian with its even more impressive consonant clusters
(pf-t-s-kh-v-n-a is the dictionary form of the verb "to peel" in
Georgian - and I can even say it .o'azo'o)

>You seem to be saying:  Lojban speakers can divide up vowel space into
>seven regions whichever way they choose, and their listener will be able
>to work out a map of those regions.  That's probably true - one can
>understand even the weirdest accent when one's heard it often enough.

The man understands!!!!  We want to define a center or norm for the
mapping so that we don't get TOO weird in the accents (like reversing
back and front vowels %^), but just as you can susbstitute any unvoiced
non-Lojban consonant sound for the apostrophe, and get away with it, as
long as you keep things distinct, vowels should work just as well.

>> If you add relative shortness as a feature, this should become an
>> "easy" task.
>Do you really want to add relative shortness as a feature? So Lojban
>has long v. short vowels?

The buffer is not a normal vowel, is not recognized even as a Lojban
sound in that it has no written symbol.  It is phonologically a vowel,
as is the consonantal buffer shown by apostrophe.  So Lojban vowels are
not contrasted by length, but a minimum relative length may be needed in
order that the sound be recognized as a Lojban vowel of ANY type.

This really is again a part of phonological realism, as I suspect that
any consonant phonologically happens in an environment surrounded by
"vowels" of some shortness in any consonant cluster.

>> Yuck to both.
>Not yuck - the objection must be that the fixes would undo too much work
>and learning and precedent, but in themselves both proposals are fine.

I was expressing my personal aesthetic reaction to both the concept and
to the HIDEOUS assumption that we would even want to CONSIDER rethinking
the morphology algorithm one more time.

> If I hear a
>> truly odd sound, like say /eu/ diphthong, a voiceless vowel whistle,
>> etc., I do NOT map it to a familiar phoneme.
>Yes you do. You would if someone said "Was it [leud]?". You would if
>someone said [k*tar] where * is voiceless vowel.

I presume I am supposed to imagine hearing these and to recognize them.
I am not succeeding.

>> I had no trouble recognizing o and u umlauts as distinct sounds from
>> any English vowel when first I started German classes, EVEN
>> when the sounds were produced improperly by other students.  They were
>> still distinctly different from those students' other realizations of
>> English or pseudo-German vowel phonemes, and I was prepared mentally for
>> the existence of extra unfamiliar phonemes that would map to the umlaut
>> vowels, so thus I heard them.
>How do you know you recognized o"/u" as distinct from any English vowel?
>What does that mean, even?

Since American schools teach foreign languages so abysmally, I believe
that none of the other german vowesl were taught as being even slightly
different from the English norms (whtever they are %^).  Thus, to all
intents and purposes, German vowel phonology was taught to us as being
English phonology with two extra vowels thrown in.  The differences
between those phonemes and the German vowels that we mapped to English
ones was phonemic, and thus essential to achieving even rudimentary
german listening comprehension when listening to German with an American
accent (which was all we heard except in the language lab on tape).
That most kids had no trouble picking out the sounds, even if they had
trouble making them is my evidence - we simply jammed two extra
phonemically distinct vowels into an already crowded English vowel

>> The Lojbanist should be prepared for exactly one phoneme that is clearly
>> distinct from all other Lojban vowel phonemes, though it might be
>> realized in different ways.
>Surely this description applies to exactly 7 vowel phonemes, not exactly

I left the word "vowel" out on purpose, but perhaps should have left the
word phoneme out.  The buffer is a vowel sound, but has no phonemic
significance.  In effect, its existence serves more to define a limit on
what vowel sounds among possible Lojban ones DO map to phonemes, and
which are simply noises that accompany consonants.

>> Some identifiable properties include relative shortness (even shorter
>> than an unstressed slack vowel),
>What - you want 3 degrees of length?

NO, I was catering to YOURE claim that unstressed slack vowels would be
short.  But that shortness is NOT essential to their mapping - if you
can say a long slack unstressed schwa, it will still be a single 'y' in

>> and usually some form of centrality, but contrast is also important.
>How do you determine what is usual? Usual relative to what?

The buffer and the hyphen together must manage to share the "central"
part of vowel space.  All of the other Lojban vowel sounds are pure
vowels that are ideally at the extreme from centrality for their
respective positions.  So central relative to the non-schwa Lojban vowels.

>But, one would expect, the physician monitors the extent to which
>different the prescription's different injunctions are obeyed. If some
>are flouted more often than others, then they might be less efficacious
>and in need of modification to something more efficacious.

Your physician is more conscientious then mine %^).  I don't keep
records of when I take my pills, so neither he nor I have much data
regarding my flouting of the prescription.  But I at least know that I
am - he can't tell unless I remain ill and he asks me and I tell the
truth %^).

> That emphatically means
>> that we do NOT want schwa used as a buffer.
>Why not, so long as /y/ maps to something different from the buffer?

Well, I would rather have one non-standard vowel than two.

>> So by specifying SOME rules
>> about the buffer, we are in effect prescribing the first line failure
>> mode for the phonology, so that it degrades gracefully under pressure.
>At present it is degrading gracelessly under pressure.

We have yet to experience a heavily buffered dialect.  So far we arguing
theory, and the language has not degraded at all.  (In actuality, the
tendency for English speakers to turn unstressed final 'a' into schwa
has been FAR more serious as a degradation than anything you have
proposed might happen - we can't even understand OURSELVES when we do