Author Topic: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?  (Read 1320 times)

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Offline Kame Ayyo’koti

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Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« on: October 26, 2014, 12:14:27 pm »
If lenition is to ease pronunciation, why does it sometimes seem arbitrary?

ìlä+, nuä+, wä+ imply to me that words following ä should be lenited.

But then why doesn't kxamlä- cause lenition?

äo-
eo-
io-
uo-


but:
ro+
sko+

?

sre+

but:
ne-
?
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Offline 阿波

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2014, 12:33:02 pm »
One way to think about it, is: it's a language. They tend to not make much sense. And luckily you don't need to understand how they work, to understand them.
Maybe there is some kind of reasoning for this one, but just remember there won't always be one.

Offline Vawmataw

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2014, 12:39:38 pm »
Quote
One way to think about it, is: it's a language.
I agree with you.
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Offline Kame Ayyo’koti

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2014, 12:49:12 pm »
One way to think about it, is: it's a language. They tend to not make much sense.
I understand that, so I expect there to be irregular forms for many things, and for those things it isn't really a big deal.

What I'm saying is, the raison d'être for lenition is ease of pronunciation. If that's the case, then I would expect it to be universally applicable, as we're dealing with production of sounds, not meaning or wordforms or things of that nature. Why make something in one case easier to pronounce, but not another? That seems unreasonable to me.
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Offline Tìtstewan

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2014, 02:57:25 pm »
Well, I don't know how Pawl has decided that adposition X cause lenition and Y not...
I think, there could be a reason in the language history why some adpositions cause lenition. For example, sre+ is a weird example:
srekrr from sre + krr - not lenited
srese'a from sre +  tse'a - lenited
srekamtrr from sre + kxamtrr - lenited

Frommer likes to create Na'vi like a natural language, that mean: weird exceptions and sometimes weird rules - even like in natural languages.
Btw, the English languages is also full of exceptions especially in pronounciation. :P

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Offline Tirea Aean

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2014, 04:59:25 pm »
At the end of the day, as a conlang, it pretty much just IS arbitrary. I've thought about exactly this same thing before, and there is still no real answer besides it's arbitrary.

And what Tìtstewan said.

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Offline archaic

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2014, 05:06:48 pm »
At the end of the day, as a conlang, it pretty much just IS arbitrary. I've thought about exactly this same thing before, and there is still no real answer besides it's arbitrary.

And what Tìtstewan said.
Hooey.

Natural languages evolve over time, younger languages much more quickly than mature languages, but they all develope and move forward.

Pawl knows about languages, and to be truthful, most natural languages (all?) start with people speaking.
Most languages develop first as a dialect and as it drifts away from it's root language it becomes a more distinct and eventually separate language. Much as new species evolve.

The thing here is that languages evolve organically, what sounds and feels right to it's speaker. The rules it fits are often the result of scholars trying to fit rules around the body of language, not the other way around.
(I understand some languages have a set of rules that fits well, but English is a messy collision of mostly Norse and Latin infused with a plethora of scraps from many other sources, resulting in a set of rules that is complicated and all too often plain wrong)

Why shouldn't you expect a few exceptions in the language of such complex, vibrant and so paradoxically primitive yet sophisticated people as the Na'vi.
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Offline Blue Elf

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2014, 07:01:47 am »
If lenition is to ease pronunciation, why does it sometimes seem arbitrary?
As it was said: do not search for logic here, it's wrong way (I learned it hard :))
I wouldn't say lenition is here to ease pronunciation, but to confuse people not experienced enough. It allows us to create funny and hard to understand word (like fayfayfya). Even after three or four years I meet sometimes statement I do not understand well because of lenition.
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Offline Plumps

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2014, 07:06:20 am »
I can only speak from experience with a language in which lenition occurs – Irish (Gaeilge).

What we also have to take into account is whether lenition occurs for the ease of speaking or whether it is a grammatical necessity (Wikipedia has a good overview). Although lenition occurs (or has occured) in many languages historically the Celtic language family is one where this has been grammaticalized … and I am inclined to count Na’vi in that group as well.

There are historical rules of sound changes why these have occured but only linguists and philologists know the exact rules/forms now. In school or in daily speaking you just learn how it is. That is how I would see Na’vi too. In Na’vi the change occurs only with the plural forms and adpositions – compared to Irish these are quite a few instances.

Just for comparison, in Irish lenition appears (list not extensive):
(Irish indicates lenition with an inserted h, so that you see what the original letter was (other than Na’vi), but the sounds change, e.g. b [ b ] > bh [v] or [w] depending on the following vowel, p [p] > ph [f], c [k] > ch [ç] or [ x ] depending on the following vowel sl.)

