THE CHOICE OF VOWEL(S)
neutral and inclusive thought we
have to make use of an existing script and language in our communication
The present script is (at least for the early readers of
this Model) the most widely used script
in the world, and the present language is (similarly) the most widely
spoken one of those which use the present script.
When considering individual linguistic systems (or groups of related
systems), the most widely used system does not belong to the same family
as the present one, but other widely used systems (with the present one
among them) all form part of the same linguistic stock.
Many words in these living languages have been and still are derived from
three languages in particular, that is, three ancient languages which are
Altho these three
languages represent the largest family of languages in the world, they
have no linguistic universality, and we have therefore no reason to derive
our vocabulary exclusively from them.
However important the cultures in question may have been in the evolution
of human civilization, many other cultures have existed, exist now, and
will emerge on the planet Earth, which must not be regarded as less
Yet, while our new morphemes should be based on the most general
linguistic principles, this does not mean that we are not restrained by
most of the traditional rules of the particular language we communicate
In phonetics cardinal vowels are often plotted on a diagram
with the sound ï (pronounced as in technique), or a
similar but shorter one, at the extreme left. (Phonetics is not
interested in spelling and does not use the phonetic symbols of
this Model. As already noted in
F.3.3.1 we ourselves make use of
an overlay system in which each diacritic indicates for one
written letter a particular way of pronouncing that letter.
The phoneme ï is therefore the same as the first phoneme in
The sound ü (as in rule), or a similar but shorter sound,
is plotted at the extreme right of the diagram; and ä (as in
art), or a similar but shorter sound, near the center of this
Between ï and ä one will find e (as
in bet) and a (the ash, as in bat) or a closely
related vowel; between ä and ü one will find
o (as in dog), or a similar, shorter sound, and
u (as in put) or a closely related vowel.
This yields roughly the following series of vowels with ä
closer to the middle than any of the other vowels:
ï , e , a ,
ä , o , u ,
The vowels on the left of the nearly central vowel ä are
so-called 'front vowels'; those on the right 'back vowels'.
Front vowels are pronounced with the front, central vowels with
the middle part and back vowels with the back of the tongue
raised. This subdivision is based on the horizontal movement of
the tongue. (The ä is then 'between center and back,
slightly more center'.) As regards the vertical movement of the
tongue phoneticians distinguish open, half-open, half-close and close
vowels. On the basis of this subdivision the ä is a fully
open vowel with the tongue almost flat in the mouth. Moreover, the
lips are said to be 'neutral' when uttering that sound.
We could call the ä "a neutral vowel between front vowels
on the one hand, and back vowels on the other". But what
traditionally has been called "the neutral vowel" is the schwa
(as in abut) because this is a central vowel produced with
the tongue in the position it has when at rest and with the lips
'neutral' or spread. Rest is also a neutral notion, and in
this respect the choice of the schwa as the vowel of a
neutralistic morpheme is about as legitimate as the choice of the
ä. The unstressed schwa (pronounced as the first vowel in
abut) and the similarly articulated stressed vowel (the second
in abut) can, just like the ä, be plotted in the
middle of a cardinal vowel diagram with the unstressed schwa half-open
to half-close and its stressed equivalent open to half-open.
(This latter vowel may be represented by a schwa symbol too.)
Altho they are not cardinal themselves, they are also relatively
pure and unchanging. Yet, unlike the ä, many languages do not
have the schwa as a phoneme, and therefore the schwa (or its
stressed equivalent) is not to be considered a universal vowel.
That the ä is not only a universal vowel but also of a neutral
nature clearly shows in the (main dialect of the) most widely spoken
language (which does not belong to the same family as the present
In that language syllables can be divided into initials or 'shengs', the
first sound if a consonant, and finals or 'yuns', the rest of the syllable
made up of one or more vowels, possibly followed by n or ng
or sometimes by a sound transliterated as r.
(Yun is an irregular spelling for yün, in which
ü is not a back but a front vowel.)
Not all shengs and yuns are compatible.
Especially the shengs y (pronounced as in yes) and w
cannot be followed by members of identical vowel sets.
The remarkable thing is that a yun goes together with both these
approximants nevertheless, if its vowel is the neutral ä.
Does the yun contain a back or front vowel, then it cannot always be
combined with the y or the w.
Thus, the syllables ye and yi exist but not yu with
'real' u; and yo only for exclamatory purposes.
(Like yun, the syllable actually transliterated as "yu" has a front
instead of back vowel.)
On the other hand, wo and wu exist but not we and
However, both ya and wa exist as monosyllabic morphemes in
the language we are talking about here.
Now, when considering (human) languages in general again, it
does not matter whether the ä and the schwa are described as
neutral or as central vowels.
Neutrality is a concept
in the same associative field as centrality, because it is the
central predicate of the
catena which is neutral;
'central', that is, between negative predicates on the one hand
(represented, let us say, by ï, e and
a) and positive ones on the other (o,
u and ü).
So far as vowels are concerned we conclude therefore that on the
symbolistic view words denoting and/or connoting centrality or neutrality,
central or neutral things, or things in the same associative field, should
have ä as a vowel, or as the most important or central vowel.
In languages such as the present one, in which both the ä and
the schwa exist as phonemes, the schwa may replace the ä when
there is a special reason for doing so.
What about the consonants? The situation here is less
clear, for while the neutral ä is a central vowel between
front and back vowels, there is no consonant in a similar
position as a limit element between two opposite sets of
consonants. This is not to say that there does not exist a
central consonant in any respect. If one takes the difference
between compactness and diffuseness on the grounds of which the
centrality of the ä can phonetically be demonstrated, one
will find that the k may be considered a central letter too
among consonants and on the same grounds. But the 'opposite' sets of
letters are not clearly distinguished here. And there is
another reason why the plosive obstruent k does not fulfil our
requirements: it cannot appear at all positions in the words of
certain languages. The consonant we are looking for has, just
like the vowel, to be 'universal' in that it exists in all
languages (or in as many languages as possible) and in that it
can appear at any place in the morphemes of these languages.
In the most widely used language not belonging to the same language family
as the present one, the velar plosive k cannot close off a word;
the only consonants which can are the n and the ng (and
sometimes r as noted above).
The velar nasal ng is not a 'neutral' consonant in that it can
solely appear at the end of a yun; it cannot appear at the beginning of a
syllable in the present language either (and the r does not appear
in other yuns than er).
Hence, only the alveolar nasal n remains as a 'universal' consonant,
at least so far as the two language families in question are concerned.
For the present and related languages there is the added advantage that the
n is already to be found in neutral and its paronyms
(neutrality, neutralize, neutron, neuter) and
in non- which can be associated with the negation of positivity,
negativity and polarity in general.
The n is a stable sound which can adequately represent
stability, something it has in common with the m. Neutrality
is a concept in the same field as stability, because stability
is rest, steady motion or equilibrium, that is, a neutral state
between negative and positive movement or change. Since the n
also occurs in (nearly?) all human languages, it can be
associated both with stability and
neutrality, and with
anthropic inclusivity or
inclusivity in general
(or the smallest possible degree of exclusivity). This is what it has in
common with the neutral a, except that the first association is
there with centrality rather than with stability.
The m and n are both stable, nasal consonants and thus the
alveolar n could be replaced by the bilabial m. Since the
m is not such a good representative of inclusiveness as the
n, the reason for doing so should be a compelling one.