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Achiyitqan Phonology
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Inventory, allophony, tone, prosody, morphophonology
This public article was written by severy, and last updated on 1 Oct 2020, 06:04.

[comments] Menu 1. Phoneme inventory 2. Allophony 3. Morphophonology 4. Phonotactics 5. Prosody 6. (Changes under consideration) This article is designed to give in-depth information about the phonology of  Achiyitqan. Since I surprisingly didn't have any such thing yet.

Achiyitqan was designed with inspiration from Blackfoot and Inuktitut in its phonological inventory, allophony, and morphophonology. It has a larger inventory and allows more complex syllables than either of these languages, although not by much, and uses interesting rules like Blackfoot's post-consant glide-deletion.

[top]Phoneme inventory

Achiyitqan has a fairly simple and average-sized consonant inventory, with only a few unusual sounds. It has a pitch-accent system at the phonemic level, which acts as a more complex tone system phonologically.

Stopp bt dk gqʔ

All consonants, except the glottal stop, can be short or long. In most contexts, long stops are realized as geminates. There is also one overlong phoneme, /s::/, which is often realized as [ss̩].


All vowels come in short and long, and can have high tone; long vowels can have high, low, rising, or falling tone.

/a/ is front [a~æ] when short and back [ɑː] when long.

˦ ˨˨˦ ˥˨

There are four tonemes, two level (high and mid) and two contour (rising and falling). There are also a number of allotones as explained in the allophony and stress sections.


Achiyitqan's allophony is fairly minor and predictable.

Vowel allophony
  • /i e/ become lax in closed syllables:
    • /i e/ → [ɪ ɛ] / _C.
      • ignett 'coke (smithing)' / → [ɪg.nɛt: ~ ɪ:.nɛt:]
    • /I E/ → [{ɪ ɪ: ɪ́ etc}] / _C. (some speakers only)
  • /i u/ become central before uvulars
    • /i u/ → [ɨ ʉ] / _q, _[χ]
      • iqaɂ 'garden' /i.qaʔ/ → [ɨ.qɐʔ]
      • tikuqo 'riches, treasure' /ti.ku.qo/ → [ti.kʉ.qo]

Consonant allophony
  • nasals either devoice or become syllabic when on a word edge external to a voiceless sound:
    • /n m ŋ/ → [n̥ m̥ ŋ̥] (or for some speakers [n̩ m̩ ŋ̩]) / #_[-voice] ; [-voice]_#
      • niskikn 'flock, herd' /nis.kikn/ → [nɪs.kɪk̚n̥ ~ nɪs.kɪk.n̩]
      • mpeeh 'tree trunk' /mpe:h/ → [m̥pe:h ~ m̩.pe:ç]
  • stops do not release in certain positions
    • /p t k q p: t: k: q:/ → [p̚ t̚ k̚ q̚ pː̚ tː̚ kː̚ qː̚] / _.{p t k q b d g} ; _.{n̥ m̥ ŋ̥}
      • psipko 'alloy, metal' /psip.ko/ → [psɪp̚.ko]
      • qatn 'hope, hopeful' /qatn/ → [qat̚n̥]
    • /p t k q/ → [p̚ t̚ k̚ q̚ / _#
      • núp 'stand' /núp/ → [núp̚]
      • ¡but! tsipp 'mouth' /t͡sipp/ → [t͡sɪp:]
    • /b d g/ → [b̚ d̚ g̚] / _.{p t k q b d g} ; _.[homorganic nasals]
      • nodka 'pond' /nod.ka/ → [nod̚.ka]
      • tsóbmell 'reverse, undo' /t͡sób.mel:/ → [t͡sób̚.mɛl:]
      • ¡but! subnikn 'navy' /sub.nikn/ → [sub.nɪkn̩]
  • /h/ assimilates to the place of surrounding consonants, and sometimes vowels:
    • /h/ → [ɸ] / in contact with bilabials ; O_U, U_U ; #_U, U_# ; U_[some Cs]
      • lébhisk 'rhizome, root vegetable' → /léb.hisk/ [léb.ɸɪsk ~ léb.βɪsk]
      • ɂúhp 'breathe' /ʔúhp/ → [ʔúɸp]
      • góhupa 'bactrian camel' /gó → [gó.ɸ]
      • qalhuulm 'bronchitis' / → [qal.ɸu:lm]
      • huwi 'advice' /hu.wi/ → [ɸu.wi]
      • manuh 'will hit' /ma.nuh/ → [ma.nuɸ]
    • /h/ → [ç] / j_ ; I_I, I__I ; _í
      • suyhaɥ 'sparse' /suj.haʃ/ → [suj.çaʃ]
      • kihikn 'font, typeface' /ki.hikn/ → [ki.çɪk̚n̥]
      • hígi 'bistort' /hí.gi/ → [çí.gi ~ çí.dʒi]
    • /hy/ → [ç]
      • híhyu 'neigh' /híh.ju/ → [çi.çu]
    • /h/ → [ç] / E_#, I_# (some speakers only)
    • /h/ → [x χ] / in contact with /k q/
      • sihqa 'bleach' / → [sɨχ.qa]
      • dakhe 'show' /dak.he/ → [dak.xe ~ dak.çe]
  • phonemic fricatives can voice in certain conditions:
    • /s ʃ/ → [z ʒ] / in contact with voiced stops ; N_N
      • gábsimm 'red algae' /gáb.sim:/ → [gáb.zɪm:]
      • insmii 'lax, weak' /ins.mi:/ → [ɪnz.mi:]
    • /s ʃ/ → [z ʒ] / V_V, _N, N_ (some speakers only)
  • a variety of voicing and placement assimilation occurs between stops:
    • /k q/ → [q k] / _{qk} (see Morphophonology)
    • /pb td kg/ → [b: d: g:] / _V _j _w ; [p: t: k:] otherwise
      • biɥkgun 'study' /biʃk.gun/ → [bɪʒ.g:un]
    • /bp dt gk/ → [:p: :t: :k:] / V_ ; [p: t: k:] otherwise
      • ibpim 'seventy' /ib.pim/ → [ɪ:.p:ɪm]
      • aldta 'coloured, colourful' /ald.ta/ → [al.t:a]
  • there are some instances of velar palatalization:
    • /gi ge/ → [dʒ] / _V
      • giánsu 'can write' /gi.á → [dʒá ~ dʒán.zu]
    • /g/ → [dʒ] / _I (some speakers only)
    • /k/ → [tʃ] / _I (some speakers only)

