Picking up the threads

So, I’m back! While I’ve been away, I’ve been thinking. This is always dangerous and usually heralds a big rewrite somewhere. This is also true now.

Gradually, and without my consciously deciding it, the project has become less about Lemohai and more about the rest of the Dahu-Kemba language family. I’ve been looking at how language families are modelled on the Akana collaborative conworld site and have been struck by a number of impressively concise phoneme inventories there.

Languages like Kataputi, Proto-Lukpanic, Pencek and Proto-Tulameya have only nineteen or twenty phonemes, yet still have interesting phoneme inventories. I thought I’d been brief-but-interesting with Lemohai’s twenty-eight sounds, but clearly I could go briefer and still maintain interest value.

A couple of points have long bothered me about the current Lemohai inventory. Eight of the twenty-eight phonemes are written with digraphs and that’s a high number. Whatsmore, nine of the eighteen consonants are obstruent stops, another high number. I’m also struggling to derive all twenty-eight sounds from Proto-Dahu-Kemba.

If I reduce the number of phonemes in Lemohai, this makes it easier to model the sound changes from Proto-Dahu-Kemba to Lemohai. It also frees up phonological ideas for use elsewhere in the family. Most of the family will still only be sketched-out and act as naming languages and sources of loanwords for Lemohai, but I think it’s worth getting the basics right for them.

I have a new inventory in mind for Lemohai. It’s settled bar a couple of points which I shall mull over some more between now and New Year. I also have positive plans for re-using the phonemes  I drop from Lemohai. I still like these sounds and moving them will enhance the project as a whole.

The sound of Lemohai dialects

There were seven dialects in Eastern Dahu, four of which were represented on Mohai. By the modern era these have reduced to three thanks to a mixture of education, broadcasting and increased travel. The three modern dialect areas are: Northern, Central and Southern. The Central dialect has most speakers.

The phonology of Modern Standard Lemohai (MSL) is based on educated speech from the capital Orisu and the surrounding area. This lies within the Central dialect zone, half way up the east coast.

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What does Lemohai sound like?

Vowels

Modern Standard Lemohai has a so-called “pure” vowel system, consisting of five oral and five nasal monophthongs. These keep their full value in all circumstances. In theory, they are never swallowed-up and cannot form diphthongs or triphthongs. Where two monophthongs meet, a slight hiatus is sounded between them. So words like Mohai and Tekuo consist of three syllables not two.

In rapid or colloquial speech, diphthongs will sometimes be encountered, though the practice is non-standard.

Oral monophthongs: a, e, i, o, u = /a, ɛ, i, ɔ, u /

Nasal monophthongs: an, en, in, on, un = /ã, ɛ̃,  ĩ, , ɔ̃ , ũ/

Nasal vowels are sounded in the same place as their oral equivalents in the standard language. They are not permitted before sonorants. When compounding therefore, nasal vowels become oral in this position. Before a labial b or p in the same word, nasal vowels are written Vm. This also applies on compounding.

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