Update on the greyfolk conlang

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Because, uh, this website is supposed to be for my conlang first and foremost. (Oops.) I’ve been doing a good amount of thinking after Pandunia moved away from using vowel endings to designate word class, and I think I’m going to drop using vowels to show word class as well. I’m fine with a larger redesign, and it very recently opened up a nice new idea for me.

Previously, I was having trouble with justifying «w» and/or «y». Most recently, I just had them as variants of the same phoneme. Well, with a less strict structure in words, I had the idea that two different vowels can go right next to each other, which isn’t anything crazy, but certain vowel combinations could (optionally) be smushed into the same syllable. So, something like «kiasa» could be /ki.a.sa/ or the /i/ would become the semivowel /j/ in that position to be /kja.sa/. Likewise, «kuasa» could be /ku.a.sa/ or /kwa.sa/. Having special rules for vowels that are right next to each other also allowed me to sneak some optional diphthongs back in too—e.g., «kai» can be /ka.i/ or /kai/. For semi-vowels and diphthongs, «i» and «u» can be spelled «y» and «w», respectively. So, «kuasa» can be «kwasa» if it’s be pronounced /hwa.sa/, and «kai» can be «kay» if it’s being pronounced /kai/. An additional optional rule is for when /s/ and /t/ are followed by /j/. /sj/ becomes /ʃ/, which can be spelled with «x». /tj/ becomes /t͡ʃ/, which can be spelled with «q». So, «siapa» can be pronounced /si.a.pa/ («siapa»), /sja.pa/ («syapa»), or /ʃa.pa/ («xapa»).

I’ve also taken another idea from Japanese: the moraic nasal assimilates place (with some analyses of treating the nasal as an archiphoneme, says Wikipedia) quite a bit, and I was planning on having my syllable-final nasal do the same thing because that makes more sense to me than letting a syllable end with /n/ or /m/. So, «tanto» is pronounced /tan.to/ while «tampo» is typically pronounced /tam.po/.

Finally, /a/ can sometimes be elided. This is an idea that I’ve had for a while as I’ve previously thought of non-initial /a/ being reduced to [ə]. So far, I’ve thought of five-ish solid rules: /a/ can be elided…

  1. only once in a single word (which should happen at the first possible spot).
  2. after a non-nasal consonant at the end of a word. So, «kata» can be «kat’».
  3. after /s/. So, «kasata» can be «kas’ta».
  4. before /s/ and after a non-nasal consonant. So, «katasa» can be «kat’sa».
  5. before /l/ and after a non-nasal consonant. So, «kalata» can be «k’lata».

So, that all means that my conlang page is now very out of date, but I’d like to fix that soon too! Just going slowly and steadily.


Post-draft, I realized that a silent «h» is already justified by Spanish too. I’m surprised, but I had never realized that ⟨h⟩ was truly just a silent letter (except in some loanwords). But how does that relate to the update above? I was thinking about silent-h in terms of my new rules for «y» and «w» because I don’t like to start words with vowels—I’d rather have them start with «h». If a word starts with a silent-h, I want the «h» to disappear if it’s in front of «y» or «w». So, let’s make up a word like—oh, I dunno—«hueso». So, «hueso» can be /u.e.so/, or it can be /we.so/ spelled «weso». But wait. «hueso»? Like the Spanish word ⟨hueso⟩ with a silent ⟨h⟩ that’s also pronounced /we.so/?

from the Wikipedia article on Spanish orthography

So,  «hi» and «hu» (before another vowel) can become «y» and «w», respectively, which is justified by the same kind of feature in Spanish. Having studied Spanish for over a decade, I can’t believe I didn’t realize this sooner.

Nice.