Ronc Tyu/Phonology

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Phonology

Consonants

 labial   dental   retroflex   palatal   dorsal   glottal 
plosives p · b t · d k · ɡ ʔ
fricatives f · v s · z ʂ · ʐ ɕ · ʑ h
nasals m n ɳ ŋ
approximants w l ɻ j ʁ

/ʔ/ appears only in coda position, and it is the only consonant that can do so.

The affricates [tɬ dɮ ts dz ʈʂ ɖʐ tɕ dʑ] are sometimes analyzed as unitary phonemes because they sometimes pattern with simple plosives in nominal or verbal inflection. However, other plosive + fricative clusters can also appear in the exact same phonological environments, so phonetic affricates will be treated as consonant clusters for the purposes of this document.

The consonants are romanized as follows:

  • /p b t d k ɡ ʔ/ p b t d k g c
  • /f v s z ʂ ʐ ɕ ʑ h/ f v s z sr zr ś ź h
  • /m n ɳ ŋ/ m n nr ng
  • /w l ɻ j ʁ/ w l r y x

Several consonant clusters have distinct written representations:

  • [tɬ dɮ ʈʂ ɖʐ] tl dl tr dr
  • [pʂ kʂ] pr kr
  • [ʈʂw ɖʐw ʂw ʐw] tśw dźw św źw
  • [ŋɡ] ngg

Vowels

 front   back 
high i u
mid ɛ ɔ
low a

There are also four opening diphthongs /iə̯ eɐ̯ oɐ̯ uə̯/ and four closing diphthongs /ɛɪ̯ aɪ̯ aʊ̯ ɔʊ̯/, all of them falling (i.e. with greater emphasis on the first component).

All vowels and diphthongs can also appear in a nasalized version.

The vowel qualities are written as follows:

  • /i ɛ a ɔ u/ i e a o u
  • /iə̯ eɐ̯ oɐ̯ uə̯/ ie ea oa uo
  • /ɛɪ̯ aɪ̯ aʊ̯ ɔʊ̯/ ei ae ao ou

Vowel nasalization is indicated by a postposed n. In non-final syllables of compound words, this is written m before /p b f v/ and ng before /k ɡ/.

Tone

Three phonemic tones are distinguished (high, mid, low). All tones can appear on both oral and nasalized vowels of all qualities.

High tone is represented with an acute accent (á), and low tone is represented with a grave accent (à). Mid tone is unmarked (a).

Phonotactics

Full syllables

Words in Ronc Tyu minimally (and most typically, since a large percentage of words are monosyllabic) consist of a single full syllable. The basic structure of these syllables is (C)(C)(C)(w,j)V(ʔ).

Syllable onsets may be of the following types:

  • No consonant
  • Any single consonant except /ʔ/
  • Any non-glottal obstruent or nasal followed by one of /w j/ (but /w/ does not appear after /ɕ ʑ v/, and /j/ does not appear after /ʂ ʐ ɕ ʑ ŋ/)
  • A plosive followed by one of /l ɻ/ (but /tɻ dɻ/ do not occur)
  • A plosive followed by a fricative of the same voicing, optionally followed by one of /w j/
  • /h/ followed by any voiceless obstruent or obstruent cluster, optionally followed by one of /w j/
  • /h/ followed by a nasal, optionally followed by one of /w j/ (but the sequence /hŋj/ does not occur)
  • /h/ followed by an approximant other than /w j/
  • Any legal cluster that begins with a plosive, preceded by a homoorganic nasal

Minor syllables

Polysyllabic words which are not compounds usually consist of one full syllable preceded by one or more minor syllables. Minor syllables can only have a single consonant as their onset, and a monophthongal vowel with no tone of its own as their nucleus. The surface quality of this underlying reduced vowel |ə| is usually predictable:

