Anthologica Universe Atlas / Universes / Vana Gloria / The Second Language / Phonology


Vanan phonologists divide the sounds of speech primarily into four places of articulation and four manners of articulation.  The places are "at the lips" (labial), "at the teeth" (strictly dental, but including coronals), "at the palate" (strictly velar, but including palatals) and "at the throat" (uvular and further back).  The four manners are "lacking breath in the mouth" (nasals), "turbulent" (fricatives), "explosive" (stops) and "held in the mouth" (approximants and vowels).

Manners and places of articulation are assigned gender, and the gender combinations correspond to the gods (with manner of articulation being primary). 

Nasal (Q)/m//n//ŋ//ɴ/
Stop (A)/p//t//k//ʔ/
Fricative (S)/ɸ//s//x//h/
Approximant (D)/ʋ//ɹ//j//ʕ/


The Second Language is considered to have sounds in fourteen out of these sixteen places:

Nasal<n> /n/<g> /ŋ/<q> /ɴ/
Fricative<f> /ɸ/<s> /s/<x> /x/<h> /h/
Stop<p> /p/<t> /t/<k> /k/<ʔ> /ʔ/
Approximant<v> /ʋ/<r> /ɹ/<j> /j/
// = phoneme, <> = transcription

Syllable Structure

Vanans model the syllable in four parts:


Initials and finals are consonants or C + approximant (initial) / approximant + C (final) consonant clusters.  The core is an approximant realised as a vowel: /ʋ/ -> /u/,  /ɹ/ -> /a/, /j/ -> /i/.  Core and final are somewhat interdependent: some core-final pairs do not occur (see below), but all tones can occur on all initials (and therefore all syllables).  All tone-initial and and core-final pairs can occur together in a syllable.

Number of Syllables

There are 4374 possible syllables (81 initial-tone pairs * 54 core+final pairs).  The possible syllables of 2L are placed in a linear order, based on shifting the lists of onset (initial + tone) and rime (core + final) relative to each other.  All but one syllable is assigned a meaning based on its place in the syllable list and vocabulary order.


All nasals and stops plus /h/, plain or with an approximant, gives 32 (8*4) possibilities.  Eliminating all pairs where consonant and approximant are at the same place of articulation (nr, gj, pv, tr, kj) leaves the list of 27.  Order is derived first from consonant, then semivowel.  Plain consonants are treated as if they had a semivowel at the same articulation.  The full list of initials, in left-right top-bottom order, is:

nv-, n-, nj-
gv-, gr-, g-
qv-, qr-, qj-, q-
p-, pr-, pj-
tv-, t-, tj-
kv-, kr-, k-
ʔv-, ʔr-, ʔj-, ʔ-
hv-, hr-, hj-, h-

Adding tone (nv1, nv2, nv3, n1, n2... etc.) gives the full list of 81 initial+tone combinations.


Nasals, fricatives and approximants can end syllables.  Nasals and fricatives can double with approximants as listed.  All stops and <g> follow the "disallow same place of articulation" rule, while n is limited to plain or with j, and q cannot occur with an approximant.  The full list of 22 finals, in left-right top-bottom order, is:

-n, -jn
-vg, -rg, -g
-f, -rf, -jf
-vs, -s, -js
-vx, -rx, -x
-vh, -rh, -jh, -h
-v, -r, -j

With each vowel gives 66 (22*3) possibilities.  Eliminate all approximant/vowel concurrences except those where the final is a lone semivowel (jjn, vvg, rrg, rrf, jjf, vvs, jjs, vvx, rrx, vvh, rrh, jjh) to leave the list of 54 vowel+finals.  Order is derived from consonant, semivowel, vowel (vn, rn, jn, vjn, rjn, rvg, jvg... etc.)


The standard transcription system for 2L is based on the Vanan understanding of the phonology, with a single letter for each phoneme (see the phoneme table above).  Tone is indicated on the core with a grave (tone 1, low), macron (tone 2, mid) or acute (tone 3, high) diacritic.  If adding the diacritics is a problem tone can also be indicated by a <1>, <2> or <3> placed after the initial.  This placement removes any ambiguity from syllables with two approximant characters.  Similarly, <ʔ> can be replaced with <'>.

Standard-ASCII Safe-No tone marking-IPA

The final examples show a secondary, disambiguatory function of tone marking.  Without tone marking, or if tone marking numerals are placed after the main syllable, syllables with two approximant characters can often be read in two ways: CA-VC or C-VAC.  The placement of tone marking numerals after the initial both removes this ambiguity and mirrors Vanan understanding of tone as part of the onset.

Alternative Analysis



/p/, /t/ and /k/ are realised as fricatives ([ɸ], , [x]) in syllable-final positions. 
C + glide generally results in the equivalent of a palatalised (+ /j/) or labialised (+ /ʋ/) consonant.  (However, analysing the C + glide clusters as independent palatalised or labialised phonemes produces a needlessly complicated consonant system.)
/nʋ/ may be realised [m] or [mw]
/nj/ may be realised [ɲ]
The initial cluster analysed by Vanans as /ɴj/ is in fact generally realised [ŋj]. 


2L has a three vowel /a/ /i/ /u/ system, but interactions with glides, /ɹ/, /ʔ/ and/or /ɴ/ complicate realisation considerably.

Plain+ /ʋ/+ /ɹ/+ /j/
/a/[ æ ] , [ ə ][ au ][ ɚ: ], [ aɹ ][ ai ]
/i/[ i ][ eu ][ i˞], [ iɹ ][ i: ], [ ei ]
/u/[ u ][ u: ] , [ ou ][ u˞], [ uɹ ][ oi ]

Syllable final V + /ɴ/ is realised as a long nasalised vowel [ɒ̃:], [ɪ̃:] or [ʊ̃:]
The presence of initial /ɴ/ or syllable final /ʔ/ causes an allophonic “tensing”.  [ u ] and [ i ] (even within diphthongs) become [ʊ] and [ɪ].  /a/ backs to [ɒ]. 
Syllable final /ʔ/ causes vowels and diphthongs to be pronounced extra short.

A simplified syllable structure for the Second Language is


Where C1 is any nasal, any stop, or /h/, A is any approximant, V is any vowel, and C2 is any nasal, any fricative, or any approximant.  This model gives a basic idea of 2L syllable form but does not take into account many disallowed combinations.