Senduri phonology

Unified Senduri is the standard version of Senduri, the native language of the Turi archipelago. It has a total of twenty-three phonemes. Their sounds vary a little according to their phonetic environment. They are arranged in simple syllables.


The language has a symmetrical seven vowel system. Monophthongs keep their full value in all positions.

Senduri vowels

The language also has four falling diphthongs. There are no rising diphthongs and no triphthongs. The diphthongs are:

ai, au, ei, oi

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, a diphthong is formed if possible. If not, only the second is retained. Where the first word ends in two vowels the last of these may become a glide.


The language has sixteen consonants. There are two series of stops (voiced and voiceless), along with small sets of fricatives and sonorants. The co-articulated consonants are a distinctive feature of the language. The absence of l is also notable.

Stopb, p
/b, p/
d, t
/d, t/
g, k
/g, k/
gb, kp
/g͡b, k͡p/
Senduri consonants

Voiceless stops p, t, k, kp are voiced after nasals, becoming /b, d, g, gb/ respectively. For example, take the name of the island group, Turi, and add the Sen– prefix, for language:

Sen- + Turi = Senduri

Notice that f represents a bilabial sound /ɸ/. As noted in an earlier post, the Ike cannot easily make labio-dental sounds.

Sonorants apart from glides, i.e. /m, n, r/ become syllabic /m̩ , n̩ , /, before another consonant, ndama, /n̩’dama/, krté, /’kr̩te/ etc. This also applies at the end of a word, after another consonant, batn, etc.

Suprasegmental Features

Senduri is a syllable-timed language. Only the following syllable types are allowed, where N represents any nasal and the S represents any syllabic sonorant.:

(C)V; (C)VN; (C)S

Primary stress is regular and normally falls on the penultimate syllable. A heavy final syllable (one with a diphthong) takes the stress instead. Secondary stress falls on alternate syllables before that.


The archipelago consists of nine main islands each of which has developed its own dialect. Unified Senduri, as presented above is a standardised form of the language designed to be as neutral as possible. It is sometimes known pejoratively as “Internet Senduri” or “Night School Senduri” as it has few native speakers.

The plethora of dialects poses a dilemma for the visitor: which form to learn?

The most widely-spoken dialect is that of the largest island Gbesu, however the visitor to Gbesu can probably get by with Lemohai as a high-proportion of the archipelago’s Lemohai speakers live here. You can definitely get by with Lemohai in the archipelago’s capital Gbesu City. The dialect of the second largest island Oremi is also widely spoken, but it is not the most typical form of Senduri.

Hence most learners opt for Unified Senduri as it is well understood everywhere. That said, the Senduri always appreciate it if a visitor has learnt a few phrases in their local dialect.

Writing System

Senduri is written in a variation of the Lemohai alphabet, repurposing some letters and adding others. It is written from left to right in simple, geometric characters. This is a unicase script without separate upper and lower case forms. It is largely phonetic.

By David Johnson

Conlanger, writer and activist.

One comment

  1. The main influence on the design of Senduri phonology is the wonderful Yoruba language, most obviously in its seven vowels, and co-articulated consonants. Senduri doesn’t follow Yoruba into the complexities of tone and nasal vowels, but instead it allows syllabic consonants in more positions.

    The debt is acknowledged in the name of the second largest island. “Oremi” is a Yoruba word which I believe means “mentor” or “a friend in whom you can confide”. It is also the title of a song by King Sunny Adé and an album by Angélique Kidjo.

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