LANGUAGE IN INDIA

Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 5 : 5 May 2005

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.

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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai


THE ECONOMY OF ARTICULATION IN MEWATI PHONOLOGY
A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.


THE MAWATI LAND AND SPEECH

Mewati is one of the four main dialects of Rajasthan. The language of Meos is Mewati, a sub-dialect of northeastern Rajasthani. The language of the north and west of the district in which the Ahirs predominate is Ahirwati, another sub-dialect of the northeastern Rajasthani, while the language in the east of the district in which the Jats predominate, is the Braj Bhasha dialect of western Hindi. It is used mainly in Mewat region which is an ill-defined tract lying south of Delhi including the whole of Alwar and part of Bharatpur and a small part of Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. It also includes a part of the Gurgaon district of the state of Haryana. Most of the area is flat, rocky and sandy, and is intersected by the lower range of the Aravbvalli hills. Mewati is spoken by over one hundred thousand Meos (Mewati speakers) (1991 Census Report of India) in this region.

THE FOCUS OF THIS PAPER - THE SOUND SYSTEM OF MEWATI

The paper focuses on the Mewati sound system. It highlights the psychological bases of sound and sound combinations and phonological processes related to words in present-day Mewati (Nuh and Alwar dialects), and present an analysis based on the concepts of the theory of Phonology as Human Behavior. For example, Mewati speakers disfavor consonant clusters. An analysis of the historical evolution of Mewati monosyllabic words suggests that Mewati speakers disfavor consonant clusters in Mewati. Most of the Sanskrit clusters have been simplified in Prakrit and Mewati. The table given below displays Prakrit and Mewati disfavoring for the consonant clusters.

Table I: Historical Evolution of Mewati Monosyllabic Words

Sanskrit Prakrit Mewati Gloss
stambhaka thambha tha: m "to hold"
kSe:tra khe:tta khe:t "field"
ka kSa kakkha ka:kh "armpit"
stha:na tha:Na tha:N "place"
sta na tha Na tha N "udder"

This disfavoring can be accounted for by assuming that the human factor takes predominance over the communication factor (CC clusters are replaced by CV segments or by deletion of one of the consonants within the cluster at the expense of maximum communication).

THE THEORY OF PHONOLOGY OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR

The theory of Phonology as Human Behavior (PHB), (Diver 1979), is based on the axiom that language represents a struggle between the desires for maximum communication (the communicative factor) with minimal effort (the human factor). Phonology as Human Behavior* maintains that language in general and phonology in particular are instances of human cognitive behavior and provides a unique set of principles connecting the phylogeny, ontogeny, and pathology of sound systems in human language. The principles underlying the theory have been examined and supported in synchronic and diachronic analyses of various languages representing diverse language families within the Indo-European, Semitic, Finno-Ugric and Caucasian languages, as well as within the areas of developmental and clinical phonology in English, Hebrew, Japanese and other languages (Tobin 1997, Tobin and Miyakoda 2001).

The theory of Phonology as Human Behavior (PHB) originated in an analysis of the non-random distribution of certain classes of initial consonant clusters in English (Diver 1979) and was later extended to explain:

  1. The combinatory phonology of other languages such as Italian (Davis 1987), and Hebrew (Tobin 1997).
  2. The non-random distribution of initial consonant clusters in a wide range of over 40 languages representing several diverse language families; and to The areas of developmental and clinical phonology (Tobin 1997, Tobin and Miyakoda 2001).

In this paper we will apply the theory of Phonology as Human Behavior to a synchronic and diachronic analysis of the phonology of the inflectional systems in Mewati based on the hypothesis that they will favor easier, unmarked phonemes and will be simplified diachronically as a reflection of the "mini-max" principle that language represents a striving for maximum communication with minimal effort.

Phonology as Human Behavior is subject to the law of least effort, according to which man gives himself only so much as is necessary to attain the end he has in view. This is why to develop a theory of language it is necessary to recognize the psychological nature of the language. One cannot arrive at a plausible overall understanding of the nature of language its structure and functions, without considering its psychological aspects.

For example, conditions relating to the production and perception of strings of sounds, may explain why certain sound combinations are excluded in a language, while others are preferred. This is why a linguistic theory needed in the description and explanation of language, must account for human behavior. The communicative factor requires speakers to maintain distinctions among sounds; yet speakers show a tendency, here as in other aspects of human behavior, to economize effort. The Columbia School of linguistics (Phonology as Human Behavior) studies both the frequencies of phonological units and the ways in which they combine, gives evidence of the dynamic interplay of these competing pressures.

