What does Lemohai sound like?

How people talk on Mohai

Modern Standard Lemohai has a total of twenty-six phonemes. Their sounds vary a little according to their phonetic environment. They are arranged in simple syllables.

Vowels

The language has a so-called “pure” vowel system, consisting of five oral and five nasal monophthongs. Nasal vowels are written like their oral counterparts followed by a nasal consonant.

FrontCentralBack
Highi, iN
/i, ĩ/
u, uN
/u, ũ/
Mid-Lowe, eN
/ε, ɛ̃/
o, oN
/ɔ, ɔ̃/
Lowa, aN
/a, ã/

The trailing nasal consonants (n or m) are not sounded independently unless they are followed by a vowel with no intervening pause.

Where two oral vowels meet, a slight hiatus is sounded between them. So words like Mohai consist of three syllables, not two: /mɔ.’ha.i/.

Vowels keep their full value in almost all circumstances. In theory, they are never swallowed-up and cannot form diphthongs or triphthongs. In rapid or colloquial speech, diphthongs will sometimes be encountered, though the practice is non-standard.

The sole exception is that high vowels i and u become glides /j, w/ between vowels. This also happens word-initially, except where a pause intervenes.

Front vowels e, eN, i and iN become central vowels /ə, ə̃, ɨ, ɨ̃/ before velar and glottal consonants (g, k, kh, h). So Tekuo is pronounced: /tə.‘ku.ɔ/. When u reduces to a labio-velar glide, it also triggers these changes.

Where two vowels meet in compounding and one is stressed, that vowel is retained and the other deleted.

Where both are stressed or both unstressed, only the second is retained. Where the first word ends in two vowels and the second starts with a stressed vowel, then the last vowel of the first word is again deleted.


Consonants

The language has sixteen consonants. There are three series of stops (voiced, plain and aspirate), along with small sets of fricatives and sonorants.

LabAlvVelGlot
Nasm
/m/
n
/n/
Stopb, p, ph
/b, p, pʰ/
d, t, th
/d, t, tʰ/
g, k, kh
/g, k, kʰ/
Fricz, s
/z, s/
h
/h/
Liql, r
/l, r/

Plain stops are aspirated after nasal vowels. This change is reflected in writing on compounding, but not across word boundaries.

S and z approximate to alveo-palatal /ɕ, ʑ/ before front high vowels i or in*.

H is not permitted after a nasal vowel. On compounding, h is deleted from this position.

Oral sonorants l and r are nasalised after nasal vowels. Word-initial r is a trill, /r/, but it is a flap elsewhere.


Suprasegmental Features

Lemohai is a syllable-timed language. Only the following syllable types are allowed:

(C)V(N)

As noted above, the combination VN is a digraph representing a nasal vowel, but the nasal consonant is sometimes sounded as well.

Regular stress falls on the penultimate syllable, i.e. on the penultimate vowel. However, a heavy final syllable (one with a nasal vowel) takes the stress instead. Stress is light and accompanied by a high pitch accent.


Dialects

The standard language, as described above, is the language of the educated classes of the capital Orisu.

Lemohai has three main dialects: Northern, Southern and Central, though large urban areas also have their own distinct speech patterns.

Thanks to the levelling effects of modern media and education, regional and class-based differences in the modern language are few, though they remain noticeable. The Lemohai spoken overseas is also non-standard.

Younger speakers do not possess a dialect as such, but they have some distinctive speech patterns.


Writing System

The Lemohai alphabet is written from left to right in simple, geometric characters. It is a unicase script without separate upper and lower case forms. It is largely phonetic. It is a variant on the Classical Lekuna alphabet which derives in turn from the Pamak script.

Author: David Johnson

Conlanger, writer and activist.

2 thoughts on “What does Lemohai sound like?”

  1. This page replaces another which had a tortured history as it wobbled between variations on a core idea. The core idea has only been tweaked this time, but the presentation is very different, hence a new page was deemed necessary.

    The core idea revolves around simple syllables, aspirate stops and nasal vowels. It could be summed up as other-worldly Portuguese.

    I have aimed for a judicious mixture of common sounds and conceptual radicalism. The radicalism includes some unusual gaps. I like the minimalism of the latest version, as it leaves space for variations in dialects and related languages.

    Allophony was developed with help from the Zompist Bulletin Board.

    Several fads came and went on the previous page such as nasal harmony, syllabic nasals and the deletion of one or more stop series. It was also plagued by the great f versus z debate. Diacritics were once used to indicate nasal vowels but proved too fiddly. The simpler VN approach won out.

    The current set of phonemes and allophones embodies some delicate balances and is probably as good as it gets.

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