Rilin Phonology

This phonology is of the Sunuli dialect of Rilin, which is spoken by the group of Rili who maintained their civilization above ground after the Flight, when the group known as the Lunauli retreated into the denser forests and underground caverns. The Sunuli, by contrast, remained in their original settlements and took up war with the Tothians who had been attacking them for four years. After the first two centuries of cultural and linguistic separation, the Rilin language began to split off into to two mutually intelligible but phonemically and syntactically distinct dialects. The focus of this overview is the Sunuli dialect, but some comparative phonology with Lunauli will be presented.

Phonemic Inventory

Rilin has a fairly large inventory of both consonants (29) and vowels (13). Consonants occur at nine places of articulation and in seven manners of articulation, contrasting voiced vs. voiceless phonemes. Most places and manners of articulation have both a voiced and voiceless version.

Consonants

Labial Labio-
dental
Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stop p b   t d       k g q ʔ
Nasal m   n       ŋ    
Fricative ɸ β f v s z ʃ ʂ ʐ   x ɣ   h
Approximate w         j      
Lateral Approximate     l       ɫ    
Lateral Fricative     ɬ            
Tap     ɾ            

The two main dialects of Rilin are Lunauli and Sunuli. Lunauli does not differentiate between some phones which Lunauli distinguishes as different phonemes.

Lunauli Sunuli
fa ‘breeze’ ɸa ‘breeze’
evaka ‘faction’ eβaka ‘faction’
ewun ‘spy’ eɫun ‘spy’
heʃɛɣɛ ‘corn bread’ heʂɛɣɛ ‘corn bread’

Different words that contrast phonemically in Sunuli often become homonyms in Lunauli.

Lunauli Sunuli
fa ‘breeze’ ɸa ‘breeze’
fa ‘cotton’ fa ‘cotton’

Vowels

Diphthongs

ai
ei
oi
ɔi
ui
yi
ʌi

All other vowel combinations do not make phonemic diphthongs (though they may do so phonetically). In Rilin orthography (Séŕa), diphthongs are written as a sequence of two individual vowels.

Phonotactics

All clusters, codas, etc. refer to possibilities applied to individual syllables, not words. The syllable’s position in the word is irrelevant, except for ʔ, h, and ʟ/ɫ, which can only occur in an intervocalic position.

Syllable structure:

CV(C), VC(C), CCV(V)(C)

Possible codas:

nasals, voiceless sibilants, voiceless stops (except ʔ) (n m ŋ s ʂ ʃ p t k q)

Consonant clusters:

Initial: voiceless stop + voiceless sibilant; voiceless stop (not q or ʔ) + ɾ
p + t
p + k
Final: n, m, ŋ+ ʂ, s, ʃ; p, t, k + ʂ, s, ʃ
All vowels may appear in sequence with each other, but it is very rare to have a sequence of more than two, especially if they are not separated by a semi-vowel.

Stress Parameters

Stress placement follows nine rules that determine whether the stress will be on the first, second from last, or third from last syllable.

Two-syllable words have stress on the first syllable. Words of more than two syllables follow the eight rules below:

If one of the following vowels is on penultimate (2nd from last) syllable: i, y, e, ø, a, æ,u, o, then the stress is on the penultimate syllable.
If there is a double vowel or diphthong on penultimate, then stress is on the penultimate.
If the onset of last the syllable is nasal, then the penultimate is stressed.
If the onset of the last syllable is a lateral, then the penultimate is stressed.
If the onset of the last syllable is fricative, then the penultimate is stressed.
If the penultimate has coda and last syllable has a consonantal onset, then the penultimate is stressed.
If the onset of last syllable is h or ʔ, then the penultimate is stressed. If the onset of last syllable is an approximant, then the penultimate is stressed.
If none of the above eight rules apply, the word of more than two syllables will have an antepenultimate stress. That is, the third from last syllable is stressed.

dalana ‘elation’—parameter 1
oɾaipa ‘relatives’—parameter 2
miɛlʌmu ‘marzipan’—parameter 3
nɛtɛle ‘tranquility’—parameter 4
dazʌxɛ ‘specific’—parameter 5
naxɛnti ‘study’—parameter 6
ɛlaʔas ‘treacherous’—parameter 7
βɛɣɛwa ‘viscera’—parameter 8

da.'la.na = onset of last syllable is nasal, therefore penultimate stress
o.'ɾai.pa = diphthong in penultimate, therefore penultimate stress
Etc.

