Z’aveq Phonology and Romanization (#2)

The consonant system of Z’aveq isn’t particularly special:

Labial Coronal Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stops p b t d k g q
Fricatives f v s z x h
Nasals m n
Approximants w l j ʁ

Neither is the vowel system:

Front Central Back
High i ɨ u
Mid e ə o
Low a

The mid central vowel ə is considered reduced, which will have implications for the pitch accent when we get to that in a bit. Otherwise, all vowels are created equal, and we encounter very little synchronic reduction or other alternations in unstressed positions. Z’aveq doesn’t like syllables more complex than CVC, although very simple clusters may be tolerated in very recent loans. The reduced vowel may not occur adjacent to another vowel or a word boundary.

Before moving on to the pitch accent, a couple of comments about the romanization are in order. Most phonemes are represented by the single Latin letter corresponding to their IPA symbol, but the phonemes ʁ and ɨ have non-ASCII-compatible IPA symbols and are thus romanized as r and y. Furthermore, the reduced vowel ə is represented by the apostrophe between two consonants (and it doesn’t occur in other positions).

Finally, the most interesting part of the phonology of Z’aveq is the pitch accent system. There are two types of pitch accent that a word may have, and while both types of accent can occur on any syllable of the word, a word may only have one accented syllable, and neither accent can occur on the reduced vowel. It is also acceptable for a word to have no accented syllable at all, and that is not entirely uncommon, although it occurs considerably more frequently on short function words that usually occupy unstressed positions in the broader sentence. All syllables of a word before the accented syllable, and all syllables of an unaccented word, are pronounced relatively short with low, even pitch, whereas all syllables after the accent syllable are pronounced relatively short with high pitch.

The first type of accent, which will henceforth be referred to as accent 1, is realized by pronouncing the accented vowel with high pitch and lengthening it by around one half of its previous length. There is no particular tonal contour associated with this accent, although the high tone may slip towards high falling very slightly when in the first syllable of a word following another word ending on a high tone. Accent 1 is indicated orthographically by an apostrophe immediately preceding the accented vowel.

The second type of accent, referred to as accent 2, is realized as a low rising tone on the accented vowel, which is lengthened even more than a vowel carrying accent 1, to almost double its original length. The tonal contour is largely consistent regardless of the tone of the preceeding or following syllable. Accent 2 is indicated orthographically by an apostrophe placed immediately *after* the accented vowel.

At the sentence level, the baseline pitch of each word drops slightly with each word, so that word boundaries are always obvious even if the words begin and end on the same lexical tone. There is little or no variation in the sentence-level intonation in different types of sentences, although there is likely a slightly different intonational pattern used for listing items (still undetermined, although a good candidate would be to alternate stepping down and up by slightly more than between words in a regular sentence).

That covers most of the phonology. There will likely be additions and modifications in the future, but they will hopefully be few and far between.