Notes on a Vaporware Conlang VI: Sound Changes, Part 3

Review of Stage II

Last time, we changed quite a few things from Stage I. The phonemes *p, *b, *d, *g, *z and *j were created while got lost, and also *x changed to other things or was lost in many places. The phonemic difference between aspirated and unaspirated *t, *k and *tʰ, kʰ has been weakened in unstressed with the emergence of the voiced consonants *b, *d and *g.

MOA bilabial alveolar palatal velar glottal
nasals *m *n
plosives *p *b *t *d *k *g
*tʰ *kʰ
taps/flaps *r
fricatives *s *z *x *h
approximants *w *l *j

We also created the vowel phonemes *e, *o and while weakening , as well as creating long versions of all of them (except for ) and the diphthongs *iɪ, *ɨɪ, *uɪ and *aɪ:

Height Front Central Back
high *i, *iː
*ɨ, *ɨː
*u, *uː
mid *e, *eː
*o, *oː
low *a, *aː

Stage II to Stage III

1. Palatalization of *Cj sequences:

  • *j → *ʲ / C _

2. Simplification of word-final coda clusters:

  • *C₂ → Ø / VC₁ _ #

Word-final coda clusters get simplified by losing the last consonant, e.g. like

  • *a.kúsk*a.kús*kús,
  • *ga.táns*ga.tán and
  • *pu.kʰánt*pu.kʰán.

3. Apocope in post-tonal unstressed open syllables:

  • *V → Ø / [–stress] C _ #

Vowels in post-tonal open syllables get lost but only under the condition of not creating new final clusters. Examples:

  • *í.daíd,
  • *ká.gakág and
  • *náː.dʲanáːdʲ.

This change may have gone through a stage akin to Latvian weak final vowels or by a weakening of the vowel to ?ə, which was subsequently lost, as e.g. in many Upper German dialects (Kariņš 15–34; König 159, Paul 109–111). This change goes hand in hand with the next one:

4. Vowel reduction in unstressed open monosyllables:

  • *V → *ə / # [–stress] (C) C _ #

Example: *ga*gə.

5. Loss of short-vowel only and schwa-containing simple initial unstressed syllables:

  • *V[–long] → Ø / [–stress] # _ $
  • *Cə → Ø / [–stress] # _ $
  • *əC → Ø / [–stress] # _ $


  • *u.kʰɨ́ɪt*kʰíət;
  • *gə.krú*krú; and
  • *əŋ.sú*sú.

6. Loss of *r with compensatory lengthening:

  • *VCr → *VːC

Long vowels and diphthongs don’t get extra length, again. Example: *káː.dra*ká:.da.

7. Weakening of initial *x:

  • *x → Øː / _ a
  • *x → *j / _ [–back]
  • *x → *w / _ [+back]

*x weakens to a labial and palatal approximant respectively before back and non-back vowels; it drops out completely before *a (possibly going through *x?ɰ → Ø). In all cases, it leaves compensatory lengthening behind. Examples:

  • *xá.gas*áː.gas;
  • *xís.kri*jíːs.kri; and
  • *xú.gʲu*xúgʲ*wúːgʲ*úːgʲ.

8. *ns simplifies:

  • *ns → *s

Example: *sáns.kun*sás.kun.

9. Generate diphthongs with :

  • *(w)u → *ʊ / V _
  • *w → Ø / _ u

Again, don’t create long diphthongs. Examples:

  • *da.wús*dáʊs;
  • *tɨ́ws.tal*tə́ʊs.tal.

10. Avoid vowel hiatus:

  • *ɪ → *j / V _ V
  • *ʊ → *w / V _ V

A diphthong in with another vowel following is turned into a *VjV sequence to avoid hiatus. The same goes for *VʊV, where turns into *w.[1. This is not attested as happening in my list of 2000 generated words, so I don’t know if it actually happens.] Example: rúɪ.wuk?rúɪʊk*rú.juk.

11. Open *iɪ, *ɨɪ, lower *iʊ, *ɨʊ:

  • *iɪ, ɨɪ → *iə
  • *iʊ, ɨʊ → *əʊ


  • *nas.kɨ́ɪs*nas.kíəs,
  • *síɪ.sa*síəs;
  • *i.kʰɨ́wk → … → *kʰɨ́ʊ*kʰə́ʊ,
  • *kɨ́w.ku*kɨ́ʊ.ku*kə́ʊ.ku.

12. Initial stress

Probably under foreign influence:[1. Or more accurately, because reasons.] change all stress to initial.[2. My Python script also has a thing here to clean up weird syllabifications: VCCVVC.CV; CCCCC.C everywhere else; VCVV.CV. This doesn’t always work perfectly, but well enough to require very little manual fixing.]

13. Move length from long unstressed vowel to preceding short stressed vowel:

  • *V́ … *Vː → *V́ː … *V

This is in parallel with the stress shift, though not limited to words that experienced it. Again, no long diphthongs or doubly long vowels. Examples:

  • *su.túːs (→ ?sú.tuːs) → *súː.tus;
  • *táŋ.goːm*táːŋ.gom.

14. Apocope of :

  • *ə → Ø / V C _ #

Where it still exists, drop final , but only so that there are no final consonant clusters. Example: *té.srətéː.sə*téːs.

15. Lowering of remaining :

  • *ə → *a (except in diphthongs *iə, *əʊ)

This gets finally rid of all , basically.[1. Not sure if this is believable, but let’s go with it for now. I guess, you could also interpret this as (〈a〉 on its head if it doesn’t appear as such), rather.] Example: *sá.gəs*sá.gas.

Phonemic Inventory for Stage III

In this stage, we did … things! Most radically, a stress shift to first syllables. We also kind of killed off schwa and created diphthongs with . The consonant inventory hasn’t changed much, but there are palatalized variants of *d, *k, *g and *s (at the very least) now. This feels kind of imbalanced, so we will see some more regularization in the next step.


MOA bilabial alveolar palatal velar glottal
nasals *m *n
plosives *p *b *t *d *k *g
*tʰ *kʰ
*dʲ *kʲ *gʲ
taps/flaps *r
fricatives *s *z *x *h
approximants *w *l *j


Height Front Central Back
high *i, *iː *ɨ, *ɨː *u, *uː
mid *e, *eː *o, *oː
low *a, *aː
Height Front Central Back
high *iə *uɪ, *uʊ
low *aɪ, *aʊ
  • Kariņš, A. Krišjānis. “Vowel Deletion in Latvian.” Language Variation and Change 7.1 (1995): 15–34. Print.
  • König, Werner. DTV-Atlas Deutsche Sprache. 16th ed. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994. Print. 159.
  • Paul, Hermann. Mittelhochdeutsche Grammatik. Eds. Thomas Klein, Hans-Joachim Solms et al. 25th ed. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2007. Print. 109–111.
  • Corrected the sound change in section 11 to also include *ɨʊ as per my commenting – I made a mistake with the regex again. There are still no attested cases of *iʊ*əʊ in my testing word list, but there are definitely cases of *ɨʊ*əʊ. I also corrected the list of resulting phonemes accordingly.