4 Case Morphology

8 Adjuncts

12 The Writing System

1 Phonology

5 Verb Morphology

9 Referentials

13 Numbers

2 Morpho-Phonology

6 More Verb Morphology

10 Special Constructions

14 The Lexicon

3 Basic Morphology

7 Affixes

11 Syntax







The phonology of a language refers to its system of vocally articulated sounds and how those sounds are sequentially combined to build words.



1.1 Phonemic Inventory


The phonemes of a language are the meaningful vocally articulated sounds used to form words. Each such sound may have one or more variations (called allophones) depending on its phonetic environment (i.e., what other sounds are placed adjacent to it). This language has 31 consonant phonemes and 9 vowel phonemes, shown by place and manner of articulation in the chart below. Note that the primary writing system for the language is alien and not based on the Roman alphabet; it is explained in Chapter 12. The characters used to represent the sounds below are a special romanized orthography used as a secondary or alternate means of displaying the written language to provide persons studying the language an easier way of seeing the structure of the words.









alveolar retroflex








p b



t d






k g





f v




s z













č j





















flap / trill










































































1.2 Pronunciation Notes and Allophonic Distinctions


1.2.1 Vowels: The sounds of the above-listed vowels are given below within brackets using the International Phonetic Alphabet.


         -a- is pronounced [a] as in Spanish alta

         -- is pronounced [], as in American English cat

         -e- is pronounced [ɛ] as in English let, or as [e] in Spanish este, but only as [e] at the beginning of a bivocalic conjunct such as -ea-, -eo-, -e-, etc.

         -- is pronounced [ʌ] like the u in English cut, or the schwa sound [ə] like the a in English sofa.

         -i- is pronounced [i] as in Spanish or Italian, or [ɪ] as in English pit, but only as [i] at the beginning of a bivocalic conjunct (e.g., -ia-, -i-, etc.) and only as [ɪ] when preceded or followed by -y-

         -o- is pronounced [ɔ] like the first o in Italian otto, or [o] as in Spanish, but only as [o] at the beginning of a bivocalic conjunct such as -oa-, -oe-, etc.

         -- is [] as in French neuf or [] as in French feu, but only [] at the beginning of a bivocalic conjunct such as -a-, -e-, etc.

         -u- is [ʊ] as in English book, or [u] as in Spanish, but only [u] at the beginning of a bivocalic conjunct and only as [ʊ] when preceded or followed by -w-

         -- is pronounced as [ʉ] as in Swedish hus or the Scottish pronunciation of book, or [y] as in French lune, but only as [ʉ] when preceded by -y- or -w-)


The permissible diphthongs (all are falling) are: ai, ei, i, oi, ui, au, eu, u, ou, and iu. The two vowels of these diphthongs may be pronounced as separate syllables in the following circumstances: (1) for ease-of-pronunciation when followed by -l, -r or -ř occurring in the same syllable; (2) in song or poetry. Care should be taken not to accidentally introduce a glottal-stop between the two vowels when pronouncing a diphthong disyllabically.


1.2.2 Consonants: The sounds of the consonants in the table above are given below within brackets using the International Phonetic Alphabet.


         -p- and -k- are unaspirated [p] and [k] as in French, Spanish, or Italian

         -t- is unaspirated and dental (not alveolar) [t̪] as in French, Spanish, or Italian

         -d- is dental (not alveolar) [d̪] as in French or Italian

         -g- is always the voiced velar stop [g] as in English go

         -h- is never silent and is pronounced [h] in all positions where it appears, even in word-final position. Syllable-initial or word-final -ph-, -th-, -kh-, -ch-, -čh- are pronounced as aspirated stops/affricates [ ph, th, kh, tsh, tʃh ] but when between two vowels, they are disyllabic and pronounced as in English haphazard, at-hand, backhanded, its here, and church hall; the combinations -hl-, -hr-, -hm-, and -hn- may be pronounced as separate consonants or as the following single voiceless consonants: hl = [ɬ], hr = [ɾ̥], hm = [m̥], hn = [n̥]. Combinations of a voiced consonant plus following -h- are always dissyllabic, e.g., -bh-, -dh-, -gh-, -rh-, mh-, -nh-, etc.

