Tag Archives: experiment

Stylistic experiment: Tahano Hikamu and blackletter

I’m a doodler. More specifically, I’m in the habit of doodling random words and sentences when watching TV. Moreover, ever since I started toying with adapting Ayeri’s Tahano Hikamu writing system to a style that resembles blackletter, that idea hasn’t let go of me, and it’s become part of my idle doodling. I briefly mentioned the idea of a blackletter-style Tahano Hikamu in the grammar (p. 61–62) along with a small example, but I’ve never really documented it seriously.

So, blackletter. What does this have to do with Ayeri, since it undeniably takes some of its aesthetic of sound and spelling not from European languages but rather from southeast Asian languages? And what’s more, its ‘native’ writing system does so as well—maybe even turning some of the features of real-world syllabic alphabets typical of that region up to eleven. On the other hand, so-called Gothic scripts (see e.g. Knight 1996: 320–322, or if you read German, Schneider 2014: 28–85; this is not directly related to the Gothic language and its alphabet) are a western-central European variation of the Latin alphabet which came into fashion in the middle ages. They survive in the shape of blackletter print for certain purposes up to the present day.

Roman and blackletter styles
Roman (italic) and blackletter styles (Source Serif 4 Italic; UniFraktur Maguntia)

Here in Germany at least (and no doubt in other parts of the Germanic-speaking world as well), you can still find blackletter typefaces for instance in the mastheads of newspapers, on pub signs, beer labels, and other things that are supposed to evoke either a long-standing tradition or rustic folklore. Unfortunately, blackletter also has a dark side: it is also associated with the Nazi era and continues to be used in connection to fascist, nationalist, and racist ideas. In my exploration of and toying with this style, I expressly distance myself from such ideologies.

One key characteristic of Gothic scripts—of which blackletter typefaces are a variant—is that they emphasize vertical lines, making characters tall and narrow, like the windows in Gothic cathedrals. Another one is that the round parts of letters are broken up into multiple strokes, with the ‘feet’ of stems typically bent to the right (Schneider 2014: 29). According to Schneider (2014: 28–29) ‘gothification’ of the Carolingian minuscule can be observed first in the Anglo-Norman area, i.e. England and northern France, and also in Belgium in the late 11th and early 12th century. She writes that the style then made its way into central Europe from the mid-12th century on, spreading from west to east. Gothic book hands and blackletter typefaces with their intricate joining together of angles, straight and curved lines, and sometimes even added embellishing hairlines and tittles may lead to very intricate, at times playful shapes in spite of a stout overall look.

What brought me to combine two such disparate things as Gothic scripts and Ayeri’s writing system, anyway? For one, I’ve been working for the Handschriftencensus research project for the past few years. Handschriftencensus is a meta-catalog on the transmission of all medieval texts in German language by way of manuscripts. In real-life small talk, I like to say it’s basically the Yellow Pages of German codicology research. At the office, we don’t work with old codices directly, however, one of the pre-pandemic perks my job included was participating in excursions to and workshops at libraries such as the Heidelberg University Library’s historical collection and to get literally hands-on with old books there. When not traveling, digitized manuscripts have to suffice. Looking at writing from several hundred years ago is thus part of my current job, and I can’t deny that manuscripts hold some fascination for me, as the photos in this article probably suggest.

A view of the manuscript, St. Gallen, Kantonsbibliothek, Vadianische Sammlung, VadSlg Ms. 302, part 2, fol. 25r, with people's hands around
Getting hands-on with St. Gallen, Cantonal Lib., Vadian Coll., VadSlg Ms. 302 (e-codices, HSC). Displayed here is pt. 2, fol. 25r. Not all medieval manuscripts are this lavishly decorated. Most are drab and practical, made to be used, not treasures to be marveled at.

Secondly, I’ve long found southeast Asian scripts such as Balinese, Burmese, Javanese, Khmer, Thai, etc. intriguing both regarding their system of writing and their look, which also had an influence on Tahano Hikamu. Several years ago, I stumbled upon an image on Wikipedia of the title plate of an 1898 book commemorating queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands’ accession to the throne in 1890. The issue of European colonialism (again, with its history of violence, exploitation, and lingering socioeconomic problems) aside, what especially caught my intrigue here is the first line, which combines Javanese writing with the European blackletter style.

Javanese text written in blackletter style on the title page of a book
Text in Javanese script on the title page of a book printed in Semarang, Indonesia, in 1898 (Koninklijk Huisarchief via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Both the Latin alphabet and the Javanese script emphasize the vertical axis, which opens up a possibility for stylistic experimentation with Gothic style features in an alien environment. If something like this is possible, shouldn’t it also be possible in my script? Tahano Hikamu’s consonant letters as well are mainly built on a lattice of vertical strokes, so there shouldn’t be a problem either to adapt them to broken lines and curly feet. In some cases, it proved even possible to adapt the shape of Latin letters to the ‘gothicized’ Ayeri script directly. The following chart gives an overview of the characters and diacritics with the exception of numerals, which I’ve so far neglected to experiment on.

Chart of blackletter-style Tahano Hikamu characters
Chart of blackletter-style Tahano Hikamu characters

The following correspondences exist, in some cases also independent of the particular style of Tahano Hikamu:

  • TH pa — Lat. n
  • TH ba — Lat. a (double-storey shape)
  • TH na — Lat. i, j
  • TH nga — similar to Lat. w
  • TH va — Lat. r
  • TH ra — similar to Lat. g (looptail shape)
  • TH ya — Lat. u
  • TH fa — Lat. m
  • TH sha — similar to Lat. B
  • TH kha — similar to Lat. R

The diphthong marker appears turned on its head in the above chart (4th line, 5th item from the right), resulting in what looks similar to the quarter rest in music. This is a stylistic variation I have recently experimented with, in part also because I keep forgetting preposed diacritics when doodling words as described initially. Starting with a base stroke thus often rescues the attempt to write a word, so it’s a beneficial feature to keep. The basic grapheme in its ‘canonical’ orientation is straightforward enough to be adapted as well, though. The letter ga posed the greatest challenge, similar to Latin g, which itself has invited stylistic experiments by both scribes and typographers over the centuries as well. For instance, look at the gs in James Todd’s (2015) article on designing the Essonnes typeface, which he samples from a version of the classic Didot. Aren’t they glorious with their serifed lower bowls?

