LINGUIST List 10.1876

Mon Dec 6 1999

Disc: What Exactly Are Allophones?

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <lydialinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Zylogy, Re: 10.1872, Disc: What Exactly Are Allophones?
  2. Patrick Farrell, Re: 10.1855, Disc: What Exactly Are Allophones?
  3. samuel seddoh, What Exactly Are Allophones?

Message 1: Re: 10.1872, Disc: What Exactly Are Allophones?

Date: Sun, 5 Dec 1999 15:13:05 EST
From: Zylogy <Zylogyaol.com>
Subject: Re: 10.1872, Disc: What Exactly Are Allophones?

I have a question for folks here: Does allophonic variation occur in 
ideophones and other sound symbolically transparent lexical material? If not, 
or if the extent to which it does occur is rather limited with respect to 
that of phonosemantically opaque forms, would this imply that allophonic 
variation itself was not basic to the lexicon (if one goes by the notion that 
all lexical material must ultimately- whether inherited or borrowed or both- 
go back to iconic origins)? Variation, inasmuch as it originates in 
concatenative distortion, would be expected to be minimal in ideophones 
(which possess minimal morphology or appositionally created sandhi). What 
about root-internal segmental cooccurrance? Are limitations here basic, or 
derivative? Is there a relation between internal/external processes, a sort 
of balancing between them?
Just thought I'd throw this into the ring. 

Jess Tauber
zylogyaol.com

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Message 2: Re: 10.1855, Disc: What Exactly Are Allophones?

Date: Sun, 05 Dec 1999 18:44:03 -0800
From: Patrick Farrell <pmfarrellucdavis.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.1855, Disc: What Exactly Are Allophones?

Two points of view concerning "allophone" are expressed in the following:

>>JORGE SAID
> > Saying that an allophone is a relation is negated by saying that X is an
> > allophone of Y in language Z, since X is ***something****.

>DAN RESPONDED
> You've totally misunderstood me. I specifically put brackets around the
> [X], which you've abandoned; too bad, since the brackets say, universally
> to linguists, that the [X] is a PHONE. Perhaps I should have written it
> out more clearly: The phone [X] is an allophone OF the phoneme /Y/. I was
> trying to say that "allophone" by itself is misleading, assisting us to
> imagine that it is a thing, whereas "allophone of" points more directly to
> its use as a relation between two things, phone and phoneme. "Allophonic"
> would be even more preferable for seeing its relationship role.

It seems pretty clear to me that there is a sense in which Dan is surely
right. It would be pretty weird to say "The word I just heard her say
consisted of three allophones," whereas it would be OK to say "The word I
just heard her say consisted of three phones/phonemes." Why? Because
allophony is fundamentally a relational concept. "Allophone" is quite like
the word "member". If someone asked me to list all the things in the world,
I wouldn't say "whales, pine trees, members, ..." Why? because "member" is
an inherently relational concept. It designates the relation that exists
between a group and its constituents. By the same token, if asked to list
the things that make up languages, I would say, perhaps, "phones (or
phonemes), words, sentences, etc.", but not "allophones, words, sentences,
etc." "Allophone" (which is used generally in the predicate phrase "be
allophone of") primarily designates the relation that exists between phones
and phonemes.

Now, this doesn't prevent "allophone" from ALSO being used in such a way as
to designate one of the things that plays a role in an allophony
relationship. Once we have established that we are talking about the people
who are members of a particular club, we can talk about counting members,
seeing members, talking to members, etc. Why? Because "member" can be used
to designate the things that are in a given membership relation. Similarly,
"allophone" could be and perhaps is used to designate the phones that are in
a given allophonic relation with a phoneme (and/or other phones). Once we
have established that we are considering the phones [x] and [y], which are
allophones of /z/ (relational use of "allophone"), we could talk about the
distribution of the allophones [x] and [y] (thing-designating use of
"allophone"). Thus, there is a sense in which Jorge and advocates of the
"allophone is thing" stance are surely right. People at least could use
"allophone" in such a way as to designate something conceived of as a thing.

In fact, is there any real issue? Words are often polysemous. One of the
ways they can be polysemous, apparently, is in alternating between
designating a certain relation among things and the things that are in that
relation, much like "hammer" alternates between designating a process
involving a certain kind of instrument and the instrument used in that
process.

Of course, I take it that one of Dan's points is that it is ONLY the
English-contingent fact that "allophone" is a noun that leads us to
associate a superfluous thing-designating concept with it and maybe even to
consider this concept its central or primary sense and to think that the
word is needed to designate some kind of thing that exists in the world
independent of our conceptualization of it. I don't dispute this point.

Patrick Farrell

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Message 3: What Exactly Are Allophones?

Date: Mon, 06 Dec 1999 10:31:38 -0600
From: samuel seddoh <seddohengr.subr.edu>
Subject: What Exactly Are Allophones?

Allophone Enthusiasts:
First, tell the students to look up the nice little prefix "allo-" in
the
dictionary. There it says, " 'closely related', being one of a group
whose members together constitute a structural unit." Then, and only
then, are the students ready to get it. "Allo" has no special use for
things like "phones" or "morphs," but rather it is (Greek?) for grouping

within categories, and the categories can be many. How 'bout
"allograph"?
I am sure you can find many more "allo's" in classificatory science.

Hugh Buckingham


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