A little bit of Lisnäit – 1
As most conlangers do (I think), I often read things about various languages, both conlangs and natural languages. Sometimes, while reading, I come across some interesting feature which I’d like to use in a conlang of mine. Two years ago, I was diving in that sea of information we call Wikipedia when I arrived to an article which explained how Semitic languages as Arabic and Hebrew derived a great number of words from triconsonantal roots such as KTB ‘write’ in which vowels and further consonants are inserted so as to form words such as kataba (he wrote), naktubo (we will write) but also less expected words such as aktaba (he dictated) or maktab (office). Even though I had read about this word formation system before, I was very impressed and so I decided it was worth making a new conlang.
It was also influenced by two other conlangs: John Quijada’s Ithkuil which probably is the most complex and precise language ever spoken and Lojban (by the Logical Language Group) a conlang whose structure is so logical that it could be spoken by computers. My conlang, however, was not intended to be logical nor so precise, but rather an artlang, an artistic conlang. Lisnäit (/lis’nait/, the conlang) proved to sound much nicer than what I expected and ended up being one of my favourite conlangs.
The image on the left is the word Alisnäit (also the name of the conlang, I’ll explain why there’s an extra a in further posts) as written in the vertical version of Sikäitt /si’kai.tɨt/ Lisnäit’s native script.
I) Phonology: Lisnäit employs 23 phonemes: 7 vowels and 16 consonants. Additionally, there are 5 diphthongs.
|a||/a/, formerly /ɒ/|
|ä||/æ/, formerly /a/|
|e||/e/ or /ɛ/|
|i||/i/ or /ɪ/|
|ï||/ɨ/ or /y/, formerly /ə/|
The last vowel in the table ( ï ) is special because it’s mainly used to break difficult consonant clusters which may arise when making words out of roots. For example, the word for sign language (as those used by the deaf) should be *lsina (from LSN which means “to communicate” and is also the root of Lisnäit). However, since an initial ls cluster it’s difficult to pronounce, an ï is added yielding lïsäna. Ï is also used in adjectives, where it’s often omitted.
The following vowel sequences are to be pronounced in the same syllable as diphthongs:
|äi||/æi/ o /ai/|
All other vowel sequences form hiatus, so they must be pronounced in different syllables. The following occur very frequently in Lisnäit:
|h||/h/, after n: /x/|
|n||/n/, before f /ɱ/, before k, g or h /ŋ/|
|r||initial: /r/, else /ɾ/|
Lisnäit syllables have the following structure:
|Ø||Vowel or diphtong||Ø|
*The final consonant cannot be y nor w.
Where Ø means no consonant. The following clusters are permitted syllable initially:
|First consonant||Second consonant
|B||L, R, Y|
|D||R, W, Y|
|F||G, K, L, N, P, R|
|G||N, R, W, Y|
|K||N, R, W, Y|
|P||L, N, R, S, W, Y|
|S||B, K, L, N, P, T|
|T||R, W, Y|
There are also some clusters between syllables which are not permitted. For example, while both tram and gou fit Lisnäit’s syllable structure and could stand as words in their own, *tramgou is not possible because mg clusters are unstable (the word could be easily mispronounced as *trangou or *trambou). In those cases, the cluster is to be broken by and ï → *tramïgou.
Foreign words such as names and loan words can fit not the syllable structure however.
Lisnäit uses syllable stress in a similar way to that of Spanish. Unlike English, stressed syllables are not lengthened nor unstressed syllables’ vowels are reduced. While it helps recognizing word limits, it has not effect in meaning as it has in Spanish (hablo “I speak” versus habló “he spoke”) and (more rarely) in English (compare export (a verb) and export (the things which are exported)).
Stress is predictable in Lisnäit, one can deduce what syllable will be stressed by following a number of rules:
- If the word is monosyllbic (one syllable long), stress will fall in the only syllable
- If the word ends in ‘ (glottal stop), stress will fall in the last syllable.
- If the last letter in the word is a consonant which does not belong to the main root of the word, stress will also fall in the last syllable.
- Else, stress will fall in the second to last syllable.
For example, läsan /’læ.san/ “communication” is stressed in the second to last syllable because its last letter is a consonant that belongs to its root (LSN) while Alisnäit /a.lis’nait/ is stressed in the last syllable because its final t belongs to a suffix.
I’ll write about Lisnäit roots later. See you!