Thursday, 12 November 2009

blancmange

When I was a child, one of the dishes we quite often had for pudding (= AmE dessert) was blancmange, which we pronounced in a thoroughly anglicized way as bləˈmɒndʒ. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I noticed that it looks like a French word.
Like junket, this foodstuff seems to have more or less disappeared from Britain by now (and I’m not sure whether Americans ever had it). It has been displaced by yoghurt and other ready-made puddings/sweets/afters from the supermarket refrigerated display. If we do have it or something like it, we might nowadays call it (up-market) panna cotta or (down-market) shape.
The OED reveals that the word itself has been in English since Chaucer’s day. In the Prologue (1386) he writes
ffor blankmanger [v.r. blankemangere] that made he with the beste

The word does indeed have a French origin, though in modern French it has an extra syllable: blanc-manger blãmãʒe. You can see that it had three syllables for Chaucer, too. Furthermore, at that time it was made from chicken or other meat.
The OED’s first citation for a two-syllable version is 1789, when it was spelt blomange. I wonder when and how it became a sweet dessert and when and how it lost that final syllable.
In EPD Daniel Jones gave the word an alternative pronunciation with a French-style nasalized vowel, -mɔ̃ː(n)ʒ. But that must be based on the French spelling, not on actual French: it’s like connoisseur or epergne, a word that looks French but isn’t.

47 comments:

  1. Where on earth do you think DJ got the -mɔ̃ː(n)ʒ one from? Wouldn't you have thought such affectations were less current at the time? Neither French nor English, as you say, like rɛstərɔ̃(n)tɜː. And even someone who called himself that wouldn't call it that even if he had it on offer! Would he?

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  2. I say bləˈmɒnʒ. Does that make me just half a ponce? (Or half a ˈpɔ̃s.)

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  3. Gosh, Leo, I do admire your industry in not epenthesizing a d between the n and the ʒ! In spite of your profession of angst re semi-pɔ̃shood, I bet you have an epenthetic t in ponce!

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  4. This post made me think whether the Polish word "blamaż" (pronounced /'blamaʒ/), which means "total failure, discredit, disgrace", is somehow related to the unattractive look of this pudding... :)

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  5. I certainly do.

    I am now investigating the possibility that I only represent blancmange as bləˈmɒnʒ to myself, and actually say bləˈmɔ̃ːʒ, making me a complete ˈpɒnts.

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  6. >>Like junket, this foodstuff seems to have more >>or less disappeared from Britain by now

    And a jolly good thing too!

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  7. Isn't it only /pink/ blancmange that is disgusting ? I seem to recall eating home-made white blancmange in Camberley quite recently, and rather enjoying the experience ...

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  8. From Wikipedia:

    "pronounced /bləˈmɒnʒ/ or /bləˈmɑːndʒ/"

    If /bləˈmɒnʒ/ really is real then that's a lot of industrious people for you to admire Mallamb!

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  9. The word is unknown in America, but the dish seems closely related to our pudding (never used generically in AmE, where dessert is the only usual word), though less dense. There's a long discussion of pudding and everything to do with it at Lynneguist's blog, including a copy (by me) of the OED's etymology of the word.

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  10. How absolutely riveting that Wikipedia says "pronounced /bləˈmɒnʒ/ or /bləˈmɑːndʒ/". Are we really expected to believe that the US epenthesizes and the Brits don't?

    And I take you to be entering into the spirit of my little pleasantry with the words "If /bləˈmɒnʒ/ really is real then that's a lot of industrious people for you to admire Mallamb!" But we know deep down, don't we, that it's not really real, and that what there are a lot of is minimalist phoneticians who are curiously incurious about [bləˈmɒnʒ] and non-minimalist phonologists who don't apply Occam's razor to /bləˈmondʒ/!

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  11. Oh, Leo, you HAD got my point! You had already said in your previous post that you certainly do have an epenthetic t in ponce!

    Which together with "I am now investigating the possibility that I only represent blancmange as bləˈmɒnʒ to myself, and actually say bləˈmɔ̃ːʒ" confirms my worst suspicions, though not about the making you a complete ˈpɒnts, obviously! It confirms my best suspicions, actually.

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  12. "I’m not sure whether Americans ever had it"

    If Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is anything to go by, we did. It's in Part One, Chapter 5, "Being Neighborly." I read this book as a small child, and that was my first encounter with the word.

    I don't remember when I learned how to pronounce it as bləˈmɒnʒ. Probably looked it up when reading something by Wodehouse. (I don't think I pronounce it bləˈmɒndʒ, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure I've ever had to say it aloud.)

