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Rhaetian Latin

March 23rd, 2009

The other day, someone posted in the “pub” of the Romansh Wikipedia asking about sound changes in Rhaetian Latin.

I asked him to email me about the information he had already since the topic interested me, and he gave me a quick dump of some information — very interesting! And I can imagine that it will influence Engadinese.

For example, he said that the umlauting of u to ü must have happened comparatively early, while vowel length was still phonemic, since only long us turned into ü. (Also, only long e merged with short i to i, and only short u with long o to u.)

Also, I’m beginning to think that my decision to introduce umlaut was probably wrong; that is, ö and ü should probably not derive from o and u that have a /j/ or /i/ in the next syllable (and ä not from a plus /j/ or /i/), but from other ways. For example, since /u/ is not overly common in Greek, perhaps I could make long υ into ü and short υ into u, and have ö derive only from οι. (Though length isn’t often marked for iota and upsilon, so I might have to do some more digging if I decide to split up upsilon by original length.) Perhaps having a straight αι οι υ -> ä ö ü mapping might be cleanest and easiest.

With ä being orthographical only, an etymological spelling; I don’t think the pronunciation will differ from e. Unless I introduce /æ/, or differentiate between /e/ and /ɛ/? But the latter would only make sense if I also differentiate between /ɔ/ and /o/, I think, which doesn’t seem likely just now. I think just having ä and e be the same is fine, whatever phonetic value (or range of values — apparently, both/e/ and /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ and /o/ are distinguished in Romansh in speech but not in writing) those symbols will have.

Eta (η) already goes to i, so I have the “long-e merges with short-i” part of Rhaetian Latin; perhaps now to move omega (ω) to u as well to match “long-o merges with short-u”? That would certainly have repercussions, I imagine.

-tio (and -ti- in general) was treated specially, it seems, but I’m not sure whether to take that into account, since that sequence of sounds doesn’t have the same wide distribution in Greek as it does in Latin.

He also mentioned lenition of p t c to v d g intervocalically.

There is also a v ~ b alternation where either sound can turn into the other. But Greek has no /v/, and I’m not sure whether to introduce a phonemic /v/ for Engadinese, so I’m not sure whether that will apply. (My current feeling is to have /b/ have allophones of [b] and [β], possibly even [v], but not as separate phonemes… perhaps something like [b]~[β] word-initially and before a consonant, and [β]~[v] intervocalically.)

(And a random thought from reading too much about Irish recently: introduce cool word-initial morphosyntactically-determined consonant mutations. But that would not be Romansh, so that’ll have to wait for another project.)

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