Kēlen Phonology and Orthography HOME   DICTIONARY

Consonants and Vowels

Kēlen has 17 consonants and 16 vowels.

According to the Kēleñi, there are five stops (ansāorīki anpōhi). These are /p/, /t/, /s/, /c/, /k/. These are all unaspirated and voiceless. They become voiced between vowels and/or sonorants. They stay voiceless at the beginning and end of words, or next to another stop or fricative. /p/ is pronounced like the Spanish /p/, /t/ like the Spanish /t/. /s/ is nowadays pronounced like English /s/, but used to be like German /z/ or /ts/. This pronunciation is still found in some dialects. /c/ is a palatal stop, and can be mispronounced as English /ch/ without any misunderstanding. /k/ is like Spanish /c/ in /ca/ or /co/.

There are also five fricatives (ansāorīki ankōrji). These are /w/, /þ/, /x/, /j/, /h/. These are all voiceless at the beginning and end of words and next to another stop or fricative, and voiced between vowels and/or sonorants. /w/ is a bilabial fricative, very much like the Spanish /v/. /þ/ is like the English /th/ in /thin/. /x/ is like the English /sh/ in /shoe/. /j/ is like the German /ch/ in /ich/, though mispronouncing it like English /hu/ in /human/ is fine. /h/ is like the German /ch/ in /ach/. Mispronouncing it like the English /h/ in /house/ is fine. In some dialects these sounds are always voiced.

There are thirteen sonorants (ansāorīki antāni). These are /m/, /mm/, /n/, /nn/, /ñ/, /ññ/, /ŋ/, /ŋŋ/, /l/, /ll/, /λ/, /r/, and /rr/. These are almost always voiced, though various dialects will devoice these at the beginning of words. /m/ is pronounced like the Spanish /m/, /n/ like the Spanish /n/, and /ñ/ like the Spanish /ñ/. /ŋ/ is pronounced like the English /ng/ in /sing/. /l/ is pronounced like the Spanish /l/ in /la/, and /λ/ like the English /li/ in /million/. Standard /r/ is pronounced like the Spanish /rr/, but each dialect has its own pronunciation. The doubled versions are pronounced like the single versions, only the sound is sustained longer.

Vowels (anrūēli or ansāorīki anūrāni) come in two varieties, the long (anōma) and the short (anīña). These are distinct and make minimal pairs, and so are counted as separate vowels. The long vowels are /ī/, /ē/, /ā/, /ō/, /ū/ and the short ones are /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/, /u/. These are pronounced like the Spanish /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/, /u/, with the long vowels being lasting longer than the short ones. In addition, there is one short vowel /y/ which only occurs in some dialects. This is pronounced as a high mid vowel, halfway between /i/ and /u/. It is fairly close in pronunciation to the American English short /i/ or to the last vowel sound in the American English word /decided/.

There are also some diphthongs, again in long and short forms. These are /āe/, /ae/, /āo/, /ao/, //, /ie/. /āe/ and /ae/ are pronounced like Spanish /ay/. /āo/ and /ao/ are pronounced like German /au/. // and /ie/ are pronounced like American English /ye/ in /yet/. Any other vowel pairs are pronounced as separate vowels.

The Writing System

The writing system consists of a horizontal line with the letter characters below it. The five stops are straightforward and are written so: ptsck
The five fricatives are less straightforward and are written so: wthshjh
The characters for /þ/ and /x/ are simply the characters for /t/ and /s/ followed closely by the generic fricative character:  
The other three consist of the generic fricative character along with the superscript characters: wjh
which denote a bilabial, a palatal, and a velar fricative. The four nasals use the superscript characters with the nasal character: n
So the four nasals come out as: mnñŋ
The symbol for /l/ is: l
and for /λ/ is: lj
The symbol for /r/ is: r
Other letters include: rj
for /rj/ and the double sonorants: mmnnnnjnngllrr
The subscript character: .
is also used to denote long vowels. That said, the forms for the short vowels are: ieaou
and the forms for the short diphthongs are: aeaoie
In other words, the diphthong /ae/ consists of /a/ with a palatal superscript, and the diphthong /ao/ uses /a/ and a bilabial superscript. The diphthong /ie/ consists of the /i/ with a palatal superscript. All can be turned into long vowels by adding the subscript character.

More information on the writing system can be found here.

Last modified: August 05, 2011