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Re: Proposed phonology for my new language

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Tuesday, August 31, 1999, 21:23
Concerning the pronunciation of two infamous Semitic/Arabic consonants...

>An Arabic textbook I looked at put it frankly: >"[`ayn] sounds like being sick. [Haa] is its voiceless counterpart." :-)
Huh, never thought of it that way. (And I happen to be sick with the hayfever now. Ragweed blooming everywhere.) I made myself practice these consonants a lot when I started to *attempt* to teach myself Hebrew and Arabic. The barred-h (voiceless) to me is easier, because it sounds and "feels" like a real consonant. I tighten the top of my throat (the approximate location of the pharynx; the glottis is lower), and I use the root of my tongue to do so, along with some muscles back there only God knows about. It takes a little finesse, so as not to accidentally produce the *uvular* fricative, i.e. Arabic _khaa'_; likewise _ghayn_ for the voiced consonant. Now the voiced consonant _`ayn_: even though it's simply the voiced version of _Haa'_; it doesn't quite feel like a consonant. It makes me think of some sort of vocal trick. Personally it sounds like a very dark, very guttural English "r", with a little bit of "gargling" involved. It's clearly one of the most difficult sounds to produce in language (other than that _r-hac^ek_ in Czech which is mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most difficult consonant to learn -- why no reference to Arabic _3ayn_ is beyond me). Now you wanna know some REAL tough consonants, try the North Caucasian languages, especially Abxaz, Adyghe, and especially the now-extinct Ubyx. I've seen Sergei Starostin's homepage (, and he posits six -- that's right, SIX -- laryngeal-range consonants for Proto-North Caucasian (and yes, I had to go ahead and include them in Tech phonology), to wit: Stop Fr-V Fr+V Glot ? h H (H = voiced "h") Phar ?- h- ` (?- = barred glottal stop; I guess that's an epiglottal? affricate) And we thought Arabic was a challenge! Danny ______________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free Email at