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.

P1: Glide + Vowel Sequences

April 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

As mentioned in my previous post, P1 syllables conform the shape (C)(G)V(G)(C), where C is a consonant, G a glide (/i u/), V a vowel and parenthesis indicate optionality. So, a vowel may be flanked on both the left and right by a glide, derived from the high vowels /i/ and /u/. Glides may not precede an identical high vowel: */ii/ and */uu/ are therefore disallowed. If such a sequence would occur, one of the high vowels is lowered: /ii/ > [ie] or [ei] and /uu/ > [ou] or [uo].

The sequences /eu au/ have undergone monothongization, becoming [ɯ] and [ɔ], respectively. Thus, the word keu ‘tree’ is phonetically [kɯ]. The fact that are vowel + glide sequences and not simple underlying vowels is confirmed by the fact that when a vowel initial suffix is attached to a word ending in such a sequence, it breaks and syllabifies as either [e.wV] or [a.wV]. For example, the plural of keu is keue [kewə].

Sequences of non-high vowels are not permitted in P1. If such a sequence occurs because of affixation, there are two processes of simplification: 1) two identical non high vowels (/ee aa oo/) simplify into one or 2) in a sequence of dissimilar non-high vowels, one of the mid-vowels will raise to become a corresponding high vowel.

Project 1: Beginnings of a Phonology

April 18, 2011 § 15 Comments

Over the past week or so, I’ve had an idea (or group of ideas) rumbling around my brain for a conlang heavily inspired by Matt Pearson’s brilliant language Tokana (seriously, follow the link, it’s an awesome conlang). The project is as of yet without a name, so I’ll be referring to it as “project 1” (or P1, maybe?) until I settle down on a name.

Anyway, I’d like to post the first sketch of what I’m thinking for the phoneme inventory and the general shape of the phonology.

P1 has a rather cute little consonant inventory, with just 12 phonemes (orthographic representations in bold):

/p t̪ t k ts s h m n ɾ l ð/ p th t k ts s h m n r l j

The sound /ð/ is a somewhere between a voiced interdental approximant (close transcription /ð̞/) and interdental fricative, though it is generally produced with very little frication. The dental stop /t̪/ is also produced interdentally. The remaining coronal consonants differ in their aritculation: /t ts/ are always alveolar, while the phonemes /s n ɾ l/ are underspecified for the dental-alveolar distinction. This distinction as important, as the two places participate in a harmonic process, detailed below.

In addition to the 12 consonantal phonemes above, there are two glides, [j] and [w] which are allophones of the high vowels /i/ and /u/, respectively.

The language has a simple six vowel system that’s actually rather bland: /i u e o a ə/, represented orthographically as i u e/è o a e. There is no length contrast. The schwa is a marginal phoneme, occurring only in final syllables, where it is spelled e; The phoneme /e/ in final syllables is spelled è. As mentioned above, the high vowels /i u/ occur as glides, becoming [j w] when appearing adjacent to another vowel.

Coronal Harmony
A central aspect of P1 phonology is the presence of harmonic system in the coronal consonants. There are three classes of coronal consonants:

Dental- /t̪ ð/
Alveolar- /t ts/
Neutral- /s n ɾ l/

In any given word, dental segments and alveolar segments may not coexist, while neutral coronal segments may cooccur with either type. The neutral type of segment is underspecified for the distinction; when occurring in a word alone or with an alveolar consonant, their values are alveolar. When occurring with a dental segment, they harmonize to the dental place, becoming: [θ n̪ ɾ̪ l̪].

This feature plays an important role in morphology, as there are bound morphemes contain a non-neutral (‘harmonizing’) segment. When attached to a base with a coronal segment differing in POA from the, the bound morpheme harmonizes with the base. This sumarized in the table below:

So, the causative suffix -tsa will remain as such when suffixed with the verb stem tukia ‘plant’, yielding [tukjatsa] ‘make X plant’, but will become -sa [θ] after the verb stem thu ‘say’, yielding thusa [t̪uθa] ‘make X say’.

Syllable structure
P1 has a syllable structure of (C)(G)V(G)(C). Where V is a vowel, G a glide /i u/ [j w], and C a consonant. So, every syllable consists minimally of a vowel, and this vowel may be optionally preceded and followed by a glide and one consonant. Word initially, any consonant except /ɾ/ may occur in initial position. Word medially after a vowel or glide, any consonant may open a syllable. All word medial syllables must begin in either a consonant or glide (no V.V sequences). Final consonants are more constricted, and I haven’t figured out this part very well. Word medial coda consonants are less restricted than word final codas.

The language has a preference towards open syllables wherever possible. Syllabification is pretty straight forward, and guided by the following rules:


Oh, my ideas

April 18, 2011 § 3 Comments

I have many ideas. Many thoughts. Well, I suppose we all do. But this blog is going to serve as a place for me to write them down so they (hopefully) do not go away.

As I am a conlanger, this blog will probably serve as repository for the many and myriad ideas for small language sketches that pop into my head, as well as being a place I can publish information on my longer running work (if there ever emerges any).

Potentially, however, this space will also evolve into a space for my non-conlang related exploits and the like. But we’ll have to see about that.

*Don’t know what this is, why, follow the link!