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Drushek phonology (revised)

From:Donald Boozer <donaldboozer@...>
Date:Sunday, May 6, 2007, 2:54
It's been a while since I posted here, so I thought it
was about time. A while back I posted the first
version of this, my voiceless conlang. Some helpful
critique was given and so, here (with some major
revisions including the adding of voiceless vowels in
the pronunciations) is the new, and hopefully improved
version along with some notes the beings who speak it:

The Language of the Drushek:
Known as <tr'z*w.> /r_>E_0!\_O/ "Dretok" meaning
"sharing" (language allows separate beings to share
their thoughts).

Brief Drushek History and Physiology:
The Drushek originally inhabited an island off the
coast of the mainland until their home was invaded and
overran by the Varalsans. Many of Drushek escaped the
island and now wander the continent, teaching Shekstan
(their esoteric, mystical philosophy) to anyone who
comes to them with an interest (i.e., they are not
evangelical). Drushek stand about three feet tall,
have large muscular tails, and travel most effectively
by leaping great distances. They have a large mane of
hair and a tuft at the end of the tail; other than
that, they are hairless. They have no claws or sharp
teeth or other natural defenses (other than their
leaping ability). They also lack any vocal apparatus
such as vocal cords, a syrinx, etc. The voiceless
language evolved in the earliest times of Drushek
prehistory due to their need for communication as
wandering tribes of Drushek coalesced and became
settled. The villages provided protection and
attracted other Drushek, until Drushek civilization
became established. In addition to the vocalizations,
the language employs a number of gestures to denote

A Note on Transliteration Schemas:
There are two schemas for transcribing the Drushek
language: Phonetic-Gestural or PG and Umod-Phonetic or
UP. PG strives to transcribe the vocalizations and
accompanying syntax-gestures as closely as possible.
UM is named for Umod, the language of the Tylnor (the
beings which border the homeland of the Drushek and
were the first to encounter them). UP uses the sounds
of the Tylnor language to approximate the
vocalizations of the Drushek. UP is most often used
for the transcribing of individual words and therefore
does not denote the syntax-gestures. If UP terms are
used in a sentence, it is usual to see them used with
Umod grammar.

p = /p/ as in English <cap>, labial stop, unaspirated
when final.
t = /t/ as in English <cat>, postalveolar stop,
unaspirated when final.
q = /q/ as in Arabic, a uvular stop, unaspirated when
final. /k/, a velar stop, is an allophone of <q>,
depending on the speaker.

Ejective Consonants (unaspirated; uses only glotallic
p' = /p_>/
t' = /t_>/
q' = /q_>/
s' = /s_>/
z' = /C_>/
n = /(h_n)_>/ ejective glottal fricative with a nasal
release, as if trying to dislodge something from the
nose with the mouth closed.

f = /p\/ voiceless bilabial fricative
s = /s/ voiceless alveolar fricative
l = /K/ voiceless alveolar lateral fricative (as in
Welsh ll)
z = /C/ voiceless palatal fricative, as in German ich
c = /s`/ voiceless retroflex fricative

Semi-vowels (Fricative/Trill/Ejective)
x = /x/ voiceless velar fricative, in German Bach
h = /X\/ voiceless pharyngeal fricative, as in Arabic,
sometimes realized as a voiceless glottal fricative
r = /r/ voiceless alveolar trill
r' = /r_>/ voiceless alveolar ejective

p* = /O\/ bilabial click, sounds like a kiss
t* = /|\/ dental click, realized approximately in
English as the interjection "tsk" as in "tsk, tsk"
z* = /!\/ palatal click
k* = /N_!/ nasalized velar click (in Z-SAMPA
notation). The mouth is closed and the velum is the
point of articulation with the air being ingressive

Rounding associated with a particular sound is
expressed in transliteration by an added w. Some
examples would be <rw> /r_O/ "a voiceless alveolar
trill executed with the lips rounded," <t*w> /|\_O/ "a
dental click executed with the lips rounded," etc.
Rounding can be used with: t', q', s', r', r, f, l, z,
c, x, h, t*, and z*.

A lengthened sound is expressed by the addition of
<:>. This relative lengthening is idiosyncratic to the
particular speaker, but is easily recognized as a
prolonged sound. For example, the difference between
<s> and <s:> is easily recognized within the context
of a particular passage or conversation. Often length
is expressed as the difference between an ejective
(short) and a regular (long) consonant, such as <r'>
and <r>.

The most common affricates are qs /q_s/ and ps /p_s/.
These also occur as a stop+ejective: qs' and ps'

The Question of  Vowels:
Being a voiceless language, Drushek does not have
vowels as they are normally understood in languages
utilizing voicing. However, the concept of the
voiceless vowel is applicable in this situation. In
X-SAMPA transcription, voiceless vowels include /A_0,
E_0, I_0, u_0/. "Semi-vowels" or "pseudo-vowels" are
present in the language, namely x, h, r', and r. For
example, the word <tr'w.> /r_>u_0/ "being, existence;
(a) being" is transliterated into UP as "dru" /dr\u/
whereas <trx.> /rxA_0/ "gesture, hand-shape" is
transliterated "tra" /tr\A/.

A period is used to offset segments to signify that a
breath can be taken at this point in the word, that a
morphemic element is being added, or that there is a
demarcation of two similar sounds. With respect to the
last point: x:. (one long velar fricative) versus x.x.
(heard as two distinct, short velar fricatives).

NOTE: Trills are not morphemic (except r and r');
however, these are common as exclamations.
v = /B_0/ voiceless bilabial trill; a common
expression of surprise
k = /($\_0)N_<\/ nasal-ingressive voiceless velar
trill. This is the sound parodied in SpecGram (wide
double dot O). It is the English sound of a pig
snorting. This is a common expression of disbelief or

tr'w:.cq /r_>u_0.s`E_0q/ is transcribed into UP as
"Drushek" /dr\u.SEk/. The lengthened trill with
rounded lips is immediately followed by a retroflex
fricative, ending with a uvular unaspirated stop. The
Drushek are the race of beings that speak this speech.
tr'w:.cq is literally "Beings of Quiet" or "Beings of

cq.stx:n /s`E_0q.q_stxA_0n_;/ is transcribed into UP
as "Shekstan" / The <cq> should be
pronounced, in reality, as a retroflex fricative
followed by a uvular stop. This stop is then
immediately followed by an affricate /q_s/, then /t/,
then the lengthened fricative /x/ is pronounced (the
/x/ can then be seen to change into a raspy voiceless
/A_0/). The final <n> is the stopping of air with the
tongue and a release of air through the nose (see
above under "Ejective Consonant". Shekstan is the
Drushek's mystic philosophy, translated as "Quiet
Mind" or "Stillness of Thought".

qzw.qt /qCu_0.qE_0t/ is transcribed into UP as
"Kyuget" /kju.gEt/ The <qzw> is a uvular plosive
followed by a palatal fricative, all pronounced with
rounded lips. The <qzw> sounds similar to a
palatalized sound, as if a "y" glide has been inserted
between the /q/ and the /X\/. This is followed by
<qt>, a uvular plosive /q/ with a /t/ unaspirated stop
with a voiceless /E_0/ between. Kyuget is one of the
masters of Shekstan whose name is literally a title
meaning "Amount-Great", i.e., "Great Amount" (of
wisdom). qt is a superlative marker.

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