lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

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.

(Michael Ende. Die unendliche Geschichte)


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.

aaaʌa mid-open, back ubutteràc.
eeeɛa mid-open ebetween bet and flatesfàs.
yyyɯa short, unrounded ooTurkish Kuşadası; some pronunciations of children, couldytfà.
iiiia short, close eebee, only shortihkà.
oooɔa mid-open omorning, only short; a bit closer than gotomàj.
OO (upper case)öœa mid-open French eu;
a mid-open German ö
French leur;
German göttlich
uuuua short, close ootoo, only shortusrà.
UU (upper case)üya close French u;
a close German ü, but short
French lune;
German üben
lllla clear llimelàbdv.
RR (upper case)rhɹan English rrunRàks.
rrrra Spanish rrSpanish perroràjd.
nnngŋan ng-soundringnàs.
mmmman m-soundmilemàs.
gggɡa g-soundgogwà.
dddda d-sounddoordràw.
bbbba b-soundbearblà.
kkkkan unaspirated kSpanish casakàt.
ttttan unaspirated tSpanish tierratàcd.
ppppan unaspirated pSpanish perropnà.
jjghɣa Spanish fricative gCatalan Tarragonajàx.
cczhʒa voiced zhtelevisioncrà.
zzzza voiced zzoozdàs.
vvdhða voiced ththisvàsk.
wwwβa v between the lipsSpanish La Habanawàcg.
xxxxa Scottish chloch; German Kuchenxàf.
hhsha voiceless shshoehlà.
ssssa voiceless sseesràq.
qqthθa voiceless ththistleqàxk.
fffɸan f between the lipsAndalusian Spanish los viejosflàc.


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.

Positions of vowel articulation. Top row: front: i ü, back: y u. Bottom row: front: e ö, back: a o.

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. Of two consonants in the same cell, the left one is voiced and the right one voiceless. Like the vowels, they are in reverse order compared with 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).

Positions of consonant articulation. 5: between the lips, 4: tip of tongue against upper teeth, 3: back of tongue against gum ridge, 2: back of tongue behind gum ridge, 1: root of tongue against soft palate.5 (bilabial)4 (dental)3 (alveolar)2 (postalveolar)1 (velar)
liquidslateral approximantl
plosivesb pd tg k
fricativesw fv qz sc hj x


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 typeSymbolAccented vowelsTranscription
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: [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), [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:

Hand-drawn vowel letter forms
Hand-drawn consonant letter forms

Pauses of speech

Words can be separated by three types of pauses:

space[space][space][space]barely audible
comma ,,,a bit longer
full stop ...the longest one

The functions of these pauses are discussed in the next unit.


  Pronounce the following words:
sxnáz rìjde.Solve
pìlj vèi.Solve