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Inspiration and Latinisation
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How I came up with the language
This public article was written by [Deactivated User], and last updated on 8 May 2020, 22:02.

[Public] ? ?
6. Origins ? ?
As a linguistics aficionado, I really wanted to create a language for the fantasy universe of my literature. De Iteloge Nowernve, or "The Modern Tongue", is the first and foremost language in this fantasy universe. As an diegetically artifical language, it's supposed to serve as a lingua franca for the different peoples that inhabit that world. This meant that it also had to be able to represent sounds from the other languages of my fantasy universe. I eventually organised myself and set four rules for its latinisation (the characters write with a different script since Latin never existed in their world):
- I had to incorporate sounds from outside my comfort zone, avoiding complete eurocentrism,
- I had to use only characters that I could type from my keyboard,
- I had to make one letter equal one sound, thereby avoiding polygraphs,
- The character and the sound needed to be somewhat related.
I like to believe that I managed to follow these rules to the best of my ability, and wanted to share how I came up with each part of the latinisation.

Regarding the consonants, ⟨t⟩, ⟨d⟩, ⟨p⟩, ⟨b⟩, ⟨g⟩, ⟨k⟩, ⟨f⟩, ⟨s⟩, ⟨l⟩, ⟨m⟩, ⟨n⟩, ⟨x⟩, and ⟨z⟩ were easy, matching their IPA equivalents. All of them can be found in English, and all of them except for /z/ can be found in my native language (Spanish). Similarly, it made sense to use ⟨ts⟩ and ⟨dz⟩ for /t͡s/ and /d͡z/ respectively.

I had some time wondering what to do with ⟨c⟩ and ⟨ç⟩. Originally, I had intended to make ⟨x⟩ into /ʃ/ and ⟨tx⟩ into /t͡ʃ/, just as it is in Euskara (a non-Indoeuropean language that absolutely fascinates me), but I eventually opted to use ⟨x⟩ for /x/. As a result, I chose ⟨c⟩ for /ʃ/ and ⟨tc⟩ for /t͡ʃ/. As for ⟨ç⟩, I wanted it to represent a sound I hear often in Spain (and noticed in Greek too) that replaces the /s/ that I mostly use for ⟨s⟩ in Spanish; this sound turned out to be /s̠/.

Unfortunately, I was unable to avoid digraphs for some sounds I wanted as individual letters. This was the case for /ʈ/, /θ/, /ð/, and /ɻ/, which became ⟨th⟩, ⟨fh⟩, ⟨dh⟩, and ⟨rh⟩ respectively. The last three sounds are all found in English (though /ɻ/ only in some dialects), and as for Spanish, the second exists in European dialects whereas the third is hidden in plain sight. I originally wanted to use ⟨th⟩ for /θ/, but since I also wanted to incorporate /ʈ/ from Hindi, I chose ⟨fh⟩ because I used to be unable to pronounce /θ/ when I was young, and pronounced it /f/ instead. Most importantly for me on a personal level, I wanted to incorporate two sounds which are very distinctive from my dialect of Spanish: /ʒ/ and /ʐ/. The former is how I pronounce ⟨y⟩ (at the beginning of a syllable) and ⟨ll⟩, so I decided to use ⟨y⟩ as the way of writing it, as well as ⟨dy⟩ for the /d͡ʒ/ which is more common in English. As for /ʐ/, I found it very hard to find a free letter for it that would make sense; in my dialect, it replaces /r/ due to the influence of native South American languages (possibly from Kichwa or Mapudungún). The closest I could explain it to my linguist friend was as a combination of /ʒ/ and /ɻ/, a /ʒ͡ɻ/ of sorts, so I chose to represent it as ⟨yrh⟩.

There are three additional "r" sounds. I decided to use ⟨r⟩ to represent /ɾ/, and ⟨rr⟩ to represent /r/, applying rules similar to those of Spanish, though /r/ at the beginning of a word would still be spelled ⟨rr⟩. I use ⟨q⟩ for /ʀ/ or /ʁ/; the former is the dominant allophone because I find the sound more pleasant and melodious, and abscribe it to the elven languages, whereas the latter is more gutural and feels better placed in the trazgan languages. One might assume that I chose ⟨q⟩ because "q" is an extremely redundant letter (I once even wrote an essay about that for an Italian written expression exercise), but I actually read somewhere that ⟨q⟩ is used in some forms of Kichwa to represent a sound which was described as "the same as a French 'r'". I never found any evidence to corroborate this (in fact, I couldn't even find any evidence that either /ʀ/ or /ʁ/ exist in that language), but I decided to stick with it.

