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And now... a new conlang!

From:grandsir <grandsir@...>
Date:Friday, August 13, 1999, 11:36
I shouldn't, I know I shouldn't. I still have many projects in
building, Tj'a-ts'a~n, translations in Moten, webpage about Notya, work
in real life, etc... but I can't help it. The bricks of a new language
are assembling in my brains, and I can't stop them. So I begin again
with a new conlang.

        It seems that the idea of this language came from the fact that I live
currently in the Netherlands, and I see written Dutch (and hear spoken
Dutch) everywhere. And I find the written Dutch rather "disturbing".
What I mean is the writing of vowels. It is very consistent, but
somewhat different from French which also has strange ways to write its
vowels. One example is the use of "oe" in Dutch for the vowel /u/,
whereas in French we use "ou". In French "oe" has the value /9/ (oe
ligature in IPA), like in "oeil" whereas "ou" is the diphtong /aw/ in
Dutch. All that is disturbing enough, overall when you see "eu", which
is prononced /2/ (slashed o in IPA) both in French and in Dutch (well,
in French it has also the value of "oe" in closed syllables). I don't
know if you understand exactly my point, but the thing is that it
disturbs me, but in a pleasing way. I like that!

        So the idea came in my mind of a "disturbing" language, a language with
a writing and a grammar I'm not accustomed to. Something different (but
not obligatorily original), with a consistent writing using different
rules in respect to what I'm accustomed, or even inconsistent, and with
a grammar (not obligatorily regular) that would use features I never
used before (or used in dead projects). For the moment, it is meant to
be a personal language, so it is not meant to be naturalistic, just to
be like I want it to be.

        Presently I have done only the phonology and morphology (I have ideas
about the syntax, but they will come later). They are not very original
nor disturbing, but the writing (using the Roman alphabet) is original I
think, or at least "disturbing" as the Dutch writing disturbed me.


        For this phonology, I use the SAMPA representation of the IPA. For the
sounds I use, I found it was the best to use (and in fact, most symbols
I use are common between SAMPA and Kirschenbaum systems). Of course,
everything is best viewed with a fixed-width font.

        This language has three kinds of vowels each centered around a
schwa-like vowel (I'll explain that later): simple vowels, j-glide
diphtongs and w-like diphtongs.

Simple vowels:
/i/, /y/

/e/     /2/     /o/     schwa: /@/
/E/     /9/     /O/


        /2/ is the slached o in IPA, /9/ the oe-ligature. they are the vowels
in French "peu" and "peur" respectively.

/e/ and /E/, /2/ and/9/, and /o/ and /O/ are allophones. In open
syllables (syllables that end with the vowel), the allophone used is the
highest one (/e/, /2/ and/o/). In closed syllables (syllables that end
in a consonnant), the allophone used is the lowest one (/E/, /9/ and
/O/). Well, it's just like in spoken French (see my example of "peu" and

j-glide diphtongs:

/Ej/    /9j/    /Oj/    schwa: /@j/


w-glide diphtongs:

/Ew/                    schwa: /@w/


        I know, technically /u/ is not a diphtong. But with respect to the rule
of centralisation (I'll explain that later), /u/ is part of the w-glide

        The set of consonnants used in this language is not original too. The
consonnants used in this language are:

stops: /p/, /b/, /k/, /g/, /t/, /d/

fricatives: /s/, /z/, /T/, /D/, /P/, /B/, /R/, /h/

        /P/ and /B/ are the voiceless and voiced bilabial fricatives. /R/ is an
uvular fricative or trill (French "r"). /h/ is the well-known glottal
fricative (aspirated), which is nearly silent near consonnants.

affricates: /tS/, /dZ/

nasals: /m/, /n/

liquid and approximant: /l/, /j/

        See? The set of consonnants is not very original (its writing is).


        The structure of the syllable is (C)(C)V(C'). C' can never be the
approximant /j/. In this morphology, affricates behave as if they were
two consonnants (they never end syllables and can begin syllables only
alone). All consonnants in a consonnant cluster must be of the same
voicing (/R/, /m/, /n/, /j/ and /l/ are considered neutral in voicing,
/h/ is silent in clusters). In addition, words can begin with
three-consonnant clusters and end with two-consonnant clusters (so words
can begin with an affricate and another consonnant, and end with an
affricate). I'm still not sure of what kind of cluster is admissible and
what is not. So consider that any cluster I am able to pronounce will be
valid (after all, it's MY personal language).


        Here comes the original and the "disturbing". Don't be surprised if I
use some letters in ways different from their general use (and even in
strange ways). I designed the writing to be so. The alphabet used is a
subset of the Roman alphabet (plus the apostrophe ' which is considered
a letter in its own right, even if it has no sound corresponding) of 24
letters which are:

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, y, z, '

(yes, no k, no w, no x, but the c and the q. I told you it would be

        The writing uses some digraphs, mainly for vowels. I must say that when
you cut syllables (for hyphenation or to know whether a syllable is open
or closed), those digraphs are treated as a single letter. ' is used to
seperate letters in a digraph and give them back their original values.
Syllables are cut as in French (one consonnant between two vowels
belongs to the next syllable, two consonnants are cut in the middle, the
first belonging to the previous syllable, the second to the next
syllable, three consonnants are cut according to the morphology: one
belongs to the previous syllable, the others to the next one.
Compoundings are first cut according to their elements). As I said, an
open syllable ends with no consonnant, a closed syllable ends with at
least one consonnant. It's important for the pronunciation of some
simple vowels (/e/<->/E/, /2/<->/9/, /o/<->/O/).