DIVER'S ILLUSTRATION

The following is one of Diver's examples. It is well known that in many languages, such as German and Russian, final stops are voiceless. In English, although the skewing is not absolute, voiceless stops in word-final position heavily outweigh voiced stops. English is thus merely a less extreme example of what is found in German and Russian; the difference of a few percentage points is not important since one explanation covers both situations. Diver proposed that it is the task of coordinating two active articulators (the tongue or lips which create the stop, and the vocal folds which provide voicing) that accounts for the lower frequency of voiced stops as compared to voiceless. This example shows the interplay of factors: the communicative factor motivates the greater distinctiveness afforded by having both voiced and unvoiced stops; but the human factor--ordinary laziness--carries the day when one can get away with less distinctiveness.

In following this route, Diver developed an epistemology intended to bring the practice of linguistics in line with that of other attempts to understand natural phenomena in the scientific era. For Diver, explanation was not a matter of simply demonstrating that a particular item is a member of a more general class; he wanted to get at the "Why" of things. This meant seeking motivations for observations one does not understand in terms of areas of knowledge one does understand, not embarking on a speculative program. It meant adhering to highly demanding standards of validation and fit between hypothesis and data. Diverian analyses are heavily textually oriented; large quantities of data from actual texts and extensive use of counts are their hallmarks. He insisted that theory be always guided by analysis, not the other way around, no matter how unfamiliar the resulting theory might appear.

In this backdrop, this paper will analyze the communicative behavior of the Mewati speakers to show that how do the speakers of Mewati save time and effort to get the maximum output by inferring from linguistic context. Although the human traits of intelligence affect both phonology and grammar, our interest here is limited to assessing the impact of these traits on phonology.

PREFERENCE FOR FEWER ARTICULATORS OVER MORE ARTICULATORS

Combining articulators with degrees of apertures produces phonological units. Fewer articulators or more articulators may produce these units. Due to the well-known trait of human beings to minimize and economize in all situations, it is to be anticipated that phonological units using fewer articulators will be preferred over units using more articulators. For the simultaneous use of great number of articulators requires fine and precise coordination of the articulators that is disfavored due to the economizing factor of human behavior.

It may be noted that the preference for fewer articulators over more articulators will affect the distribution of phonological units on both the syntagmatic and paradigmatic levels. The skewing on both these levels will be taken up as we deal with the phonological dichotomies involving the use of fewer versus more articulators.

There are three main dichotomies among the phonological units of Mewati that are produced by the use of an extra articulator: voiced versus Voiceless consonants, Aspirated versus Un- aspirated stops and Nasalised versus Oral vowels.

VOICED VERSUS VOICELESS

Of the Mewati Consonants the stops and the fricatives are characterized by a distinction of voicing and voicelessness. Whereas voiceless consonants are produced by only the supra-glottal articulators, their voiced counterparts are produced by an additional articulator: the glottis. The simultaneous use of glottal articulator makes the voiced consonant less favored than their voiceless counterpart in terms of the number of articulators. We therefore expect a skewing commensurate with this criterion in the makeup and distribution of the voiceless and voiced consonants in Mewati.

As discussed earlier, the distinction of voiced and voiceless is restricted to the stops (Phonological units at aperture "0") and the fricatives (phonological units at aperture 1).

Of the twenty stops in Mewati ten stops are voiceless and ten are voiced. Between the two glottal fricatives at aperture "one", one is voiceless and the other is voiced. Mewati has a voiceless and a voiced /h/ in its phonological system.

Notwithstanding the above explanation it must be admitted that there is no preference for the voiceless consonants over their voiced counterparts in the makeup of Mewati phonological system. However, we expect that the tilt in favor of the voiceless consonants against the voiced consonants will show up in their frequencies of usage in the word. When we compare the voiceless and the voiced consonant in their frequency of usage in the Mewati monosyllabic words, we find that 61.70% are voiceless and 38.30% are voiced. The Table II given below compares the Mewati voiceless and the voiced consonants (both stops and fricatives) in their frequencies of usage in the Mewati monosyllabic words.

