November 28, 2014

The wĩnnĩng mĩnd; and the ĩ of the beholder

It is then after all the nasal consonant <n> to blame for, if you don’t like it. 

Yet another way of putting it is, at least for the English descriptive grammar in some aspects and that also for the salient cause that perpetuates a tilde on the top of the vowel <i> in the environment <-in-> as stated above, that there are minimal pairs in English (see also in different context here) that differ only in that where one member of the pair has the oral version of a vowel whereas the other member of the pair has the nasalized version of the same vowel (neither a distinct phone nor phoneme in their contrastive orthography).

The environment in which the contrastive variation occurs is then described simply as:

V -> [+ nasal] / _ [+ nasal] nC (C) $

Thus, a vowel (which is generally an oral vowel or written as V) becomes (which is usually written as ->) nasal vowel (or nasalized or written as with the tiled on the top) in the environment (usually written as /) where a vowel precedes a nasal consonant n or m or ng (nC) or a vowel precedes a nasal consonant followed by the option of any other consonant (oral or nasal, which is usually written as C or o/nC in a bracket) in a syllable boundary (usually written as S with a combining double stroke   or as or σ or $)—hence the nasal vowel rules  to the words like wĩnnĩng mĩnd or a name like Tõm but not to a word like Anna or America.

But what is of greater interest here, however, is that the more linguists and students in English or linguistics examine the phonologies of languages, the more they find that similar phonological redundancy rules being applied to the simple general classes of sounds like nasals and vowels in their assimilation be in the state of inconsistent to their very discipline, in a way of making things very difficult for comprehension during the whole study period.      

So, were did Anna (a differently abled but not necessarily linguistically challenged person by birth who loves to write a language blog while attending her high school but did successfully write a very good post on Christmas the other day, even just by googling) get the idea to write her name as Ãnna instead of Anna and her place of country as Ãmerica instead of America in her social media website that sounds very intriguing?

Then, it seems to be of someone behind an advocacy group for things that are of neither to be rejected nor to be accepted easily by the way of their reasonable propositions.  

It would be a too simple explanation certainly if we are to color the contrasting elements differently as if they were to explain to children for saying why the initial vowel <A> sound isn’t a different phoneme to an emphasis as in Anna or America but to a name like Tom and yet still only to emphasize as an allophone on the latter.

Such an approach, however, could only serve as an insult to the academia world since more interesting language phenomena are here generally to discover from looking into the general rules of a language such as the phonemic rules discussed for its descriptive grammar on the oral and nasal vowels assimilation in English syllables.

Yet, in some aspects, it seem still possible at the same time to make the contrasts Anna or America in nasal vowels for a viable hypothesis, also in English, since the similar rules also apply to the same classes of sounds across languages is not surprising because, as they are sonorants, such rules often have phonetic explanations for their natural assimilation processes.

See, Anna is far ahead.


  1. In theory it is the rhyme what causes a nasal assimilation in English, whether it is a rhyme of a word or rhyme of a syllable. In that, a word like AMERICA doesn’t have the required rhyme for the nasal assimilation, at least in written English. If we go for as AM-ERICA, then we add a rhyme for the vowel A that could cause the nasal assimilation and avoiding the nasal assimilation after that would be unnatural. However, in spoken varieties, they are difficult in theory for a firm conclusion.

  2. Boris Becker3/1/15 11:48

    I teach MA courses for English program and some of the issues you mentioned here usually come in the final exams. When we have doubt ourselves or give exams or mark exams, we go by a book and we refer back to the detail on the book to students to those who still want to know the reasons for not receiving marks in their exam papers.

    Your review on 5 issues on Fromkin et al version here—1) there is minimal pair involved rather than no minimal pair within the environment for the markedness; 2) the nasalisation involved in complementary distribution rather than not involved in complementary distribution; 3) the sonorants are consonantal to vowel rather than of being firm; 4) on the issue of predictable allophone rather than not; 5) on the hypothetical variation—needs reliable citations and detail from experts.

    When we teach certain concept, we use acceptable model. You example AMERICA doesn’t do much help in this. You may find it strange, but it is the realty.

  3. Reposting this for the missing comment:

    When issues are related in contrastive distributions, then one may argue that there is no minimal pair. However such argument might be only coherent in one context but not cohesive enough in other environments where allophone or complementary distribution occurs or where sonorants involve colorings.

    They are general terms applicable to varieties of context, sure. But no doubt sometimes preciseness is expected in that anyone to go wrong easily.