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I. Directory (links to the other big posts)
this post for 1 - 2 (Phonology, Orthography)
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click here for 3 - 5 (Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives)
click here for 6 (Verbs)
click here for 7 (Determiners)
click here for 8 (Negation)
click here for 9 (Numbers)
A = alveolopalatal consonant
C = all consonants
D = dental consonant
F = labiodental consonant
G = velar or glottal consonant
L = labial consonant
N = nasal consonant
P = palatal consonant
R = uvular consonant
S = syllable
U = syllabic vowels and semivowels
V = all syllabic vowels
Y = semivowels
# = chain boundary (see 1.6 Chains)
1.1 Consonant phonemes
/m n ɲ ŋ/
/p b t d k g/
/f v s z ɕ ʑ h/
All consonants, other than /j w ŋ/, have geminate forms. /ɕ ʑ/ geminate as /ttɕ ddʑ/. Historically, there were short affricates corresponding to the geminate affricates, but the former deaffricated, leading to the current situation.
/ŋ/ is an archiphoneme. It is the only non-geminate nasal consonant that can appear in coda position, assimilating to the POA of the following consonant. It also nasalizes the preceding vowel. /e o a ə/ are the only vowels that precede it. It usually gets elided before vowels, liquids and stressed syllables. Geminate nasals can be analyzed as /ŋN/ sequences.
1.2 Vowel phonemes
/i y u/
/e ø ə* o/
* restricted to unstressed syllables
/iː yː uː/
/eː øː oː/
The phoneme inventory above is intended to show meaningful contrasts. It doesn't always present actual pronunciation, especially where nasals are concerned. Apply the following changes to phonemic transcriptions to get a true pronunciation:
eː øː oː aː -> ɛː œː ɔː ɑː
e ø o -> ɛ œ ɔ, _(ŋ)S[+stress]
V -> Ṽ, _ŋ
ŋ -> ∅, _V or _S[+stress]
ə̃ -> ŋ̩, _S[+stress]
ŋ -> m ɱ n ɲ̟ ɲ ŋ ɴ, _[L F D A P G R]
ã -> ɑ̃
∅ -> ʔ, V#_V
1.4 Syllable structure
Naturalized Silvish words have limited codas. Geminate consonants, which are heterosyllabic, are allowed word-medially. The maximal codas are word-final /ʁt lt ŋt/. Borrowed words can contain other coda consonants, but in practice, speakers may elide them or insert epenthetic vowels after them.
Most /CC/ combinations are split over a syllable boundary when they appear within chains (see 1.6). For instance, /ˈaʁti/ is syllabified /ˈaʁ.ti/. But most /Cʁ/, /Cl/ and /sC/ combinations are considered to be part of the onset of a syllable, so /ˈtestu/ is syllabified as /ˈte.stu/, not /ˈtes.tu/. Exceptions are /ʁʁ ll ss ʁl lʁ/, which are all heterosyllabic.
The most complex chain-medial clusters have the structure (ʁ/l/ŋ).C(ʁ/l/Y) or C.C(ʁ/l/Y) or (ʁ/l/ŋ/).sC or s.sC(ʁ/l/Y).
A quick note: The following subsections contain examples with orthography. See Section 2 for discussion of Silvish orthography.
Naturalized words can only be stressed on the penult or the ult.
1.5.1 Stress-based reduction
Both consonants and vowels are affected by stress. Syllables adjacent to a stressed syllable must be monomoraic; that is, they can contain at most an onset and a short-vowel nucleus. This requirement is met through reduction. Among vowels, short /a e o ø/ merge into /ə/ in open syllables, and long vowels are shortened. For consonants, this rule means that /ʁ l/ are deleted and geminates are shortened in the coda of a stress-adjacent syllable. Below is a description of the alternations. Since they are phonemic, think of them as happening before the allophonic rules from Section 1.3.
a e o ø > ə, _S[+stress]
Vː > V, _S[+stress]
ʁ l > ∅, _S[+stress]
CC > C, _S[+stress]
Note how after the rules are applied, /a e o ø/ in syllables that originally contained more than one mora (closed syllable or long vowel) retain their qualities. They also retain nasality, which is analyzed as an allophone of /ŋ/ (See Section 1.3). But /a e o ø/ in syllables with one mora reduce to /ə/.
The verbs porté and adotté are good examples of all of these processes. Portê is pronounced /poˈte/, with the underlying /ʁ/ going unpronounced because it is in the coda of a stress-adjacent syllable. The conjugated form porta puts the stress on the initial syllable, allowing the /ʁ/ to be pronounced, which gives /ˈpoʁ.tə/.
Adotta, a conjugated form of adotté, is pronounced with penultimate stress, giving /əˈdot.tə/. The first <a> is adjacent to stress and so is reduced to /ə/. Note additionally how the second syllable is closed. The form adotté has stress on the final syllable, giving the pronunciation /a.doˈte/. The /tt/ has reduced adjacent to the stressed syllable. Now away from the stress, the <a> is pronounced /a/. As for the /o/, despite being adjacent to the stressed syllable, it does not reduce because its syllable is underlyingly closed.