Will you see more of Ayeri written in this style, maybe even a cohesive text? Frankly, I have no idea what the future holds, since I’m still working on my dissertation and am intent on finishing it this year. Small indulgences like writing this blog article already leave me with a slightly bad conscience about neglecting my off-hour duties (working on your PhD is usually an unpaid hobby in German academia, at least in the humanities, and yes, people are not happy about it).

Suffice it to say, doodling in this style has renewed my appreciation for the toil of medieval scribes. It’s a slow and arduous way of writing if you want it to look good, even when it’s just to write a few lines.

  • Knight, Stan. 1996. The Roman Alphabet. In The World’s Writing Systems, edited by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. New York, NY, and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 312–332.
  • Koninklijk Huisarchief. 2013. Book title commemorating Wilhelmina’s ascension, Semarang 1898. Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain). [Link]
  • Schneider, Karin. 2014. Paläographie und Handschriftenkunde für Germanisten: Eine Einführung. 3rd ed. Sammlung kurzer Grammatiken germanischer Dialekte, B. Ergänzungsreihe 8. Berlin and Boston, MA: de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110338676.
  • Todd, James. 2015. Making Fonts: Essonnes. I Love Typography (June 12). [Link]
Private photos of:

Notes on a Vaporware Conlang VIII: Sound Changes, Part 5

Review of Stage IV

The last set of changes saw the Great Palatalization in the course of which also was lost – which basically palatalized everything around it as it merged with *i. This, however, also caused the consonant inventory to look rather tidy again, besides the fact that there is no velar nasal when there are nasals for both the bilabial and the alveolar points of articulation:

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

The vowel system didn’t change as much as the consonant one, except that there is no , *ɨː anymore, as I said above, reducing the 6-vowel system[1. “T6Cb” according to the classification attempted in the Vowel Systems thread on the ZBB, which says that /i ɨ e a o u/ is typical of many Slavic languages, so at least my result isn’t as weird as I thought it would be.] to a 5-vowel one. *uʊ also opened up to *uə, as a complement to *iə.

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

Stage IV to Stage V

1. Reduce final vowels:

  • *V → *ə / V $ [–stress] _ #

This change reduces all unstressed final vowels in polysyllabic words to schwa if the stressed syllable is open; diphthongs aren’t affected. Example: *taka*takətak.

2. Apocope of final schwa:

  • *ə → Ø / !V _ #

Subsequently, except in diphthongs (i.e. *iə), lose final schwa. Example: *huta*hutəhut.

3. The Great Monophthongization

  • *iə → iː

This schwa is now lost as well, but the monophthongization continues:

  • *aɪ → eː[1. Originally, I wanted to make this one /aː/, but that doesn’t happen a lot apparently (Southern US English is an example of it, though). /aɪ/ turning into something /e/-like seems way more common.]
  • *aʊ → oː
  • *uɪ → iː
  • *uə → uː

All diphthongs resolve into long monophthongs, for now even at the end of words. Examples:

  • *dasiə*dasiː*daːsi 〈dāsi〉,
  • *taɪgateːg 〈tēg〉,
  • *rasaʊ*raso:raːso 〈rāso〉,
  • *nuɪganiːg 〈nīg〉,
  • *huənʲhuːnʲ 〈hūņ〉.

4. Further apocope of final syllables:

  • V → Ø / CSON $ [–stress] [–voiced]SON _ #

After two consonants, the final vowel of an unstressed open syllable disappears if the sonority of the first one is higher than that of the second one and the second one is voiceless.[1.

Originally, I was not deleting final consonants and wanted to contract final CVC syllables as well as doing the change outlined in this section according to this huge table:

p t k s ʃ h m n l
1 1 1 1 1 2 2 4 8 8 8 16
p 1 ! ! ! !
t 1 ! !
1 !
k 1 ! !
s 2 (✕)
ʃ 2
h 4
m 8 (✕) (✕) (✓)
n 8 (✕) (✕) (✓)
8 (✕) (✕) (✕) (✕) (✓)
l 16
j 32
r 64

This table is supposed to indicate that the possible combinations roughly follow a sonority hierarchy – a sound in a row may only precede the matching one in a column if its index is larger than the other sound’s (“✓”). However, plosives and sibilants are an exception to this (“!”), and even though a combination is theoretically allowed, it might either not be desirable (“(✓)”) or not permissible according to euphony (“(✕)”). Of all these combinations, only *mp, *ns, *nt, *ntʃ, *ntʲ, *sp, *st, *stʲ, *ʃk, *ʃp, *ʃt, *ʃtʲ occur in my sample now, though. Note to self: Make a sister language or dialect that doesn’t delete final consonants and then carries out the originally intended change wholesale, metathesizing CVC and CC combinations to make contraction possible. The reason why I decided to delete final consonants in stage 4 here is that without metathesis, not too many final syllables actually contract. And I like the current result, too.] Some examples:

  • *hanʲtʃihantʃ 〈hanč〉,
  • *rinʲtʲarintʲ 〈rinț〉,
  • *sustasust 〈sust〉,
  • *waspawasp 〈wasp〉.

