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MODEL OF NEUTRAL-INCLUSIVITY
BOOK OF SYMBOLS
THE CHOICE OF WORDS AND NAMES
THE N-A SERIES OF NEUTRALISTIC MORPHEMES

2.3.2 

THE CHOICE OF VOWEL(S) AND CONSONANT(S)


To express neutral and inclusive thought we have to make use of an existing script and language in our communication with others. The present script is (at least for the early readers of this Model) the most widely used script in the world, and the present language is (similarly) the most widely spoken one of those which use the present script. When considering individual linguistic systems (or groups of related systems), the most widely used system does not belong to the same family as the present one, but other widely used systems (with the present one among them) all belong to the same linguistic family. Many words in these living languages have been and still are derived from three languages in particular, that is, three ancient languages which are dead now. Altho these three languages represent the largest family of languages in the world, they have no linguistic universality, and we have therefore no reason to derive our vocabulary exclusively from them. However important the cultures in question may have been in the evolution of human civilization, many other cultures have existed, exist now, and will emerge on the planet Earth, which must not be regarded as less important. Yet, while our new morphemes should be based on the most general linguistic principles, this does not mean that we are not restrained by most of the traditional rules of the particular language we communicate in.

In phonetics cardinal vowels are often plotted on a diagram with the sound ï (pronounced as in technique), or a similar but shorter one, at the extreme left. (Phonetics is not interested in spelling and does not use the phonetic symbols of this Model. As already noted in F.3.3.1 we ourselves make use of an overlay system in which each diacritic indicates for one written letter a particular way of pronouncing that letter. The phoneme ï is therefore identical to the e in be.) The sound ü (as in rule), or a similar but shorter sound, is plotted at the extreme right of the diagram; and ä (as in art), or a similar but shorter sound, near the center of the left/right scale. Between ï and ä one finds e (as in bet) and a (the ash as in bat) or a closely related vowel; between ä and ü one finds o (as in dog), or a similar shorter sound, and u (as in put) or a closely related vowel. This yields roughly the following series of vowels with ä closer to the middle than any of the other vowels:

ï , e , a , ä , o , u , ü .

The vowels on the left of the nearly central vowel ä are so-called 'front vowels'; those on the right 'back vowels'. Front vowels are pronounced with the front, central vowels with the middle part and back vowels with the back of the tongue raised. This subdivision is based on the horizontal movement of the tongue. (The ä is then 'between center and back, slightly more center'.) As regards the vertical movement of the tongue phoneticians distinguish open, half-open, half-close and close vowels. On the basis of this subdivision the ä is a fully open vowel with the tongue almost flat in the mouth. Moreover, the lips are said to be 'neutral' when uttering that sound.

We could call the ä "a neutral vowel between front vowels on the one hand, and back vowels on the other". But what traditionally has been called "the neutral vowel" is the schwa (as in abut) because this is a central vowel produced with the tongue in the position it has when at rest and with the lips 'neutral' or spread. Rest is also a neutral notion, and in this respect the choice of the schwa as the vowel of a neutralistic morpheme is about as legitimate as the choice of the ä. The unstressed schwa (pronounced as the first vowel in abut) and the similarly articulated stressed vowel (the second in abut) can, just like the ä, be plotted in the middle of a cardinal vowel diagram with the unstressed schwa half-open to half-close and its stressed equivalent open to half-open. (This latter vowel may be represented by a schwa symbol too.) Altho they are not cardinal themselves, they are also relatively pure and unchanging. Yet, unlike the ä, many languages do not have the schwa as a phoneme, and therefore the schwa (or its stressed equivalent) is not to be considered a universal vowel.

That the ä is not only a universal vowel but also of a neutral nature clearly shows in the (main dialect of the) most widely spoken language (which does not belong to the same family as the present language). In that language syllables can be divided into 'shengs', the first letter if a consonant, and 'yuns', the rest of the syllable made up of one or more vowels, possibly followed by n or ng or sometimes by a sound written as r. (Yun is an irregular spelling for yün, in which ü is not a back but a front vowel.) Not all shengs and yuns can be combined. Especially the shengs y (pronounced as in yes) and w exclude each other in this respect. The remarkable thing is that a yun goes together with both these approximants if its vowel is the neutral ä. Does the yun contain a back or front vowel, then it cannot always be combined with the y or the w. Thus the syllables ye and yi exist but not yu with 'real' u and yo only for exclamatory purposes. (The morpheme spelled as "yu" has a front instead of back vowel.) On the other hand, wo and wu exist but not we and wi. However, both ya and wa exist as syllables of two sounds.

Now, when considering (human) languages in general again, it does not matter whether the ä and the schwa are described as neutral or as central vowels. Neutrality is a concept in the same associative field as centrality, because it is the central predicate of the catena which is neutral -- 'central', that is, between negative predicates on the one hand (represented, let us say, by ï, e and a) and positive ones on the other (o, u and ü). So far as vowels are concerned we conclude therefore that on the symbolistic view words denoting and/or connoting centrality or neutrality, central or neutral things, or things in the same associative field, should have ä as a vowel, or as the most important or central vowel. In languages like the present one, in which both the ä and the schwa exist as phonemes, the schwa may replace the ä when there is a special reason for doing so.

What about the consonants? The situation here is less clear, for while the neutral ä is a central vowel between front and back vowels, there is no consonant in a similar position as a limit element between two opposite sets of consonants. This is not to say that there does not exist a central consonant in any respect. If one takes the difference between compactness and diffuseness on the grounds of which the centrality of the ä can phonetically be demonstrated, one will find that the k may be considered a central letter too among consonants and on the same grounds. But the 'opposite' sets of letters are not clearly distinguished here. And there is another reason why the plosive obstruent k does not fulfil our requirements: it cannot appear at all positions in the words of certain languages. The consonant we are looking for has, just like the vowel, to be 'universal' in that it exists in all languages (or in as many languages as possible) and in that it can appear at any place in the morphemes of those languages.

In the most widely used language not belonging to the same linguistic family as the present one, the velar plosive k cannot close off a word; the only consonants which can are the n and the ng (and sometimes r as noted above). The velar nasal ng is not a 'neutral' consonant in that it can solely appear at the end of a yun --it cannot appear at the beginning of a syllable in the present language either (and the r does not appear in other yuns than er). Therefore only the alveolar nasal n remains as a 'universal' consonant, at least so far as the two linguistic families in question are concerned. For the present and related languages there is the added advantage that the n is already to be found in neutral and its paronyms (neutrality, neutralize, neutron, neuter) and in non- which can be associated with the negation of positivity, negativity and polarity in general.

The n is a stable sound which can adequately represent stability, something it has in common with the m. Neutrality is a concept in the same field as stability, because stability is rest, steady motion or equilibrium, that is, a neutral state between negative and positive movement or change. Since the n also occurs in (nearly?) all human languages, it can be associated both with stability and neutrality, and with anthropic inclusivity or inclusivity in general (or the smallest possible degree of exclusivity). This is what it has in common with the neutral a, except that the first association is there with centrality rather than with stability.

The m and n are both stable, nasal consonants and thus the alveolar n could be replaced by the bilabial m. Since the m is not such a good representative of inclusiveness as the n, the reason for doing so should be a compelling one.


©MVVM, 41-60 ASWW
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Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
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