Calenyena language – ack, vowels


This is what the vowels in Calenyena look like right now:
(Those in green are the most common transcriptions)

    English examples
ī ai "eye," as in light
i i as in sit, shit, hit ɪ
a ah, aa as in car, lob, off, mosque ɑː
â a as in cat, stab, mask æ
e eh, e as in let, enter, set ɛ
ē ie, ee as in reed, mead, sheet
u uh, u as in mud, usher, uncle ʌ
ō o as in note, road, roast
ū oo as in roost, newt, lute

Note: My accent is northeastern US.  These words sound right in my accent; I understand they won’t work for everyone. Recording to follow someone in the next few days.

The main problems are twofold:
One: the line-over-the-vowel; I can’t find the high ascii number cheat for these, meaning they’re a pain in the butt to put in any word. 
Two: I have trouble remembering some of them, because my default is to spell things with two vowels in place of one vowel sound, a la english.  Having a long E with one letter on the page is just sort of weird for me. 

Looking for potential other options, pls. 

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here or there.

0 thoughts on “Calenyena language – ack, vowels

  1. Couple comments: 1. You might just want to just use an acute accent instead of a macron. It’s much easier to access. You can always use this as you write and then use find+replace later. Tolkien used this method, as I recall, and I just ran across in some transliterations of Sanskrit in an old book. 2. Your examples are American English. British English can be quite different in terms of vowels. Probably should specify this if this is anything other than just private notes. 3. You seem to speak a variety of English with the cot-caught merger ( This is a very common sound change that has occurred in North America, but it is not universal or even spoken by a majority. For those without the merger, the vowel in “off” is quite distinct from the vowel in “car”, “lob”, and “mosque”. If this is for your readers, I’d recommend dropping “off” as an example. 4. Your spelling seems to reflect the Great Vowel Shift of English. Is this language related to English? Is the transcription handled by English speakers in your story? It’d be very unusual for a new language to transcribe the diphthong aɪ with an i. Likewise, /iː/ would normally be transcribed with an i. 5. Why is there a long o but no short o? The closest English equivalent for something like a short o is the one in “off” and “daughter”, which I’m guessing sounds the same as what you’ve got for ‘a’. I don’t know anything about Calenyena so these comments might be strange in context, but I’m just trying to offer a bit of linguistics help. I’ll save any more comments for until I know where you’re going with this and making sure you want them. 🙂

    • Hi! Yeah, a couple people have called me on the examples, and I need to fix them. My accent is odder than I thought, and my readers are sort of global (I don’t have any readers in Africa that I know of, nor Antarctica, but I’ve hit the rest of the continents). Maybe I should just ask the voice actor in my attic to record a sound file for me 😀 I’m not sure how to answer #4. It’s a fantasy setting, and thus they aren’t using English at all, but I have to transcribe it into English to be readable? 5. is pretty much because in my accent I don’t have a short o sound that isn’t covered by a or u, and I wasn’t trying to duplicate English sounds (there’s no long a, for instance). ~~ Thanks for the feedback! What I am trying to do, mostly, is have some Calenyena to sprinkle in the writing on this world, and to have it be consistent in spelling/transcription so that it all looks like the same language. I’m not doing a whole conlang, because a) as this shows, linguistics is really not my strong suit, and b) time. also c), time. Accents seem to be the way to lean, as you’re not the first person to reference Tolkien.

      • Well, specifying the examples are American English would help with the international folks. And the cot/caught merger is not that strange – it’s very widespread and very common. Not sure on the percentages, but there are tons of folks out there with this. It will probably end up spreading across all of North America in a few generations. I’m guessing. Makes me a little sad cause I like the sound being lost, but English as an awful lot of vowels and languages change and it’s kind of neat to witness sound change in action. And, well, the English “long a” isn’t a long a at all. It’s a long “e”. Or a diphong – ei. It’s basically more closed than short e and less so than short i. In Latin and all the Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, etc) and all the languages that borrowed their alphabet from those (German, etc.), a, e, i, o, and u basically have certain meanings – i is front closed, e is front center, a is open, o is back, rounded and midway and u is back, closed, and rounded. This is how things were in Old English, too. And Middle English. Then the Great Vowel Shift happened. Our long vowels got all moved around, but the spelling didn’t change. So the sound that we talk about when we say “long i” in English isn’t at all like a short i. It’s a diphtong. Long “e” is actually what “long i” used to be. And “long a” is what “long e” used to be. When you use those macrons and or accents to denote a long vowel, people are going to assume you actually mean the vowel in question is a longer version than the short one, like it would be in most languages. I imagine even many English speakers are away of how things work in other languages – most Americans have some exposure to Spanish, for example. It’s tough, though. But all the big conlangs transcribe using some form of the Latin correspondences, I believe. Quenya, Sindarin, Klingon… even the modern ones like Na’vi. Also note that Hawaiian uses them, despite it being colonized by Americans (I think?). Look at how we pronounce Hawaii or Maui – it’s using the more international version of a long i (just the basic i, really). We son’t spell it Hawiee or Mowee. Though, of course, that’s how a lot of American Indian words came into English – so there’s one counter example. But that shows an English influence and also was trying to spell the words as if they were English because they are. Tennessee is an English word. And it’s using English spelling rather than grammatical spelling – no macrons or the like. I’m not trying to nitpick here and I know you’re just going for some flavor rather than making a perfect conlang and I think I probably did something similar when all I knew of languages was English, but I’d recommend thinking in terms of the vowels for a bit and transcribing them in the international system. Probably would be less confusing that way. And you can always have the examples so people can see it in English. In general, I’d recommend reading up on phonetics/phonology a bit if you like conlanging and poking around the wikipedia pages of other language’s phonetic systems. Gives you a nice perspective on the many ways things can be done. English is a pretty unusual language, though when I looked things up, I found other languages were more complicated than I thought. I always had assumed that Spanish and Italian had identical vowel systems – nope! I am aware that I have way more knowledge of linguistics than the average person, though. And if all of this is making your eyes glaze, feel free to ignore it. But I can answer any questions if you like.

        • but I’d recommend thinking in terms of the vowels for a bit and transcribing them in the international system. What do you mean by this?

          • Man, that was confusingly written, wasn’t it? Sorry about that. I meant thinking about the sounds of the vowels – what sort of system you want to set up – and then the transcription might follow logically. But perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything in the first place. Mostly just wanted to say that when people see the e with a macron over it, they’re going to tend to think a mid front vowel, not a mid closed vowel. The reason that “long e” is pronounced as it is in English is purely due to the Great Vowel Shift and the fact that English spelling was being standardized before it started.

              • I’d recommend changing the following transcriptions: é to í and ó to just o, and í to ai. That’s a reasonably cohesive phonetic system… two open vowels, contrasting by frontness and backness, two mid vowels, one front and one back (though the front a bit lower than the back), and a pair of closed front and closed back vowels, with the lower of the two back closed vowels having migrated toward a neutral position (u). And one diphthong.You intentionally left out oi (as in boy), é/ei (as in day), and a short/low o (caught vs. cot), right? I’m just using acute accents here for macrons cause I can type them easier. Had some practice due to my FR language. 🙂 I worry that I’m coming in and being a snooty linguistic. Really just trying to help. Please don’t take my advice if it doesn’t feel right to you. Also, out of curiosity and mostly on an unrelated subject – do you have any personal feelings about the sound of “oy” in English?

                • I… don’t think I have any feelings about the sound “oy.” Don’t worry about being a snooty linguist, please don’t. Just remember that my linguistic knowledge is barely better than American High school, which is to say, I can speak a language and parrot a few phrases in two others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *