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Piat (was: Another NatLang i like)

From:John Cowan <cowan@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 14, 1999, 16:49
A Rosta wrote:

> I'm sure this is the first time we have been told anything about Piat > phonology. Are we going to hear more?
Here's what I posted back in June 1996: Piat is a fictional language spoken in a fictional country somewhere in Central Europe. It is probably a language isolate. The orthography of Piat was established in 1819 through the efforts of Dzozip Fyrac, who also wrote the definitive grammar and dictionary. Before that, Piat was written only in a mish-mosh of scribal traditions deriving from the late Middle Ages. Fyrac, who may have been over-educated, but made up for it by being intensely overworked, went personally from printer to printer until his version of the orthography was nailed down tight. Luckily for him, there have been only a few minor changes since then, so the orthography maps the phonology rather well. In consequence, the language will be represented in its own orthography rather than in IPA or other phonetic notation once the orthography is explained. The standard pronunciation of Piat is based on that of the so-called Central dialect group. Piat has the following vowels: "a", a low central vowel, like "a" in English "father"; "e", a mid-open front vowel, like "e" in English "bet"; "o", a mid-open back vowel, like "aw" in English "law" but shorter; "i", a high front unrounded vowel, like "i" in English "machine"; "u", a high front rounded vowel, like "u" in French "lune"; "w", a high back rounded vowel, like "oo" in English "room"; "y", a mid central schwa-like vowel, often rounded. However, the letters "i" and "w" are also used to indicate palatalization and labialization of the preceding consonants. In word-final position, the "i" vowel is written "ii", as in Romanian. Piat has no diphthongs, which were shifted to pure vowels and palatalized/labialized consonants around 1400. Piat has the following consonants: "b", a voiced labial stop; "p", an unvoiced labial stop; "d", a voiced dental stop; "t", an unvoiced dental stop; "g", a voiced velar stop; "c", an unvoiced velar stop (written "k" in international words like "kilometre", pronounced "cilometwe"); "f", an unvoiced labio-dental fricative (written "v" in international words like "Novembre", pronounced "nofembe"); "s", an unvoiced alveolar fricative (but voiced in word-initial position); "z", an unvoiced dental affricate, like "ts" in English "cats"; "dz", a voiced dental affricate, like "ds" in English "gods"; "ch", an unvoiced velar fricative; "h", an unvoiced glottal fricative; "m", a labial nasal; "n", a dental nasal; "nn", a velar nasal, like "ng" in English "sing"; "l", a dental lateral; "r", an alveolar trill (but "r" is used orthographically as an alternative labialization marker in international words); All of these except "z", "dz", "ch" can appear palatalized. Syllables beginning with palatalized consonants are written "CiV", where V can only be "a", "e", "o", or "u"; or simply "Ci", where "i" is both a palatalization marker and the vowel. For example, "piat" is a monosyllable with palatalized "p". In addition, "d", "t", "f", "ch", "n" can be labialized (pronounced with rounded lips), written "CwV" where V can only be "a", "e", or "o"; or simply "Cw" where "w" is both a labialization marker and the vowel. The labial consonants "b", "p", "m" are always pronounced with lip-rounding unless palatalized, a fact not represented in the orthography. Syllables may end in a vowel or in one of the restricted consonant set "p", "t", "c", "m", "n", "nn", or with palatalized "pi", "ti", "ci". It is important to remember that this final "i" does not mark a syllable, but only palatalization. Full "i" vocalism is transcribed "ii", but this only appears at the end of a word. The syllable types are V, CV, CVC. Stress is usually on the last syllable of a word, but is quite weak in Piat. Piat is not tonal; its sentence-level intonation patterns are not well-understood at this time, except that rising pitch followed by a sharp fall indicates a question. Dialectal variation: The Western dialects are losing palatalization. At the current time (end of 20th century) it is common to hear speakers who pronounce all initial palatalized consonants as vocalic glides, thus pronouncing the name of their language [pjat] rather than [p'at]. Foreigners usually find this pronunciation easier. Palatalized consonants that are syllable-final are better preserved. The North-East dialect group, on the other hand, has lost labialization, and pronounces labial consonants as consonant clusters with [v], a sound not occurring in standard Piat. This is considered rustic/comic, and probably accounts for the label >doize< 'cockroaches, vermin' often applied to North-Easterners. Some Eastern and North-Eastern speakers pronounce "g" more like "ch", which usually confuses speakers of the standard language. -- John Cowan Schlingt dreifach einen Kreis um dies! / Schliesst euer Aug vor heiliger Schau, Denn er genoss vom Honig-Tau / Und trank die Milch vom Paradies. -- Coleridge / Politzer