How does one write exceptions into formal sound change notation?

For example, Pre-Old Japanese seems to have undergone vowel raising of /e/ and /o/ to /i/ and /u/ respectively everywhere except at the end of words (where they instead became /ʲe/ and /ʷo/ respectively).

I can write the general rules as:

e > i
o > u

But if I wanted to specify that this doesn't apply for the environment _#, how would I do this?

1 Answer 1


The notion of "sound change notation" is a bit of a problem. It is a (not unreasonable) attempt to use a device of a different domain of linguistics, but you have identified a case where the concepts of historical linguistics do not translate into the phonological analogs that you are asking about.

There is some relationship between a given synchronic phonological rule of a language, where a rule e.g. k → č /__ i in the phonology of some language is related to some series of historical changes that we might notate as k > č / __ i. In that case, you're just replacing → with > in the informal notation of a phonological rule. There is a notation for "except when" in phonology, so you could adopt that notation in your rule. It is known as the "complement notation", and is typically indicated by prefixing the symbol "~" to the relevant expression, thus e,o > i,u /__~#.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.