  • [ɪ] (written i) in words whose stressed syllable is of the shape C(C)(C)jV(ʔ) or has a nucleus /i ɛ iə̯ eɐ̯ ɛɪ̯/
  • [ʊ] (written u) in words whose stressed syllable is of the shape C(C)(C)wV(ʔ) or has a nucleus /u ɔ uə̯ oɐ̯ ɔʊ̯/
  • [ɐ] (written a) in words whose stressed syllable has a nucleus /a aɪ̯ aʊ̯/

In the rare cases where a vowel in a minor syllable does not conform to the above harmony rule, the onset can be analyzed as containing underlying |j w ʁ|, with this consonant then coalescing with any adjacent |ə| into surface [ɪ ʊ ɐ] i u a (but note that |(ə)jə (ə)wə| become [ɛ ɔ] e o instead if the stressed syllable would normally require a reduced vowel to surface as [ɐ]).

In certain situations, two adjacent minor syllables will reduce to a single syllable with a complex onset. Such syllables are treated as full syllables phonologically, even though their vowel generally still harmonizes with the stressed syllable of the word.

Phonetic detail

  • The voiceless plosives p t k are aspirated [pʰ tʰ kʰ] in the onset of a full syllable, even when followed by a consonant.
  • Obstruent voicing is not distinguished in minor syllables. Orthographically, obstruents in minor syllables are represented as voiced, except in instances of morphological reduplication.
  • /ʂ ʐ ɻ/ are not distinguished after plosives, so they can all be written r in this environment. The voiceless clusters pr tr kr tend to be realized as [pʂ ʈʂ kʂ], although non-sibilant [pɻ̥ ʈɻ̥ kɻ̥] also occur. The voiced clusters br dr gr vary rather freely between [bɻ ɖɻ ɡɻ] and [bʐ ɖʐ ɡʐ], with the fricative variant most common for dr.
  • The cluster pw similarly varies between [pf] and [pʍ].
  • h tends to be pronounced as a velar fricative [x] before a voiceless obstruent.
  • Clusters of h with a resonant (nasal or approximant) are typically pronounced as voiceless resonants. The clusters hx hl hr are pronounced as a voiceless uvular fricative [χ], a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative [ɬ], and a voiceless alveolar trill [r̥] respectively; note that the latter departs from the usual retroflex realization of /ɻ/.
  • l also becomes [ɬ] when preceded by a voiceless plosive.
  • Underlying clusters |nj ŋj mv ŋʁ| surface as [ɲ ɲ mb ŋɡ], and are written ny ny mb ngg.
  • Vowels in open syllables have a noticeably longer duration than their counterparts in closed syllables. Open-syllable e o tend to be realized as [eˑ oˑ] while closed-syllable e o are pronounced as [ɛ ɔ]. Some speakers have a similar alternation for i u, varying between [iˑ uˑ] and [ɪ ʊ].
  • Vowels in minor syllables are always lax, with i e a o u being pronounced as [ɪ ɛ ɐ ɔ ʊ].
  • a in a full syllable is typically pronounced as a back vowel [ɑ] when nasalized or adjacent to x.
  • In non-final full syllables, vowel nasalization is not distinguished before nasal consonants. Before obstruents, it may surface as a homoorganic nasal.
  • In non-final full syllables, a coda glottal stop is realized as a preglottalized homoorganic plosive when followed by a fricative (e.g. fwanc-swín ‘stepchild, child-in-law’: /fwãʔ swĩ́/ → [fwɑ̃ˀˈtswĩ́ˑ]).
  • After open nasalized syllables, an epenthetic [n] may be inserted if the next word begins with a vowel and belongs to the same phrase (e.g. nà san ugwac ‘the mother of the queen’: /nà sã əɡwaʔ/ → [ˌnàˑ sɑ̃‿nʊˈɡwaʔ]).

Stress and prosody

There is a weak dynamic stress accent, which falls on the final syllable of the word. In compound words, non-final full syllables receive secondary stress; this prevents their vowel from being reduced. Minor syllables are always unstressed.

Phrasal stress is also usually on the last syllable. Exceptions can be made if the speaker wants to especially emphasize a word that comes earlier in the phrase.