Denobulan language

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This notice was placed here by User:Pholin, so go bug them to finish the page if nothing's happening.
An example of the Denobulan script.

Denobulan (/də'noʊ.bju.læn/) or, natively, denobulan (Denobulan, /dɪ.nə.bŭ'län/) is the primary language spoken by Denobulans along with Federation Standard. Most Denobulans who grew up on the planet speak both the languages. The language has been heavily influenced by Federation Standard since the planet's entry to the Federation; some Denobulans prefer speaking Standard, even among other Denobulans. However, as part of the Federation, the number of non-native speakers has grown significantly.

Disclaimer

The language was seen and heard on-screen, but the writers have confirmed that those words and sentences had no system or grammar. The version of the language delved into here is merely inspired by what was seen, but is more realistic. The two versions will be incompatible. Sometimes, decisions made for this version of the language don't make much sense linguistically; often, this is to have an explanation for a weird thing in what was seen on-screen. Please reach out to User:Pholin before editing anything major. Also, feel free to reach out to User:Pholin if you want to learn the language, he will gladly help you if circumstances allow doing so.

Throughout this page, the International Phonetic Alphabet is used. For more information about that, please visit this article.

Phonology

For a non-linguistic summary of the phonology, click here.

Consonants

The following table shows the consonant phonemes of Denobulan:

Consonants Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Plosive p b t d k g ʔ
Pre-nasalized pl. ⁿd ᵑg
Affricates p͡f t͡s d͡z
Nasal m n ŋ
Fricative f s h
Approximant ʋ ɹ j
Lateral appr. l
Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a voiced consonant.

Notes

  • Unlike Federation Standard, Denobulan doesn't aspirize its voiceless plosives. However, in some non-native dialects aspirization can be found.
  • The pre-nasalized plosives [ⁿd] and [ᵑg] are relics of Denobulan's proto-language and can only be found word-initially nowadays. Second language speakers often struggle pronouncing these two phonemes.
  • The [p] in the affricate [p̪f] is very soft, and might not even be pronounced depandant on the dialect. The distinction between it and the regular fricative [f] has disappeared in some dialects, even.
  • The affricates [t͡s] and [d͡z] are often pronounced as the palato-alveolar affricate [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ] due to Federation Standard influences.
    • The affricate [t͡s] (or [t͡ʃ]) turns into an velar affricate [k͡s] after back and central vowels, written as «x» in the romanization.
    • The affricate [d͡z] is sometimes analyzed as dialectal, as it is an extremely rare consonant.
  • There are no voiced fricatives in Denobulan, although most speakers pronounce fricatives between two vowels as voiced phonemes, which are written phonetically as [β], [z] and [ɦ].
  • The labial approximant [ʋ] sounds like Federation Standard's [w] but a speaker presses their upper teeth on their lower lip.
  • The lateral approximant [l] never velarizes, unlike in Federation Standard (compare "lab" and "ball", the latter is velarized).
Denobulan's vowels visualized in a chart.

Vowels

There are eight vowels in Denobulan. The language also distinguishes some vowels by length. Long vowels are spoken for a longer amount of time and sometimes also differ in quality. The language has no diphthongs, meaning there can be only one vowel per syllable. The following tables shows the vowel phonemes of Denobulan:

Short Front Back
High ĭ ŭ
Mid ɪ -
Low ɑ̈
Long Front Back
High i u
Mid e
Low ä

Notes

  • All vowels have a short and long form, except [o̞], which has no short version.
  • High vowels [i] and [u] do not change in quality between short and long vowels. They only differ in length.
  • The mid vowel [ɪ] is the short form of [e], not to be confused with [ĭ]. It may also be described as a raised mid vowel [e̝], instead.
  • The mid back vowel [o̞] becomes the schwa [ə] when unstressed. In stressed situations, this vowel sounds like a mix of [ɔ] and [o], being between the two.
  • Vowels will be nasalized slightly when succeeded by nasal consonants. The nasal consonants afterward are still pronounced, though.

