Azurian phonology

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Azurian phonology and its changes since the Old Norse stage


a. Long vowels

Unlike its ancestor Old Norse, Azurian has a positional vowel quantity system. Basically, this means that stressed vowels are long unless they are followed by more than one consonant. For example, in Old Norse the quantity of the vowel was preserved in the past tense of the verb léna: lénti, while in Azurian the infinitive is læna with a long diphthong [ɛa], and the past lante with a short a.

Most of the long vowels are diphthongised if they preserve their quantity. Some of the shortened ones are also diphthongised. Qualities are changed in accordance with the table below, which gives the ON phone and written form in the first two columns and the respective long and short Azurian ones in the latter four. As you can see, the á and the ǫ́ have merged, the é and the æ have merged, and the í and the ý have merged, which reduces the added complexity of the stress-dependent diphthongisation a little.

ON phoneON letterAzurian


b. Diphthongs

Diphthongs were always long in Old Norse, but in Azurian they are influenced by the positional vowel quantity system in the same way as the long vowels: the stressed ones are long unless they are followed by more than one consonant. The qualities also have changed as shown in the table below.

ON diphthongON written


c. Short vowels

Like the Old Norse long vowels, the short ones can end up as either long or short in Azurian depending on their positions. Here the i has merged with the y, and the ø with the ǫ. Otherwise their qualities have not changed as much as those of the long vowels:

ON phoneON letterAzurian


d. Other vowel changes

Azurian vowels don’t follow this scheme slavishly all the time. There are various environments in which they may react differently, depending on the local dialect. The most important ones are as follows:

1. Fronting of a before ng and nk.

This occurs dialectally along all of the western and northwestern coast, but it is not done in the east and thus has not been included in the standard language. For example, ON langr has become [lɛŋk], written læng, and ON banka has become [bɛŋ_0kha], written bænka.

2. Backing of e before velars.

Another western feather that’s not included in the standard language, where the vowel becomes an [ɔ] before simple velars, and is diphthongised into [ɔi] if there is nasal preceding the velar. Thus, for example, older rekna becomes [rɔkna], and the ON drengir becomes drointjer, [trɔinʧər].

3. Rounding of e after v.

This change occurs wherever the v is preceded by another consonant. It is widespread, also in the east, and thus reflected in writing. For example, ON hverr becomes [kvør], written kvør, and ON kveða becomes [kvøɣa], written kvøga.

4. Assimilation of e to i in past participles.

This is another widespread feature and reflected in writing though it is typical of the western and nortern coastal regions. For example, ON getinn becomes tjitin and ON lesinn becomes lisin.

5. Umlaut.

Modern Azurian does not show any trace of the u-umlaut. Even where some of the traditional u-endings still stick on, their vowels generally are reduced to a colourless schwa, written e, and the root vowel does not alternate. For example, the of madn is madnem. This could be another influence from Urianian, where rounding is rare.

On the other hand, the i-umlaut is very much alive, prevalent in such alterations as takateker, seglsigla, sonsøner, tungtyngre, hárhært, bjogabyr, musmys, doivdoyva.


a. Devoicing and aspiration of stops

In Azurian the voicing distinction between stops is lost and instead we have a distinction in aspiration. For historical reasons, the letters b, d, g are used to write the unaspirated lenis stops resulting from the Old Norse voiced stops, while p, t, k are used to write the strongly aspirated fortis stops resulting from the ON unvoiced ones. This aspiration is not marked in writing, except when an originally long fortis stop is preceded by a vowel, which gives rise to preaspiration. These stops are written with an h preceding the stops, and the vowels preceding them are always short. Allophonically the stops can become voiced between voiced neighbours, but this is also not indicated in writing.

Even short stops are preaspirated after vowels in some dialects, but this is not reflected in the writing system.

b. Deaffrication and velarisation of dental fricatives

The Old Norse voiceless dental fricative, [þ], regularly becomes a dental fortis stop in modern Azurian. But a few words, mostly small, unaccented ones, have a glottal fricative instead. Thus, for example, ON þak becomes tahk and þat becomes tat, but þar becomes har and Þórsdagr becomes Hosdag.

The voiced dental fricative, [ð], has different fates in different environments. In many cases it becomes a lenis dental stop, such as in kravde, from ON krafði. It will assimilate to a following velar stop, as in stæhga, [sthɛhg:a], from ON steðga, and mahk, [mahk:], from ON maðkr. If preceded by an r, the fricative is lost altogether. Thus, ON garðr becomes gár, and jǫrð becomes jár. Velarisation occurs intervocally and before an r, transforming ON veðrar into vægrar and laða into laga. Final dental fricatives also were velarised, but then lost in most dialects, though the loss is not reflected in writing. For example, ON viðr becomes [vi], written vig.