5. Shorten long monophthongs in last syllable:

  • [+stress] V … [–stress] Vː → [+stress] Vː … [–stress] V

This shortens the long monophthongs from diphthongs in the last syllalbe and transfers the length to the stressed syllable. Don’t create overlong vowels, though. For example:

  • *haːruɪ*haːriːha:ri 〈hāri〉,
  • *nantiə*nantiːnaːnti 〈nānti〉.

6. Reinforce final *h:

  • *h → x / _ #

Example: *gruhi*gruhgrux 〈gruh〉.

7. Fix: Homorganic assimilation:

  • *k, *g → tʲ, dʲ / m, n(ʲ) _
  • *n(ʲ)p, *n(ʲ)b → mp, mb
  • *mt, *md → nt, nd

8. Fix: Straighen out some of the palatalized clusters:

  • *n(ʲ)(t(ʲ))ʃ → ntʃ
  • *n(ʲ)(d(ʲ))ʒ → ndʒ
  • *nʲt(ʲ) → ntʲ
  • *nʲd(ʲ) → ndʲ

Phonemic Inventory for Stage V (present day)

We’re now at the final and current stage. A romanization is given in angular brackets where the letters deviate from the IPA symbols. Note that those commas and cedillas should all be commas, in fact, but fonts handle them inconsistently.


There hasn’t been any change in the consonants at all this time around, actually.

MOA bilabial alveolar palatal velar glottal
nasals m n
nʲ 〈ņ〉
plosives p b t d k g
tʲ 〈ț〉 dʲ 〈d̦〉
taps/flaps r
fricatives s z ʃ 〈š〉 ʒ 〈ž〉 x 〈h〉 h
affricates tʃ 〈č〉 dʒ 〈dž〉
approximants w l j


Diphthongs were all conflated with the monophthongs, so there’s just this five-vowel system with vowel length now:

Height Front Central Back
high i, iː 〈ī〉 u, uː 〈ū〉
mid e, eː 〈ē〉 o, oː 〈ō〉
low a, aː 〈ā〉

The list of sample words

Several times before, I mentioned a list of automatically generated words I tested the sound changes with. To give an overview of the respective outcomes of the various stages, I made a Google Doc of it: List of 2,000 Sample Words.

Name of the language

I’m still undecided and to create a self-name, I guess I will have to wait until I worked out some basic things on the language’s or even the proto-language’s adjectives. For now, I guess it might be best to go with a exonym, maybe from Ayeri. However, that name also still needs to be found. Though now that I’m writing this, how about Ikami? I find that a little cheesy, though, for some reason. Or how about Turayi?

  • Added “Turayi” as a possible name. “Hillandic”. I think I like that better.

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

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.

Notes on a Vaporware Conlang V: Sound Changes, Part 2

Review of Stage I

Last time, I assigned a bunch of phonemic values to my underspecified proto-phonemes , *q, *x and , and they are currently in complementary distribution. What we’re starting out with for the changes from Stage I to Stage II is the following phoneme inventory:

MOA bilabial alveolar velar uvular glottal
nasals *m *n
plosives *t *k *q
*tʰ *kʰ
taps/flaps *r
fricatives *s *x *h
approximants *w *l

The vowels stayed all the same:

Height Front Central Back
high *i *u
low *a

Stage I to Stage II

For the record, I’m leaving out the syllable delimiter $ when it is not strictly part of the condition of the sound change. It doesn’t matter for most of the changes.

1. Generating bilabial plosives in partial analogy to *m:

  • [+plosive +oral] > *p / _ w

The oral plosives *t, *k, *q produce *p when before *w; remains . This is maybe stretching things somewhat, but let’s just go with *tʷ merging with the result of a merger of *kʷ and *qʷ, all into *pʷ, and then becoming *p. Example words that get affected by this: *kwəs*pəs; *twá.kwa*pá.pa; *qwá.tra*pá.tra.

2. Homorganic nasals (assimilation of nasals’ POA to the following plosive):

  • [+nasal] > *m / _ [+bilabial +plosive]
  • [+nasal] > *n / _ [+alveolar +plosive]
  • [+nasal] > *ŋ / _ [+velar +plosive]

Currently, the relevant plosives are just the voiceless ones, so we get *mp, *nt, *ŋk from this change for combinations that aren’t congruent, e.g. *húwm.txa*hó:n.dja.

3. Retract *r to *x after *q:

  • *r → *x / q _

This means, *qr merges with *qx (see section 6 below). This would be a possible move through a [+back] allophone of *r (maybe via ?[ʐ] for *r), let’s call it .[1. Regrettably, 〈ρ〉 looks too much like 〈p〉 to stay with the Greek letters I’ve used before.] Then, devoices after the voicless stop, leaving us with what we might reasonably refer to as *qx₂ if we assume that due to the merger with original *qx₁, the association of *x₂*ʀ̥ with *r disappears over time.

4. Resolve *Vw sequences into monophthongs or diphthongs, respectively:

  • *iw → *eː / _ … a
  • *iw → ɨː elsewhere
  • *uw → *oː / _ … a
  • *uw → *uː elsewhere
  • *aw → *oː


  • *tʰíw.qak*tʰé.kak;
  • *tra.qíws*dra.kɨ́ːs;
  • *húwm.txa*hóːn.dja;
  • *ruws*ruːs and
  • *aʔ.ráwk*a.róːk.

5. Simplify coda clusters in unstressed syllables:

  • C → Ø / [–stress] _ C $

In unstressed syllables, clusters of two consonants in final position simplify to leave only the latter, e.g. *ask.tʰíln*as.tíɪn.[1. Originally, I had this result in vowel reduction: *i, *u and *a; I decided against this, though, probably because too many syllables would reduce to zero too quickly. I didn’t take notes besides commenting this part out.]