- after the definite article of feminine nouns: bean, “woman”, an bhean, “the woman”
- with attributive adjectives after feminine nouns: bocht, “poor”, bean bhocht, “(a) poor woman”
- in the vocative case: Cáit, “Kate”, a Cháit, “Kate!”
- after certain prepositions: ar, “on”, ar bhoird, “on tables”
- in genitive constructions: teach, “house”, Pádraig, “Patrick” > teach Phádraig, “Patrick’s house”
- after the possessive adjectives mo, “my”, do, “your”, a, “his”: mo theach, “my house”
- after the numbers 1–6: dhá bhord,“two tables”, sé charr, “six cars”
- after certain particles and conjunctions: , “if” (conditional), , “not” (present; ní thuigim, “I don’t understand”), níor, “not” (past; níor thuig mé, “I didn’t understand”)




It allows us to create funny and hard to understand word (like fayfayfya). Even after three or four years I meet sometimes statement I do not understand well because of lenition.

That’s one of mine, isn’t it? ;D Oh, I loved that :P And that’s without further changes through case endings.
It allows you to play with the language! :D
Another one is tewti “limits” (patiens) ;)
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 06:26:43 am by Plumps »

Offline Wllìm

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2014, 08:59:17 am »
I agree with Plumps and Tìtstewan. Probably when viewed historically there would be a perfectly logical reason why some adpositions cause lenition and others don't.

The example of Irish is a really interesting insight in how complicated real-language lenition rules can be :o +1 for that :)

Another one is tewti “limits” (patiens) ;)
This is so evil :o ;D
« Last Edit: October 27, 2014, 01:22:21 pm by Wllìm »
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Offline Tìtstewan

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2014, 09:36:34 am »
I agree with Plumps. Probably when viewed historically
I've also mentioned (Reply #4) that there could be a historical reason. Like natural languages, I am somwhow sure that also in Na'vi hapened sound shifting and vowel changes which is also a kind of lenition even like happened in old english, old german ect.

Another one is tewti “limits” (patiens) ;)
This is so evil :o ;D
As evil as kilvan (k<ilv>an - aimed OR kilvan - river) ;D :P
OR
mì fayhelku - in which houses [mì + pe + ay = mì fay] danger of confusing it with mì fayhelku - in these houses [fì + ay = fay] ;D

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Offline Wllìm

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2014, 01:28:45 pm »
I've also mentioned (Reply #4) that there could be a historical reason. [...]
Oh, okay, fixed ;D
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Offline Tìtstewan

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2014, 02:11:50 pm »
Ngari txe'lan mawey livu! :D

Well (to be ontopic xD), this is quite the same weird thing like the question why some verbs in english have irregular forms: play - played but write - written - wrote (same also for german and maybe other EU languages)

EDIT: Now, imagine, how one could explain that english thing to a Na'vi... hrh

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Offline `Eylan Ayfalulukanä

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2014, 03:09:01 pm »
Ngari txe'lan mawey livu! :D

Well (to be ontopic xD), this is quite the same weird thing like the question why some verbs in english have irregular forms: play - played but write - written - wrote (same also for german and maybe other EU languages)

EDIT: Now, imagine, how one could explain that english thing to a Na'vi... hrh

Dr. Grace probably lost much hair trying to do this....

This discussion also shows how important context is. And although the lenition rules are fairly straightforward. it can still easily catch you off guard, especially if an interesting verb infix is somehow involved. (This is also why I teach lenition fairly early on to new learners.)

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Offline Vawmataw

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2014, 04:15:56 pm »
Quote
One way to think about it, is: it's a language.
I agree with you.
I still agree with you.

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Offline Kame Ayyo’koti

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2014, 08:55:11 pm »
What we also have to take into account is whether lenition occurs for the ease of speaking or whether it is a grammatical necessity (Wikipedia has a good overview). Although lenition occurs (or has occured) in many languages historically the Celtic language family is one where this has been grammaticalized … and I am inclined to count Na’vi in that group as well.
Lenition being a grammatical function is interesting, and if that's the case I could accept that as an explanation for why it's sometimes "random."
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Offline `Eylan Ayfalulukanä

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Re: Why does lenition sometimes seem arbitrary?
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2014, 01:00:20 am »
MAybe Pawl did something as simple as say a phrase using a new prefix or adposition. If it sounded better to him with lenition, the prefix or adposition was marked to be one that caused lenition. Note that it is possible that a given word doesn't sound better with (or without) lenition in all cases. Maybe, just most of the time.

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