Amsmith wrote:I know what you mean! I usually have this approach to conworlding (when my husband gets confused about something in my conworld I often reply with "magic!") but I guess with language I get a little more excited about the rul- excuse me, guidelines to make something that's very possible to appear in our world.
Even if your con-speakers are all "aliens", (that is, they have non-humanoid speech-production organs and maybe non-humanoid speech-perception organs as well), it helps your milieu if there's some logical consistency to what they can pronounce and differentiate. You might come up with a "design" for their bodies -- a kind of fictional con-physiology -- especially for the speech-producing-and-perceiving parts -- and then decide on their phoneme inventory and syllable structure and the rest of their phonology based on that. You can keep it to yourself and it doesn't have to be perfectly scientific and accurate; OTOH maybe you'll have occasion to mention some of it off-hand in your stories or games, in which case it will impress your audience more if it seems to be internally consistent. So, just because you can
say "that's just the way it is, dammit!" doesn't mean that's what you'll want
As for resources for the strong statistical tendencies of all languages, look in the Universals Archives:
Here are the first several hits when I searched it for statistical universals having to do with the diachronics of phonology, especially concerning phoneme inventories:
(Don't be intimidated! Ask about anything you don't understand. Put off understanding what you don't yet need to understand.)
Here are some others: This time I asked for unconditional, achronic, statistical universals:
- Every language must have at least one Primary Nasal Consonant in its inventory.
- There are at least three primary oral stops.
- The preferred number of primary oral stops in a given language is between four and eight.
- The preferred number of primary nasal consonants in a language is between two and four.
- The preferred set of consonants in a given language is: /p, t, k, t∫, f, s, m, n/.
- Sibilants of different types tend not to cluster, or only across morpheme boundaries.
- The presence of C1C2- makes -C2C1 as likely as or more likely than -C1C2.
- When nasal consonants assimilate to a following consonant, then they assimilate in place of articulation (rather than in manner).
I didn't find it there recently, but I seem to remember the following:
(Nearly?) every existing natural language has consonant-phonemes at at least three of the following four points-of-articulation: Bilabial; dental or alveolar; velar or palatal; or glottal.
(Nearly?) every existing natural language has consonant-phonemes in at least the following three manners-of-articulation at at least one (at least two different?) point(s)-of-articulation: Stop; fricative; nasal.
Most of these "universals" are statistical ("with overwhelmingly greater than chance frequency") rather than absolute.
And most of them are implicational or conditional ("if X is true of a language then Y is also true of that language").
In fact most of them are statistical AND implicational: "if X is true of a language then very very probably Y is also true of that language".
Some of them are "nested implications"; "if X and Y are both true of a language then Z is also true of that language".
Many of those that were originally expressed as absolute unconditional "universals" have also been claimed to have counter-examples.
In that sense, they're mostly "guidelines" rather than "rules".
(Of course, a single counter-example doesn't falsify the statistical ones. And, the more conditions one adds to the conditional ones, the likelier they'll apply to only a small handful of languages. Like, "If a language has OVS word-order and its English name starts with an H then it's probably a Caribbean language", or something equally uninformative.)
BTW you might also profit from looking at the free-online-searchable subset of the UCLA Phonological-Segment-Inventory Database (aka UPSID).
WALS.info also has interesting data; but probably not so complete a range of it as the previously mentioned resources.
Look at Features 1A through 19A, especially 1A through 11A including 10B. ( http://wals.info/feature
Look at Chapters 1 through 19 (especially 1 through 11). ( http://wals.info/chapter
1A, 2A, 4A, and 5A, look to me to be especially interesting to you, given how I've understood your posts so far on this thread:
1A Consonant Inventories
2A Vowel Quality Inventories
4A Voicing in Plosives and Fricatives
5A Voicing and Gaps in Plosive Systems