Praseo phonology


Consonants

Phoneme set and standard orthography

The following chart gives all of the consonant phonemes in Praseo in the linguistic orthography, together with their core phonetic values.

Labial Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar
Voiceless stop p [p] t [t] k [k]
Voiced stop b [b] d [d] g [g]
Voiceless fricative s [s] ś [ʂ] š [ɕ] h [x]
Voiced fricative z [z]
Voiceless affricate ts [ts] č [tɕ]
Voiced affricate j [dʑ]
Nasal m [m] n [n]
Liquid l [l]
r [r]
Semivowel o [w] y [j]

The most peculiar aspect of the orthography is that the semivowel [w] is consistently rendered as o, regardless of position in the word. Thus, the word oirde is [wirde], and taoma is [tawma]. The phoneme [j], on the other hand, is only spelled as y when it is a syllable onset; as the second part of a diphthong it's spelled i, giving yalu [jalu], but aisa [ajsa].

Vowels

Praseo has four oral vowels, three nasal vowels, and three diphthongs which can also be nasalized.

Oral vowels Nasal vowels
i u
e ẽ [ɛ̃] õ [ɔ̃]
a ã [ã]

Diphthongs

Oral diphthongs Nasal diphthongs
ei [ej] ẽi [ɛ̃j]
eo [ew] ẽo [ɛ̃w]
ao [aw] ão [ãw]

All of the diphthongs in Praseo are falling diphthongs, and the exact quality of the second part of the diphthong is not explicitly specified. I've shown them above as semivowels, but the second part of ei may be as low as [ɪ], and the second part of ao may be [ɔ]. In nasalized diphthongs, the nasalization generally holds throughout the nasalized syllable.

Stress placement

Praseo has a very strong word-level stress, which is predictable based on the morphology and phonology of the word. Stress in a Praseo word falls on the penultimate syllable, unless:

  • The final syllable is morphologically marked as stressed (as in a few noun cases and verb forms)
  • The final syllable is nasalized
  • The final syllable contains a diphthong

In these cases, the final syllable is stressed.

Morphologically stressed final syllables are indicated with an acute accent on the vowel. This is the only way to distinguish between, for example, razi [ˈra.zi] ("heads (nom.pl.)") and razí [raˈzi] ("head (construct sg.)"). Other cases in which the final syllable is stressed are not marked, since the final stress can be inferred from the nasalization of the final vowel or the presence of a diphthong.

Because Praseo stress is so regular, it is not usually indicated in my phonetic transcriptions.

Book orthography

The orthography given above is used for precise transliterations of Praseo, and is used throughout this site and in the Praseo lexicon. However, a slightly different orthography is used for names and bits of text which occur in Storm Bride and other books featuring the Praseo language. (See Why I Use a Book Orthography.)

For the Praseo book orthography, the following substitutions are made:

Standard orthography Book orthography
ś s
š sh
č ch
e
ã a
õ o

As a consequence of these substitutions, there are no diacritics found in the book orthography of Praseo: nasal vowels are not distinguished from oral vowels, and the phonemes s [s] and ś [ʂ] are not distinguished.

Allophonic processes

Nasal place assimilation

Sound changes early in the history of Praseo resulted in most coda nasals being lost and converted to nasalization on the preceding vowel. However, when the coda nasal was immediately followed by an obstruent (stop or fricative), the nasal is retained in pronunciation and orthography, and is pronounced at the same place of articulation as the following stop. These homoorganic stops are always written with n except when followed by a labial, in which case they are written with m.

Orthography Pronunciation
mb [mb]
nd [nd]
[ɳʂ]
nj [ɲʑ]
ng [ŋg]

Vowels preceding such syllable-final nasals are still nasalized, but they are written without the tilde.

Nasal vowel spreading

Vowel nasalization spreads to the left in Praseo until it meets a voiceless obstruent or a word boundary. Thus a word with a final nasal vowel which does not contain a voiceless obstruent, the entire word may be nasalized. As suggested by the vowel chart above, vowels in Praseo are lowered under nasalization: i and e become , and u becomes õ. This applies to allophonically nasalized vowels as well as underlying nasalized vowels; however, allophonically nasalized i and u are generally spelled using the underlying vowel, if it can be recovered.

Orthography Pronunciation Remarks
ezande [ɛ̃zãnde] No vowels are written with the tilde; nasalization of preceding vowels is implied by the n.
zulõ [zɔ̃lɔ̃] Nasalization spreads to first u, pronounced [ɔ̃], but the spelling from the root form zulu is maintained.
urhõ [urxɔ̃] Initial u is not nasalized, as the voiceless obstruent h blocks further nasalization.

Coronal place assimilation

Coronal obstruents (dental, retroflex, and palatal) assimilate for place across intervening vowels. This place assimilation spreads leftward across vocoids, but stops when interrupted by a non-assimilating segment such as a non-coronal or a coronal liquid (l or r).

