Notes on a Vaporware Conlang VII: Sound Changes, Part 4

Review of Stage III

The thing that changed most last time was shifting stress to the first syllalbe
generally, while it was lexical before and could be either on the first or the
second syllable of words. Other than that, we’re stuck with a somewhat unbalanced
phoneme inventory. For example:

  • there is no *pʰ when there are *tʰ and *kʰ;
  • there is no *tʲ when there are *kʲ and *gʲ;
  • there are no *pʲ and *bʲ either;
  • there might also better be a *zʲ accompanying *sʲ;
  • there is no *iʊ when there are diphthongs for all other
    vowels on the apices of the original vowel triangle.
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
*uɪ, *uʊ
mid *e, *eː *o, *oː
low *a, *aː
*aɪ, *aʊ

These irregularities, on the other hand, are perfect for applying further
changes towards the phonology I sketched out at the very beginning of this series.

Stage III to Stage IV

I’m now leaving stress marks and syllabification out since words are now stressed on the first syllable in all cases.

1. Open *uʊ to *uə:

  • *uʊ → *uə

2. Lose final consonants in polysyllabic words:

  • *C → Ø / $ _ #

I’m doing a French here, in some way. It’s basically a continuation of the change in stage III, section 2.[1. I was thinking of either chopping off all final consonants or none, but getting rid of all final consonants seemed too radical. This is basically the in-between solution.] Example: *askʲas*astʲa.

3. Change the aspiration distinction to a voicing one:

  • *k → *g / [+sonorant] $ _
  • *t → *d / [+sonorant] $ _
  • *kʰ → *k
  • *tʰ → *t

If the previous syllable ends with a sonorant, change *k and *t to their voiced counterparts; change all *kʰ and *tʰ to their unaspirated counterparts, thus partially merging old *k, *t with old *kʰ, *tʰ. Examples:

  • *saŋkuɪn*saŋguɪ*sanʲdʲuɪ,
  • *gakʲa*gagʲa*gadʲa;
  • *santas*sanda,
  • *ditul*didu;
  • *drakʰis*draki;
  • *hutʰas*huta.

4. The Great Palatalization

4a. Palatalization from merger of with *i:

  • *[+alveolar] ɨ → *[+alveolar]ʲ i / # _
  • [+alveolar] → *i [+alveolar]ʲ (elsewhere);
  • *[+velar] ɨ → *[+velar]ʲ i / # _
  • [+velar] → *i [+velar]ʲ (elsewhere)

As changes to *i, alveolar and velar consonants palatalize at the beginning of words before , and after word-internally. Examples:

  • *sɨm*sʲim*ʃim,
  • *jɨːdan*jiːdʲa;
  • *kɨŋkriŋ*kʲiŋgri*tʲinʲdʒi*tʃinʲdʒi,
  • *rɨkdal*rikʲda*ritʲa.

4b. All remaining merges with *i:

  • *ɨ > *i

No side effects here. Example: *kusɨs*kusɨ*kusi.[1. None of the conditions in section 4a apply here because at the stage where they could apply, there is no *s following the anymore, and the *sɨ is word-internal, not at the beginning!]

4c. Fronting of palatalized velar plosives:

  • *kʲ → *tʲ
  • *gʲ → *dʲ

A merger of palatalized velars with their alveolar counterparts happens. Examples:

  • *saskʲa*sastʲa;
  • *uːgʲik*uːdʲ*uːtʲ.

4d. fronts to *nʲ:

  • *ŋ(ʲ) → *nʲ

Probably as a result of the change in section 4c, fronts to *nʲ, whether palatalized or not. Example: *haŋkʰɨn*haŋki*hanʲtʲi*hanʲtʃi.

4e. Homorganic assimilation after new *nʲ:

  • *[+plosive –voiced] → *tʲ / nʲ _
  • *[+plosive +voiced] → *dʲ / nʲ _

Stops other than alveolar ones assimilate their point of articulation after *nʲ. Example: *haŋkʰɨn*haŋki*hanʲtʲi*hanʲtʃi.

4f. Alveolars palatalize after *nʲ:

  • *[+alveolar] → *[+alveolar]ʲ / nʲ _

Further palatalization assimilation happens after *nʲ with alveolars. Example: *huŋsa*hunʲsa*hunʲsʲa*hunʲʃa.

