Introducing: Honskhardn (and Phonetics)

So apparently a few people were actually interested in this constructed language I’m working on this month.

Which is kinda cool but also a little frustrating, since this particular language is vested in a lot of prior work I’ve done — which is to say, there’s a lot inform people about before getting to the language itself.

So let’s get started.

So a few months back, I finalized a grammar for a constructed language I’d been working on for some time, called Pretistelen (< link to the Google doc). Pretistelen is meant to be a large piece of background worldbuilding for a set of novels I’ve been working on (incidentally, the same world that the Biocrystal system will be used in).

However, Pretistelen itself as described in the grammer I wrote is spoken 800 years before the events of the novel. So I’ve also been working on a set of daughter languages used in the novel’s temporal setting. In particular, four I’ve determined to be relevant to the story (out of 10+ I could have easily gone for, and six that I’d originally planned for).

The language I’m working on this month, Hónskhardn, is one of the less relevant of the four, and the least complicated, historically and culturally; so it felt like the best daughter language to start on, to sort of experiment with what I could do with these languages. To try to find the happy medium between changing too much and changing not enough.

So we’ll see how that works out.

Let’s begin with the phonetics.

I’ve had the phonology of this language more or less set in stone for years; the real trick for them, however, is proving to be the orthography — that is, how to represent all those sounds without resorting to the IPA. I think I’ve found a solution for Hónskhardn, at least, but I’m not entirely satisfied with it still.

Hónskhardn has 29 consonants and 13 vowels. Not including allophones, length contrasts, and diphthongs. But we’ll still list most of those.

a /ɑ/ This is the “ah” at the back of the throat, as in English “father” or “pardon”.
á /ɑ:/ An accent mark indicates that a vowel is long. As in English “wad” or “sod”.
ae /æ/ This is the “ah” at the front of the mouth, as in English “bat” or “pass”. NEVER pronounce this as in “rate” or “Caesar”.
aé /æ:/ As in English “pad” or “bad”.
b /b/
d /d/
dh /ð/ Soft “th” sound, as in “this” and “those”.
dl /dɮ/ A voiced lateral affricate. Basically take “lh” from below and add it to a “d”.
dz /dz/
e /e/ This always has an “ey” sound, as in the word “freight”.
e /ɛ/ The “eh” in “get” or “wreck”. Yes, I know it’s weird to have <e> representing two different sounds. This is the main problem I’ve been facing.
é /e:/
f /ɸ/ Basically just the “f” sound, but more forward in the mouth.
g /g/ Always pronounced hard, like “get” or “gain”. NEVER as in “gin” or “gyro”.
gh /ɣ/ A non-English sound produced by starting to produce a “g” and then releasing a continuous stream of air from the throat. Or, if you prefer, simultaneously pronouncing “g” and “h”.
h /h/
i /ɪ/ The “ih” in “gin” or “bit”.
í /i:/ The “ee” sound in “machine”. NEVER as in “bite”.
j /j/ Pronounced as in German; that is, it’s always the consonantal “y” sound.
j /ɥ/ Pronounced by producing the consonantal “y” sound but with rounded lips. Unlike <e> and <o>, I’m not concerned about this one using the same letter as /j/, since I’ve only had it appear in a couple of words total.
k /k/
kh /x/ As in the German “ch”. Produced by pronoucing “k” with a continuous stream of air from the throat. I’d like to use <x> to represent this, but I feel readers will very easily misinterpret it as “ks” instead.
l /l/ Always pronounced as light (“light”, “list”), never as dark (“poll”, “hill”), even at the end of syllables. For best results, make sure your tongue is touching your top front teeth when pronouncing this.
lh /ɬ/ Pronounced more or less by producing the “l” and “h” simultaneously. The equivalent of the Welsh “ll” sound.
ll /ʟ/ Basicaly the dark “l” sound, but darker. Produce by pronouncing an “l” but with the tongue in the position for producing a “k” or “g”.
m /m/
n /n/
ng /ŋ/ The “ng” sound from “sing” or “rang”. Not that this sound may occur at the beginning of syllables as well as at the end.
o /o/ Always as in “code” or “road”.
o /ɔ/ As in English “for” or “core”. Another problematic letter being used for an extra sound.
ó /o:/
oe /ø/ Yet another non-English sound, most similar to the German “ö”. Produced by pronoucning “ey” and then simultaneously rounding the lips.
oé /ø:/
p /p/
r /r/ Always trilled, NEVER as in the English “r” or the French/German “r”.
s /s/
t /t/
th /θ/ The hard “th” sound, as in “thin” and “thimble.”
tl /tɬ/ Produced by pronouncing the “lh” sound after a “t”.
ts /ts/ Pronounced in full, as in German “z”; NEVER as English speakers pronounce “tsumani”.
u /ʊ/ The sound in “good” and “should”.
ú /u:/ The “oo” in “uber” or “blue”. NEVER with the “y” sound in front of it, as in “cute” or “huge”.
v /β/ See note on “f”.
w /w/
y /ʏ/ A non-English sound, pronounced like the German “ü”. Basically, pronounced as in “ih”, but with the lips rounded.
ý /y:/ Pronounced as in “ee” but with the lips rounded.
z /z/

Additionally, Hónskhardn has five diphthongs and four syllabic consonants.

Diphthongs: ai (“aye”), au (“cow”), ei (“hey”), oi (“toy”), and ou (“tow”).

Syllabics: m, n, ng, r. These only appear at the end of words, in more or less the same fashion as in English.

The stress is pretty simple: it always falls on the last syllable, unless that syllable is a syllabic consonant; then it falls on the second-to-last syllable.

So the name of the language is pronounced hon-SKHAR-dun. (hone-SCAR-dun, but with the “c” replaced with a velar fricative?)

My main concern is with “o” and “e”, since I feel the orthography should really distinguish between /o/ and /ɔ/, and between /e/ and /ɛ/. But I’m not sure how to do that without having to get into some really crazy digraphs or using more diacritics.

Thoughts? I guess?

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