There are 30 phonemic consonants in the inventory of Amòssi.
The chart above shows 23 of the 30 phonemic consonants. The additional 7 consonants form two different series: the velarized alveolar series, and the labio-velar series:
- The velarized alvelolar series is similar to the "emphatic" consonants of the Semitic languages. Only certain alveolar consonants can be velarized phonemically, but phonetically in many dialects, other consonants are velarized as well. The series consists of 5 of the "plain" alveolars in the chart above: /n t d s l/, whose velarized counterparts are: /nˠ tˠ dˠ sˠ ɫ/. The distinction can easily be seen in minimal pairs such as s and ṣ (/s/ and /sˠ/ respectively); the former means 'of, from', while the latter means 'and'.
- The labio-velar series is much smaller, and only consists of 2 phonemes: /kʷ gʷ/. Rather than being simply /k g/ with a secondary articulation, however, they are literally a /k g/ sound pronounced with the lips rounded. However, because the distinction is somewhat difficult to hear, especially for non-native speakers, many dialects have either neutralized the distinction (i.e. merging /k g/ and /kʷ gʷ/), or strengthened the distinction (i.e. strengthening /kʷ gʷ/ to /kp gb/, labio-velar stops). But, in the standard Amòssi dialect, the distinction is a labialized stop.
There are 9 contrasting (short) vowels in the standard Amòssi dialect. In addition, there are 4 contrasting nasalized vowels, as well as lengthened vowel counterparts to each short vowel (nasalized vowels excluded).
As mentioned earlier, each of these 9 vowels has a long counterpart: /i: y: u: ø: ɤ: ɛ: ɔ: ɐ: ɑ:/. In addition, 4 of these vowels has a nasalized counterpart: /ɑ̃ ɛ̃ ɔ̃ ũ/.
In terms of consonant clusters, Amòssi is quite lenient in sounds that are allowed to be put together in the beginning and in the middle of words, especially compared to English. Take the words pšurtenn ('part, piece, chapter') and aìknro ('we know how to...') for example. However, the rules regarding final clusters of consonants is much stricter; in fact, words can only end in vowels, velar consonants (excluding labio-velar consonants), coronal consonants (includes alveolar, velarized alveolar, palato-alveolar, and retroflex consonants), or uvular consonants.
For more information, see the section of Phonology regarding syllable structure.
The subject of whether diphthongs exist in Amòssi is very controversial. Some experts might argue that there are because vowels in hiatus are not pronounced in separate syllables, and they are not separated with a buffer consonant such as [ʔ j w] or other. However, others argue that vowels in hiatus are non-contrastive with any separate vowel (only with other vowels in hiatus) because they derive from the structure (C)VCV(C), in which the middle consonant was eroded due to sound changes. In other words, they argue that there are no diphthongs in Amòssi because one vowel does not "glide" to another, but each are fully pronounced within one syllable.
One of the main issues regarding vowels in hiatus is that both long and short versions exist; hao is pronounced [hA:O:], while heišš is pronounced [hEis`]. Therefore, the issue is not a moraic one: [A:O:] would be four morae due to the two long vowels together, while [Ei] would be two morae. Additionally, some words might even have trimoraic syllables, in which one of the two vowels in hiatus is long and the other is short, ie ṭłoäma, 'to bring'<i> ([tˠɫɔ:ɐmɑ]). Clearly, this derives from a lost consonant in between the two, although it is much rarer than the other two combinations (partially due to hypercorrection, in that V:V or VV: became pronounced V:V: before single consonants and VV before double consonants, etc. See the section on orthography).