I also wanted to incorporate the "dark L" (/ɫ/) into the language, as it's a sound that's alwasys caught my attention in English, and which I think I hear in Brazilian Portuguese and Russian; since to me it originally sounded just like a longer /l/, I decided to represent it as ⟨ll⟩. I also wanted to include the /t͡ɬ/ sound from Nahuatl, since I find it increasingly hard to pronounce ⟨tl⟩ in any other way in Spanish (though words with this letter combination are uncommon). I also decided to include the /ɬ/ from Welsh, using ⟨hl⟩ as the closest imitation of the sound. In a similar way, I used ⟨lj⟩ and ⟨nj⟩ for /ʎ/ and /ɲ/ respectively.

While studying Jopará, I realised I really liked the /mb/, /nd/ and /ng/ phonemes, and since they were also common in many African languages, decided to incorporate them too, as /b̃/, /ᵭ/, and /g̃/, along with /k̃/ for the ⟨mb⟩, ⟨nd⟩, ⟨ng⟩ and ⟨nk⟩ digraphs respectively. These would only apply at the beginning of words though. Otherwise, it would be /mb/, /nd/, /ŋg/ and /ŋk/. I would also use ⟨gh⟩ to represent /ɣ/, which, like /ð/, is a "hidden" sound in Spanish.

I wanted to use semivowels a lot in the Modern Tongue, and at first I started with the basic /j/ and /w/ (and the corresponding /i̯/ and /u̯/ for falling diphthongs). I liked the idea of using ⟨j⟩ for /j/ and /i̯/, since I had already used ⟨y⟩ for /ʒ/, and ⟨j⟩ is used for that in plenty of languages. I ultimately decided on switching the ⟨w⟩ with ⟨v⟩, since the ⟨v⟩ looks more physically to the ⟨u⟩; so ⟨v⟩ corresponds to /w/ and ⟨w⟩ corresponds to /v/. Finally, I wanted to incorporate two "hidden" semivowels from Spanish, which I use when saying words such as "teoría", "aerosol" or "cacao". These sounds I interpret as a semivocallic "e" (which I symbolise in IPA as /ʝ/ when rising and /e̯/ when falling), and a semivocallic "o" (/w̝/ when rising and /o̯/ when falling). I represent these as ⟨ë⟩ and ⟨ö⟩ respectively.

The five main vowels of the language are /a/, /e/ (or /ɛ/ when next to certain consonants), /i/, /o/, and /u/, and use the same orthography to represent them. These are of course drawn from my native Spanish, but I learnt also that the reason for this bafflingly simple vowel system is probably due to the influence of Euskara.

I added five more vowels which would be used less frequently: /ʌ/ (with /ɑ/ as an allophone), /ə/ (with /œ/ and /ø/ as allophones; I must admit I struggle to differentiate these in French), /ɪ/, /ɔ/, and /y/ (with an additional semivocallic /ɥ/ for rising and /y̯/ for falling diphthongs), and represent these as ⟨à⟩, ⟨è⟩, ⟨ì⟩, ⟨ò⟩, and ⟨ù⟩ respectively. For /ɥ/ and /y̯/, I decided to represent it by combining it with the "w" in the language, resulting in the ⟨vù⟩ digraph. All these ten vowels carry an accent when on a stressed syllable that isn't the penultimate syllable (following Spanish orthography to some extent). The first five become ⟨á⟩, ⟨é⟩, ⟨í⟩, ⟨ó⟩, and ⟨ú⟩, and the other five (by "combining" the two diacritical marks) become ⟨â⟩, ⟨ê⟩, ⟨î⟩, ⟨ô⟩, and ⟨û⟩; this rule applies to only the dominant vowel in a diphthong, nasal vowel or long vowel. The first and and third were mainly inspired from English, the second and fifth (along with the semivocallic version) were inspired by French, and the fourth one from Italian.

Nasal vowels are written by adding an "ñ" at the end, resulting in 7 possible nasal vowels represented as ⟨añ⟩, ⟨eñ⟩, ⟨iñ⟩, ⟨uñ⟩, ⟨àñ⟩, ⟨èñ⟩, and ⟨òñ⟩ for /ɛ̃/, /ẽ/, /ĩ/, /ũ/, /œ̃/, /ɑ̃/, and /ɔ̃/ respectively. These sounds were drawn mainly from French and Portuguese.

Long vowels are represented by doubling up any of the vowels. These, along with any digraphs in the language, can be broken up by by placing an ⟨'⟩ between them; in the case of vowels, it represents a syllable break or glotal stop, as in Spanish "creer" or English "uh oh". In the case of consonants, it represents the breaking of, for example, /ɬ/ into /h/ and /l/.

Finally, ⟨h⟩ plays a special role in the language. As /h/, it's not very common, mostly because it already sounds so similar to /x/. As a result, I mostly use it for digraphs. However, there is one other use, and it's the final aspiration of vowels. This is something that happens in my Spanish for the "s" at the end of a syllable and before another consonant; words such as "esto" become /ehto/ instead of /esto/. So I've decided to incorporate this /h/ as ⟨h⟩. That said, the /ɬ/ takes precedent when a vowel precedes the ⟨hl⟩ digraph.
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