    I learned to make it from a recipe on the side of an Arrow Cornstarch box. I like it, but it's been some time since I bothered making it.

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  13. Children, please! If you don't behave I shall disable comments.

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  14. David Nancekivell12 November 2009 at 19:11

    I am pretty sure the French-Canadians make it. I have checked with a friend and will let you all know. What I don't know, however, is whether it is the same dessert you've been describing or has only the name in common.

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  15. If I started calling it bləˈmãʒ, would that just make things worse?

    To be serious, bləˈmɒnʒ does seem reasonable as a theoretical ideal for many British English speakers (me, at least), even if it doesn't always work out that way in practice. Probably most of us in Britain are reasonably at home with nasalisation - we manage it in "penchant" - but at the same time we are used to adding epenthetic d, so one or the other could happen, even for a single speaker. And we would only get [bləˈmɒnʒ] itself if neither happened.

    As for a transatlantic split between ʒ and dʒ - perhaps Wikipedia's British-style version (with ɒ and ʒ) was added by somebody of a more minimalist bent than the US-style one (with ɑː and dʒ). It's not as if Americans have any objection to ʒ.

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  16. Spot on, Leo! Again you confirm my best suspicions!

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  17. I only know of the dish from the Monty Python Science Fiction Sketch.

    Re pronunciation I can only say that the more IPA I read, the less I trust my mouth.

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  18. I'm pleased to hear it, Mallamb!

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  19. And I'm pleased to hear you think my best suspicions are worth confirming, Leo! I probably see scruples where they are not intended, but I especially liked the scruple with which you took a reality check on both /bləˈmɒnʒ/ and [bləˈmɒnʒ] by saying "bləˈmɒnʒ does seem reasonable as a theoretical ideal for many British English speakers (me, at least)". I would have been happy with either set of brackets, actually, the former because one way of conceiving of phonology is as idealized phonetics, and the latter because when you say you "represent blancmange as bləˈmɒnʒ to myself" I think you really do mean that's how you represent it to yourself phonetically, i.e. performance-wise. I wish everyone were so scrupulous in the use and non-use of brackets of every description. I try to be, but copy-and-paste is a menace, isn't it? I note that in these relatively informal communications JW himself dispenses with brackets when the common-sense interpretation of a transcription is obvious.

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  20. I think I'll say bləˈmɒndʒ from now on. (Though not very often, I expect.) It will deflect any charges of hyperforeignism, and it seems to fit neatly with my məˈræŋ for "meringue", another French-sounding dessert that I might never have occasion to mention again after this discussion. Though I must say I've never heard of "shape" before.

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  21. Amen to all that! Hyperforeignisms are the last bastions of non-U-ism. I make this otiose observation as I have just followed John Cowan's link - I really must not just react to the most recent posts. Quite a read, but I don't quite see how Lynne can say "Pudding is the least socially marked of these terms."

    @John Cowan. About the only thing I didn't find there was any reference to Japanese 'purin', which is obviously an early borrowing of 'pudding', and must I think have been from America as it is indeed some sort of crème caramel and looks most horribly like JW's blancmange picture! (I have not been a pudding person since I was postcocious enough to still be eating proper puddings at Oxford.)

    Long may we indeed not mention any of these atrocities again after this discussion!

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  22. This discussion, while not making me particularly hungry, does make me curious about US/UK distributions of the pronunciation of another dessert/pudding. That is, "flan." I can only recall hearing /flɑn/ in the US, but I can imagine a UK /flæn/...

    ...and a quick trip to google tells me that the English flan has a crustǃ So I suppose I can keep the proninciation difference to distinguish these various puddings (that is 'pudding' in the US and UK sense)

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  23. You mean a crust like that: ~? On the vowel?

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  24. @Phil You imagine correctly. I have never heard anything other than [flæn] for "flan".

    I thought epenthesis was the insertion, not the modification, of a sound. I pronounce "blancmange" [bləˈmɒnʤ]. Am I epenthesizing a [d] between the [n] and a [ʒ]? No more than people who pronounce "hunting" [ˈhʌntɪn] * "drop their g's". The symbol is not the thing.

    For me, ponce does not rhyme with fonts, nor macho with chat show. I wonder now how much of a ponce you think I am!

    *modulo vowel reduction

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  25. You say masho?! Or do you mean in chat show the t is released later or the like?

