General Conlang Discussion

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-31, 15:51

ShounenRonin wrote:Are five vowel conlangs cliched?

A five-vowel system is the single most commonly-attested in natural languages. I'd say that makes it pretty immune to criticism.

ShounenRonin wrote:In my current project, I have five vowels, but changed the phonemes for a couple of them. They are /a/, /ɛ/, /i/, /o/, and /ʊ/. I am thinking of reducing it to three or four like what alot of Amerindian languages have. Maybe have O be both /o/ and /ʊ/ or even /ɔʊ/according to the situation or some sort of accent and I represent both /i/ and /ɛ/.

If I go with five basic vowels, I think u will be /u/ and /ɯ/.

A note on phonological conventions: symbols between slashes represent phonemes; phones are written between square brackets. So if you have one orthographic symbol i which is pronounced [i] in some contexts and [ɛ] in others, then you would pick one of these values to represent the underlying phoneme. (The most straightforward choice would be /i/, but you might have reasons for choosing /e/ or /ɛ/ instead depending on the overall shape of the vowel system.)

Note that it's also possible to have distinct phonemes rendered by a single character in the orthography. In German, for instance, /e(ː)/, /ɛ/, and /ə/ are all written e and disambiguated by such factors as consonant doubling and knowledge of stress placement. Moreover, the actual phonetic values of each of those phonemes can vary quite a bit so that, e.g. /ɛ/ may be as tense as [e] in some contexts and as lax as [æ] in others.
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-05-31, 16:31

linguoboy wrote:
ShounenRonin wrote:Are five vowel conlangs cliched?

A five-vowel system is the single most commonly-attested in natural languages. I'd say that makes it pretty immune to criticism.

ShounenRonin wrote:In my current project, I have five vowels, but changed the phonemes for a couple of them. They are /a/, /ɛ/, /i/, /o/, and /ʊ/. I am thinking of reducing it to three or four like what alot of Amerindian languages have. Maybe have O be both /o/ and /ʊ/ or even /ɔʊ/according to the situation or some sort of accent and I represent both /i/ and /ɛ/.

If I go with five basic vowels, I think u will be /u/ and /ɯ/.

A note on phonological conventions: symbols between slashes represent phonemes; phones are written between square brackets. So if you have one orthographic symbol i which is pronounced [i] in some contexts and [ɛ] in others, then you would pick one of these values to represent the underlying phoneme. (The most straightforward choice would be /i/, but you might have reasons for choosing /e/ or /ɛ/ instead depending on the overall shape of the vowel system.)

Note that it's also possible to have distinct phonemes rendered by a single character in the orthography. In German, for instance, /e(ː)/, /ɛ/, and /ə/ are all written e and disambiguated by such factors as consonant doubling and knowledge of stress placement. Moreover, the actual phonetic values of each of those phonemes can vary quite a bit so that, e.g. /ɛ/ may be as tense as [e] in some contexts and as lax as [æ] in others.


I am considering having each vowel have a basic sound (the ones I mentioned), and then have umlauts indicate when they make a different sound.

I am thinking of something like this: a [a], ä [æ], e [ɛ], ë [e], i [i], ï [y], o [o], ö [ʊ], u [ɯ], ü [u].

It seems that alot of Amerindian languages have a /u/ realized as [o] or an /o/realized as [u]. So /o/ in my conlang could have four different phones. I might even merge the two letters and might do the same with /i/ and /e/. That may make it a little too complicated, though.

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-31, 16:50

ShounenRonin wrote:I am considering having each vowel have a basic sound (the ones I mentioned), and then have umlauts indicate when they make a different sound.

I am thinking of something like this: a [a], ä [æ], e [ɛ], ë [e], i [i], ï [y], o [o], ö [ʊ], u [ɯ], ü [u].

What's the advantage of doing that?

ShounenRonin wrote:It seems that alot of Amerindian languages have a /u/ realized as [o] or an /o/realized as [u]. So /o/ in my conlang could have four different phones. I might even merge the two letters and might do the same with /i/ and /e/. That may make it a little too complicated, though.

Complicated how? I'm unclear what kind of a system you're proposing.

My chief experience with North American Indian languages is with Osage, which has a basic five-vowel system thrown off kilter by the fronting of /u/. /o/ moves up and varies in quality from [ɷ] to [ɔ].

I think it's important to keep in mind that (a) these are just cover symbols which represent a range of individual realisations and (b) if you want your language to be at all naturalistic, two phones per phoneme seems too few. Just think of all the different ways you've heard /æ/ pronounced in English, for instance.
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-05-31, 17:01

linguoboy wrote:
ShounenRonin wrote:I am considering having each vowel have a basic sound (the ones I mentioned), and then have umlauts indicate when they make a different sound.

I am thinking of something like this: a [a], ä [æ], e [ɛ], ë [e], i [i], ï [y], o [o], ö [ʊ], u [ɯ], ü [u].

