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From: "Shreyas Sampat" <[log in to unmask]>

| there are conlangs that make distinctions more fine: I was pondering at one
| point a phonemic distinction between apical and coronal /s/, but came to
| the conclusion that reasonably humanoid speakers (those that use human-
| speakable speech sounds, at any rate) would probably conflate those into a
| series of homophonous words with double meanings.  I'm told that Malayalam
| has five <n>s.  And so forth.

Basque has two "s" sounds, one apical, written <s>, one laminal, written <z>.
They sound the same to me personally, even with me making the sounds, and many
Basque speakers have already lost distictions between both kinds of sibilants.
I've seen proposals of "pre-Basque", and the sound correspondences resemble
something like some Athabaskan languages, which have interdental affricates but
no uvular consonants, a result of a "forward shift" of all the stops/affricates
as compared to other Ath. languages.

As for Malayalam, it along with other Dravidian languages including Tamil, have
the following nasals: /m/ (bilabial), /n/ (dental), /n_/ (alveolar), /n./
(retroflex), // (palatal) and /N/ (velar).  So that's five n's if you include
the velar "ng" nasal.  (Tech has all these plus a uvular nasal.)

~DaW~


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