The BG Language Creation Guide

#2: Phonetics

Before you can make words, you need sounds to build them from. You may choose any set of workable sounds (called segments) for your language. Workable means, control yourselves! You'll have to actually use these consonants and vowels to build words so don't make a system with one vowel and two consonants, or one with so many segments you can't remember them all.

You may use any combination of the consonants and vowels we have discussed in class, use ones from languages we have not yet discussed, or create something of your own. Keep the following in mind:

Here are questions for you to answer as you choose and once you've chosen your segments. Please do not simply write "yes" or "no" in response to any of these questions. Recall that you are creating a stand-alone, technical document that should look a great deal like a manuscript suitable for archiving and nothing at all like a bunch of answers to homework questions. Go back to the homepage and consult the example for step 2 for help.

  1. How many consonants are in your system?
  2. In the context of the languages of Earth known to linguists, is this an unusual amount? What is normal? What are the known extremes? NB: This is not a question for you to simply muse about or one you can answer by thinking about English. Please look this up in the typology chapter of your textbook or consult the World Atlas of Language Structures
  3. List the consonants themselves. Include with each a designation of its place, manner and voicing. If you have a very unusual (or alien) system, you may have to modify the terminology we used in class. Put them in some sensible phonetic order (that means, don't alphabetize them; organize them by place of articulation.) Creativity, even weirdness is fine; just make sure you know what you're doing!
  4. How unusual are the consonants you've chosen? Explain how your system does and does not follow Earth norms. Again, consult a reputable source such as your textbook or the World Atlas of Language Structures for this; do not assume you know what's 'normal' because you speak English. English is only one out of 6,900 languages and has its share of oddities.
  5. How many vowels are in your system?
  6. After researching the question (see above), indicate if this is an unusual amount? What is normal? What are the known extremes?
  7. List the vowels themselves, including diphthongs if you have them. Include with each some indication of how it is to be pronounced. For Earth-like vowels, you may include an English word that has that sound in it. If you have a vowel not pronouncible by humans, you'll still have to describe it somehow. Feel free to use length, tone or nasalization distinctions or anything else you fancy. (If you are a graduate student, please describe your vowels using height, backness and rounding). If you are an undergraduate, give an example word that can be used to show what your vowel sounds like. the SAMPA symbols are not ambiguous, but redundancy is helpful.
  8. How unusual are the vowels you've chosen? Explain how your system does and does not follow Earth norms. (Again, please consult a reference work for this information.)
  9. Total number of segments in your system?

Confused? Where would you like to go?? Top of this Page?
BGSU Language Creation Homepage?

Someplace Else Interesting such as a page where you can hear dolphin articulations.
(NB: If anyone can find me an even cooler page about the scientific investigation of dolphin language (if any)... I'd be glad to add it here.)

Updated 1/14/2011