What's the advantage of doing that?

ShounenRonin wrote:It seems that alot of Amerindian languages have a /u/ realized as [o] or an /o/realized as [u]. So /o/ in my conlang could have four different phones. I might even merge the two letters and might do the same with /i/ and /e/. That may make it a little too complicated, though.

Complicated how? I'm unclear what kind of a system you're proposing.

My chief experience with North American Indian languages is with Osage, which has a basic five-vowel system thrown off kilter by the fronting of /u/. /o/ moves up and varies in quality from [ɷ] to [ɔ].

I think it's important to keep in mind that (a) these are just cover symbols which represent a range of individual realisations and (b) if you want your language to be at all naturalistic, two phones per phoneme seems too few. Just think of all the different ways you've heard /æ/ pronounced in English, for instance.


I never heard of Osage, but many Native American languages have three or four vowel phonemes. Usually, they are /a/, /i/, /u/; /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/; or /a/, /e/, /i/, and /u/.

Inuktitut, Aleut, Aymara, Haida and Quechua are the former example (except in Quechua /a/ is [æ], /i/ is [ɪ], and /u/ is [ʊ].). The last two examples are found in Arawak and Navajo. Cherokee is the only Native American language I know with five vowels [a], [e], [i], [o], and [u].

Yeah, two phones per phoneme seems too few. By confusion, I mean that my conlang has short and long vowels, which are indicated by accent marks like á for example. It would be hard to use both an umlaut and an accent mark for long vowels. I guess I should just stick with double vowels like aa, and ee. My only qualm about is that I don't like oo, since it always reminds me of /u/ like in "moon."

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-31, 17:17

ShounenRonin wrote:By confusion, I mean that my conlang has short and long vowels, which are indicated by accent marks like á for example. It would be hard to use both an umlaut and an accent mark for long vowels. I guess I should just stick with double vowels like aa, and ee. My only qualm about is that I don't like oo, since it always reminds me of /u/ like in "moon."

What I don't understand is are you proposing a five-vowel system or a ten-vowel system? If it's a five-vowel system, then what's the point of using umlauts to distinguish the primary allophones (since presumably these are determined by phonological conditions, as in Quechua)?
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-05-31, 17:26

linguoboy wrote:
ShounenRonin wrote:By confusion, I mean that my conlang has short and long vowels, which are indicated by accent marks like á for example. It would be hard to use both an umlaut and an accent mark for long vowels. I guess I should just stick with double vowels like aa, and ee. My only qualm about is that I don't like oo, since it always reminds me of /u/ like in "moon."

What I don't understand is are you proposing a five-vowel system or a ten-vowel system? If it's a five-vowel system, then what's the point of using umlauts to distinguish the primary allophones (since presumably these are determined by phonological conditions, as in Quechua)?


I guess five vowels with a variety of phones for each phoneme. The plan is to have allophones occur anywhere within a word and therefore needs some way of indicating which phone the phoneme is representing. I usually make romlangs, so I want to do something a little different, especially since I use Spanish vowels all the time.

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-31, 17:32

ShounenRonin wrote:I guess five vowels with a variety of phones for each phoneme. The plan is to have allophones occur anywhere within a word and therefore needs some way of indicating which phone the phoneme is representing.

I don't think you understand what an allophone is.

It sounds like you might be talking about some sort of free variation, but if that were the case, it would be pointless indicating variants because the values could vary from one use of a word (or one speaker) to the next.
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-05-31, 17:52

linguoboy wrote:
ShounenRonin wrote:I guess five vowels with a variety of phones for each phoneme. The plan is to have allophones occur anywhere within a word and therefore needs some way of indicating which phone the phoneme is representing.

I don't think you understand what an allophone is.

It sounds like you might be talking about some sort of free variation, but if that were the case, it would be pointless indicating variants because the values could vary from one use of a word (or one speaker) to the next.


I guess you're right. It's better to have five vowel phonemes with different phones for each since umlauts and accent marks seem unnecessary. Yeah, I meant free variation.

So here is what I have: /a/- [a], [æ], [ə], /e/- [ɛ], [e], [ə], /i/ - [i], [y], and maybe [ɪ], /o/- [o], [ʊ], [ɔʊ], /u/- [u]. [ɯ].

By allophone, do you mean that the phone of a phoneme changes when next to a certain other phonemes? Like for example, maybe /i/ is normally [i] except when next to a /k/ when it becomes [e]?

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-31, 18:08

ShounenRonin wrote:By allophone, do you mean that the phone of a phoneme changes when next to a certain other phonemes? Like for example, maybe /i/ is normally [i] except when next to a /k/ when it becomes [e]?

Yes, that is an example of allophony.