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  26. Richard - that's a good point. We don't really add a phonetic [d] when we modify ʒ to dʒ (aka ʤ). But the "d" in our notation is not a completely arbitrary symbolic convention, surely - an affricate like [dʒ] does begin like [d], so we do epenthesize a part of [d], if not the whole of it.

    Cf. "hunting" as [ˈhʌntɪn], where indeed there never was a [g] to drop (assuming you would say [ˈhʌntɪŋ] in careful speech), and the phrase "dropping your g's" is purely an artefact of orthography.

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  27. Oh dear oh dear.

    Richard Sabey, epenthesis is the insertion of a 'parasitic' sound. Ideally I would prefer the use of this term for the insertion of something which is not functional at the phonological level but comes in at the phonetic level for articulatory reasons, though certainly not necessarily universal ones – such phenomena are typically language-specific. But it does after all only mean 'insertion' and it is also used more loosely for the insertion of something which is not 'supposed' to be there. Now there is no reason why the d in your not [bləˈmɒnʤ] should not be 'supposed' to be there. In fact if you represent it like that in square brackets it IS 'supposed' to be there. And if this is not one of Leo's hyperforeignisms that require a French pronunciation then orthographic g is 'supposed' to be [ʤ].But it is not 'supposed' to be there in the both /bləˈmɒnʒ/ and [bləˈmɒnʒ] because that is a phonetic transcription which does not represent it as being there. (I do not say it is supposed NOT to be there!)

    So the answer to your question "Am I epenthesizing a [d] between the [n] and a [ʒ]?" is no, because you are apparently not trying to pronounce [bləˈmɒnʒ], but it would be yes if you agree that its presence or absence is not functional or distinctive and that therefore phonologically it is /bləˈmɒnʒ/, and the epenthesis comes in in the phonetic realization.

    As for "hunting" [ˈhʌntɪŋ], there is no g in it to drop! The symbol is most certainly not the thing.

    "For me, ponce does not rhyme with fonts". Once again I must ask "Are you sure?" Leo took a reality check on that too. With macho (of course pronounced with [ʧ]) and chat show there is a functional difference: macho and mat show would be a minimal pair, but this is due to juncture phenomena, which can easily be handled in terms of phonotactic structure.

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  28. I didn't even need a reality check for "ponce" - I've been in no doubt about the stray [t] in that case, ever since someone pointed out to me years ago that my "beef mince" sounded like "beef mints" - and I should imagine a beef mint would be even worse than a blancmange.

    "As for "hunting" [ˈhʌntɪŋ], there is no g in it to drop! The symbol is most certainly not the thing." - we all agree, although mightn't a Northerner (of England) say [ˈhʊntɪŋg]?

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  29. Yes, in some parts of the North and Midlands [ŋg] is used in that sort of context. My impression of my own speech is that I mix [ɪŋg] and [ɪŋ] up quite a bit.

    I hear it occasionally from people who aren't from the region it's traditionally associated with, e.g. one person I know who has a definite London accent also uses [ɪŋg].

    On another point, my intuition tells me that "ponce" and "fonts" don't quite rhyme, although it's not that the former has no [t] at all. My intuition may be misleading me, though.

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  30. @Lipman, mallamb has understood me: for me, "macho" is [ˈmæʧou] * with an affricate, and "chat show" is [ˈʧæt̚ˌʃou] with an unreleased stop followed by a fricative. There is a definite pause between the closure of the [t̚] and starting to articulate the [ʃ].

    @mallamb My earlier comment was prompted in part by your words "epenthesizing a d between the n and the ʒ" in your comment of 12 November 2009 17:32. I agree with the second para of your comment of 13 November 2009 12:26.

    My point was that I distinguish between an affricate and a stop followed by a fricative, so for me pronouncing an affricate can't involve the epenthesis of a stop, as there are no separate stop and fricative.

    I do indeed not rhyme ponce with fonts. For me, fonts is [fɒnt̚s]. OK, perhaps if I were speaking unusually fast or carelessly I might drop the [t̚], but then my speech might be imperfect in other ways, too. The same goes for how I hear other people; I think that if I heard someone pronounce "mints" as [mɪns] I'd interpret it as "mince", but I don't recall ever having misunderstood anyone in that way.

    * as I prefer to transcribe the GOAT vowel, but that's a different story

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  31. Leo, sorry I missed your 11.47 post. Domestic crises intervened in mine, the last one being lunch, which postvened it. But now you have got to the point where you have stolen my thunder about "dropping your g's", you can take over when my manic phase falters!