Table II: Frequency of Voiceless and Voiced Consonants in Mewati Monosyllabic Words

Consonants

 

†††† cvc

†††††† ccvc

†††††††† cvcc

Total

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

%

Voiceless

1410

62.36

71

51.08

O8

61.54

1489

61.71

Voiced

851

37.64

68

49.92

05

38.46

924

38.29

Total

2261

100

139

100

13

100

2413

100

 

 

 

 

 

It suggests that there is a clear skewing in favor of the voiceless and against the voiced in the overall usage of the opposing consonants in the word in Mewati Phonology. As we have pointed out earlier, there is no clear cut preference in the make up of units in the phonological grid of Mewati. However, in the syntagmatic organization of the word it is noteworthy that the voiceless consonants produced by fewer articulators become highly favored in comparison with the voiced consonants produced by more articulators.

ASPIRATED VERSUS UNASPIRATED

In Mewati only the stops, nasals and laterals are characterized by a distinction of aspiration and unaspiratedness. Whereas the supraglottal articulators alone produce unaspirated stops, nasals and laterals, an additional articulator produces their aspirated counterparts: the lungs. The aspiration is produced by the puff of breath coming from the lungs through a particular maneuvering of the glottal articulator. The vocal folds, in a triangular configuration, force the air to rush through the small opening that brings about aspiration. This additional use of puff of air makes the aspirated stop less favored than their un aspirated counterpart in terms of the number of articulators. We therefore expect a skewing commensurate with this criterion in the make-up and distribution of the unaspirated and aspirated stops.

As discussed earlier, there are twenty stops in Mewati, ten aspirated and ten unaspirated. The unaspirated stops include /p, t, T, c, k/ and /b, d, D, j, g/. The aspirated stops comprise /ph, th, Th, ch, kh/ and /bh, dh, Dh, jh, gh/. The comparison shows that there is not even a slight preference for the unaspirated counterparts in the make up of the phonological units in the paradigm. However, we encounter a vast skewing in favor of the unaspirated stops and against the aspirated stops in their frequency of usage in the word. When we compare the frequency of un aspirated and aspirated stops, as they appear in the monosyllabic words we find that there is a vast preference for the unaspirated stops. The figures of the frequency of occurrence of un aspirated and aspirated speech sounds are presented below in Table III.

Table III: Frequency of Unaspirated and Aspirated Consonants in Mewati Monosyllabic Words

Consonants

 

†††† Cvc

†††††† ccvc

†††††††† cvcc

Total

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

%

Unaspirated

1506

80.32

74

92.50

O8

88.89

1588

80.86

Aspirated

369

19.68

06

07.5

01

11.11

376

19.14

Total

1875

100

80

100

09

100

1964

100

 

 

 

 

 

The above table shows the frequency of occurrence of unaspirated speech sound is 80.86% in Mewati monosyllabic words. On the other hand the occurrence of aspirated stops is limited to 19.14%. The vast skewing in favor of unaspirated stops and against their aspirated counterparts may well be attributed to to the preference in terms of fewer versus more articulators. Aspirated speech sounds are articulated with more articulators; hence, the Mewati speakers disfavor them. The diachronic evidences further attest the strong favoring for unaspirated speech sounds. In other words, the diachronic evidences also bring out the reinforcement for this vast skewing.

The table presented below presents the historical evolution of loss of aspiration in Mewati phonology. It further strengthens the argument that it is a part of man's behavior that he wants to do put in the minimum effort in order to get the maximum result. He makes larger attempt at fine precisely coordinated movements, only in a greater need to learn it. In the light of the human tendency mentioned above, an average speaker are likely to prefer unaspirated speech sounds in comparison of aspirated speech sounds, so as to economize his effort during communication. The table Iv presents the examples of loss of aspiration in Mewati Phonology.

Table IV: Loss of Aspiration in Mewati Monosyllabic Words

Prakrit†† Mewati† Gloss ______________________________________________________†

bhappha†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† bha:p††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† steam

†bhikkha†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† bhi:k†††††††††††††††††††††††††† beggary

tha:gha††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† tha:†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† depth

jhu:tha† ††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††jhu:T†††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† †††lie

jho:jha† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† jho:j †††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††nest†††

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even a cursory glance over these examples suggests that aspiration in the word final position is generally disfavored in Mewati. However, the beginning of the word, where the hearer does not yet know the identity of the word, bears a greater communicative burden than the end of the word, which the speaker will likely be able to figure out for himself once it is reached (cf. people's tendency to chime in at the ends of words). The examples presented in the above table show the interplay of communicative and human factors. The communicative factor motivates the greater distinctiveness afforded by having both aspirated and unaspirated stops; but the human factor--ordinary laziness--carries the day when one can get away with less distinctiveness.

