These 8 vowels are divided into the following groups:—
The harmony of vowels consists in a certain attraction of vowels physiologically related to each other; in accordance with it a vowel can only be followed by a corresponding one. All the Altaic languages show this peculiarity, the Turkish dialects the most, the Tungusic and Manchu the least. Within stems this harmony of vowels is of interest only to the philologist, but as most of the affixes in Manchu offer the choice between 2 or even 3 vowels (e.g. ha, ho, he; la, le; hon, hun, hūn), a few rules are necessary to show which vowels should be used.
- Stems terminating in a, e or o, take the same vowel in the affix: sula-ha left behind; mute-re being able to; tokto-ho fixed. Exceptions are given under “Verbs.”
For affixes in on, un, ūn (hon, hun, hūn): stems in which a or o occurs twice, or those having i and a, take sometimes ū: yada-hūn poor; šoyos-hūn folded.
- Stems of one syllable, terminating in i or u, take mostly e: bi-he was; ku-he rotten. With one of the affixes on, un, ūn: his-hūn bashful.
- Stems of several syllables terminating in i or u, with a, u, ū, or oo preceding, take mostly a: mari-ha returned; jabu-ha answered; tumi-kan somewhat frequent; gūni-ha thought; kooli-ngga customary. An exception appears to be: ashū-re will refuse. Of affixes in on, un, ūn: tali-hūn doubtful; miosi-hūn or hon wrong.
- Stems of several syllables terminating in i or u, with e preceding, take e: julesi-ken a little forward; tebu-ngge laying down; of affixes in on, un, ūn: wesi-hun upper; etu-hun strong.
- Stems having u repeated, take mostly e, but sometimes a: uku-he accompanied; ulu-ken a little wrong; but usu-kan a little uncommon.
- Stems terminating in u with i preceding, take mostly a: bišu-kan a little smooth; but also e: kiru-re will be in heat.
- Stems in u and ū, take mostly a: mukū-ha breathed in.
- Stems with two i, take mostly a: ili-ha stood; but also e: iji-re will weave.
The exceptions for the verbal affixes ha, ra, will be given in extenso under “Verbs.”
If two or more affixes are used, the vowel of the first determines the vowels of the others.
The difference between wide and narrow vowels is also used to express the difference of gender, e.g.:—
|a male principle (陽 yang)||e female principle (陰 yin).|
|ama father.||eme mother.|
|amha father-in-law.||emhe mother-in-law.|
|haha man.||hehe woman, etc.|
- I follow J. Grunzel, Die Vocalharmonie der Altaischen Sprachen, Sitz. Ber. der Kais. Ak. der Wiss. Wien, 1888, which is based on Radloff's eminent work: Phonetik der Nördlichen Türksprachen. Leipzig, 1883.