South Eresian phonology

Okay, I should just give up entirely on writing things I plan to write and focus on writing things I want to write.  Stuff will get done eventually anyway.

I figured I might as well do a writeup of South Eresian phonology, since I’ve got a very good idea of how it works (although I keep changing it, but it’s nearing perfection I think).  At some point I’ll probably give an optimality theory account of it, but for my purposes here I’ll just use boring features.




Note that I listed the lateral continuant as a fricative /ɬ/ rather than an approximant /l/, even though in a large majority of situations it is realized as an approximant.  This is because calling it a fricative simplifies things, as it patterns exactly like the fricatives /s ʃ/, especially in the contexts of phonoactics morphophonology.  I’ll explain this later on.  However, there are some situations (especially allophony) where it is better to refer to it as an approximant as well, so it’s a bit of a toss-up as to which is better in the phoneme chart.  I opted for calling it a fricative, but it would also be very well justified to call it an approximant and I will treat it as an approximant which sometimes becomes a fricative in the allophony section.  Whenever I get an optimality theory account of this up, this will become a non-issue anyway.

The phonemic status of /kʷ kʷʼ/ is somewhat iffy, as they occur only in certain positions and never contrast with /kw kʼw/.  I opted to consider them phonemes only because they can occur in a syllable-initial position, where no consonant+glide clusters may occur.


The orthography of South Eresian is based off of various orthographies invented by the Spanish for Mesoamerican languages, especially Nahuatl.  As South Eresian is highly reminiscent of Mesoamerican languages in many aspects, such an orthography suits it fairly well.

/p pʼ t tʼ k kʼ kʷ kʷʼ q qʼ ʔ/ <p p’ t t’ c/qu c’ cu/uc/c_u c’u q q’ h>
/t͡s  t͡sʼ t͡ʃ  t͡ʃʼ/ <tz tz’ ch ch’>
/t͡ɬ  t͡ɬʼ/ <tl tl’>
/s ʃ x/ <s x j>
/ɬ/ <l>
/ɾ/ <r>
/j w/ <y u/hu/uh>

/a e i o/ <a e i o>
+stress: <á é í ó>

/k/ is written <qu> before /i e/, <c> elsewhere.

/kʷ/ is written <uc> syllable-finally, <cu> elsewhere.  The sequence /kʷɾ/ is written <cru>

/w/ is written <hu> word-initially, intervocalically and after /j/, <uh> word-finally, and <u> elsewhere.  It is also written <hu> following the glottal stop, so that an intervocalic /w/ is written <hu> but a cluster /ʔw/ is written <hhu>.

When /k/ must be distinguished from the cluster /qw/ before /i e/, a diaeresis <ü> is applied to the <u> in the cluster.

I’ve only just changed the transcription of /t͡s  t͡sʼ/ to <tz tz’> from <z z’>, both for æsthetic reasons and because I wanted to bring the orthography a little bit more in-line with Nahuatl.

Stressed vowels are written with acute accents as marked, except when occurring after an ejective; ejectives may only occur in South Eresian at the onset of a stressed syllable, so marking the vowel with a diacritic is redundant and I am lazy.

Where I am positing underlying geminate consonants (to neatly explain some weirdities in certain paradigms), monographs are written doubled andpolygraphs are written thus:

/kː kʷː t͡sː  t͡ʃː  t͡ɬː wː/ → <cqu ccu ttz tch ttl gu>

There are no situations in which ejectives should be usefully posited to occur as underlying geminates.


Phonotactics in South Eresian seem very intuitive to me, although they’ve proven surprisingly difficult to define concisely.  Here are the results of my efforts, with a few notes:

  • For the purposes of phonotactics, /l~ɬ/ is treated as a fricative; this is because it patterns exactly like the other coronal fricatives in the language, and not at all like the sonorants.  I will, as such, be using the glyph <ɬ> for it in this section.
  • The glottal stop /ʔ/ does its own thang instead of acting like the other plosives.
  • I will be ignoring the ejectives in my analysis of the syllable structure; ejectives have extremely limited distribution in the language (they may only occur in the onset position of a stressed syllable), and where they occur in clusters they act exactly like their pulmonic counterparts.

Onset parameters:

Onset parameters in South Eresian are fairly simple and easily defined:

  • [C/G/[p/k/kʷ/q]ɾ]

What this means is that an onset may consist of any single consonant or glide (which fall under G), or one of the set of noncoronal, nonglottal stops /p k kw q/ followed by /ɾ/.

Nucleus parameter:

This is so simple it is barely worth mentioning:

  • [V]

A nucleus can be a vowel.  Easy mode!

Coda parameters:

This is where things become upfucked; this is largely due to the facts that a) word codas are governed by entirely different parameters than govern codas within clusters, and b) codas that occur in clusters are constrained by the onset of the following syllable (so whatever follows them).

All codas, regardless of placement, are limited to being only one segment.

