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Byvnish Vowels
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Overview of Byvnish's vowels and vowel harmony system
This public article was written by [Deactivated User], and last updated on 11 May 2020, 22:46.

[comments] VOWELS

In Byvnish, there are thirteen vowels: a, á, e, é, ē, i, í, o, ó, ö, u, ú, and y. The sounds represented by each letter are approximately as described here:

A — like a in far: asta ‘father’. [ɑ]
Á — like a in trap or a in father: áre ‘effect’. [æ, a]
E — like e in hen. E is never officially silent. When the final e is pronounced, it is often closer to the sound of é, esp. in front-vowel words: seme ‘eye’. In Old Byvnish was the front-vowel counterpart of y. [ɛ, e̞]
É — like ay in play (not as a diphthong): végáse ‘slaughter, massacre’. The combination ée forms a long vowel [e:]: rée ‘root’. Pronounced as [ø] in Old Byvnish and remains so in some south-western dialects. [e]
Ē — like ee in free: sēyace ‘empire’. Many dialects pronounce like ye as in year following a consonant. [iː; ji, jɪ]
I — like i in bit: varite ‘city’. [ɪ]
Í — like i in machine, like ē but shorter in value: íre ‘document’. When placed with another vowel, it is intended to be pronounced separately rather than as a diphthong, however colloquial speech typically diphthongizes them: alaí ‘again’. [i]
O — like o in off: onoró ‘young’. [ɔ]
Ó — like o in holy (not as a diphthong): módde ‘street’. The combination óu forms a long vowel [o:], as in óue ‘tongue, language’. Preceding any other vowel, has the consonantal sound of w as in win, wet: amsóa ‘elf’. [o; w]
Ö — like eu in French jeune: örte ‘region, zone’. [œ]
U — like oo in root: nune ‘door’. Sometimes the vowel is left unrounded like the Japanese u, particularly when preceded by unrounded front-vowel words: e.g. áláu. [u, ɯ]
Ú — is not found in English but is pronounced more or less as u in French lune. Between vowels, is often realized as a near-w sound, varying as either the w of Japanese wakaru, or the u of French nuire or : súre ‘alcohol, suré’, áúe 'river'. [y, ɥ~ɰ]
Y — like i in bit: myda ‘wolf’. It acts as a vowel between consonants, and a consonant otherwise ([j]). Y is uncommon as a vowel and most often in the language’s development it has been replaced by the letter i or e (e.g. byhbi ‘thorny’; ymyeme ‘thing, object’; OrotyynOrotein '(city of) Orotein'), but it has survived in some words (e.g. byvóa 'god', lényre 'wasteland'), suffixes (e.g. -ynu of Réblynú), or in some loanwords (e.g. tatyró ‘obscure, vague’). Y may change into a vowel from a consonant with the addition of a suffix or in compound words (e.g. hilye ‘good’ → hilyke ‘goodness, righteousness’; hailyau 'to heal, cure' + nóve 'method' → hailynóve 'cure, remedy'.) In Old Byvnish, y was the back-vowel counterpart of e, pronounced between the u in run [ʌ] and final a (schwa) of alpha [ə], or, in some conditions, as a centralized i [ɨ]. In some conditions, e also raised to [ɨ], resulting in y appearing as a vowel in some front-vowel words. Consonantal y was an allophone of both y and e under some conditions. [ɪ]

All vowels using acute marks may also be written using grave marks instead (e.g. à, è, ì, ò, ù).

Byvnish is characterized by vowel harmony, which affects which vowels may belong in the same word. It influences affixation and the spelling of compound words. All vowels are grouped into three categories: front, neutral, or back.


Though neutral-vowels may appear in any word, back-vowels and front-vowels cannot appear in the same word. Each front-vowel has a back-vowel pairing (listed above according to pairing), with the notable exception of ú, which is paired with the neutral-vowel, u. These pairings come into play in Byvnish’s various inflections, declensions, and conjugations; e.g. when declining the noun álétá ‘animal’, the case suffix -ró is appended for the causal-final case, resulting in álétiré ‘for/because of the animal’. As affixes and inflections are always listed in back-vowel form, this becomes necessary whenever inflecting a front-vowel word. The vowel pairings also become important in forming compound words. In compound words with conflicting vowel harmony, subsequent word(s) will conform to the initial. (e.g. páléchá ‘king’ + cónse ‘realm’ → páléccénse ‘kingdom’; talóe ‘home’ + álétá ‘animal’ → talóalóta ‘pet, domestic animal’). There are some exceptions, such as the days of the week, prefixes, certain set phrases, and some others in which the initial conforms to the final (e.g. byvóa ‘god’ + péíe ‘day’ → byvépée ‘Godday (Sunday)’; réd- ‘previous’ + mose ‘week’ → ródmose ‘last week’; éle ‘this’ + póve ‘night’ → ólpóvetó ‘good evening’; ata ‘self’ + epúse ‘belief’ → átepúse ‘confidence’). In the case of u and ú, because u is a neutral-vowel, it will not change even in front-vowel words; however, because ú is a front-vowel word it will become u in back-vowel words (e.g. sasóau ‘to say, speak’ + lútenáu ‘to continue’ → sasóelutenau; léfáu ‘to run’ + cugau ‘to cut’ → léfecugáu ‘to run completely’). Because u was originally considered a back-vowel, some exceptions exist in either compound words or inflection (in which case it will be indicated in grammar tables); e.g. Dúpée ‘Duday’ from Dukór ‘Dukor’ + péye ‘day’; eyuvó ‘not good’ vs. éyúvé ‘not strict’.

If only neutral-vowels are present, then they are assumed to be back-vowel (e.g. cie ‘grass’ → cina ‘to the grass’, eice ‘skill’ → eicera ‘for/because of skills’, ime ‘worship’ → imus ‘worship (dat.)’). Some exceptions exist: e.g. shele ‘beauty’ > shelús 'beauty (dat.), ceide ‘clothing’ > ceiderá 'for/because of clothing', and ive ‘dwelling’ > ivenés 'from dwellings' are front-vowel words although the roots consist only of neutral-vowels. Similarly, a word like kilá ‘raven’ may be identified as a front-vowel word by the organic nominal ending , but in another form would otherwise appear unclear (e.g. plural nominative case kilit).

While dictionaries and some formal writings will properly mark all vowels, conventionally accent marks are omitted where unnecessary, typically marking only one vowel (typically the earliest) to indicated vowel harmony, leaving the rest to be inferred from context. For example, álkúdá 'monarch' is often spelled álkuda, where the phonetic value of u and the second a are inferred as their front-vowel counterparts ú and á from the first vowel. Note that the vowels é, ē, ó, and í are always marked because their phonetic distinction from e, o, and i are not based on vowel harmony and thus considered necessary markings. Thus, the following spellings are typical: aléta for álétá 'animal', antolée for ántölée 'Antolish', bérée 'bere (traditional trousers)' (no change), etc. Only in the most informal writings are markings omitted entirely (unless thought to be necessary to avoid ambiguity); however, this level of omission is stigmatized as improper or uneducated.

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