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Scales and Diminutivization Author(s): Loren Trigo Reviewed work(s): Source: Linguistic Inquiry, Vol. 22, No.

3 (Summer, 1991), pp. 578-583 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 06/07/2012 14:54
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Williams,E. (1980)"Predication,"LinguisticInquiry11, 203238. Williams, E. (1983) "Against Small Clauses," Linguistic Inquiry 14, 287-308. Williams,E. (1987) "NP Trace in Theta-Theory,"Linguistics
and Philosophy 10, 433-447.


Loren Trigo, Boston University

Ohala(1983)has noted that diminutivesound symbolism(DSS) imitatesthe size of an object by associatingwith small sounds that have higherfrequencies: (1) "There is, however, one physical characteristicof speech sounds, whether vowel, consonant, or tone, which predicts fairly successfully how they will be
used in size sound-symbolism, viz., their acoustic frequency. The vowels characterizing small have high F-2, those characterizing large, a low F-2 (or, more

precisely, the difference between F-2 and F-1). The consonantsused with small have, in general,predominantly higherfrequencies (either in F-2 transitionor in fricationor noise burst)thanthose used with small. With tone, it is quite simply the higher F-0 which is used with small and low F-0 with LARGE." (Ohala (1983, 240)) DSS can be used to construct scales. In formallydefining a scale, we have the choice of using continuousfunctions (for instance, F2-1F1 as in (1)) or binary features (for instance, [ + back]/[- back]). I will arguethat DSS scales are constructed on the basis of the lattermechanism,in a mannersimilarto that proposedfor the sonority scale by Steriade(1982)(and others cited there). My result supportsthe contentionthat the use of scales in naturallanguages should be analyzed without introducing new formaldevices. AlthoughDSS is often binary,Gregerson(1984)has shown that DSS in Rengao (Mon-Khmer) makes use of a scale.' Since this scale is based on vocalic changes, a few words must be said about the vowel inventoryof this language.Accordingto Gregerson (1984), Rengao has 10 vowels, 5 "chest" register vowels /i, e, u, a, o/ and 5 "head" registervowels /I, c, v, a, 3/. On the basis of the fact that the "chest" register vowels follow historically voiced obstruents (whose voicing depends
I wouldlike to thankJohn McCarthy and MichaelKenstowiczfor theircommentson this squib.I wouldalso like to thankthe LI reviewers who made it readable,and especially one of them for his or her substantiveand formalcomments.All errorsare exclusively mine. ' A similaruse of vocalic scales is describedfor relatedlanguages, such as Kammu(see Svantesson(1983)and referencescited there).




579 + ATR





X~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ i

Fl X




F2-F1 => Figure 1 in parton pharyngealexpansion),Gregerson(1976)has argued that the "chest" and "head" registervowels are respectively [ + ATRIand [ - ATRI. As implementedin Rengao, the feature [ATRI has two phonetic correlates: [+ ATR] correlates with tongue root protractionand breathy phonation;[- ATR] corand modalphorelateswith absence of tongue root protraction to [ei] nation.The high [ - ATR]vowels IL!and lvl diphthongize and[ou], respectively.Vowels reduceto [a] - [a]in the pretonic syllable, the choice between the two vowels dependingon the [ATR] category of the tonic vowel (which is always final). [ + ATRI [a] occurs before [ + ATR] vowels: [h;dri] 'pestle', [baseh] 'wizard', [baram]'to exterminate',[hajoh]'to be wet', [manung]'chisel'; [-ATR] [a] occurs before [- ATRI vowels
/L [ei], , [oul, a, c, 3/: [balei] 'species of bamboo', [tadroul 'six',

[busat] 'knife', [manei] 'crossbow', [cakhoq]'shoe'. Figure 1 shows Gregerson's(1984)arrangement of these vowels in terms of height (vertical axis) and backness (horizontal axis). Although Gregerson does not provide formant frequencies for these vowels,2 I will take his arrangement at face value and assume that the vertical and horizontalaxes represent,respectively, Fl (perceivedheight)and F2 - Fl (perceivedbackness) (arrowsshow the directionof increase in value). in Rengaoobey the diminutive Most diminutiveparadigms scale in (2), where the symbol ">" standsfor diminution.3 Ex2 As Gregerson (1984,209)notes, the arrangement is basedon perception and transferredkinaesthesia.Gregerson'splottingsresemble Lindau's(1975)plottingsfor languageswith similarvowel inventories and with vowel harmonybased on [ATR]thoughthe low vowels seem to be more retractedin Rengao (Gregerson(1984, 217-218) uses the notations[a] and [a] interchangeably). Otherlanguageswith extremely retracted[+ ATR] and [- ATR] low vowels exist, such as Nandi-Kipsigis-Elgeyo(Hall and Hall (1973/4,244)). 3 Gregerson's (1984)articlehas a numberof typographical errors. A couple of textual referencesto "short vowels" show transcriptions with tildes, but nasalized vowels are not mentionedexplicitly in the text. Data lists headedby ei < e containwordsin which laiI and /?/ are the ablautingvowels (the correctforms shouldhave /i/ and /I? as the




amples are given in (3). (Recallthat vowels contrastonly in the final syllable.) (2) o > a > u > e > i >3 > a > ou >
(3) praw > prew > praw > prtw

