LINGUIST List 2.225

Wednesday, 15 May 1991

Disc: Phonology and Orthography

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  1. Vicki Fromkin, Re: Phonology and Orthography
  2. , Re: Phonology and Orthography
  3. , Letter names
  4. Hurch, re: Phonology and Orthography re: Coleman

Message 1: Re: Phonology and Orthography

Date: Mon, 13 May 91 12:17 PDT
From: Vicki Fromkin <>
Subject: Re: Phonology and Orthography
to Bochner etal. Interesting that -ity and -tion show up in morphological
speech errors quite a lot. In fact, ridiculosity actually was produced.
Don't know how you want to treat that re productivity and I do not
refer to it as evidence for what is the correct phonological theory --
but if there is other evidence that is strong, I would think such errors
provide some additional evidence re the productivity of rules (which are
because of such errors actually used in performance).
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Message 2: Re: Phonology and Orthography

Date: Mon, 13 May 91 14:48:07 PDT
From: <>
Subject: Re: Phonology and Orthography
John Coleman has criticized my interpretation of Richard Ogden's remarks, and
he may well have a point. I'll wait for Richard's comments before trying to
defend (or retract) my interpretation.

John also charged me with "profound ignorance" of phonological theory on the
grounds that I claimed lack of awareness of any theory that denied the
existence of segments (of phonetic or phonemic flavor). Well, I meant no
offense to anyone. It may be true that some phonologists believe they can
get away without segments. I sense that I will have made progress with John
if he someday accuses me of having only a shallow level of ignorance. ;-)

So, John, please clarify your following remark:

> Alphabetic writing is a historical development from mora-based
> semitic syllabaries, in which vowel distinctions were written 
> concatenatively...

This term "vowel", is that a technical term or what?

 -Rick (
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Message 3: Letter names

Date: Mon, 13 May 91 18:50:08 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Letter names
It is true that some letter names in some languages contain unique
phonemes (or perhaps unique phoneme combinations). Hoberman cites
a voiced velar fricative in the speech of a Turkish speaker and
Goldsmith cites an example from some Latin American varieties of
Spanish. I can add to this initial velar nasals in many Indo-Aryan

Of course, the whole thing started when I pointed out that Russian
has an initial high nonfront unrounded vowel (conventionally written
'y') in the name of the letter 'y', though I did not say that that
was the ONLY such item (and indeed Wojcik has cited some others,
though the clearest examples are borrowings). 

But there is a crucial point here, which Hoberman has made explicit
but which I suspect many more of you out there accept, namely, that
THEREFORE letter names should not be counted as evidence for
phonological contrasts in a language. But this I think would be
wrong and indeed illogical. In order to have a case for treating
letter name phonology as a separate system, you would at the very
least want also to show that instances of phonemes appearing in
just one word are restricted to such putatives separate systems.
Otherwise, there is no noncircular way of distinguishing letter
name phonology from "normal" phonology. And, as a matter of fact,
there are plenty of cases of unique phonemes or phoneme combinations
in "normal" phonology. The classic example is perhaps the velarized
l in the Standard Arabic name of God 'Allah' (or on my analysis a
distinctively velarized /a/). Another example is the palatovelar
in the Polish verb meaning 'to bend' (spelled giac, with a cedilla
on the 'a' and an acute on the 'c'). 
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Message 4: re: Phonology and Orthography re: Coleman

Date: 13 May 91 19:33 +0800
From: Hurch <>
Subject: re: Phonology and Orthography re: Coleman
Let me add in defense of Rick Wojcik's prototypical alphabet the 
historical examples of the adaption of the Greek alphabet for Latin (and
old Latin was written with Greeik letters); there is much of phonemic
analysis in what for quite some time has been considered erroneous.
Another (a little bit more) recent example can be found by the adaption of
the Latin alphabet through the mostly anonymous "writers" and translators
in the European middle ages. The most "well known" is the anonymous
Icelander, translated various times (the most remarkable one probably
by Haugen 1972).
This anonymous writer explicitly argues for the elimination of the notc
necessary consonants like X, Z, Y, K and Q, for the introduction of new
symbols, like for the front round vowels (high and mid), for the
orthographic marking of quantity (majuscules for long segments), the use
of diacritics, etc. The whole Latin alphabet was adapted (not only adopted)
to the phonemics of Old/Middle Icelandic. And the phonemic analysis was
taken out quite detailed, even for "modern" standards.
Bernhard Hurch

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