Some eastern dialects lack the velarisation and simply delete the fricative intervocally, or replace it with a glide. The writing system devised in the 19th was based on these dialects, so that vægrar was written vædrar and laga was written lava, for example. The reforms in the 1950s made the majority forms the standard, but allowed the eastern forms as alternatives.

c. Palatalisation

Before front vowels, velar stops are transformed into a dental stop followed by a voiceless palatal fricative [], written tj (formerly c), and the velars and the dentals that precede j in Old Norse, merge with it with the same phoneme as the result. For example, ON gestr becomes tjest, gjarna becomes tjadna, djarfr becomes tjarv, kista becomes tjista, kjalki becomes tjalke, and tjǫrn becomes tjødn. Similarly, the ON clusters sj, skj and stj as well as sk before front vowels become a postalveolar fricative [], written sj. Examples: sjór is sjó, skera is sjera, skjǫldr is sjøld, stjarna is sjadna.

In the northeastern dialects, palatalisation does not occur intervocally. Instead, inherited velars are lenited into the respective velar fricatives, [γ] and [x], and are even lost in some regions. Thus, for example, ON míga becomes [mʉiγa], or [mʉia], and vaka becomes [vɛaxa]. This is not reflected in the writing system.

d. Verschärfung

The so-called Verschärfung is a kind of hiatus-breaking where Old Norse had successive vowels or sequences developing into successive vowels. There are two kinds of insertion, both consisting of a preaspirated long stop followed either by [v] or by affrication. If the first vowel originally was a long o or u, [k:v] is inserted. Elsewhere, the result is [t:ç]. These insertions influence the qualities of the preceding vowels. Diphthongs develop from ON long vowels or diphthongs according to the above-mentioned scheme, except that the second element is lost. The long o or u preceding [k:v] is shortened and fronted: ó becomes [ɛ] and ú becomes [i]. Thus, for example, ON róa becomes ræhkva, níu becomes nuhtju, [nʉt:çʉ], deyja becomes dohtja, [tɔt:ça], and haugar (see below) becomes hætjar, [hɛt:çar].

In old texts written before the first standardisations in the 19th century, you may find [kv] written qu and [t:ç] with a c. Thus, the examples above read ræqua, nucu, toca, and hæcar in some older documents.

Historically, the [k:v] has developed from a voiced variant, [g:v], and the [t:ç] from an palatalised velar, [g:j]. This pronunciation still survives in some northern communities, as well as in Azurian-speaking communities south of the Byntian border, outside Azuria proper.

e. Sonorants

The sonorants l, m, n and r are devoiced before any of the fortis stops mentioned above, and after a lost h. Thus, for example ON hjálpa becomes [çɔl_0pha], lampa becomes [lam_0pha], vænta becomes [vɛn_0tha], and marka becomes [mar_0kha]. This voicing loss is not indicated in writing.

f. Dissimilation of alveolars

Any long l, a long n preceded by the diphthongs ai, oi or oy, or either of these preceded by an r will be modified through the introduction of a dental in all inherited words. For example, ON kalla becomes kadla, seinni becomes saidne, jarl becomes jadl, and horn becomes hådn.

g. Fate of initial h

An Old Norse hv cluster resulting from an Indoeuropean labiovelar is revelarised into kv in Azurian. Thus for example, On hver is kvør, ON hvalr is kvæl. Other preconsonantal h’s are lost, while the following consonant loses any voice it has had, so that for example ON hlutr becomes lut, [l_0ūth], hníga becomes níga, [n_0ʉika], and hjarta becomes jarta, [çar_0tha].

h. Miscellanous

In initial positions, v is lost before r in all but the northernmost dialects. Thus, ON vreiði becomes raige, for example.

Any non-initial Old Norse f will be voiced in Azurian. For example, ON hafa is hava.

Final short g is lost after diphthongs. For example ON feigr becomes fai. If a following syllable, for example in a grammatical ending, starts with a vowel, verschärfung sets in.

Some eastern dialects have assimilated ld and nd to ll and nn, and these then are subjected to the dissimilation of alveolars mentioned above, so that for example ON hundr has become hudn. This is not reflected in writing.

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