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Forum:Quenya IPA (linguists only)

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I have a long-standing dilemma when it comes to transcribing Quenya in IPA. That being, the palatalized series: dy hy ly ny ry sy ty. Not everything about it is ambiguous:

  • The y after these consonants is not a consonant in its own right, and does not make a cluster out of a consonant sequence that is not already a cluster. It only palatalizes the cluster, making its consonants y-colored [ʲ].
  • hy is an Ich-laut [ç].
  • ry is a straightforward palatalized r [rʲ]. That is unambiguous because there are very few other things it could possibly be.

This leaves dy ly ny sy ty.

  • dy ty—in pre-record Quenya, they historically represented the separate phonemes dy gy ([dʲ ɡʲ]) and ty cy ([tʲ kʲ]) respectively, before the coronal and velar components merged into one sound when palatalized. The thing is, I've always been very, very tempted to IPA-transcribe these two sounds [ɟ] and [c] in being vague palatals. But would this be too much of an assumption? We know that, in Quenya, separate gy cy cannot normally exist. (There's the ambiguous "kyermë" reference, but there is no evidence that this is ever used outside Númenor, considering it is suspected of being a Númenórëan corruption of a word that actually has hy anyway.) For now, I'm doing fairly unassumptive [dʲ tʲ] transcriptions, but does anyone think it would be wrong to use [ɟ c], considering they are essentially allophones? Compare the Hungarian language, where its spellings gy ty are phonetically transcribed [ɟ c], but their actually allophonic pronunciation can vary between [ɟ c], [ɟʝ cç], [dʑ tɕ], etc., just as long as they contrast with other sounds like dzs cs [dʒ tʃ]. Quenya doesn't have even this phonological constraint, as it's mentioned how Gondor pronounces ty as [tʃ].
  • One of the reasons I wonder that about dy ty is because I have seen other people transcribe ny as [ɲ], a palatal nasal, in the same palatal-area articulation as [ɟ c]. Right now I'm using unassumptive [nʲ], but I recall that all sorts of standard IPA transcription schemes for languages use [ɲ] while actually more commonly saying [nʲ] (such as many of the Romance languages, and also Greek, Czech, Polish, etc.), because the articulations [ɲ nʲ] never contrast anyway, and [ɲ] is a simpler symbol for the phoneme. Earlier, when I added an IPA pronunciation to the word "Quendya" in the Vanyarin article, I put it as [ˈkʷenʲdʲa]. Another editor changed it to [ˈkʷendʲa], but I had to revert it, because both consonants in the cluster are palatalized (and written with a single unitary tengwa anyway). Now, Something like [ˈkʷen͡dʲa], could be more accurate, except that it's a cluster and not a dual articulation (though considering Primitive Quendian, PQ could have been a dual-articulation at one time). But to minimize ambiguity, I'd tend to be more comfortable with the transcription [ˈkʷeɲɟa], to indicate that the consonants are both of Quenya's merged palatal series.
  • For the same reasons as ny, I would usually prefer to use [ʎ] instead of [lʲ] for ly.
  • sy seems the most mysterious case. Are there any special notes anywhere whatsoever that narrowed down the pronunciation of this phoneme? Its vaguest transcription would be [sʲ], a palatalized alveolar s. But this essentially makes it an alveolopalatal [ɕ]. But would this be thought of as too much of an assumption? (Then there's the issue of whether Gondor pronounced it [ʃ] the way they pronounced hy [ʃ], but that's a dialectal issue that's beyond our scope here.)

So basically, I've been wondering:

  • Should I stick to a vaguest described transcription like [dʲ ç lʲ nʲ rʲ sʲ tʲ]?
  • Or would it be alright to use simpler palatal symbols for some of these like [ɟ ç ʎ ɲ rʲ ɕ c]?

I sincerely hope there is someone present in this wiki who is of sufficient linguistic practice to give informed thought to this. - Gilgamesh 11:48, 21 January 2010 (UTC)

Though it hasn't been a whole day, it seems that perhaps there aren't many people on this wiki who are well-practiced in these things. Should I just use my best judgment? I don't want to step on anyone else's toes. - Gilgamesh 06:29, 22 January 2010 (UTC)

Although I am familiar with IPA, my knowledge of Quenya isn't what it used to be, so sorry, no educated feedback from me. I'm fine with whatever you do. -- Ederchil (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 09:12, 22 January 2010 (UTC)
Done and done. ...I always expect these wikis to be more frequented by editors than I actually find they are. It's not as lonely as it was at Tolkien Wiki, but it still feels very quiet and empty at times. - Gilgamesh 13:28, 22 January 2010 (UTC)
The most activity I ever saw here was everyone shooting down an idea I had about trying to keep people active :) --Breragor (TalkContribsEdits) 01:58, 23 January 2010 (UTC)
Well, It's been busier. But recently, a lot of the old editors popped back (albeit temporarily). I'm busy with other stuff, but I check in daily to to janitorial work. -- Ederchil (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 08:30, 23 January 2010 (UTC)
When it comes to linguistics I'm just starting... so, I think I will take your word for the best transcription. LotRfan01 03:01, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
My hunch would be to stick with [dʲ ç lʲ nʲ rʲ sʲ tʲ] for the sake of consistency and easy-to-read-ness. After all, if most dedicated editors are struggling with the intricacies of the IPA, then I dread to think what the general public will make of it; [dʲ ç lʲ nʲ rʲ sʲ tʲ] are more intuitive and easier to understand. --Mith (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 15:48, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

The point of using the pulmonic palatal series is that they represent where [tʲ kʲ], [dʲ ɡʲ], [nʲ ŋʲ] have undifferentiated and merged into common intentionally broad [c], [ɟ], [ɲ] phonemes. Besides, there was a problem before of another editor changing [nʲdʲ] to [ndʲ], not realizing that the entire cluster (not just the last consonant of it) is palatalized. With [ɲɟ], there is no confusion about how deeply palatalization penetrates the cluster. - Gilgamesh 17:38, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

If you're so set on using [c], [ɟ], [ɲ], etc. why did you offer a choice?
I don't forsee a huge problem with editors changing the IPA. Indeed, unless you have some knowledge of linguistics, very few people will understand so intimately how to even read the IPA, never mind understand the subtle differences between different characters. --Mith (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 11:54, 13 February 2010 (UTC)
You're right, that was rather insistent of me. I was soliciting a good practical debate from linguistic minds, which was why I labeled this "linguists only". And linguistic minds have a tendency to be pedantic. And you're right—I don't expect everyone to understand the intricacies so intimately. You just asked me why not use simple palatalization markers, and I explained the nature of Quenya's merger of of those palatalized coronals with those palatalized velars. This particular coronal-velar is not entirely complete, since sy and hy are still separate, except likely in Gondor—the use of the palatal fricative [ç] rather than [xʲ] for the latter is already well-established, and the symbol [ɕ] specifically exists to represent the palatalized voiceless alveolar fricative. As you can see, I was hoping for a good linguistic debate. It is usually impossible for me to even discuss Tolkien in significant depth without at least grazing some finer linguistics points. While I know that most ordinary people do not know the IPA, the IPA exists in part so that people can study a guide to the phonetic symbols for a given language, then form an accurate pronunciation in their minds based on the provided transcriptions. You think as a youngster decades ago that I immediately understood all the IPA symbols in my French dictionary? It took a bit of training. But then the IPA became priceless and indispensable. Linguistic skill does not come by magic—it's just incredibly rewarding and useful when it does. - Gilgamesh 15:50, 13 February 2010 (UTC)