Phonology

Toaq comes with a simple phonology that is characterized by a complete lack of consonant clusters. Its syllables are rich in vowels and carry one of seven tones, giving the language a melodic character.

Consonants

There are 21 consonant phonemes:

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasals m n ɲ ŋ
Plosives pʰ b tʰ d kʰ g ʔ
Affricates t͡sʰ d͡z t͡ɕʰ d͡ʑ
Fricatives f s ɕ h
Taps ɾ
Laterals l

Vowels

There are 6 vowel phonemes.

Grapheme Pronunciation Allophones
a [a]
u [u] [ʊ] in closed syllables
ı [i] [ɪ] in closed syllables
o [o] [ɔ] in closed syllables
e [ɛ] [e] before /a/ and /o/
y [ə]

The vowel /ə/ avoids stressed syllables.

The falling diphthongs are ⟨aı⟩ /aj/, ⟨ao⟩ /aw/, ⟨ou⟩ /ow/, ⟨oı⟩ /oj/ and ⟨eı⟩ /ɛj/. Vowels in any other vowel sequence are pronounced individually.

Toaq does not have on-glides.

Vowel length is not phonemic. In slow and clear speech, stressed vowels tend to be long in open syllables and short in closed syllables, and vowels are generally short in syllables which carry the neutral tone.

Syllable structure

Toaq's syllable structure is simple: An initial consonant is followed by one of the following endings:

a aq ao
u uq ua uaq uo uoı uoq ue ueq uaı uao uy
ı ıq ıa ıaq ıo ıoq ıe ıeq ıaı ıao ıu ıy
o oq oa oaq oe oeq oaı ou oy
e eq ea eaq eo eoq eaı ey
y

Any consonant other than /ŋ/ is a valid initial. Consonant clusters (sequences of more than one consonant phoneme in a row) are not permissible in onset position, but can occur at the word or syllable boundary (/ŋ/ followed by a simple onset).

As mentioned in the previous section, any combination of two vowels other than the falling diphthongs is pronounced disyllabically. Also, the emphasis is always on the first vowel of a syllable, even in a rising diphthong, unless the syllable begins with a simple vowel followed by /ao/, in which case the /a/ is stressed. For example, puaq is pronounced [ˈpʰu.aŋ] and not [pʰu.ˈaŋ] let alone [pʰwaŋ], jıa is pronounced [ˈd͡ʑi.a] and not [d͡ʑi.ˈa] or [d͡ʑja], and kuao is pronounced [kʰu.ˈa.o] or [kʰu.ˈa.ʊ] and not [ˈkʰu.a.o] or [ˈkʰu.aʊ].

This is a list of example words for each possible kind of syllable:

Syllable Example Pronunciation Translation
CV [d͡ʑiː] "I, me, myself"
CVq raq [ɾaŋ] "about, pertaining to"
CVv jaı [d͡ʑaj] "to be happy"
CvV dua [ˈduː.a] "to know"
CvVq ruaq [ˈɾuː.aŋ] "to assert"
CVV keo [ˈkʰeː.o] "but, however"
Cvai nuaı [ˈnuː.aj] "money"
Cvao luao [lu.ˈaː.ʊ] "lip"

The tones

There are seven meaningful tones in Toaq. The following table lists for each tone its name, its spelling, an image describing its pitch contour and an example word using that tone.

Rising Rising glottal Falling Rising-falling
nháo
"they"
jäı
"who is happy"
shủa
"fall"

"that someone
is going"
Mid Low glottal Neutral

"at"

"not"
keo
"but"

Pronunciation of the neutral tone

Syllables carrying the neutral tone are generally unstressed, lighter and shorter than other syllables. The neutral tone differs from the six main tones in that its pronunciation changes depending on the tone of the previous syllable.

The following table shows how the neutral tone (grey) is pronounced after each of the six main tones:

+ +
kúe bı
"as for the book"
chö sa hóa
"who is liked by some"
+ +
Hỉo ka
"Hello."
mâı ja
"the property of loving"
+ +
tì sıa
"nowhere"
... bũ da
"... is not the case"

While these neutral tone pronunciations are the standard, it is equally acceptable to pronounce them differently, as long as the neutral tone does not continue the tone contour of the previous word. The reason for this will become apparent in the next subsection.

Word segmentation via tones

Every inflectable word (i.e. verb or verbal particle) is stressed on its first syllable. The stressed syllable carries the main tonal inflection of the word.

Toaq's word segmentation (where one word ends and the next one begins) is made unambiguous by the following rule:

A word continues until its tone contour is broken, either by a change in direction or a jump in pitch. For the simple tones, this means that a word continues for as long as the contour keeps rising or falling. For the two-part tones, the second portion of the tone is the one that needs to keep going. The following table contains illustrative examples:

Rising Rising glottal
gáqguru
"the kangaroo"
tïjao
"who is far away"
Falling Rising-falling
rủqshua
"it's raining"
rûqshua
"that it's raining"
Mid Low glottal
tìjuı
"near ..."
tãocıa
"unintentionally"

Since a person's vocal range is finite, it is not feasible to keep going up or down indefinitely. Therefore, it is possible to plateau once the ceiling or bottom of the normal speaking range has been reached in order to keep a contour going.

The word segmentation rules apply to all words equally. Verbs and particles use the same segmentation rules and are not distinguished by their shape. Any class is potentially an open class.

Toaq enables and encourages complete freedom in word creation. The only restriction to this is that there can’t be homonyms (words that share the same spelling/pronunciation but have different meanings). This is because it would undermine the loglang-inherent goal of monoparsing.

Previous section Next section