LINGUIST List 9.991

Wed Jul 1 1998

Sum: [ae]>[ya] summary

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  • WEN-CHAO LI, [ae]>[ya] summary

    Message 1: [ae]>[ya] summary

    Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 19:01:29
    From: WEN-CHAO LI <>
    Subject: [ae]>[ya] summary

    [ae]>[ya] SUMMARY By Wen-Chao Li

    A while ago I posted a querie on the list asking for information on strategies used by languages that do not have the low front vowel [ae] when they adapt loanwords with the vowel [ae] from foreign languages. I received a number of very helpful replies: thanks to Robin Thelwell, John E Koontz, Jakob Demptsey, Colin Whiteley, Yehuda N. Falk, Daniel E. Collins, Jeroen Wiedenhof, Bob Allen,Markus Hiller, Ivan A Derzhanski, Laurie Bauer, and anyone else that I might have left out.

    (1) THE [ae]>[e] POSSIBILITY

    In my original querie, I mentioned that I knew of two common strategies for adapting the vowel [ae]:

    (1) [ae]>[a] (2) [ae]>[ya]

    Many respondents were quick to point out that there is a third strategy that is even more common, namely, [ae]>[e]. Thus Daniel E Collins <> writes that

    "In the Slavic languages best known to me, English [ae] is often borrowed as [e] (e.g., Russian "kemping"/camping, or the pronunciation of my name as "den"/Dan)".

    Laurie Bauer <>: "English loan words in German replace the [ae] with open E (CV3)".

    Jeroen Wiedenhof <>: "In Dutch, which does not have a phoneme /ae/, the English phonemes /ae/ and /e/ in loans are *both* reflected as the Dutch phoneme /e/ (=IPA epsilon sign). Compare the following Englishloans in Dutch:

    "kennel"['kenl] "camping" ['kempIG] "petticoat" ['peti.kot] "patchwork" ['petSV$Wk]

    ['=primary stress; .=secondary stress; G=ng; S=voiceless postalveolar fricative; V=voiced labiodental fricative; $=rounded open-mid vowel ="oe" ligature; W=voiced velar approximant]"

    Yehuda N. Falk <> gives examples from Hebrew: "I did want to point out that there is a third possible treatment of [ae]: it can become a mid vowel [e] (or epsilon). This is what happens in Hebrew.

    ENGLISH HEBREW kitbag kitbeg tramp tremp (means "a ride; a lift") cat a brand of catfood called "ketli" handout hendawt (heard at linguistics conferences) captain kepten feedbackfidbek

    (2) [ae]>[ya] AFTER VELARS Of the three available options in the adaptation of loanword [ae], I was most interested in the [ae]>[ya] phenomenon. In my original querie, I gave Japanese as an example of [ae]>[ya] re-analysis, and cited the following examples:

    ENGLISH JAPANESE "camping" kyanpingu "gallery" gyarari "gang" gyangu "cabin" kyabin

    Jamaican creole behaves in a similar manner:

    ENGLISH JAMAICAN PATOIS "can" kyan "can't" kyaan "carry" kyai

    What bothered me about these examples, however, is that they seemed to occur exclusively in velar environments. If that is the case, then velar palatalization would seem like a more likely explanation than re-analysis of the [ae] vowel. One of the purposes of my querie was to see if there are languages in which the [ae]>[ya] process occurs in non-velar environments.

    Not surprisingly, many respondents gave examples of [ae]>[ya] following velars.

    Robin Thelwall <> writes that "palatalization of velars before [ae] is also found in Ulster Scots dialects of English".

    Bob Allen <>: "The same phenomenon appears in the Welsh spoken around Bangor, North Wales, and possibly in other Welsh dialects. As in your Japanese examples, it is restricted to velars ... The written source for this information is Fines-Clinton (sorry I don't have the first name): WELSH VOCABULARY IN THE BANGOR DISTRICT, which was published back in the 1920s or 1920s".

    John E Koontz <> writes of a Hank Williams Sr song in which "care" is pronounced as [kyar]. "I'm not sure where Hank Williams was raised. Somewhere in the southern tier -- Arkansas or Oklahoma?"


    But in the end, someone did come up with examples of [ae]>[ya] in non-velar environments. This occurs mostly in the Slavic languages.

    Colin Whiteley <> writes that "Russian is a good candidate, since it has a whole series of contrasts palatalised/not palatalised, and so it must choose which to take when the original language has an intermediate value. So "beach" = "plyash" from French "plage". However, the French /a/ is a lower vowel than you describe and the point in this case is that the French "l" sounds closer to the Russian palatalised "l" than to the "dark" one (in Russian they're described as "soft" and "hard"."

    And, saving the best for last, Ivan A Derzhanski's <> huge list of examples:

    "The standard rendering of Finnish and Estonian names in Russian and Bulgarian prescribes the substitution of "ya" (ie /a/ preceded by either /j/ or palatalisation) for the vowel [ae]. In a few cases I've also seen the English /ae/ rendered as "ya" in Bulgarian -- in names of football teams, if family serves.

