CRYPTOPHONEME. The term “cryptophoneme” designates any phoneme that appears not directly, through a grapheme (letter) exclusively its own in the superficial form of the language (its or-thography), but indirectly, through some grapheme not its own and normally assigned to another phoneme. The existence of the cryptophoneme, superficially concealed, can be recognized at a deeper level (on the question of levels, see Hintze, 1980, pp. 111, 122), where it shows itself in indirect fashion by its influence on neighboring superficial phonological structures, in various lexemes, and the like.
If the grapheme that renders the cryptophoneme is normally allotted to another phoneme, it is nonetheless most often chosen because of the similarity of pronunciation between phoneme and cryptophoneme. Kasser (1982) thinks he can detect in Coptic the existence of at least three cryptophonemes in tachysyllabication (i.e., quick SYLLABICATION): the glide /j/ of tachysyllabication, rendered orthographically by [...] (normally /i/ in tachysyllabication and always /i/ in bradysyllabication, slow syllabication); the glide /w/ in tachysyllabication, rendered orthographically by [...] (normally /u/ in tachysyllabication and always /u/ in bradysyllabication); the enigmatic occlusive /’/ (cf. Dieth, 1950, p. 101; Kasser, 1981a, pp. 26-32; and ALEPH), which of necessity follows a tonic vowel, a chiefly vocalic link rendered graphically by vocalic gemination (see GEMINATION, VOCALIC), probably always equivalent to tonic vowel plus atonic vowel in bradysyllabication (cf. the problem of “glides” and “glidants” in phonology, Kasser, 1981b, pp. 37-38; and that of aleph, rather than ‘AYIN, in relation to vocalic gemination).
In the Coptic idioms, dialects, and subdialects without graphical vocalic gemination, such as B and its subdialects, and G, F4, V4, W, and M, there are only the cryptophonemes /j/ and /w/, but not /’/, since even the borrowed grapheme that renders it in other dialects has disappeared, although in B etc., G, F4, V4, W, and M traces have survived of the influence formerly exercised by this cryptophoneme upon the neighboring superficial phonological structures (e.g., S [...] /ka’t/, to leave me, B [...] and not *[...])
Confronted by something that he has reason to think conceals a cryptophoneme, the phoneticist and philologist may seek to “decode” it, and thus demonstrate its existence, not by simple examination of graphemes with exclusive allocation but by a com-plex examination of graphemes with allocations that comparative and analogical analysis will show to be diverse. The possibility will always remain of contesting the existence of this or that cryptophoneme (cf. Edgerton, 1957, in regard to aleph and ‘ayin, the survival of which [‘ayin only] in Coptic the author also contests).
Because of various factors that often make it very difficult, or even impossible, to achieve perfect correspondence between the phonological system of a language and its alphabetic and orthographical systems, practically every language has its crypto-phonemes (cf. Dieth, 1950, pp. 36-43). It is therefore not surprising to find them also in Coptic.
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