Romanization

Although Denobulan has its own script, the language can also be written in the Latin alphabet. This is called the romanization system. The 29 letters of the romanized alphabet are as follows:

a ah ai b ch d e ee f g h i j k l m n ng o oo p ph r s t u v y '

The following is a pronunciation guide for the Denobulan phonetic inventory. The examples do not always correspond to the Denobulan pronunciation exactly, as some sounds are not in Federation Standard.

IPA Latin Notes
[p] p As in "planet".
[b] b As in "Borg".
[t] t As in "T'Pol".
[d] d As in "Denobulan".
[k] k As in "Klingon".
[g] g As in "Gorn".
[ʔ] ' As in "uh-oh" - silence between them.
[ⁿd] n'd Like "scanned" but word-initially.
[ᵑg] n'g Like "single" but word-initially.
[p͡f] ph Like the German word "Pferd".
[t͡s] ch As in "chip".
[d͡z] j As in "Jefferies".
[m] m As in "Morn".
[n] n As in "nacelle".
[ŋ] ng As in "Jang".
[f] f As in "Federation".
IPA Latin Notes
[s] s As in "star".
[h] h As in "Hirogen".
[ʋ] v Close to "nuclear wessles".
[ɹ] r As in "Risa".
[j] y As in "Yar".
[l] l As in "Latinum".
[ĭ] i As in "Geordi".
[iː] ee As in "beam" - longer than [ĭ].
[ŭ] u As in "Pulaski".
[u] oo As in "room" - longer than [ŭ].
[ɪ] e As in "bit".
[e] ai As in "raise".
[o̞] o As in "computer".
[ä] a Close to "Lwaxana".
[ɑ̈] ah Close to "Lwaxana".

Notes

  • The voiceless alveolar affricate [t͡s] turns into a velar affricate [k͡s] when preceded by back vowels. This is written as «x» in the romanization.

Phonotactics

Syllables are formed by putting different phonemes together. The way of doing this varies by language, but a syllable is always made up of three parts. The onset are first consonants, followed by the nucleus which are the vowels, and another set of consonants which is the coda. Below is described which phonemes are allowed where. Overall, the language followes the following pattern:

C(C)V(C)

Where C is a consonant, V is a vowel, and the parts in brackets are optional. That means the simplest syllable possible is CV, while the most 'complex' is CCVC.

Onset

All consonants, including the nasal [ŋ] foreign to Federation standard, are allowed in the onset. There are also combinations of consonants allowed:

  • All plosives, excluding the glottal stop, and all fricatives, excluding the glottal fricative, can be followed by the alveolar approximant [ɹ].
  • All fricatives, excluding the glottal fricative, can be followed by the alveolar lateral approximant [l].
  • All voiceless plosives, nasals and approximants can be followed by a glottal stop. Often, a schwa is insterted between the consonant and the glottal stop.

Nucleus

All nine vowels of Denobulan are allowed in the nucleus. There are no diphthongs in Denobulan, so only one vowel per syllable. There is a form of vowel doubling, though. These only occur for [ä] and [u] and are written as "aa" and "uu" respectively. The first vowel is always a long vowel, followed by the short form of the vowel. The two vowels have a glottal stop in between them, meaning they are two different syllables.

Coda

Most consonants are also allowed in the coda of a syllable, only the pre-nasalized plosives and the glottal fricative are not. Please note that the coda is entirely optional.

Stress

Linguistic stress is defined as emphasis on a particular syllable (or word). This can be realized in several ways, but in Denobulan, a stressed syllable is emphasized by increase in loudness and pitch. For beginning learners, this may sound like all Denobulans are constantly asking questions by raising pitch for stressed syllables. On which syllable the stress of a word falls is determined by the following:

  • If a word has only one syllable, that syllable is stressed.
  • If a word has more than one syllable, one looks at the last two syllables of a word.
    • If one of those syllables has a long vowel, it is stressed.
    • If two of those syllables have a long vowel, the last is stressed.
    • If none of those syllables have a long vowel, the last is stressed. Next to that, the stressed vowel is also lengthened.