         -- is the voiceless glottal stop [Ɂ] as heard between the two vowels of English oh-oh! or between the first two e-sounds of German beendete

         -ţ- and -- are the voiceless and voiced interdental fricatives [θ] and [] as in English thin and this, or Castilian Spanish caza and cada

         -- and -- are the voiceless and voiced alveolo-palatal fricatives ] and [ʒ], both unrounded. As in English mesh and measure but without rounded lips

         -- is the voiceless non-grooved palatal slit-fricative [], as heard in the initial sound of English human or hue, or in the German word richtig

         -x- is either a velar or uvular voiceless fricative [x ~χ], as in either Latin American or Castilian Spanish jota, Russian хорошо, or German bach

         -l- is the non-velarized voiced apico-dental lateral approximant [l̪ ]as in French, Spanish, or Italian; never the velarized dark l-sound of American English.

         -- is the voiceless lateral fricative [ɬ] as found in Welsh llan

         -c- and -- are the voiced and voiceless apico-alveolar affricates [ʦ] and [ʣ] as in English bits and bids or Italian pizza and azzurro

         -č- and -j- are the voiced and voiceless apico-alveolar affricates [ʧ] and [ʤ] as in English butch and budge

         -n- is dental, not alveolar; -n- assimilates to velar [ŋ] before -k-, -g-, and -x- (but not before -ř-); therefore, phonemic -ň- is not permitted before -k-, -g-, or -x-

         -ň- is velar [ŋ] as in English bring

         -r- is a single tap/flap [ɾ], which becomes a trill [r] when geminated, as in Spanish or Italian caro and carro; when followed by a consonant in the same word, it may be pronounced as an apico-alveolar-retroflex approximant [ɹ], similar to (but further forward in the mouth than) the postalveloar [ɹ̱] of standard English

         -ř- is the voiced dorso-uvular approximant [ʁ] as in French rire or German Ruhr; when geminated it is either [ʁ:] or can be strengthened to a uvular trill [ʀ]; care should be taken to ensure the pronunciations of -- and -- are differentiated from -px- and -tx-

         -y- is the voiced palatal approximant [j] as in English yes or German ja


The remaining consonants b, f, m, s, v, w, and z are pronounced as in English and as in the International Phonetic Alphabet.


Epenthetic Vowel Following a Glottal Stop. In words where a glottal stop (spelled ) is followed by a consonant (e.g., as in the words katal or moruiss), the glottal stop is usually followed by a very briefly pronounced vowel sound before the following consonant is pronounced. This vowel may be pronounced in either of two ways, whichever is easier for the speaker. The first is as the high central unrounded vowel of Russian быть, IPA [ɨ]. The second way is to pronounce it as the high back unrounded vowel found in Turkish (spelled with an undotted i), or Japanese (as the short vowel u), IPA [ɯ]. Both of these vowels are extremely short in duration and may be de-voiced if the following consonant is voiceless.



1.3 Orthographic Conventions

The following alternatives are available for writing the language in romanized script: The character ţ may be written as or ŧ, the character may be written as or đ, the character ň may be written as or , the character ř may be written as or , and the character may be written as ł or .


1.3.1 Indicating Syllabic Stress: Penultimate stress (i.e., stress on the syllable-before-last) is unmarked; non-penultimate stress is marked by a diacritic on the vowel carrying the stress, as follows: a vowel with no diacritic takes the acute accent (e.g., , , etc.); a vowel with a dieresis changes it to a circumflex accent (e.g., ). The grave accent is used over the vowel -i- when it is unstressed as the initial member of a vocalic conjunct following a consonant (e.g., -Ca-, -Co, etc.) this is to remind the speaker/reader that this -- is to be pronounced as a long /i:/ in order to distinguish such syllables from syllables of the form Cy+V (e.g., karesya vs. karsa, velkyo vs. vlko). A grave accent may similarly be used over the vowel -u- to remind the speaker/reader not to collapse the /u/-sound into /w/ in words like eh.


