While hardly unique among European languages, Transemilian is characterized by its large consonant inventory and its top-heavy syllable structure.
Transemilian has 35 phonemes.
Transemilian has 29 consonant phonemes, generally organized into five groups:
- Nasals: /m n ɲ/
- Stops: /p b t d c ɟ k g/
- Affricates: /ts dz tʃ dʒ/
- Fricatives: /ɸ β s z ʃ ʒ ç ʝ x ɣ/
- Liquids: /r j l ʎ/
English speakers should take care not to aspirate stops or affricates.
Transemilian has six basic vowel phonemes: /a e ɛ i o u/. These are ideally pronounced rather close to their "cardinal" pronunciations, though there is variation: /a/ is often articulated as a back vowel, especially before a velar or a /u/; /ɛ/ is often lowered to distinguish it from /e/, and in some dialects it is rendered /æ/; and /o/ is often lowered to /ɔ/.
All diphthongs in Transemilian end high: /ai au ɛi ɛu iu oi ou ui/. There is no diphthong */ii/ or */uu/. Though most dialects have long since merged /ei/ and /eu/ into /ɛi/ and /ɛu/, some western dialects maintain a distinction, which is represented in spelling.
Allophony and dialectal variation
Certain consonants change pronunciation based on their environments. The trill /r/ becomes a tap [ɾ] when it follows another consonant. The lateral /l/ is velarized [ɫ] following /u/ or /o/ (including diphthongs ending in /u/, and unstressed /a/ reduced to [ɔ]; see below). The alveolar /n/ becomes a velar [ŋ] when it precedes a velar consonant. These changes occur without regard to word or morpheme boundaries: the hypothetical word sequence */bu lon gan re/ would be pronounced *[bu ɫoŋ gan ɾe].
Unstressed vowels, when in syllables not adjacent to (i.e. immediately preceding or following) a stressed syllable, undergo significant reduction. The vowels /e ɛ i/ all reduce to [ɛ], while the vowels /a o u/ all reduce to [ɔ]. Similarly, the diphthongs /ai oi ui/ become [ɔi], /ɛu iu/ become [ɛu], and /au ou/ become [ɔu]. These changes occur without regard to word or morpheme boundaries; they are not indicated in the standard orthography.
As mentioned above, some dialects lower /ɛ/ to /æ/; others, however, have retained /ɛ/ and instead merged /e/ into it, so both /e/ and /ɛ/ are pronounced [ɛ]. In most such dialects the vowels are completely merged, but in a few the vowel corresponding to standard /e/ is pronounced longer than that of standard /ɛ/, thus maintaining a six-vowel system: /a ɛː ɛ i o u/. For some speakers, the reduction of /r/ to [ɾ] comes not just after consonants but also at the ends of syllables. Finally, the consonant /j/ is sometimes articulated closer to a vowel /i/ when it follows a consonant; this tendency is especially strongest after a soft consonant (see below).
If two instances of the same vowel (including [ɛ] and [ɔ] caused by vowel reduction) appear in hiatus, they are nearly always broken by a glottal stop. This can sometimes be extended to hiatus of nonidentical vowels as well, although this varies depending on the speaker, the register (the more formal the context, the less likely the use of the glottal stop), and the rate of speech.
Transemilian is a stress-accent language. As a general rule, the stress in any given word falls on the final syllable of the root. There are a number of native words with exceptions, particularly in place names and given names. The most common exceptions, however, are in words borrowed from other languages, where the stress may follow the pattern of the original language (this is more common with recent borrowings than with older borrowings that have had more opportunity to assimilate). When a borrowed word ends in an epenthetical vowel to avoid an illegal final consonant (see below), the stress usually falls on the penultimate syllable instead: /tsigaˈrɛta/, not */tsigarɛˈta/ (or the illegal */tsigaˈrɛt/). Secondary stress always falls on the syllable immediately preceding the primary accent.
Stress is not indicated in normal writing, even when it follows an unusual pattern. It is, however, indicated (usually by an acute accent) in pronunciation guides and in dictionaries when the stress is irregular.
Transemilian syllables are constructed with the following pattern: (C)(C)(C)V(C). That is, they must contain a nucleus consisted of a vowel or diphthong; they may contain an onset of zero to three consonants; and they may end with zero or one consonant.
The only consonants permitted at the end of a syllable are /m n ɲ r l ʎ/. If the nucleus is a diphthong ending in /i/ (that is, /ai ɛi oi ui/), the syllable cannot end with /r l ʎ/. A borrowed word ending with a different consonant will either lose that consonant or have an epenthetical vowel (typically /a/) inserted at the end.
Syllable onsets, however, are much more complex. A syllable may begin with no consonant; any one consonant; or a cluster of two or three consonants. Permissible clusters are:
- fricative + any type of consonant (nasal, liquid, stop, affricate, fricative)
- affricate + liquid or nasal
- stop + nasal; stop + liquid; stop + stop
- nasal + any type of consonant (nasal, liquid, stop, affricate, fricative)
- liquid + /j/
- (fricative, stop, or nasal) + stop + liquid
Within a syllable, gemination is not permitted (thus, /kt-/ and /tk-/ are legal, but */kk-/ and /*tt-/ are not). All consonants (ignoring nasals and liquids) across a consonant cluster must match in voicing.
