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Senu Yivokuchi

Phonology \ Phonemic inventory

The phonemic system distinguishes four main places of articulation (labial, alveolar, palatal, and velar), a two-way voice contrast (voiced vs. unvoiced, in both cases non-aspirated), and three moods of articulation (stop, fricative, and approximant). As for vowels, the language has five, distinguished by height and frontness, and a considerable number of diphthongs. Here is a diagram of the consonant system (with sounds transliterated in the X-SAMPA representation of IPA):

         Lab  Alv  Pal  Vel

Stop      p    t    c    k
          b    d    J\   g
Fricat    f    s    C    x
          v    z    j\   G
Nasal     m    n    J
Approx    w         j
               l    L
               r

Romanization follows the IPA as much as possible, differing from it by only a few symbols.

The rest of the transliteration symbols are read as IPA symbols (so beware c = /c/ [unvoiced palatal stop]).

If you are not familiar with these sounds or the terms used to describe them, read the pronunciation guide and/or a good book on phonetics and/or my How to create a language. I'm repeating a lot of things here; I'm not going to repeat anything else.

The vowels are the same as the five Latin/Spanish vowels, /i e a o u/. Length is not phonemic, and nasalization is only marginally phonemic. There are a lot of diphthongs where the phonetic realization of the involved vowels varies from its realization when monophthongs.

Nasalization

Vowel nasalization occurs non-phonemically in Senu Yivokuchi, as in many other languages, when the vowel precedes a nasal consonant. Such nasalization is however rather noticeable in this language, and in some dialects it becomes phonemic, since nasals become plain oral stops where an unvoiced consonant follows, and the nasalization of the preceding vowel is the only trace left. This phenomenon is relatively recent. Some examples:

    gamso [ga~pso]
    konta [ko~tta]


Diphthongs

One of Senu Yivokuchi's typical features is its great amount of diphthongs. The language allows all combinations formed by any two vowels, with the exception of two identical vowels, and all of these combinations are diphthongs, part of the same syllable. Note, however, that certain diphthongs are very infrequent, and that all diphthongs tend to be reduced in unstressed closed syllables.

Following is a table of diphthongs and their phonetic realization:

ae [aE]   ea [e@]   ia [ja]   oe [oE]   ua [wa]
ai [aj]   ei [ej]   ie [je]   oi [oj]   ue [we]
ao [aO]   eo [eO]   io [jo]
au [aw]   eu [ew]   iu [ju]

Diphthongs where the first component is /i/ or /u/ are ascending; the rest are descending. The former, when word-initial, are assimilated to approximant + vowel clusters and written appropriately according to that.


Phonotactics

Each syllable has three parts: an onset, a nucleus, and a coda, in that order. In Senu Yivokuchi, the onset is composed of one consonant, or one of the allowed onset clusters (discussed below); it may as well be empty. The nucleus is made up of one vowel or two vowels in a diphthong. The coda, which is the last part of the syllable, may be empty or consist of one and only one consonant.

Onsets may be formed by a stop + approximant cluster (the high vowels realized as approximants in ascending diphthongs are not counted as part of the onset). In general, the approximant is /r/, but /l/ is found in this position in a number of words, most of which are borrowings. The most common onset clusters are of stop + /r/; /gr/ is rather infrequent (only found in dialectal variants), and palatal + approximant clusters (**/cr Jr/) are not found at all, due to the special diachronical source of the palatal series.

Non-empty codas may only consist of one consonant, and some codas are deleted if the onset of the next syllable (word-internally) does not obey certain rules. Codas formed by an approximant are always allowed, as well as most codas formed by a stop or a nasal when a fricative follows. Stop + stop clusters are usually not permitted, though a certain tendency to syncope on the part of speakers has lately caused their appearance. Fricative + stop clusters are rare but possible, mostly found in newer compounds and loanwords; old clusters of this kind have been resolved by deleting the fricative and performing compensatory lengthening on the previous vowel (which results in diphthongization in the modern language).

Some word-internal clusters of the form fricative + approximant may appear, typically after a stop has suffered fricative mutation. These clusters are illegal as onsets, but may be resolved by considering the fricative consonant as the coda of the previous syllable. Some speakers mark this shift with a noticeable pause and a stronger pronunciation of the approximant (generally /r/), with a minority inserting an epenthetic vowel to break the cluster.