6. Partial reduction of word-initial *q, *qx:

  • *q(x) → *x / # _ [+high]

Examples: *qis*xis, *qxú.kʰu*xú.ku.

7. Merger of remaining *q with *k:

  • *q → *k

Examples: *qə.rán*gə.rán.

8. Vowel lowering before glottal stop:

  • *iʔ → *e
  • *uʔ → *o
  • *əʔ → *a
  • *aʔ → *a / [–stress] _
  • *aʔ → *aː

All of the original non-low vowels drop to the next lower tier[1. Conlanger Ragnar K. noted in another place: “Pharyngeals I would say are the most likely candidates to do that [i.e. lowering of previous vowels], and one could argue that /q/ could be thought of as a ‘pharyngeal’ /k/ in some languages, so that works too, and /ʔ/ also occurs.” He cites Klallam as an example of where this happens, cf. Montler 300–310.] while *a gets extra treatment: in unstressed syllables it just remains *a while it gets lengthened everywhere else. The glottal stop gets elided in all cases. Examples include:

  • *síʔ.stu*sé.stu;
  • *ti.súʔ*di.só;
  • *tʰu.qə́ʔ*du.ká;
  • *wák.tʰaʔ*wá.ta and
  • *háʔ.ska*háː.ska.

Note that the list above does not include ?*eʔ and ?*oʔ, since they do not occur. So far, we get our *e and *o from *iw and *aw, respectively (see section 4), which means that since *q only turns into syllable-finally after vowels, and *w is considered a consonant for this purpose, *iwq and *awq stay *iwq and *awq until *q eventually merges with *k (see section 7).

9. Metathesis of *xs:

  • *xs → *sx / _ [–alveolar] and !#

Except before alveolar consonants and word-finally (*t, *d, *n, *r, *s, *l), *xs switches around into *sx, e.g. in *ílx.san*íls.xan*íɪ.sjan (*rat.síxs*ra.zíːs).

10. Merger of initial *ts and *ks:

  • *ts, *ks → *s / $ _

Examples of this simplification include: *tsa.káls*sa.káɪs and *tʰíx.ksə*tʰíː.sə.

11. Reduction of *ts:

  • *ts → *z / [+voiced] _ [+voiced]
  • *ts → *s elsewhere

Between voiced sounds in general (both voiced consonants and vowels), *ts turns into *z; all remaining instances of *ts now also become *s (see section 10). Examples:

  • *rát.sra*ráz.da;
  • *kált.su*káɪ.zu and
  • *húlt.stu*húɪs.tu.

11. Metathesis of *ks:

  • *ks → *sk

Note that *ks doesn’t appear at the beginning of syllables anymore at this stage, as per section 10. Example: *rúqs.ra*rúks.ra*rúsk.da.

12. Reduction of *sx:

  • *x → *j / s _

*sx is now further eroded to *sj (see section 9), exemplified by the previously quoted *ílx.san*íls.xan*íɪ.sjan.

13. Elision of *x:

  • *x → *Øː / V _ C

As *x is dropped between a vowel and a consonant, it only leaves compensatory lengthening behind. Note that this is not supposed to lead to long diphthongs like ?*aʊː! Also, we now have created ourselves a bunch of long vowels. Example: *ruʔ.tʰíxk*ro.tʰíxk*ro.tʰíːk.

Furthermore, *x gets lost at the end of syllables – though without triggering lengthening – where the previous change hasn’t yet deleted it:

  • *x → Ø / _ $

Example: *rux.tʰálx*ruː.tʰálx*ruː.tʰál.

14. Reduction of word-initial *kx:

  • *kx → *x / # _

Example: *kxí.kʰal*xí.kal.

15. Simplification of two plosives in succession:

  • *[+plosive -aspirated] → Ø / _ [+plosive +aspirated]
  • *[+plosive ±aspirated]₁ → Ø / [+plosive ±aspirated]₁ _
  • *[+plosive -aspirated] → Ø / _ [+plosive -aspirated]

An unaspirated plosive (*p, *t, *k) gets elided before an aspirated plosive (*tʰ, *kʰ). Generally, if two instances of the same plosive are in succession, they simplify to one. If two unaspirated plosives follow each other, only the second one is kept while the first drops out. Examples:

  • *ít.kʰa*í.kʰa*í.ka;
  • *kúsk.qaxt*kúsk.kax*kúsk.ka*kús.ka;
  • *sák.tri*sá.tri*sá.dri.

16. Reduction of *x after plosives:

  • *x → *j / [+plosive] _

The same thing as in section 12, except now with plosives as well. Example: *krí.txə*krí.tjə*krí.djə.

17. *l vocalization:

  • *l → *ɪ / V _ (C) !#

After vowels, vocalize *l to in syllable codas (except at the end of words if no consonant is present at the end), creating rising diphthongs, for example: *qál.sku*kál.sku*káɪ.sku.

18. raising, lowering:

  • *ə → *ɨ / [+stress] _
  • *ɨ(ː) → *ə / [-stress] _

In stressed syllables, raise to ; do the opposite in unstressed syllables and reduce long *əː to short . Examples:

  • *sa.kə́s*sa.kɨ́s and
  • *tʰílq.tiws*tʰílq.tɨːs → … → *tʰíɪ.dəs

19. Make *ŋx become *ŋk (and simplify *ŋkŋ):

  • *x → *k / *ŋ _

Example: *saŋ.xáŋk*saŋ.káŋk. Where we now get *ŋkŋ (or originally already had it), simplify further to *ŋk:

  • *ŋkŋ → *ŋk

Example: *táŋk.ŋawm*táŋk.ŋoːm*táŋ.koːm*táŋ.goːm.