Clusters of vowels can easily be seen in many places, the most common of which is in verb conjugation (prevocalic /i u y/ are not being considered because it is widely accepted that they are actually pronounced [j w ɥ]), specifically in the present tense conjugation, where a verb ending in -V in the 1st person singular ends in -ṇVi (-ṇi when V is /i/). However, they are also found in several common native words, such as <i>hao, 'two' and heišš, 'you (singular)'
However, in some dialects, there clearly are diphthongs. Either the vowel-in-hiatus controversy is lost in these dialects due to their tendencies to pronounced vowels in hiatus as diphthongs, or they are one of the non-rhotic dialects (see Dialectal Allophony) that pronounces /ʁ/ as [ɐ~ə] in the environment V_(C,#)
Much of the allophony that exists in Amòssi is dialectal. However, there are still regular allophonic rules that over 80% of all dialects seem to adhere to:
- Prevocalic /i u y/ become approximants: /i u y/ > [j w ɥ] / _V
- Nasal vowels are always long: /ɑ̃ ɛ̃ ɔ̃ ũ/ become [ɑ̃: ɛ̃: ɔ̃: ũ:] in any position
- Nasal consonants (N) assimilate to a following consonant: N > n / _C[+alveolar]; N > m / _C[+labial]; N > ŋ / _C[+velar]; N > ɴ / _C[+uvular]
- Velarization assimilation: C[+alveolar][-velarized] > C[+alveolar][+velarized] / next to C[+velarized]. EXCEPTIONS: /ʦ r/
- /h/ before a consonant cluster is deleted: /h/ > 0 / V_CC(C)V
- Front vowels become central vowels next to velarized alveolar consonants, as well as /q/: /i y ø ɛ/ > [ɨ ʉ ɵ ɜ] / next to [nˠ sˠ tˠ dˠ ɫ q]
- /x/ becomes [ɧ~ç~ʃ] next to a front vowel or approximant allophones: /x/ > [ɧ~ç~ʃ] / next to [i y ø ɛ j ɥ]
- Long vowels preceding /ʔ/ become short: V: > V / _ʔ
- Short vowels preceding /x ʁ/ and [j w ɥ] become long: V > V: / _(x ʁ j w ɥ)
- Stops become geminate after nasal consonants: C[+stop] > C:[+stop] / C[+nasal]_
NOTE: Voicing assimilation does not occur in Standard Amòssi: cvenim ('week') is pronounced ['ʦvɛ:.ni:m], NOT ['ʦfɛ:.ni:m] or ['ʣvɛ:.ni:m].
Also: These allophonic rules "happen" in the order that they are shown here. Therefore, if a word contains a front vowel with a velarized alveolar consonant on one side of it, and /x/ on the other, the /x/ will not become [ɧ~ç~ʃ], because the rule centralizing front vowels takes precedence over it, and after that rule would have taken effect, /x/ would no longer be next to a front vowel.
While it is not standard for an Amòssi-speaker to reduce vowels, often times they will. However, the only vowels that can be reduced are /i ɤ ɐ ɑ ɔ/ (in their un-allophone states, if applicable). In unstressed syllables, these vowels will tend to become [ɪ ə ə ɐ ɑ], especially at the unstressed ends of words. Their long counterparts in the same positions will remain [i: ɤ: ɐ: ɑ: ɔ:], however.
Furthermore, often in poetry, song lyrics, and in very casual speech, unstressed, reduced vowels will be deleted when at the end of a word, especially if the following word begins with a vowel. In rarer instances, word-initial unstressed vowels will be deleted, and in even rarer cases, word-medial unstressed vowels will be deleted.
Some consonants can also be reduced in Amòssi. The most common example of a reduced consonant is /h/, which can often be deleted post-vocalically, regardless of what follows it (remember the allophonic rule that deletes /h/ before a consonant cluster). However, the /h/ can also be retained, but in the form [x] post-vocalically. In fact, some dialects even merge /h/ and /x/ into [x] in all positions.
Once again, while not standard in Amòssi, some stops can be reduced, especially between sonorants (sonorants include: all vowels, /r ʁ l ɫ m n nˠ ŋ/). /d dˠ g gʷ/ can be weakened to [ð ðˠ ɣ~ʝ ɣʷ], while /kʷ ʔ/ can be weakened to [xʷ 0] without any misunderstandings.