  • /j w/ typically delete after any stop, but may leave 'traces' :
    • /jO, jU/ → [ø~ɵ, y~ʉ] / P_ (some speakers only)
    • /wE wI/ → [ɤ ɯ] / P_ (some speakers only)
    • /j w/ → [i u] / P_ (some speakers only)
    • /j w/ → _: / P_
      • hastyest 'send into space' /hast.jest/ → [hast.e:st ~ has.tɛ:st]

Tone allophony (See Prosody section for more information)
  • High tone becomes extra-high after high or rising tone
    • /˦/ → [˥] / ˦._ ; ˨˦._
      • nátáálu 'convince' /na˦.tɑ:˦.lu˨/ → [na˦ˈtɑ:˥.lu˨]
      • duúɥyúú 'landlocked' /du:˨˦.yu:˦/ → [du:ʃ˨˦.yu:˥]
  • Mid tone becomes low word-finally with secondary stress
    • /˦/ → [˩] / ˦.˨._# ; ˥.˨._# ; ˨˦.˨_#
      • áɥnaayek 'watermill (SG.ACC)' /aʃ˦.nɑ˨:.jek˨/ → [ˈaʃ˦.nɑ:˨ˌjɛ̀k˩]


The changes detailed in this section only occur during derivation and/or inflection — they do not apply within roots. For instance, the first rule (nasal assimilation) does not affect the word mnaa 'full, be filled.' They can also be sporadic, so some exceptions occur.

1. If /n/ enters a cluster with another nasal, it assimilates: /nm/ → [m:], /ŋn/ → [ŋ:]. (Nasals do not assimilate to adjacent plosives in Standard Achiyitqan — although they do in some dialects.)

2. /k q/ assimilate to following /q k/, producing /q: k:/. For example, nuuk 'handful, small amount' becomes nuuqqu in the genitive (nuuk-qu.

3. /g/ will assimilate to following or preceding /q d/. e.g. héeg-qinnihéeqqinni 'microfarm', qúd-gihnu 'shortening (fat)' → qúddihnu. It will also sometimes merge with following /b/ (→ /b:/), and sometimes even with /k t/ (→ [g: d:] or [k: t:]), but these are sporadic.

4. /w/, /l/ and /g/ become vowel length in certain coda positions depending on the following onsets:
  • /w/ → [:]
    • after: round vowels, and
    • before: /l:/ or clusters with initial /l/ and following voiced or back stops
    • after high tone, produces long high tone
    • e.g. sówl-kahls 'brick paint' → sóólkahls
  • /g/ → [:]
    • after: any vowel
    • before: other voiced stops, nasals, or velar stops
    • after high tone, produces falling tone
    • after long falling vowel, deletes & produces a long high vowel
    • after long flat vowel, deletes & produces rising vowel
    • e.g. míig-naukleŋqomíínaukleŋqo 'pedigree'
  • /l/ → [:]
    • after: any vowel
    • before: voiced stops, geminates, and stop-initial clusters
    • after high tone, produces a falling tone
    • after long falling vowel, deletes & produces a long high vowel
    • after long flat vowel, deletes & produces rising vowel
    • e.g. dsíil-gaɂ 'low nub' → dsíígaɂ 'mushroom'

5. The suffixes -yo -qo, moderate and inanimate nominalizers respectively, may instead appear as -:y -:q, that is, lengthening a final vowel and dropping their own final vowel; or simply as -y -q on words that already have a long final vowel. -yo furthermore often appears simply as -o (or sometimes [ø]) due to glide deletion rules (see Allophony).

