Tag Archives: allophones

Plurals with -yam and -ya

So on the front page we have that word layamayajam. It means ‘for the readers’ and is composed like this:

laya + maya + ye + yam
read + AGT NMLZ + PL + DAT
‘for the readers’

And layamayayeyam is also what I first had on the front page. What’s long bothered me, though, is the abundance of [j] and that these little buggers can pile up occasionally, leading to words that may be quite a bit tongue-twisting, or at least awkward to say. Test for yourself: [ˌla.ja.ma.ˈja.je.jɑm]. See? This screams for dissimilation (at least in my ears it does), or some other morphophonetic process of removing a pronunciation hurdle. So, what could we do? —

  1. Go by analogy with the locative case marker -ya. In combination with the plural marker -ye, it changes to -ea, so we get -ye-ya-yēa.

    ERGO: We can extend this to -ye-yam, leading to -yēam.

    PRO: This resembles my previous pronunciation habit of slurring /je.jɑm/ to something like /iːɑm/. It’s not perfectly phonemic spelling, but gets close.

    CONTRA: In a case like layamayayēam it’s still kind of awkward, I suppose. Also, -yēa and -yēam are pretty close.

  2. Go the route of dissimilation to the nearest similar-but-dissimilar-enough sound there is in the language.

    ERGO: [je] → [d͡ʒ] is a solution. We can do -ye-yam-jyam. As [d͡ʒjɑm] is a little difficult to say, and the [j] is barely there anyway, we can even go as far as mutating that further to just -jam. Thus, we get layamayajam.

    PRO: Easier to pronounce, also shorter. Also, more synchronic irregularity triggered by morphophonetic processes, oh yeah! Also, there is no ending -jam so far, so it can’t be confused. Also, it’s dissimilar from -yēa.

    CONTRA: -jam doesn’t really look like -yeyam anymore. Also, now I need to figure out how to deal with this in ‘native’ spelling. Probably not at all, because native spelling is more morphemic/phonemic than phonetic.

In the end I decided for the second option. Now I only need to write that down in the grammar. However, this decision also poses the question what to do with other combinations, e.g. -yeas (patient animate) and -yeang (agent animate). Should they become -jas and -jang, respectively? Should I then also retrofit -yēa (locative) to -ja? Hm …