Pabappa phonology

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Pabappa's phonology consists of five vowels: /a e i o u/, and ten consonants: /p m s b l w r t d n/. If /w/ is analyzed as an allophone of /u/, there are only nine consonants, which rivals but does not quite beat the smallness of the phonology of Late Andanese.

Phoneme inventory and frequency

Pabappa's phonology is relatively small, with just five vowels and ten consonants. Its ancestor, Play, had four vowels (/a i u ə/) and 11 consonants (/p b m f t n s š ž k ŋ/; note that /w j/ were considered allophones of the vowels), while Poswa has six vowels and 29 consonants. All words are accented on the initial syllable, even if they are very long. About 42% of words in the dictionary begin with /p/, which is also the most common consonant in other positions.

Vowel proportions are as follows: a 42.3%, e 7.4%, i 20.4%, o 10.0%, u 20.0%.

Consonant proportions are as follows: p 32.5%, m 12.6%, s 11.2%, b 11.0%, l 7.5%, r 7.3%, n 6.3%, t 5.6%, w 3.9%, d 2.0%. The sound /d/ occurs in native words only between vowels, and never as a geminate. Not surprisingly, words with /p/ as the only consonant are common:

  • pupupopa "umbrella"
  • pipapi A state within Padempim (earlier known as Pipaippis)
  • pepupop "to dream"
  • pupapap "to cry"
  • pipipi "municipal, city-level government"
  • papapa "to squirm, slither"

But verbal inflections use /p/ very rarely (only in the subjunctive), leading to a less extreme balance in overall text. For example:

Pampa pupapasi.
The baby cried.

changes the final -p in pupapap "cry" into an -s-. This is due to an old sound change where p in some positions changed to f (as it still is in Poswa) and then to s.

Additionally, around 800 years ago Pabappa underwent a different sound change whereby /p/ between vowels changed to /b/. Previously there had been even more use of /p/ in the language. At this time the language was called Papapfa. Most occurences of geminate /pp/ in modern Pabappa go back to clusters of dissimilar consonants such as /pf/.

If /w/ is considered an allophone of /u/, then /u/ is the only vowel that can occur in sequences, as other sequences such as /oo/ are shortened to singles in compounds.

Stress and division of compounds

See Pabappa nouns.

As in its ancestor Play, and its sister languages such as Poswa, all words in Pabappa are stressed on the initial syllable. There are no exceptions to this rule, although function words such as pronouns are generally pronounced with less obvious stress than content words such as nouns and verbs.

Pabappa has some very long words, both nouns and verbs:

Pop pampapubisi.
We've remarried.
Mas apsemabablesa?
Do you give up?
Pom popapimpemip islosa sipompi.
I bought a new chair.

However, in Pabappa, sometimes compounds are broken up into two separate pieces, even if they are thought of as a unit by the speakers.

For example, the common word for weather is pubomblap, a compound of pubom "top" and blap "sky". Thus, it means "the sky (on) top". (Not "the top of the sky", which would be *blapubom.) When pronounced as a single word, the commonly perceived meaning is "weather". However, it would still be acceptable in Pabappa to say pubom blap, pronouncing the compound as two separate words, and still intend the meaning "weather". It would merely be more ambiguous whether you were talking about the weather or simply the uppermost visible layer of the sky from which the weather pours down.

In general, the only compounds which cannot be broken up in this way are those in which one element of the compound is ambiguous as a standalone word. The Pabappa word tappibup means "pear (fruit)". This word is a compound because historically the Pabaps considered pears to be simply a kind of apple, namely the pup kind. (Pup was originally a verb and therefore follows the noun; the change of -p- to -b- is due to a sound rule.) but one cannot say *tappi pup for "pear" because in this compound, the morpheme pup is no longer meaningful on its own, since it occurs with this meaning only in this word.

Most indivisible compounds refer to nouns such as this, where the second noun describes the first; often, this second morpheme was originally an intransitive verb, which functions like an adjective.