20. Generate *b from *w:

  • *w → *b / m _

Example: *kʰám.wəʔ*kʰám.wa*kʰám.ba.

21. Dissimilation of *r … r:

  • *r → *d / r … V _
  • *r → *j / r … C _

If *r precedes in the previous syllable, turn *r into *d after a vowel and *j after a consonant. Examples: *srá.rat*srá.dat; *trá.sra*trá.sja.

22. Abolish phonemic aspiration in unstressed syllables:

  • *t → *d / ([+sonorant]) [–stress] _ !#
  • *k → *g / ([+sonorant]) [–stress] _ !#
  • *tʰ → *t / [–stress] _
  • *kʰ → *k / [–stress] _

Since the introduction of the voiced unaspirated plosives *b and *d, we’re stuck with a three-way distinction between [+voiced –aspirated] (*b, *d), [–voiced +aspirated] (*tʰ, *kʰ) and [–voiced –aspirated] (*p, *t, *k). We’re now gradually simplifying this into a [±voiced] distinction, starting with unstressed syllables.[1. Seriously, this. Very much this. I had a problem, tried to solve it with regular expressions and wound up with two problems instead. I think I may have spent an hour testing and fixing the regular expressions I used for the first two rules in this part as I was writing this up for the website. While I was doing so, I noticed that I had gotten something wrong and my original regex was overly greedy, i.e. not well formed for what I intended it to do. I eventually arrived at these ugly, ugly expressions to match *t (analogous for *k) in the right environments:


This matches ‘t’ not preceded by ‘h’, ‘k’, ‘p’, ‘q’, ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘x’ at the start of a line if it is also not followed by ‘ʰ’. For the word-medial case, I have:


This matches a full stop (i.e. syllable divider) not preceded by ‘h’, ‘k’, ‘p’, ‘q’, ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘x’, then ‘t’ not preceded by an apostrophe (i.e. stress marker) and not followed by ‘ʰ’.]

Examples for this particular change are:

  • *tʰáxt.xuln → … → *tʰáː.tjul*tʰáː.djul;
  • *tsə́l.kaʔ → … → *sɨ́ɪ.ga;
  • *tʰa.kwá*tʰa.pá*ta.pá and
  • *kʰa.kʰít*ka.kʰít*ga.kʰít.

23a. Fix: Undo newly created plosive-plosive sequences:

  • *[+voiced]₁ > Ø / [–voiced]₁ _
  • *[–voiced]₁ > Ø / [+voiced]₁ _

Example: *rást.ras*rást.das*rás.tas.

23b. Fix: Another round of homorganic assimilation:

  • *[+nasal] > *m / _ [+bilabial +plosive]
  • *[+nasal] > *n / _ [+alveolar +plosive]
  • *[+nasal] > *ŋ / _ [+velar +plosive]

See section 2.

23c. Fix: Delete instances of gemination:

  • *C₁ > Ø / C₁ _

Example: *rís.tsa*rís.sa*rí.sa.

Phonemic Inventory for Stage II

A whole lot has changed (and maybe too much for cramming this all into one stage), and especially *x was extremely unstable.


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


Height Front Central Back
high *i *u
mid *e *o
low *a

These all can appear as rising diphthongs, however, in my list of 2000 generated and processed words, ?*eɪ and ?*oɪ did not appear, since there is no ?*ʔλ coda in the Proto Language. For diphthongs we thus get this smaller chart:

Height Front Central Back
high *iɪ *ɨɪ *uɪ
mid *əɪ
low *aɪ

Similarly, there are long versions of all vowels, except for ?*eː, however this seems only due to my word generator not generating ‘Ciwx.Ca sequences by chance (*Cíwx.Ca*Ce:.Ca), so ?*eː should be possible. The chart for long vowels looks like this, accordingly:

Height Front Central Back
high *iː *ɨː *uː
mid *eː *oː
low *aː

Note the absence of ?*əː.

  • Montler, Timothy: “Vowel Retraction before Glottal Stop in Klallam.” Studies in Salish Linguistics in Honor of M. Dale Kinkade. Ed. Donna B. Gerdts and Lisa Matthewson. Missoula: U of Montana P, 2004. 300–310. Print. Occasional Papers in Linguistics 17. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. ‹http://montler.net/papers/Montler-KlallamVowelRetraction.pdf›.
  • Seems like I can’t publish anything without having to edit it later … 😩 I updated section 4 and 18 to hopefully make more sense now.
  • More corrections in section 11: my regexes weren’t covering all cases here either. I also decided to just have *ts turn *s everywhere that remains instead of just before voiceless sounds in analogy to the change in section 10.
  • There’s no *əː coming out of this because of the update in section 18. Corrected the vowel chart at the end accordingly.
  • Reader Hallow XIII suggested to me that a change like *kʰák.tʰa*kʰá.ga (“A plosive gets elided after another plosive.”) seems strange and he would rather expect *kʰá.tʰa as the outcome. I modified the rule in section 15 accordingly by adding some alternations based on the original rule. Aspiration is still lost in unstressed syllables, though, so it becomes *kʰá.ta now.

Notes on a Vaporware Conlang IV: Sound Changes, Part 1

So, if you remember, some time earlier this spring I came up with some designs for another conlang after being prodded a bit by some people I know online for a while:

Now I’ve spend the better part of the week obsessing over coming up with a bunch of sound changes that would turn my musings about a proto language sound inventory as sketched out in part III to the recent version sketched out in part II. It seems like this is not so much vaporware anymore after all … I’ve been thinking about maybe giving this project a name some time soon.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I’m actually seriously applying sound changes to something,[1. I know, I know, there is Playing with Sound Changes, but I consider that play. This time is for real.] so if there are any overly weird things that can’t even be hand-waved away, tell me. I think most of the changes are a little on the cautious side, though.