1.3.2 Written juncture affixes/adjuncts: In regard to parsing adjuncts (see Sec. 2.7, No. 5) and the ()- sentence-juncture affix (see Sec. 11.8), these are normally never written in either the romanization scheme or the native New Ithkuil script, given that their occurrence is entirely dependent on the specific way any given individual utters a sentence or group of sentences on any particular occasion. The exception would be in the narrow context of a scripted utterance (e.g., a script for a play or screenplay), in poetry, in a rhetorical recital, or in singing instructions, where explicit direction of the exact vocalization is crucial.



1.4 Gemination of Consonants

Consonantal gemination refers to the audible doubling in length of a particular consonant sound. While gemination does not occur in English on true phonological grounds, it does occur on morpho-phonological grounds, as seen in the difference in pronunciation of the phrase a natural versus unnatural. There are many languages, however, where phonologically-based gemination is an intrinsic component of the phonology (e.g., Italian, Japanese, Finnish).

In New Ithkuil, most consonants can be geminated. All consonants except for w, y, and the glottal stop are capable of gemination between two vowels. In addition, all consonants except for w, y, and the stop consonants (, p, b, t, d, k, g) can be geminated in both word-initial and word-final position.

Pronunciation of Geminated Consonants. Consonants which are continuants (i.e., able to be sounded for an indefinite duration), specifically , , f, h, l, ļ, m, n, ň, ř, s, , ţ, v, x, z, and , are simply pronounced for twice as long in duration when geminated. Geminated r is pronounced as a rapid apico-alveolar trill like rr in Spanish or Italian.

The stop consonants b, d, g, k, p, and t, when geminated, are momentarily held, then released, much like the two d-sounds in the English phrase bad dog when spoken rapidly.

The pronunciation of affricates (c, č, j, and ż) when geminated depends on whether or not they are intervocalic (between two vowels) versus word-initial or word-final position. If intervocalic, they are pronounced by momentarily holding the initial stop (plosive) component of the affricate before releasing it into the fricative or sibilant portion, e.g., intervocalic čč is pronounced as tt. When in word-initial or word-final position, geminated pronunciation is achieved by simply lengthening the sibilant continuant portion of the affricate (i.e., the second sound of each affricate). Thus, čč in word-initial or word-final position is pronounced as t.

Romanized Orthography of Geminates. Consonants written as single characters are simply written double when geminated, e.g., bb, čč, dd, nn, .



1.5 Phonotactics


Phonotactics refer to the arbitrary rules as to what combinations of consonants and vowels are permissible in a syllable or word of a particular language. This concept is called phonotaxis and such rules are known as phonotactical rules. These rules, peculiar to each language, explain, for example, why sprelch could be a hypothetical word in English, while znatk could not be, even though znatk is as easily pronounced by a linguist as sprelch. Rules governing syllable structure, diphthong formation, and overall phonetic euphony are all part of phonotactics. The phonotactical rules for this language are numerous and complex, and are provided in a separate Phonotactics document.



1.6 Tone and Pitch


Numerous languages in the world use the pitch and/or tone of ones voice as a productive part of the phonology to distinguish meaning in words. Examples of such languages are Vietnamese, the various Chinese and other Southeast Asian languages, most of the sub-Saharan African languages, and some Native American languages such as Navajo. While New Ithkuil is not a tone language per se, it does employ a pitch accent system as the means by which word boundaries may be parsed by a listener. This is explained in Sec. 2.7.





4 Case Morphology

8 Adjuncts

12 The Writing System

1 Phonology

5 Verb Morphology

9 Referentials

13 Numbers

2 Morpho-Phonology

6 More Verb Morphology

10 Special Constructions

14 The Lexicon

3 Basic Morphology

7 Affixes

11 Syntax