Historical sound changes

The sound change champions

Examples of sound changes:

  • pepupop "dream", from fīp bubaešep žeše
  • rasumptam "frog", from vaipa babu bem žeptam. This word is spelled ra-sum-pit-tam in the syllabary form of the native alphabet, but nonetheless is pronounced with three syllables and no epenthetic [i].
  • pulta- "to drink", from beiyabaup mibeas "to destroy thirst"
  • wisi "to watch from behind", from žužu žišafu; compare the almost unchanged Poswa cognate žužužišaf
  • pumpassi "knee", from buba map pasi pi
  • popa "mermaid", from tūpbayaba; however, this word is obsolete as a standalone morpheme
  • apli "glove", from aappa yiyibis

Note that these words exclude inflected forms, which would make the contrasts even starker. For example, the possessive suffix -i comes from the combination of an early Pabappa inflected form of a noun followed by a suffix such as , later baba (all of the suffixes merged as -i). Thus, since a noun already ending in -i is its own possessive, it could be said that the word for knee actually comes from buba map pasi pi bā. But since this would work for all nouns, it does not set some nouns apart from others, and thus is not considered part of the "championship".

Other words
  • pommap "pillow", listed as being from pe papžap ma ību, though I can't quite see how this would work. I can get it to popmap with some intricate sound changes, so I must have assumed that there would be an automatic change of /pm/ > /mm/ and just not bothered to include it in my sound change list.

The many ways to /p/

Pabappa can derive /p/ from many unexpected paths, especially at the beginning or end of a word. Below are some examples of Pabappa words that begin with or contain /p/ that developed from other consonants in the parent language Babakiam. Note that the spelling in the first word in each chain is in Babakiam's Romanization, which uses v for /w/ and e for /ə/. Also, the Englsh translations given are those for the modern Pabappa words, and do not always match the meaning of the original Babakiam word. To keep the chains short, some steps are skipped:

  • p: [this is the regular outcome]
  • b: bižip "suds, bubbles, foam" > bižep > biep > piep [this is the regular outcome in initial position]
  • m: bismibu "to crash, collide, bump into" > besmibu > bemibu > bemeby > bemʲy > bevy > beb > pep
  • f: fīp bubaešep "to sleep" >>> pepup
  • t: tuepbebaus "wheel" > twybbybos > pwybbybos > pubbybos > pubbibos > pobbibos > pobbos > poppos > poppo > popo
  • n: nuabaŋam "machine" > nwabagam > bwabagam > bwabgam > bubgam > bubžam > bubvam > pupfam > puppam
  • s: sevi pupta "sleep flower" > syre potta > sʷrepotta > frepotta > frepotta > frepta > fepta > pepta
  • š: žusa šubup "candle" > žusa šubop > usa šwop > usa šup > usa hup > usa fup > usapup
  • ž: šižu šes "bomb" >>> ippus[1]
  • k: fuempika "to oscillate" > fwympika > fwumpika > fumpika > fompika > fompeka > pompeka > pompeša > pompefa > pompepa
  • ŋ: ŋuŋe "fat, blubber, weight" > gugy > gugi > žuži > vuvi > fuvi > pubi

Additionally, the cluster -mž- unconditionally becomes -mp- in Pabappa, by way of the path mž > mbž > mb > mp. Since this involves a syllable boundary, and no syllable could ever end in a cluster, it could be argued that this shift is another example of ž > p.


There is relatively little sandhi in Pabappa, either of vowels or consonants. Many sound rules that were part of sandhi in older stages of the language have disappeared through application as sound changes. For example, in older stages of Pabappa, the cluster /ms/ was common, but was pronounced [ns], with the /m/ assimilating to the place of articulation of the dominant following /s/. This cluster has now become /ns/ in modern Pabappa, making the sandhi rule irrelevant. A new cluster /ms/ arose from a separate later sound change, but the old sandhi rule had ceased to apply, and instead in modern Pabappa this cluster has become /mps/.

Voicing assimilation across word boundaries

Words beginning with b- (including bl-) become devoiced in casual speech when following a word ending with a voiceless consonant. Thus blibip blasu "eggshell" is pronounced as if spelled blibip plasu.

Phonetic adaptation of loanwords

Velar consonants

Although they are very rare, Poswa retains the velar consonants /k/ and /g/ inherited from its parent language. Pabappa does not have these, and therefore generally borrows them as /t/ and /d/ respectively. In some words, particularly names, they are instead borrowed as /tr/ and /dr/. This leads to the clusters /tr/ and /dr/ appearing in word-initial position, whereas in native words they do not appear in any position. This is because a previous sound change wiped out all /tr/ by changing it to /pr/, and /dr/ never existed to begin with because /d/ only appears intervocalically in native words.

/t/ and /d/

kunma "target for abuse; bullying victim" ---> tumma

/tr/ and /dr/

Keba (boy's name) ---> Treba

Postalveolar consonants

The postalveolar fricative /š/ is borrowed as an /s/ in all positions.


