Talk:Fortis and lenis

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Is tenuis a synonym of fortis? I've seen it used in opposition with lenis but aren't sure if it's the same thing. --Ptcamn 13:52, 13 December 2005 (UTC)

It's not really. From what I understand, a tenuis could be either fortis or lenis. Talking about tenues makes only sense in opposition to mediae and aspiratae (all three terms have been coined to describe ancient Greek). ― j. 'mach' wust | 14:46, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
Yes, tenues can be (plain) fortes or (voiceless) lenes. See Voice onset time.
David Marjanović | | 20:35 CET | 2006/2/19
I am not an expert on this topic, but I'm sure the authors of this Wikipedia article are. Anatol Rath


Consonant mutation, Consonant gradation, Lenition, Fortition and Fortis and lenis all seem to be about the same kind of phenomenon. Perhaps they should be merged. FilipeS 21:29, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

I think these terms are all well different enough. If there were a merger, then perhaps fortition might be merged into lenition. Fortis and lenis is very different from fortition and lenition because the former describes different kinds of sounds, but the latter different kinds of sound change. Consonant gradation seems to be a well defined technical term in the description of Finnish and related languages; consonant mutation is a well defined technical term in the description of insular Celtic languages. -- j. 'mach' wust 21:59, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

I understand that "fortis and lenis" means something different from "fortition and lenition", but in practice the two former words only seem to be used in the context of fortition and lenition, so it seems redundant to have specific articles for them.

While the term "consonant gradation" may be more traditional in the study of Finnish and other Baltic languages, and "consonant mutation" may be more traditional in the grammar of Celtic languages, I see no substantive difference between the two concepts. As far as I can tell, they're just different names for the same general concept. I know there are differences in the details, but then Dhuolo, Hebrew and Paiute have nothing to do with the Celtic languages, either, and people still use the term "consonant mutation" for them.

See also the discussion here. FilipeS 00:16, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

The terms fortis and lenis (without the terms fortition and lenition) are traditionally used in the description of German, especially of Southern German. Celtic conosnant mutation is the result of a historical sandhi effect across morpheme boundaries, whereas consonant gradation is a word-internal phenomenon. -- j. 'mach' wust 07:26, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

The current version of the article does not make that clear, though. FilipeS 10:46, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

Doesn't it? It seemed to me that the section Fortis and lenis#History and use of the terms was very explicit about this. How would you improve it? -- j. 'mach' wust 11:41, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

I was not just talking about the article Fortis and Lenis. Actually, after the replies I got here and in the other page, I'm becoming convinced that Fortis and Lenis does deserve an article of its own. I'm still not convinced about the others, though, particularly the trio lenition/fortition - consonant mutation - consonant gradation FilipeS 11:47, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

"Seldom used in current linguistics?"[edit]

I hesitate to change this page, because I'm not a phonetician, but certainly if you're a linguist working on Zapotec languages you use the terms fortis and lenis. "Seldom used in current linguistics" doesn't really seem right to me. Thanks. Blillehaugen 16:00, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Very true. I don't know how else current linguistics describe the phonetics of the languages that have a fortis/lenis contrast such as Zapotec. I will strike that phrase. Also never hesitate, your (great) knowledge about general linguistics is quite enough to confidently edit articles in any linguistic topic that you feel you have something to say about. Also btw I am glad to see a proffesional mesoamericanist linguist contributing to wikipedia. Welcome! ·Maunus· ·ƛ· 18:13, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Why does Fleischer/Schmid 2006 infringe WP:SYNTH?[edit]

I do not understand why the source Fleischer/Schmid 2006 infringes WP:SYNTH, as suggested by Aeusoes1 in [1]. Even though that source were only specifically about Zurich German, this would still not invalidate any statements about notation of the fortis/lenis contrast. The current passage in the article only makes an existence assertion about different types of notation. The existence assertion is proven if there is at least one reliable source. Fleischer/Schmid is such a source.