As a sidenote, phonemes don't have to be adjacent to trigger changes. Some forms of allophony (such as metaphony) can skip over several intervening segments. And other kinds can be triggered by suprasegmental phonemes, such as stress or tone.
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-05-31, 18:14

linguoboy wrote:
ShounenRonin wrote:By allophone, do you mean that the phone of a phoneme changes when next to a certain other phonemes? Like for example, maybe /i/ is normally [i] except when next to a /k/ when it becomes [e]?

Yes, that is an example of allophony.

As a sidenote, phonemes don't have to be adjacent to trigger changes. Some forms of allophony (such as metaphony) can skip over several intervening segments. And other kinds can be triggered by suprasegmental phonemes, such as stress or tone.


Thanks, that helps alot! :)

I figured out the allophone for /u/, now just have to figure out the others. I know what phones they are, just not when they occur.

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-31, 18:21

ShounenRonin wrote:I figured out the allophone for /u/, now just have to figure out the others. I know what phones they are, just not when they occur.

You'll find some helpful links in this article. There are some general tendencies found crosslinguistic (such as raising before nasals and merging in unstressed position).

Don't forget that it's perfectly possible for multiple phonemes to have the same phonetic realisation. In fact, it's common. As I said before of German, /eː/ can overlap with /iː/ and all sorts of vowels can end up shwas in English.
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-05-31, 20:59

I see. What about diphthongs?

The language has allophones, and /o/ has three possible phones: [o], [ʊ], and [ɔʊ] (I think that is the English "long" O.) However, the [ɔʊ] phone is only possible as the dipthong /ou/.

You said some languages have a few vowels, but they have a variety of phones. Does this count, or am I saying the /o/ is [o] or [ʊ], but can never be [ɔʊ] unless it is the diphthong /ou/?

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-31, 21:16

ShounenRonin wrote:I see. What about diphthongs?

What about them? These, too, can be phonetic or phonemic. Moreover, phonemic monophthongs can have diphthongised allophones and vice versa.

ShounenRonin wrote:The language has allophones, and /o/ has three possible phones: [o], [ʊ], and [ɔʊ] (I think that is the English "long" O.)

That depends entirely on which variety of English you speak. There are several varieties of English (e.g. Scottish Standard, Welsh, Nigerian Standard, Inland North) where "long o" is actually [oː]. In most of the US, by contrast, it is diphthongised and often fronted as well. (In my native Bawmerese, for instance, it is fronted [and unrounded] all the way to [eʊ̯].)

ShounenRonin wrote:However, the [ɔʊ] phone is only possible as the dipthong /ou/.

Then how is it an allophone of /o/? Either /o/ and /ou/ are phonemically distinct or they aren't. Are you saying that /ou/ is sometimes realised [ɔʊ] and sometimes [o] or [ʊ]? In that case, what you is a partial merger of the phoneme /o/ with the phoneme/phoneme sequence /ou/.
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-05-31, 21:46

By the English O, I was referring to the General American accent.

Anyway, I will share my vowels and the phonology so you can critique it. The first phone after the phoneme is the "assumed" pronunciation, meaning that is what the vowel normally sounds like. The phones that follow the first are other sounds it represents under certain circumstances.

/a/- [a], [æ]. The latter can only occur when next to a /d/ [ð]
/e/- [ɛ], [e] is only possible when next to a /q/ ([x])
/i/- [i] , [ɪ] when part of the last syllable and followed by a consonant. [y] when followed by a [ŋ] or the phonemes /u/ and /w/.
/o/- [o], [ʊ] when preceding a [k] or a [t], [ɔʊ] when next to [x].
/u/- [ɯ], [u] when it is the last letter of a word, then it is [u]. [w] when it is between a consonant and a vowel. (For example, gua-, hua-, etc.

/i/ is normally [i], but it is not showing up for some reason.

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-31, 21:55

ShounenRonin wrote:/a/- [a], [æ]. The latter can only occur when next to a /d/ [ð]

Why only /d/ and not any other coronals?

ShounenRonin wrote:/e/- [ɛ], [e] is only possible when next to a /q/ ([x])

Generally, the effect of uvulars and velars is to lower the vowel (cf. Quechua /i/ > [ɛ]), but here you have a velar consonant causing the exact opposite effect. Why?

ShounenRonin wrote:/i/- [i] , [ɪ] when part of the last syllable and followed by a consonant. [y] when followed by a [ŋ] or the phonemes /u/ and /w/.

Why does [ŋ] cause rounding? Is it rounded itself?

ShounenRonin wrote:/o/- [o], [ʊ] when preceding a [k] or a [t], [ɔʊ] when next to [x].

Again, what is it about these particular consonants which causes these particular effects? Both [k] and [x] have the same point of articulation (velar). So why does one cause raising while the other causes diphthongisation?