> ei

"sightof very loosely >>> very tightly woven material'

phophach > phaphach > phapher 'impressionof a large >> smallamountof watergushing' rag3w > ragaw > ragew

'sight of a tall big >> very thin person' r3glow> ragliw > ragleiw 'sight of very large >> small eyes' taplkp > taplip > tapl3p > taplcp 'sight of a very large >>> very small plumpperson' rafiong> rafieng> rafi5ng> rafiil 'sight of a huge >>> tiny fire'
?bre > 7bri > ?brc > 7brei

sight of a large >>> tiny red object' tObloy> tabluy > tabl3y 'sight of a large >> small sphere' > tabr3n> tabr3n> tabren tObrong 'sight of a huge >>> small intricatelypatternedobject' ch3hoh > chzh;h > chahuh> chahoh> chahah > chahch 'sight of a very large >>>>> very small mouth' > ka?d6r kD?der 'sight of a large > small turtle' The scale in (2) obeys generalization (1) uponconsideration of more than one phonetic dimension. As (1) requires, most distinctions in the scale are based on F2 - Fl: the vowels
O>d>u>e>i and j>a>ou>c>ei are ordered in the diminutive relation ">" with one another by increasing value of F2 - F1.

But the step i>j actually represents a decrease in F2-Fl,4 reversingthe relation in the rest of the scale. But this is also compatiblewith (1) if the propertyof spectraltilt is considered. An LI reviewerobserves that modalvoiced vowels exhibitless spectraltilt (that is, loss of energy with increasingfrequency) than breathy voiced ones; therefore, the step (breathy)i >

ablautingvowels); other data lists headeds<a containwords in which /el and lal are the ablautingvowels (the correct forms should have /1/ and lal as the ablautingvowels). I have correctedthese errorsby comparing Gregerson(1984)with a later(unpublished) manuscript that Gregersonsent me. Elsewhere,the transcription remainsas in Gregerson (1984). 4 This decrease can also be seen in Lindau's(1975)plottingsfor languageswith similarvowel inventories.





Table 1 An algorithmfor DSS scale constructionthat makes use of

spectral tilt and F2-Fl

3 3




o o >

ou c > u > e > i > o > a > ou >c> e

i> o

ei ei

spectraltilt F2-F1

(modal) a constitutes an increase in the energy of the higher harmonics.If this is true, then this increase overridesthe decrease in the value for F2-F1 in determining the diminutiveness of the step i>a. Therefore,the diminutivescale in (2) is not based on a single function, but is insteadconstructedby an algorithmthat takes into considerationtwo distinct functions (spectraltilt and F2 - F1, the latter a continuousfunction)and gives priorityto one of them (spectraltilt). I define in table 1 an algorithm for DSS scale constructionas a set of orderedsteps that make use of spectral tilt and F2 - F1. A relation in step n - 1 has priorityover anotherin step n because any relation introduced in step n - 1 must be preserved in step n. In the first step the vowels o, d, u, e, i are ordered into the diminutive relation ">" with the vowels a, a, ou, ?, ei by virtue of the lattergroup'ssteeper spectraltilt. In the second step the vowels within each of these groups are orderedin the diminutivereand lation ">" with one another (that is, o>d>u>e>i a>a>ou>e>ei) by increasingvalue of F2-Fl.5 An alternativeapproachis to constructscale (2) withbinary features. Table 2 defines an algorithmfor DSS scale construction that makes use of binaryfeatures only. The algorithm for DSS scale constructioncan be shown to be based on the binaryfeaturesin table2, ratherthanon spectral tilt and a continuousfunction such as F2 - Fl because it turns

Table 2 An algorithm for DSS scale construction that makes use of binary features o



i > e u > e i > 3 o a > u > e > i >3 o > 3 > U > e > i >3 >

a a a

c ou c ou ou > c

ei ei ei

[+ATR] > [-ATR] [+back] > [-back]

[-high] > [+high] [+round] > [-round]

a > ou > e > ei a > ou > c > ei

5In agreementwith Ohala'sexclusion of Fl as a consistent phonetic parameter of diminutivization in (1), diminutivesteps in Rengao can involve Fl lowering(e>i) or Fl raising(u>e).




