Proto-Maritime is reconstructed as having 20 phonemes. It was characterised by its three points of vowel articulation, a lack of voicing contrast amongst consonants and the prominence of velar, uvular and glottal sounds. Syllables were simple or moderately complex.
The standard model of PM phonology has stood the test of time, but some uncertainties remain. These are indicated below. The language was unwritten. It is believed that there were two dialects, one spoken on Mohai, one on Pheku. Little is known about them, however.
PM had three short monophthongs each with a long equivalent, giving a total of six. Long vowels are written here with a macron.
a, i, u = /a, i, u/
ā, ī, ū = /a:, i:, u:/
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is used here to indicate typical values. No doubt the sound of each vowel varied widely in practice, in different contexts. It is believed that long vowels varied somewhat less than short vowels but this is not certain.
Diphthongs & Triphthongs
The combination of any short monophthong with a short i or u was a valid diphthong in PM. I and u reduced nearly to /j, w/ whilst a kept its full sound. At this stage, it is no longer possible to tell which vowel reduced in the diphthongs iu and ui.
The language does not appear to have possessed any triphthongs. That is to say, there are none in the corpus of reconstructed words.
Close vowels were lowered to close-mid position when adjacent to uvular q. So
The central vowel /a/ became a back vowel, /ɑ/, when adjacent to q.
Proto-Maritime had five plosives, all voiceless. All are written here with their IPA characters. T was laminal. None seem to have been aspirated like their English counterparts often are. Glottal stop ‘ is not found word-initially in any of the known PM words.
p, t, k, q, ‘ = /p, t, k, q, ʔ/
The language had three nasal consonants. Usually, these were articulated at the same points as their voiceless counterparts p, t, k.
m, n, ng = /m, n, ŋ~ɴ/
There were also two voiceless fricatives. The sound of these varied somewhat.
s, x = /s̻~s̺ , x~χ/
Finally, the language possessed four voiced, non-nasal sonorants.
l, r, y, w = / l, ɾ, j, w/
Any consonant could be geminated, apart from glottals and semi-vowels (‘, h, y, and w). Geminates are written double in this transcription: kk, etc. Geminate /ŋ/ is written here as ngg. Note that this is sounded /ŋŋ/ and not /ŋg/.
Velar consonants became uvular before uvulars. Spelling reflects this in the transcription used here. K+q became qq. Conversely, uvular consonants became velar before velars: q+k becomes kk, and so on. Alveolar and labial consonants were deleted before uvulars, for example, t+q became q.
N had a wide range of allophones, as it was homorganic with any following consonant.
X was in free variation between velar and uvular positions. Hence its transcription above as /x~χ/. The sounds are similar, though the uvular variety is harsher and more salient.
L became /ʟ/ in syllable coda position.
R was normally a flap, but became trilled
Only the following syllable types were permitted in Proto-Maritime:
(C)V, (C)V:, (C)VV, (C)VC
Any consonant could appear in onset position. Any could be found as a coda, except
Stress fell on the penultimate syllable unless the final syllable was heavy (i.e. unless the final syllable was CV:, CVV or CVC). Heavy final syllables took the stress instead. Secondary stress occurred two syllables before the syllable with primary stress.