Make your own free website on


Njaama Main

Other Info
About Me

Links, Anyone?

Smile Today!

Igxu Hejm!

Scattered Tongues HQ

This conlang site belongs to David J. Peterson.
List All | Random | HQ
Prev | Next | Next 5

Scattered Tongues HQ

Njaama Phonology

Njaama has a somewhat complex phonology. We'll start off with the consonants, and, time permitting, move onto the vowels. As with Zhyler, the only practical way to deal with Njaama orthographically, since it has its own script, and phonetic transcription is too cumbersome, is to use a half-way romanization. It shall be discussed below. Enough said. Onto the mighty consonants!











p, mb, p'


t, nd, t'

tʃ, ɲdʃ, tʃ'


k, ŋg, k'












s, z

ʃ, ʒ











l, r



*This is a palatal-lateral click.
°These are labio-velar sounds, which pattern with other velars.







i, iː


u, uː


ɛ, ɛː


ɔ, ɔː



a, aː



I had several options open to me when deciding on a romanization system for Njaama, and I've decided upon what I hope will be the simplest solution. I'll now detail it:

  • The following letters are equivalent in both the phonetic transcription and the romanization: a, i, u, p, mb, p', t, nd, t', k, k', !, v, s, z, h, m, n, l, r, and w.
  • Next, I'll list the letters that have one and only one change (well, mostly. You'll see what I'm getting at later): [ɛ] will be e; [ɛː] will be ee; [ɔ] will be o; [ɔː] will be oo; [aː] will be aa; [uː] will be uu; [iː] will be ii; [ŋg] will be ng; [ʔ] will be '; and [j] will be y.
  • Lastly (well, for the consonants, anyway), the following consonants are either products of palatalization or labialization, so there are good phonological reasons for giving them the following forms: [tʃ] will be ty; [ɲdʃ] will be ndy; [tʃ'] will be ty'; [ʘ] will be !w; [‖] will be !y; [ʃ] will be s or h before i, depending on whether it's phonologically a palatalized [s] or a palatalized [h], otherwise it'll be either sy or hy, again, depending on whether it's phonologically a palatalized [s] or a palatalized [h]; [ʒ] will be z when it occurs after one vowel and before [i], or word initial as y before i; and, finally, [ʍ] will be hw.
  • Finally, Njaama is a pitch accent language, which means it has tone. There are only two tones in Njaama (and, yes, I know, it should be Ndyaama, in fact, as you'll soon learn, it really should be Ndyááma, but you know what? I just don't care. I'll continue to spell the name with a j because j is my favorite letter. The only reason I didn't include it in the romanization is because dy made more sense phonologically), and those tones are high and low. To mark tone, Njaama will use an acute accent for the high tone, and no accent at all for the low tone. This means that if you see a vowel without an accent mark, its tone will be low. Also, for long vowels, both graphs will be marked with an acute accent. Here are the vowels with acute accents: á, áá, é, éé, í, íí, ó, óó, ú, and úú.

  • Stress and Syllables

    These are a couple of hot-button issue. Nevertheless, I'll press away at will.

    First, I'd like to take a moment of your time to talk to you about stress. Stress can negatively affect your life--and not just in the work place. It can affect you at home, in the car, at the driving range, even at the local pub. The best way to deal with stress, is to do like the French, and eliminate it entirely. By that, of course, I mean to say that Njaama has no stress. It'd be a revolutionary idea if French hadn't already done it (if there is stress on French words, it's not strong, and even then, it's location can change, depending on context). Tone is often a way a language can indicate stress, but in Njaama, tone is fixed (which means that, to many English speakers, all syllables with high tones may sound stressed), so it can't indicate tone. Another way to indicate tone is vowel length. Vowel length is phonemic in Njaama, though, so vowel length can't indicate stress. Another way is vowel quality. This, however, doesn't vary in Njaama. The last indicator is volume, but volume is used to indicate emphasis in Njaama, and so doesn't reliably indicate stress, since it can appear on any syllable. That said, sentences can have a main stress, usually on a long vowel, and especially if that long vowel occurs within the verb. Aside from that, there's not much I can say with regards to stress.

