Qihep phonology

From FrathWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Main article: Qihep

Qihep phonology includes all phonetical features and rules which are part of the Qihep language.

Phonemic system

In the phonological system of the Qihep language there are 20 recognized consonants, plus 4 allophones and 1 unrecognized phoneme, and 6 vowels, with their long and short variants.


This is the consonantal system of Qihep:

Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Labialized
Plosive p b t d k g (ʔ)1
Nasal m (ɱ)2 n ɲ (ŋ)3
Fricative f v s ʃ (ʒ)4 x h
Affricate ʦ ʧ ʤ
Approximants j w
Flap (ɾ)5
Trill r

Features of the consonantal system

The stops [t] and [d] are clearly alveolar, as in Italian, and not dental as in English. A dental realization is not considered however as an error.

The labialized velar [kʷ] is clearly realized as a single consonant, a pronunciation [kw] should be carefully avoided, since it would represent two consonants.

The approximants [w] and [j] are fully considered as consonants and not semivowels.

The velar trill [r] is a trilled consonant, as in Italian, which typically displays at least two vibrations of the tongue while pronounced.

Allophones and unrecognized phonemes

Every allophone and the unrecognized phonemes are not perceived as distinct phonemes by Qihep speakers and they are thus not distinctively indicated in the Qihep script and in its transcription.

  • 1[ʔ] is not recognized as an independent phoneme but it is inserted between two vowels, or between two identical consonants.
  • 2[ɱ] is an allophone of the nasal phoneme [n], realized only before the phonemes [f] or [v].
  • 3[ŋ] is an allophone of the nasal phoneme [n], realized only before the phonemes [k], [g] or [kʷ].
  • 4[ʒ] is an allophone of the affricate phoneme [ʤ], realized only between two vowels. This realization is not however systematic and not every speaker uses this allophone in this phonetic context. This realization is only a possibility.
  • 5[ɾ], an alveolar flap, is an allophone of the alveolar trill [r]. This can be optionally realized instead of the trill phonemes, expecially between two vowels. This realization is however not absolutely systematic.


This is the vocalic system of Qihep:

Front Near-
Central Near-
Close i(ː) u(ː)
Close mid e(ː) o(ː)
Mid ə(ː)
Open a(ː)

The vocalic system in Qihep is seemingly more stable and equilibrate. There are 6 vowels, and every vowel can be distinctively short and long.

[ˈis], iron, vs. [ˈiːs], easy

Some words, showing the alternance between the same vowel in short and long forms, have very similar meaning, at least belonging to the same semantic field.

[ˈxep], mouth, vs. [ˈxeːp], to speak, language

This could mean that lenght alternance was an earlier way to derivate a word from another, but this is surely not true anymore. Qihep today relies only on prefixing and suffixing to create new words from other ones.

There are no known allophones of Qihep vowels.

Qihep is peculiar in having the phoneme [ə] with a full vocalic role, in both short and long forms, and realizing it in a stressed and unstressed context.

No diphthongs are allowed, and if two vowels are realized as adiacent in a compound word, they are meant as part of different syllables, and a glottal stop ([ʔ]) may emerge to keep them separated.

Syllabic structure

Maximal syllabic structure is CCV(ː)C, while the minimal is the simple vocalic nucleus V.

[ˈpreːt] vs. [ˈa]

For the consonantic coda CCV(ː)C, every available consonant is allowed, except for [ʦ], which counts as two consonants and has too much syllabic weight.

For the consonantic onset CCV(ː)C, these are the constrains:

When the onset has a single consonant CV(ː)C, every available consonant is allowed.

When the onset has two consonants CCV(ː)C, there are some restrictions:

  • No double consonants or long consonant is allowed.
  • The consonant [ʦ] counts as two consonants and takes the entire onset of the syllable, allowing no consonant before or after itself.
  • The consonants [ʧ], [ʤ] and [kʷ] count as one consonant, allowing other consonants before themselves.
  • If the second consonant is a liquid, Cl or Cr, the first consonant can be only [b], [p], [k], [g], [t], [d], [f], [v], [h], [x], [s] or [ʃ]
  • If the first consonant is s or ʃ, every available consonant is allowed as the second consonant except for the two consonants themselves, [s] and [ʃ]. and [ʤ].

The restrictions for the syllabic onset do not apply between syllables. The only rule which is always applied is the no double consonants rule: when two identical consonants find themselves together between syllables, a glottal stop [ʔ] emerges and keeps them clearly separated.


Since only one vowel, either a long or a short one, is allowed in the vocalic nucleus, no true diphthongs are allowed in Qihep. When two vowels are found together they are always part of two separated syllable.


A glottal stop [ʔ] may emerge to keep two vowels separated, expecially when the two vowels are identical, to avoid confusion with a long vowel. The emersion of the glottal stop is however not clearly systematic.


The glides [j] and [w] are considered as true consonants and take their place in the syllable forming no diphthongs.

[bej] is a CVC syllable and not a Consonant-Diphtong syllable.

Stress and tones

Every monosyllabic word has its own stress, which does not affect the lenght of the vowel. Since every syllable can have only one vowel as its nucleus, stress marks no difference between any monosyllabic words.

Stress plays a bigger role when words are combined in a compound. In such words the stress of the final syllable is perceived as the main stress (primary) of the new compounded word. The previous accent turns itself in a secondary stress.

[ˈmar] + [ˈmeʃ][ˌmarˈmeʃ]

When a compound is formed with three or more monosyllabic word, only two stress, the primary one on the last syllable and the secondary one, are usually kept. Which of the previous syllable is to be kept stressed is not easily predictable. One predictable case is when the word is formed with an already existing compound word, when the former primary stress turns in the new secondary one:

[ˈfa] + [ˈskət][ˌfaˈskət] ˃ [ˌfaˈskət] + [ˈvran][faˌskətˈvran]

These rules are routinely applied with foreign names too, but some of them can retain their original stress position.

Original French pronunciation France [fʁɑ̃s] → Qihep pronunciation [ˌfranˈsə] or [ˈfranˌsə].


Long vowels show a tonal feature, which is however not distinctive at all in monosyllabic words. In such words the vowels are pronounced with a rising tone:

[xěːp] or [xeːp˧˥] or [xeːp35]

As already said, tone is not distinctive between words (as in Chinese) and it's only a feature of the vocalic nucleus of the syllable. However, tone plays a bigger role, again, when words are combined in a compound. In such words a phenomenon of tone sandhi appears. The tone of the last long vowel preserves its original rising value, while the previous long vowels are pronounced with a mid tonal value:

[kʷǐː] + [xěːp][kʷīːxěːp]
[kʷiː˧˥] + [xeːp˧˥][kʷiː˧xeːp˧˥]
[kʷiː35] + [xeːp35][kʷiː33xeːp35]

Tone sandhi is triggered also in tri- or plurisyllabic compounds, with the previous vowels all pronounced with a mid tonal value, even if there is a short vowel syllable in between:

[ʤǐːv] + [snǎː] + [kə̌ːt][ʤīːvsnāːkə̌ːt]
[ʤiːv˧˥] + [snaː˧˥] + [kəːt˧˥][ʤiːv˧snaː˧kəːt˧˥]
[ʤiːv35] + [snaː35] + [kəːt35][ʤiːv33snaː33kəːt35]

Tone sandhi can be triggered also in multisyllabic compounds, in which the last syllable has a short vowel:

[dǒːl] + [bim][dōːlbim]
[doːl˧˥] + [bim][doːl˧bim]
[doːl35] + [bim][doːl33bim]

This last phenomenon is not technically a sandhi feature, but it may be an influence from other words, to help recognizing a compound.