    I now see you are reining back from your earlier statement that the phrase "dropping your g's" is purely an artefact of orthography. Well artefacts of orthography are no bad thing for us to be dealing with all the time in phonetics and phonology. What is the whole shooting match but an artefact of orthography? And Richard's whole point was that there was no g to drop, but on what we do seem to agree was a false analogy. And the really hard-bitten Northerners who do have a g to drop (though perhaps not the ones who monitor themselves for phonetic PC as well as JHJ) don't seem to drop it! Not only where they liaise it as in [ˈbəʊlɪŋgalɪ] but even in [ˈbəʊlɪŋggriːn] etc. Another domestic crisis – I can't find my flak jacket.

    I admire your industry in not avoiding the question of the d in dʒ as much as I admired your industry in trying to avoid any sort of d in bləˈmɒnʒ. I remember when I first saw [dʒ] for [ʤ] I was deeply unhappy with it. I think that was before ʤ was introduced for narrow transcriptions, but I was much consoled by its use for the affricate. No, indeed we don't really add a phonetic [d] when we modify ʒ to dʒ (aka ʤ). And indeed the "d" in our notation is not a completely arbitrary symbolic convention, if as again here you leave the brackets off. But you seem to be talking about something else when you say "so we do epenthesize a part of [d], if not the whole of it". I don't know about you, but all I ever meant myself was that we epenthesize a plosive element for which d is "not a completely arbitrary symbolic convention".

    So pax, JHJ. Your intuition is not entirely misleading you. The morphological difference affects "ponce" and "fonts" in some dialects, and I personally think even generally speaking the set of all "ponce"s is not co-terminous with the set of all "fonts"s! And it's most confidence-inspiring that you say "it's not that the former has no [t] at all."

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  32. "all I ever meant myself was that we epenthesize a plosive element for which d is "not a completely arbitrary symbolic convention"."

    Yes, that is what I meant too - we epenthesize (assuming we ever had /nʒ/ in mind to begin with, which I dumbly forgot to ask of Richard) a plosive element that can be - defensibly - written "d" even though the resulting sound is not actually a sequence [ndʒ]. It was simply by way of defending our use of the term epenthesis, but you have worded it much more clearly than me.

    We all hope your domestic crises come to a peaceful resolution!

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  33. I wonder if anyone has an epenthetic [t] in the word "epenthetic"? I do hope so.

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  34. I do hope you pronounce it epénthetic, for then you will be more likely have your wish. Wouldn't it be spooky if every [tɛntθ] person did? But you are fairly safe with epenthétic. Parenthetically speaking.

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  35. David Marjanović13 November 2009 at 23:26

    I read in an article on mediaeval cuisine that blancmanger was (past tense!) a cooked mixture of ground rice, ground chicken meat, and sugar. The whole concept of separating sweet and other dishes hadn't been invented yet.

    Only years later did I find out that this kind of alleged food still exists in England, at least by name.

    Concerning the difference between macho and chat show, don't tell me there's a difference between an affricate and a stop that's released into a fricative. What is probably going on here is the difference between an entirely palatoalveolar affricate, which can unfortunately only be written [t̠͡ʃ] in full pedantry mode (with the "retracted" diacritic, because the IPA lacks symbols for palatoalveolar stops, even though such sounds are phonemic in lots of Australian languages!), and an alveolar-to-palatoalveolar affricate, [t͡ʃ] in full pedantry mode, during which the tongue tip changes position (which takes a bit of extra time). This difference is phonemic in Polish: cz (a unitary phoneme) is [t̠͡ʃ], trz (a consonant cluster resulting from the random collision of two phonemes, /t/ and /ʒ/) is [t͡ʃ], and would become [t͡sɕʃ] if it were pronounced too slowly. Minimal pair: czy "or", trzy "3".

    (...Yeah. "Full" pedantry mode... I didn't mark laminal vs alveolar [t]. But that's beside the point here anyway.)

    Technically, the German /p͡f/ is another affricate phoneme during which the place of articulation shifts (it really is [p͡f]: bilabial-to-labiodental), but the tongue is not involved. Instead, the lips are closed in direct contact with the upper incisors, and then the upper lip is pulled up while the lower lip is stretched so it stays in place. And, of course, unlike most or all other place-shifting affricates, it actually is a single phoneme.

    Polish blamaż is of course straight from French blamage, which has the same meaning; the verb it's derived from was borrowed into English as to blame.

    Question to speakers of any kind of northern or central German: does anyone insert [d] into Sense? I wouldn't dream of it, but that probably has reasons that don't apply up north.

