Proto-Dahu-Kemba is reconstructed as having 21 phonemes. It was characterised by its few 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 PDK has stood the test of time, but some uncertainties remain. These are indicated below. The language was unwritten. We must assume that it had dialects, but nothing is known about them.
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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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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.
Continue reading “What does Lemohai sound like?”