[Lingtyp] To include xenophones or not

Volker Gast volker.gast at uni-jena.de
Mon Dec 6 10:04:43 UTC 2021

As for /ʒ/ in English, I think you have to distinguish between (i) its 
use in relatively recent loans, e.g. 'rouge', and 'garage' (UK 
pronunciation), where I would assume that it still has a foreign ring, 
and (ii) its (media)l use in older loans like 'measure' and 'pleasure', 
where it is probably felt to be native. The latter sound only occurs 
before unstressed syllables, as far as I know, at least in standard 
British English. In front of stressed syllables /zj/ has been preserved, 
e.g. 'presume'. In other words, the opposition between /ʒ/ and /zj/ is 
not distinctive. Note also that in initial position, /ʒ/ is regularly 
turned into an affricate in loan words, e.g. 'journey', which points to 
a non-native status. It has been preserved in others, e.g. 'gigue', but 
here again I would assume that most speakers of English would clearly 
identify this word as a French loan.

So I think it would not be entirely unreasonable to say that /ʒ/ is not 
a "fully" native sound of English. Occurrences of /zj/ in medial 
position could be explained via some phonological rule, with an 
underlying /zj/-sequence. I am of course aware that most phonemes in 
most languages differ in terms of their degrees of "distributional 
generality", and /ʒ/ nicely fills a gap in the grid of English 
fricatives. But that's probably an argument that we shouldn't use.


On 12/6/21 08:34, fcosw5 wrote:
> If it's feasible, I think I would recommend a fairly fine-grained 
> inventory, in which all the phonemes actually used in the relevant 
> language are included, but special note taken of those phonemes that 
> occur *only* in loan-words.  And, going beyond that, maybe make 
> further note of loan-words that are *generally recognized* within the 
> community as loan-words (e.g., I think most native-English-speakers 
> would not recognize 'measure' as a loan-word), and if the introduction 
> of such a xenophone has had a noticeable effect on the language's 
> phonological inventory.
> Best,
> Steven
> -----Original message-----
> *From:*JOO, Ian [Student]<ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk>
> *To:*LINGTYP<lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
> *Date: * Thu, 02 Dec 2021 15:49:48
> *Subject:* [Lingtyp] To include xenophones or not
> Dear typologists,
> I would like to seek your advice on a database I am making.
> For my doctoral project, I am compiling a phonological database of 
> 700+ Eurasian languages.
> The database includes basic information such as the list of 
> word-finally permitted phonemes, maximal number of onsets in a 
> syllable, etc.
> For this database, I would like your opinion on whether to include 
> xenophonic (loanword-phonological) information or not.
> For example, should the database include phonemes that are only 
> present in loanwords (such as /x/ in English)?
> If the language does not allow codas in native word/ but allow them in 
> loanwords, should that information be allowed as well?
> If you were using the database, would you find such information helpful?
> Pros of adding the xenophonic information:
> The database would be more complete. Some xenophonic features can be 
> very old (such as onset clusters in Tagalog, word-initial /r/ in 
> Japanese, etc.), so in a sense they are "nativized" (although they may 
> be still marked). If I mark the native phonology and the loanword 
> phonology distinctly in my database (e. g. Including /ts/ in French 
> phonology but specifying that it only appears in loanwords), then the 
> user can use the database with or without xenophonic information.
> Cons:
> The problem of including xenophonic information is that, when 
> considering loanwords, it is difficult to judge what is part of a 
> language's phonology or not.
> For example /f/ occurs in very recent Korean loanwords such as /f/ail 
> 'file' or /f/eyispwuk 'Facebook' and it's difficult to say if this is 
> really a part of Korean phonology.
> Many minority language speakers are also fluent in their national 
> language (such as Russian or Spanish) and they may pronounce loanwords 
> from the national language in their 'original' pronunciation (such as 
> Tuvan speakers pronouncing Russian loanwords in Russian pronunciation) 
> and it's difficult to say if this means Russian phonology has fully 
> integrated into Tuvan phonology.
> So where to divide the line between what is purely foreign and what 
> has been nativized?
> On the other hand, distinguishing phonological features that are only 
> present in loanwords from those that are also present in native words 
> is quite straightforward and less controversial (although there is 
> also the problem that we do not always know if a word is a loanword or 
> not).
> Lastly, since I've already finished a good part of the database (about 
> 15%), if I want to also include xenophonic information then I would 
> have to go through the whole database again, so there's this practical 
> issue.
> So I would appreciate your advice on whether including xenophonic 
> information would be substantially beneficial to you or not, if you 
> were using the database.
> From Hong Kong,
> Ian
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