Word codas:

A word coda may be any non-ejective, [+consonantal] thing that is either [-sonorant] or [+nasal] that is both [-labial] and [-back], or it may be both [-consonantal] and [-syllabic] (i.e., a glide).  In practice, this means that word codas are limited to the following set:

  • [n/t/k/t͡s/t͡ʃ/t͡ɬ/ʔ/s/ʃ/ɬ/j/w]

This is pretty straightforward.  However…

Cluster codas:

As mentioned above, the rules governing codas in clusters are complex.  Here is a breakdown of what is going on:

Nasals may occur before any of the following:

  • Homorganic (non-glottal) plosives or affricates
    (It is useful to pretend that /n/, in this case, is completely underspecified for place here, as a homorganic nasal may occur before any non-glottal plosive or affricate)
  • Heterorganic fricatives
    (/n/ here is still somewhat underspecified as it is considered heterorganic with all of /s ʃ ɬ/, even though /s ɬ/ are at a different PoA than /ʃ/.  However, here it is definitely specified as [+coronal], as it may occur before /x/.)
  • Glides

Non-glottal plosives may occur before any of the following:

  • Heterorganic coronal obstruents
    (This rule functions very similarly to the rule regarding nasals and heterorganic fricatives above, with /t/ being somewhat underspecified for place but still marked as [+coronal].  This rule ultimately means that any of the set of /p k kʷ q/ may occur before any of the set of /t t͡s t͡ʃ t͡ɬ s ʃ ɬ/.)
  • Glides

The glottal stop may occur before the following:

  • Sonorants
    (This is the set of /m n ɾ j w/)

Affricates may not occur in any syllable coda position preceding any consonant or glide.

Fricatives may occur before any of the following:

  • Non-glottal stops
    (The category of “stop” notably includes nasals [which are featurally [-continuant]], unlike the category of “plosive” [which I am using to mean things that are both [-continuant] and [-sonorant]]. This rule means that any of the fricatives /s ʃ ɬ x/ may occur before any of the set of /m n p t k kʷ q t͡s/t͡ʃ/t͡ɬ/)
  • Glides

The tap /ɾ/ may occur before any of the following:

  • Glides

Glides may occur before any of the following:

  • Consonants
  • Glides
    (Geminate glides may be posited to occur underlyingly, although they do not surface as such.)

Additional phonotactic details:

  • Non-glottal stop + /ɾ/ clusters should only be analyzed as onset clusters instead of medial clusters when they occur medially.  This is because a) codas, within the parameters specified above, may occur before one of these clusters and b) the allophonic rule listed below that lengthens stressed open syllables applies to syllables preceding these clusters.
  • An underlying content root must contain one, and only one lexical stress.  This is likely to occur on the first syllable of the root, though that is far from being an absolute rule.
  • Underlying forms don’t necessarily need to conform to the phonotactics of the language; these ultimately end up being ironed out by epenthesis and allophonic rules.


I’ve recently been fucking around with South Eresian allophony in order to get something I like a bit better that epenthesizes fewer glottal stops and does not sound like the speaker is choking as much as its previous incarnation.  This explains any discrepancies between what I have posted on the ZBB in the past and what I am posting here now.

I will be writing out these rules in modified featural notation since that is comfortable for me, but I will also explain what they mean in parentheses.  Obligate rule ordering will be found at the bottom of the list.  Don’t expect the rules to necessarily be in order in the list.

Some notational stuff: S denotes any segment.  C denotes any consonant.  V denotes any vowel.  G denotes any glide.