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  36. David,

    "Concerning the difference between macho and chat show, don't tell me there's a difference between an affricate and a stop that's released into a fricative."

    Well of course we are telling you that, if the stop and fricative are not homorganic, as they are certainly not for many of us much of the time. In my case both sequences are postalveolar in character, but ch is apical throughout and the t+sh is laminal either throughout or even with a more or less alveolar stop at the onset, and moreover the ch is never glottalized and the t often is. It is by no means the case that it always is "released into a fricative" or is even an affricate at all. And it is associated with various juncture phenomena such as we have adumbrated.

    "What is probably going on here is the difference between an entirely palatoalveolar affricate, which can unfortunately only be written [t̠͡ʃ] in full pedantry mode"

    So isn't the ligature [ʧ] pedantic enough for you?

    "… and an alveolar-to-palatoalveolar affricate, [t͡ʃ] in full pedantry mode"

    I hope you can now appreciate why I say that that mode would be over-pedantic, or worse, that the ͡ is tendentious.

    I did know about the phonemic difference in Polish, but I wouldn't say this was it. Would you in the light of the above?

    "(...Yeah. "Full" pedantry mode... I didn't mark laminal vs alveolar [t]. But that's beside the point here anyway.)"

    I hope you will revisit that question now,

    "And, of course, unlike most or all other place-shifting affricates, it actually is a single phoneme."

    I always like to see contentious statements about phoneme identity challenged, but don't you be getting on the slippery slope to universalism! Or asserting actuality! Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. So let's be hearing you on this ens. It's not fair to hypothesize its identity and then challenge us to refute it, is it now?
    You will have to tell us how you refuted the null hypothesis.

    Did you get my answer to your last post on wholly holy? I would still like you to resolve my uncertainty about the [ʌ] of Russian you were talking about. But do consider the other points I made there.

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  37. David Marjanović15 November 2009 at 18:32

    Well of course we are telling you that, if the stop and fricative are not homorganic, as they are certainly not for many of us much of the time.

    Ah, we're talking past each other. Sorry. The way I use the term, [ks] and [ps] are affricates, even though they are probably not phonemic in any language, and even though wildly different places of articulation are involved.

    So isn't the ligature [ʧ] pedantic enough for you?

    Wasn't it officially declared out of fashion, or something?

    I did know about the phonemic difference in Polish, but I wouldn't say this was it. Would you in the light of the above?

    Yes. I completely forgot about the English glottalization, but it doesn't occur in Polish; and I forgot about the possibility of laminal vs apical articulation, but I haven't noticed that in Polish either, despite intensive passive exposure for 2 weeks per year.

    So let's be hearing you on this ens. It's not fair to hypothesize its identity and then challenge us to refute it, is it now?

    As far as I know, the phonemicity of the German /p͡f/ is textbook knowledge, so I didn't think it would be controversial.

    Indeed it fails one test for phonemicity in that it cannot occur behind long vowels, but that's due to its origin from [pː], in front of which long consonant all vowels were interpreted as short when German developed vowel length*. As far as I know, it passes the others, such as being able to participate in consonant clusters, and... hmmm... what others are there actually? It is almost never a collision of /p/ and /f/ with a morpheme boundary between them...

    Also, I should have said "High German", not "German". That's because, even in Standard German, people who come from areas where Middle or Low German dialects are or were spoken say [f] instead (...not [pʰ], which those dialects have...), to the extent that I was told the poor schoolchildren up there have to learn by heart when to spell pf and when f.

    * Reversed in dialects such as mine, where vowel length is not phonemic, but /p͡f/ stays.

    Did you get my answer to your last post on wholly holy?

    No, because that thread had fallen off the main page. But I have just replied to... those few points that I think I understand. Some of your comments are a bit too stream-of-consciousness for me.

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  38. I am distraught to hear that some of my comments are a bit too stream-of-consciousness. I had fondly imagined that we were both just going with the flow! I feel really bad about this, but much though I appreciated your response on wholly holy, I have asked for a few final clarifications. (Of course you may not believe I am capable of finality!)

    So isn't the ligature [ʧ] pedantic enough for you?
    – Wasn't it officially declared out of fashion, or something?

    I do believe you're right. I was so fed up I've forgotten about it. At least it's still in Unicode.

    So let's be hearing you on this ens. It's not fair to hypothesize its identity and then challenge us to refute it, is it now?
    – As far as I know, the phonemicity of the German /p͡f/ is textbook knowledge, so I didn't think it would be controversial.