ShounenRonin wrote:/u/- [ɯ], [u] when it is the last letter of a word, then it is [u]. [w] when it is between a consonant and a vowel. (For example, gua-, hua, etc.

What about when it appears in the same contexts which cause rounding of /i/ to [y]?

ShounenRonin wrote:/i/ is normally [i], but it is not showing up for some reason.

Because [i] is the bbcode for italics. If you want it to display correctly, you need to use the tag [ipa][/ipa] around it.
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-05-31, 22:10

linguoboy wrote:
ShounenRonin wrote:/a/- [a], [æ]. The latter can only occur when next to a /d/ [ð]

Why only /d/ and not any other coronals?

ShounenRonin wrote:/e/- [ɛ], [e] is only possible when next to a /q/ ([x])

Generally, the effect of uvulars and velars is to lower the vowel (cf. Quechua /i/ > [ɛ]), but here you have a velar consonant causing the exact opposite effect. Why?

ShounenRonin wrote:/i/- [i] , [ɪ] when part of the last syllable and followed by a consonant. [y] when followed by a [ŋ] or the phonemes /u/ and /w/.

Why does [ŋ] cause rounding? Is it rounded itself?

ShounenRonin wrote:/o/- [o], [ʊ] when preceding a [k] or a [t], [ɔʊ] when next to [x].

Again, what is it about these particular consonants which causes these particular effects? Both [k] and [x] have the same point of articulation (velar). So why does one cause raising while the other causes diphthongisation?

ShounenRonin wrote:/u/- [ɯ], [u] when it is the last letter of a word, then it is [u]. [w] when it is between a consonant and a vowel. (For example, gua-, hua, etc.

What about when it appears in the same contexts which cause rounding of /i/ to [y]?

ShounenRonin wrote:/i/ is normally [i], but it is not showing up for some reason.

Because [i] is the bbcode for italics. If you want it to display correctly, you need to use the tag [ipa][/ipa] around it.


About velars and uvulars, I just did what I thought looked or sounded pleasant to me. With /e/, I didn't know where a good spot would be for /e/.

Same with the rounding of [i] with [ŋ]. I like the sound of [yŋ] better than [iŋ]. You do bring up a good point with the /u/ and /ng/. It should probably be [uŋ]. In fact, all vowels should probably be rounded when they precede [ŋ] with diphthongs being the exception.

I don't like [æ] as a phone.

If this is too complicated or I'm just not getting it, I'll resort to the basic five Spanish vowels I like to use.

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby linguoboy » 2016-06-01, 3:27

ShounenRonin wrote:If this is too complicated or I'm just not getting it, I'll resort to the basic five Spanish vowels I like to use.

It's not too complicated, it's that allophony is not a random process. Essentially it occurs when features bleed over from one segment into adjoining ones (or, less frequently, skip over some segments to affect others). So to understand what sort of changes are plausible, you have to know (a) what features characterise each segment and (b) what sorts of effects are possible and/or common.

Since different segments share features, allophonic changes tend to affect whole classes of these segments, not just isolated phonemes. For example, if there's a process which laxes one high vowel in closed final syllables (a more standard restatement of your rule "/i/ becomes [ɪ] when part of the last syllable and followed by a consonant"), it's unusual for it not to affect other phonemic high vowels (e.g. /u/) in the same conditioning environment. Velars and uvulars are pronounced in the back of the mouth (that is, the tongue makes contact or near-contact with the velum and the uvular, respectively, both of which are located far back in the mouth), so they tend to have a lowering/backing effect on the vowels near them (because that's a simpler articulatory adjustment to make), and so forth.

So having a rule like "/a/ -> [æ] next to /d/" makes your language distinctive, but it also makes it less naturalistic because [ð] isn't so much more fronted that other sounds produced in the front of the mouth that you would expect only this to affect vowels in this way. (Or if it does have this effect, you wouldn't expect it to affect only this one vowel.) At the very least, why doesn't /j/ have the same effect? Or /s/ or /t/?
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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby ShounenRonin » 2016-06-01, 10:39

Good point. I wont have /a/'s sound change when next to [ð]. It seems that /a/ should become [æ] when it is the last vowel followed by a consonant. However, there are still times where /a/ may be placed there and I still want it to be [a].

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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby Núria Harket » 2016-06-20, 17:54


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Re: General Conlang Discussion

Postby Atluk » 2016-07-04, 20:23

I am revamping my conlang to improve the vowel system to my tastes. People here seem to gripe about the basic five vowel phonemes, so I plan for my conlang to have six monophthong vowels.

/a/- [a]
/e/- [e]
/i/- [y]
/o/- [ɔ]
/u/- [ʊ]
/?/- [ɛ]

The ? mark is there since idk what phoneme I want to represent [ɛ] with. Tips?

I am considering using /ø/, but there may be better phonemes. I will develop a conscript eventually, but for now I'll use the Latin alphabet as a placeholder.


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