Re: Fluency and ...--Emic?

Date: Sat Jun 10 2000 - 09:16:16 EDT

Dr Buth,

original question:
> >What is Emic Koine? Koine from an insider's viewpoint? If so what
> >exactly does that mean.

Radall Buth responds:
> That is a fair question. It means Koine Greek, using a pronunciation
> that reflects the PHONEMIC structure of the standard/majority/common
> language of the period. (It does not mean exactly reproducing the phonetic
> sound of any one particular dialect or speaker.) The phonemic structure is
> the system of distinctive sound-units that a speaker uses in producing
> or in deciphering words. Thus, for general Roman-period, East-mediterranean
> Koine that means one sound-unit [i] for the graphic symbols EI and I.
> Another sound-unit [y] for the graphic symbols U and OI, etc.

I was planning to write off list but when you mentioned “phonemic” I thought
I would respond to the list. However, if you feel we are getting too far
off-topic, please feel free to respond off-list. First of all, I am really
impressed with the demo CD and look forward to the two CD set. This is well
done with helpful accompanying documentation. And quite frankly, it is just
fun to listen to.

I have a question about the “emic” notion and especially about “phonemic
sound units”. Your use of the term(s) seems different than that which I am
accustomed. Your examples above suggest that each phonemic sound (you call
them phonemes in the next sentence--not quoted here), there is only one
sound. I acknowledge that much more can be said here and you did not include
further discussion at this point. In fact, without your examples, I may have
assumed the points I make below (therefore. forgive me if I am just asking
the obvious--your statement is important: “It does not mean exactly
reproducing the phonetic sound of any one particular dialect or speaker”).

In my understanding, a phoneme is really not a sound at all but an
abstraction demonstrating complementary distribution of (phonetic) sound(s).
Thus, the final sound (forgive my phonetic transcription due to lack of
symbols) in the two words: bats [bats] and bags [bagz] can be analyzed as the
same phoneme, /s/. after voiceless stops, this phoneme is realized by the
voiceless [s] but after voiced stops, it is realized by voiced [z]. Thus,
[s] and [z] (in this case) are co-allophones of the same phoneme /s/.
Environment determines which sound expresses the phoneme. Of course, this is
not the limit of phonemic analysis.

My familiarity with the term “emic” is primarily linguistic. I am not
nearly as familiar with non-linguistic developments made by Pike and followed
by others in anthropology. Are you using “emic” here in the general
anthropological sense here and merely using the term “phonemic” for
practical reasons? The emic/etic distinction is very helpful in such
matters. Or, (it has been a while since I have studied linguistics formally)
are you using the term in a way common among some linguists today?


Joe Fantin
Dallas and Sheffield

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