Phonotronic Energy Reserves and the Tiny Phoneme Hypothesis
Dr. Equus Q. Quagga
Center for Geosynchronous Orbital Linguistics
São Tomé and Príncipe
In response to Quentin Atkinson’s recent claims in his paper “Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa”, many (with most following Dr. William N. Spruiell’s 2011 conjecture) have hypothesized that larger phoneme inventories are necessitated by a lack of phonotronic energy in the local environment, thereby limiting the size of each individual phoneme in phonetic mouth-space. Thus, for example, one (specifically, Dr. Spruiell) would expect regions of low phonotronic energy in certain areas of the Caucasus Mountains.
Intrigued by this idea, I re-tasked several of our Eurasian LingSTAR and LangSAT observation satellites, which are equipped with low-resolution phonotronic detection arrays, to image the Caucasus region. The results are in line with the Phonotronic Depletion Hypothesis (see map below). There are a couple of pockets of low phonotronic energy over the Caucasus mountains, and, nearby, an area of relatively high phonotronic energy over Armenia, with its relatively small inventory of presumably larger, phonotronically-enhanced phonemes.
Of course, not much is known about the sources of or environmental influences of or on phonotronic energy; temperature, altitude, prevailing winds, ley lines, genii locorum, psychogeography, Landschaftsmythologien, subtle matter energy, electro-magnetic aberrations, crop circles, orgone energy, and other environmental factors have been proposed as having significant effects on the distribution of phonotronic energy around the world. And all have seemed to reek of a certain ad hoc desperation.
Thus, while the correlation between the well-known large phonological inventories of Caucasian languages and the newly verified low phonotronic energy levels in the Caucasus mountains is indeed provocative, it is not alone sufficient to be ruled definitive.
I turned our satellites toward a more diversely dialect-dense area in central Africa. In a very satisfying turn of events, the phonotronic energy levels recorded by three LingSTAR-4000L satellites positioned over Africa correspond quite well with the phoneme inventory levels revealed by a quick search in the WALS database (the same as used by Atkinson). There are a number of areas of extreme high phonotronic energy, vast swaths of higher-than-background phonotronic energy, and a few phonotronic “dead zones”. The most revealing data, though, comes from particular areas in and around Nigeria and Uganda, where the phonotronic topography is surprisingly rugged, with steep clines from high to low energy across comparatively small physical distances (see map below).
Unlike the area stretching from the Caucasus mountains to Lake Sevan near the center of Armenia, there is insufficient natural geography to explain the pattern of phonotronic energy revealed by the satellites. Instead, the best match with the distribution of phonotronic energy—determined by an exhaustive analysis of the factors previously mentioned (along with 14,932 others)—is simply phonemic inventory size.
It is very pleasing that such meager efforts with satellite-based phonotronic energy measurements have proven to be so definitively useful and usefully definitive in this matter. Linguistics will yet become a real science!