Transemilian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. The Transemilian alphabet is as follows:
|А а||а /a/|
|Б б||бэ /bɛ/|
|В в||вэ /βɛ/|
|Г г||гэ /gɛ/|
|Ғ ғ||ға /ɣa/|
|Д д||дэ /dɛ/|
|Е е||е /e/|
|Є є||є /je/|
|Ё ё||ё /jo/|
|Ж ж||жэ /ʒɛ/|
|З з||зэ /zɛ/|
|Ѕ ѕ||ѕэ /dzɛ/|
|И и||и /ji/|
|І і||і /i/|
|К к||ка /ka/|
|Л л||эл /ɛl/|
|М м||эм /ɛm/|
|Н н||эн /ɛn/|
|О о||о /o/|
|П п||пэ /pɛ/|
|Р р||эр /ɛr/|
|С с||сэ /sɛ/|
|Т т||тэ /tɛ/|
|У у||у /u/|
|Ф ф||фэ /ɸɛ/|
|Х х||ха /xa/|
|Ц ц||цэ /tsɛ/|
|Ч ч||чэ /tʃɛ/|
|Џ џ||џэ /dʒɛ/|
|Ш ш||ша /ʃa/|
|Щ щ||ща /ʃtʃa/|
|Ъ ъ||хъчэм баканлэ /xtʃɛm bakan/; when spelling out a word: бакан /bakan/|
|Ь ь||хъчэм цраньлэ /xtʃɛm tsraɲ/; when spelling out a word: црань /tsraɲ/|
|Э э||э /ɛ/|
|Ӭ ӭ||ӭ /jɛ/|
|Ю ю||ю /ju/|
|Я я||я /ja/|
Most consonant characters have a one-to-one correspondence with consonant phonemes. However, some consonant characters have differing pronunciations depending on their environment, and each vowel has two different letters it can be written with. To correctly read and spell in Transemilian, it is necessary to think in terms of "hard" and "soft" sounds and letters. We will begin with the consonants.
Consonant letters can be broken into three groups: those that are always hard, those that are always soft, and those that differ between hard and soft according to the surrounding letters. The hard letters indicate sounds that are not palatal: б в д з ѕ м п р с т ф ц
are pronounced /b β d z dz m p r s t ɸ ts/. The soft letters indicate sounds that are always palatal: ж ч џ ш щ
are pronounced /ʒ tʃ dʒ ʃ ʃtʃ/. The six variable letters each have a hard and a soft pronunciation: when г ғ к л н х
are hard, they are pronounced /g ɣ k l n x/, whereas when they are soft they are pronounced /ɟ ʝ c ʎ ɲ ç/. A variable consonant is hard when it is followed by another hard consonant (including a variable consonant pronounced hard), a hard sign (ъ
), or a hard vowel, or when it is at the end of a word. It is soft when it is followed by another soft consonant (including a variable consonant pronounced soft), a soft sign (ь
), or a soft vowel.
Each vowel sound can be indicated by either a hard or a soft letter. The hard forms of the vowels /a e ɛ i o u/ are а е э і о у
, while the soft forms are я є ӭ и ё ю
. When a hard vowel follows a variable consonant, that consonant is pronounced with its hard form: ка
is pronounced /ka/. When a soft vowel follows a variable consonant, that consonant is pronounced with its soft form: кя
is pronounced /ca/. Following any other letter, or when word-initial, a soft consonant is pronounced as /j/ + [vowel]: бя
is pronounced /bja/. This negates the need for a separate letter indicated /j/.
Variable consonants are followed by the hard sign or soft sign to indicate a hard or soft pronunciation in an environment where the absence of the sign would indicate a different pronunciation; for example, a hard pronunciation that precedes a /j/, or that precedes a soft consonant, is indicated by a hard sign. Thus, the following pronunciations are indicated with the following spellings:
The hard and soft sign never precede a hard vowel. This means that sometimes compounds or inflected forms have what look like changes in a root, but are actually just modifications to the spelling; the word црань
/tsraɲ/ "soft" combines with the word аім
/aim/ "sleep" to form the word цраняім
/tsraɲaim/ "to nap", not *цраньаім.
Similarly, a soft sign never precedes a soft consonant and a hard sign never precedes a hard consonant; црань
followed by the suffix -єм
Speakers of Russian should take care not to substitute ё
though this replacement is common in Russian, it is an error in Transemilian.
Punctuation is similar to that of other European languages. The primary quotation marks are « double angle quotation marks », while secondary (nested) quotation marks are ‹ single angle ›, both with interior spacing. Abbreviations with a vowel in the abbreviated form are followed by a period; those without are not. Acronyms and initialisms are written in capitals, mixed case, or lowercase, depending on how the phrase is written when spelled out. If it is in lowercase, or if the first letter is capital and the rest are lowercase, an initialism is written with (internal) periods; otherwise neither initialisms nor acronyms have periods.
The standard romanization, as promulgated by the Workers' Language Council in 1966, transcribes phonemes rather than individual letters.
- /m n ɲ/ = <m n nh>
- /p b t d c ɟ k g/ = <p b t d c j k g>
- /ts dz tʃ dʒ/ = <ts dz tsh dzh>
- /ɸ β s z ʃ ʒ ç ʝ x ɣ/ = <f v s z sh zh ch jh kh gh>
- /r j l ʎ/ = <r y l lh>
- /a e ɛ i o u/ = <a ê e i o u> (but /ɛi ɛu/ are written <êi êu> if the Transemilian spelling is <еі еу>)
This romanization has largely come to replace other schemes, many of which sought to indicate the spelling letter by letter. Typical transcriptions appeared as such:
- б в д з ѕ м п р с т ф ц: <b v d z ź/ż/ď m p r s t f c>
- ж ч џ ш щ: <ž č ǰ/j š ŝ/šč>
- г ғ к л н х: <g ǧ k l n h/x>
- ъ ь: <″/"/h ′/'/j/y>
- а е э і о у: <a è/é/ê e i o u>
- я є ӭ и ё ю: <ä ȅ/ê ë ï ö ü> or <ja jè/jé/jê je ji jo ju>