Though there was no preference for the unaspirated speech sounds over the aspirated counterparts in the makeup of the phonological units in the paradigm, we encounter a vast skewing in favor of the unaspirated speech sounds and against the aspirated speech sounds in their frequency of usage in the word. An analysis of the historical evolution of Mewati further supported the view that Mewati speakers do not prefer aspirated speech sounds.

NASAL VERSUS ORAL VOWELS

Nasal versus Oral Vowels

Mewati does have vowel phonological units produced by velum as an additional articulator. Mewati nasals / m, n, ? ? ? / are produced by the velum at aperture 3 in combination with the relevant oral articulators supported by larynx with the voicing. In comparison with the voiced stops and fricatives nasal consonants may seem to be more complex in the sense that they are produced by three articulators; (1) the oral articulators, (2) larynx (voicing) and (3) velum at aperture 3(Nasality). However the larynx should not be considered an additional, complicating articulator in the case of the nasal consonants. Because voicing is required for the excitation of the vocal cavity for all the speech sounds articulated at aperture 3 and above. Therefore, the nasal consonant should be placed on a par with the voiced stops in terms of the number of articulators.

However, the situation is different in case of the oral versus nasal vowels. For, as pointed out above, all speech sounds articulated at aperture 3 through 8 require voicing for the excitation of the cavity. Both the oral and the nasal vowels have thus thus an investment in voicing. The addition of nasality through velum as an extra articulator makes the nasal vowels more complex than the oral vowels. We, therefore expect that oral vowels should be preferred over the nasal vowels. Analyzing the number of oral and nasal vowels in Mewati can assess the impact of velum as an additional articulator on the oral and nasal vowel.

In Mewati all the ten vowels are nasalised in different syntagmatic organization of the Mewati word. Thus there is a parity in Mewati between the oral vowels produced by fewer articulators and the nasal vowels produced by the more articulators. It must be pointed out here that this parity is against the expectation of the hypothesis. Although the complexity produced by the velum as an additional articulator does not show up in the paradigmatic makeup of the nasal vowels vis-a vis the oral vowels, we do encounter a vast skewing in favor of the oral vowels and against their nasal counterparts in their frequency of usage in the word .When we examine the distribution of oral and nasal vowels in the phonological make up of the word in Mewati from the view point of fewer versus more articulators, we find that there is a vast skewing in favor of the oral vowels. The actual occurrences of the opposing vowels are presented in the table below.

Table V: Frequency of Oral Vowels and Nasal Vowels in Mewati Monosyllabic Words

Vowels

 

†††† cvc

†††††† ccvc

†††††††† cvcc

Total

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

%

Oral

1262

71.14

07

87.50

17

88.89

1286

69.36

Nasal

512

28.66

01

12.50

55

76.39

568

30.64

Total

1774

100

08

100

09

100

1854

100

 

 

 

 

 

The figures of the table indicate that 69.36% of the Mewati monosyllabic words are oral vowels while 30.64 % are nasal vowels. It shows that there is a clear tilt in favor of the oral vowels and against nasal vowels. This tilt is due to the economy of articulation. Oral vowels are easier in articulation. To elaborate this point further we may analyze the Mewati text below to find out the actual occurrence of the nasal vowel in a Mewati text. This Analysis may not give accurate result as the occurrence of nasal vowels may differ from text to text. However it will give an idea about the preference of nasal vowels in Mewati.

A Mewati Story

E:k ba„nly th . wa:ka: ghar me?: co:r baR gaya: . baNly baNy„:Ni: se: bo:l de:kh
There was a Baniya. A thief entered into his house. Banya said to his wife see
a:j ap Ne ghar co:r baRE ga: mE? bo:lu?: jE:sE: bo:lly banya?Ni: bo:li:
a thief will enter our house Say what I say The wife said
acch baNly bo:l: ap Ni: wo: sawa; la:kh ki: gu:?Thi: kIt dhari: E:
Now tell me where have you kept my ring that values 1.25 lacs
banIya?:ni: bo:li: ro:L maT macha:wa: co:r sUN le:ga: wo: t: mE?: na:
She said Don't say it loudly Thief will come to know
c ikas dhar rakkhi: E: . phIr bi: bata: t: kIt dhari: E: . mo:Tha: mE:
I have kept it somewhere Even then tell me In motha
para:T hE na: wo: m di: ma:r rakkhi: E: wakE ni:cE tha:Li: tha:Li:
there is a Prat There is a plate below it. Below
kE ni:cE kulIya ar wa: kulIya: mE? gu:?Thi: dhari: E: . co:ran nE
the Thali there is Kuliya In that Kullaya I have kept the ring Thieves
so:ci: pElE sawa: la:kh ki: gu:?thi: uTha: .co:r ne: ja; ko: wo;
decided to take the ring first The moment the thief
kulIya: Ugha:ri: wa: me?: ha:t dIy t bIcchu; da:b kE: dhar rakkh th
uncovered the Kullya and put his hand inside it. There was scorpion inside it
. co:r cIlla:y mar gay mar gay .banly bo:l me:ri; gu:?Thi E: a?gLi:
The thief started shouting Baniy Said the ring is here in my finger
mE thu:k laga: kE: pahar lE: co:r yo sUntEi bhagg gay.
when thief heard this voice they ran away from there