6. To complicate the above, some speakers drop or devoice word-final /o/, sometimes only from roots (so inflectional morphemes with -o will maintain it, but derivational ones such as -qo -yo will not).

7. The definite prefix ka- may appear as just k- before long vowels, or for some speakers, for any vowels. Words beginning in /tÁ/ have the /t/ dropped and replaced with /k/, e.g. ka-táahekáahe 'the shark', ka-téekée 'the sky.'


Achiyitqan allows for incredibly complex syllables, especially in the codas, and allows a lot of clusters that are illegal in many languages (for instance, mixed-voice clusters like /kd/).

Geminates do not occur word-initially, but can appear finally and medially, including in complex clusters.

Nuclei are the most strictly simple part of Achiyitqan. Any two-vowel sequence represents a syllable break. However, nuclei can also be composed of syllabic nasals, liquids, or sibilants.

P=plosive, N=nasal, L=liquid, F=fricative

Onsets: {N/L}P, {P/F}N
Nucleus: V, V:, Vy, Vw, s:, s::, L, N
Codas: {N/L}P, P{L/N/F}, {P/F}N, N{P/F/L}
and probably a whole lot more WHOOOOO


Achiyitqan has a pitch-accent system which has phonemic high and mid tone. It also has phonetic rising and falling tones on long vowels, and low and extra-high tones in some prosodic environments (see Prosody, below). High tone and stress occur on a maximum of one vowel within a root, and at most two within a word. The first tone to appear typically trumps all others: túmi-tóotúmitoo 'cold-blooded'.

Prefixes with tone will yield the tone to a root: án-ɂossónanɂossón 'can grow old.'

Complex, derived words, which may be considered one root for later rules, may have two surface tones if they are immediately adjacent, and if one of them is falling or rising (HH, HF, RH, RF ; not FH, HR, FR) : lál-tóoláltóo 'apathetic.'

In words composed of more than one root, for example highly inflected verbs, or a noun with many prefixed adjectives, the phrasal head (the verb or noun) will maintain its tone, and the other first tone to appear can remain, provided that the two high tones are either immediately adjacent (MHHM) or have at least two low tones intervening (HMMH, *HMH).

In this section, mid-tone vowels will be explicitly marked (with macron) ; in all other cases, mid-tone vowels are simply all unmarked vowels. Stress is acoustically tied to non-mid tone, and slight increase in volume and syllable length (but less so than phonemic long vowels).

Stress automatically accompanies high tone - if there is one. Falling and rising vowels count for this, and the entire syllable (and therefore entire rising or falling vowel) receives the stress). gáanun 'whales' /ˈgâ:n.ūn/

Words without a high tone will follow a typical trochaic prosody pattern (HLHL), with the initial syllable bearing primary word stress. (Idiosyncratically, primary stress may be attracted to the first syllable of the root, instead of prefixes.)

Degenerate feet in the last syllable carry some prosodic stress but also a low tone. kagoyeŋie 'the surgery' /ˈkā.gōˌjē.ŋīˌè/

If high tone occurs in the second syllable, the first will be unstressed, and a typical trochaic pattern will follow. pitáagessap 'I was interested in' /pīˈtâ:.gēsˌsàp/. Otherwise, the trochaic pattern still begins at the left edge, but any high tones encountered can 'break' the pattern, footing the stressed syllable before it. When this occurs, the high tone is "superstressed," phonetically extra-high. giwawpiáheɥ '[everything] that has happened' /ˌgī.wāwˌpīˈja̋.hēʃ/

Syllables where the nucleus is non-vocalic do not carry tone or stress, despite being pronounced as separate syllables, and are 'skipped' in foot assignment. ɂacttatlásoni 'solved problems' /ˈʔāt.ʃ̩t.tātˈlá.sōˌnì/

In HH sequences (two high-tone syllables in a row), the first will be superstressed (and, depending on previous syllables, a degenerate foot), and the second begins its own new trochaic foot. pálstóolheɥ 'the stigmatized one(s)' /ˈpa̋lˌstô:.hēʃ/

[top](Changes under consideration)

  • Easy
    1. Adding phonemic diphthongs (probably just /ai au/, which would include /ái aí áu aú/)
    2. Eliminating /b: d: g:/ within roots
    3. Adding a few more POA/MOA phonotactic constraints
  • Hard
    1. Blackfoot-style /ai au/ [e o] instead of /e o/ (would wreak havoc on /óo ée oó eé/-inclusive words though) (also derivational mayhem)
    2. Give tone to all (two-syll+) words
    3. Change blanket G→Ø/C_V to only "if V is similar" or sthg

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