Thanks for all the interesting comments so far!  I'll try to respond to as
many as I can.

On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 1:01 PM, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> My approach to conlanging is to not do phonology at all. Ever.
>  [etc snipped]

 So, do you ever end up with a conlang that someone could speak?  I imagine
we conlang for different reasons, but my ultimate goal would involve having
a language that at least I can speak.  Good point about phonology not being
part of a language, but at the end of the day if you want to speak it,
don't you need a phonology to do so?

On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 1:06 PM, Jim Henry <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> On 2/28/12, Daniel Burgener <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >  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"?
> I'm not sure how "interesting" you can get when taking extreme
> shortcuts, but "easy..." and "not totaly cookie-cutter" are probably
> doable.  Start with the vowels: it sounds like you want a plausible
> subset of English's vowels.  Maybe take one of the common three- or
> five-vowel systems and tweak it slightly; e.g., maybe take /i a u/ and
> add length distinctions (if you can distinguish length?) or give them
> stressed and unstressed allophones which could give you phones
> equivalent to six English phonemes, and interesting changes when word
> stress shifts for whatever morphological or syntactic reason.  Or
> take /i e a u o/ and tweak it by replacing one of these most typical
> vowels with something a little more marked but easy for an English
> speaker, like /U/ for /u/ or /&/ for /a/; or add length distinctions
> (maybe just for a subset of them) or stressed/unstressed allophones as
> above, or add a sixth vowel that contrasts reasonably well with the
> others and is easy for you, like schwa or /&/.

Thanks for the suggestions.  Another of my problems with phonology comes up
with my total lack of knowledge of the IPA, which makes reading helpful
suggestions and advice time consuming...  I don't have time to go through
this and look all the sounds up at the moment, but I'll go through this

> You can do similarly with the consonants; maybe start by cutting down
> the English consonant inventory by dropping some but not all of the
> less common and distinctive ones, and add some phonological processes
> that change one consonant into another (maybe phonemically, maybe
> allophonically), or delete or insert consonants, depending on what
> morpheme-boundary phonemes wind up next to as affixes and compounded
> morphemes are added.


> I'm not sure how to advise you about phonotactics; assuming you can
> handle some non-English consonant clusters, I'd suggest using a
> syllable structure that's overall much simpler than English but which
> allows a few clusters that don't occur in English.

Phonotactics is less of a problem.  I'm quite comfortable with plenty of
exotic phonotactics using English phonemes

On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 5:17 PM, Garth Wallace <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> [snip]
> I borrowed from the library that told you how to produce the sounds of
> the entire IPA, more or less, and drilled myself on them as I went
> through it. It was a real help. I think it was
> _A_Practical_Introduction_To_Phonetics_ by J. C. Catford, but it was a
> long time ago so I'm not sure (I just searched my local library's
> catalog for "phonetics" and that looks like the most likely match).

On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 5:17 PM, Sam Stutter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> And if you fancy going into phonology / phonetics at a later date, I find
> the best way is not to learn sounds by listening but by analysing how each
> is formed, which makes it a lot easier. /f/ = unvoiced bilabial fricative =
> place teeth on bottom lip, exhale without getting the vocal cords involved,
> etc, etc.

Thanks for the recommendations!  Once I get up the energy to actually learn
something about phonetics I'll keep both of those suggestions in mind.

On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 5:23 PM, Jim Henry <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> On 2/28/12, David Peterson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > Two comments:
> >
> > (1) I second what Alex said. Why do you have to be able to pronounce it?
> You
> > can get something that's quite different from English if you open
> yourself
> Daniel hasn't said what specific goals he has for his next conlang,
> but there are a number of legitimate reasons one might want to limit
> the phonology to things one can pronounce.  The most obvious to me,
> with my biases, is that one wants to be able to learn the conlang
> fluently, but there are others (e.g., wanting to use it in a story and
> have typical readers be able to readily pronounce the proper names and
> occasional conlang phrases).   (Of course, this didn't prevent me from
> stocking gj-zym-byn with phonemes and clusters I could barely
> pronounce at the time I started working on it; but I was prepared to
> back off and revise the phonology for easier pronunciation if I found
> parts of it too hard to learn, and I did a lot of that in the first
> couple of years.)

Yeah, this.  I haven't really shaped my goals around this yet-to-be-created
conlang yet, but I know that I ultimately want to speak it fluently.  I'm
down with including phonemes and clusters I can't pronounce at the moment,
I guess, as it seems to have worked for Jim.  But I'm not exactly sure how
to pick them if I can't pronounce them now (or even hear the difference.
 For example, retroflex consonants are cool in theory to me, and I can bend
my tongue back and articulate, but they all just sound like "t" to my ear)
 Any advice on that?

On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 10:25 PM, Daniel Bowman <[log in to unmask]>

> Daniel,
> I think that if phonology is not your interest, then you can more or less
> ignore it.  Pick a subset of English sounds that you like, add a different
> emphasis (perhaps the first syllable of every word is stressed?) or a
> stringent consonant/vowel structure (perhaps as simple as
> Consonant-Vowel-Consonant-Vowel) and I feel like you could have something
> that doesn't feel too much like English but is still simple to pronounce
> for English speakers.

That sounds like good advice, especially if someone can claim from
experience that it works.  I don't want to come out with something that
sounds like English.

> When I created my primary language I really didn't pay much attention to
> phonology.  Over time, as my interest and aptitude developed, I
> incorporated more and more exotic (relative to American English) sounds.
> As a result, my conlang Angosey has a core of easy to pronounce words,
> followed by a layer influenced by Kiswahili, then a layer influenced by
> Korean.  One can then back-historicize this as stages in the language's
> development.


On Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:23 AM, Anthony Miles <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I also don't understand why you have to able to pronounce it. I
> find, however, that complex phonology can be distracting if the
> core idea is grammatical or syntactical. The phonology of my
> current project, Siye, is simple for now (9 consonants, 5 oral
> vowels, 5 nasal vowels, syllable structure (C)V(N)) because working
> with a split ergative language with Suffixaufnahme is hard enough.
> If I keep the phonology simple, it's also easier to answer "can you
> pronounce it?" One possibility for you might be to take a basic
> system and delete a feature (like my mother does when she goes
> to the opera). Some natlangs have no labials; Australian ones
> have no sibilants; Hawaiian conflates /t/ with /k/ and has /n/ as
> the only coronal. Of course, you could also steal a simple
> phonology from one natlang and apply it to an entirely different
> syntax and grammar. Or you could claim (conculturally) that this is
> a transcription and that the pronunciation provides is a scholarly
> best guess!

See above comment regarding the need to pronounce it.

I like the idea of keeping it simple, but here's my question on this: if
you just take a natlang phonology and delete a few features, won't it still
sound like that natlang?  Maybe linguists would go "oh, there is no
constrast on voicing, and no nasals in this conlang", but wouldn't Joe
Schmoe just say "sounds like English"?

I guess, what I'm realizing from several of these replies is that perhaps
my question should be more broad (and more well defined).  Let's see if I
can offer a better question:

I'd like to make a conlang where I put very little effort into
phonology/phonetics, but it's easy to pronounce, and sounds very different
from English.  If I can sufficiently achieve that with just phonotactics
(or some other field) related decisions based on a subset of English
phonetics (or phonology?  Now I'm confused on the term) that would be
ideal.  Is what I'm looking for possible?  If so, how would one go about it?