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Phonemic transcriptions of Luxembourgish words
Hello. I'm the one who's added dozens of half-baked Luxembourgish phonemic transcriptions (in entries which have both phonemic and phonetic transcriptions. Many other transcriptions were added by @BigDom). I have a few questions/observations that I feel I need to share with you:
1. Your set of symbols seems to be your invention. On which source are you basing your transcriptions? Because I am basing them on this paper, published in a reputable phonetic journal. I know that the sourcing policies of Wiktionary are much looser than those of Wikipedia, but IMO there shouldn't be such massive discrepancies between the way we transcribe Luxembourgish phonemically here and on Wikipedia. And if there aren't any sources you could list, are you perhaps a linguist yourself? Do you have your own website? Don't take it as an interrogation, I'm genuinely curious. For instance, a famous British phonetician Peter Roach has his own website and contributes to Wikipedia using his real name. And while I am not a linguist (at least the fact that the Luxembourgish language isn't my strong side should be obvious to you, in fact I don't speak a word of the language), I'm trying to use scholarly sources to back up my edits whenever it's possible.
2. There also shouldn't be such a discrepancy between the way we transcribe Luxembourgish phonemically and phonetically here, on Wiktionary. The distinction should be made when it's really needed. This also allows us to drop the phonetic transcription whenever a broad (or sometimes even narrow) phonetic transcription matches 1:1 the phonemic one as far as the symbols used in both of them are concerned, as is the case with the word aacht. There's simply no need for us to write /aːχt/, [aːχt] in that entry. Though of course - Wiktionary is not a paper dictionary, and so there's no need for us to be overly stingy about the amount of space taken by the pronunciation section in any given entry. Still, I think that simplicity should be preferred in this case.
3. I want to discuss some things you've written on your user page:
- Why do you think that /a/ is preferrable to /ɑ/? We're already writting /ʀ/ instead of /r/ and both /ɑ/ and /ʀ/ are more phonetically correct.
- Why should /ɛː/ be transcribed with /æː/? If anything, it is /æ/ that should be written with /ɛ/, as it's a cardinal vowel symbol (as opposed to /æ/, which is not). This follows the principles of the IPA. The same goes for the diphthongs /æːɪ̯/ and /æːʊ̯/ which, if anything, should be simplified to /ɛːi̯/ and /ɛːu̯/ or perhaps /ɛi̯/ and /ɛu̯/ in your transcription system.
- Your claim that the first vowel in Täter can be open-mid is not supported by the JIPA article, although that might've been a simple oversight. They only state that /eː/ is lowered to [ɛː] (not [æː]) before /ʀ/ (which they write with /r/ in phonemic transcription - we could also write it like that, but I chose to retain the correct phonetic symbol in line with what we do with English /ɹ/ on Wiktionary, which is often but not always transcribed with /r/ in reputable sources).
- I've never seen /əʊ̯, iə̯, uə̯/ transcribed as /eu̯, ie̯, ue̯/. AFAICS this is your invention, and writing diphthongs should be noted as combinations of the existing monophthongal phonemes is perhaps your failure to understand that at least in Luxembourgish, diphthongs are separate phonemes that are distinct from both short and long monophthongs (though they can probably count as long vowels together with the long monophthongs, as in English). At least that's the analysis I'm aware of. I think it's perfectly clear that by writting /ɜɪ̯/ as such the authors of the JIPA article didn't mean that there's a separate /ɜ/ sound in Luxembourgish. The close offsets of diphthongs are written with /ɪ̯ ʊ̯/ (actually, /ɪ ʊ/ - this is an important distinction in this particular case) in order to better differentiate the diphthongs from the sequences of two monophthongs (and therefore to be able to safely drop the non-syllabic diacritic without a possibility of much confusion, although we should probably retain it in our transcriptions for the sake of consistency as we write the diphthongs that arise from r-vocalization with that diacritic, IMO as we should since there also are sequences of a long vowel + /eʀ/ (or /ɐ/ - see below for that) which are disyllabic. Phonetically, diphthongs that end in the close area may indeed end in a more [i] and [u] like sounds (rather than [ɪ] and [ʊ]), though this is probably somewhat variable.
