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27 May 2006 @ 10:50 pm
Ílion phonology and spelling  
Consonants: labial dental alveolar post* dorsal glottal
stopp bt dc/q g
affricateçh j
fricativef vth dhs zsh jhqh gh

In this table, as usual, when consonants appear in space-separated pairs the first is unvoiced and the second voiced. All flaps and approximants are always voiced (in earlier stages I included unvoiced <wh> and <yh>, but I'm currently leaning against them), except for <h>, which is always the unvoiced /h/.

/h/ always appears alone, never in clusters. The digraphs with <h> are therefore unambiguous.

I'm calling the final column "dorsal" because it encompasses both the (dorso-)palatal and velar places of articulation: Ílion makes no phonemic distinction between them. The stops are more often velar, but may be palatal when juxtaposed with front vowels (depending on dialect), while the fricatives are more often palatal, and the voiced fricative is always palatal (I just don't like the sound of the voiced velar fricative, really; it just sounds gargly and kinda makes my throat hurt). There is no phonemic dorsal nasal, although /n/ before a dorsal may be pronounced as such.

I decided against using the letter <k> because I felt that it looked too angular and "hard" to fit in with the aesthetic I was going for (I rejected <x> for the same reason). The unvoiced dorsal stop /k/ is instead spelled with <c> and <q>, depending on context: as an onset consonant, if it is followed by a front vowel (/i/ /e/) or /w/, it is spelled <q>, while if it is followed by any other vowel or approximant, it is spelled <c>; if it falls at the end of a word or is followed by a consonant, the spelling is determined (in the same way) by the preceding vowel. This was to avoid situations that might result in confusion or mispronunciation on the part of English-speakers, particularly the hard/soft c problem (e.g. how many people pronounce Celeborn as "seleborn", even though <c> is always hard in Tolkein's languages) and <qu>. It also gives me an excuse to throw in the letter <q> without making spelling less than round-trip phonemic or introducing something like uvulars.

My "in-world" rationale for the c/q thing is that originally they denoted distinct consonants (palatal for C, possibly uvular for Q), but palatal stops before front vowels became fronted from dorso-palatal to lamino-palatal (postalveolar), becoming <ch> and <j>, and the uvulars moved forward, merging C with Q. This nicely explains why <c> is dorsal but <ch> is laminal, but unfotunately doesn't really explain the independent existence of <j>. I'm not sure if I'll expand on this; it's really only an excuse for a weird bit of spelling, and I'm not going to bother seriously creating a proto-language and deriving the modern tongue from it.

The c-with-cedilla is only used in the digraph <çh>. It's there mainly because I wanted to have a cedilla. It's silly but I like it.

Phonemically speaking, there are two kinds of R sounds in Ílion: the alveolar flap <r> (the "Spanish" single r, /4/ in CXS), and the rhotic approximant <rh> (the American English r). Phonetically, there's more like three: the trill (Spanish "rr") also appears, but is not phonemic. When two /4/ appear in sequence (which can only happen across a syllable boundary), they are pronounced as a trill. Predictably, this is spelled <rr>.


Yeah, it's just the five cardinal vowels. Back vowels are rounded and front/center unrounded. Nothing too special here, really, but that's fine. Mid vowels are more close-mid (/e/ and /o/) rather than open-mid (/E/ and /O/). I'm not sure whether <a> should be /a/, /6/, or /A/. I'm kind of leaning towards the last (it has a smoother sound, to my ears, and euphony is a goal here), but the phoneme seems to pattern with the front vowels more than the back, so I'm kind of torn.

I know I want diphthongs, but haven't decided on any yet. They will be spelled as digraphs, I know that. <eu> and <au> are likely, <oe> or <oi> possible, <ae> maybe more likely than <ai>. Not sure if I want more, or how exactly they'll be pronounced.

In earlier drafts, I had an explicit schwa, which I was spelling ÿ. This was mainly an excuse to use the Latin-1 character set's y-umlaut, because it's a pretty absurdly showy symbol for a vowel that so rarely takes stress. It had some interesting features, for example being pronounced with breathy voice (the glottis partly closed but lax) after fricatives and approximants (or in some drafts, always) and being unvoiced between unvoiced consonants like the Japanese /u/ and /i/. I still kind of like that idea, but I don't think it fits with this language, particularly the goal of being able to explain basic pronunciation and grammar in a page. The schwa still survives, barely, but is epenthetic, appearing only when a proclitic ending in a consonant fuses to a word beginning with a consonant, and not within words. It doesn't have a letter, although the apostrophe used when attaching clitics could be considered such sometimes.

