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Old May 8th, 2012, 11:22 PM
sayatmenace sayatmenace is offline
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Default Alienating Your Vilani Pronunciation

Supposedly the Vilani were removed from Earth about 300,000 BP. At that point, human language on Earth was not to arise for at least two hundred millenna, by current estimates. Hell, there's reasonable doubt that that Homo sapiens was even available for Yaskodray to hoik up off to Vland.

So need Vilani sound anything like a Solomani language? In the pursuit of optimized perverseness, I say NO!

Canonically, Vilani has the consonants transcribed as <p b d k g s z sh kh r l m n>. I have some... rather different suggestions on how those could actually be pronounced.

The series <p b m> are not bilabial, as we've assumed. They're labiodentals. In other words, pronounced with the same articulatory gesture as English /f/ or /v/ -- but, in Vilani, they are stops, not fricatives. English actually does have a labiodental nasal -- it's the allophone of /m/ before an /f/ in normal speech, for example "comfort" or "symphony". In Vilani, though, it's the normal pronunciation.

The series <d n> are also not dental-alveolar; they're linguolabials. That is, the tip of the tongue reaches forward and forms a closure against the upper lip. Acoustically, to an English speaker, they can sound like a frustrating mixture of "d" and "b".

<s z>, well, I haven't thought of anything too special for them yet. <sh> I suggest is a strongly retroflex sibilant; specifically a subapical palatal sibilant -- i.e., the tongue curls back so far that it is the bottom of the tip of the tongue that makes contact against the palate.

Likewise, <r> is a subapical palatal approximant (or perhaps tap/flap) -- the tongue does not make (full/sustained) contact with the palate.

<l> is a velar lateral approximant. Not a velarized lateral, mind you, but a proper velar approximant (without lip-rounding/compression, either). The tongue does not make contact with the upper surface of the mouth anywhere except at the velum, way there in the back. You hear it in some American dialects' pronunciation of the "l" in words like "clay" or "glad" (voiceless and voiced, respectively). A lovely sound.

<k g> are still awaiting their exoticization. I suppose they could be left as conventional velar stops. Though it might be fun to present them as palatal stops, or uvular stops, instead; or perhaps as voiceless and voiced fricatives (respectively).

<kh> is my favorite, though. It's not a velar or uvular fricative like people used to think. No, it's a voiceless bidental fricative! Clamp your teeth together, pull your lips apart, flatten your tongue, and blow. (Works better if you have an underbite or overbite, to get the sweet sh~f combination; otherwise it comes out as a slightly whistly "h" sound.)

You'll note that this doesn't involve freaky pharyngeal or epiglottal points of articulation, nor glottalized/ejective/ingressive stops, much less clicks. It's actually easy for the average speaker of S.A.E. to pronounce, after some practice. So why not spice up your boring old Vilani nomenclature in your Traveller game with some extremely funny accent?

(I have not talked about vowels and the dreaded subject of tones... yet...)
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