- The symbols /e/ and /eː/ as well as /o/ and /oː/ denote different vowel phonemes that differ not only by length but by their allophonic ranges. The front allophone of /e/ varies from close-mid [e] to open-mid [ɛ]; the same is true of /o/, which varies between close-mid [o] and open-mid [ɔ]. /eː/ and /oː/ are much closer, near-close [e̝ː, o̝ː] or sometimes even close [iː, uː], the same as the short /i/ and /u/. It's not correct to write [e] instead of [eː] nor [o] instead of [oː] as that could tell the reader who's also familiar with our Wikipedia article on Luxembourgish phonology that it's OK to pronounce open [ɛ] and [ɔ] in these positions. This vowel shortening you're speaking about is phonetic (if it exists at all, I assume it does since it's so similar to what happens in Standard German), not phonemic and it is dubious whether it results in a vowel that has a length which is indistinguishable from the length of the short vowels. It's also not mentioned at all in the JIPA article. This shortening, if exists, is probably more of a phonetic phenomenon and it's not a good idea to transcribe it in the phonemic transcription. The whole vowel length section seems to provide a somewhat inconsistent analysis and its potential to confuse our readers is too big. Besides, why transcribe the vowel shortening and not devoicing of the lenis consonants and aspiration of the fortis plosives? They seem to be equally important.
- If the voiceless fricative pronunciation in aarm and Gaart is possible, then the correct phonemic analysis of these is /aːʀm/ and /ɡaːʀt/, without the brackets. The r-less variants are mere phonetic variants.
- The JIPA article doesn't mention the [ɛə̯] variant of [ɐ]. Do you have a source for that?
- Are you sure that there's no actual distinction between the main allophones of /iə̯/ and /uə̯/ on one hand and /iːʀ/ and /uːʀ/ on the other? If so, analyzing both as /iə̯/ and /uə̯/ might still not be the best choice, especially if we analyze [ɐ] as /eʀ/, rather than a marginal phoneme /ɐ/ that can occur only in unstressed syllables (as in German and Danish). It might also cause inconsistencies in different forms of the same word. Plus, the JIPA article does use the length mark in [iːə̯] and [uːə̯].
- Can you provide a source for the disyllabic pronunciations [iː.ɐ] and [uː.ɐ] of /iːʀ/ and /uːʀ/? Are you sure that you're not confusing the disyllabic pronunciation with merely diphthongal [iːɐ̯] and [uːɐ̯] that end in the open central area rather than the mid central one?
- To me, the correct analysis of wouer and kloer seems to be /vəʊ̯əʀ/ and /kloːəʀ/ - that is, if you correctly identified the latter pronunciation as dissylabic, rather than merely diphthongal [kloːɐ̯].
I think that it's unfortuante that you've already made so many edits as (the way I see it anyway) at least some of them will probably have to be reverted. I think it'd be better in the future if you discussed such things with other editors first before introducing the changes. There are many questions regarding your edits and a few rather obvious mistakes in your analysis.
I'm curious about your perspective. If it was you who wrote to me two months ago, consider this a reply. Also, regarding that message - just because there's no phonemic voice distinction in the syllable coda that doesn't mean that we can't write that sound with /ʁ/. There are multiple possible phonemic analyses of many words in any given language, depending on who is doing the analysis. For instance, it is perfectly possible to analyse the German word bergab (which corresponds to Luxembourgish biergof) as /bɛrɡˈab/, with the final consonants of both syllables surfacing as voiceless ([k] and [p], respectively), although that depends on the exact variety of Standard German. In prescriptive Standard German, a truly narrow transcription of that word would be [b̥ɛʁ̞kʰˈʔäpʰ] or perhaps [b̥ɛɐ̯kʰˈʔäpʰ], since r-vocalization after short vowels is extremely common in SG (as opposed to Luxembourgish Standard German, in which the word would probably be pronounced as something like [b̥ɛʁˈɡɑpʰ], which is probably how it's pronounced in the neighboring dialects of Western Germany).
I think that the word Fluchangscht can just as plausibly be analyzed as /ˈfluˌʁɑŋʃt/.
Also, the more I read about phonetics and phonology, the more I think that in the case of some Germanic languages (such as Luxembourgish, German and English, also Urban East Norwegian) it's not really appropriate to speak about a distinction between voiceless and voiced consonants, as the latter (at least in the case of plosives) often are phonetically voiceless and are differentiated from the so-called voiceless consonants by the lack of aspiration and a weaker contact of lips/tongue with the place of articulation. Of course, in the case of fricatives (and maybe also affricates, but that might be more language-dependent) there's no aspiration and there's often a genuine voiceless-voiced opposition, but I still think that the terms fortis and lenis are superior and the voiceless–voiced and aspirated–unaspirated contrasts are just phonetic manifestations of what underlyingly can be best described as a distinction between fortis and lenis consonants, which seem to me to be the most neutral labels.
