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Language

The Phonemes “Ch” and “W”

Two potential phonemes for Diinlang have needed special consideration.

CH

The first is the phoneme /t͡ʃ/, which in English is the most common phoneme that the digraph “ch” is used for. “C” on its own is not used as a phoneme in Diinlang, since “k” or “s” serve instead. Some conlangs use “c” to represent /t͡ʃ/, but this may be confusing. Some natural languages, such as Portuguese, represent /t͡ʃ/ with “x” or other letters.
Since “ch” represents /t͡ʃ/, and /ʃ/ is often represented by “sh”, some phonetic systems use “tsh” for /t͡ʃ/. This raises the side issue of acceptable consonant clusters for Diinlang.
For Diinlang, the question is whether to use “ch” or “tsh” for /t͡ʃ/? If we do use “ch” then “c” becomes rather like the letter “q” in English, in that it only ever occurs as a digraph.
“Ch” in some English words sounds like it should be more accurately represented by a “jh” rather than a “tsh”. Should “church” be spelt “jhurtsh”, “jhurch”, or “tshurtsh”?

W

The other phoneme that needs special consideration for Diinlang is that represented by the letter “w” in English, and the symbol /w/ in IPA. In English, this letter has a distinct sound when used at the start of a word or syllable or as the digraph “wh”. When used otherwise “w” often substitutes for other phonemes, such as “oh” in “slow”, “ou” in “cow” and “or” in “saw”. The digraph “kw” is probably the best representation of the sound of “q/qu” in English. For this latter use, if nothing else, Diinlang probably needs to include “w”.
Some linguistic groups have trouble pronouncing the phoneme /w/, often substituting a “v”-sound.
When encountering “w” at the start of a word or syllable in English or Diinlang, a useful tip is to attempt to pronounce it as a “u” rather than as a “v”.
Categories
Language

Owen’s Global Alphabet

Visiting the Omniglot website I came across Owen’s “Global Alphabet”. Owen was a US senator and an advocate of phonetic English. He created his own phonetic alphabet, which it is claimed that any known language can be represented.
Owen's Global Alphabet
Owen’s alphabet supposedly has 18 symbols for vowels, 18 for consonants and six for “compound consonants”.
The compound consonants are given here as ch, th, sh, wh, ng and zh. The chart above also has the “kw” sound of the English “qu” and the “dh” sound that “th” sometimes represents in English.
The first thing that strikes me about Owen’s alphabet is that some of the vowel symbols are quite intricate. Personally, I would be inclined to make the vowels and most used consonants as simple as practical. More similarity between related vowels could have been tried.
Glancing down the chart, several phonemes appear absent. Owen’s phonetic alphabet comes with several rules that must be learnt. The initial “y-” sound of English is represent for the symbol for /ai/ (“i” as in “file”) when it occurs at the start of a word in front of a vowel. The initial “w-” sound is represented by a “u” symbol where it occurs at the start of a word in front of a vowel.
It also took me some time to realize that “a” as in “ate” represented the sound /ei/ or ay/ey. Interestingly, on the Omniglot page “whale” is spelt with the symbols for “oo-ay-l/ uu-ey-l”.
Owen has distinct symbols for “ar”, “er” and “or” but not for other combinations of vowel with “r”. These symbols might be easier to learn if they looked like the parent vowel joined to the “r” symbol.
The absence of a symbol for “y” necessitates the creation of a symbol for the sound “yu” as in “few”.
Owen’s system distinguishes between near-close back rounded “u” /ʊ/as in “put”, “foot” and “wolf” and that of the open-mid back unrounded (/ʌ/) in “but”, “enough”, “other” or “up”. It also considers “a” as in “all” distinct from “or” as in “for”.
Owen’s Global Alphabet was an interesting attempt in the field. It provides some insight as to what phonemes a conlang will need. Replacing “-ew”  with “yu” and omitting the “-r” vowels gives 15 vowels. There are eight consonant digraphs. With the addition of “w” and “y” there are 18 other consonants.

Categories
Language

A Question of Y

The letter “y” poses an interesting problem for Diinlang.
Many constructed languages choose to use “y” for a “j” sound, like that in “hallelujah”. The letter “j” is used to represent another sound, often “/ʒ/”. That seems rather illogical to me.
In English, “y” it represents a variety of sounds. When placed at the start of a word it has the distinctive sound we hear in words like “yes”, “you”, “yacht” and “yoghurt”. Just to confuse things, IPA uses the symbol /j/ for this sound. Initial “y” only seems to take this sound when it proceeds a vowel. In the small number of English words where an initial “y” precedes a consonant it takes an /i/ sound.
When used within a word or at its end, “y” may take either a /i/ or an /ai/ sound.
“/Ai/” represents the sound of the English words “eye” or “aye”, the name of the letter “I” or the end sound of the words “my” and “by”. None of the phonetic systems I am familiar with have come up with a letter combination that satisfactorily represents this sound. For example, a reader might understandably assume that “mai” represents the sound “may” rather than “my”.
In Diinlang I tried using “iy” for /ai/, but admit this is not totally satisfactory. Like other attempts, the letter combination does not entirely suggest the sound, so the combination needs to be learnt. Additionally, using “iy” lengthens certain words that would be briefer in conventional English spelling.
While it is an attractive idea to have Diinlang use totally phonetic spelling, it has become clear that this may come with penalties such as decreased brevity. It may be necessary for Diinlang to have certain pronunciation rules that must be learnt. Such rules should be:
○ As few as possible
○ As simple as possible
○ Applied consistently.
In Diinlang we already use the letter combination “oy” to represent the sound /ɔɪ/ in the English words “boy” or “toy”. The combination “ay” is used for /ei/ as in the English words “may” and “obey”.
The letter combination “iy” will continue to represent the sound /ai/. To this we will add the rule that the character “y” has the sound /ai/ where it follows a consonant in a word. When “y” is the initial letter of a word it takes the sound /j/.