[Spellyans] 'i'/'y' distribution in KS

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Wed Mar 11 13:05:33 GMT 2009

On 11 Mar 2009, at 11:34, Christian Semmens wrote:

> Would it be possible for us to have a short paper outlining where we  
> currently are regarding the distribution of 'i' and 'y' in KS?

A paper? No. How about an e-mail?

The AHG did not grasp the nettle of the distribution of i and y in the  
SWF, mostly as it is complicated and hard to understand and there was  
little time. So in the end they made some rules about monosyllables,  
about final position, and then they took the distribution as George  
has it in KK.

That last is objectionable because it assumes that KK (in terms of  
George's etymologies here) is accurate. It also leads to "lyver"  
'book' alongside "niver" 'number' even though the words are perfect  

> I must admit that this is, at least to my eye, the least  
> satisfactory part of KS. The utilisation of so many 'i's seems to be  
> taking KS away from attested forms of words, ref. Nicholas' last  
> email regarding lyw and 'lyf' > 'liv' as one example.

I don't think your eye is parsing correctly. ;-)

1) In monosyllables, <i> is used for [iː] and <y> is used for [ɪ].  
This is the same rule as in the SWF. In words derived from these  
monosyllables, the same vowel is used, so <kig> 'meat', <kiger>  

2) In final position, KS uses <y>. SWF permits final <i> and <y> in  
polysyllables and mandates <i> or <ei> in monosyllables. KS prefers  
traditional graphs and so prefers final <y>. Elsewhere I have given an  
exhaustive list of monosyllables ending in [i] or in [əi]. It is so  
short that there is really no reason to distinguish (as the SWF does)  
between those monosyllables with an [i]~[əi] alternation (a dozen),  
those with an [i]~[e] alternation (two), and those with only [i]  
(three). (For the second group we could write më~mÿ and të~tÿ, but  
it does not appear that the bÿs~bës distinction needs to be marked  
for these pronouns.)

3) In initial position, <i> is used except in a number of function words

4) <ya> is [jə] and <ia> is [ˈiə].

5) That leaves us with all other i's and y's in polysyllables. We tend  
to use <y> where the sound is [ɪ] (which it nearly always is) and <i>  
where it is [iː] typically only where it is stressed (delit, delitya,  
titel, reqwir, desir, reqwirya, desirya). In a few words we use <î>  
(sîra) where it seems prudent to emphasize the length and quality (cf.  

This last item 5) is really the difficult part. So far we have not  
been entirely consistent, but.... ASSUME that rules 1) to 4) are  
solid. Can you help us with rules for 5)?

> I think it would be useful for us all to see where we think we are  
> with this (or perhaps I am the only one confused).


1) based on quality and quantity in monosyllables

2/3) i- and -y are cosmetic, as the former is always [ɪ] and the  
latter {i} unstressed and [i(ː)]~[əi] stressed.

4) diphthongs, easy to remember

5) may still be slightly problematic (though marginal given the  
coverage of the others).

Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com

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