Some Notation Conventions

I will assume you’re familiar with the usual way sound changes are notated:

X → Y / Z

This means that X turns into Y under the conditions of the environment Z.

I will also use the following additional abbreviations:

  • C: consonant
  • V: vowel
  • _ (underscore): position of X in the environment
  • # (hash sign): start or end of a word, i.e. a word boundary
  • $ (dollar sign): start or end of a syllable, including word boundaries
  • ! (exclamation mark): negation
  • … (ellipsis): somewhere before or after

Sometimes, feature notation is being used as a shortcut for groups of vowels or consonants: [±feature].

Proto Lang Allophony (Stage I)

The (re)constructed phoneme inventory for the Proto Language looked like this in my previous post (I’m copying these things over for convenience, adding changes that occurred while working on the sound changes themselves):

MOA labial alveolar velar guttural
nasals *μ [m~n~ŋ]
plosives *t *k *q [k~q~ʔ]
*tʰ *kʰ
fricatives *s *x [x~h]
liquids *w *λ [r~l]

And the vowels:

Height Front Central Back
high *i *u
low *a

The sound changes below apply a degree of allophony so that the underspecified proto-phonemes , , *q, *x actually receieve an assumed phonemic value:

1. Position-based alternation between [r] and [l] for :

  • *λ → *r / $ (C) _
  • *λ → *l / _ (C) $

Basically, what happens here is that will be realized as [r] in syllable onsets and as [l] in syllable codas, i.e. there is a complementary distribution at this stage.

2. Position-based alternation between [m], [n] and [ŋ] for :

  • *μ → *m / _ [+bilabial]
  • *μ → *n / _ [+alveolar]
  • *μ → *ŋ / _ [+velar]
  • *μ → *ŋ / _ [+guttural]

Here, is assimilated to the point of articulation of the following consonant. “Guttural” refers to *q and *x here. This assimilation can also happen across syllable boundaries:

  • *μ → *m / _ $ [+bilabial] (unless C _)
  • *μ → *n / _ $ [+alveolar] (unless C _)
  • *μ → *ŋ / _ $ [+velar] (unless C _)
  • *μ → *ŋ / _ $ [+guttural] (unless C _)

Unless a consonant is preceding, further assimilates in POA to the next consonant across a syllable boundary. The assimilation continues (resistance is futile *badum tsh*):

  • *μ → *m / [+bilabial] $ _ (unless _ C)
  • *μ → *n / [+alveolar] $ _ (unless _ C)
  • *μ → *ŋ / [+velar] $ _ (unless _ C)
  • *μ → *ŋ / [+guttural] $ _ (unless _ C)

also assimilates in POA to preceding consonants at the beginning of syllables, unless followed by a consonant. And what’s more:

  • *μ → *m / _ V [+bilabial]
  • *μ → *n / _ V [+alveolar]
  • *μ → *ŋ / _ V [+velar]
  • *μ → *ŋ / _ V [+guttural]

In this set of changes, assimilates in POA to a following consonant even if a vowel is in between them. The next set now takes care of almost all remaining instances of :

  • *μ → *m / [+front] _
  • *μ → *n / [+center] _
  • *μ → *ŋ / [+back] _
  • *μ → *m / _ [+front]
  • *μ → *n / _ [+center]
  • *μ → *ŋ / _ [+back]

The above set is maybe somewhat of a weird change: changes according to the height of vowels here: *m ~ *i/*u, *n ~ , ~ *a. If this is too unnatural, I will change this – or maybe there is a way to build in another condition to achieve the same outcome. Anyways, just for good measure let’s also do:

  • *ŋ → *n / # _

Instances of word-initial are replaced with *n.[1. No, this is not just because English doesn’t allow initial /ŋ/.]

3. Position-based alternation between [q], [ʔ] and even [k][1. A change to my original designs!] for *q:

  • *q → *ʔ / V _ $
  • *q → *k / _ ŋ
  • *q → *k / ŋ ($) _

Syllable-finally after vowels, *q is realized as a glottal stop [ʔ]; before and after [ŋ], it has a velar release [k], and remains [q] in all other places.

4. Position-based alternation between [x] and [h] for *x:

  • *x → *h / V ($) _ ($) V
  • *x → *h / # _ V

*x will have a glottal release [h] anywhere between vowels and initially before a vowel.

Intermission: Some Example Words

These words are randomly generated with Wharrgarbl, as mentioned in the previous article in this series. Many of these changes are very unspectacular so far.

*it *it
*kwas.ku *kwas.ku
*kwu.wakt *kwu.wakt
*sawk *sawk
*suq *suʔ
*sλas.tu *sras.tu
*sλu.sə *sru.sə
*sμi.kxəq *sni.kxəq *sni.kxəʔ
*tʰas.kʰuμ *tʰas.kʰuŋ
*tλi.taλs *tri.taλs *tri.tals

Applying Stress Rules

The Proto Language has syllable-weight based stress rules and I wrote a little script to apply this. What weird missyllabifications of CCC clusters occasionally appear are due to Wharrgarbl lacking checks for sonority-hierarchy related issues. If I handcrafted all proto words, this wouldn’t be an issue in this case. I decided to use a word generator, though, to get a taste of how my words may look like and turn out with all the changes applied, en masse.

Syllable stress basically counts how many consonants there are in a word and increases a counter by 1 whenever it finds one. The syllable that is more consonant-heavy receives stress. In case of a tie, the first syllable will be stressed. Monosyllabic words currently don’t receive stress; depending on them being content words or particles, this will of course change. I will have to sketch out some grammar for the Proto Language in that case, though. If I want the Proto Language to be mildly inflecting, long bisyllabic words are awkward anyway, but generated bisyllabic words still give a taste of how the final outcome could look like.

