hebrew phonetics, phonology

Vincent DeCaen decaen at chass.utoronto.ca
Tue Sep 1 09:13:43 EDT 1998

al is suggesting I'm a professor: I wish! and with this global
depression coming, I can forget meaningful employment in academia.
though I took my phd in 1995, I've been working on professional
credentials in information sciences. my work in verbal semantics and
syntax is only now making the rounds, though it is known and respected
in linguistic circles. with respect to phonology, I only claim to be a
student of E J Revell and Elan Dresher: you can make of their
reputations what you will.

I want to make the suggestion of Jewish scholarly traditions, early
traditional sources, based on non-Tiberian reading traditions, of
which some are known to us through Palestinian and Babylonian
pointings. that would solve the historical sources problem.

your other matters, al, have to do with the difference between
phonetics and phonology, and how the two are related. for instance, my
American inlaws pronounce pot as pat, and pat as peeat, something like
that (northern indiana). we speak the same language. they recognize
their pronunciation is non-Standard, because they have TV and can hear
the national broadcasts. what if we wanted to record the correct N
American pronunciation for liturgical purposes? you can see how this
plays out.

but the real point is more subtle, and I'll have to give some thought
to Churchyard's valuable points.

in my pronunciation, dentals are "flapped", call it [D]. so writer and
rider come out [raiDer] in both cases. that's pronunciation. but at an
abstract or "underlying" level, there would be [raiter] vs [raider].
that's because of how phonology patterns.

so, there is phonetics. pronunciation. is this respect, Churchyard
notwithstanding, there is a 7-fold Tiberian reading. but now moving on
to patterning, to phonology, well now, that's a different question.
asking how many "vowels" is a theoretical question, and theories come
and go. there is a powerful new paradigm called "optimality theory"
that forces changes to our understanding, but I don't want to go there
right now.

what I was trying to say with the other working paper is, if you take
the data, the phonetics, and a basic descriptive, good-old-fashioned
structuralist approach to the data, you must be led to believe that
there is a fourth "underlying" vowel because of the patterns: the data
on segholates leaves you little options, if you take the data

historically, this makes sense to me: if there were a Canaanite vowel
shift, there would be a vacuum in the low front area, the area
suggested for this additional phoneme. a phonemic "split" of the
historical system i,a,u  --> i,e,o,u is not surprising.

this is phonology, theorizing, not phonetics or surface facts. if the
difference between surface and underlying is not registering, there
are some great intro linguistics texts I could recommend.

in summary there are **two** separate issues: (1) the surface data,
the phonetics (seven-point, 5, 10, whatever) and (2) the patterns, the
phonological theorizing (historically 3-point, but I think I've made a
useful advance with a 4-point). *two* separate issues.


Vincent DeCaen, Ph.D.		 	 	     <decaen at chass.utoronto.ca>
Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto

Hebrew Syntax Encoding Initiative
c/o Deparment of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
4 Bancroft Ave., 2d floor,  University of Toronto,  Toronto ON,  M5S 1A1


All you need is positivity.	--Spice Girls

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