[b-hebrew] Why Semitic languages had no written vowels?
peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Apr 27 08:48:03 EDT 2005
On 27/04/2005 12:16, Vadim Cherny wrote:
>My mistake about Egyptian. But, then, how much do we really know about the
>Ancient Egyptian vowels? All we know, I think, is mere guesswork. Egyptian
>also seems close to Semitic in the root system.
We have learned quite a lot over two centuries since Champollion. But I
agree that Egyptian is quite close to Semitic. But many Arabic script
languages like Persian, Urdu, Uighur and old Malay are not - except for
a large number of Arabic loan words.
>>And many languages including English omit semantically
>>significant data - even Russian, which normally fails to distinguish in
>>the orthography e.g. muka "flour" from muka "torment" (a stress
>>difference), and vsye "all (plural)" from vsyo "all (neuter singular)".
>The Russian examples are incorrect, ...
How so? Except in books for beginners, мука "flour" (stress on а) and
мука "torment" (stress on у) are written identically. I know that все
"all (neuter singular)" can be written всё, to distinguish it from все
"all (plural)", but the dots are in practice usually omitted. If I have
got this wrong, please correct me specifically.
>... but I accept your point that other
>languages omit semantically significant stress. A likely explanation for
>this, in my opinion, is that stress differentiated based on syntactical
>usage. Thus, English speaker cannot confuse recOrd and rEcord even with
>wrong stress because of the syntactical difference. So, stress is meaningful
>but usually unessential.
Just as in Semitic languages vowels are meaningful but usually
inessential, because they can be derived from the context. Orthographies
make the distinctions which are necessary for clear understanding, but
sometimes do not make inessential distinctions.
>I would say that two vowels in Abkhaz are really allophones, originally one
No. There are many allophones, determined by the phonological context.
But there are two vowels which offer a real contrast, as has been proved
by certain linguists.
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
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