Sinampaiton orthography and phonology


Sinampaiton in its standard transliterated form is written using the following graphemes (the smallest elements of the writing system), listed here in their usual order:

a aa b ch d dz e ee g ng i ii j k kh kr l ll m mb mp n nd ndz ng nj nk nl nt o oo p ph pr r s sh t th ts u uu v

The long vowels (written as if they were doubled short vowels: aa ee ii oo uu) are treated specially: if two words are alike except for a vowel length contrast, the word with the long vowel follows the word with the short vowel. For example, ban 'bob, dip' precedes baan 'knife' in a dictionary. Otherwise, short and long vowels are not distinguished as far as ordering is concerned -- so, for example, deeje 'bean soup' precedes dekhe 'oar' because j precedes kh.

(The order of words in untransliterated form is quite different, but follows the same general principles.)

Alternatively, words in Sinampaiton may be alphabeticized letter by letter as are words in an English dictionary.

Words are ordered grapheme by grapheme, so (for instance) khaisan 'newt' follows kuin 'shine' because kh comes after k, and mpelen 'girl' follows muire 'too much, too many' because mp comes after m.

A description of the native (untransliterated) Sinampaiton writing system has not yet been completed.


Here's the phonological inventory of Sinampaiton, in the grid format typically used in textbooks of linguistics:


Short Long
Monophthongs iu iiuu
eo eeoo
a aa
Diphthongs ai au
ui iu
ie uo
io ue
ia ua


Labial* Dental Alveolar Palatal*Velar
Stops Vls. unasp. p t k
Vls. asp. ph th kh
Voiced b d g
Prenasalised stops Vls. unasp. mp nt nk
Vls. asp.* mph nth nkh
Voiced mb nd ng
Affricates Voiceless ts ch
Voiced dz j
Prenasalised affricates Voiceless
Voiced ndz nj
Fricatives Voiceless s sh
Voiced v ll*
Nasals m n
Liquids l r*
Prenasalised liquid nl*

Labial Labiodental (v) and bilabial (all others).
Palatal Really palato-alveolar.
Prenasalized voiceless aspirated stops I'm not sure about these; I may get rid of them. In any event, they never occur initially.
ll Voiced alveolar lateral fricative: a voiced version of Welsh ll.
r Voiced alveolar flap: like the r is Spanish pero, not the rr in perro.
nl An uncommon and rather elusive phoneme, found in the dominant dialect (KaaNguese) but elsewhere mostly equivalent to nd, ndz, or nll (prenasalised voiced lateral affricate).


All languages have phonotactic constraints: rules on the placement of phonemes (sound units) next to each other and in relation to word boundaries. For example, in English the phoneme sequence /gm/ may occur inside a word (e.g., pragmatic), but not at the beginning or end of a word. (Words such as paradigm don't count as counterexamples, since the letter g is silent and hence doesn't represent a phoneme.)

The basic phonological structure of a word in Sinampaiton is fairly restrictive; vowels and consonants are allowed only in the combinations listed above, and a word is basically a sequence of CV(N) pairs (where C is a single consonantal phoneme, e.g., j or pr, V may be a short vowel, long vowel, or diphthong and N is a nasal) with or without a final n. In EBNF notation, a word looks like this:

    WORD ::= (C)V((N)CV)*(n)


au V A diphthong or long vowel functions as a single V
mpin CVn A prenasalised phoneme functions as a single C
nkuitse CVCV
abere VCVCV
kambo CVNCV Analysed as k-a-N-mb-o


The tutorial continues with an Introduction to Verbs.

Last modified Saturday, April 24, 2004 at 16:40:14 GMT -0500