[Spellyans] th/dh and Lhuyd

Owen Cook owen.e.cook at gmail.com
Mon Nov 22 01:57:23 GMT 2010


On 21 November 2010 09:07, nicholas williams <njawilliams at gmail.com> wrote:
> Nothing I have read on this list has yet made me believe that this is not
> the correct explanation and the simplest spelling for the various consonants
> in question.
> Nicholas

Nor will it. And that's fine for you and Michael and most of us on
this list. However, is it absurd to argue on the strength of the same
evidence that there was indeed final /ð/ and that its surface
realization was often but not always devoiced? It is not. Frankly it's
just the wrong procedure to say, 'Look, this is my theory, it's up to
the rest of the universe to prove it wrong, and if it can't be proved
wrong then everybody needs to follow it and it alone.' Look at what
Dan's doing -- he's held his nose and worked within the SWF, and to do
that more than one phonological theory has to be accommodated. A final
<dh> can be predictably realized as [θ], but final <th> cannot be
expected to be realized as [ð] by those who don't accept your view.

[ð] and [z] are both fricatives (yes they are -- a sibilant is a type
of fricative), and if final [z] is possible in unstressed syllables,
final [ð] might be too. As might [v]. Late Cornish has considerable
evidence of instability and variation among fricatives ([x] for /θ/, 0
for /x/), in the context of which the devoicing of final unstressed
/ð/ and /v/, as well as their elision, would hardly stand out as
unique.

Forgive me, but I don't see that it makes a whole lot of difference to
the <th> versus <dh> debate whether Nicholas believes that his  own
explanation is correct or not. If we want to engineer the SWF so that
it can accommodate variations, there is more merit to final <dh>. If,
in cases of doubt, we always want to stay closer to the MSS spellings,
we must choose <th>. That's really all it comes down to.

Is Nicholas' explanation possible? Sure. Is it the knock-out blow that
will convince everybody who's ever entertained a different analysis
that it is the only possible explanation? No.

Oll an gwelha,
~~Owen




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