Allophonic Rules

/voiced obstruent/ → [+voiceless] / __#
/l/ → [ɬ] / [t] __
/j/ → [ʝ] / V__V
/h/ → [ç] / __ [+high front vocoid]
/+voiceless stop/ → [+ aspirated] / __ #
/+ high front V/ → [+ centralized; lowered] q __
/h/ → [ɦ] / [+voiced] __ [+voiced]
/+ tense V/ → [+ long] / __ #
N → [l] / __ /l/
V → [+nasalized] / __ N
N → [α. + velar β. + alveolar γ. + bilabial] / __ [C α. + velar β. + alveolar γ. + bilabial]
/ʌ/ → [ə] / __ #
/ɾ/ → [+retroflex fricative] / /+retroflex fricative/ __
/ɣ/ → [ɰ] / /ɯ/ __
/t/ → /tʃ] / __ /j/
/+ voiced C/ → [+voiceless] / [+voiceless C] __

Minimal Pairs

Vowels

mi
‘girl’
‘jealous’
my
‘silk’
me
‘row’
‘thin’
ma
‘mother’
‘snarl’ (v.)
mo
‘oh really?’
‘pan’
‘device’
‘indistinct’
mu
‘core’
‘duckling’
mai
‘free’
mei
‘bright yellow’
moi
‘deceit’
mɔi
‘weaving’
mʌi
‘drip’ (v.)
myi
‘smooth’

Consonant Minimal Pairs

awu
‘upright’
aɣu
‘blind’
aʟu
‘machete’
uga
‘dough’
uxa
‘axe’
uʟa
‘old woman’
uka
‘companion’
uqa
‘piglet’
da
‘rock’
ɾa
‘cunning’
sa
‘deep’
ʂa
‘supply’
za
‘prostitute’
ʃa
‘petal’
ʐa
‘blizzard’
ta
‘face’
na
‘shame’
la
‘sorrow’
ɬa
‘swing’
pa
‘wrap’
ma
‘mother;’
fa
‘cotton’
ɸa
‘breeze’
va
‘corset’
βa
‘energy’
ba
‘father’
wa
‘stretch’
iha
‘plan’
iʔa
‘insect’
imo
‘eyelash’
ino
‘color’
iŋo
‘sugar’
ke
‘hand’
‘lettuce’
ko
‘intend’
‘tilt the head’
ɾe
‘hot’
ɾɛ
‘write’
ʂy
‘sorrow’
ʃy
‘be’

Orthography

The writing system is called seʂa (meaning also ‘be made real’). It exists in three modes: tuɾɛ (‘soft’), which is a cursive script, ʂɛk (‘hard’), which is a runic system, and the default, which is standard.

It is a phonemic alphabet with 42 symbols, one for each phoneme in the language.

Default: Standard

tuɾɛ

ʂɛk


Phonological Changes

In the mother language of Rilin, there were two phonemically distinguishable vowel lengths, long and short. The vowels i, e, a, o, and u had both long and short versions. When the ancestral Rilin language transformed into modern Rilin, the vowels shifted. Short vowels became lax in the case of the high- and mid-front vowels (i, e), unrounded in the case of the high- and mid- back vowels (o, u), and the low back vowel became more front. ø was pushed back and became ʌ (causing a merger of ø and o). ə became ɛ. The long vowels simply became short versions of themselves.

i → ɪ
i: → i

ə → ɛ
e → ɛ
e: → e

o → ʌ
ø → ʌ
o: → o

u → ɯ
u: → u

a → æ
a: → a

There were also three diphthongs in the earlier Rilin which became monothongs in modern Rilin.

au → ɔ
ju → y
eu → ø

In Lunauli, ɔ became merged with a and is no longer a distinguishable phoneme.

(N.B. In the word “Lunauli”, and other words with the a + u combination, this sequence is not considered a phonemic diphthong but rather a sequence of two separate phonemes, a and u. This applies to all words in either modern Rilin dialect with a + u, j + u, or e + u combinations.)