Here are some of the most common dialectal variations with regards to phonology when it comes to Amòssi. Dialects will have a mix of the following, with no dialect being devoid of any, and no dialect having every feature of the following:
- Affricates become geminated fricatives in any position: /ʦ ʈʂ ɖʐ/ > [s: ʂ: ʐ:]
- Palatalization of consonants before any front vowel: C > Cʲ / _F[i y ø ɛ]. EXCEPTIONS: consonants that alter the following front vowel are not palatalized
- Realization of the glottal stop: /ʔ/ can become one of any of these: [ʔ h ǃ q χ 0], with the most common being [ʔ]
- Alveolar consonants that can be velarized may be so in the combination Cʔ: Cʔ > Cˠ~Cˤ
Similar to some English dialects, some Amòssi dialects may have non-rhoticity with regards to /ʁ/. Non-rhotic dialects handle this differently. In some instances, as previously mentioned, /ʁ/ becomes [ɐ~ə], forming a diphthong with the preceding vowel (with /ɑʁ ɐʁ ɤʁ/ instead becoming [ɑ: ɐ: ɤ:]). However, other dialects lengthen the preceding vowel, leading to a potential 3-way distinction in vowel length (for example, /ɑ/, /ɑˑ/, /ɑ:/; however, this is not a completely accurate description of the phonetics of these phenomenon, because rather than being short, half-long, and long, the vowels are instead short, long, and extra-long- the "half-long" vowel is equivalent in length to a regular long vowel, and a "long" vowel is equivalent to 1.5x a regular long vowel).
As mentioned earlier, /h/ is a very weak consonant, possibly on its way out of the phoneme inventory of Amòssi. In very rare instances, /h/ is deleted post-vocalically (and before another consonant), and then lengthens the preceding vowel; this, once again, can lead to a 3-way length distinction in vowels, the same way that post-vocalic /ʁ/ can. However, most often when the /h/ is deleted and lengthens the preceding vowel, short vowels and long vowels that were lengthened merge into a long vowel (ie. /ɑh/ and /ɑ:h/ both become [ɑ:]).
Vowels can have a range of realizations, the most common being:
- /ɑ ɑ:/ > [ɑ ɑ:] or [a a:]
- /ɐ ɐ:/ > [ɐ ɐ:], [ə ə:], or [ɤ ɤ:]
- /ɔ ɔ:/ > [ɔ ɔ:] or [o o:]
- /ɛ ɛ:/ > [ɛ ɛ:] or [e e:]
- /ɤ ɤ:/ > [ɤ ɤ:], [ɐ ɐ:], [ø ø:], or [ɔ ɔ:]
- /y y:/ > [y y:], [u u:], or [i i:]
- /ø ø: i i: u u:/ are usually consistently the same cross-dialectally
Some other interesting notes about dialectal variation in vowels:
- [ɴ] can nasalize a preceding vowel: Vɴ > V~
- In some rare dialects, nasal vowels are not phonemic, and are replaced with [Vŋ] or other homorganic nasal sounds.
- Dipthongization of long vowels /i: ɛ: ɔ: u:/ to [ij ɛi ɔʊ uw] or some similar variants (ie. [ɪj eɪ əʊ ʊw], etc.)
- In place of length distinction, have a tense/lax distinction: /i i: y y: u u: ø ø: ɤ ɤ: ɛ ɛ: ɔ ɔ: ɐ ɐ: ɑ ɑ:] > [ɪ i: ʏ y: ʊ u: œ ø: ə ɤ: ɛ e: ɔ o: ɐ~ɒ ɑ:] (/ɐ/ merges with /ɑ/)
Syllable Structure and Phonotactics
The syllable structure and phonotactics of Amòssi have not been studied as extensively as other parts of the Amòssi phonology. What we do know about the syllable structure and phonotactics, however, is presented here:
The syllable structure of Amòssi is something somewhat familiar to English-speakers, but the consonant and vowel combinations that are allowed or not allowed are markedly different from English. In terms of the syllable structure, Amòssi words can legally have the following:
|CVVCC||huẽsp||'in front (of)'||CVVCC|
As mentioned previously, Amòssi is much more lax about its word-initial and word-medial consonant clusters, but not as much so with its final clusters.