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Devanu Phonology

Page history last edited by Tom Groves 11 years, 11 months ago


  • Places of Articulation
  • Pulmonic Consonants
  • Non Pulmonic Consonants (clicks and snap)
  • Vowels
  • Tones
  • Phoneme distribution

Places of Articulation

Devanu has the following places of articulation: dental, alveolar, postalveolar, velar and postvelar. 'Dental' refers to the tongue being against the back of the teeth (like English 'th'; alveolar is the tongue against the ridge just behind the teeth (like English 's'); postalveolar, the tongue just further back (like English 'sh'); velar is right at the back of the mouth (like English 'g' and 'k') and postvelar refers to something somewhat equivalent to human uvular pharyngeal or glottal (stuff further back than velar - in the throat, basically).

A plosive is when the air gets stopped briefly, like English t, d, b, p, etc. A trill is a rolled 'r' sound, fricatives are where air is blocked somewhat creating a white noisy static sound (like 'sh' or 's' or 'f' in English). The lateral fricatives are like welsh 'll' (ɬ) - there is a fricative made by passing air through one side of the mouth. The lateral is like 'l' in English.

There are no bilabials or labiodentals in Devanu as they have no lips, no retroflexes or palatals as the Devanu tongue cannot bend back on itself and no nasals as they have no noses. The 'places of articulation' are approximate human equivalents, as the Devanu have different throat and mouth structures.

Where there are two consonants appearing in the same place of articulation and type, the one to the left is 'unvoiced' (i.e. vocal folds are not vibrating) whereas the one to the right is 'voiced' (i.e. vocal folds vibrating). In English, the only difference between 't' and 'd' (or 'k' and 'g' or 's' and 'z') is that 't' is 'unvoiced' and 'd' is voiced.

Pulmonic Consonants

  Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Postvelar
Plosive t d
Trill rh r g
Fricative þ th s z sh zh ch x q
Lateral fricative   ll lh
Lateral aproximant   ~

The t and d are generic dental, alveolar, postalveolar plosives with actual phonetic implementation derivable from phonetic context. The r is an alveolar, postalveolar trill. The g is a velar or postvelar trill.

There is a length distinction in all pulmonic consonants except the plosives. The postalveolar fricatives are written 'sh' and 'zh' or 'shh' and 'zhh' for long.

Non-Pulmonic Consonants (Clicks and Snap)

Type Name Grapheme
Postalveolar click 'tut' k
Palatalveolar click 'plonk' p
Alveolateral click 'clop' c
Snap teeth together 'snap' _

The 'tut' is the noise one makes when tut-tutting but made just the once; for 'plonk', the tongue is held on the roof of the mouth and plonked down to the bottom - the sound comes from below the tongue; 'clop' is the horsy noise out of the side of ones mouth and snap is simple - snap your teeth together (ʭ). 'Snap' is implemented in some instances as a grinding of the teeth, for instance when sound is required to be kept to a minimum, or in the devotional register where it is always a 'grind'. Unless otherwise stated, when clicks are referred to, this includes 'snap'.


  front back
hi i u
mid e o
low a

There is a length distinction in all vowels. Long vowels are written 'ii', 'uu', 'ee', 'oo' and 'aa'.


Devanu used to be a tonal language and there are some rare remnants of the tonal system. (A tonal language is one in which the tone used is meaningful at a phonemic level, so that a high 'a' will mean something different to a low 'a'.) The tonal system is still used in the devotional speech register, however. There are two tones - 'hi(gh)' and 'lo(w)', but because of the way that tone is assigned, this can produce the following combinations:

  • hi - high tone
  • lo - low tone
  • ri - rising tone (ie. low+high)
  • do - lowering (down) tone (ie. high+low)

Phoneme Distribution

Plosives and clicks are never word initial.

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