The Phonemes “Ch” and “W”

Two potential phonemes for Diinlang have needed special consideration.


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”?


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”.

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/.