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Documenting a language with phonemic and phonetic variation: the case of Enets

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Item Summary

Title:Documenting a language with phonemic and phonetic variation: the case of Enets
Authors:Khanina, Olesya
Keywords:Enets
Northern Siberia
Uralic
language documentation
Phonetics
Date Issued:Dec 2018
Publisher:University of Hawaii Press
Citation:Khanina, Olesya. 2018. Documenting a language with phonemic and phonetic variation: the case of Enets. Language Documentation & Conservation 12. 430-460.
Abstract:This paper describes phonemic and phonetic variation attested in Enets, a highly endangered Uralic language of Northern Siberia. This variation is worth describing for three reasons. First of all, it is a part of documenting phonology of this disappearing language. Second, it is extremely frequent and widespread, including most words of the lexicon, but at the same time it does not visibly correlate with any social parameters, so this is one more case study in the vein of the sociolinguistic agenda set by Dorian (2001; 2010). Third, the Enets variation presents a challenge for consistent transcription, let alone an orthography design. These three reasons structure the paper: after an introductory section on the Enets community, languages used in the community in past and present, methodology of this study, and phonological profile of Enets, I proceed to a phonological description of the variation (section 2), to sociolinguistic details of this variation (section 3), and finally to issues of representation of the Enets data in a vain search for a perfect orthography for the language (section 4).

Crucially, the last reason was the driving force for this research in the first place, as “[c]reating a phonemic orthography implies at least a basic phonological analysis preceding its design” (Jany 2010:234) and “faulty phonological analyses give rise to faulty orthographies” (Rehg 2004:506). Being neither a phonetician, nor a phonologist, I had initially aimed only for a basic description of sound patterns for the sake of an orthography; however, it quickly became evident that the puzzle of variation in Enets was not to be taken lightly, and more specific research was conducted. However, despite all the work done, I still see the results rather as a grounding for a consistent transcription/orthography than as a full phonological description. For the latter, Enets is still awaiting a talented phonologist, while our documentation project aimed hard to preserve exemplars of Enets sounds for this purpose (see Khanina 2017 for details).
Pages/Duration:31 pages
URI/DOI:http://hdl.handle.net/10125/24772
ISSN:1934-5275
Rights:Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
Appears in Collections: Volume 12 : Language Documentation & Conservation


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