For the words above, applying the stress rules results in: *it (1), *kwás.ku (3:2), *kwu.wákt (2:3), *sawk (3), *suʔ (2), *srás.tu (3:2), *srú.sə (2:1), *sni.kxə́ʔ (2:3), *tʰás.kʰuŋ (2:2), *tri.táls (2:3).


In the next installment, we’ll start eroding things and also generate a bunch of vowels, giving us *it, *pás.ku, *pu.wák, *saʊk, *so, *srás.tu, *srú.sə, *sni.kjá, *tʰás.kuŋ, and *tri.táɪs.

  • I decided that it makes at least a little more sense to have the nasals pattern with vowel height rather than frontness, i.e. not *m ~ *i, *n ~ /*a, ~ *u, but *m ~ *i/*u, *n ~ , ~ *a. In the word list of 2000 generated words that I’ve been using to test the sound changes laid out here, only 8 words were affected by this decision, though, i.e. a low 0.4%, so for example we now have *μu.λuktmu.rúkt instead of *μu.λukt*nu.rúkt. I also had to correct a rule above that I misunderstood from my own notes.

Playing with sound changes

People sometimes ask me if I wouldn’t be tired of working on Ayeri for 10 years already, but hm … to me, it’s like a good old friend, kind of. However, I’ve been playing around with sound changes a little before to maybe make a dialect or just fast-forward the whole thing or whatever in order to branch out for some new things. Here’s one such attempt that was at the back of my head and that I worked out last night. I kind of like the results, so maybe I’ll keep them for a dialect that I could still flesh out more later.

V = {i, iː, e, eː, a, aː, o, oː, u}
C = {p, t, k, b, d, g, m, n, ŋ, v, s, h, r, l, j, tʃ, dʒ}
N = {m, n, ŋ}
P = {t, k, d, g, s, l, j}

Raising and backing of /j/ between vowels
j → g / V_V

Vowels lower before nasals, then get lengthened as nasal drops out; apocope after nasal for multi-syllabic words
V → V̞ / _N
V → Ø / N_# except #C_
VN → Vː / _N except _NV

Diphthongs monophthongize
aʊj → aʊ / _
aʊ → uː / _
ʊɪ → iː / _
{aɪ, aːɪ, eɪ} → eː / {_C, _#}
ɔɪ → eː / _C
{V₁ːV₁ː, V₁ːV₁, V₁V₁ː, Vːː} → V₁ː / _

P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}}
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_}
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_}

Phonetic realization of /Pʲ/:
{tʲ, tj, kʲ, kj} → tʃ
{dʲ, dj, gʲ, gj, jʲ, jj} → dʒ
{sʲ, sj} → ʃ
{lʲ, lj} → j
{ttʃ, dtʃ, tʃʃ} → tʃ
{ddʒ, tdʒ, dʃʃ} → dʒ

Some examples

〈Ayeri〉 /ajeri/
j → g / V_V (ageri)
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (agʲeri),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (agʲiri),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (agʲiri)
〈Ajiri〉 /adʒiri/
〈narān〉 /naraːn/
‘word, language’
V → Ø / N_# except #C_ (naraːn),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV (naraːː),
{V₁ːV₁ː, V₁ːV₁, V₁V₁ː, Vːː} → V₁ː / _ (naraː)
〈narā〉 /naraː/
〈ja〉 /dʒa/
Ø 〈ja〉 /dʒa/
〈men〉 /men/
V → V̞ / _N (man),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV
〈mā〉 /maː/
〈sam〉 /sam/
VN → Vː / _N except _NV 〈sā〉 /saː/
〈kay〉 /kaɪ/
{aɪ, aːɪ, eɪ} → eː / {_C, _#} (keː),
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (kʲeː),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (kʲiː),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (kʲiː)
〈cī〉 /tʃiː/
〈yo〉 /jo/
Ø 〈yo〉 /jo/
〈iri〉 /iri/
Ø 〈iri〉 /iri/
〈miye〉 /mije/
j → g / V_V (mige),
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (migʲe),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (migʲi),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (migʲi)
〈miji〉 /midʒi/
〈ito〉 /ito/
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (itʲo),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (itʲo),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (tʲo)
〈co〉 /tʃo/
〈hen〉 /hen/
V → V̞ / _N (han),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV
〈hā〉 /haː/
〈veya〉 /veja/
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (vejʲa),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (vijʲa),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (vijʲa)
〈vija〉 /vidʒa/
〈mal〉 /mal/
Ø 〈mal〉 /mal/
〈tam〉 /tam/
VN → Vː / _N except _NV 〈tā〉 /taː/
〈lan〉 /lan/
VN → Vː / _N except _NV 〈lā〉 /laː/
〈badan〉 /badan/
VN → Vː / _N except _NV 〈badā〉 /badaː/
〈māva〉 /maːva/
Ø 〈māva〉 /maːva/
〈ayon〉 /ajon/
‘man, husband’
j → g / V_V (agon)
V → V̞ / _N (agan),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV
〈agā〉 /agaː/
〈envan〉 /envan/
‘woman, wife’
V → V̞ / _N (anvan),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV
〈āvā〉 /aːvaː/
〈yan〉 /jan/
‘boy, son’
VN → Vː / _N except _NV 〈jā〉 /jaː/
〈lay〉 /laɪ/
‘girl, daughter’
{aɪ, aːɪ, eɪ} → eː / {_C, _#} 〈lē〉 /leː/
〈netu〉 /netu/
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (netʲu),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (nitʲu),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (nitʲu)
〈nicu〉 /nitʃu/
〈kina〉 /kina/
V → V̞ / _N (kena),
V → Ø / N_# except #C_ (ken),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV (keː),
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (kʲeː),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (kʲiː)
〈cī〉 /tʃiː/
〈sinya〉 /sinja/
‘who, what’
V → V̞ / _N (senja),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV (seːja),
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (sʲeːjʲa),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (sʲijʲa),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (sʲijʲa)
〈śija〉 /ʃidʒa/
〈siyan〉 /sijan/
j → g / V_V (sigan),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV (sigaː),
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (sʲigʲaː),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (sʲigʲaː)
〈śijā〉 /ʃidʒaː/
〈sitaday〉 /sitadaɪ/
{aɪ, aːɪ, eɪ} → eː / {_C, _#} (sitadeː),
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (sʲitadʲeː),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (sʲitadʲi),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (sʲitadʲ)
〈śitaj〉 /ʃitadʒ/
〈sikay〉 /sikaɪ/
‘how (circumstance)’
{aɪ, aːɪ, eɪ} → eː / {_C, _#} (sikeː),
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (sʲikʲeː),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (sʲikʲiː)
〈śicī〉 /ʃitʃiː/
〈simin〉 /simin/
‘how (way)’
V → V̞ / _N (semen),
VN → Vː / _N except _NV (semeː)
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (sʲemeː),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (sʲimeː)
〈śimē〉 /ʃimeː/
〈sinyisa〉 /sinjisa/
V → V̞ / _N (senjisa),
V → Ø / N_# except #C_ (se:jisa),
P → Pʲ / {{i, iː, e, eː} _, _ {i, iː, e, eː}} (sʲeːjʲisʲa),
{i, e} → i / {_Pʲ, Pʲ_} (sʲijʲisʲa),
i → Ø / _Pʲ except {_CC, #(C)(C)_} (sʲijʲsʲa)
〈śija〉 /ʃidʒa/

