Dơk Nhuang: Beginnings

April 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

So I got onto a Vietnamese kick today, for some who knows ungodly reason, and ever since about 2pm I’ve been sketching up a phonology and thinking about grammar for something inspired by the language that until about 1pm today I knew (close to) nothing about. I’m going to sketch out a couple ideas here I’ve had for grammar. I’ll make a phonology post later, but just so you know the lay of the land a little bit, look at these two posts I made: you can see the consonant inventory here and the basic vowel inventory here. The orthography isn’t totally settled, so I’ll post about that later too.

Also, the language’s name is Dơk Nhuang [ɗɤk ɲu̯aŋ], which means something like ‘Language of the Nhuang’, though I’ll be calling it [i]Nhuang[/i] for the remainder of the post. Nhuang is monosyllabic (though it doesn’t have tone, at this point) and isolating. The only morphological processes are reduplication (which is mostly used to derive extended words with the same meaning as the base) and compounding. The basic word order is SVO, though there is flexible placement of non-core arguments/constituents. They may occur to the left or right of the VP.

Word classes
The major word classes in Nhuang are [i]noun[/i] and [i]verb[/i]. Nouns are differentiated from verbs in that they 1) may form the head of NPs and 2) must follow the copula le [lɛ] to form a predicate. Verbs may form the head of predicates without the copula and may be preceded by the future marker keu [kɛw] and the verbal negator [sɤ]. Verbs are further subdivided into [i]stative[/i] and [i]active[/i] verbs; they are distinguished by syntactic tests. Stative verbs may be preceded by degree adverbs (i.e. bi [ɓi] ‘very’) and may not follow imperative markers (of which there will be several). Active verbs may not be preceded by degree adverbs, but may follow imperative markers. Stative verbs may also be used as postnominal modifiers, while active verbs must occur in a relative clause. This distinction is probably gonna get split up somehow, but I’m not sure how yet.

In addition to these two broad open classes, there are several closed classes: pronouns, demonstratives, classifiers, numerals, quantifiers, prepositions, adverbs and sentence level particles.

There is no inflectional morphology in Nhuang, though there are a couple derivational morphological processes that are quite productive. One of these is reduplication, of which there are two types of reduplication: (1) intensifying reduplication and (2) alliterative reduplication. The first type applies stative verbs and adverbs and involves full reduplication of the word in question. It indicates a more intense meaning: vưà [vɨɜ̯] ‘red’ > vưà vưà ‘very red, deep red’. The second type of reduplication is also quite productive, and is not limited to specific lexical classes. Alliterative reduplication reduplicates only the first consonant of the base word in question, adding to this a vowel nucleus that is different from the base’s nucleus, but predictable based on regular rules. Every base nucleus has one or two corresponding alliterative nuclei. This type of reduplication is stylistic in nature; the reduplicated version of a word (usually) has the same meaning as the base. In some cases, there is some sort of semantic drift and the alliterative form has been lexicalized. Some examples of alliterative reduplication are:

rieu [ʐjɛw] ‘mask’ > rieu rê [ʐjɛw ʐe:] ibid.
dak [ɗak] ‘black’ > dak dai [ɗak ɗəj] ‘night’ (example of semantic drift)

I still haven’t worked out the exact correspondences between the base and reduplicant vowels here.

Nouns and the NP
Nouns are divided into three broad classes: inanimate, feminine and non-feminine. The second two classes are animate. Membership in these classes is generally based on semantics, though I haven’t figured out the specifics of how this works. Each class is associated with a classifier or classifiers (haven’t decided how many for each there will be), and demonstratives are sensitive to class membership in their form. The order of elements in the noun phrase are:

Article – {Demonstrative} – Numeral – Classifier / Measure word – Head Noun – Attributive modifiers – {Demonstrative} – Possessive – Relative Clause

The only obligatory element is the head noun. The demonstrative may occur on either side of the head noun. Right now this is just a sketch, so I don’t know the details of how this total structure works.

Basic clause structure
The basic word order in Nhuang is SVO. This order is fairly rigid for the core arguments of the clause: subjects precede the verb, while objects follow it. The VP (= [V O]) combo forms a tight constituent, and the object may not be separated from the verb complex by any elements. The subject NP is usually the first constituent in the clause. The peripheral elements of a clause- such as adverbs, prepositional phrases, etc- usually after the VP. However, it is possible to place peripheral constituents between the VP and the subject NP. Thus SVOX and SXVO are both valid word orders.

Wh-questions are generally in situ, though it is possible to front a question wh-word/-phrase. In this case, if the wh-word is a core argument, a resumptive pronoun occupies the argument slot. This is also the case in focus fronting.

