Lilitika Phonology and Alphabet How to pronounce and read the language of the early Lilitai
Lilitika uses seven vowels, four vowel modifiers, and twenty-eight consonants. In addition to this, there are three extra vowels in the writing system for expressing sounds from other languages and a number of punctuation marks and ligatures.

Títina (The Lilitic Alphabet)





When alternative ways to represent the same sound exist, words generally adopt a preference for one form over the other in a given position, usually putting the largest letters toward the middle of the word. Generally, the alternate forms (such as the second form of "a") are invoked to break up a pattern caused by repetitions of the more common forms.

See this dictionary category for the names of the letters themselves, and this one for the punctuation marks.

A full pronunciation chart for the orthography is as follows:

Traditional Phonology and Orthography


IPAStdOldPhon
aaabat
εeebet
eː or eiéébait
ɪiɪbit
ííbeat
ooboat
ʌuʌbut
úúboot
aʊːauaupow
ɑ or ɒôɒpaw
øː or yːêədeux or über
ɔːûɔbowl*
IPAStdOldPhon
kkkcoat
ggggoat
ŋñŋbring
x or χkhχloch
χx (or kh)χAchmed
ɣghγafghan
ʁqr (or gh)γParis
ɹ, ɻ, ɽ or rrrreal
ppppad
pfphphpfennig
bbbbad
mmmmat
IPAStdOldPhon
ffffit
vvvvote
llllip
t or t̪tttip
d or d̪dddip
nnnnap
sssip
zzzip
jyyyouth
IPAStdOldPhon
θthθthing
ðdhðeither
ʃshʃship
ʒzhʒphage
wwwwar
ts̪tstsrats
dz̪dzdzfads
tshchannel
dzhjoe
ɾ or rdtɾwater


*in conservative dialects only; distinct from row

In addition, a voiceless glottal stop [ʔ] may be inserted under certain circumstances, especially in interjections. Interjections often sequester uncommon sounds; in particular the codas of words ending in the <é> sound degenerate to <ê> sounds.


Allophony and Dialectical History


The phonology in Lilitika changed slowly, much like the semantics of the language, over the thousand years during which the Lilitai drifted in space.

  • <r> varies between [ɹ] and [ɻ] freely in most contexts. [ɻ] is regarded as more euphonic and preferred in poetic recital. It may take on [r] in the vicinity of many dental consonants, such as the word sarasí, or [ɽ] near many laterals (/l/) and in common words with idtu-like meanings, e.g. illeru.

  • <dt> is preferentially pronounced [ɾ], but may sound more [r]-like when contrasting <d> (e.g. in didtu)

  • Alveolar coronals (especially <t>, <s>, <z>, <d>) should be pronounced dentally in Sarasí and earlier dialects, including late Sarasí.

  • <ô> unrounds from [ɒ] to [ɑ] in Illeran and late Sarasí, and stays that way.

  • <ê> is [ə] in Oksí and early Íomanazinení, then rounds to [ø] until the early Illeran period (both in the fleet and on Illera), then becomes [y]. In Ketalán and later dialects, [ø] becomes preferred with [y] being perceived as an 'archaic twang' by Thessians.

  • <kh> and <gh> are always pronounced as [x] and [ɣ] in Íomanazinení, even Neo-Íomanazinení. In Zeyetaní, <kh> becomes [k] at the starts of words and [h] in all other positions; similarly, <gh> becomes [g] and [j]. These were fixed lexically, and for a time the letters for <kh> and <gh> were neglected. During the settlement of Illera, [χ] and [ʁ] emerged, and new coinages began using them.

  • Ketalán and the Thessian dialects introduce palatalization of coronals. Starting with Ketalán, <t> was often read as [c]. Doisseian incorporated a drift of <s> to [ɹ̝̊], and Dísséan permitted [ɟ] for <d>.

  • In most dialects, <e> at the end of words and when stressed was realized as [ei] or [e] rather than [ε]. Critically, this is not true in Illeran, which treats <e> as a completely independent vowel, although the distinction is inaudible in diphthongs.