There's also an option of simply not including phonemic transcriptions in our Luxembourgish entries. If it's such a controversial topic (though it doesn't appear as such to me), there's no need to edit war/debate in a heated manner (I'm not saying that's what we're doing now but it could lead to that eventually) about something that simply can be skipped. What we should do however is that if there indeed are competing phonemic analyses that have been described in reputable sources, we should mention them all (or at least the most important ones) in our Wikipedia article on Luxembourgish phonology. That I'd fully support.
Also, if these are also your contributions, please make sure that you're logged in before you edit. Doing otherwise makes your edits much harder to track, given the fact that you're using multiple IP addresses. Kbb2 (talk) 17:45, 2 January 2019 (UTC)
- I have graduated in a field of linguistic studies and I'm a translator. I'm not a professor of phonetics, though. My system is based on YOUR system with all the dispensable distinctions, which have no basis in the language, eliminated as far as possible.
- I've usually not given any phonetic version if it would have been exactly the same. But I disagree that there shouldn't be a discrepancy between the two ways. In fact, the only use of a phonemic transcription that I have been able to see is to make it as pure and minimalist as possible. Otherwise we should just leave it. In the end it was you who started adding these phonemic forms. No one really needed them.
- Because /ɑ/ is unnecessary vis-à-vis /aː/. They are long and short versions of each other, so they should have the same symbol. With /ʀ/, it doesn't matter. You could use /r/, but /ʀ/ doesn't create an unnecessary distinction.
- Fine by me. Let's transcribe /æ/ as /ɛ/ instead. I chose the other way because it created fewer changes. It doesn't matter which symbol you choose.
- I can tell you that [e:] is not only a possible pronunciation but may even be the predominant pronunciation. If the article doesn't mention it that only shows it's limitations.
- Of course, diphthongs can be analysed as combinations of cardinal vowels or the vowels that also exist as monophthongal phonems in a given language. There's no problem with that and it doesn't mean that these diphthongs aren't themselves phonemic. The question is whether it's desirable, and it is 1.) for the sake of reducing the number of symbols used, i.e. minimalism as above, and 2.) more importantly, because the Luxembourgish system of diphthongs is ordered in four rows ("Reihen") of two. Hence it is absolutely meaningful to write [ɜɪ̯] and [əʊ̯] with the same onset because they are on the same row (and are umlaut variants of each other).
- The point that I make, again, is that length marks shouldn't be put where length distinctions are neutralised. Because there is great potential for confusion in that as well, namely for the confusion of trying to make length distinctions where the language doesn't have them and doesn't know them. But I do see your point with this bit.
- The point of the brackets is to show that for speakers with the loss, there's a merger with sets that don't include an /r/ in the first place. I think it's useful and I don't see a problem, but I don't really care.
- Look up "er-" in the Luxemburger Wörterbuch. They mention it. (I think it's currently down, though.)
- These must be archaic distinctions (for those dialectal speakers that I mention). The Luxemburger Wörterbuch has additional distinctions like [iːər] vs. [iːr] vs. [iər]. Thus distinguishing many words that are now homophones by all standards, like "dier" (German "dürr") and "Dir" (now spelt "Dier", German "Tür"). In contemporary Luxembourgish the /r/ has gone without a trace. See this, where they say the distinction between "Wierder" (words) and "Wieder" (weather) is based on the German spelling (i.e. speakers don't hear one).
- There is no distinction between /iː.eʀ/ and /iːʀ/. That's the point really. The actual realisation can be disyllabic. If it's monosyllabic it's simply [iə̯], I suppose. Of course, there could be all kinds of nuances like [iɐ̯] and [iːə̯] and whatnot, but they don't mean anything and don't distinguish anything.
- Same as above. It was even formerly spelt "kloër".
- See it this way: In German, the word "Bauer" is pronounced [baʊ̯.ɐ] regardless of whether it's underlying "Baur" (< MHG bûr) as in "farmer" or "Bauer" (< bauen + -er) as in "Städtebauer". The reason is that German has no distinction between /aur/ and /auər/, rather the two merge and the combination becomes disyllabic (which doesn't rule out that it could be pronounced [baʊ̯ɐ̯] in fast speech). In Luxembourgish, the same is also true of long vowels + -r. The merger also remains when the syllable is opened. (In German, as well, I think the distinction between [aʊ̯.ʀə] and [aʊ̯.ə.ʀə] is very weak and more theoretical than practical. Sure, "teure" is usually [tɔɪ̯ʀə] and "neuere" is usually [nɔɪ̯əʀə], but you can also say [tɔɪ̯əʀə] and [nɔɪ̯ʀə]. In Luxembourgish at any rate such a distinction doesn't even exist in theory.)
- Or see it this way (another thought): German "Seher" is [zeː.ɐ], but in fast speech it may become [zeːɐ̯] and in compounds like "Hellseher", "Fernseher" even [zɛɐ̯]. It merges then with "sehr" [zeːɐ̯], [zɛɐ̯] (the latter for speakers who merge long and short "e" before [ɐ̯], which is common). Now, in German the two sets may merge in fast speech but they are still distinct per se because while "Seher" can be mono- and disyllabic, "sehr" is always monosyllabic (as far as I'm aware). In Luxembourgish, the latter isn't true: both etymological sets can be disyllabic and in fast speech monosyllabic. Therefore "kloer" is [kloː.ɐ] even though it's from monosyllabic MHG "klâr", merging with "moer" [moː.ɐ] from MHG disyllabic "mager" (> *mâer > moer). The fact that learned terms like "Kontor" aren't spelt with "-oer" doesn't mean anything. It's just like "Natur" which should actually be "Natuer" (cf. "natierlech"), but the "-ur" is kept based on the German spelling (which is possible precisely because there is no distinction).
- I also thought it unfortunate that you had already made so many edits when you did. Particularly in a language that you don't know the first thing about. I can offer your to simply revert all of our edits and go back to system we had. Your system, as I said, is "halfbaked" and therefore not only unnecessary but confusing.
- Yes it could be /berɡˈab/, but not /berɡˈap/, which is to make a fortis-lenis distinction where there is none.
- I don't really see how.
- Fair enough, but this isn't 'my system'. Apart from using /ʀ/ for /r/ and perhaps also /ɐ/ for /eʀ/ everything is based on the JIPA article.
- But that's just your opinion. Not only that, your system is clearly your own invention, at least in part. I think it's more suitable for a personal blog than Wiktionary (let alone Wikipedia).
- No it wasn't. It was BigDom who errorenously put hundreds (if not thousands) of phonetic transcriptions of Luxembourgish inside slashes, as if they were phonemic. I was merely correcting his mistakes. How come you've never noticed what he did wrong?
- Again, that's just your opinion. Just because /ɑ/ and /aː/ are both back phonologically it doesn't mean that we have to transcribe them with the same symbol, save for the length mark. It's an option, not a must.
- I'm not advocating for transcribing /æ/ with /ɛ/, I was just pointing out an inconsistency in your analysis.
- Limitations? It's a detail. What about the dozens of things that it does get right? And if it doesn't, you can always correct it (as long as you have a source that backs up your claims).
- Cardinal vowels are reference points that have little to do with vowels in any given language (you should probably know that as a linguist). Also, what's the point of reducing the amount of symbols used if you're going to use them anyway in the phonetic transcription that is right next to the phonemic one?
- I think that you are, again, confusing phonemic and phonetic vowel length. I see no possibility of confusion here. Not only that, I think it's perfectly clear that unstressed long vowels are shorter than the stressed ones precisely because they're unstressed.
- To me that proves that the merger is phonetic. If there are speakers who distinguish /aː/ from /aːʀ/ then it means that it should be retained in general phonemic transcriptions of Luxembourgish.
- I will, thanks. The site does appear to be down.
- But AFAICS that still doesn't exclude the possibility of analyzing them as /iːʀ/ and /uːʀ/. The nuances like [iɐ̯] and [iːə̯] are actually very important because AFAICS the centering diphthongs /iə/ and /uə/ can only end mid [ə] and their first elements can only be short. If you're right about it, realizations like [iɐ̯] and [iːə̯] prove that the correct phonemic analysis is /iːʀ/ as and /uːʀ/ as the merger is only potential.
- The fact that I don't speak Luxembourgish is irrelevant to the fact that I'm basing my edits on a reputable source (again - for the most part, this is *not* my system). Therefore, it's also not true to say that I don't know anything about Luxembourgish (my edits and this message prove otherwise). The system we had (which, unfortunately, is still used in many entries) is not a phonemic system (unless you're speaking about broad phonetic transcriptions that are incidentally phonemic if you place them inside phonemic slashes) and many of the transcriptions BigDom has put in our articles are simply wrong unless the slashes are changed to square brackets.