Monday, February 2, 2009

IAL phoneme selection

D: presumably, an aux-lang (auxiliary language) is
1) global
2) acquired in part by adults who
3) are not academics with that much time or inclination.
This means the sounds need to be pretty common.
Back to my observation that just matching sounds to regional interlanguages may be adequate.

From Rick Harrison:
D: this is hard to read but likely right. To date, most folks consider an IAL a solution to a problem that does not exist.
D: this may very well be THE single document to read on IALs.

"1. An optimal IAL will be relatively easy for most children and adults to learn as a second language.

2. An optimal IAL will have the ability to handle both mundane conversation and highly technical information.

3. An optimal IAL will be culturally neutral; it will not provide advantages of word recognition or other special favors to one or two ethnic groups at the expense of all others."

D: I disagree generally with the culturally neutral requirement. Right now, getting English-speakers on board is essential. Yup, it is shameless sucking up the powers that be. In a generation, that power (economically, somewhat) will be Mandarin Chinese.

The requirement to be culturally neutral is one more lofty principle at the expense of a practical sales job.

"Morneau surveyed data on 25 major languages and indicated that the following phonemes are used in at least 22 of the 25: /a, e, i, o, u, b, d, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, y/ (“y” represents the semi-vowel...
Sapir et al. recommended an even smaller array of phonemes: /a, i, u, p, t, k, s, l, m, n, v/.
The most unmarked phonemes would be these: /a, i, u, p, t, k, m, n, s, l/. A second rank of slightly more marked, but still generally manageable phonemes would be: /e, o, b, d, g, f, h, y, w/. A third rank of dubious but possible phonemes would be: /v, z, r, ch, sh/.”

D: I will mentions some languages that are not meant to be modern IALs. I realize this is unfair.
Toki Pona just wanted to explore Taoist philosophy. Ceqli is meant to appease the Chinese. Esperanto is a century old, before complete data sets were available.
English and Mandarin are control groups.

Toki Pona has nine consonants (/p, t, k, s, m, n, l, j, w/) and five vowels (/a, e, i, o, u/). The first syllable of a word is stressed;[9] an initial vowel may be optionally proceeded by a glottal stop.[10] There are no diphthongs or long vowels, no consonant clusters, and no tone.

D: a coupla comments.
First, the consonant choices are nearly ideal. Voice/voiceless distinctions are not used. Notably, TP would be better off with only 3 vowels for near-universality. (Arabic has aui and AUI).


6 vowels a e y o u i, 15 consonants b p d t g k w f z s j c m n l...
D: this is a fairly mechanistic approach. Note that most voiced/voiceless pairs are present, though V is absent based on rarity. So too is R missing due to rarity.
(I am not sure what Sapir based his selection upon.)
This is a sensible tier 1 and 2 phoneme selection. His use of H regarding voiced/voiceless consonant pairs is highly viable.

"The phoneme h is placed before the three letter long word only if its second phoneme is unvoiced consonant or n: p, t, k, f, s, c, n"

Ceqli is best understood as an interlang between English and Mandarin.
As such, it has too many sounds for a world IAL.

The Ceqli language uses the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet. 19 consonants:
And five vowels:
And two semivowels:

W and Y make these diphthongs: (11).

D: although it uses many phonemes, it has restrictive rules about syllable formation.
The number of syllables is considerably less than would otherwise be the case.

We all know English. It also has many phonemes and permissive syllable construction rules.
The word "strengths" is a good example.
I suspect the closest a Mandarin speaker could handle is "taron" or thereabouts.

And finally, we come to powder keg. Wow, those Esperantists certainly are vocal.
See the start of this entry. It is too complex as an adult, second-language, non-academic and global IAL. Not too bad as a European interlang.
Reviews of Esp-o indicate it is difficult for Asian language speakers. At the intermediate level, the level of infixing and agreement is difficult for English speakers.
I suspect a combination of too many phonemes and lax syllable construction rules are to blame.
(Say s-t-s much? Scii...)

A syllable in Esperanto is generally of the form (s/ŝ)(C)(C)V(C)(C).
Geminate consonants generally only occur in polymorphemic words, such as mal-longa "short", ek-kuŝi "to flop down", mis-skribi "to mis-write";...
(D: plus i-i adjacent. Again, ill thought out side-by-side syllable combinations.)

