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Some problems with the phonology and orthography of Funus (my conlang)

From:B.Philip.Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Wednesday, October 28, 1998, 6:30
Friends, Glossomaniacs, Conlangers,

My conlang Funus has tri-cononantal roots C-C-C like the Semitic languages,
but unlike these it knows no pre- or suffixation, only infixation of
bi-vocalic V-V morphemes and one nasal infix that marks aspect, so that the
maximally complex word is CvNCvC.  There are some phonotactic refinements:
clusters containing at least one (and due to the morpheme shape constraints
at most two) stops that arise at word boundaries and in compounding are
glottalized, and if the two C are the same (or differ only in voicing) it
turns into a single glottalized C;  "glottalized /h/", which arises from
/h/+/h/, /?/+/h/ or /h/+/?/ is realized as a pharyngeal or velar fricative;
glottalized fricatives other than /h/ are realized as affricates /ff, ss,
zz, jj, ww/ -> [?pf, ?ts, ?dz, ?dj, ?gw].  The nasal infix (and other cases
of /nC/ also undergoes/causes some dissimilatory changes /nr/ -> [(n)dr],
/nl/ -> [(n)dl]; any sequence of two nasals turns into a nasally released
voiced stop at the point of articulation of the second nasal, e.g.
/m|n|N+N/ -> [?gN] (whose Romanization {'qg} I'm perversely fond of :).
The non-final members of a compound get their last VC turned into a CV, so
that a normal compound looks like CvCCvCvCvC.  The phonological makeup
looks, at least to me, somewhat Amerind-like, which is incidental: in fact
I was afraid it would look too Semitic (not, of course, due to any
prejudice against Semitic languages, but because I wanted the lang to be
sui generis.

The very first version of the lang had VVV "patterns", but I didn't like
the CVCVCVCVCVCVCV... character without ANY consonant clusters this gave
the lang as spoken, so I changed over to VV giving words that all began and
ended in consonants.  This in turn resulted in a too restricted set of
available VV patterns, so that I now have decided to allow diphthongs of
the types Vi, Vu, iV, uV.  Maybe I will introduce a sixth vowel /@/ too,
and even more maybe I will introduce vowel quantity, or something more
arcane like vowels with different kinds of phonation (voiceless?, I would
be more inclined to make Vs between voiceless Cs voiceless, like in
Japanese.), or something like a high-low  vowel harmony:

        (phonemic)          (phonetic)
HIGH   /i   @   o   u      [i   @   o   u
LOW     e   a   O   U/      e   &   A   ^]

(where LOW are thought to be not only lowered but also de-rounded wher

The problem with extending the vocalism is that I want the lang to be
possible to write with the A-Z alphabet plus apostrophe.  Currently the
only non-used letters are C J V.   If I introduce /@/ I will change the
current Y into J and use Y for /@/, or Y for /e/ and E for /@/.  I can
accept V for /U/, but C for /O/ feels somehow harder...  I might introduce
a constraint allowing /o/ and /O/ only as the second vowel of a "pattern",
thus making them allophones able to share one spelling, still giving me a
larger set of vowel distinctions: I E Y A O U V, but only three more VV
patterns than the 5-V system unless I introduce diphthongs.  Maybe I could
allow myself to use umlauts?:

        (Romanization)      (phonetic)
HIGH   {i  "o   o   u      [i   @   o   u
LOW     e  "a   a  "u}      e   &   A   ^]

But this makes the language less elegant to write in plain ASCII.  Another
possibility is to spell:

        (Romanization)      (phonetic)
HIGH   {i   a   o   u      [i   @   o   u
LOW     e   av  ov  uv}     e   &   A   ^]

But this is a rather great departure from Roman spelling traditions: the
values of the graphies wouldn't be even remotely "guessable"; besides I
wouldn't like to use digraphs for what isn't digraphs in the native script.

Any comments would be much appreciated!


B.Philip. Jonsson <bpj@...>

Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant (Tacitus)