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What is it with PH & F?

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What is it with PH & F?

Postby eberntson » Thu Feb 10, 2005 12:14 pm

Again another example where the invading Normans brought in french that adversly affected the English-Germanic language. Why do we put up with this? Can't w just drop the PH and use the F?
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Postby Apoclima » Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:53 pm

English is very absorbent. There is no going back to old English. Without the influence of Norman French, English wouldn't be as rich in vocabulary!

The "ph" should not be blamed on the French, however, nice that would be, but, rather, on the absorption of Greek words through Latin and directly into English.

emphasis

I like the historical spellings like the "gh" in 'light' and the "k" in 'know.' And the "ph" in "phonology." They are a constant reminder of history: philosophy, science, religion and art.

It would, indeed, be very hard to purge the English Language of all its French influence.

Beowulf



"... alegdon tha tomiddes maerne theoden

laeleth hiofende hlaford leofne

ongunnon tha on beorge bael-fyra maest

wigend weccan wudu-rec astah

sweart ofer swiothole swogende leg

wope bewunden"


It hardly sounds like English at all!

Apo
'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck
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Postby anders » Wed Feb 16, 2005 8:31 am

This question, and the one on kn-, brings up a point that can be discussed for generations.

What would we lose and what would we gain by a "simplification"? In the first place, it is terribly difficult to be consistent. If you delete the k- in kn-, you should also change the name of king Canute, deleting links to the Scandinavian name Knut. Many etymology relations would become impenetrable, and it would be much more difficult to read older texts in the language in question.

This is one aspect, sometimes overlooked, that has kept the Chinese from adapting a "Western" alphabet. Teaching children to write using only pinyin (the romanization) may be beneficial in the beginning. They hear IPA (almost) [beijing] and so write Beijing. Seems uncomplicated. But the city name has been written 北京 for just so many years, and why raise a barrier between future generations and old texts? BTW, the script isn't all that dificult to learn.

This kind of debates has probably occurred in innumerable languages on proposed spelling reforms.
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Postby Garzo » Mon Feb 21, 2005 8:30 pm

Latin has a very robust f that does quite nicely. However, it seems that the classical Greek φ (phi) represented an aspirated labial stop (a 'p' with a puff) rather than a labial fricative (fank you). The Latin brains thought it best to write borrowed Greek words with φ with 'ph' to represent the 'p' and the puff ('h'). Those dirty unwashed plebs, however, thought this was just so much patrician hot air, and resorted to the working class 'f', and that's is history.
"Poetry is that which gets lost in translation" — Robert Frost
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Postby Flaminius » Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:32 am

I hear a puff after every [p] in English. There is no unaspirated [p] in English phonology. This leads me to think that perhaps Latin also lacked unaspirated [p]. In fact Chinese-like unaspirated stops appear to be more reasonable in order to construct such outrageous IE phonological laws as kw = p = t = th = bh = gw, etc.

Flam,
who recalls that Phthia was the name of the island where Achilles lived before the Trojan War.
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Postby Garzo » Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:06 am

Yes, you are on to something.

The Greeks didn't borrow φ from the Phoenicians (even though their name then becomes difficult to spell), as it is one of the additional letters added onto the end of the alphabet derived from Phoenician. It seems that, like other NW Semitic languages, the Phoenicians had a series of lightly contrasted plosives and fricatives. It seems that voicing and place of articulation were important, but fricativisation wasn't. The Phoenician letter pé'atu was realised as both /p/ and /f/, but the Greeks used it for π (pi). Ancient Greek obviously made a distinction between /p/ and /pʰ/, and had no time for /f/. It seems that φ was not entirely made up, but that it was based on the Phoenician letter qoppu (which was koppa, Ϟ, in archaic Greek).

In English, aspiration is not phonemic. Particularly at the start of a word, /p/ is aspirated. As you point out, the p and b in pinyin are not really distinguished by voicing (as they are in English), but by aspiration.
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Postby Flaminius » Tue Feb 22, 2005 10:43 am

Good points.

Then do you mean that distinctive features [± voicing] and [± aspiration] were part of phonemic contrasts in Ancient Greek (the lack of bh or [+ voicing], [+ aspiration] should be noted)? That's like English and Chinese combined into Latin.
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Postby anders » Tue Feb 22, 2005 1:13 pm

The Danish opposition p/b etc. is traditionally characterized as "fortis/lenis". It is neither [± voicing] (all are [-]) nor [± aspiration] (all [+]). My IPA booklet says "Initial p, t, k strongly aspirated" and uses the "devoiced" symbol (b, d with undercircle, g with overcircle: "weak voiceless plosives") for b, d, g.

And English phonetics, like Swedish, has unaspirated stops, although in complementary distribution with their aspirate counterparts. Following an [s], there is no aspiration. Listen carefully to spit/pit!
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Postby Apoclima » Thu Feb 24, 2005 3:56 pm

Flam:
I hear a puff after every [p] in English. There is no unaspirated [p] in English phonology.


I believe this is technically untrue! It is true that there are no unaspirated "p's" when it is not part of a consonant cluster, but the aspiration disappears when "p" is the second member of a consonant cluster.

"spam" "speak" "Sparta" "spend"

"splash" "split" "splice" "sprite"

This happens with all the aspirated (voiceless) consonants in English. (Try replacing the "p" with a "b" here and you'll certainly hear the similarity in lack of aspiration.)

However, when in intial position, I do believe that I hear (and feel) the aspiration.

"plane" "plan" "prince" "pride"

I know that there is probably a contrastive pair like "pring*" "spring," but I am at a loss to think of a real one this morning.

Apo
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Postby Flaminius » Thu Feb 24, 2005 6:40 pm

Then
/p/ ---> [ph] / [+ syllable initial] : cannot make a superscript
/p/ ---> [p] / [- syllable initial]

or stops get aspiration when they stand at the syllable initial position but otherwise they are unaspirated.

Does this make more sense?
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Postby anders » Thu Feb 24, 2005 6:50 pm

The finals being aspirated as well, I can't think of any other occurences than immediate followers of s that are non-aspirated.
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Postby Garzo » Thu Feb 24, 2005 8:52 pm

I wonder if the issue is about /p/ being the second component in a cluster, or about the effect of having a preceding /s/. Right now, I can't think of any other consonant clusters in English that have /p/ as their second component.
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Postby tcward » Fri Feb 25, 2005 4:53 pm

I think it might go beyond the combination of /s/ and /p/ and actually be the cluster of /sp/+vowel... In other words, I believe in English the inheritance of these words might go beyond the consonant.

-Tim
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Postby tcward » Fri Feb 25, 2005 4:56 pm

You know, I can kind of hear the aspiration in export... just as much as in port, at least.

I just realized something. I was pronouncing export with the emphasis on ex-. If I shift the emphasis to -port, then /p/ becomes unaspirated.

Interesting...

-Tim
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Postby anders » Fri Feb 25, 2005 6:28 pm

tcward wrote:I think it might go beyond the combination of /s/ and /p/ and actually be the cluster of /sp/+vowel... In other words, I believe in English the inheritance of these words might go beyond the consonant.

-Tim

Not only /sp/+vowel; there's 'sprite', 'spleen' etc., so liquids work the same way as vowels. I still think it is a function of the "s". At this time of the night, I'm not quite understanding what you mean by 'inheritance' in this connection, but I'll sleep on it.
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