A word such as niśa is pronounced [ɳiʂa], with the initial n assimilated to a retroflex in accordance with the following ś. This can apply to multiple segments across multiple syllables: the word dusiśa is [ɖuʂiʂa], with all three coronal obstruents pronounced as retroflex. Note, however, that this is a form of the word dusu, which in its root form reveals that the underlying segments are non-retroflex, and the orthography reflects this, marking only the last ś in the word as retroflex. More generally, since ś is the only phonemic retroflex, there is no orthographic indication of retroflexion on the stops t or d, and s is only written as the retroflex ś if it is phonemically retroflex.

The palatals č, j, and š, are also assimilated to other coronals. When the affricates č and j are assimilated to another place of articulation, they remain affricates: if an underlying č is assimilated to a dental, then it becomes ts (the affrication is lost). This can result in affricates such as [ʈʂ] and [ɖʐ] which do not otherwise occur in Praseo. However, if an underlying unaffricated stop such as t is assimilated to a palatal it becomes automatically affricated to č (a palatal affricate).

Examples:

Orthography Pronunciation Remarks
dusiśa [ɖuʂiʂa] Retroflex articulation spreads to the left from the underlying ś. Orthography indicates underlying form.
ličitsu [litsitsu] Underlying palatal č is assimilated to [ts] from following ts; affrication is preserved. Orthography indicates underlying form.
nuči [ɲutɕi] Underlying n is assimilated to [ɲ] from following č

Voice assimilation

Obstruent clusters in Praseo always agree in voice, and the first element in the cluster is changed to agree in voice with the second. (This does not occur with clusters of obstruents and sonorants, however.) This occasionally generates phones which do not otherwise occur, such as the voiced retroflex spirant [ʐ], an allophone of ś, or the voiced palatal fricative [ʑ], an allophone of š.

Affricate simplification

If an affricate occurs in a consonant cluster, it is reduced to its fricative part. The spelling of the affricate is generally unchanged in this scenario. This includes clusters with sonorants, so that ačru is pronounced [aɕru].

Palatal absorption

When the finite verbal ending -ya is attached to a stem ending in a velar, the velar becomes palatalized (see below). The y of the verbal ending is often absorbed into this palatal, though in careful speech they may still be distinguished. It is always present in the orthography. Thus a work like ejya is usually pronounced simply [edʑa], but when enunciated carefully is [edʑja].

Morphophonemic alternations

The following alternations began as allophonic alternations in an earlier stage of Praseo, but have become morphologically conditioned following the loss of some aspects of their conditioning environment. Unlike many of the allophonic alternations above, these alternations are always reflected in the orthography.

Palatalization

The velars k, g, and h are palatalized to č, j, and š when they occur at the end of a stem, and one of the following affixes is attached to the stem:

  • The plural ending -i
  • The feminine singular ending -e
  • The accusative endings -ẽo and -ẽi
  • The finite verbal ending -ya
  • The participles ending -eo and -eśa

Thus, we have the following forms derived from the word aku "knot":

  • aku knot
  • ači knots
  • ačẽo knot (acc.sg.)
  • ačya to tie
  • ačeo tying

However, as a trap for the unwary, it is not simply the case that these velars are palatalized before any front vowel. The following front vowel affixes (among others) do not trigger palatalization:

  • The instrumental plural -ẽi
  • The construct case endings -ei and

So for aku the following non-palatalized forms occur:

  • akẽi with knots (instr.pl)
  • akí knot (cons.sg)

Throughout the rest of the grammar, affixes indicated whether or not they trigger palatalization when they are introduced.

Affrication

The dental stops t and d at the end of a stem are affricated into ts and z (historically dz, but simplified in Praseo) respectively when the following affix is one of the following:

  • The plural ending -i
  • The accusative endings -ẽo and -ẽi
  • The finite verbal ending -ya
  • The participle ending -eo

Thus, the word rada "leader, chief" has the following forms:

  • rada leader
  • razi leaders
  • razẽoa leader (acc.sg.)
  • razya to lead
  • razeo leading

When a given stem forms both a U-class noun and another noun in some other word class, the final consonant of the stem is affricated in like manner throughout the U-class paradigm. Thus, the stem rad- gives us both rada "leader" and razu "head (of the body)", and the word razu uses the stem raz- in all cases and numbers. Thus you have the following forms, for contrast:

Case rada "leader" razu "head"
Acc. sg. razẽoa razẽo
Acc. pl. razẽoi razẽi
Dat. sg. radoa razú
Dat. pl. raduśi razuśi

As this illustrates, the final z of the stem is preserved throughout the paradigm of razu, even in those cases which do not trigger affrication of the d in the paradigm of rada. This serves to distinguish the dative plural forms, which would otherwise be identical. See the full declension of razu on the noun declension page.