Proto-Maritime is reconstructed as having 22 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 pharyngeal sounds. Syllables were simple or moderately complex.
The standard model of PM 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 Peku. 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 is used here to indicate typical values. In practice, the sound of each vowel would have varied widely according to context. It is believed that long vowels varied in similar ways to short vowels, however this is not certain.
Diphthongs & Triphthongs
The combination of any monophthong with 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.
Unlike a number of its descendants, the language does not appear to have possessed any triphthongs.
Close vowels were lowered to close-mid position when adjacent to uvular consonants. So i would then be pronounced /e/ and u would become /o/.
The central vowel /a/ became a back vowel, /ɑ/, when adjacent to a uvular.
Proto-Maritime had four plosives, all voiceless.
p, t, k, q = /p, t, k, q/
The language had four nasal consonants. These were all voiced and articulated at the same points as the voiceless plosives. The use of the digraph nq should not be taken to indicate that the uvular nasal was voiceless. The symbol was chosen on analogy with q, to indicate uvularity.
m, n, ng, nq = /m, n, ŋ, ɴ/
There were also four corresponding fricatives. All were voiceless.
f, s, x, h = /Φ, s, x, χ/
Finally, the language possessed four voiced, non-nasal sonorants.
l, r, y, w = / l, ɾ, y, w/
Any consonant could be geminated. Geminates are written double in this transcription: kk, etc. Geminate ng and nq were written ngg and nqq respectively.
Velar consonants became uvular before uvulars. Spelling was changed accordingly. So k+q became qq. Conversely, uvular consonants became velar before velars: q+k became kk, and so on. Alveolar and labial consonants were deleted before uvulars, for example: t+q became q.
L became /ʟ/ in syllable coda position.
R became trilled word initially and when geminate: /r/ or /rr/ .
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 y and w.
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.