Dwekoenish phonology

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This article gives a detailed examination of the phonemes of modern Dwekoenish. It also addresses some of the diachronic and synchronic changes that have influenced the language's phonology.

The tables below list the full range of phonemes within standard Dwekoenish. Note that /w/ and /ɫ/ both represent co-articulated approximants; they are positioned in accordance with their secondary point of articulation in the table for convenience.


Bilabial Labiod. Dental Alveolar Post-alv. Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive p b t d k g
Nasal m n (ŋ)
Tap, Flap ɾ
Fricative f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ x h
Affricate ʦ ʣ ʧ ʤ
Approximant w (ɹ) j
Lateral Approximant l (ɫ)


Front Near-front Central Near-back Back
High i y ɨ u
Mid e ø ɤ o
Low a (ɶ) ɑ

Phonological Processes


Dwekoenish phonemes are regarded as exhibiting a particularly narrow range of allophony; this is especially true in the case of vowels, but this is not to say that vowels (or consonants) display no such variation.


A-mutation occurs in syllables preceding those which contain /a/, either as a monophthong or the first vowel in a polypthong:

e → a
ø → ɶ

A currently popular theory in Dwekoenish linguistics is that this shift is entirely responsible for the existence of phonemic /ɶ/, but there exist sufficiently many cases in which the hypothetical triggering /a/ is now absent that further study is needed.


The extent to which this allophony occurs is debated. Studies suggest that is not regionally distributed, nor is it a meaningful indicator of socioeconomic status.

Consonant allophony, on the other hand, is completely conditioned and thus more predictable.

The alveolar nasal /n/ is assimilated to a velar nasal before a velar stop:

n_{g, k} → ŋ

The alveolar lateral approximant /l/ is velarized following a back vowel (except when preceding a consonant):

B_l_{V, #} → ɫ

The tapped /ɾ/ becomes an approximant before consonants and word-finally:

V_ɾ_{C, #} → ɹ

The voiceless stops are aspirated word-initially:

#_{p, t, k}_V → {pʰ, tʰ, kʰ}

These variations represent standard pronunciation. To pronounce them as their usual phonemic realizations in these pronunciations as regarded as unusual at best and pretentious at worst.

Vowel Harmony

Old Dwekoenish exhibits strong characteristics of vowel harmony, but this feature is mostly lost in the modern era. It has, however, resulted in various forms of words that resemble ablaut, and in some cases still triggers certain palatalizations. All such mutations are always reflected in the orthography of the language. While none of the synchronic processes in Dwekoenish are fully documented, the most general rules are well-understood.

The rules are known to be nuanced, and they typically apply only when the triggering vowel occurs either as a monophthong or as the first vowel in a polypthong, and when the affected vowel occurs either as a monophthong or as the last vowel in a polyphthong. The probability that a rule will hold appears to be at least partially dependent on these conditions; it is mostly likely to occur, for example, when both trigger and triggered occur as monophthongs. The details beyond these conditions are less clear.

I-E-mutuation generally affects /a/ in syllables preceding those which contain /e/ or /i/. The rule's name derives from the fact that it is often considered a realization of the same process which is historically responsible for Dwekoenish umlaut. The three characterizations of the rule below denote regional variations of this rule (from most to least common), but all are considered characteristic of standard Dwekoenish and permitted by authoratative style guides. Note, however, that the first characterization is far more common than the latter two.

a → ɤ
a → u
a → o

A clear application of this rule is found by comparing the words which represent multiples of ten with their corresponding multipliers (e.g., dživam → dživómeþ).