  • LetterSotaníÍoZey.Sar.Late Sar.Ill.Ket.Dois.Dís.
    tttccc
    dddddɟ
    ssssɹ̝̊ɹ̝̊
    zzzzzz
    ûɯɔɔɔɔɔɔɔɔ
    ôɒɒɒ/ɑɒ/ɑɑɑɑɑɑ
    êəəøyyyø/yøø
    khx/χxk/hk/hk/hχχχχ
    ghɣɣg/jg/jg/jʁʁʁʁ
    final eeeeeeɛeee


    Vowel Modifiers


    The vowel modifiers, h, i, n/m/ñ, and r/ʳ, aspirate, ioticize, nasalize and rhoticize vowels, respectively.

    n is fully redundant to the writing system's expressiveness, but may still be favoured explicitly as part of the proper spelling of a word. Note that n does not indicate /n/, but only nasalisation; this is dependent on the environment and may alternatively be realized as /m/ or /ŋ/. More precise representations such as ñ or m (not to be confused with n and m) may be used if this is unclear. Any vowels with tildes can be interpreted as nazalisation, e.g. sãpo. n rarely appears unless adjacent to a plosive, so the correct interpretation is generally obvious.

    r has mild phonological use: it ensures an /ɹ/ or r-coloured reading, and discourages an /ɻ/ reading.

    The diphthong ei is generally realized as [ei] and replaced with <é> in roots; ui is never (or at least only very rarely) used in Lilitic phonotactically, so only oi and ai are found frequently in the dictionary. Note that <ei> is preserved in particular by forms derived from eneí, though it is still pronounced /ɛne:/.

    Tenseness and Vowel Strength


    Many vowels in Lilitika habitually change form when incorporated into compounds and are recognized by speakers according to a tense-lax contrast. This is reflected in the standard orthography by the use of acute accents; <í>, <é>, and <ú> are the tense forms of <i>, <e>, and <u>, a pattern no doubt familiar to English speakers. In Illeran, this is supplemented by <ô> (/ɑ/) becoming the lax form of <a> in certain case endings. <ê>, <û>, <o>, and pre-Illeran <ô> and <a> do not participate in this behaviour; the orthographic forms of <ê>, <û>, and <ô> represent reconstructed Oksirapho phonology.

    The vowels <o>, <é>, <ê>, <í>, <ú>, and <û> are considered the 'strong' vowels, and take priority in placing word stress. The diphthongs ai, oi, and au ([aʊ]) also behave as strong. <a> and <e> are considered weak, with <i> and <ô> considered "very" weak. When a small number of strong vowels is present in a word, stress falls on the last strong vowel.

    Accent


    Lilitika uses a combination of length and stress accent; in addition to major stress falling on one syllable per word, it is also common for stressed vowels to be slightly lengthened as well, even if they are defined as having a long quantity already. Similarly, unstressed long vowels may be shortened if they neighbour a stressed long vowel.

    Words with no strong vowels, such as sifa (first person pronoun nominative feminine), alanekal (down destination neuter) or viris (deep past to be), usually adopt stress on the first vowel in the final inflectional ending, causing strengthening in the cases of i, ô, and e into í, o, and é respectively: [s̪ɪf·a] -> [ˈs̪iː·fa], [a·la·nɛk·al] -> [a·lan·ˈeiː·kal], [vɪ·rɪs̪] -> ['viː·ris̪]. This pattern is not always followed, and in particular it is avoided when a distinction between the vocative and nominative is important. The function of this is to clarify morpheme boundaries.

    Words with two or more strong vowels in a row (e.g. kotopu) usually resort to placing stress as close as possible to the second-last vowel in the word, consistent with middle-clustering of ornately-written consonant forms: kŏtōpĕ́, kŏtōpǎ, ǎlĕ́ōnǎ ([alɛi·ˈona]), Dŏᵢssḗᵢǎ, ĕkhǎlthĕ́ōnĕ́ (possibly with a secondary stress on the ǎ to break things up), and so on.