Seems like I recreated Brazilian Portuguese to some degree … Also, vowel length is now even more phonemic. Question words have also been thoroughly shaken up: sinya ‘who, what’ → śija; sinyisa ‘why’ → śija; siyan ‘where’ → śijā (yano ‘place’ → yān). However, looking at a whole sentence, I think palatalization isn’t as frequent as it seems (I hope I applied the rules above correctly …):

Ya sahaya lanyāng gino nanga, sa silvyāng patas si ang tahaya bilingley vinaya, lāya nay bantaya yana, nay lanyāng sigi. Ang praysaya tupoyas kayvo runuya-ikan, nay saraya patasang.

Ya sahaga lānā jī nā, sa śiyvyā patas śi ā tahaga biyīyī venaga, lāga nē bātaga yā, nē lāyā śiji. Ā prīśaga tupogas cīvo ronuga-icā, nē saraga patasā.

Note that this treats inflected stems as units even though Ayeri is very agglutinative, but why not.

Pangram (revisited)

This is in continuation of an earlier post I wrote on trying to construct a pangram in Ayeri. I just played around with my dictionary a bit again tonight and came up with the following sentence:

[gloss]Da-bahatang, sa akaya para vaga lamana.
Da=baha-tang, sa aka-ya para vaga-Ø lama-na.
so=shout-3PL.M.A, PT swallow-3SG.M quickly pig-T restaurant-GEN[/gloss]
‘So they shouted that the restaurant’s pig was quickly swallowed.’

This doesn’t make too much sense, but it’s grammatical (vaga ‘pig’ might better trigger neuter agreement on the verb, but whatever – let’s assume this is a boar), uses all consonant characters available in the Ayeri alphabet as well as the virama diacritic (‘gondaya’) only once, and no other diacritics are involved. Also, I didn’t have to make up new words specifically tailored to use up remaining consonants like last time: I admit, I had to make up daga ‘turtle’ in my previous article on pangrams for this purpose.

Some Work in Progress

I’ve been reworking my font of Tahano Hikamu since February now and also drew a hinyan version (“Tahano Hikamu Java”) completely from scratch. When I felt like toying around with these things again a couple of weeks ago, I started making the files functional with Graphite – that is, I added ways to handle diacritics and I’m currently working on getting dynamic diacritic replacement and character reordering right – this is so much easier and far less brain-twisting with pen and paper!

The whole thing is still messy and highly preliminary, which is why I won’t release any font files for download just now (please be patient). However, I’m kind of pleased with how this experiment comes along, so I wanted to share the link to my current testing page here as well and not just on Twitter.

There’s no version schedule, so it’s done when it’s done. Hopefully that won’t take too very long in spite of a pending term paper and other more important work. I’m looking forward to it, though, and so can you. 🙂

Digitale Typografie für fiktionale Schriftsysteme – ein Rant

  • Dies ist die Übersetzung eines englischsprachigen Beitrags (click for English version), den ich bereits im August 2011 geschrieben habe. Da scheinbar ein größeres Interesse an diesem Beitrag bestand, dachte ich, es wäre eventuell sinnvoll, ihn auch ins Deutsche zu übersetzen.
  • Mittlerweile habe ich auch einen Font mithilfe von Graphite gebastelt.
  • Beachte, dass ich nicht einmal ein halbprofessioneller Schriftdesigner bin. Alles, was du hier liest, ist learning by doing und daher sehr subjektiv. Ich habe mir bisher nicht mehr über Schriftdesign beigebracht, als nötig ist, um meine eigene Schrift umzusetzen.

Eines meiner fortlaufenden, mit dem Sprachenbasteln verbundenen Projekte ist es, das Schriftsystem meiner Kunstsprache auf den Computer zu bringen. Ich versuche seit mehreren Jahren, brauchbare Lösungen zu finden, bin aber immer früher oder später gegen eine Wand gerannt.
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