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Aelya Phonology

From:Aidan Grey <urso@...>
Date:Friday, March 17, 2000, 12:17
I've finalized Aelya Phonology, and like others, I'm freezing it so I'll
stop twiddling with it. I wrote up the phonology entry (mostly - there
are some phonological rules - like mutation - that I have yet to get to)
and thought I'd post it for comments, questions, clarifications, etc. I
want this to be "surprise the experts" quality. Let me know if there are
better phrases, explanations, disucssion order, etc. I can use, and so
on as well, please. Hopefully, my formatting will stay...

1.  The Phonology of Aelya

1.1. Vowels and Diphthongs

Aelya possesses a typical six-vowel system, as shown in the table below.

                        Front           Mid             Back
        High            i                               u
        Mid                     e       y       o
        Low                             a

The vowels a, o ,u, e, i have standard European values (as in father,
for, food, fed, and feet, respectively). Exceptions include final i,
often pronounced closer to the value of e, and final u, closer to o.
Final e and a are often pronounced as in about. They are often dropped
in speech when followed by a vowel beginning another word: na dhuina
eila 'the other people' (oblique plural) pronounced [na Dwin ej'la].

The vowel y is notable in that it acts as both a vowel and a diacritic.
It can represent, depending on dialect, either the schwah sound of
about, or the syllabification of a following sonorant. In addition, y is
also a consonant, representing the [j] glide.

Whenever y is present before another vowel, it represents this [j]
glide. The [j] glide in diphthongs (i.e. finally) is always represented
by i. It also causes palatization of a preceding consonant, so that the
uncommon digraph dy represents a sound not unlike that of English 'j'
[dzh] as in joy.  The back glide [w] is represented by u, and is also
present in diphthongs and glide clusters.

There are a number of diphthongs in addition to those with the glide. To
be exact, they are not diphthongs, but entirely different sounds, which
are written with two vowels in conjunction, and are therefore
orthographically diphthongs. The Aelya diphthong library thus includes
the following 17 pairs:

        ao [e]
        au (as in cow)
        ae (as in cat)
        ai [aj]
        ou (as in boat)
        oe (as in G. schoen)
        oi [oj]
        ua [wa]
        uo [wo]
        ue [we]
        ui [wi]
        eu [ew]
        ei [ej]

Vowel length corresponds to duration rather than tenseness. As in
Finnish or Japanese, long vowels are pronounced with extra duration,
usually approximately one and a half times longer than short vowels.

An orthographically important rule with vowels concerns length. Long
vowels (and diphthongs) are never followed by a geminate consonant.
Short vowels are always followed by a geminate, if the consonant is
followed by another short vowel or it is final. For example, sonn  [son]
'word' with a short vowel versus son [so:n] 'stake, post' with the long.
There are never long final vowels, as they have all become diphthongs or
shortened earlier in Aelya's development.

1.2. Consonants

Aelya has twenty one consonants:
        bilab   labdent dent    alv     postalv pal     velar
stop    p/b             t/d                             c[k]/g
nas     m               n                               ng
fric            f/v     th/dh   s       sh      h       ch
app                             rh/r            y
lat app                         lh/l

Most of these consonants have normal phonetic values (as in IPA) - these
include p, b, m, t, d, n, g, f, v, and s. As in English, these
consonants are all aspirated, except when geminated. Thus,  the
difference between the hypothetical words pata [pa:tha] versus patta

Of the monographs, the consonant c has the IPA value of [k], as
elaborated in the table above. Y has been discussed above, due to its
dual role as both consonant and vowel. The letters r and l are similar
to those of English, and h is identical to either the Ich-laut of
German, or to the puff of air it represents in English. It would be
comforting to say that the two sounds are dialectal variations, but this
is not the case, and both sounds can occur in the speech of a single
individual. There does not see to be any pattern to their use. Either
sound may be elided before an unvoiced stop, s, or y (as consonant). All
of these elisions happen at word junctures, or in compounds.

The digraphs are a more complex matter. Ng represents the sound in sing
[N], never as in finger. That sound would be written ngg; further, n
before a velar consonant (c or ch)  is pronounced like ng. The two
digraphs th and dh represent the initial sounds in thing and that,
respectively ([T], [D]), and sh is pronounced as in English [S] (as in
shoe, for example). The digraph ch is always pronounced as in Scots
Gaelic loch [x]; that is, it is farther back in the throat and rougher
than h. It is never pronounced as in church, which is written ty in
Aelya (another uncommon digraph). Finally, rh and lh are unvoiced
variants of r and l, similar to Welsh rh and ll. These sounds are often
difficult for English speakers, and can be approximated by pronouncing a
slight puff of air before the liquid, as if they were written *hr or
*hl. Ch is elided before [w] (written u or  mh).

Digraphs are seldom geminated as orthography demands, but when it does
occur, it is accomplished by geminating the first consonant of the
digraph: th > tth, sh > ssh, ng > nng,  and so on.

Note that this is the standard Latin transliteration for Aelya. It does
have an alphabet of its own, called oym [o'@m]. Curiously, the plural,
oma, means both 'alphabets' and 'voice'. In oym, all of the digraphs are
represented by a single letter.  The combination nc in transliteration
would be written as {ng}+{c} in oym, true to its actual pronunciation.
Geminated transliteration digraphs are written with two indentical
letters as well: nng = {ng} + {ng}. There are numerous styles of oym -
all of them vastly different, and with different uses and connotations.
An examination of these styles is outside of the scope of this work.

1.3. Clusters

Aelya does not allow final consonant clusters of any kind, although the
orthographical gemination rule is an exception (and followed both in
transliteration and in oym). Initially, a few clusters are allowed, and
medially, many more clusters.

Initial clusters are limited to: s + {r, l, n, m}, stop + {l, r}, fl,
fr, vl, vr, and mr. Medial clusters are restricted only in that voice
and nasal assmilation are alwayt s present. For example, c + v > gv by
voice assimilation. Fricative assimilation is common when the fricative
is ch or h, in which case it is lost: cht  > th. Medial clusters are
also restricted to two letters: *str is never a valid cluster, but  tlh
is, because it is really only two letters.

1.4. Syllable structure and stress

Syllables in Aelya follow the following pattern: (C)(C)V/D(C/G), where D
represents a diphthong and G a geminate consonant in word final

Stress is usually found on the first syllable. If, due to compunding or
other processes, the second syllable contains a long vowel or diphthong,
it carries the stress.

Syllablification is a simple matter:
- V, CV, VC, CD, DC, CVC, CDC, CCV, CCD are monosyllabic, where CC is
word initial.
- VD syllabifies as V.D: aya 'alas!' is pronounced as a.ya.
- DV is monosyllabic, where the final vowel of the diphthong must also
form a dipthong with the final vowel of the triad: miau 'cat' is
- VCV and DCV pronounced V/D.CV: 'voice; alphabets' or 'birds
(obl pl)'.
- VCCV or VCCD all syllabify as VC.CV: 'name'.

What do ya think?