An analysis of the text indicates that there is a vast skewing in favor of the oral and against the nasal vowels. This vast favoring is due to the use of one more articulator, namely, the velum used in their production.

Thus, the paper argues that a small number of distinct units which recur in different combinations to form the entire inventory of signals of Mewati. This is one way in which human language minimizes the effort on that specific part of the memory. The economy so achieved in the formation of signals is actually developed by Andre Martinet under "double articulation"

Furthermore, the total bulk of phonological units are formed by the combination of a relatively small number of apertures and articulators. Mewati phonological units are formed by a combination of only nine degree of apertures and eight articulators. On closer examination of the phonological units of Mewati we further realize that orientation of human behavior has contributed significantly to their contributed justification.

The phonological units, which are produced with less effort and precision, are frequently used than those units that are more complicated physiologically which require more precision and control in their articulation. For example aperture 1 has only two phonological units / h, and H / while on aperture 'zero' ( Stops) there are twenty phonological units. Least number of phonological units on aperture 1 ( Fricatives) is because of force and effort involved in the production of fricatives, because of their releasing air stream through a narrowed channel.

CONCLUSION

The paper concerns with explaining the favorable and unfavorable phonological units in Mewati in terms of human being avoidance of fine and precise coordination of the articulatory movements. The paper argues that the voiceless and unaspirated units are favored over their voiced and aspirated counterparts. Similarly oral vowels are preferred over nasal vowels. Thus, the paper makes an attempt to assess the role of human behavior in the non- random distribution of phonological units on both the syntagmatic and paradigmatic levels in Mewati It has been shown that human trait play an important role in the production of phonological units and their distributive patterns in Mewati, wherever a precise coordination is avoided.


REFERENCES

Azim, Abdul. Problems of aspiration in modern standard Urdu. In Reid & Otheguy (in press).

Davis, Joseph. 1987. A combinatory phonology of Italian. Columbia University Working Papers in Linguistics.

Diver, William. 1979. Phonology as human behavior Psycholinguistic Research: its Implications and Applications. Dorothy Aaronson & Robert Reiber, eds. 161-186. Hillside NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Fatihi, A.R. (1987). Economy of Articulation in Mewati Phonology. Ph.D. thesis unpublished. Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

Reid, Wallis & Ricardo Otheguy (eds.). Issues in neo-Saussurean linguistics: Advances in sign-based approaches to the study of language. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Tobin, Yishai. 1997. Phonology as human behavior: Theoretical implications and clinical applications. Durham, NC & London: Duke University Press.

_____ and Haruko Miyakoda. 2001. An analysis of Japanese speech errors based on the theory of phonology as human behavior. Paper given at the Second Malaysian International Conference on Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Kuala Lumpur. April 18, 2001.


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LITERARY TRANSLATION - ART OR SCIENCE? A Renowned Literary Translator Discusses His View | THE INFLUENCE OF ENGLISH ON MALAYALAM LANGUAGE | A REVIEW OF LEARNING ENGLISH TEXTBOOK II FOR CLASS II Discussing the Problems of Presentation | LANGUAGE POLICY IN THE MOTILAL NEHRU COMMITTEE REPORT, 1928 - THE SEEDS OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION | MISSING LINKS - FROM RESEARCH TO DEVELOPMENT | ADVERB FORMATION IN TAMIL | LINGUISTIC HUMAN RIGHTS IN TRIBAL EDUCATION IN ORISSA | THE ECONOMY OF ARTICULATION IN MEWATI PHONOLOGY | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR


A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
Department of Linguistics
Aligarh Muslim University
Aligarh, U.P.
India
fatihi_ar@indiatimes.com

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