    Some examples of Finnish in Russian:

    RUSSIAN FINNISH Juvjaskjulja Jyvskyl (a city) Pjajjanne Pijnne (a lake) Vjajnjamjnen Vinminen (one of the main characters in the "Kalevala").

    I use "ju" and "ja" for the last two letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, which stand for palatalisation or /j/ before /u/ and /a/, respectively; "" for the Russian letter "e" - diresis (palatalisation or /j/ followed by /o/); "j" for the Cyrillic "i" - breve (/j/); and "'" for the soft sign (palatalisation).

    Note that "" and "y" are rendered as "" and "ju" (so in this the treatment is consistent: any /{+frt,+vwl}/ which does not exist in Russian is divided into /{+frt}/ (rendered as /j/ or palatalisation) and the rest of its features (rendered as a back vowel). Note also that "j" before "", "" or "y" is lost.

    Estonian works in the same way, e.g.,

    RUSSIAN ESTONIAN PjarnuPrnu (a river and a port at the Riga Bay) mjagi mgi ("mountain" -- in many place names)

    Bulgarian works in a very similar way, except that there is no letter "", hence

    BULGARIAN FINNISH Vjajnjamjojnen Vinminen (a purely graphical difference)

    and the sequence "jja" is considered less acceptable, hence

    BULGARIAN FINNISH PjaijanePjajjanne

    which looks as if the "i" were syllabic, although in fact it is not; apparently they were loath to let the second "ja" do the job of three (!) separate facts of the Finnish -- (1) the coda of the preceding syllable, (2) the onset of this one, and (3) the frontness of the vowel.

    Found a bunch of interesting info in Andrej Danchev (1978), "Bulgarian Transcription of English Names: Theory and Practice" (the book itself is in Bulgarian; it just has a bilingual title).

    The story is as follows. The standard rendering of English // in Bulgarian used to be "e"; now "a" is taking over, reflecting a defronting of the corresponding vowel in English itself.

    However, in some older sources "ja" is also found, and things like "Bljak"/Black, "Njashnl siti bjank"/National City Bank ("" meaning the schwa vowel, the Russian hard sign) have appeared in print.

    I myself have seen "Sautxjamptn"/Southhampton (a football club).

    AD notes that this transcription is looked down upon, although it is no different from the substitution of /ju/ for /y/, which is standard in the transcription of German, French, Turkish etc. names, and which led to the current pronunciation of words like "future" in English; nor is it alien to the history of English, where (in Early Modern English) spellings such as _cyan_ for _can_ have been attested (an attempt to represent the fronting). The only case in which "ja" for English // has become standard in Bulgarian (as well as Russian) is "Aljaska"/Alaska (which afaik no one has attempted to represent otherwise).

    AD also notes that "ja" is (or was) more readily used after /l/, /k/, /g/ and /h/ (the last rendered as "x" /x/), that is, the consonants which are affected to the higher degree by a following front vowel; it is never seen in word-initial position.

    Finally, "ja" tends to be seen in transcriptions made by speakers of eastern Bulgarian dialects, in which the Old Slavic // yields "ja"; those from the west, where OSl // became "e", are more inclined to use "e" for the English //."


    Finally, some additional comments:

    Markus Hiller <> adds that "Japanese adapts German front rounded vowels in a similar way, e.g.

    GERMAN JAPANESE gloss <Muenchen> ['mync,n] > [mjunhen] (place name).

    As you can see from the example, this is *not* limited to velars, but the mid front rounded vowel is also often adapted as [e]. Many slavic languages do virtually consistently adapt German front rounded vowels as palatalization plus back vowel, i.e.

    "C+[y]" as "palatalized-C+[u]" ("y" here is rounded high front vowel)

    GERMAN BULGARIAN (RUSSIAN)gloss <Muenchen> [mjunxen] (see above) <Koeln> [k0ln] [kjoln](place name)

    If you are interested in decomposition, you might also be interested in looking at these data: many colloquial varieties of northern German adapt French [,n] (palatal nasal) as [Nn] (velar nasal plus alveolar nasal), whereas standard german has [gn] in that place. Thus you get [maN'ne:t]~[mag'ne:t] "magnet", whereas [mag'na:t] "tycoon" comes from a different source and never is *[maN'na:t]. (Strangely, <cognak> is ['kOnjak], not *['kONnak]). Hall (1992) analyzes /gn/ to be underlying both in [maN'ne:t] and in [mag'na:t], which does not look like a good solution to me."

    Jakob Dempsey <>: "The change [e]>[ya] is rather common in diachronic development, but not [ae]>[ya], unless the [ae] were interpreted as a low [e]".

    Compiled by

    Wen-Chao Li, Lecturer Institute of Linguistics & Asian & Slavic Languages & Literatures University of Minnesota

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