There is a large inventory of clause final particles used for various purposes that I haven’t quite figured out yet. for example, yes-no questions are formed with the interrogative particle [mɨ].

Phew. That’s all I cant type out right now. My brain is buzzing with ideas, but they’ll have to wait til tomorrow. I should be posting on the verb complex and perhaps focus/wh-fronting. Feedback is welcome as always!


Turning Japanese

April 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Here’s a phonology I cooked up in a few minutes that’s pretty much a copy of Japanese, with some of my own touches.


The voiceless labial stop /p/ only occurs doubled; historically, it has merged with /h/ when single. The glottal fricative is [ɸ] before /u/. The siblants /ts dz s z/ are palatalized to [tɕ dʑ ɕ ʑ]. The voiced affricate usually loses it’s stoppage between vowels, becoming either [z] or [ʑ]. The sonorant /r/ is a flap unspecified for lateralness.

I’m thinking of adding /x/ for some flavor/

Basic vowels:

The vowels are pretty simple. The mid vowels are laxed before a syllable final consonant to [ɛ ɔ] and are always lax in diphthongs and triphthongs. The vowels /y u/ do not occur in the same words, participating in vowel harmony.


The chart above shows the cooccurance of the glides with vowels and falling diphthongs. The glides do not occur before homoorganic high vowels.

The maximum syllable is CGVC, where C is a consonant, G a glide and V a vowel or falling diphthong. The glide /j/ occurs with all initials, while the glide /w/ occurs only after velar initials or /m/. Word initial, there may be an open onset. Word medially, there must be an onset, a glide, or both.

Syllable final consonants are severely restricted. Word internally, there may only be a copy of a following voiceless obstruent or nasal /ŋ/ . Long /ss/ > [tts]. These stops obstruent sequences are often realized as a [ʔC] sequence. The nasal is realized as slightly postvelar in this position. Before labials, the nasal becomes labio-velar: [ŋ͡m]. Word finally, the choices are slightly larger: /t k ŋ/ all occur.

Another phonology

April 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

This is a phonology I thought up last night, intended for a close-to-monosyllabic isolating language I’m thinking about making. The consonants are shown below:

There are five simple vowels: /i e a u o/ which may occur short or long. The high vowels /i u/ may occur as glides, yielding both rising and falling diphthongs, as well as triphthongs. These are shown below:

The glides /i u/ are spelled <j> and <w> after a vowel and word initially, respectively.

All morphemes are mono- or bisyllabic. Monosyllables have the form V, VC, CV, or CVC where C is a consonant and V is a vowel or diphthong or triphthong. The initial C slot may be filled by any consonant, though there are some restrictions based on the following V. The labial fricative /f/ may only precede a rounded vowel or glide [u̯]. Before glide [i̯], the sibilant fricatives have all palatalized historically, leaving only /tɕ dʑ ɕ ʑ/. This does not occur before vowel [i].

Codas are much more restricted: only /h t k n ŋ/ occur. The voiceless finals /h t k/ only occur after the short vowels and rising diphthongs. The nasal finals may occur after the short, long, and rising diphthongs. The falling diphthongs and triphthongs only occur in open syllables. The glottal fricative does not surface as an actual coda, but instead lowers the tone of the preceding syllable nucleus. This is written as a grave over the vowel: kiè ‘room’ is /kieh/ [ki̯e˨].

Bisyllabic words consist of a main syllable of the form CV or CVC (limited by the above form rules) and a presyllable of the form (C)V(h, N), where C and V are both extremely limited. Only three underlying vowels occur in presyllables: /e u a/. These are realized [ɛ ʉ a], respectively, except before main syllables containing [i] or on-glide [i̯], in which case /u/ > [ɨ]. Presyllables may be open or begin in a consonant from the following set: /p t k s h m n l/. Presyllables may be open or closed by /h/ or a placeless nasal /N/. After open presyllables, all initials occur. After /h/, an obstruent must be voiceless. After a nasal presyllable obstruents must be voiced or /h/. The nasal assimilates to the following place of articulation.

PNW without PNW

April 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

So I have this itching to do a language that has a very pacific northwest-y consonant inventory/sound system, but does not have th agglutinative tendencies of that region. Or perhaps has some of the grammatical features, but in an isolating/less agglutinative body. I might draw something up later today.

Transitive Adjectives

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

I just found this post over at language log really interesting, and figured I’d reblog it over here. It talks about the development of new adjectives that take NP complements in English. I think I might end up using something like this in P1.

Link here.

