A Grammar of Yami

1 Introduction
2 Phonology & Orthography
 2.1 Consonants and vowels

  There are twenty consonants (Table 1), four vowels, and four diphthongs (Table 2) in Yami. All the symbols in the tables represent standard Yami orthography.

 


Table 1: Classification of Yami consonants

 

Labial

Alveolar

Retroflex

Palatal

Velar

Uvular

Glottal

Stop

p, b

t

d

 

k, g

 

'

Fricative

v

 

s

 

 

h

 

Nasal

m

n

 

 

ng

 

 

Liquid

 

l

r

 

 

 

 

Affricate

 

 

 

c, j

 

 

 

Trill

 

z

 

 

 

 

 

Glide

w

 

 

y

 

 

 

 

Table 2: Classification of Yami vowels

 

Front

Central

Back

High

i

 

o

Mid

 

e

 

Low

 

a

 

Diphthong

ay, aw, oy, iw (see footnote 6 for other derived diphthongs)

 

The corresponding phonemes are explained as follows.

 

1. /p, t, k/ and /b, d, g/ are voiceless and voiced stops, respectively. /d/ is a voiced retroflex stop. /k/ becomes [q] preceding a low vowel, e.g., k ana k an [qanaqan] ‘child'.

2. /'/ is a glottal stop [ ? ], e.g., man'awey ‘throwing a boat up and down in a ceremony' vs. manawey ‘a way of fishing' . There is a variation between the glottal stop and the uvular fricative among the younger generation, e.g., mi'an'anan ~ mihanhanan ‘trust'. But /'/ and /h/ can be clearly distinguished in the following morphophonemic alternations: ' agnat ‘lift' → to ' agnat-a ‘then lift something'; h ap ‘take' → to ng ap-a ‘then take something'.

3. /m, n, ng/ are bilabial, alveolar, and velar nasals, respectively. /n/ is palatalized as [ ø ] if followed by /i/, as in n izpi ‘money' and ma n íring ‘speak'.

4. /v/ is a voiced labiodental fricative. There is a sound change in progress to [f] among the younger generation (Li & Ho 1989).

5. /s/ is a voiceless retroflex fricative [ § ]. It is palatalized as [ S ] before the front vowel /i/, e.g., s iko ‘elbow'.

6. /h/ is a voiced uvular fricative [ Ò ]. It frequently occurs in the syllable coda position, e.g., makáte h ‘itchy', maré h met ‘heavy'. When it occurs between two non-high vowels, this segment can be either syncopated or replaced by a voiced glottal stop [ ú ], e.g, va h ay [va Ò ay] ~ [faay] ~ [fa ú ay] ‘house', ve h an [v ə Ò an] ~ [f ə an] ~ [f ə ú an] ‘moon'. But the /h/ in the borrowed word h adilóya ‘Hallelujah!' is a voiceless glottal fricative.

7. /l/ and /r/ are lateral and retroflex [ Ó ], respectively. /l/ becomes a voiced lateral fricative [ L ] before the front vowel /i/, e.g, l ila ‘tongue'.

8. /c/ and /j/ are voiceless alveopalatal affricate [ t S ] and voiced palatal affricate [ d Z ], respectively . Although they could be analyzed as palatalized allophones of /k/ and /d/ respectively, /c/ has developed into a phoneme by showing contrast with /k/, e.g., c imi ‘crush' vs. k imi ‘split open'. /j/ has also developed a contrast with /d/, e.g., bedbe j i ‘tie up a fish bait' vs. pianoanoo d i ‘Sing it!'. The high frequency of /j/ as a negative morpheme and a locative marker and its symmetry with /c/ also justify the use of a different symbol of representation, even though it is phonetically a palatalized /d/.

9. /z/ is an alveolar trill [ř].

10. /w, y/ are glides.

11. /i/ and /a/ are front vowel and low vowel, respectively.

12. /e/ represents a central vowel [ ə ].

13. /o/ represents a back vowel. It is raised to [ U ] after a labial sound, e.g., p o yat ‘eye secretion', mav o ta ‘blind', and m o m o dan ‘nose'.

14. The nucleus of the diphthongs /ay/ and /aw/ is centralized, raised or monophthongized, beginning in the northern part of the island, Iraralay, and spreading to the east, Iranmilek and Ivalino (Rau et al. 1995), e.g., mangay : [ma ŋə y] ~ [ma ŋi y] ‘go', araw : [a Ó ə w] ~ [a Ó uw] ‘sun'. Only a few lexical items on the west coast, Imowrod and Iratay, have been affected by this change, such as alilík ey ‘all very small' and manganiáh ey ‘scary'. However, this sound change in the north has developed into a chain shift, in that the front vowel /i/ in some lexical items is lowered and diphthongized, e.g, mi ‘go' becomes [m ə y].

note:The Yami Christian Churches adopted an orthography used to translate the New Testament. Li (1992) proposed a different version as a preliminary attempt to standardize the Austronesian language alphabets in Taiwan . The Ministry of Education (MOE) of the Republic of China adopted a standardized version in 2002, based on the authors' proposal, as a guideline for materials development. The Yami orthography adoped in this paper is the 2002 standardized MOE version of the Yami orthography.