What is more, that source is not only specifically about Zurich German. Of course, the Fleischer/Schmid 2006 paper is about Zurich German, but within this specific context, there is a general discussion of the notation of the fortis/lenis contrast. We can easily see that this discussion is not limited to Zurich German since the literature cited there is not about Zurich German.

This is, at least, how I see it. Maybe I'm wrong. Please explain. -- machᵗᵃˡᵏ 14:24, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

The source simply doesn't back up the statements that it purports to
  1. "The fortis-lenis contrast may be transcribed with plain... vs... [voiced].", "The fortis-lenis contrast may be transcribed ...[with] lenes...marked with the IPA diacritic for voicelessness." Fleischer & Schmid say that, in the body of literature on Zurich German, the sounds have been transcribed in these ways. If they're trying to make generalizations, their statements are too embedded in discussion about Zurich German specifically for readers to get that clearly.
    1. "This notation emphasizes that the voice contrast and the fortis-lenis contrast are thought of as manifestations of a common sound feature." They don't say this, though it's most likely more-or-less true.
  2. "The fortis-lenis contrast may be transcribed as a gemination contrast..." Again, F & S say this is appropriate of Zurich German specifically since the fortis consonants actually are longer.
    1. "This emphasizes that it is unrelated to the voice contrast." They don't say this and it's much more likely that languages that actually feature gemination in their fortis consonants (like Zurich German, Ojibwe, and Archi) are more appropriately transcribed with gemination.
  3. They do not mention Alsatian
I marked this as a violation of WP:SYNTH because I figured that the logic goes, "well, if IPA transcription for Zurich German fortis-lenis consonants have these tendencies and other languages use IPA and have contrasts labled "fortis and lenis" that this must be true for any language said to have a fortis/lenis contrast." This is simply not true. Most strikingly, the way the article is worded, it sounds as though one could use gemination to transcribe English /p/, when no one (AFAIK) does this and it wouldn't be appropriate since English doesn't geminate its fortis stops. Of course, perhaps WP:SYNTH is not the proper policy to cite. Which is the policy that says you can't cite sources that don't actually back up what is claimed?
You say that in F & S "there is a general discussion of the notation of the fortis/lenis contrast" but it really isn't a general discussion of fortis/lenis contrasts. Most of the authors he cites are clearly, by the titles of their works, talking specifically about this or very related German dialects. Of the three that, by the titles of their works, could be talking generally,
  • Dieth (1950) is apparantly a source that talks, at least in part, in detail about Zurich German
  • Jakobson & Halle (1964) and Kohler (1984) are cited as authors who adopt certain transcription systems and, since the entirety of the discussion is specific to Zurich German, I would be surprised if they were talking generally. Even if they were, it still doesn't help F & S back up the general claims made in the article. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 21:15, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
I think I see your point. I've tried to reword the passage so it is clearer that these are just samples of different existent notations. -- machᵗᵃˡᵏ 13:29, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Well done! I plan on beefing up the article's citations from SOWL next week. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 23:19, 11 December 2009 (UTC)


The Silverman examples seem odd. He got the vowel length wrong with odder–otter and the voicing wrong with nod. At least for varieties of AmEng that I'm aware of. Given that this is a primary source, shouldn't we have some corroboration? — kwami (talk) 21:17, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

I guess that "ɑɾɹ̩" for "otter" is a misprint in the source and should read "ɑ̆ɾɹ̩". Evidence for this is that where Silverman describes the normal outcome of tapping with distinction marked by length contrast on the preceding vowel, we read: "*ˈVtV > ˈV̆ɾV" (Silverman 2004, p. 87). Also, this is consistent with how the length contrast on the preceding vowel is marked in other surroundings (e.g. in the cited table in "knot").
With regard to "nod", I think there is nothing wrong. It is pretty much the point of Silverman's article that in this particular position, de-voicing is common. Of course, additional sources would be nice. -- mach 🙈🙉🙊 06:35, 13 September 2011 (UTC)

Phonological rather than phonetic?[edit]