    Yes but I have very little faith in either textbooks or knowledge, and we of little faith rely on that little faith for the conservation of threatened controversies. I wasn't accusing you personally of this hypothesis of identity!

    – Indeed it fails one test for phonemicity in that it cannot occur behind long vowels, but that's due to its origin from [pː], in front of which long consonant all vowels were interpreted as short when German developed vowel length*.

    We've got our work cut out with synchronic linguistics; we will hardly be able to perform commutation tests diachronically! (Thanks for the interesting note on that.)

    – As far as I know, it passes the others, such as being able to participate in consonant clusters, and... hmmm... what others are there actually?

    Ordering relations?

    – Also, I should have said "High German", not "German".

    Poor kids, but German is a doddle compared with some languages of our acquaintance, eh?

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  39. David Marjanović18 November 2009 at 17:29

    We've got our work cut out with synchronic linguistics; we will hardly be able to perform commutation tests diachronically!

    I mean that, because of this origin, there are just no words available where /p͡f/ could occur behind a long vowel. The test is not applicable.

    Ordering relations?

    What's that?

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  40. That the sequential ordering of the phonetic elements is not functional. Cf [ʧ] etc.

    All these tests are fine, and of course have all been thought pretty conclusive, as you say. But with my concern for endangered controversies I always advocate the open mind. Provided positional criteria are given due functional status, we may see these as two established phonemes standing in the same position, with the relizational sequence being a purely phonetic matter.

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  41. David Marjanović19 November 2009 at 16:20

    That the sequential ordering of the phonetic elements is not functional. Cf [ʧ] etc.

    I don't understand what you mean.

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  42. Your Russian teachers et al. were most probably functionalists. I think Martinet said "La fonction c'est le critère de la réalité linguistique." If there is no functional ordering there is no ordering, and ceteris paribus (I stress) we have a (logically) simultaneous bundle, i.e. one phoneme.

    You do understand. As my babushka used to sing, little by little. How else?

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  43. David Marjanović26 November 2009 at 00:50

    But what is a functional ordering? I'm asking about the uttermost basic terms here.

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  44. The ordering of any linguistic elements such that there is distinctive function.

    Saussure saw the syntagmatic parameter as ordering in the time continuum, but that won't do. You might as well say that in phonology each of approach, occlusion and plosion or whatever is a phoneme, and so on into infinitesimal analyses. Not that there is anything wrong with minute analyses in phonetics – they can be very enlightening, but their relevance to phonology is to give descriptions, sequential or otherwise, at the realizational level of what is functional, i.e. distinctive with respect to potential for opposition at the semantic level.

    The functional notion of the phoneme as a simultaneous bundle of distinctive features does not mean they have to be temporally simultaneous, or even perceptually simultaneous. Martinet's above-mentioned mantra about linguistic reality didn’t stop him from getting that horribly wrong in terms of the general understanding of realization. His definition of the phoneme was 'un ensemble de traits pertinents qui se réalisent simultanément'. It's hard to justify that nowadays without appearing to talk gibberish, but it's almost as if he were trying to take the notion of reality by the scruff of the neck and say the distinctive features of phonology (i.e. those considerations of place and manner of articulation etc. that are relevant in the language in question) are by definition simultaneous in phonology, however they are splurged over the sound continuum and time continuum.

    But I wonder. Once when I was chairing a plenary session of the Colloque International de Linguistique Fonctionnelle, Martinet said, “Mais comment l’enfant arrive-t-il à l’idée du phonème?” I expressed dismay at the (admittedly Saussurean) mentalistic nature of that statement. For all his very considerable sophistication he was after all a naïve realist. For me the phoneme is a theoretical construct, itself of remarkable sophistication from the earliest days of alphabetic writing, whose sophistication depends on the sophistication of the theory behind it, and the identity of individual phonemes has to be based on hypothetico-deductive economy of hypothesis, or one could hypothesize any old number. Like 44.

    Fortunately we are both familiar with Chinese phonology, which is an extreme case of just about everything, so I can point out that it is pretty obvious that these considerations apply to the phonetic sequences corresponding to c, j, ch, zh by way of example. I have an alternative approach, but you think I am way out enough already, so I will leave it at that.

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  45. David Marjanović28 November 2009 at 21:40

    Hm. I think I've understood your comment, but not how it bears on the question whether the German [p͡f] is a phoneme.

    any old number. Like 44.

    42 of course.

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  46. Hello,
    Do you possibly know the source where I could find phonetic transcription of some films or TV series. Do you think sth like this exists? I need a hint.I'm grateful in advance!

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