You're mixing-up phonology with phonetics.

Providing your language is static, in the sense that you are not
implementing any diachronic sound changes that might make such detail
important,  I'd agree the phonetics aren't particularly critical. It doesn't
matter HOW the speakers of a language articulate an /f/, be it [f], [v_0],
[p\], [B_0], [T]... whatever. But it IS important, surely, that you know
that the language even HAS an /f/?

Phonology: My language has some kind of an eff sound.
Phonetics: My language has a voiceless bilabial fricative.

To extend your analogy to breaking point, by ignoring phonology altogether,
your car design isn't just ignoring the paintjob, it is ignoring the metal,
rubber and plastic.


-----Original Message-----
From: Constructed Languages List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
Behalf Of Gary Shannon
Sent: 28 February 2012 18:02
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Shortcuts on phonology?

My approach to conlanging is to not do phonology at all. Ever.

The way I figure it is that phonology is the least important part of a
language. Any widely used language has no single standard phonology.
Boston English, Cockney English, Texas English, Liverpool English, Australia
English, Bombay English, all have vastly different phonologies, and yet are
all mutually intelligible. Clearly phonology has nothing to do with
"language" and everything to do with "dialect"
or "regional accent".

If you want to add regional accents and dialects to your conlang then by all
means, dip your toes into phonology. But to define a LANGUAGE, phonology is
far from necessary.

Now I DO find phonology interesting. It's fascinating to read about, listen
to, and study the regional variations of English and Spanish, the two
languages I'm familiar with. But again, phonology really only applies to
language if you are talking about a language used by a single small cultural
group in a single small region. Any widespread language simply has no such
thing as A phonology.

A certain conlanging forum which shall remain un-named seems to conflate
"phonology" with conlang to such an extent that the posts there seem to be
nothing but "here's my new conlang" followed by an enumeration of a
phonology. That's like saying "here's my new sports car design" followed by
a few paint chips for the interior and exterior color scheme. Where's the
engine? Where's the drive train?
Where's the wheels? Who cares about what color you paint it after it's done.
And who cares how your conlang is pronounced in different regions of the
world? It's not a language until it has a grammar and a lexicon. Phonology
is just a superficial paint job on the surface.

(End of my annual phonology rant for 2012. The conlang airwaves are again
safe to visit until February 2013. For historical perspective, here is my
annual phonology rant from 2004:


On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 9:13 AM, Daniel Burgener <[log in to unmask]>
> I find grammar, morphology, and pretty much everything about language 
> that I've learned except for phonology to be absolutely fascinating.  
> However, as someone with no linguistics training, phonology just gives 
> me a really hard time.  Whenever I try to start a new conlang, I 
> usually start with phonology, and get bored and stopped before I get 
> it looking like I want it.  My central problem is that I have trouble 
> making a phonology interestingly different from English, partially 
> because I have a lot of trouble pronouncing most non-English phonemes 
> (In terms of consonants, essentially I can pronounce English, the 
> German ch, and dental stops  For vowels, I generally can't tell them apart
at all).
> Lately I've found myself wishing I could just skip the phonology 
> section or take care of it in a few minutes and get on to the 
> interesting parts right away.  Are there any shortcuts I could take 
> that would allow a non-linguist to quickly create a phonology that's 
> interesting, easy for someone with only experience in English, German 
> and Spanish to pronounce, and not totally "cookie cutter"?
> Thanks.