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Help! Phonology From Hell!

From:Christian Thalmann <cinga@...>
Date:Monday, October 22, 2001, 13:28
I have this idea for a freaklang phonology orbiting my brain, and I feel
I should discuss it before it drives me insane.  ;-)

First of all, a freaklang is supposed to be alien and unconventional, so
I decided to use as many non-standard articulation points as possible.
I settled on uvular, palatal, retroflex, interdental, and bilabial.
Yeah, bilabial is conventional, but it's so basic that I couldn't find a
reason for a language not to use it (unless it's spoken by aliens with
no lips, but let's not go there).  Besides, this language is intended
for the Snake clan on Pii, so they're not that alien.

To represent these points of articulation, I chose the letter pairs

(q,x) uvular
(c,j) palatal
(d,z) retroflex
(t,s) interdental
(p,f) bilabial
(b,v) bilabial

Note that these letters do not imply any voicedness or unvoicedness yet.
 (p,f) and (b,v) both represent the bilabial point of articulation.  The
reason why there are two sets of letters will become apparent later.

Second, I didn't want the classical voiced/unvoiced distinction.  I
decided on the following grades, as exemplified with the bilabial point
of articulation:

<Representation> [initial medial final]

<ph> [p_h p_h p]
<p>  [p b p]
<np> [b mb mp]
<pr> [pr br p]

<fh> [p\_h p\_h p\]
<ff> [B B p\]
<f>  [w w w]
<nf> [m m m]
<fr> [r r r]

As you can see, the various grades of (p,f) cover the sounds [p b m p\ B
w r].  The correspondent sounds of the other articulation places are

(b,v) -> [p b m p\ B w l]
(q,x) -> [q G\ N\ X R (mute) R\]
(c,j) -> [c J\ J C j\ j L]
(d,z) -> [t` d` n` s` z` r\` r`]
(t,s) -> [t_d d_d n_d T D (mute) l]

As for the vowels, I decided to use the following basic inventory:

i  Y     M  u
  e       o
    a   A

Which would be represented with the letters a, e, i, o, u.  You might
ask yourself how that's supposed to work.  Pretty simple: I'm using
vowel harmony.  Not only vowel harmony, in fact, it's phoneme harmony in
a greater sense.

A word can be either light or dark.  Light words only contain the
consonants (p,f), (t,s) and (c,j).  Dark words are built with (b,v),
(d,z) and (q,x).  The vowels <a e i o u> represent [a e i @ Y] in light
words and [A @ M o u] in dark words.  There you go.

These basic vowels can furthermore be creaky-voiced (¨) and/or nasal (~).

As an example, the ancient stone city of the Snake clan is called
Izrinbä~, pronounced /Mr`MmbA~_k/.  Pretty whack, eh?

Grammatical processes might transform dark words into light ones and
vice versa.  In this case, (q,x) corresponds to (c,j), (t,s) to (d,z)
and (p,f) to (b,v).  Lightifying Izrinbä~ would yield Isrinpä~,
pronounced [ilimba~_k].

Any comments?  Does my rambling make any sense?  Has somebody actually
read the whole post up to here?  Does anybody know a good nerve clinic
for me?  ;-)

--  Christian Thalmann


Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Matthew Kehrt <matrix14@...>