Unit 1. Letters and sounds
When you come to think about it, you must admit that all the stories in the world basically consist of just twenty-six letters.
The alphabet of the language is phonetic: each letter corresponds to a certain sound, and each sound is represented by a single letter. The direction of writing is left to right.
In the following table, you can click the phonetic symbols in the IPA column and many of the examples to hear what they sound like. (If you are familiar with phonology, you might want to skip the table and continue with the diagrams below.)
The Lemizh font contains the Lemizh letters, digits and punctuation marks. The Keyboard column in this table tells you which letter on your keyboard gives you which Lemizh letter.
|a||a||a||ʌ||a mid-open, back u||butter||àc.|
|e||e||e||ɛ||a mid-open e||between bet and flat||esfàs.|
|y||y||y||ɯ||a short, unrounded oo||Turkish Kuşadası; some pronunciations of children, could||ytfà.|
|i||i||i||i||a short, close ee||bee, only short||ihkà.|
|o||o||o||ɔ||a mid-open o||morning, only short; a bit closer than got||omàj.|
|O||O (upper case)||ö||œ||a mid-open French eu;|
a mid-open German ö
|u||u||u||u||a short, close oo||too, only short||usrà.|
|U||U (upper case)||ü||y||a close French u;|
a close German ü, but short
|l||l||l||l||a clear l||lime||làbdv.|
|R||R (upper case)||rh||ɹ||an English r||run||Ràks.|
|r||r||r||r||a Spanish rr||Spanish perro||ràjd.|
|k||k||k||k||an unaspirated k||Spanish casa||kàt.|
|t||t||t||t||an unaspirated t||Spanish tierra||tàcd.|
|p||p||p||p||an unaspirated p||Spanish perro||pnà.|
|j||j||gh||ɣ||a Spanish fricative g||Catalan Tarragona||jàx.|
|c||c||zh||ʒ||a voiced zh||television||crà.|
|z||z||z||z||a voiced z||zoo||zdàs.|
|v||v||dh||ð||a voiced th||this||vàsk.|
|w||w||w||β||a v between the lips||Spanish La Habana||wàcg.|
|x||x||x||x||a Scottish ch||loch; German Kuchen||xàf.|
|h||h||sh||∫||a voiceless sh||shoe||hlà.|
|s||s||s||s||a voiceless s||see||sràq.|
|q||q||th||θ||a voiceless th||thistle||qàxk.|
|f||f||f||ɸ||an f between the lips||Andalusian Spanish los viejos||flàc.|
The vowel trapezium depicts the pronunciation of the vowels. The position of a vowel in the diagram corresponds to the approximate position of the tongue. The top row contains the close vowels i U - y u [i y – ɯ u], the bottom row the open-mid vowels e O - a o [ɛ œ – ʌ ɔ]. Of two neighbouring vowels, the right one is pronounced with rounded lips.
- Vowels are always pronounced clearly, as in Spanish. Don’t reduce unstressed ones to a schwa (an indistinct vowel as the second o in London).
- Two consecutive different vowels are pronounced as a diphthong; two consecutive identical vowels as a long one. Single vowels are always short.
Lemizh uses moræ for structuring words: a short syllable equals one mora, and a long syllable equals two. In Lemizh, every vowel is the centre of a mora; consequently, two consecutive vowels result in two moræ or one long syllable.
Here are the approximate places of articulation for the consonants. Like the vowels, they are in reverse order compared to the alphabet because they are shown as is usual in our literature, while in Lemizh phonology the head looks to the right (which is one of the three space axes we will meet in unit 12, as well as the direction of writing).
|5 (bilabial)||4 (dental)||3 (alveolar)||2 (postalveolar)||1 (velar)|
|plosives||b p||d t||g k|
|fricatives||w f||v q||z s||c h||j x|
- l is always clear as in ‘lime’, never velarised (dark) as in ‘ball’.
- r is a trilled (rolled) r pronounced with the tip of your tongue against the teeth-ridge as in Scottish, or like a double r in Spanish, Portuguese or Italian.
- Be careful to pronounce n as a single nasal; it is not a combination of n+g.
- The plosive-fricative combinations pf ts th kx and their voiced couterparts only occur at word boundaries and in compound words. Take care not no pronounce them as affricates as in ‘church’, but as separate sounds as in Polish trzysta ‘three hundred’ (as opposed to czysta ‘clean’). The same applies for other combinations of a plosive plus another consonant (pm tl etc.), as well as for two identical plosives (kk etc.): the release of the first plosive is always audible.
- w sounds more like an English v than an English w, but is pronounced between the lips, not between lower lip and upper teeth.
This chapter is short, rather geeky, and not necessary for understanding the rest of the tutorial.
Phonotactics, or the restriction of sound combinations, is rather permissive in Lemizh. A mora has the following structure, where the bracketed parts are optional:
V is the mora’s vowel, L a liquid, N a nasal, and O an obstruent that can be either a P(losive), a F(ricative), FP, PF, FF, FFP, FPF, or PFF. Word-initial consonant clusters cannot contain more than three sounds. No geminate consonants (*ff etc.) occur within a mora. Consecutive plosive-fricative or fricative-plosive combinations within the same mora must have the same sonority – either both are voiced, or both are voiceless. A plosive cannot have the same place of articulation as a following consonant with the exception of R r. *dc, *dv and their voiceless counterparts are also prohibited within a mora.
Word boundaries, including those within compound words, are always mora boundaries. Where mora boundaries would still be ambiguous, liquids and nasals are assigned to the earliest possible mora, and obstruents to the latest possible mora.
Lemizh has got a two-way pitch-accent system, in that accented moræ are not only spoken louder (as in English), but also have either a lower or a higher pitch than the surrounding unaccented ones:
|Accent type||Symbol||Accented vowels||Transcription|
|low||`||à è Ì ì ò Ò ù Ù||` (à etc.)|
|high||´||á é ý í ó Ó ú Ú||´ (á etc.)|
Diphthongs and long vowels can carry accent on their first or on their second mora: eù [ε̯ù] (pitch falls from the first, weak vowel to the second, strong one), èu [ὲu̯] (pitch rises from the first, strong vowel to the second, weak one), éa [έʌ̯] (pitch falls from the first, strong vowel to the second), aá [ʌ̌ː] or more accurately [ʌ̯ʌ́] (long vowel with increasing loudness and rising pitch), etc.
With ANSI character encoding (that is, under Windows), the Lemizh font provides access to the accented vowels through the Latin vowels with grave (à = à) and acute accents (á = á); Ì is accessible as Ì.
This is how the letters look in handwriting:
Pauses of speech
Words can be separated by three types of pauses:
|comma||,||,||,||a bit longer|
|full stop||.||.||.||the longest one|
The functions of these pauses are discussed in the next unit.
|Pronounce the following words:|