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And who needs vowels?

From:H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Date:Saturday, December 23, 2006, 3:00
Having recently learned a little Russian and stumbling across some Czech
in, of all places, a little puzzle game, and having heard of Georgian on
this list on a few occasions, I started to wonder where one may end up
should vowels remain in such poverty and consonants continue to
proliferate. And so, I dreamed of a conlang where all vowels have been
elided and substituted with sonorant consonants, and some words consist
of nothing but stops. For example:

plb [pl=b] (I suspect this one may happen to be an actual Czech word)
bg [bg]
pg [pg] (yes there is an audible difference between /bg/ and /pg/)
pglbz ["pgl=bz=]
mnvpl [mnf="pl=]
bxtm ["bx=tm=]
strvtz [strv="tz=]
'b [?b=] (perhaps an implosive [b]? There is no audible release)
pstng [ps"tN=]

The difference between /bg/ and /pg/ is that /bg/ has a short prevoicing
before the release of the lips, whereas /pg/ doesn't. The [g] is not
audibly released.

Now, [l=] alone isn't all *that* interesting. The interesting part is
that it is (relatively) easy to pronounce two different kinds of [l=],
one high (palatised?), and one low (velarized? maybe retroflex?).
Similarly, palatised and non-palatised [x] may well be two different
phonemes. (Which, in retrospective con-history, came from consonants
preceding [i] and [M], which have elided.)

Of course, to make the prospective language more mellifluous (*cough*),
it seemed good to me that it should be tonal.

Due to the availability of more consonant letters, unpronounced vowels,
and general connection with vowel-scarce languages, and also my own
infatuation, perhaps the Cyrillic alphabet would be most suitable to
write this conlang. So the above words would be rendered something like:

Пльб (I'm using the "soft sign" ь to indicate stress, which would
	generally be in the vicinity of the proposed elided vowels)
ъб	(using the hard sign here to indicate glottal stop, or in
	general, a velarised/back/low consonant)
Пстггь (using doubled г for [N]; perhaps it will be substituted with a
	less eye-soring digraph or maybe even a vowel letter; but sadly,
	most standard fonts don't have the nasal Cyrillic yuses for
	ready usage.)

The palatised/velarised [l=] sounds would be, respectively, ль and лъ.
Similarly, the two kinds of [x=] would be written хь and хъ.

[l] would, of course, interact with dentals to produce [K] and [K\], so
if one were to transcribe a foreign name, say Brazil, into this
language, one would get:

Брзль [brz="K\=]

Also, some consonants seem to lend themselves well to rounded/unrounded
distinctions, such as [x]. So бохь might be pronounced [bx_w=], for
instance. (The written vowel is, of course, not pronounced, and has in
retrospective con-history become a labialization sign.)

One can make a most peculiar sound trying to pronounce оль [l_w=]. I'm
not sure whether to include this in the prospective conlang yet...

Finally, my favorite word in this conlang has to be Бжь [bZ=]. Perhaps
it should mean "to be hit". ;-)


If the comments and the code disagree, it's likely that *both* are
wrong. -- Christopher


Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
Lars Finsen <lars.finsen@...>