By McWhorter, John; Good, Jeff
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Extra resources for A Grammar of Saramaccan Creole
3. ) Generally (and perhaps exclusively), these extra long sequences are the result of a relatively recent sound change wherein intervocalic alveolars were deleted (see the section on l for further discussion). Thus, for example, a word like baáa ‘brother,’ derived from the English word with the same meaning, is given as brára in Schumann’s word list, with the present Saramaccan form resulting from deletion of the intervocalic liquids in a form along the lines of barára (with initial epenthesis between the b and r of the etymological br sequence).
2. 2. Comparable to what is described above with respect to j, while w has clear phonemic status in many words, for example, wéi ‘weather’ and awaá ‘palm type,’ there are some cases where it is transcribed but its phonemic status is more ambiguous due to the fact that it could also represent an automatic transition between two vowels that would otherwise be adjacent. This is the case, for 14 Segmental phonology example, in words like uwíi ‘leaf’ or túwѓ ‘throw,’ and there does not appear to be any phonemic distinction between, say, a sequence like uwíi or a hypothetical sequence like uíi (though one does find comparable sequences transcribed in some sources, for example, in the word duídui ‘insect type’ in Rountree, Asodanoe, and Glock 2000).
Second, though there are exceptions, there appears to be a general restriction on the appearance of mid vowels of different heights in adjacent syllables of a morpheme. 2. At least for a native English speaker, the most difficult vowel contrasts to reliably perceive are probably those between the members of the front pair and back pair of mid vowels. This is perhaps because the upper mid vowels are not accompanied by the diphthongization that characterizes English vowels commonly associated with [e] and [o], but it could also be a consequence of their articulation involving a phonetic distinction that is fundamentally difficult for an English speaker to perceive, along the lines of an ATR feature of the sort associated with West African languages.