The voiced postalveolar fricative /ž/ is generally borrowed as /d/, although in some clusters it takes other forms. In a few words, this results in a /d/ appearing either at the beginning or the end of a word, whereas in native Pabappa words /d/ can only appear between vowels. Below are some Pabappa words containing /d/ that were loaned from Poswa:

povož "a type of grass" ---> pobod

Some Pabaps pronounce final -d as -n, which occurs in native words. The number of such words in Pabappa is so small that neither pronunciation has fully won out amongst the population as a whole, and some speakers even vary their pronunciation of the same individual word from one sentence to another. Words with final -d are treated as vowel stems, as though they had recently lost a final -e:

Pobur pobodep blumblumpi.
The boy cut the grass.
Pobodebum pitespaba pibibaniba pibim.
Many grasses grow here.

tš and dž

The cluster /tš/ is borrowed as /ts/, and /dž/ is borrowed as /dd/. This is also unique to loanwords, as Pabappa's /d/ sound originated from a weakening of single intervocalic /t/, and therefore was never geminated in any native words. Below are some Pabappa words containing /dd/ that were loaned from Poswa:

idžipa "a style of women's underwear; wide-cut panties" ---> iddipa
wagža "superhero, celebrity" ---> wadda
Wadda iddipip babem ablaba.
The superhero is wearing her favorite panties.

However, when /dd/ would result in an illegal consonant cluster, it becomes /d/ or some other sound depending on the other consonant in the cluster.

džulpub "plateau" ---> dulpub
džadži "tribe, league" ---> daddi
džafta "one who will only work outdoors" ---> dapta (whence the back-formation dap "to prefer to work outdoors")
Daddi dulpubem sostosa, dasa.
The tribe living on the plateau prefers to work outdoors.
note, maybe add -s to the verb here, as in Korean and Japanese.

Labiodental consonants

The labiodental consonants /f/ and /v/ are borrowed into Pabappa as /p/ and /b/ respectively. Until just a few hundred years ago, Pabappa still had these consonants, although they were rare. Some written material can still be found in which the letters for /f/ and /v/ are present, as the spellings persisted for a few generations after the sound change was complete.

Thus, the Poswa word fefappo "metal, hard firm object" has been borrowed into Pabappa as pepappo.

Pom pobapap pepappoba panampa.
I like hard candy.

Labialized consonants

Labialization before a vowel is usually borrowed by adding an -u- before that vowel, unless that vowel is itself -u-. However, the labialized bilabial fricative /vʷ/ is borrowed as a /w/ before vowels. Thus the Poswa word pwubo "income, salary, rate of pay" is nativized as pubo.

Pom pubobi pullabap papi.
I made ten pullaba.

Geminate consonants

Geminate consonants are not common in Pabappa, despite the name of the language containing one. The commonest geminate consonants in Pabappa are those resulting from recent changes: -pp- (mostly from /pf ff fp/), -ss- (almost always from /sp/).

Other geminates are rarer, and some are entirely absent from native words. Nevertheless, in words loaned from Poswa, doubled consonants are borrowed faithfully, even if they do not occur in any native Pabappa words.

Geminate consonants are much more common in Poswa than in Pabappa, even -pp-. Thus, unfamiliar words with geminate consonants are often assumed to be Poswa loans.

Assimilation of foreign consonant clusters

Poswa allows consonant clusters that are rare or nonexistent in Pabappa.


For example, many Poswa words begin with pl- or bl-. In Pabappa, both sets of words came to have initial bl-. There is one native word in Pabappa with initial -pl-: plap "curiosity; to be curious".

Pom plasa, nim lasum numpa blel?
I'm curious, why only one word?

This initial pl- came from an earlier fl-, which in turn came from an earlier sʷl-, which was a very rare initial consonant cluster and therefore produced only one modern Pabappa word. However, despite the scarcity of native words beginning with pl-, Pabappa has been loaning words from Poswa for a long time and has consistently retained it as pl-. Thus Poswa plobie, the name of a type of grass, is indeed also called plobie in Pabappa.

Other clusters

However, other initial clusters are usually broken up by inserting an -i- and doubling the second consonant. Thus, Poswa prapem "favorite, one wished for" becomes Pabappa pirrapem. However, pf- is excluded from this rule: Poswa pfwunuvwa "diaper pin" becomes Pabappa punua, not *pippunua.

