What does Ölanek sound like?

Modern Ölanek is the language of Ölan, the largest nation-state on the continent of Umãga to the north of Aheku. It has a total of twenty-three phonemes. Their sounds vary surprisingly little according to their phonetic environment. They are arranged in moderately complex syllables.

Vowels

The language has six points of vowel articulation. Rounded alternative may be formed in two places. They may also be viewed as fronted versions of the back vowels. They are transliterated here using back vowel letters and adding umlauts. This gives eight vowels in all.

Front
Unrounded
Front
Rounded
Back
Closei
/i/
ü
/y/
u
/u/
Mide
/e̞/
ö
/ø/
o
/o̞/
Openä
/a/
a
/ɑ/
Ölanek vowels

Where two monophthongs meet, a diphthong is formed. These may be falling or rising. The former are the more common. A hiatus is sounded between two identical vowels across word boundaries.


Consonants

The language has fifteen consonants. There are two series of stops (voiced and voiceless), along with voiced and voiceless fricatives plus a small set of sonorants.

LabAlvPalVelGlot
Nasm
/m/
n
/n/
Stopb, p
/b, p/
d, t
/d, t/
g, k
/g, k/
Fricv, f
/β, ɸ/
s
/s/
h
/h/
Liql, r
/l, r/
Gldy
/j/
Ölanek consonants

Notice that f and v represent bilabial sounds /β, ɸ/. As noted in an earlier post, the Ike cannot easily make labio-dental sounds. The presence of these sounds may account for the absence of w, as it would be difficult to distinguish /w/ from them, particularly from /β/.


Suprasegmental Features

Ölanek is a stress-timed language. Only the following syllable types are allowed:

(C)V(VC)

Stress is quite pronounced and falls invariably on the first syllable. Secondary stress falls on alternate syllables thereafter. Diphthongs occur mostly in syllables with primary or secondary stress.

The language exhibits vowel harmony. Vowels are divided into two groups:

Front Group: ä, ö, ü

Back Group: a, o, u

Neutral Group: e, i

If the stressed vowel of a word belongs to the front group, then all other vowels in the word must belong to the front or neutral groups. Conversely, if the stressed vowel belongs to the back group then all other vowels in the word must belong to the back or neutral groups. If the stressed vowel is neutral, then the other vowels in the word must belong to the front or neutral groups.


Dialects

Thanks to the levelling effects of modern media and education, regional and class-based differences in the modern language are not as strong as they once were. Nonetheless, some notable differences remain.

Ölanek has three main dialects: Eastern, Western and Metropolitan. The Ölanek spoken overseas is also non-standard. The standard language, as described above, is the language of the upper and middle classes in the Metropolitan dialect zone, in and around the capital Kuonavari and the nearby second city of Bilkuha.


Writing System

The Ölanek 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. The alphabet is of local origin but shows an influence from various writing systems of North Aheku.

By David Johnson

Conlanger, writer and activist.

One comment

  1. The sound of Ölanek shows a definite Fenno-Scandi influence reflecting its status as a northerly language by Tekuan standards. It should not be imagined that Ölan is a cold country, though. On the contrary, it is quite a hot place. There just isn’t much land in the northern hemisphere.

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