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Yasaro phonology

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Sunday, June 27, 2004, 4:47
Seeing as there can never be too many Zireen languages, I've started a
new one called Yasaro. This is the language from which much of the
Zireen musical vocabulary is often borrowed in other languages (as
English musical terminology is borrowed from Italian). Actual samples of
Zireen music will eventually be available on my web page at:

For now, there's just a few excerpts of works in progress to illustrate
the various tunings (which all have Yasaro names). For the purposes of
the music page, I've simplified the romanization of Yasaro words to make
them easier to mispronounce. :-) Well, these are basically the forms
that Yasaro words would take if we borrowed them into English, which is
essentially what I'm doing.

Here's the basic phoneme inventory:

bilab. dent.  alv.   retro. palat. velar       vowels
p      th     t             c      k           i iñ  u
m      nh     n             nj     ng          e eñ      o
v             s      r      j      x                 a

A couple of odd things about this: /s/ and /x/ (in stressed syllables)
are voiceless while the other fricatives are voiced. Probably /l/ is
derived from (or merged with) /D/; is that a reasonable sound change? As
usual in Zireen languages, /r/ represents [z`]; if there were retroflex
stops or nasals they must have merged with other sounds. Would it be
more likely for retroflex sounds to merge with alveolar or palatal? Is
it strange to have [z`] as the only retroflex sound in the language?

The presence of /o/ (unusual in Zireen languages) and the absence of
nasalized /a/ and /u/ may be explained by a merger of /añ/ and /uñ/
(probably pronounced something like [Q~] and [U~]) to something like
[O~], which then lost its nasalization. But this seems a bit contrived.

The pitch accent system is inspired by Serbo-Croatian. The stressed
syllable can be rising or falling, due to historical changes in the
position of the accent, which moved to the preceding syllable. Thus, the
final syllable is never stressed, and falling pitch can only fall on the
initial syllable. Rising pitch occurs in cases where the stress has
moved. So the name of the language, historically [jasa"z`a~], is now
[ja"sa_Rz`O]. Stops and fricatives in unstressed syllables are voiced (a
change which occurred after the shift in stress position), so the word
for "language" /ninsi:/ is pronounced ["ni_Rnzi:].

Syllable structure is CV or CVC (with final C limited to homorganic
nasals in non-final syllables). Vowels can be short or long; some
diphthongs are also allowed (at least /ai/ and /ia/).

Grammar is still very sketchy. Yasaro has two articles, one for common
nouns (se) and another one for proper nouns (ha). Basic word order is
VOS, and modifiers follow the words they modify:

ka   ca:nga ha  jiri:su se  riathe nhenju
PAST eat    ART (name)  ART dragon green
A green dragon ate Yireesu.


Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>