Saturday, March 1, 2014

[h], conquered. Next?

I’ve done quite a bit of updating of the rules over the past several weeks, and I think I finally managed to solve all of the various problems with /h/ that I’ve been struggling with since the beginning of this project. Some of my solutions are a little unorthodox, linguistically-speaking, but whenever I think that something I’m doing is “weird,” I remind myself of the history of English and consider that reality is always weirder than anything I could come up with on my own.

Part of my vision for Gytic was that there would not be any sort of velar fricative in the phonemic inventory. Some claim that there was none in Gothic, and that all instances had been glottalized by Wulfilas’ time (which may or may not have been the case). Still, getting rid of all non-initial instances of /h/ without (re-)velarizing them comes dangerously close to turning the language into an Old Norse relex, and that wasn’t the feel I was going for.

Here is a summary the various /h/ conundrums, and how I’ve solved them so far.
  • Initial /h/ remains /h/ before a vowel. (E.g. háims → hēms [or, more specifically, haims, but we’ll deal with long vowel orthography later on.)
  • Initial /h/ becomes /þ/ before a sonorant. (E.g. hlahjan → þlahjan (ev. þlēn), hrōt → þrūt)
  • /h/ is deleted between two consonants. (E.g. milhma → milm)
  • /h/ is deleted after a short vowel, and the vowel becomes long. (This also applies to /hw/, freeing the /w/ to float around causing its own problems.) (E.g. ahtau → āta, saíƕan → sēwan (ev. sējun))
  • /h/ becomes /c/ ([ʃ]) before /j/. (E.g. hlōhjan → þlœ̄cin)
  • /h/ becomes /þ/ after a long vowel when word-final. (E.g. hāh → hāþ, skōh → skūþ)
  • /h/ becomes /f/ after a long vowel when not word-final. (E.g. þāhts → þaft, fāhan → fāfan (ev. favan))
In addition to updates to /h/, I’ve made a small adjustment to the diphthongs, and /iu/ now becomes /ju/ instead of the not-so-practical /ȳ/ (even though I really like it that way).

I’m presently working my way through reconstructing enough of the 207-word swadesh list to generate a good start to the lexicon. While there are plenty of other Gothic words to choose from, I thought it practical to start with a small sampling and get it “right” before I wasted a lot of time building up my lexicon only to have to revise it all each time I devise a new sound change. I’ll post the swadesh list here when I get it completed.

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