Re: Human Language. (long post)

MSCob (
19 Jan 1997 18:16:10 GMT

John Halloran wrote:

You know what throws cold water on Liberman's elaborate theory about the
sapiens sapiens vocal tract developing to be able to produce more vowels?
assertion by historical linguists that Proto-Indo-European only had one

Linguists reconstruct the phonemes, not all the phonetic variations,
of ancient languages. To say that a language has only one vowel phoneme
means that other vowel sounds may have occurred in particular environments
and thus can be predicted, but probably not that the language actually has
only one vowel sound. I have never heard of a language with only one
vowel sound, although I believe a contemporary language (I think a
Caucasian language, in the general area from which I-E may have
originated) has been analyzed as having only one vowel phoneme. I rather
strongly doubt that Indo-European, or any earlier language that it derived
from, was such an exception to the general character of human language as
to have only one vowel sound.

Mary Coberly

Mary Coberly