Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Voiced Alveopalatal Fricative in English

The voiced alveopalatal fricative is not so common in English. The voiceless counterpart is far more common. Let us look at a few words in which the voiced alveopalatal fricative occurs.

Here is a list of ten words:


The voiced alveopalatal fricative often occurs word-medially. Notice that the word-medial position is also intervocalic as in Asia and decision. In fewer cases the fricative occurs word-finally as in beige and massage. The fricative seldom occurs word-initially. One example is genre, a word borrowed from French.

The voiced alveopalatal fricative is less common than other English fricatives. Among Germanic languages, only English has the sound. It is also found in French. The voiced alveopalatal fricative is most common in word-medial position but rare in word-initial.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Variable Pronunciation with Suffixation

Suffixes such as -ful, -ly and -ness can attach to many roots. However, the pronunciation of the final vowel of the root varies. Let us look at a few examples.

A number of suffixes can combine with beauty to produce words such as beautify, beautiful and beautification. In these cases the final vowel of beauty is pronounced as a schwa in the forms with suffixation. However, this is not the case with the compound beauty queen. Here the final vowel of beauty is pronounced as a high front tense vowel.

The suffix -ly can produce many adverbs. A few examples include angrily, crazily  and happily. In these cases the final vowel of angry, crazy and happy becomes a schwa in the forms with suffixation.

In the word merciful, the penultimate vowel is pronounced as a schwa. This is the same as in beautiful. However, in words such as friendliness and happiness the penultimate vowel is not realized as a schwa but rather as a high front tense vowel. The penultimate vowel of happily is different from the penultimate vowel of happiness.

How can we explain this disparity? Why are the penultimate vowels of forms such as happily and happiness different? In both cases the penultimate vowel is unstressed and the preceding syllable is stressed. The environments are very similar. The notable difference is in the segments of the final syllable. In happiness the final syllable is CVC and in happily it is CV. Thus we see a difference in syllable weight.

It is the case that with the final light syllable of happily, the penultimate vowel becomes a schwa, but with the final heavy syllable of happiness, the penultimate vowel remains a high front vowel. Though  -ness is a bound morpheme, for the purposes of pronunciation it functions as the second word of a compound as in beauty queen.

The final vowel of words such as beauty and happy becomes a schwa in forms with the derivational suffixes -ful and -ly such as beautiful and happily. However, the pronunciation of the final vowel does not change in forms with the suffix -ness as in friendliness and happiness. This reality counters the principle of the regularity of sound change.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Quick Resignation

In a game of speed chess, my opponent resigned after my tenth move. He was ramramcr of Costa Rica, who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 e6

Black usually plays cxd.

4. d5 exd
5. exd Qe7+
6. Be2 Nb4

A better move for black is Ne5.

7. a3 Na6
8. Nc3 d6
9. 0-0 Qd7

Black blunders. He should play Qc7.

10. Bb5

The black queen cannot avoid capture. As a result, black resigns. Black's inability to develop his pieces and protect the king leads to his quick resignation.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Scottish Vowel Length Rule

The Scottish Vowel Length Rule, also known as Aitken's law, states that vowels tend to be long before the alveolar approximant, voiced fricatives and a morpheme boundary, but short elsewhere. Unlike in standard English, vowels are not long before voiced plosives. The rule was proposed by the Scottish linguist A.J. Aitken. Vowel length is conditioned by the phonetic environment of the target vowel, but the environment is more restricted than in standard English.

In standard English, the vowel of seed is longer than in seat. However, this doesn't apply to Scottish English, which maintains the same vowel length. The words leaf and leave have a difference in vowel length because leave ends with a voiced fricative.

The words greed and agreed have different vowel lengths. Though they both end with a voiced alveolar plosive, the word agreed has a morpheme boundary. The morphological structure can be represented as follows:

agree + (e)d = agreed

Whether the past tense marker ed was first suffixed and the vowel then deleted, or deletion occurred at the moment of suffixation is a matter of speculation. In any case, agreed consists of two morphemes. For this reason, agreed has a longer vowel than greed.

The Scottish Vowel Length Rule applies to the pronunciation of vowels in Scottish English. The rule is not categorical for all Scottish speakers. In the northern parts of Scotland, in particular, many specific words do not adhere to the rule. Nevertheless, the rule makes clear that vowels in Scottish English are pronounced differently than in other varieties of English.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Christina Rossetti wrote many beautiful poems. Here is a short one:

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

The rhyme scheme is a b c b d e f e. In the second and sixth verses, the pronouns I and you are reversed. In the seventh verse Christina Rossetti personifies trees. Who Has Seen the Wind? asks a rhetorical question. The poem is short and expressive.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Suffix Epenthesis

The English suffix -tion is very productive. It occurs in many words. However, in a number of cases, epenthesis also occurs to produce the variant -ation.

Here are words with the suffix variant -ation:


Epenthesis usually occurs with roots that end with a word-final consonant. However, no epenthesis occurs in the words actioninvention and location. Epenthesis also occcurs with words that end in a vowel such as continuation.

These are the final consonants of the words from the list:

/z/ 9
/r/ 3
/n/ 2
/v/ 2
/t/ 2
/s/ 1
/u/ 1

Most of the words have undergone changes to the root. The only one which has no changes is presentation. In cessation, the root is cease and in explanation it is explain.

Many words can be created with the suffix -tion. This suffix also has a variant which is formed with epenthesis. The epenthetic vowel helps to preserve a CV syllable structure and can thus be viewed as a syllable structure process.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Epenthesis in English Demonyms

Many suffixes can be used with demonyms in English. This is evident in words such as Australian, Japanese and New Yorker. Certain demonyms also have epenthesis. Here is a list:

Amalfi Amalfitan
Aqaba Aqabawi
Bali Balinese
Congo Congolese
Java Javanese
Peru Peruvian
Shanghai Shanghainese
Tobago Tobagonian
Togo Togolese
Toronto Torontonian

Here are the epenthetic segments of the demonyms:

Amalfitan [t]
Aqabawi [w]
Balinese [n]
Congolese [l]
Javanese [n]
Peruvian [v]
Shanghainese [n][
Tobagonian [n]
Togolese [l]
Torontonian [n]

Here we can see the number of occurrences of each epenthetic segment:

[n] 5/10 50%
[l] 2/10 20%
[v] 1/10 10%
[t] 1/10 10%
[w] 1/10 10%

Epenthesis can be observed in a number of English demonyms. This serves to preserve a CV sequence. The [n], [l] and [t] have an alveolar place of articulation. We can thus say that the most common place of articulation in English epenthetic segments appears to be alveolar.

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