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Re: 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.
> 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.
> 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

The desirability of this is not at issue. The question is: is it better
for the language that the phonology be as clear and simple as possible
for speaker and hearer or that anything goes?

> >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 %^),

If everyone has the same centre/norm, then they probably have much the
same map. But why will you not prescribe the centre/norm for the buffer
(which was one of the options John suggested)?

> 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.

Is that still allowed? I thought that licence had been rescinded! And
there's me doing [h]s when I cd have been doing voiceless bilabial

> >> 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.

If the bv has phonological existence then presumably it is a lojban
sound. And if that sound is required to be shorter than other vowels
then length is a phonological feature.

> 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.

That's not true of English (at least not in any theory I know) but I
had thought until recent discussions that it is true of lojban.

> >> 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
> >one.
> 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.

If someone other than you thinks this makes sense, they should join in
and help get me to see that.

> 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.

But the acoustic space between [i] and [u] - i.e. around [y] - is
relatively unoccupied, by this standard. And I believe that cross-
linguistically, phonemic distinctions near the centre are rarer than
distinctions around the periphery, and the same goes for phoneticians'
perceptual abilities.

> >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.

True. I think the normal practise is to hold extensive trials. If
Lojban was to do that, there'd be a big redesign after the lg has seen
a number of years of heavy use. But at that point everyone who'd
learnt it wouldn't tolerate a redesign.

> > > 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.

? Which are the one or two non-standard vowels, and which standard to
they deviate from?

> >> 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.

I think that this may to some slight degree be because most speakers so
far are English native, but mainly because lg users can cope with all
sorts of noise & warping & flouting of rules. And the fluenter we get,
the better we'd be at coping. So I reckon your "anything goes" policy
would work. But then, by that standard, so would ambiguous syntax and
word boundaries. The unambiguous syntax and morphology is not motivated
by practical considerations. This is why I said you were being toljbo.