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Iltârer phonology

From:Tom Tadfor Little <tom@...>
Date:Thursday, April 26, 2001, 21:01
Iltârer Phonology

Iltârer phonology is distinctive among the Thekashi languages in that it is
strongly frontal; there are no back vowels and no velar consonants. It also
strikes most hearers as a “precise” or “crisp” phonetically, with voiceless
consonants and vowels that always receive some degree of stress and clarity
of articulation.


Consonants are distinguished by place and mode of articulation, but not by

             Labial     Dental     Alveolar     Palatal
Stop         p  /p/     ht /t[/    t  /t/       c  /c/
Fricative   f  /F/      th /T/     s  /s/       ch /C/
Approximant             r  /r[/    l  /l/
Nasal        m  /m/     n  /n/     ñ  /n^/

In casual speech, consonants are often voiced between vowels, but voiceless
forms are preferred and used exclusively during formal, careful speech.

There is some variability in the place of articulation of the "liquids", r
and l. The r tends to be more dental, but it is the tongue configuration
that distinguishes these phonemes, not the place of articulation.

Note for English speakers. The difficult sounds are f, ht, r, and ch, and
(in some positions) c and ñ. Substituting a labiodental /f/ for the labial
/F/ and an alveolar /r/ for the dental /r[/ are acceptable practices,
although they give one's speech an obvious accent. Substituting the
palatal-alveolar /S/ for the palatal /C/ is a worse offense, but still
intelligible. The dental stop /t[/ must simply be mastered, as /t/ and /t[/
are distinct phonemes in the language. Native speakers tend to aspirate
/t[/ more strongly than /t/, and this may be a helpful practice to emulate.


Back vowels are not used in Iltârer. There are two front vowels, i and e,
and a central vowel a. Each has one form with lip rounding, and one
without, making a total of six:

        Unrounded       Rounded
High    i  /i/          î  /y/
Mid     e  /E/          ê  /W/
Low     a  /a/          â  /a./

Vowel quantity is quite variable.

Note for English speakers. The vowel /a/ may be difficult for American
English speakers, falling between the a of father and the a of cat. The
rounded vowels may be quite difficult; it is acceptable (although very
imprecise) to pronounce them as diphthongs, with the basic vowel followed
by a u or w sound, but minimizing the duration of the sound and the
separateness of the components. To many English speakers, â may sound like
an oddly pronounced short o or u.


The basic syllable pattern is (C)V(n|l)(C), where (n|l) represents a nasal
(m, n, ñ) or liquid (r, l). The initial and final consonants (C) cannot be
liquids, and if (n|l) is a nasal followed by a final consonant, it must
have the same place of articulation as the consonant. Syllables with
initial consonants are much more common than those with final consonants,
and two-phoneme final clusters are quite uncommon.

There is a light stress, which invariably falls on the first syllable of a

In Proto-Iltârer, there appears to have been distinct pauses between
syllables, as attested by the fact that many roots show no evidence of
assimilation between abutting syllables with incompatible final and initial
consonants, and by a number of roots that are phonologically identical
except for syllable division (e-ne and en-e, for example). In the Northern
language, assimilation toward the locus of the second consonant became the
norm. In the Southern language, e was typically interposed between
incompatible consonants. (Compare NI ñihtthil with SI ñipethire, both from
PI *ñip-thi.)

Tom Tadfor Little  
Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA)
Telperion Productions


Yoon Ha Lee <yl112@...>IltXrer phonology
Tom Tadfor Little <tom@...>Iltârer phonology