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A sketch of Old Albic 1/4: Phonology

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Monday, June 21, 2004, 19:06

This is my 400th post to CONLANG; and I think this jubilee ought to be
celebrated.  Thus, I present you a sketch of my current main conlang,
Old Albic.  This is all very much work in progress; there are still
a number of open issues, and many things might change in the future.

I have split this into four posts because it is so long.
First (in this post) the phonology.

Share and enjoy!



Old Albic (OA) is the oldest Albic language attested in writing.
The language was spoken in southern Britain prior to the Celtic
invasions.  This sketch describes the classical language as
it was spoken and written in the heyday of the Albic civilization
in the 6th century BC.  The native term for the standard language
is _Tañ Tach (Is Elbis)_, "proper language (of the Elves)".



Old Albic has 18 consonant phonemes, which are summed up
in the following chart:

                      Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal

Stops, voiceless      p      t                       c
Stops, voiced         b      d                       g
Fricatives            ph     th     s                ch    h
Nasals                m      n                       ñ
Lateral                             l
Flap                                r
Semivowels            v                      j

Most are as in IPA, except: c = /k/, ph = /f/, th = /T/, ch = /x/,
ñ = /N/, v = /w/.

The stops (p, t, c, b, d, g) have fortis and lenis allophones.
The lenis allophones occur between vowels, semivowels and liquids,
the fortis allophones in all other environments.

The phonemes ph, th and ch, while phonetically fricatives,
phonologically behave like stops, and probably were aspirated stops
in an earlier stage of the language.

Clusters of stop (including ph, th, ch) and /s/ undergo metathesis,
e.g. _ps_ -> _sp_.  Between vowels, /s/ becomes /r/ (rhotacism).


There are 7 vowel qualities in Old Albic:

        a e i o ø u y

[open]  + + - + + - -
[front] - + + - + - +
[round] - - - + + + +

All seven vowels have roughly their IPA values.  These vowels can be
short or long.  Long vowels are transcribed with an accent mark:
á, é, í, ó, ú, 'ø, ý.  Long vowels are tense, short vowels are lax.


The vowels /a/, /i/ and /u/ (both short and long) cause changes in
preceding short vowels. These changes are called umlaut.
Corresponding to the three umlaut-causing vowels, there are three
kinds of umlaut: a-umlaut lowers high vowels, i-umlaut fronts back
vowels, and u-umlaut rounds unrounded vowels. The changes are
summarized in the following table:

Radical a-umlaut i-umlaut u-umlaut

a       a        e        o
e       e        e        ø
i       e        i        y
o       o        ø        o
ø       ø        ø        ø
u       o        y        u
y       ø        y        y

Umlaut takes precedence from right to left. For example, if an a
precedes an i, it is umlauted to e and thus does not trigger a-umlaut
in the vowel preceding it.

Vowel harmony

Some affixes undergo vowel harmony: the vowel in the affix always
matches the nearest vowel of the stem. The classical Albic scholars
analyzed this phenomenon as an eighth vowel phoneme that has none of
the three possible vowel features and thus borrows them from the
neighbouring vowel. Such a featureless vowel position in an affix is
represented by the symbol _@_.


Most Old Albic syllables are CV or CVC, but CCVC, CVCC and even CCVCC
syllables occur. Two-consonant onsets generally consist of an
obstruent followed by a liquid or semivowel, or of a stop preceded by
a homorganic nasal or /s/. Two-consonant codas mostly consist of a
liquid followed by an obstruent or nasal. Zero onsets occur, but only
word-initially or after an open syllable. No more than three
consonants may occur together between two vowels.


Old Albic has a phonetic stress accent that depends on syllable
weight. Words with one or two syllables are always stressed on the
first syllable. In words with three or more syllables, the accent
falls on the antepenultimate (third-last) syllable if both the
penultimate and ultimate syllable are light (i.e., they are open and
have a short vowel), otherwise on the penultimate syllable.

This accent rule can be formulated in a more concise manner using the
concept of the mora. A mora is a metric unit below the syllable. A
light syllable consists of one mora, a heavy syllable of two. In light
of this, it is the third-last mora that carries the accent in Old


In Old Albic, neighbouring words are often phonetically linked,
similar to the liaison in French. Linking occurs between the elements
of a noun phrase, as well as between a verb or a preposition and the
following adverb or noun phrase. While each of the linked words has
its own stress, the words are phonetically run together. If two words
are linked of which the first ends in a vowel and the seconds begins
with a stop, that stop is pronounced as a lenis stop just like a stop
following a vowel in the same word. Thus, Old Albic shows a
subphonemic initial mutation.

...brought to you by the weeping Elf


Barbara Barrett <barbarabarrett@...>A sketch of Old Albic