    Next, syllables. Njaama can have the following syllables: (C)(y/w)V, (C)(y/w)Vː, (C)(y/w)V(n/l/y/w), (C)(y/w)Vː(n/l/y/w), (C)(y/w)V(y/w)(n/l), (C)(y/w)Vː(y/w)(n/l). So, you can have: a, aa, ka, kaa, ay, aay, kyaan, kwayl, etc. There are some restrictions, though:

    (1) Labial consonants cannot be followed by [w] or [j]: *pw, *mbw, *pw', *mw, *ww, *wj, *py, *mby, *py', *my, *wj.
    (2) The cluster *yy is impossible.
    (3) The cluster *lw is impossible.
    (4) Prenasalized consonants cannot follow the phoneme /n/: *nnd, *nmb, *nng, *nndy.
    (5) The following are impossible: *Cyi, *Cwo, *Cwu.

    Allophonic Rules

    To follow will be the, when you come right down to it, relatively simple allophonic rules of Njaama. Here they are:

    (1) The phoneme /n/ as a coda only appears as nasalization on the previous vowel. The nasalization spreads to the whole vowel, whether it's short or long, and includes the diphthongs ending in [w] and [j]. So, a word spelled yáán is pronounced [já̰ː] (traditionally, the tilde is supposed to go above the character to indicate nasalization, but the IPA specifies that if there's no room above the character, you can place it below). As a bonafied onset, /n/ has three allophones: First, it becomes [ɲ] before /j/ (spelled ny); second, it becomes [ŋ] before /w/ (spelled nw, as contrasted with ngw, which represents [ŋgw]); lastly, it can show up as just plain old [n].
    (2) When prenasalized consonants occur intervocalically, the previous vowel becomes nasalized, and the prenasalized stop becomes a regular, voiceless stop. So a word spelled sángi is pronounced [sá̰gi].
    (3) The phoneme /l/ undergoes two changes. First, /l/ becomes the trill [r] word-finally. So a word spelled kal is pronounced [kar]. Second, /l/ becomes [w] when it occurs before a prenasalized consonant. So if you had the word yelmbe, it would be pronounced [jɛ͂wbɛ].
    (4) The phoneme /w/ becomes [v] when it occurs before the phonemes /o/ and /u/.
    (5) The phoneme /j/ > [ʒ] before the vowel /i/.
    (6) The letters phonemes /t/, /t'/, and /nd/ become [tʃ], [tʃ'], and [ɲdʒ] before /i/ and /j/. When they occur before the phoneme /i/, they will be spelled as normal (that is, as t, t', and nd). When they occur before the phoneme /j/. however, they will be spelled as follows: ty, ty', and ndy.
    (7) The phoneme /s/ becomes [ʃ] before the phonemes /i/ and /j/. When it occurs before /i/, it will be spelled s, but when it occurs before y, it'll be spelled sy.
    (8) The phoneme that is s voices intervocalically. What does this mean? It means that if you have a word whose phonemes are masú, it will be pronounced [mazú]. Similarly, if you have the word p'asi, it will be pronounced [p'aʒi] (this is because of rule 6). However, if you have the digraph sy, in a word like hásya, then the word will be pronounced [háʃa]. This is because, if you'll notice, the phoneme s does not occur intervocalically, since y is not a vowel. So, even though phonetically the sound occurs intervocalically, since it does not phonologically, it remains voiceless.
    (9) The phoneme /h/ does a couple things. First, it becomes a glottal stop [ʔ] intervocalically. But, no matter where it is in the word, if it occurs before a /j/, it becomes [ʃ]. Similarly, if it occurs before a /w/ it becomes [ʍ].
    (10) The click phoneme, /!/ changes when it occurs before /j/ and /w/. When it occurs before /w/, it becomes a bilabial click, [ʘ]. When it occurs before /j/, it becomes a palatal-lateral click, [‖].
    (11) All consonants are naturally labialized before /u/ and /o/, and naturally palatalized before /i/. This presents no problems for the romanization.

    That's All, Folks!

    That'll do it for the Njaama phonology section. It wasn't that bad, was it? And if it was, I can always change it. Ahhh...power!

    As a fun follow up, why not take a look at the orthography section? It'll be like a trip down Memory Lane that you never made...

    Back to Njaama Main