LINGUIST List 5.1016

Wed 21 Sep 1994

Qs: Manualese, Numbers, Uzbek Phonology (Reposting)

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Anna Brita Stenstr m, manualese
  2. Trey Jones, Numbers
  3. "STEVE SEEGMILLER", Q: Uzbek Phonology (Reposting)

Message 1: manualese

Date: Tue, 20 Sep 94 12:48:35 EEmanualese
From: Anna Brita Stenstr m <>
Subject: manualese

A student of mine is studying the language of computer software manuals.
Does anyone know about previous studies related to this area? If so, please
let me know.
Anna-Brita Stenstr!m e-mail:
English department phone: 47 55212369
University of Bergen fax: 47 55322302
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Message 2: Numbers

Date: Tue, 20 Sep 94 14:25:41 EDNumbers
From: Trey Jones <treyBRS.Com>
Subject: Numbers

Dear fellow LINGUIST folks..

A couple of years ago, I was a TA for a History of Math course, in which
the professor, who is a mathematician and amateur polyglot, told the class
that there was a strong relationship between the word for "new" and the
word for "nine" in many languages, and that this was (according to his
theory) because people got along with 8 numbers for a long time (because
they had eight fingers) and then needed a "new" number.

He cited, of course, Spanish "nueve"/"nueva,nuevo" (9/new) and French
"neuf"/"nouveau", and even English "nine"/"new". The Spanish case is the
only one that looks readily believable.. though I suspect it is more of a
chance resemblance due to historical accident.

Does anyone know the Latin to Spanish/French history of these words?

And, just for kicks, how many languages can we come up with that have 9/new
similarities (however spurious or vague they may be) that support the

Thanks a bunch!

-Trey Jones
Evil Linguist at Large
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Message 3: Q: Uzbek Phonology (Reposting)

Date: 20 Sep 94 13:28:00 EST
Subject: Q: Uzbek Phonology (Reposting)

This query was posted during the depths of the summer months,
when I am sure many people were away from their offices or
otherwise not reading their e-mail. I got some very useful
replies to the query, but I am posting it again in the hopes that
some of the people who didn't see it earlier will have something
to say on the subject. In addition to posting it a second time, I
am simultaneously posting it to several different lists. I
apologize for all of the clutter. I will post a summary of both
the earlier responses and any new ones as soon as any new ones
are received.

Standard descriptions of Uzbek phonology (e.g. Kononov's) present
a very confusing picture. The claim is made that the vowels u",
o", and i" have merged phonologically (but not phonetically) with
u, o, and i; in other words, back [u] and front [u"] are now
allophonic variants of a single phoneme /u/, [o] and [o"] of /o/,
and so forth. Associated with this phonological restructuring
are two other changes: the loss of vowel harmony, and the
assumption by the consonants of the task of distinguishing
between [u] and [u"], [o] and [o"], [i] and [i"].

All of this works pretty well with vowels adjacent to back
consonants (i.e. dorso-palatal, velar, and uvular), where
separate phonemes /k/ vs. /q/, etc., can be reasonably motivated.
But it fails miserably in words containing no back consonants.
So, for example, Kononov cites words like [u"zu"m] 'grape,'
[su"pu"rgi] 'broom,, and [bo"ri] 'wolf',' all of which contain
the front allophones of /u/, /o/, and /i/ with nothing in the
phonetic environment to account for their occurrence. Bernard
Comrie also noted such cases (in Languages of the Soviet Union)
and described them as examples of the violation of the
biuniqueness principle.

My question is this: has anyone looked at Uzbek phonology in an
attempt to resolve the obvious contradictions in the traditional
accounts? I would be most grateful for any references,
suggestions, or insights that anyone may be able to provide.

Thanks in advance.

Steve Seegmiller
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