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"It's been a while..."

From:Daniel Boese <dboese@...>
Date:Saturday, May 1, 1999, 19:45
 I was subscribed to ConLang a few years ago, but had to unsubscribe...
now that my server is upgraded, I'm back. :)

 Right now, I'm in the process of creating yet-another-alien-species,
which I call the Rrangoon, partly as part of my life-long search to figure
out the differences between 'human' and 'person', and partly just for fun.
They're hermaphroditic, blue-furred, egg-laying, marsupial burrowing
centauroids. And they smell of cinnamon.

 I'm just starting to think about how they classify the world; their
thought patterns; their language. A number of datums have already been
established about them, which I'm loathe to alter (at least without a
durned good reason), but I'd like to hang a reasonably consistant language
on those points. If anybody reading this has any ideas, please, feel free
to post them, privately or publicly.

 First, I'm going to work out a set of phonemes for the Rrangoon. The
items which have already been established which limit my choices are:
 "A Rrangoon's head is shaped much like a guinea pig's or rabbit's, with a
blunt snout, harelip, whiskers, and sharp white teeth."
 "A Rrangoon's teeth are made out of a hard, white substance resembling
chitin or keratin. They have some incisors near the front to slice their
food into pieces, and lots of molars to grind it up. Their teeth are
constantly worn down by the food they eat, and consequently never stop
 "No Rrangoon language has 'unvoiced' sounds. That is, they have nothing
to correspond to our 'f', 'h', 'k', 'p', 's', 'ch', or 't' sounds.
However, they have a large number of vowels, many of which are
indistinguishable to human ears."
 Words already in use: Rrangoon (species, planet, star), Rrangon (planet),
Gradenezh (name), Vrang (name), Brorb (name), vronth ("grass"), drango
("potato"), noongrab ("spear"), dooroodoba ("death cloud").
 Sounds from those words: b, d, g, n, ng, r, rr, th, v, zh; a, e, o, oo.

 My first thoughts on a full set of phonemes is probably going to be
heavily revised, especially when I start thinking harder about the
structure of the Rrangoon mouth and how that would affect the sounds they
might be able to make, but here's my first attempt.

           bilabial  dental  alveolar  retroflex  palato-alveolar  velar
nasal         m        n[       n         n.            nh           N
stop          b        d[       d         d.            dh           g
fricative     v        th       z         z.            zh           q
approximant   w        r[       r         r.            rh           j

           ---- unrounded ----   ----- rounded -----
           front  center  back   front  center  back
high         i      i"     u-      y      u"     u
semi-high    I      i=     y=      I.     u=     U
upper-mid    e      @+     o-      Y      o=     o
mid          E+     @      V+      W+     @.     O+
lower-mid    E      V"     V       W      O"     O
low          &      a      A       &.     a.     A.

 Given that I'm going to have to hunt up what "rounded" and "unrounded"
actually mean :), and the fact that a Rrangoon's mouth is based on a
rodent's, the vowels need fixing. Perhaps I'll drop the entire "rounded /
unrounded" bit, and use "front / forward / center / back", giving 24
instead of 36 vowels.

 If you have any other ideas, please share them. If you want to know more
about the Rrangoon, send me a private e-mail and I'll forward you what
I've worked out so far. If you think I'm an idjit who should be drug out
in the street and shot, I agree with you - but I live in Canada, and guns
are hard to come by here. :)

Thank you for your time,
Daniel Boese, the agnostic Gnostic