Table 3 An algorithm for constructing DSS scale (4) by reversing the priority between [ATR] and [back] shown in table 2 o o o o o > u a u 3 a u > : a a > u > o a > u > o > a ou a ou a ou a > ou a > ou e i c ei i e c ei e i > c ei e > i > e > ei e > i > c > ei

> > > >

[+back] > [-back] [+ATR] > [-ATR] [-high] > [+high] [+round] > [-round]

out that other DSS data in Rengao follow another diminutive scale that can be derived by changing the priority between [back] and [ATR] in table 2 but cannot be derived by changing the priority between F2-F1 and spectral tilt in table 1. Although most diminutive paradigms in Rengao obey scale (2), some less common diminutive paradigms obey scale (4), which again respects (1) in the sense that every diminutive step increases the amplitude of some higher frequency. (5) illustrates this type of paradigm. (4) o>a>u>o>a>ou>e>i>P_>ei (5) rahok>rah5k>rahfik>rah5k>rahak>

'very large >>>>>>>>

very small nose'

Scale (4) can be constructed by changing the priority between [ATR] and [back] in the algorithm in table 2 to construct the algorithm in table 3. Note that the arrangement of the vowels in (4) supports the algorithm in table 3 in that all the back vowels are on the left side of the scale. Changing the priority of spectral tilt and the value for F2 - Fl in the algorithm in table 1 to construct the algorithm in table 4 leads to a different scale, unlike scale (4).6 Since the continuous function F2 - F1 and spectral tilt give us no insight into the construction of scale (4), (1) cannot provide a formal account of DSS scales in Rengao. Scale (4) must be defined strictly in terms of binary features, as I have done in table 3. I have argued that the vocalic DSS scales of Rengao are constructed on the basis of binary features only, without the aid of continuous functions. Thus, I have shown that DSS scales imply no mechanisms other than those already in existence for
6 I have assumed that the vowels in the pairs O/J, dIa, ulou, ele, and ilei have identicalF2 - F1 values. This assumption is not crucialto the argumentin the text. If we take the vowels in these pairsto differ in F2 - Fl value, then the first step in the algorithm in table4 will order the vowels exhaustively.The resultwill also be distinctfrom the scale in (4): a>o>u>a>ou>u>e>e>ei>i.




Table 4

The DSS scale constructedby changingthe priorityof spectral tilt and the value of F2 - F1 in the algorithmin table 1 o o
3 s


ei ? > i o > o > a > a > u > ou > e > c > i > ei > a a > u

e ou > e

ei F2-F1
spectral tilt

the constructionof other scales like the sonority scale.7 Since the evidence for the existence of continuous functions boils down to their usefulness in constructingscales, we can conclude that they do not exist and that all scales are constructed on the basis of binaryfeatures. This conclusionmakes sense in view of the fact that, to begin with, the sonority scale and the diminutivescale do not reflect a single phoneticdimension,but involve a numberof them. References Gregerson, K. J. (1976) "Tongue-rootand Register in MonKhmer," in P. Jenneret al., eds., AustroasiaticStudies 1, University of Hawaii, Honolulu. Gregerson,K. J. (1984)"PharynxSymbolismand RengaoPhonology," Lingua 62, 209-238. Gregerson, K. J. (1985) "Pharynx Iconism as Figure and Ground," ms., SummerInstituteof Linguisticsand the University of Texas at Arlington. Hall, B. and R. M. R. Hall (1973/4)"AfricanVowel Harmony Systemsfromthe VantagePointof Kalenjin,"Afrikaund
Ubersee 57, 241-267.

Lindau, M. (1975) "Featuresfor Vowels," in UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 30, Phonetics Laboratory,Department of Linguistics, UCLA, Los Angeles, California. Ohala,J. (1983)"The PhonologicalEnd JustifiesAny Means," in S. Hattori and K. Inoue, eds., Proceedings of the
XIIIth International Congress of Linguists, August 29September 4, 1982, Sanseido Shoten, Tokyo. Steriade, D. (1982) Greek Prosodies and the Nature of Sylla-

bification,Doctoraldissertation,MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Svantesson, J. 0. (1983) Kammu Phonology and Morphology,

CWK Gleerup, Malmo.

of relatedphonological 7 The sonorityscale interactswitha number epenthesis,andsyncope.Even though processessuchas syllabification, the vocalic DSS scale in Rengao is constructedon the basis of binary features, I have no evidence that it interactswith processes otherthan DSS.