Cissian Revisited #01: Introduction & Phonology
Cissian, the language of the Tisza, is a Slavic language spoken in the region east of the river Tisza in our reality's modern day Hungary and Romania. Cissian is classified as a West Slavic language, however close contact with speakers of Southern dialects early on until the present day led to a big influence in vocabulary and sound changes shared with languages of the South Slavic branch. Other big influences on the language have been Hungarian and Romanian. The country of Cissia is a fairly young nation, first emerging out of the Romanian occupied part of Hungary in World War I and therefore the standardised is quite young, making Cissia a dialect-rich country as well as a country with many regions speaking other languages like Hungarian, Romanian, German, Serbo-Croatian and Slovakian.
A big part of Cissian's phonology plays palatalisation. Each consonant technically has a palatalised and an unpalatalised version except the phoneme /j/ which could however be analysed as a palatalised version of nothing, /∅ʲ/. The vowels of Cissian are a standard European five vowel system with an extra /ɘ/. These vowels except for the latter can occur after any consonant, palatalised or unpalatalised (for brevity from now an called soft and hard consonants). Because of the history of the Slavic vowel system in Cissian and the script, the vowels are divided into normal and palatalising vowels which makes for eleven vowel phonemes:
/a e i o u ɘ/ <а е и о у ъ>
/ʲa ʲe ʲi ʲo ʲu/ <я є і ё ю>
If no consonant precedes the palatalising vowels, the results are /ja je ji jo ju/. Cissian also allows diphthongs of every vowel and either /i̯/ or /u̯/. The first is written with the letter <й> whereas the latter can be written in two ways depending on the origin of the word. <ў> is used for words of non-native origin or native words in which a combination of a vowel and /u/ resulted in a diphthong ending in /u̯/. <в> is used in native words in which /u/ is an allophone of coda /ʋ/.
The consonant system can be summarised as having twenty-two consonant (or twenty-three counting /j/. If soft consonants are counted as seperate phonemes, this number increased to forty-five in the standard language, while its actually forty-four for every speaker and forty-three in many dialects. In the following table, /j/ is not listed as a consonant because it does not have its own letter in the Cissian alphabet and is written by using a palatalising vowel or <й> as said before. Cissian also features two consonants that can be syllabic, these are /l/ and /r/.
/p b t d k g/ <п б т д к ѓ>
/t͡s d͡z t͡ʃ d͡ʒ/ <ц s ч џ>
/f s z ʃ ʒ x ɦ/ <ф с з ш ж х г>
/m n ʋ l r/ <м н в л р>
In the spoiler, the whole consonant system with both soft and hard consonants can be found.
Exact Pronunciations & Allophones
Of course, the phonemes above are not the most exact, so here is a list of all the exact pronunciations and the allophones of Cissian's consonants:
- The dental consonants are truly dental, being [t̪ d̪ t̪͡s̪ t̪͡s̪ʲ d̪͡z̪ d̪͡z̪ʲ s̪ s̪ʲ z̪ z̪ʲ n̪]. Exception to this are the soft versions of the dental stops and /n/ which - due to their palatalisation - are palatal consonants instead, [c ɟ ɲ].
- The dental lateral is not dental, but a velarised [ɫ]. In coda position, this velarisation is strong enough that the lateral vocalalises to [o̯] like in Serbo-Croatian. The soft version is [ʎ] in all positions.
- The hard palato-alveolars are more accurately described as being laminal retroflex consonants [ʂ ʐ t͡ʂ d͡ʐ], similar to Slovak and Polish. The soft palato-alveolars are instead true palatals [ɕ ʑ t͡ɕ d͡ʑ].
- Whereas the all the hard velars are actual velars, the soft velar fricative is strongly palatalised as well and is pronounced as [ç]. The voiced version of this, [ʝ], is the allophone of the soft glottal fricative /ɦ/.
