Saturday, February 18, 2023

Lament for the vanished on-glides

Although /j/ as a formal phoneme had been officially nixed a few years previous, beginning in 2011 a number of words appeared in Koa with an initial [j] sound: iolo "joyful," iuna "train," iune "steal," and so on. This was possible because of the adoption of a series with this sound among the particles: ia "yes, definitely," io "already," etc., for which I could think of no objection.

As of this morning the language contained around 20 predicates with this on-glide. I still think the particles are fine, but it suddenly crystallized for me that there was a serious problem with the predicates: the accidental adoption of this phoneme created a growing functional load on the distinction between prevocalic [j], [i] and [ij]:

ka kane iolo
[ka kane jolo]
"the joyful man"

ka kane i olo
[ka kane i olo]
"the man smells (something)"

ka kane i iolo
[ka kane i jolo]
"the man is joyful"

As I've been experimenting with writing Koa without spaces between bound morphemes (post eventually forthcoming) the problem became very stark: the phrases above come out kakane iolo, kakane iolo, and kakane iiolo! It's even worse when the preceding predicate also ends with /i/:

ka hapi iolo
[ka hapi jolo]
"the joyful ant"

ka hapi i olo
[ka hapi i olo]
"the ant smells (something)"

ka hapi i iolo
[ka hapi i jolo]
"the ant is joyful" here we're making a distinction between [ijo], [iio] and [iijo]. Heavens above. As much as it -- truly, sincerely, kind of agonizingly -- grieves me, these just couldn't stand: in an artlang, sure, but not with Koa's charter. They just weren't meant to be.

And so, glumly, this afternoon I went through and reassigned all of these predicates. Some of them feel okay, others may take some getting used to or find themselves replaced eventually. The hardest one by far was iolo: there is just no other sequence of sounds that more clearly communicates joy to me after having it as a core predicate for more than ten years. I feel like I want to keep it around as an archaic alternative usable in poetry.

Anyway, for posterity, here are the lost on-glide roots; farewell, and I'll remember you always.

iaho -> auho "flour"
iali -> ali "put away"
iane -> ane "cord"
iapu -> epu "spit"
iehi -> ehi "hate"
iela -> sela "whole, unbroken"
ietu -> cetu "dishonor"
ieva -> teva "gradual"
ioco -> oco "copper"
iolo -> elo "joyful"
iomu -> omu "meat"
ioni -> coni "yoni"
ioti -> toti "perseverate"
iotu -> enu "curious"
iovi -> kovi "wise"
iule -> ulu "apart"
iuna -> vona "train"
iune -> lune "steal"
iuve -> uve "fall short"

Ooh, some of these are still not feeling great...I can tell I'm going to have to give myself time.

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