The phonological processes of Silvish are organized around structures called "chains" (hin-a in Silvish). Each chain is one or more words long and contains only one stressed syllable, either on the ult or penult. Within a chain, all words behave as if part of one larger word. (My IPA transcriptions reflect this, with spacing only between chains.) An example of how words within chains act as part of larger word is the sentence Î m' a cru /iː.məˈkʁy/ (He believed me), the verb a is reduced from /a/ to /ə/ because it is adjacent to a stressed syllable in the same chain, as if a and cru were one word.
Certain words - mainly content words - always take stress and as a result always end chains. They include nouns and the vast majority of verbs and adjectives. Other words only take stress when they fall at the end of an utterance, the stress being necessary to end the chain. A is part of the latter group, which is why it wasn't stressed in the above example. Now compare Î m' a cru with the following sentence:
Combyé d' amî qu' l' à ?
/koŋˈbje dəˈmiː ˈkla/
How many friends does he have?
In the above sentence, a has been placed at the end of the utterance. Since there is no other word after it to finish the chain it is part of, it takes stress (which in this case is also marked in the orthography with a grave accent) to end the chain itself.
For more information on which words and word classes end chains, see the dedicated sections for nouns, verbs, adjectives etc.
Changes can occur at morpheme and word boundaries within a chain. The umbrella term for these phenomena is inhin-aman or "linking together". There is little phonological distinction between a morpheme boundary and a word boundary, so the effects described in this section apply in both areas. Additionally, because these processes operate on the level of chains, they are blocked by chain boundaries.
1.7.1 Emergent consonants
Many a word or morpheme has a latent, unpronounced final consonant that becomes pronounced if it is followed by another word or a suffix that begins with a vowel or liquid.
The most common emergent consonants are /z t/. The former tends to appear after a word that ends in a vowel. The latter after a consonant. See some examples below:
bella /ˈbel.lə/ + ettwela /eˈtwe.lə/ = bella-z ettwela /bel.la.zeˈtwe.lə/
nou /nu/ + on /ˈoŋ/ = nou-z on /nuˈzoŋ/
dlicheu /dliˈɕø/ + -a /a/ = dlicheuza /dliˈɕø.zə/
gran /ˈgʁaŋ/ + ambrou /ˈaŋ.bʁu/ = grant ambrou /gʁaŋˈtaŋ.bʁu/
ver /ˈveʁ/ + -a /a/ = verta /ˈveʁ.tə/
Some words also have emergent nasals, specifically /ŋ n/:
anchã /aŋˈɕɑ/ + atteu /aˈtø/ = ancha-n atteu /aŋ.ɕa.ŋaˈtøː/
italyã /i.təˈʎɑ/ + -a /a/ = italyan-a /i.təˈʎa.ŋə/
tour /ˈtuʁ/ + -a /a/ = tourna /ˈtuʁ.nə/
1.7.2 Consonant mutation
Before vowels and liquids, some final consonants undergo changes, most commonly gemination. But final /t/ becomes /z/, and final /s/ is sometimes replaced by /tt/.
bel /ˈbel/ + atteu /aˈtø/ = bell atteu /bel.laˈtø/
bas /ˈbas/ + -a /a/ = bassa /ˈbas.sə/
/t/ to /z/:
grant /ˈgʁaŋt/ + ambrou /ˈaŋ.bʁu/ = granz ambrou /gʁaŋˈzaŋ.bʁu/
/s/ to /tt/:
t' es /ˈtes/ + emet /əˈmet/ = t' ett emet /tet.təˈmat/
gous /ˈgus/ + -a /a/ = goutta /ˈgut.tə/
1.7.3 Initial gemination
Some words and morphemes cause the initial consonant of the following word or morpheme to geminate. These words often end in /s/ or /t/ when stressed. Gemination also occurs after morphemes with an emergent /z/. If the final syllable of the first morpheme has additional coda consonants, or a long vowel, gemination is blocked.
Gemination after /s/ and /t/:
t' es /ˈtes/ + jantit /ʑaŋˈtit/ = t' e djantit /ted.dʑaŋˈtit/
het /ˈhet/ + cottet /koˈtet/ = he ccottet /hek.koˈtet/
Gemination after emergent /z/:
nou /vu/ + sorton /soˈtoŋ/ = nou ssorton /nus.soˈtoŋ/ (cf. nou /nu/ + on /ˈoŋ/ = nou-z on /nuˈzoŋ/)
Gemination blocked by additional coda consonant or long vowel:
grant /ˈgʁaŋt/ + cottet /koˈtet/ = gran cottet /gʁaŋ.koˈtet/
bêt /ˈbeːt/ + cottet /koˈtet/ = bê cottet /beː.koˈtet/
1.7.3 Vowel elision
Most short, unstressed vowels are elided before a following vowel. Elision also happens between consonants, if the resulting cluster will be valid. Additionally, coda cononants must stay in the coda, and onset consonants must stay in the onset, otherwise elision is blocked. Elided vowels are not considered when applying the reduction rules in Section 1.5.1.
