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#3696: DeGraff on Haitian Creole "yon". (fwd)

From: Michel DeGraff <degraff@MIT.EDU>

RE Fitzpatrick's question:

> "I recently noticed a major orthographic problem in Creole which I have
> not seen addressed anywhere. If Creole orthography were perfectly
> consistent, then the Creole word "yon" would rhyme with the Creole word
> "bon". But it doesn't. The Creole word "yon" seems to have the "o" of the
> English words "tone" and "cone". Is there any explanation for this?
> Perhaps the Creole word "yon" should be written "yo-n" in the new
> orthography to indicate how it is to be pronounced?"

I find this statement surprising, which may reveal my own ignorance.  I
don't know about other dialects, but in my own (native) Creole and in the
dialects I am familiar with, the vowel in "yon" (= English "a", "one") does
NOT rhyme with the "o" in English "tone"/"cone".  Instead the "on" in "yon"
represents a nasal vowel -- the nasalized version of "o" as in "bon" (=
English "good") or "non" (= English "name"/"no/not").  Thus, Haitian Creole
"yon" rhymes, not with English "tone"/"cone", but with Creole (and French)
"bon", "non", etc.

One important fact about "yon": There are quite a number for phonological
variants of "yon", the choice of which depends on the surrounding words and
on the dialect.  These variants include "on", "yonn", "youn", "oun", etc.
Haitian Creole, like ALL languages, allows variations in how different
speakers in different areas pronounce certain words.  (There's also
variation in other areas of the language.)  Such data fall in the class of
(universal) phenomena that linguists call "dialectal variation".


P.S.  One bonus question for my favorite linguistic-101 student: What would
be his recommended "scientific" spelling for Haitian Creole "yon", "youn",
"on", "oun", etc. such that the "reality" of Haitian Creole is respected?

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