Buruya Nzaysa/Phonology

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Phoneme inventory

Consonants

labial dental alveolar palatal   velar   labiovelar glottal
plain plosive p t ts k ʔ
prenasalized plosive mp nt nts ŋk ŋkʷ
voiced plosive b d ɡ
plain fricative f s x (h)
prenasalized fricative mv nz
voiced fricative v
nasal m n ɲ
approximant l r j w
  • [x] and [h] are allophones of a single phoneme /x/. The pronunciation [x] is found especially in the onset of stressed syllables or before a consonant, and [h] between unstressed vowels or word-finally. However, these trends are far from universal, and so the two phones are best regarded as occurring in free variation. The orthographic tradition is to write h in word-final position, and x anywhere else.
  • /kʷ ŋkʷ ʔ ɡ ɲ j/ are represented in the transcription by kw ŋkw ’ g ñ y.
  • All other consonants are written as in the above table.
  • /ʔ ɲ/ and all of the prenasalized phonemes do not occur in clusters.
  • In monomorphemic words, the prenasalized phonemes occur mostly in word-initial position.
  • Prenasalization is realized as a coda nasal at the end of a preceding open syllable.
  • /p t ts k kʷ/ are lightly aspirated in the onset of stressed syllables, unless preceded by a consonant.
  • The voicing distinction between /p t k/ and /b d ɡ/ tends to be lost in coda position.
  • /f s x/ are pronounced as [v z ɣ] before /r l/ by some speakers.
  • /l/ is velarized to [ɫ] in coda position or after /x/.
  • /r/ is commonly realized as a tap [ɾ] intervocalically after a stressed vowel.
  • Vowel-initial words are automatically preceded by a non-phonemic glottal stop unless preceded by a word ending in a consonant. However, unstressed function words often cliticize, in which case they are not separated from their host word by a glottal stop; instead, the vowel sequence may be contracted into a single syllable, usually forming a phonetic diphthong.

Vowels

front central back
high i u
high-mid e ə o
low-mid ɛ ɔ
low a
  • All vowels are transcribed as in the above table.
  • /i e/ do not normally occur in closed syllables or before nasals.
  • Vowels are often lengthened in stressed position, especially when followed by a consonant cluster or a voiced intervocalic consonant.
  • Stressed /ɛ ɔ/ may be lowered to [æ ɒ].
  • /e ə o/ merge into /ɛ ɛ ɔ/ before coda /j/.
  • /ə/ is in free variation with [ɨ], especially in closed syllables.
  • In unstressed medial or final syllables, many speakers interchange /e/ with any of /i ɛ ə/, and /o/ with either /u/ or /ɔ/. However, the exact mergers and their environments show a considerable amount of variation.
  • Unstressed front vowels tend to drop out before intervocalic /j/, and unstressed back vowels tend to drop out before intervocalic /w/, especially in longer words.

Phonotactics

Buruya Nzaysa has a fairly simple (C)(C)V(C) syllable structure. Medial syllables are required to have an onset of exactly one consonant; both onsetless syllables and syllables with an onset cluster are only allowed word-initially.

Apart from the prenasalized phonemes, the only permitted complex onsets in native words are /sp st sk skʷ sm mr ml/. In loanwords, the clusters /pl kl bl gl/ are also seen.

Medial consonant clusters are also relatively rare, and rather restricted in shape. The most common cluster types are:

  • Any voiceless plosive plus /s/ in either order.
  • Any fricative or /m/ followed by /l/.
  • /x v m/ followed by /r/.
  • /l j w/ followed by any non-approximant consonant.
  • A nasal followed by an obstruent; matching the prenasalized phonemes.

Final consonants are even rarer than medial clusters, and are restricted to /t k b d h l j w/, with word-final /k/ appearing only in loanwords. A final orthographic ‹n› sometimes occurs on the conjunction o "and", but this only happens when the conjunction is cliticized to the following morpheme, and the /n/ is thus not really word-final.

Prosody

Buruya Nzaysa is a mostly syllable-timed language with a dynamic stress accent, which is often accompanied by prosodic lengthening of the accented syllable, especially before consonant clusters or voiced intervocalic consonants.

The accent typically falls on the first syllable of a word. However, there are several prefixes which are always unstressed, and words of four or more syllables usually carry their accent on the penult or antepenult. Compounds tend to place their primary accent on the stressed syllable of the second component. Irregular accent patterns may also occur in loanwords or when the word in question derives etymologically from a multi-word phrase.

Irregularly stressed syllables are marked orthographically with an acute accent.

Morphophonology

Since Buruya Nzaysa does not have much inflectional morphology, morphophonological alternations mostly show up in derivation and compounding. There are three major alternations that need to be mentioned:

  1. Vowel ablaut
    This alternation derives from a historical sound change that affected vowels in open syllables differently than vowels in closed syllables or nasalized environments. It is not fully productive anymore, but the accusative case of most determiners and pronouns is formed in this way, and a number of derivational morphemes also still trigger or exhibit ablaut. The observed correspondences are i e ɛ ɔ o uɛ ə ə o u ɔ and rarely əa; in some situations, the reverse of this may also occur.

  2. Lenition
    This alternation affects stem-initial consonants which become intervocalic due to the addition of a vowel-final derivational prefix. (Note that some prefixes trigger eclipsis instead; see below.) The following consonant shifts take place under lenition:
    • p t k kww d x g
    • b dv ’
    • mp nt ntsps ts ts
    • ŋk ŋkwñ m
    • mv nzb d
    • mv nz xg r ñ (rare and non-productive)
  3. Eclipsis
    This alternation is a variant of lenition that affects stem-initial consonants when a prefix is added which historically ended in a nasal consonant. The following alternations are observed:
    • p tps ts
    • x k kwñ ñ m

With both lenition and eclipsis, consonants other than those listed do not undergo any change.