Denkurian Phonology


closei [i]u [u]
mide [e~ɛ]o [o~ɔ]
opena [a]

e, and o tend to be pronounced more open and lax, [ɛ], and [ɔ], in closed syllables and when unstressed. Otherwise, they are usually pronounced more tensely as [e] and [o].


  • Rising diphthongs are written as a semivowel <y>/<w> followed by a full vowel or interpreted as sequences of a consonant+vowel.
  • Only falling diphthongs (second element a high vowel /i u/) are considered true diphthongs in Denkurian.
  • Diphthongs are a combination of a mid/low vowel /a e o/ with a high vowel /i u/ or two high vowels
  • Falling diphthongs (ending in /i/ or /u/) tend to naturally break before /r/ in closed syllables.
  • Hiatus is indicated with a dieresis over the second vowel in a combination that would normally form a diphthong

Falling diphthongs

DiphthongsEnds with i [i]Ends with u [u]
Starts with [a]ai [ai~aɪ]au [au~aʊ]
Starts with [e]ei [ei~eɪ]eu [eu~eʊ]
Starts with [i]iu [iu~iʊ]
Starts with [o]oi [oi~oɪ]ou [ou~oʊ]
Starts with [u]ui [ui~uɪ]


Nasalm [m]n [n] ny [ɲ](n [ŋ ~ɴ])1(n [ŋ ~ ɴ])1 
Plosivevoicelessp [p]   t [t]   k [k]   
voicedb  [b]d [d]g [g]
Affricatevoiceless  c [t͡s] ch [t͡ʃ]   
voicedx [d͡z]j [d͡ʒ]
Fricativevoiceless f [f] th [θ]s [s] sh [ʃ] hy [ç]kh/h
[x ~ χ]2
[x ~ χ]2
h/gh [h]4
voicedv [v]dh [ð]z [z]zh [ʒ]
Approximant w [w]    y [j]  
Lateral    l [l]    
Tap    r [ɾ]3    
trillr/rr [r]3
  • 1allophones of [n] before velar and uvular consonants
  • 2 [x ~ χ] are in free variation, <h> before <l r w>; may be realized as [ç] syllable final after [i]
  • 3 Medially, <r>=tap, <rr> = trill (like Spanish). Elsewhere,<r> is a trill.
  • 4 <gh> after <c, k, s, t, d, z>, <h> elsewhere
ŋn (before g, k)
ð dh
x~χkh, <h> before <l r w>
rMedially, <r>=tap, <rr> = trill (like Spanish). Elsewhere a trill.
h<gh> after <c, k, s, t, d, z>, <h> elsewhere

Double consonants

Double consonants are pronounced as geminates, that is, double, or they are pronounced as a sequence of /h/ + the consonant. They can only occur in the middle of words.

Syllable pattern


Any single consonant may begin a syllable, and any single consonant can end a syllable except /ɲ/. For this purpose <q> does not count as a single consonant, since it represents the sequence <kw>

Syllables may start with

  • stop + l, r (except *tl, *dl)
  • fricatives s, z, sh, zh, th, dh, f, v, kh + l, r (except *thl, *dhl; note that /xl/ and /xr/ are <hl> and <hr>)
  • s, sh + unvoiced stop, f, m, or n
  • z, zh + voiced stop, v
  • any consonant + w, y (except *shy, *zhy; note that *khy > hy)
  • tv, dv, kn, kv, gn, gv, ps, ks, skh
  • s, sh + unvoiced stop, f + l, r, w, y :: /s ʃ/ + /p t k f/ + /l r w j/ (except *stl, *shtl)
  • z, zh + voiced stop, v + l, r, w, y :: /z ʒ/ + /b d g v/ + /l r w j/ (except *zdl, *zhdl)

Syllables may end with

  • Voiceless stop + s :: /p t k/ + /s/ , i.e. ps, c, ks
  • liquid/nasal + stop/affricate/fricative
  • s + voiceless stop


  • Words are usually stressed on the penultimate (second to last) syllable.
  • Words that do not follow this pattern have the stress indicated with an acute accent on the corresponding vowel
  • If a diphthong is stressed, the first vowel in the combination receives the acute accent
  • For words with irregular stress, when a suffix is added, stress shifts back to the penultimate syllable.

Sound alternations (using IPA)

Due to the phonological history of the language, a few changes may occur at morpheme boundaries that produce sound alternation in the conjugation or declension classes of verbs, nouns and adjectives. These alternations may also be seen in compound vs. non-compound forms of a word.

1. Historic diphthongs

*au > o

*eu > u

*iu > ju

*ou > u

*uu > au

*ai > e

*ei > i

*ii > ai

*oi > i

*ui > oi

This is particularly seen in verb conjugation (see figure).

Verb conjugation stem variation (in IPA)

Stem vowelWhen followed by -uWhen followed by -i

*Causes palatalization of the final stem consonant

2. Palatalization

Some verb classes and a subset of some nouns and adjectives have a historic /j/ after the last consonant of the stem in some forms. This produces palatalization of some consonants:

s > ʃ

z > ʒ

t > ts

d > dz

ts > t͡ʃ

dz > d͡ʒ

t͡ʃ > ʃ

d͡ʒ > ʒ

k > t͡ʃ

g > d͡ʒ

x > ç

h > ç

For other consonants, /j/ simply surfaces as <y>.  /ç/ /ʒ/ and /ʃ/ can’t be further palatalized.

A note about derivation

When a noun ends in a vowel and an affix beginning with a vowel is suffixed, the final vowel of the noun stem is dropped.