        The vowels are written as follows:

simple vowels:
/i/: i, /y/: u

/e/) e          /2/) eu         /o/) o
/E/)            /9/)            /O/)

                /a/: a

/e/ and /E/ are both written "e", according to their allophonic status.
It is the same for /2/ and /9/ (respectively /o/ and /O/). /@/ has no
own trancription. I'll explain why later. It is the same for all
schwa-like sounds (/@j/ and /@w/).

j-glide diphtongs:
                                /uj/: ue

/Ej/: ei        /9j/: ui        /Oj/: oe

                /aj/: ae

I told you it would be strange :) .

w-glide diphtongs:
                /u/: uu

/Ew/: iu

        /aw/: ao

        One thing important is the status of these letters or digraphs. They
are grouped in two groups: the letters (or digraphs) containing the
letter "u" (u, eu, ui, ue, uu, iu) and the letters (or digraphs) without
"u" (a, e, o, i, ei, ae, oe, ao). I'll call them respectively the
u-letters and the non-u-letters (even if technically some of them are
digraphs). Some consonnants are pronounced differently when they are in
front of u-letters or non-u-letters.

        Let's see those consonnants by the way, and first, the unproblematic
consonnants (the ones that have only one writing).

/p/: p  /b/: b  /t/: t  /d/: d

/T/: th /D/: dh /P/: f  /B/: v /R/: r

/m/: m  /n/: n

liquid and approximant:
/l/: l  /j/: y

        As you see, until now nothing is very original. But now let's see the
multi-writing consonnants.

/k/:    c before non-u-letter, consonnant or end of word.
        q before u-letter.

/g/:    g before non-u-letter, consonnant or end of word.
        c before u-letter (I told you it would be disturbing :) ).

Actually, I got the idea of the "c" for the sound /g/ from the post
about Early Latin which used this letter for this sound, before using

/tS/:   ch before non-u-letter.
        h before u-letter, consonnant or end of word.

/dZ/:   j before non-u-letter, consonnant or end of word.
        ch before u-letter.

/s/:    s before non-u-letter, consonnant or end of word.
        sz before u-letter.

/z/:    z before non-u-letter, consonnant or end of word.
        s before u-letter.

/h/:    h before non-u-letter.
        hh before u-letter, consonnant or end of word (where it is silent).

        What do you think of that? I wanted this writing to be "disturbing" and
sometimes even contrary to the general use, but with its own consistency
and sometimes strange irregularities used in some rules of pronunciation
like the one about u-letters and non-u-letters. Do you think I achieve
what I wanted?


        The last thing I thought about. The stress is a stress of intensity,
not one of pitch. The stress regularly falls on the last syllable, with
a secondary stress on the ante-penultimate (second-to-last) syllable, if
it exists. Some words will have irregular stress (because of grammatical
changes or because they are naturally irregular). The syllable under
stress will then be marked by an umlaut (I told you I wanted to tear
apart the general uses :) ) on its vowel (on both vowels if it is a
digraph). There will still be an unmarked secondary stress two syllables
before the stressed syllable (that at least is regular).

        The stress is very important for the pronunciation of vowels (like in
Russian). Vowels are distinctly pronounced only in careful speech, in
stressed syllables (whichever stress it is, primary or secondary) and in
the first syllable of a word. The other vowels (in normal speech) are
"centralised", that's to say there are pronounced like schwa's. That's
even truer with the vowel of the syllable between the stressed syllables
(generally the penultimate syllable), which is even elided when possible
(when it doesn't lead to unpronounceable clusters). The rule of
centralisation says that in the case when a vowel must be centralised,
it is pronounced like the schwa that belongs to its group. That's to say
that a simple vowel is centralised to a /@/ ("i" and "u" are often
centralised to a /i/-like schwa, like the barred i in IPA), a j-glide
diphtong is centralised to a /@j/ and a w-glide diphtong to a /@w/.
That's why I said /u/ belongs to the w-glide diphtongs group, because it
is always centralised to /@w/ despite it seems to be a simple vowel).

        To give you an idea of the feeling of this language (before I can give
you ideas of the "disturbing" grammar I'm planning to make), here is how
one can spell words in that language. Each vowel has a name (meaningless
name, I chose them only because I found it good to spell words like
that), even ' which is a letter in its own right (it has more presence
than the silent h in Spanish, as this one doesn't even break diphtongs),
and which is spelled with the other ones. It is considered as a written
consonnant (like "y" by the way) but is not taken into account in the
morphology (as it is not a pronounced consonnant, just a writing
convention). So the names for the letters of the alphabet are:
a: a /a/
b: ben /bEn/
c: cen /kEn/
d: den /dEn/
e: e /e/
f: af /af/
g: gan /gan/
h: oec /Ojk/
i: i /i/
j: jae /dZaj/
l: al /al/
m: am /am/
n: an /an/
o: o /o/
p: pen /pEn/
q: qeu /k2/
r: rae /Raj/
s: as /as/
t: ten /tEn/
u: u /y/
v: van /van/
y: yao /jaw/
z: zei /zEj/
': ae /aj/

        So what do you think of all this? Do you think I achieve my goal (at
least for the writing)? I will share the development of the grammar as
soon as I have enough ideas about it. The grammatical features won't be
very original I think (verbs, nouns and all the like...) but I will try
to keep my idea of "disturbance", using them in strange ways (like
conjugating verbs like in European languages, but for aspect, not for
tense). This will be surely a VOS or VSO language (or maybe both, one
order marked and the other not, or one order for one tense and the other
for another...), but that's all I know for the moment. Feel free to give
me your comments and ideas!

        Christophe Grandsire

        Philips Research Laboratories --  Building WB 145
        Prof. Holstlaan 4
        5656 AA Eindhoven
        The Netherlands

        Phone:  +31-40-27-45006