This page reports feedback that has been received for the Ethnologue description of this language.
Login or register to give feedback on this language

Comment regarding the language name "Phuie"

Kevin Warfel, Fri, 2015-09-04 07:46
Alternate Names
ISO 639-3: 

As a linguist, I focused on this language for a period of 8-9 years. During that time, I came to understand that the speakers of this language call themselves "Phuú" (sg) or "Phuó" (pl) and their language something like "Phuĩé." In the ten years since my focus has moved from this language to other aspects of linguistic work in SIL, I have learned one additional detail about the language name—the vowels are not phonemically nasalized, but become so phonetically in most contexts because of a final nasal consonant that manifests itself only in a very specific (and rarely encountered) context. So the language name is now written in the orthography as "Phuieŋ," the diacritic marking the downstepped high tone being considered superfluous for a native speaker, since there is no other word in the language similar to this one with which a reader might confuse it. A word about the phonetics and phonology of the language as they relate to the name for the people and the language: The initial "ph" represents a voiceless aspirated bilabial plosive (which contrasts phonemically in the language with (a) voiceless unaspirated bilabial plosive, (b) voiced unaspirated bilabial plosive, and (c) voiceless bilabial implosive (phonetically voiceless, but phonemically voiced)). The phoneme /u/, when followed by a non-round vowel or by a sequence of two vowels of any type, is realized phonetically as a semivowel [w], but otherwise as a full vowel [u]. The acute accent used as a diacritic in the orthography of the language represents non-automatic downstep of a high tone, so that each of these names has two high tones, with (presumably) a floating low tone between them, causing the second high tone to be slightly lower in pitch than the first. Downdrift is a prominent feature in this language, as is often the case in languages with non-automatic downstep. The tilde (~) used as a diacritic in the orthography represents inherent nasalization of the vowel over which it appears. Vowels within a given syllable (1-3 vowels) are either all nasalized or all oral, so the tilde is written only once for the lot. Syllables can be phonetically nasalized via one of two routes: (1) one of the vowels is inherently nasalized, and this spreads to all other vowels in the syllable, or (2) phonemically, there is a nasal consonant in the coda of the syllable, but the nasal consonant cannot be pronounced in the context—only when the next word begins with a vowel can such a nasal consonant manifest itself in its underlying form; otherwise, the vowels that precede it are phonetically nasalized to signal the presence of the nasal consonant. Because there are relatively few vowel-initial words in the language—most begin with a glottal stop that is not represented in the orthography—many years went by before I became aware of the underlying presence of the /ŋ/ at the end of the language name. I don't know your policy about the orthography used to represent language names, but wanted you to be aware that "Phuieŋ" (with a tail on the "n") has become the intracommunity standard for this language. I believe that "Phuie" (currently the Ethnologue citation form) is only a "normalized" form of "Phuĩé," which I considered the true representation of the name for many years. I don't remember ever believing that the name was non-nasalized, which the orthography "Phuie" implies to the individual who has worked with this language in recent years. Hope this helps in some way. -Kevin