In describing specific languages, the words fortis and lenis are used to refer to specific phonetic distinctions and sound changes. However, the terms fortis and lenis are used to refer to different phonetic distinctions in different languages. Therefore, it is not possible to give more than a very general definition of these words. When using the terms comparatively, isn't it better to think of them as referring to a phonological category? Or should we think of them as referring to a general phonetic tendency, rather than a more specific category such as "nasal"?Pete unseth (talk) 22:34, 15 February 2013 (UTC)

AFAIK, they're always used for a phonemic distinction. AFAIK, no-one compares /k/ in one language w /k/ in another and concludes that one is 'fortis' and the other 'lenis', unless such a distinction applies within the languages as well. — kwami (talk) 09:46, 16 February 2013 (UTC)
I think it formerly was supposed to be something more phonetic, but the primary utility is as a phonological category. It's sort of a catchall category. Some languages might have strict contrasts with a single feature (e.g. length) that is considered forits. In English, there are contrasts that are termed fortis and lenis because there isn't an easy feature that distinguishes them in all contexts (sometimes it's voicing, sometimes glottalization, other times aspiration). — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 16:27, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Merger, please? (Sept. 2015)[edit]

The current lede of this appears to be inaccurate. It perfectly equates tenseness with raising (but this doesn't account for tensed consonants). According to the Giegerich (1992) source a definition for tenseness (though self-admittedly vague) is sound production "with a deliberate, accurate, maximally distinct gesture that involves considerable muscular effort" (92). Based on this, I was about to change the first sentence of this article to something like "In phonology, tenseness is the particular quality of a vowel, phonemically contrastive in many languages including English, when pronounced with relatively clear articulation and strong muscular constriction." But now I find that this perfectly equates tenseness with fortis (already with its own article: Fortis and lenis). Fortis seems to only apply to consonants, however. Can we get some kind of merger going on here? All of this is inappropriately nuanced for laypersons trying to understand these distinctions or similarities on entirely separate yet synonymously-titled pages. Wolfdog (talk) 19:25, 20 September 2015 (UTC)

Don't merge – You have already said it: The most important difference is that the terms fortis and lenis are only used with consonants (in some analyses, only with stops). On the other hand, the term tenseness is predominantly used with vowels. But even if we put aside this main difference (which IMO already justifies the separation of the articles): A fortis consonant is usually not the same thing as a tense consonant. The latter are typically used in the analysis of Korean, whereas the former are typically used in the analysis of German. A Korean tense consonant is not the same as a German fortis consonant. Also, the terms belong to different schools or traditions of linguistics. This means their history is different. And then, they are conceptually different: force is not the same thing as tension. Furthermore, the notation is usually different.
Some analyses take the point of view that the fortis–lenis distinction is really a tenseness distinction. But to my knowledge, there is no consensus. Therefore, I think that merging the articles would not be in accordance with WP:Neutral point of view.
I agree that both articles are poorly written (like most articles about linguistical topics). The fortis and lenis article is not to the point. The sections about history and characteristics do not live up to what their titles promise. The literature list is symptomatic: It is far too long and appears to be of dubious relevancy. The tenseness article is more concise, but the section about consonants has no references at all. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 21:52, 20 September 2015 (UTC)
I think the fact that the terms belong to different linguistic schools/traditions is the best argument here for not merging. The difference between force and tension or one notation vs. another does not seem a good enough reason to keep two near-identical topics separate. Perhaps you are right, though, that the articles are just poorly written enough that I'm misled into conflating the two. Is there really no way to at least make the two topics fall under some broader topic of another name? Wolfdog (talk) 20:19, 21 September 2015 (UTC)
I do not think that there is any scientific consensus about such a broader topic, unless it be really broad (consonant or articulation or phonetics). Of couse, there are some who merge these concepts. But there are also some who call the front vowels "palatal", but that is no reason for merging the articles front vowel into palatal consonant. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 04:55, 22 September 2015 (UTC)