What does Modern Lemohai sound like?

How people talk on Mohai today

Modern Standard Lemohai has a total of twenty-four 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
Closei, ĩ
/i, ĩ/
u, ũ
/u, ũ/
Mide,
/e̞, ẽ̞ /
o, õ
/o̞, õ̞ /
Opena, ã
/a, ã/
Lemohai vowels

Where two vowels meet, a slight hiatus is normally sounded between them. So words like Mohai consist of three syllables, not two: /mo̞.’ha.i/. A hiatus is also sounded where two vowels meet across word boundaries. Where the first vowel is a nasal vowel, a glottal stop /ʔ/ is sounded between them. The glottal stop is unwritten.

Vowels keep their full value in 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 vowels e, , o and õ are normally true mid vowels. They are raised to close-mid when adjacent to a close vowel (i, ĩ, u, ũ) and lowered to open-mid when adjacent to an open vowel (a, ã).

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 fourteen consonants. There are two series of stops (plain and aspirate), along with small sets of fricatives and sonorants.

LabAlvPalVelGlot
Nasm
/m/
n
/n/
Stopp, ph
/p, pʰ/
t, th
/t, tʰ/
k, kh
/k, kʰ/
Frics
/s/
h
/h/
Liql, r
/l, r/
Gld(w)
/w/
y
/j/
w
/w/
Lemohai consonants

Plain stops p, t, k are voiced after nasal vowels, as is s. They become /b, d, g, z/ respectively.

H is pronounced /ç/ before front close vowels i or ĩ. H is not permitted after a nasal vowel. On compounding, h is deleted from this position.

Oral sonorants l, r, y and w 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

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.

Younger speakers employ a limited form of nasal harmony. Where an oral vowel immediately precedes a nasal vowel in the same word, it too is nasalised. The practice is frowned upon by older speakers, who refer to it as “nasal slur”.


Dialects

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.

Lemohai has three main dialects: Northern, Southern and Central. The Lemohai spoken overseas is also non-standard. The standard language, as described above, is the language of the upper and middle classes of the capital Orisu. Orisu lies in the central dialect zone.

Working-class speech in the central zone is distinguished by the pronunciation of the vowel sequences ei and ou as /e/ and /o/ respectively. E and o have become open-mid, but their nasal counterparts remain true mid vowels. H has become a glottal stop for some speakers.

The northern dialect has retained some irregular stress from Early Lemohai. It is indicated by an acute diacritic on oral vowels or a circumflex on nasal vowels: á, â. Unstressed front vowels e, , i and ĩ become central vowels /ə, ə̃, ɨ, ɨ̃/ before velar and glottal consonants (k, kh, h). So Tekuo is pronounced: /tə.‘ku.o̞/.

The old phoneme /ŋ/ has been retained and is written ng. It has moved to /n/ elsewhere. H is always pronounced /x/. The dialect shares this last feature with the nearby Letepi language. Syllabic nasal consonants are permitted in word-initial position.

In the southern dialect, h is always pronounced /h/. Open-mid vowels e, , o and õ are raised to close-mid position when unstressed. They become open-mid when stressed. Dental-alveolar sounds (n, t, th, s) move to pre-palatal, approximately /ɲ, tʃ, tʃʰ, ʃ/, before front close vowels i and ĩ*. Before front close vowels and after nas vowels t and s become voiced a pre-palatals /dʒ, ʒ/.


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.

3 thoughts on “What does Modern Lemohai sound like?”

  1. The phoneme inventory has been reduced again from 28 to 24. Voiced stops have been removed. The language now takes the p,t,k thing from Finnish, the nasal vowels from Portuguese and simple syllables from the Polynesian languages. I’ve liked Finnish since my teens and now I’m learning it, it’s making its presence known in my conlang work.

    I’ve now worked out a full set of sound changes, too from Proto-Maritime to Lemohai. I’ve checked some other conlangs and I don’t have too many for my proposed time span, or too few. I now need to add the changes here and rethink Classical Lekuna as its consonant set now looks very like Lemohai.

    The til diacritic has been reintroduced for nasal vowels. The latest version of WordPress displays them correctly over all vowels.

    Happy 🙂

  2. 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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