li /li/ + O /ˈo/ = l' O /ˈlo/
tu /ty/ + es /ˈes/ = t' es /ˈtes/
si /si/ + que /ke/ = s' que /ske/
Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Yy Zz
2.2 Sound-Letter Correspondence
/m n ɲ ŋ/ <m n ny n ~ n- ~ m*>
/p b t d k g/ <p b t d c~qu** g~gu**>
/f v s z ɕ ʑ h/ <f v s z ch j h>
/l ʎ/ <l ly>
/j w/ <y w>
* <n-> before vowels; <m> before <p b m>
** before <i e y>
/ŋm ŋn ŋɲ/ <mm nn nny>
/pp bb tt dd kk gg/ <pp bb tt dd cc~cqu** gg~ggu**>
/ttɕ ddʑ/ <tch dj>
/ff vv ss zz hh/ <ff vv ss zz hh>
/ll ʎʎ/ <ll lly>
/i y u/ <i u ou>
/e ø ə o/ <e eu e~o~a o>
/a ɑ/ <a ã>
/iː yː uː/ <î û oû>
/eː øː oː/ <ê eû ô>
/eŋ əŋ oŋ/ <in in~on~an on>
Silvish uses four diacritics: acute accent (´), grave accent (`), circumflex (ˆ) and tilde (˜). In a digraph, diacritics go on the second letter.
Acute: Marks stress on final <e>, one of the vowel letters that can appear in an unstressed syllable at the end of a chain.
Grave: Marks stress on final <a i ou>, the other vowel letters and digraph that can appear in an unstressed syllable at the end of a chain.
Circumflex: Lengthens the vowel.
Tilde: Only appears in <ã> /ɑ/.
2.4 Respresenting stress
As mentioned above, <a e i ou> receive explicit stress marking — an acute or grave accent — when they represent a stressed, chain-final vowel (chain-final: reboù /ʁəˈbu/, not chain-final: rebout /ʁəˈbut/, rebouta /ʁəˈbu.tə/).
There is no other explicit stress marking; the rest is implied by chain boundaries. Unmarked <a e i ou> at the end of a chain represent unstressed vowels; in these cases, the preceding syllable is stressed. Other vowel letters at the end of a chain represent stressed vowels. A chain-final syllable that ends in a consonant letter is always stressed. All other syllables are unstressed.
2.4.1 Respresenting stress-based reduction
Stress-based reduction is largely ignored in the orthography. Spellings are based on the underlying shape of a word suggested by all its forms taken together, rather than the surface pronunciation of any given form. An example is porté /poˈte/, so spelled because of the /ʁ/ that emerges in forms with initial stress, like porta /ˈpoʁ.tə/. In addition, when unpronounced, the <r> clues the reader in that the <o> represents /o/ rather than /ə/.
2.5 Representing inhin-aman
Inhin-aman within words has a simple representation, with the letters needed to represent the new sound simply being added in (gous /ˈgus/ + -a /a/ = goutta /ˈgut.tə/). Between words, it is important whether the alternation will result in a closed final syllable for the first word.
When the alternation is an emergent consonant and the final syllable of the first word is closed, the emergent consonant is appended directly to the end of the first word (gran /ˈgʁaŋ/ + ambrou /ˈaŋ.bʁu/ = grant ambrou /gʁaŋˈtaŋ.bʁu/). If the final syllable will be open, the emergent consonant is appended to the first word with a hyphen (nou /nu/ + on /ˈoŋ/ = nou-z on /nuˈzoŋ/).
When consonant mutation results in the first word having a closed final syllable, the original consonant letter is simply replaced with the normal spelling of the new sound (bel /ˈbɛl/ + atteu /aˈtø/ = bell atteu /bel.laˈtø/). If the final syllable will be open, the original consonant letter is replaced with a hyphen followed by the appropriate spelling of the new sound (bêt /ˈbeːt/ + O /ˈo/ = bê-z O /beˈzo/).
Initial gemination is represented by doubling the first letter of the following word (het /ˈbet/ + cottet /koˈtet/ = he ccottet /hek.koˈtet/). When a word with initial gemination is capitalized, the added consonant is left in lower case, with the original first letter taking capitalization (e.g. He cCottet, HE cCOTTET).
Vowel elision between words is represented by replacing the dropped vowel with an apostrophe. The space between the two words is retained (tu /ty/ + es /ˈes/ = t' es /ˈtes/).
Silvish marks some grammatical categories by lengthening the stressed vowel of a word. In the prestige variety, two vowels do not undergo this lengthening, /a u/, but some dialects have extended ablaut to all vowels. Multiple parts of speech experience ablaut. When to apply it will be explained in the individual part-of-speech sections.
Vowels lengthened through ablaut are marked with a circumflex like other long vowels.