Assimilation of vowels in loanwords

Since relatively few native Pabappa words end in -o, a word that ends in -o is very often a loanword from Poswa.


The only vowel present in Poswa that is absent in Pabappa is y (a schwa-like sound with several flexible allophones). It is often omitted in loanwords, but when this would create an illegal consonant cluster it is borrowed into Pabappa as i. For example, pambibum is a type of chair, from Poswa pambvybum.

Morphology of loanwords

Pabappa does not adopt Poswa's often irregular noun declension system for the words it borrows from Poswa; in fact nearly all loanwords are borrowed as regular Pabappa nouns regardless of whether they were regular or irregular in Poswa. This means that Pabappa does not make use of convenient "shortcuts" whereby some Poswa words become shorter when they are inflected. For example, the Poswa word for cellphone is pampappep, and when the first-person possessive affix is added it becomes pampappo "my cellphone". (The word literally means "pocket voice".) Pabappa has borrowed this word as pampappep, but it declines as a normal Pabappa noun would, meaning that the word for "my cellphone" is pampappepiba. Thus one can say

Pampappepiba tuneba.
My cellphone is ringing.

Loanword charts

A sample of words borrowed from Poswa into Pabappa is below:

Modern loanwords

See Modern terminology in Poswa and Pabappa.

New words are taken in directly, with the Poswa sounds being mapped directly to Pabappa ones. Some words exist alongside native words which can be used according to the preference of the speaker:

Poswa Pabappa English
pampappep pampappep cell phone
bvobbwa bobbua pharmacy, drugstore
pespol pespol spaceship
pumpella pumpella treasury, bank
pwubo pubo income, rate of pay
sobbvampys sobbampis mirror
biželli bidelli type of mushroom; elastic, springy
žandžafi dandapi to tickle
džuvžu dundu table of contents; list of items
busfobioba buspobioba handcuffs
paffompop pappompop childish person
plambol plambol to vote in an election
povopa pobopa pregnant (grammar)
pammo pammo baby (grammar)

Older words

Some older words were taken into Pabappa before sound changes which made them look less similar. Words which have disappeared from Poswa in the meantime are marked with an asterisk:

Poswa Pabappa English
vupaefa pupaipa tissue of the body
bivibos pibiba skin, body
bumpraf pumbap deal, agreement, deed of alliance
pupwub pupub allowed to decide; boss, manager
pumbo pumpo national border

Onomatopoeia and expressive words


Onomatopoeia is rare in Pabappa.

Onomatopoeic words can be used as both nouns and verbs; for example, ner can mean a cat or the sound of its meow, rop can mean a dog or its bark, and so on. Note, however, that using a word like rop for "dog" sounds informal and childish even to speakers of Pabappa, and most adults would instead use one of the ordinary words for dog such as pabradia.

Because of Pabappa's grammar, many onomatopoeic words lose much of their resemblance to the sounds they represent when conjugated as verbs, as for example one can say

Pabradia rosi.
The dog barked.
Popsam nebi.
The cat meowed.

To solve this, onomatopoeic words used as verbs are usually padded with the additional verb pir "to make a noise", which can be compared to one use of English go. This verb is regular, and thus one often hears

Pabradia ropibi.
The dog barked.
Popsam nerpibi.
The cat meowed.


Despite its simple phonology, Pabappa was usually written with an alphabet rather than a syllabary. Its people had inherited the artistic tradition of using multiple scripts, many of them ornate and visually appealing to the eye, but having one primary script to use when the need to communicate effectively was the primary goal.

While a syllabary was retained as the primary script until fairly recent times, teachers eventually agreed that students learned faster with an alphabetic system since a syllabary would often lead to misestimation of the number of syllables in a word if that word contained closed syllables. Thus the simple alphabet remains the primary orthography for Pabappa. The letter order is little changed from that of its parent language babakiam:

p m s b l r w t n d
a e i o u

The vowel order was switched due to Andanese influence, even though Andanese had been dead for several thousand years. The letter order of the consonants is very similar to their order in a list by frequency, with the first six matching exactly and the other four matching as well except for /n/ and /w/ being swapped.

NOTE, but what about the stage when Pabappa didnt have /b/? is it really likely that they would have restored it to the same position?


  1. This derivation may be a mistake (i didnt mark it as irregular), but even if so, the part of it that shifts ž > p is sound.