- All the other consonants, which are the labials and labiodentals, are simple labial or labiodental consonants. Their soft versions are either palatalised or dissolve into a combination of the consonant followed by /j/ depending on the speaker. The labio-dental approximant behaves the same, although the soft version is a fricative, not an approximant. So both [pʲ bʲ fʲ vʲ mʲ] or [pj bj fj vj mj] are possible pronunciations. The soft velars also do this, [kʲ gʲ] or [kj gj] are both allowed.
- Just like /l/, /ʋ/ vocalises in coda position to [u̯], as has been previously mentioned.
- Cissian's only trill is apical-alveolar [r̺ r̺ʲ] although intervocally it is most commonly pronounced as a simple tap instead. The trill is the only exception to Cissian's soft/hard pairing for every consonant. The soft trill does not exist in any of the dialects in Cissian but the standard language still counts it as a separate phoneme.
- Syllabic /l/ is not velarised and also pronounced as a apical-alveolar [l̺]. Adjacent to other dentals, this pronunciation changes to being dental ([l̪]) as well.
- Apart from /lʲ/ [ʎ] and /nʲ/ [ɲ], every consonant depalatalised in coda position. Palatalisation is sometimes written for etymological purposes like in вовьца /ʋoʋt͡sa/ "sheep" and мідь /mʲid/ "copper".
- The nasals assimilate in some cases. The dental /n/ before velars is velar as well, being [ŋ], while both nasals merge into [ɱ] before the labiodentals.
- A combination of a voiced consonant and a nasal of the same place of articulation, so /dn/ and /bm/, change into simple nasals, [n̪ m].
- In the coda, /ɦ/ is deleted.
- /a/ is pronounced as [ä] in every position. There are no allophones for these two phonemes.
- /ɘ/ does not have any allophones either, but it's pronunciation is different from speaker to speaker. /ɘ/ is chosen because it is the most common pronunciation, but pronunciations as /ɵ/, /ɤ/, /ɐ/, /ɨ/ and /ʌ/ exist as well. A lot of non-native speakers use the schwa for this vowel which is heavily looked down upon by native speakers. The schwa was also used in earlier times but not today.
- Additionally, /u/ does not possess any allophones either and is [u] everywhere.
- The high front vowel /i/ is pronounced as [i] in both stressed and unstressed syllables if preceded by a soft consonant. After hard consonants, it is also [i] in open stressed syllables, but a more central [ɪ] in unstressed syllables and closed stressed syllables. This is a remnant of the merger of Proto-Slavic *i and *y, the latter changing from /ɨ/ to /ɪ/ before merging with *i. In syllables starting with /r rʲ/, the different pronunciations still exist even after the merger of these two consonants. So /rʲi ri/ in unstressed syllables are [ri rɪ].
- Unstressed /e/ is generally [e̞] as well as in stressed positions in a multiple of occasions. Soft /e/ - or in other words: /e/ after palatalised consonants - is also [e̞] in stressed syllables. After hard consonants, the vowel is more open than usual and is [ɛ]. There is also again an exception to this rule: If the vowel is followed by a palatalised consonant, it is pronounced as [e̞] again, but closed syllables have the open vowel instead even if a soft consonant follows. A little overview to make everything clearer is found in a spoiler at the end of this list.
- /o/ is pretty similar to /e/. The standard pronunciation of this phoneme is [ɔ] in unstressed syllables. Should a high vowel (/i/ or /u/) follow, the pronunciation of this vowel is heavily raised and is [ʊ] instead. A preceding soft consonant does not raise the pronunciation in unstressed positions though. In stressed syllables, the pronunciation is also [ɔ], however only after hard consonants. After soft consonants, it is a big higher and realised as [o̞]. Following high vowels also raise the vowel to [o̞], but again, a closed vowel retains the open pronunciation. So the distribution is the same as /e/, except that it is a following high vowel and not a following soft consonant that triggers the raising and /o/ has an additional unstressed pronunciation. Again, the overview is found in the spoiler below.
- Finally, Cissian also has long vowels in stressed syllables. This will be explained further in a later post. However, what I can already say is, that the long vowels are pronounced as [äː e̞ː o̞ː iː uː]. Of course, /ɘ/'s long version depends on the pronunciation of short /ɘ/.