A. Walker Scott

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Tvern El Phonology


     Here is where Tvern El really looks alien. The consonant inventory is unusually small and very unbalanced from a Human perspective. The gaps are quite noticeable. The lack of a labial nasal, /m/, is strange. The lack of any sibilants, /s z ʃ ʒ/ is also unusual. Another oddity is the absence of semi-vowels /w j/. Any one of these would be peculiar in a Human language, but taken together, the Tvern El consonant system is quite alien. 



     Tvern El has a vowel inventory which would be considered extremely unusual for a human language. But such strange arrangements are something one becomes accustomed to when dealing with languages of the Tvern An. The most striking thing about the Tvern El vowel system is the total lack of back vowels.

     While three-vowel systems are not unheard of in Human languages, they are rare. Also rare are vertical systems, of which this is not exactly an example, but it is nearer a vertical arrangement than it is a triangular system.


     As odd as the consonant and vowel inventories of Tvern El are, from a Human perspective, the phonotactics are even more remarkable. While any of the vowels may begin or end a syllable, or constitute an entire syllable, there is a sharp divide among the consonants between those which may begin a syllable and those which may end a syllable.

     The syllable nucleus may be any of /i ɛ ɐ/ without condition. Each of them appear as a complete word in the attested corpus, and each of them seems able to appear both next to and between any valid combination of consonants.

     Syllable finals are restricted to only the nasal /n/ and the liquids /l r/. That said, these three sounds can be combined to produce quite a number of possible syllables. All of /n l r/ may appear singly as a coda. The sequences /ln/, /rn/, /rl/, /rln/ are also possible and attested. This gives a total of six possible non-zero finals.

     Syllable initials are, likewise, restricted to only the stops /t d k g/ and the fricatives /f v/.  Consonant clusters of the maximal size CC may begin a syllable, with the only invalid combination being a geminate. That said, homorganic clusters are permitted. Thus, all of  /td/, /dt/, /kg/, /gk/, /fv/ and /vf/ are attested. there also seems to be no restriction on the ordering of fricatives relative to stops. Tvern El seems to pay no heed to the sonority principle, common in Human languages.

     The maximal syllable takes the form CCVCCC, and such syllables occur with some frequency. Two syllable words are not unusual in Tven El, but the second syllable of these words is always lacking a initial, so such words take the form (C)CVC(CC).VC(CC). 

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