Script

Denobulan has its own native script, also a form of alphabet. The alphabet was custom crafted in preparation for the planet's unification. It was designed to be easy to learn and practical to write. Some have been critical though, because the lack of diversity in letters makes it hard to learn for dyslexic people. The script was designed in an era where typing was already dominating over handwriting, and was optimized for typing over writing. The script is made up of four characters, a small, a ringed, and a big circle, and a connecting line. All letters have two circles, and consonants have connecting lines with another circle. Below is the full Denobulan alphabet.

a ah ai b ch d e ee f g
a ah ai b ch d e ee f g
h i j k l m n ng o oo
h i j k l m n ng o oo
p r s t u v y
p r s t u v y

The glottal stop, which can be placed above vowels and voiceless plosives, are marked with a small circle above or below the letter, it's above vowels and most consonants but below the consonants which have a circle in the top spot already. The prenasalized plosives «n'd» and «n'g» are written as n-d and n-g respectively, with the 'glottal dot' below the letter, even though there is no true glottal stop. For the vowel doubling talked about earlier, one simply types the vowel to be doubled followed and the glottal dot above it. The second, doubled, vowel is left out. So, «aa» and «uu» are written as a- and u-.

Note: The script is supported on the wiki. Type in it by using {{Denobulan|textgoeshere|size=xx}}. For more info about the font, go to the template's page.

Morphology

Case

Grammatical case is a special category of a word that can change its grammatical function. Federation Standard does this for pronouns only (compare "she" and "her"), Denobulan does this for nouns, pronouns and adjectives, however. Denobulan features four cases, although not all can be applied to all words. Before the function of each case can be understood, Denobulan's sentence structure must be described.

There are two (simple) types of verbs, intransitive (intr) and transitive (tr). Intransitive verbs take a subject but no object: "Phlox sleeps." On the other hands, transitive verbs take a subject and an object: "Phlox drinks tea." In Federation Standard, the subject of a transitive verb and the subject of an intransitive verb behave the same; they are placed before the verb. Denobulan, though, has a more complicated system. To distinguish the two different kind of subjects, we will call the subject of a transitive verb the agent. To summarize:

  • Subject: "Phlox sleeps."
  • Agent: "Phlox drinks tea."
  • Object: "Phlox drinks tea."

As said, in Federation Standard the subject and agent behave the same way. In Denobulan, three different things can happen. For the first (I, me) and second (you) pronouns, Denobulan is the same as Federation Standard. The subject and agent act as one. For the third person (he, she) pronouns, all three behave differently. For each kind, subject, agent or object, there is a different form of the word. For nouns (tea), something different happens. No longer do the subject and agent behave as one, the subject and object act the same. This can seem backwards to speakers not used to this. To explain, let's pretend Federation Standard does the same:

  • Transitive verb: "He likes her." - 'he' is the agent, and 'her' is the object.
  • Intransitive verb: "Likes her." - 'her' is the subject, and acts the same as an object. This translates to "she likes" in normal Federation Standard.

With this explained, the functions of the grammatical cases can be explained. The fourth case will be described below.

  • The ergative (erg) marks the agent for the third person pronoun and nouns.
  • The patientive (pat) marks the object for pronouns and also the subject for nouns.
  • The nominative (nom) marks the subject and agent for the first and second person pronouns.

This can also be visualized in a table.

Subject Agent Object
1st and 2nd person nom nom pat
3rd person pronoun nom erg pat
(In)animate nouns pat erg pat

The fourth and final case is the genitive, is used to mark a word that modifies a noun. It is comparable to Federation Standard's «of» and «'s». It can be used to express composition (bowl of soup), possession (Captain's orders), origin (people of Denobula) or apposition (Mount Fuji).

Nouns

In Denobulan, nouns are categorized in a grammatical gender system based on animacy. A noun will always be either animate (an) or inanimate (inan). Nouns are animate when they relate to (parts of) people, animals, plants or other (things perceived as) living beings. Nouns are inanimate when they relate to concrete or abstract objects, natural forces or ideas. Often though, a noun is found in an unexpected gender. Therefore, a speaker of the language memorizes the gender alongside the meaning of a word. The gender of a word also changes its declension.

Singular Animate Inanimate
Ergative -(e)m -(e)t
Patientive - -
Genitive -(ch)i -(s)i
Plural Animate Inanimate
Ergative -(e)n -(e)k
Patientive -(a)s -(ah)s
Genitive -(ch)it -(s)it