    Contractions


    Medial deletion


    Lilitika is often spoken with heavy use of contractions, which are preserved when it is recorded for the sake of verse. Intermediate syllables are the most commonly elided for this purpose, although sometimes the shape of a word may suggest deleting only part of it, or part of a run of vowels. Contractions are usually realised as silent, although they are occasionally realized as an unwritten glottal stop or brief pause if doing so does not disrupt a syllable.

    Plé'vai 'l poluw'as vis = [lai] pléovai il poluwías vis = they are the days of joy. poluw'as in this case was contracted to fit a metre; the í is deleted because poluwas can only be formed from contracting poluwías and does not otherwise occur in the lexicon. Casual speech might see the word further contracted, to p'luw'as or (more likely) pol'was and eventually pol'as. This convention of middle-syllable reduction is responsible for the heavy contribution of blending to the production of new vocabulary. Grammatically, note that FPIC rules permit a nominative noun provided in a construct to also be the subject of the sentence, so technically "lai" is unnecessary.

    Vowel collisions between words


    The possession particle il ("of") in particular is frequently abbreviated to 'l following noun forms ending in vowels. Indeed, weaker vowels are frequently abbreviated as a matter of course whenever such collisions occur. Matched vowels are usually resolved by eliding the second instance of the vowel, e.g. "saní 'ora" for "saní íora."

    When there is no clear way to balance two vowels, such as the collision of two strong vowels, then the second vowel may be aspirated: "saní olrú" thus becomes "saní holrú." Some Venrafíai insert a nasal consonant instead. Depending on the author, either insertion may go unwritten and be only detectable when spoken. In addition, vowels may be elided anyway (usually the later vowel) and, in careful language, aspiration or a nasal consonant may be inserted even between weak vowels in order to be extremely clear.

    Vowel collisions within a word


    Contraction is mandatory if the stem of a word matches its inflected ending: otherwise, if a noun such as indúnou is declined in the masculine, it becomes the unpleasant "indúnoö." The Lilitai almost always elide double vowels in such cases to a single vowel. This is represented by an apostrophe, typically deleting the first vowel: indún'o. Such situations are rare, and mostly occur with masculine forms being used with nouns that the Lilitai habitually considered feminine, such as a moon (akoa) or musical instrument (sinoa).

    An exception to this scheme of synaeresis is when two very weak vowels meet: i + i = í and ô + ô = o, although e + e = e. Similarly, stronger vowels of the same place of articulation overpower weaker ones: í + i = í, ô + o = o, e + é = é, u + ú = ú. Dissimilar vowels merge irregularly according to the environment, the availability of a suitable diphthong, or simply speaker preference.

    These forms are more common when combining morphemes to create a compound word. When applying a suffix, however, they are usually not found: amé + ekíu = amekíu. Many suffixes start with weakened versions of root vowels (i, e, u) that hint at the original root, but not all (e.g. ireshkí, which derives from an inflected verb.)

    As a general rule, suffixes should be applied to the stem (with the final ending removed) rather than the dictionary form of the root, although exceptions may be made in order to preserve e.g. a critical gender marker. Alegharí is one example of a word that defies convention, although it was later replaced with aleghurí.

    Diphthongs


    The major diphthongs in Lilitika are [ai], [ei], [ɔi], and /aʊ/. These are almost always stressed, and are created by the phoneme combinations <ai>, <ei>, <oi>, and <au>, respectively. The diphthongs <ai>, <ei>, and <oi> may also be created with a long <í>, especially in the termini of adjectives, e.g. noseí is pronounced ['noʊ·'s̪eiː].

    Some diphthongs may be avoided in the final syllable for pronunciation or ambiguity reasons, e.g. ithaé becomes <ithaïs> (to avoid conflicting with -ais, the subject feminine plural complement, which is used frequently), and /ithaïr/ (because [aiʳ] is illegal), but the Lilitai have no problems with <ithairis>, because it comes out as [ɪθ·'ai·ɻɪs̪]. The primary trend is that iotacized vowels cannot be r-coloured as well.

