[b-hebrew] Phonemes versus phones
jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com
Fri Jan 22 10:40:20 EST 2010
The points you raise assume a community with linguistic knowledge of
a) the difference between consonants and vowels
b) the phonetic implications and tradeoffs of implementing consonants only
rather than consonants and vowels
c) the statistical apparatus to discern a solution in terms of ambiguity
In short, you are assuming a society with sophisticated linguistic
understanding and strong analytical skills.
I am assuming a bunch of farmers/nomads/traders who couldn't care a toss
about linguistic journals and just wanted to implement a system which
expressed the basic sound units they perceived as worth expressing. Level of
perception is the most important factor that would come into play if such
was the case.
I am willing to accept the possibility that they were such a complex society
as your assumptions suggest but find it extremely low probability (no, I
won't attempt to assign any bogus figure a la Randall).
Also, yes, you are probably right my training and experience with speech
signals is probably influencing my opinion. Could it be that our modern
perception of consonants and vowels is influencing our theories on the
perception of the ancients who implemented this alphabet.
2010/1/22 Stoney Breyer <stoneyb at touchwoodcreative.com>
> James -
> I perceive two fundamental flaws in your argument. Both have been raised in
> this discussion, but so elliptically that I think you have failed to
> recognize their import.
> 1. You assert that the inventors of the alphabet were seeking to map
> units of a speech signal and the symbols of their alphabet. I suspect you
> are led astray here by your own professional concern with interpreting
> speech signals. The inventors of the alphabet were not seeking to map units
> of a speech signal but units of a *linguistic* signal - that is, a signal
> from which the phonic noise had already been stripped.
> 2. You assert that the inventors of the alphabet were seeking a
> mapping, &c. I doubt this. The inventors of the alphabet were not
> constrained by apriori theoretical principles; they were seeking a
> convenient notation for linguistic signals, and they were willing to
> tolerate a lot of ambiguity and inaccuracy to achieve it. They dispensed
> with vowel notation not because they could not 'perceive' them but because
> in their Semitic tongues the information vowels conveyed was in many,
> perhaps most, cases inessential or reconstructible. In the upshot, it was a
> classic "good enough" solution: "Entire markets have been transformed by
> products that trade power or fidelity for low price, flexibility, and
> - Erin Biba, quoted in The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and
> Simple Is Just Fine. Robert Capps. Wired 17.09.
> Stoney Breyer
> Writer/Touchwood Creative
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