P1: A crossroads

April 20, 2011 § 4 Comments

As happens to me a lot, a phonology goes through several stages in the beginning phases of a language. As can be seen from my post last night on some adjustments I’d just made, the phonology is still in a high state of flux. I’ve come to a point where I might be changing a key aspect of the phonology I first posted about, and I’d like some feedback. There are two options:

1) Leave the phonology as it is, plus the changes from yesterday. This would leave coronal harmony in place.
2) Scrap coronal harmony. Move /t̪/ to /d/ and add a voiced labial stop /b/. Also, to compensate further for the lack of coronal harmony, add /ɬ/, perhaps with some kind of remnant coronal relationship with /ts/.

Anyway, if anyone has ideas/feedback about this, I’d really like to here it.

P1: Slight adjustments

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

So I’ve decided to make a few small adjustments to the phonology/some of the conceptual issues that I’ve been developing for P1. They are:

1) The dental stop will be spelled <d> instead of <th>.
2) The dental approximant is gone.
3) I’ve added a voiced labiodental fricative /v/.
4) I’ve added a 5 vowel, a high central vowel unspecified for rounding. The vowel will be spelled <y>. It will also occur as a glide.
5) I’m getting rid of the schwa /ə/ and the stressed deal with [e] thing.
6) There’s gonna be some sort of pitch accent involving the final syllable and something. Not completely what it will be yet.
7) Contrary to what I wrote a couple hours ago, there will probably be some word initial consonant clusters. There will be no other consonant clusters.

This leaves the following consonant and vowel inventories:

/p t̞ t k ts v s h m n l ɾ/ p d t k ts v s h m n l r
/i ɨ~ʉ u e o a/ i y u e o a

8) There will be a case system, but I haven’t decided what it will be.

P1: Phonotactics and Consonant Clusters

April 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

P1 syllables may begin and end in exactly one consonant. Word initial syllables may begin in a vowel, a glide, or a consonant (or CG combo), while word internal syllables must begin with either a consonant or a glide. There are no syllable-internal consonant clusters, and those consonant clusters that do appear are the result of a closed syllable followed by the next onset. There are some general principles as to how this clustering works:

1) The consonants /h ð̞/ never occur in clusters, and /ɾ l/ do not occur as the second member of a cluster
2) There are no clusters with two identical consonants
3) Nasals assimilate to the following obstruent when they occur in a cluster
4) Stops/the affricate may only be followed by obstruents

Based on these principles, the valid consonant clusters that occur in stems can be summarized in the following table. Final consonants are represented along the vertical access, initial consonants along the horizontal. “N” indicates a nasal that assimilates to the following obstruent An X indicates that the cluster occurs, while lack of one indicates that it does not:

So, as can be seen from the chart above, most consonants can stand in the coda of a stem internal syllables. However, the consonants that can occur in word and stem final syllables are much more limited. They are /t̪ t ts m n k l/.

Tiny Little Things

April 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve had a thing for tiny, minimalist phoneme inventories lately. Here are a couple of them. One of these may end up being recruited to serve as the mother for an extremely isolating artlang idea I’m playing around with.

The first one has 10 consonants and 4 vowels, for a total of 14 phonemes

/t k ʔ m n ŋ s h ʋ l e a u o/

Valid consonant clusters number four: /ts ks hl hʋ/. They probably only occur intervocalically. The second inventory is inspired by Lilipu, sort of, and is generally kind of polynesian. It has 11 phonemes, 8 consonants and 3 vowels. I may substitute /e/ for /i/ if i end up using this:

/p k ʔ f s m n l a i u/

This one would have a CV syllable structure. No consonant clusters.

P1: Word Order, part 1

April 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of the central aspects of P1 clausal syntax is the fact that it displays V2 word order, like many Germanic languages. This means that the finite verb must always be the second constituent of a clause. Unlike like some V2 languages (like German), P1 obeys this constraint in both main clauses and subordinate clauses with overt complementizers.

The underlying word order, before any V2 movement is applied, is a pretty simple SVO. Core arguments are not case marked in P1, and therefore placement on either side of the verb serves to distinguish subject from object. A more exact layout of the P1 clause can be sketched as follows:

[Topic slot] – [V2 slot] – Subject – Verb complex – Object(s) – Periphery

The ‘periphery’ contains adverbials other non-core argument constituents. Some verbs may take more than one object, in which case a direct object nominal is placed before an indirect object nominal (which is marked with dative case). The V2 slot is filled by the finite verb (which moves from it’s position within the verbal complex. This slot is obligatorily preceded by a topic constituent, which is moved from somewhere else in the clause.

I’m toying around with an idea of having certain types of constituents in the Topic slot trigger/constrain some sort of morphology on the verb, but I haven’t figured this out completely yet.