19.188 size of the phonemic inventory?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 2 Aug 2005 07:15:14 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 188.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 02 Aug 2005 07:13:06 +0100
         From: "Yuri Tambovtsev" <yutamb_at_mail.cis.ru>
         Subject: what influences the size of the phonemic inventory?

Dear Humanist colleagues, the article "Linguistic and scial
typology": the Australian migrations and phoneme inventories" by
Peter Trudgill in "Linguistic Typology" (ed. Frans Plank), Volume 8 -
3, 2004, page 305 - 320, is very interesting. It deals with the size
of the phonemic inventory and the factors which may influence it.
Since 1973 when I was a post graduate in general phonetics and
phonology, this is a riddle for me. I remember I was amazed why some
languages have only 3 vowels and about a hundred consonants, while
others have 6 vowels and 12 consonants only? Is it not a riddle? This
is indeed a challenge for linguistic typology, is it not? Peter
Trudgill tried to give his answer, but may be the most interesting
were the tests by several other linguists who supported Trudgill's
idea (Keren Rice, p.321 - 342; John Hajek, p. 343 - 350; Barish
Kabak, p.351 - 367) and those linguists who opposed Trudgill's idea
with their critiques (Peter Bakker, p. 368 - 375; Vladimir Pericliev,
p. 376 - 383). So, the discussion made this issue of Linguistic
Typology quite interesting. I wonder if other linguists would give
their opinions on this problem? I'd urge the editor-in-chief Frans
Plank give the opportunity for other linguists to speak. However, my
idea is a little bit different. One should take into consideration
the frequency of occurrence of every phoneme in the speech chain. It
is quite usual that the great inventory uses onle a small part of its
total as the most frequent phonemes. I have studied 157 world
languages from this point of view and came to this conclusion. When
the inventory is rather small then all the phonemes have the great
frequency load. May be some other modern linguists noticed it, I
wonder? It is an extremely interesting promlem in general linguistics
and typology. May be some less known languages of Australia or the
Americas have different tendencies? Actually, in the 1960 -1970 when
many languages undergone thorough phonemic counts (among them
English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Finnish,
Hungarian, Mansi, Mari, Karelian, Estonian, Komi, Nenets, Kazah,
Kirgiz, Turkish, Chookchi, Polish, Russian, Czech, Slovak,
Bolgarian, etc. etc) the languages of Australia or the Americas were
never investigated by the methods of phonostattistics. In fact, the
Turkic languages which had many contacts undrwent the tendency of
dropping some complex phonemes. It is quite understandable since they
were nomadic tribes which contacted many other peoples on their way.
In my opinion, these most stable phonemes were the real phonemes of
the parent proto-Turkic, or proto-Slavonic, or wider,
proto-Indo-European. One should use phonostatistics before
reconstructing the proto-language. However, now phonemic counts are
not used in the historical reconstructions. Looking forward to
hearing the opinions of those interested to my e-mail address:
<mailto:yutamb_at_hotmail.com>yutamb_at_hotmail.com Yours sincerely Yuri
Tambovtsev, Novosibirsk Ped. University, Russia.
Received on Tue Aug 02 2005 - 02:23:59 EDT

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