    Punctuation


    Punctuation is mostly straightforward. The Lilitika quotation marks, full-stop/period, comma, question mark, exclamation mark, and hyphen behave familiarly, but the imperative mark, punctus, and semicolon may be somewhat alien to the reader.

    The imperative mark is used following sentences in the interrogative case, just as the question mark follows those in the interrogative case.

    The punctus indicates a pause in speech and has no grammatical meaning (like the mediaeval Latin one), but can take on the meaning of the em dash or comma in English, and may be used as the colon at the beginning of a list of nouns.

    The semicolon is a more powerful counterpart, and is actually a 'sentence weld' which is weaker than a period but requires that both sides be full sentences or intentional fragments. It can also serve as a colon when giving a single example (this is what I mean: a sentence prompting for an explanation) or a list of elements which are sentences and not merely noun clauses, naked verbs, or adjectives/adverbs. For example:


  • "I want you to feed, clothe, and shelter these people."

  • This sentence is structurally "I want you (to feed && to clothe && to shelter) these people."

    The commas here would also be Lilitic commas, and an interpunct would start the list: "I want you to · feed, clothe, shelter these people."


  • "I want you to feed these people, walk my dog, and go to the store for a bag of milk."

  • This sentence is structurally "I want you ((to feed these people) && (walk my dog) && (go to the store for a bag of milk)."

    The commas here would be Lilitika semicolons, and the list would start with a semicolon as well: "I want you to; feed these people; walk my dog; khé go to the store for a bag of milk."

    Hyphenation is found only very rarely in vocabulary. Its primary function is to mark new welded compound words with which the reader may not be familiar, such as in the (now-fossilized) verb stilla-dzafé.

    Stress can be represented on Títina by two dots under the vowel, much like nasalization or iotacization.

    Stylized orthography


    For aesthetic reasons, Lilitika is often rendered using a more Latin or English transcription when paired with the Latin alphabet:

    Standard orthographyStylized
    kc
    kwqu
    tshch or cc
    ks (cluster)x
    ñgng
    fph
    ñknk
    gh
    dzhj


    In addition, vowels may be reconfigured to give a more natural reading to whomever is doing the transcription; in particular, terminal /e/ is rewritten to "é" or "ë" to emphasize its weight to speakers of languages used to silent terminal vowels. Thus tshekíudzhekwíe, an unusual construction meaning "studier of beliefs" (e.g. an epistemologist, comparative theologian, cultural sophontologist, etc.) may thus be written checkiajequié for the convenience of an English speaker.

    These spelling alterations tend to stick to certain words. In particular, loanwords from Glissia tend to retain elements of their ancestral Latin spelling when they are rendered in the Latin alphabet as Lilitic terms. They are not universal, however; in particular, lilitica does not appear outside of Lyrisclensian texts when referring to the language.

    Hellenic Orthography


    Traditional orthography for Lilitika, in either the Latin alphabet or Títina, does not mark stress. While there exists a stress mark for Títina (two under-dots), its use was non-standard. Around 300 IKY, Lyrisclensian philologists introduced a Greek-based alphabet for Lilitika which was better at representing stress. Due to the larger size of the Lilitic alphabet, Coptic letters were also recruited, sometimes with unusual mappings.

    LatínaHelleníkaStressed
    aαά
    eεέ
    iιί
    oωώ
    uυύ
    ê
    ôοό
    û
    éηή
    í
    ú
    LatínaHelleníka
    tτ
    dδ
    nν
    sσ/ς
    zζ
    shϣ
    zhϫ
    tshτϣ
    dzhδϫ
    tsτσ
    dzδζ
    thθ
    dhξ
    dtδτ
    rρ
    lλ
    LatínaHelleníka
    pπ
    bβ
    mμ
    fφ
    vϥ
    kκ
    gγ
    ñϭ
    khχ
    ghϧ
    w
    yϯ
    hϩ


    To repeat the example from above, tshekíudzhekwíe thus becomes τϣεκῑυδϫεκῦῐε.