The Yeh Language

Phonology and Sample Lexicon

Phonetic Inventory


Front Central Back
Closed i   u
Mid e ə o
Open   a  


  Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal   m   n   ɲ   ŋ
Plosive p b t d     k g
Affricate     t͡s     d͡ʒ    
Fricative f v s       x  
Approximant           j ʍ w
Tap       ɾ      


Phoneme Romanization
m m
n n
ɲ ny
ŋ ng
p p
b b
t~d t
k k
g g
t͡s ts
d͡ʒ j
f f
v v
s s
x h
j y
ʍ hw
w w
ɾ r
a a
e e
i i
o o
u u
ə ë


Syllable structure is (C)(C)V(C₂) where C₂ is a voiced nasal [n, ɲ, ŋ, m] or velar fricative [x].

Within a syllable, consonant clusters occur only at the onset, and consist of a voiceless obstruent /p,t,k,f,s,x,t͡s/ followed by either a tap /ɾ/ or a voiced approximant /j,w/. These restrictions do not apply to consonant sequences across syllable boundaries.

Sound Change (Synchronic)

When the clusters /nŋ/ or /ŋn/ occur within a word, they will coalesce to the single consonant [ɲ]. In rapid speech, this may occur at word boundaries as well.

When two consecutive vowels occur in adjacent syllables, the sequences /ai/,/au/, and /oi/ are realized as diphthongs. In other sequences, consonant epenthesis occurs where [j] is inserted between front-to-back or central-to-back sequences, as well as between /uu/, and [w] is inserted between all other vowel sequences.

Vowels are optionally nasalized when preceding a nasal consonant.

In stressed syllables, voiceless plosives (p,t,k) are aspirated when directly preceding a vowel.

The voiceless plosives /p,t,k/ are realized as voiced [b,d,g] when preceded by a nasal consonant [n, ɲ, ŋ, m], unless directly preceding a vowel in a stressed syllable.

The vowel /a/ in unstressed syllables may assimilate to /ə/ when adjacent to another unstressed syllable with /ə/ in the nucleus. This occurs more frequently in rapid speech.

/w/ is realized as [ʍ] when preceded by [x].



Yeh is a syllable timed language. All syllables are given roughly the same duration.


Word stress is an important prosodic and phonemic feature of Yeh. Stressed syllables are louder and higher in pitch than their unstressed counterparts, but not significantly longer.

A majority of words in Yeh adhere to the following stress pattern: Stress falls on the rightmost heavy syllable, unless there are none, in which case it falls on the initial syllable. Heavy syllables are those which contain a coda consonant or a diphthong.

However, historical sound changes have produced a significant amount of Yeh words that do not conform to this pattern. Additionally, stress-based derivational operations have produced minimal pairs of Yeh words that differ only in terms of stress.

When Yeh is written in the latin alphabet, stress is marked with an acute accent. Accent marking is always omitted for monosyllabic words and optional for multisyllabic words without heteronyms. When Yeh is written in Yeh script, stress is only marked for certain words: uncommon words that don't conform to Yeh's weighted stress pattern, and words possessing heteronyms that differ only in stress.


Generally, sentences gradually fall in pitch, though speakers may end a sentence or clause on a rising intonation to indicate that they have more to say. A particular word may be pronounced with a sharp rise and fall in pitch to give it focus. In yes / no questions, pitch rises sharply on the stressed syllable of the focus word, and then gradually falls. In wh- questions, pitch rises sharply on the question word, and then gradually falls.

Yeh does not have phonemic tones.

Sample Lexicon

The list below does not constitute a complete lexicon of Yeh. It is included here to demonstrate Yeh phonology in practice. Phonetic realization of words are only listed below if they differ significantly from the phonemic.

Phonemic Phonetic Romanized Part of Speech English Translation
/ŋəx/   ngëh verb to say
/ˈkovəx/ [ˈkʰovəx] kóvëh verb to cut
/ˈt͡swaxna/   tswáhna verb to drink
/ˈʍaŋe/   hwánge verb to eat
/ʍim/   hwim noun hair
/xoi̯m/   hoim noun mouth
/ˈŋote/   ngóte noun insect
/san/   san- affix counter, against
/ˈsanŋote/ [ˈsaɲote] sán-ngote adjective insect repelling
/pɾau̯/   prau adjective dark
/kjuˈɾoi̯/   kyurói adjective light
/ˈsaɲa/   sánya noun star
/ˈkonto/ [ˈkʰondo] kónto noun moon
/d͡ʒoˈmun/   jomún noun sun
/ˈpɾi/   pri noun river
/ix/   -ih affix (diminutive)
/pɾiˈix/ [pɾiˈjix] priyíh noun stream

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