4g. Merger of *sʲ, *xʲ to and *zʲ, *rʲ to :

  • *sʲ, *xʲ → *ʃ
  • *zʲ, *rʲ → *ʒ


  • *husʲaŋ*huʃa;[1. I couldn’t find any examples for *xʲ probably because I’ve already eradicated *x too thoroughly.]
  • *kʰɨz*kizʲ*kiʒ*kiʃ,
  • *snɨraŋ*snirʲa*sniʒa*sinʒa.

4h. Palatalization of *tr and *dr:

  • *r → *ʲ / t _ [–front]
  • *r → *ʲ / d _ [–front]

In the aftermath of the changes in section 4g, *tr and *dr palatalize to *tʲ and *dʲ, except before front vowels, i.e. *i and *e. Examples:

  • *tʰɨkrak*titʲra*titʲa,
  • *kaŋgra*kanʲdʲra*kanʲdʲa.

4i. Creation of *tʃ and *dʒ:

  • *tʲ → tʃ / _ i
  • *dʲ → dʒ / _ i
  • *r → ʃ / t _ [+front]
  • *r → ʒ / d _ [+front]

As a continuation of section 4h, *tʲi and *dʲi further palatalize to *tʃi and *dʒi, resepctively.

Similarly, *tʲr and *dʲr further palatalize to *tʃ and *dʒ, respectively, before front vowels. Examples:

  • *kɨŋ*tʲinʲ*tʃinʲ,
  • *huŋ.gik*hunʲ.dʲi*hunʲdʒi;
  • *kɨŋkriŋ*kʲiŋgri*tʲinʲ.dʲri*tʃinʲ.dʲri*tʃinʲdʒi.[1. I couldn’t find an example for the *tr*tʃ change, even though I don’t see offhand why it should’t be possible in principle.]

After we’ve just palatalized the hell out of alveolar sounds, let’s now turn to other things …

5. Final *h to *x:

  • *h → *x / _ #

This is more of an allophonic thing. I’m including it anyway. Example: *stuh*stux.

6a. Simplification of *sk across syllable borders:

  • *k → Ø / s $ _

Example: *suska*susa.

6b. Simplification of *sk elsewhere:

  • *sk → *ʃ / $ _, _ $ … #

*sk changes to in syllable onsets and syllable-finally inside words. Examples:

  • *skaːsal*ʃaːsa,
  • *ruskda*ruʃ.ta.

7. Simplification of *ʃx:

  • *ʃx → ʃ

Where, due to sound changes, we’ve ended up with *ʃx now, level to , like for example: *kʰasʲxi*kaʃxi*ka.ʃi.

8. Metathesis and simplification of *sn:

  • *snV → *sVn

Example: *snagʲ*santʲ.

9. Homorganic assimilation in case of resulting *nk, *ng:

  • [+plosive –alveolar][+plosive +alveolar] / n _

Example: *snakʰun*sanku*santu (since we don’t have *ŋk anymore).

10. Drop resulting final *r, *l in clusters that are due to section 8:

  • *V C r # → Vː C
  • *V C l # → Vː Cʲ


  • *snar*sanr*saːn,
  • *snul*sunl*suːnʲ.

11. Assimilation of voiced sounds after unvoiced:

  • [+voiced][–voiced] / [–voiced] _

This applies to all pairs of consonants for which a voicing distinction exists. Examples:

  • rakdan → rakda → rakta,
  • hɨsʲ.gal → hiʃ.ga → hiʃ.ka.

12. Final devoicing:

  • [+voiced][–voiced] / _ #

Again, this applies only if there is a voiceless counterpart of a voiced sound. Example: *tʰaːgʲ*taːtʲ.

Phonemic Inventory for Stage IV


After the Great Palatalization and some leveling in its aftermath, as well as leveling out the three-way distinction in voicing and aspiration, the whole system looks a lot tidier and balanced:

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


There is no , *ɨː anymore, since it merged with *i, *iː, resulting in a nice five-vowel system with a length distinction. However, there is a *uə now, instead of *uʊ.

Height Front Central Back
high *i, *iː *u, *uː
mid *e, *eː *o, *oː
low *a, *aː
Height Front Central Back
high *iə *uɪ, *uə
low *aɪ, *aʊ