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.

The Northern dialect is the most conservative. In this dialect, /h/ is always pronounced /x/. The voiceless alveolar fricative may be tenuis or aspirate /s~sʰ/. A phonemic glottal stop /ʔ/ has been retained, though it has been lost in the standard language. Where needed, it is transcribed here as <q >. Northern stress always falls on the penultimate syllable, as it did in Old Lemohai.

In the Southern dialect, alveolar /z/ and /s/ are in free variation with their laminal counterparts. The vowels /ɛ,ɛ̃/ and /ɔ,ɔ̃/ become /e,ẽ/ and /o,õ/. Medial /g/ becomes /ŋ/. Like with /m/ and /n/, the following vowel is nasalised.

Educated Central dialect speech is as per MSL. In uneducated speech in the central zone, medial g becomes the velar approximant /ɰ/ and /h/ becomes /ɕ/ before /e/ as well as /i/.

Uneducated speech in all three dialect zones features a process known as “nasal slur”. This occurs when a word-initial syllabic nasal is elided with the final vowel of the previous word to give a nasal vowel. The practice is frowned upon by prescriptivists who insist on separating the two words with an unwritten /ʔ/. However, the practice is becoming more widespread.

Mohai’s Senduri-speaking minority live in the north. As the aboriginal language, Senduri has had a substrate influence on all varieties of Lemohai, but its influence is strongest in the north. The Lepekau and Letsuri speakers on the south coast arrived in the early modern era. They have had much less influence on Lemohai, though they have contributed a few words, particularly to the Southern dialect.

Author: David Johnson

Language constructor, writer, music fan and activist.

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