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Re: Some conlang questions

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Friday, December 27, 2002, 19:53
En réponse à Michael Fors <micke@...>:

> Hello everybody! > > I'm new to this group, so I thought that I should introduce myself. My > name is Michael Fors, I'm 21 and I live in Sweden. I have been > interested in languages and language construction for some time, but I > just recently started trying to create a language of my own. >
Welcome to the list Michael! Well, the Swedish community on this list is growing again ;)) .
> To my questions: > 1. I am having problems with the vowels of my conlang. Since I want to > make a naturalistic language, I want a naturalistic vowel system. The > only problem is that I don't know what that is. I mean, is it natural > for a language to have many front vowels, rounded and unrounded, and two > rounded back vowels? That's one of the questions that keeps me awake at > night. =) >
Well, short answer to your question: yes, it's natural. Just look at the vowel inventory of French or German. French, for instance, has 7 front vowels (4 unrounded, 3 rounded) for only 3 back vowels (all rounded) and one central vowel (the schwa, pronounced rounded in French), if I count only the oral vowels (even if I count the nasal vowels, the tendency stays the same since my idiolect, which still distinguishes |brin| from |brun|, has three front nasals and only one back nasal. Other people that don't make this distinction have two front nasals against one back). The reason seems to be that there is more articulatory space for front vowels than for back vowels, so languages tend to have more front vowels than back vowels. In the same way, while both rounded front vowels and unrounded back vowels are not especially common, rounded front vowels are more common than unrounded back vowels. Natural tendencies for a vowel inventory are (and I say "tendencies". There are quite a few languages that don't seem to bother with them, like English which has quite a peculiar vowel system): - as many or more front vowels than back vowels, and central vowels even less (when there is any :)) ), - more high vowels (i, u) than low vowels (a), - front vowels are commonly unrounded, back vowels are usually rounded (it's *not* a strong tendency though), - if a rounded front vowel or an unrounded back vowel is present, the corresponding unrounded front vowel or rounded back vowel is usually present as well, - if there is a nasal vowel, the corresponding oral one is (AFAIK) *always* present, and there are usually much less nasal vowels (which tend to be restricted to the lowest and frontest vowels, the most "open" ones) than oral ones (though there are systems that have as many nasal as oral vowels). Those are the main tendencies I know of. They are *only* tendencies, not iron rules :)) . Plenty of languages (including English) have systems that don't follow them. But if you want a naturalistic system without aiming too much for originality, follow them.
> 2. I also want to make "daughter"-languages to my language. I have been > reading some about sound change, but I wonder if there is some sort of a > table for sound changes? So I can see which changes that are likely to > occur and which that are less likely. >
Unfortunately, I don't think such a table exist. It would be as big as an encyclopedia if it did ;))) . But I'm not an expert on sound change so I'll let other people more knowledgeable of these questions answer instead :) . Anyway, welcome again! Christophe. Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.