m. c. de marco: noteboard

January 15, 2007

"One wonders if pressure to generate vocabulary has also resulted in the rather large number of consonants (twenty-nine in the Old South Arabian group)."

Vocabulary is also generated by simply adding yet more meanings to existing words. This has caused Arabic, for example, to be considered to be very "rich," in the sense that the same word can mean many things. The language is thus highly context dependent, and ideal for poetry. This semantic accretion and the phenomenon of accidental convergence of roots often make it unclear what one might consider to be the base meaning of a root.

Punjabi, which displays a system of 20 vowels, being 10 oral and the other 10 their nasal counterparts.

Most languages have between 5 to 7 vowels, and as a contrast, the Khoisan language !Xu presents the largest vowel segments totaling 24! It also has the largest consonant inventory in the world languages. [ibid]

Due to the difficulty of learning click languages as adults, few outsiders ever learn these languages. It is far easier for click-language speakers to learn a nonclick language than for outsiders to learn their click language.

"Inventories" such as one finds in UPSID are abstractions over sounds that are contrastive in a language and typically include consonants that may appear in different positions in the syllable and word. Most consonants of a language, however, can appear word-initially, and consonants that appear elsewhere are usually a subset of these. A consonant inventory usually approximates an inventory of word onsets, and the sounds selected as the basic allophone or variant of a consonant phoneme in UPSID are typically those that appear in strong positions such as the onset. The rationale for this choice is that consonants that appear elsewhere can often be regarded as reduced or lenited realizations of this basic variant.