Phonotactics are still a little sketchy. Syllables may end with a single consonant, never a cluster (the affricates <ch> and <j>, which act like clusters in some respects, are also verboten), and open syllables (ending in vowels) abound. The muta cum liquida rule, which means that a stop followed by an approximant must be part of the same syllable as the approximant (a syllable break cannot fall between the two) is in effect. It sounds right, and I think it's common in natural languages for articulatory reasons (padparadscha, am I off base on this?). Allowed consonant clusters will probably be restricted to a stop or fricative followed by an approximant.

Syllable accent will be regular (I think), but still marked orthographically with an acute accent. I don't know why the Ílion people would explicitly mark something they could always predict anyway, but I can always fall back on the old "spelling rules don't always make sense" excuse if pressed. With diphthongs, the accent mark would fall on the first letter of the digraph. Ílion has pitch accent rather than stress accent, which I think would provide a bit of a sing-song quality.

Vowels can occur in hiatus (that is, a syllable break may occur between vowels). When it does, the second vowel is marked with a diæresis, unless the second vowel is a diphthong, in which case the first vowel is marked, or the second vowel is stressed, in which case the second vowel is only marked with the acute accent. Word-final <e> is always marked with a diæresis, even when it is not in hiatus (which would actually be rare, I think). This is to prevent English-speakers from interpreting it as a "silent e"—a trick I stole picked up from Tolkein.

Any questions?
Current Mood: creativecreative
Current Music: FLCL - Crazy Sunshine (It's Walky! fan soundtrack)
Ameliapadparadscha on May 28th, 2006 06:40 am (UTC)
Cool. (Is it weird that I saw the list of consonants and thought "Eee!"?) I've never been very good with actual phonology in languages ~ you make me want to revamp some of my own.

As for your question, you're not off-base. In my phonology class right now we're discussing how syllables tend toward openness, so you're right on the money. The approximant rule sounds good, too, although I've been saying the word "gridlock" to myself over and over to see if it applies everywhere in English. (Yes, I'm a nerd.)

I like your c/q rule. I always had an aesthetic aversion to c myself and prefer k, but then I also have aesthetic problems with Tolkien's languages and French, which most people argue are some of the most lovely languages of all.

I'm curious about the grammar and the people now! I'll keep an eye on your stuff.
gwallagwalla on May 28th, 2006 07:28 am (UTC)
"Gridlock" does seem to have a closed first syllable. Perhaps morpheme boundaries block the rule in English? (It strikes me that this is a problem with word-and-paradigm morphology AIUI: there are some "exceptions" to phonological rules in some languages that are easily explained if morphological boundaries exist and are allowed to have a phonological effect, but if morphemes have no independent existence, you can't really say that. You have to posit some sort of "null phoneme", of a different sort from syllable boundaries, which just happens to come between roots in a compound or roots and affixes in some paradigms, which is just as counterintuitive as positing "null morphemes").

Actually, I generally prefer K myself, and use it in most of my languages. Q I mainly reserve for uvulars. C gets used for various things, depending: one thing I like to do is use <c> for /ts)/ and <ch> for /tS)/, by analogy with <s> and <S>. But in this case I was going for a specific look, and C and Q seemed more appropriate.

Grammar is coming up! My next Ílion post will cover word classes, basic word order, and probably case (kind of necessary for word order to make sense). Maybe the whole noun paradigm, but that might be a bit long. Maybe not. I'll find out when I write it!
Ameliapadparadscha on May 28th, 2006 07:52 am (UTC)
I understand what you mean. I used c to mean /tS)/ in one of my languages (which works all right with its aesthetic).

I was thinking of the 'illegal' English obstruent-approximant onset clusters, and the first two I thought of were /velar stop + l/ and /sr/. Your comment made me curious about whether it applied intervocalically. I don't know if it matters to Ílion, but it interested me. I still can't tell if I say it 'grid lock' or 'grid dlock,' or what.

Anyway, have fun!
gwalla: king crimson fingergwalla on May 28th, 2006 09:21 am (UTC)
Random note: I also use Q to spell an unapplied gemination archiphoneme (trailing small tsu) in my romaji system.
Vorn the Unspeakableunspeakablevorn on May 28th, 2006 01:03 pm (UTC)
Just one.

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen sparrow?

gwalla: halloweengwalla on May 28th, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC)
. . .