The phonemic inventory is essentially Slavic, as is much of the semantics, ... Esperanto has 22 consonants, 5 vowels, and two semivowels... (and diphthongs too).

D: the idea of a grapheme where one letter is assigned one sound only is nice. But using all 26 Roman alphabet letters immediately puts the phoneme inventory beyond the collective world.

Language X attempts to address this. Limited to a small phoneme selection such as Sapir suggested (a, i, u, p, t, k, s, l, m, n, v) results in very few syllables permitted. They wish to gradually add more phonemes once LangX is the mother tongue to the world.
Eventually they wish to have c. 26 consonants and vowels. The QWERTY keyboard pretty much dictates this limit. However, the assumption that we will still use QWERTY keyboards in 500 years seems conservative.

D: A 6-7 vowel AND consonant combination in 4 stages has some benefits. With only 13 sounds at stage 1, we do get stuck missing some very common consonants while using some less common vowels. But at stage 2 we have 13C/13V and by stage 4 we have 26C/26V.
I had pondered the option of cross-mapping these stages into tone pitches.
I.e. stages 1 to 4 would be 4 to 16 tones.
I.e. do mi so ti (4 whole notes), do re mi fa so la ti do (1+ octave), 12 (half notes), 16 (either beyond one octave, which requires training, or quarter notes, which still requires exposure during upbringing).

The objection that most world languages do not use tone for lexical purposes only applies prior to LangX as the universal world mother tongue.
For the same reason LangX is willing to become more synthetic with affixes, as well as with many more phonemes and presumably loosened syllable construction rules later on, tone is also legitimate to use.
I see an interesting convergence between LangX's Lang53 and Heinlen's SpeedTalk fictional language. The brevity of speech with 53 phonemes and broad syllable construction rules would be great. An interesting approach might be to use consonant clusters to reincorporate word particles into a more affixing, synthetic approach. The benefit of this is that a consonant cluster, unlike an extra syllable, does not increase speaking time much.
This is what I'd like to do with Decimese.

What have I learned from this entry?
I simply cannot use 10 vowels. The l/r distinction cannot presently be used.
D: it shows a Japanese speaker's brain processing L and R as the same sound.

D: I also believe we cannot use the voiced/voiceless consonant distinction arbitrarily.

Catering to Mandarin speakers means fewer syllable options. Looking at how syllables side-by-side will be pronounced is important.
Mandarin syllable forms are further constrained by English phoneme limitations.
There won't be very many one syllable words.
Consonant clusters must be approached cautiously and preferably optionally.
Use of word particles or the option of an affix in the form of a consonant cluster would maintain brevity.
My -N -M -NG syllable termination selection is not viable. ( I think it would be in Cantonese.)
I confess Decimeseis more an English-Chinese compromise with a few nods to the world.
OK, so how do I make use of just the -N and -NG endings for most vocabulary items?
Modify word order.
English: SVO. Article-adjective-noun, verb-adverb, (as per subject for object).
I tend to write that sSVvoO.
The problem is how the endings will look with -N and -NG.
ng N N ng ng O.
D: having adjacent identical endings prevent word order form indicating grammatical function clearly. I wish to have word roots with ambiguous grammatical function. The grammar role is to be indicated via a combination of word order AND word ending.
This can be accomplished with word order sSvVoO.
I am afraid we need to "boldly go", not "go boldly".
But if it is good enough for Kirk then who am I to argue?


Mandarin Syllables

Cool chart of Mandarin syllables. There are 22 initials and 35 finals. Add the four tones, and you get a theoretical maximum of 3080 possible syllables. But, as you can see from the chart, only about two-thirds of the possibilities are actually used, which means that Mandarin uses only around 2000 syllables (I didn't count).
Dr P E Fischer Ph.D. lists over 3,500 one-syllable English words in her word-list book written for teachers of English to children.

Using 3,500 as a conservative estimate of one syllable words, there means there would be over 612,000 words of two or more syllables. But even if we double that figure arbitrarily to 7,000 one-syllable words,

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

As the "International Year of Languages" comes to an end on 21st February, you may be interested in the contribution, made by the World Esperanto Association, to UNESCO's campaign for the protection of endangered languages.

The following declaration was made in favour of Esperanto, by UNESCO at its Paris HQ in December 2008.

The commitment to the campaign to save endangered languages was made, by the World Esperanto Association at the United Nations' Geneva HQ in September. or