  1. S → [-high] / [-high, +consonantal]_
    (This makes any segment become non-high after non-high consonants.  The only consonants that are specified as [-high] are the uvulars.  In this language’s phonology, this means that /i e o j w x/ become [ɛ ɛ ɔ ɛ̯ ɔ̯ χ] after uvulars.)
  2. S → [-high] / _[-high, +consonantal]
    (This is the exact same thing as the above rule, except it applies before uvulars.)
  3. [+low] → [+back] / [+stress]
    (/a/, which is generally central to central-back [see the Vowels chart above] goes all the way back to [ɑ] when it is stressed.)
  4. [+back] → [+round] / [+labial]_
    (back vowels become rounded after labial things)
  5. [-low, -consonantal] → [-syllabic, +high] / V_]σ
    (This rule means that any non-low, syllable-final vowel becomes nonsyllabic and high after another vowel.  Functionally, this turns the vowels /i e o/ into [j j w].)
  6. [-low, -consonantal] → [-syllabic, +high] / [(V)C/∅]_[-high]
    (This turns /i e o/ into /j j w/ before non-high vowels, provided this does not break the phonotactic rules on consonant clusters.  This was kind of a screwy way to write a rule, and I’d welcome any suggestions to make it cleaner…)
  7. [αPLACE, -low] → [αHEIGHT] / _σ[[αPLACE, αHEIGHT, -consonantal]
    (This rule turns /e o/ into /i u/ respectively before syllable-initial /j w/, via some alpha-notation trickery that I probably screwed up extraordinarily because it is fuck o’clock AM)
  8. [+syllabic] → [αPLACE, -low] / _σ[[αPLACE, -low, -consonantal]
    (This basically turns /a/ into /e o/ before /j w/)
  9. [-glottal, -sonorant] → [+aspirated] / σ[_[+stress]
    (non-glottal obstruents become aspirated in the onset of a stressed syllable.  Ejectives do not aspirate because they are [+glottal].)
  10. [+lateral] → [-sonorant, -voice] / _[+aspirated]
    (/l/ becomes [ɬ] before aspirated consonants)
  11. [+sonorant] → [-vce] / [+aspirated]_
    (the sonorants /ɾ l/ devoice after aspirated things; /m n/ would also devoice here but they never occur in this position)
  12. [+dorsal, +aspirated] → [+delrel]
    (dorsal aspirated things [kʰ kʷʰ qʰ] affricate to [kxʰ kxʷʰ qχʰ])
  13. S: → S
    (any geminate or long segment shortens)
  14. [+coronal, +continuant] → [+delrel] / [+nasal]_
    (the coronal continuants /s ʃ l/ become the affricates [t͡s t͡ʃ t͡ɬ] after nasals)
  15. [+coronal, +continuant] → [+delrel] / [+consonantal, +continuant]_
    (the coronal continuants /s ʃ l/ become the affricates [t͡s t͡ʃ t͡ɬ] after consonantal continuants)
  16. [+dorsal] → [-continuant] / [+nasal]_
    (/x/ becomes /k/ after nasals)
  17. [+dorsal] → [-continuant] / [+consonantal, +continuant]_
    (/x/ becomes [k] after consonantal continuants)
  18. [+nasal] → [αPLACE] / _[αPLACE, -continuant]
    (nasals assimilate to the place of a following stop)
  19. V → [+nasal] / _[+nasal, +dorsal]
    (vowels nasalize before the dorsal nasals [ŋ ɴ])
  20. [-nasal, +sonorant] → [+lateral] / _]σ
    (/ɾ/ becomes [l] syllable-finally)
  21. [+labial, -dorsal, -sonorant] → [+glottal] / _#
    (/p/ glottalizes word-finally.)
  22. [-sonorant] → [-labial] / _#
    (the glottalized [p] created by the last rule becomes [ʔ], and /kʷ/ becomes [k] word-finally)
  23. [+consonantal, -high] → [+high] / _#
    (uvulars become velars word-finally)
  24. [+syllabic, +stress] → [+long] / _]σ
    (stressed vowels lengthen when they are in open syllables)

Rule orderings:

3 < 4

13, 6 < 5 < 1, 2

9 < 10, 11

18 < 19

24 < 13



South Eresian has some epenthesis rules that work in close harmony with the morphophonology of the language, which will be talked about in a different post.    For now, I’ll just say that vowel epenthesis favors keeping consonant clusters together, wherever possible, rather than splitting them apart; /stá/ would be epenthesized as /astá/, whereas ást would be epenthesized as /ásta/.  Additionally, vowel epenthesis is harmonic: if the preceding vowel is one of /i e o/, the epenthesized vowel is /e/, whereas if the preceding vowel is /a/ the epenthesized vowel is also /a/.  If there is no preceding vowel, the epenthesized vowel is /a/.

Cultural note:

The Tlaqoyan dialect of South Eresian, which is the one I am documenting here, has recently had a fair amount of contact with some other regional languages through increased trading.  This has caused it to develop two phonemes that only occur in loanwords: /f/ and /u/.  Neither of these has any real unusual properties, but their increasing presence should be noted.

I’m sure there are fuckups in this post.  I would very much appreciate anyone pointing them out to me.


2 thoughts on “South Eresian phonology

  1. Given that ‹q› is used in the construction ‹qu› for spelling /k/, it doesn’t really feel right to me that it would be independently used for /q/ in the romanisation, at least if you’re positing that it was actually developed by Hispanophones and not just ahistorically inspired by such. In old Spanish-inspired Quechua orthography the /k q/ distinction simply wasn’t written, so I’d expect the same here originally, with maybe the adoption of diacritics when it was realised the distinction should be written. (Plus, this then avoids /qw/ complications.)

    Though Seri orthography gives ‹j x› to /x χ/, whatever that’s worth.

  2. Fortunately for people from my conworld, nobody from there has ever come into contact with anyone from Earth. This orthography is just heavily inspired by those developed by Hispanophones, because I like the æsthetic. That’s also why I’m not using for /q/, even though that’s been used in the past for Aymara (and probably Quechua) when their orthographies were fairly Hispanoform.

    Regarding the orthographical situation in Quechua, you could definitely say that the /k q/ distinction only sometimes wasn’t written; a prominent allophonic feature of Quechua was and is the lowering of the high vowels /i u/ to [e o] next to uvulars, so the distinction was often, but of course not always, shown by surrounding vowels. I do have the exact same rule in lowering high vowels next to uvulars in South Eresian (this rule is stolen from Aymara), but the vowel system is different.

    /qw/ is really a non-issue here. The only disambiguation that needs to be done is in loanwords, since there was a recent sound change that merged /kʷ/ and /qʷ/, which didn’t contrast with /kw/ and /qw/.

    Thanks for commenting!

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