The sound system of Kash is as follows (symbols in brackets are ASCII-IPA):


  labial dental palatal velar
voiceless stops p t c [tS] k
voiced prenasalized stops mb nd nj [ndZ] ng [Ng]
fricatives f s š [S] h [x]
nasals m n ˝ (-˝) = [N]
resonants v r, l y [j]


  front central back
high i   u
mid e   o
low   a  


Presumably the structure of the Kash vocal tract differs in certain ways from ours; nevertheless, the pronunciation of Spanish can serve as an adequate model for Kash:

- voiceless stops are unaspirated
- in the dental series, the tongue-tip actually touches the back of the upper teeth (except s and the trilled r, which are more alveolar)
- the vowels, for all intents, are almost the same (but for e, see below)
- c is the palatal or alveo-palatal affricate of Span. or Engl. ch
- h corresponds to Span. j or the German ach-laut, not the smoother Engl. h.

Modern Spanish has no š [S] sound, nor nj [ndZ]-- these are, respectively, the sounds of Engl. sh in 'should' and nj in 'banjo'. Likewise, Spanish lacks a contrastive velar nasal [N]-- this is the sound written ng in Engl. 'sing'; it is contrastive in Kash only in word-final position and is written with the ˝ symbol (true palatals, except š, cannot occur finally). It reverts to palatal pronunciation if a vowel suffix is added: sura˝ ['suraN] 'mountain' but sura˝i [su'ra˝i] 'of the mountain'.

The pronunciation of Kash f and v differs from the more familiar Spanish or English. In fact, the Kash touch the lower teeth to the upper lip, which is a little awkward for us-- the best approximation, then, is Engl. f and v but with very light contact of the teeth on the lower lip. Such a pronunciation of v, I am told, characterizes Dutch and Malay w. It is also acceptable to make them purely bilabial, as some Kash speakers sometimes do. Similarly, due to the different structure of the Kash mouth and lips, the back vowels u/o are less rounded than in our languages (though not noticeably different in sound), and for the front vowels i/e, the lips are spread a bit wider.

The y is relatively frictionless, more as in Engl. 'you'; many Spanish dialects have more friction.

Kash s and r are alveolar, not dental; s is like our Engl. s, but r is usually trilled, though a single tap is acceptable. Dental l is always the "bright" l heard in Spanish, never the "dark" velarized l of Engl 'law' or 'full'. Note too, l is palatalized [lj] (like Castillian ll, or as in Engl. 'million') when it occurs between two i's, as in mili, pilimen ['milji], [pi'ljimEn].

Kash e in most cases is like Span. e in 'le' or 'mesa' (cf. Engl. 'eight', but without the i-like offglide); so mesa ['mesa] 'one', limbe ['limbe] 'to wear'. However, in the following cases it is lowered to [E], the vowel of Engl. 'met':

- before r, and before the nasal stops: so lero ['lEro] 'day', senda ['sEnda] 'be doing...'; engo ['ENgo] 'hull'
- in a final closed syllable: so livek ['livEk] 'long', yembek ['jEmbEk] 'narrow'; so livekto [li'vEkto] 'will be long', but kašet ['kaSEt] 'picture' > kašete [ka'Sete] (dative case)-- however, in minjer ['mindZEr] 'deputy', minjeri [mi'ndZEri] (genitive) the [E] remains because of the r
- in an open (stressed) penult if the ultima also has [E]: so ye˝et ['jE˝Et] 'dizzy' (the first vowel remains [E] even if the stress shifts: ye˝etto [jE'˝Et:o] 'will be dizzy'; similarly if an unstressed syllable with [E] becomes stressed, as atel 'room' > ateleç [a'tElES] (plural). As an exception, the particle ende 'and so...' is usually ['EndE], but other words of similar shape obey the rules: mende ['mEnde] 'finished'

Kash w is not included in the table of consonants above because it is non-contrastive, simply a requirement in the writing system to separate sequences of vowels involving u and o. So the sequences u/o_vowel must be written u/owi, u/owe, u/owa, uwo, owu (uwu and owo in fact do not occur). Further, a_u/o must be written awu, awo. Unless for emphasis, this w is barely pronounced and is merely a transitional glide; in fact the sequence -awu (with stressed a) is usually diphthongized-- sawu 'water' is ['saw] (monosyllabic like Engl. 'sow', though in careful speech it will be two; in poetic meter it also counts as two syllables), but sawuni 'its water' is [sa'uni].

Similarly, Kash y is also required by the writing system in sequences of i/e_vowel as well as in cases of a_i/e. There are cases of iyi, but only due to affixation-- e.g. šenji ['SEnji] 'a man's name', šenjiyi [SE'njii] 'of Shenji' or (ile 'dig') miyile [mi'ile] 'we dig' (with the two i's pronounced more or less separately, sometimes with a y-glide) or [SE'nji:] (with a lengthened i-- acceptable if the pattern is stressed-unstressed). Affixation also produces sequences of -eye, but unlike -iyi-, -eye- can occur within a word base (for historical reasons that need not concern us here). Like -awu, -ayi is also usually diphthongized-- kayi ['kaj] 'to live' vs. kayito [ka'ito] 'will live'.

Syllable and word structure

Possible Kash syllables are: V, CV, VC, CVC. Most word-bases are disyllabic: (C)V.CV(C). From a phonemic point of view, (C)VV(C) forms also occur, but the writing system obscures this (see above regarding y/w). The only consonant clusters permitted within a word base are stop + r, so CrV(C), CrVCV(C) and (C)VCrV(C) are possible (see further below). Monosyllabic bases exist, but are rare-- most are grammatical particles. Most 3-syllable, almost all 4-syllable, and all longer words, are inflected forms, derivations or compounds (though the derivational or compound status may no longer be obvious to many speakers).

Any vowel may occur in any syllable (but there are no cases of -uwu-, -owo- or -iyi-).

There are some restrictions on consonants. In the typical CVCV or CVCVC base:

- in medial position, any consonant (and w) may occur
- in initial position, all consonants may occur, except the nasal stops and w; also, initial yi- does not occur
- in final position, only p t k m n ˝[N] r l s š occur-- is usually the neuter plural ending, but some interjections and a few lexical items have it. Some interjections show final f and h
- sequences of rVr do not occur within a base, and are avoided or modified in derivations and phrases

There may, of course, be no consonant in initial or final position. Some examples:

i 'and' e 'def. article' om 'reason, cause' ri 'in, at, on'
ta ~tak 'not' ha 'four' pun 'if, whether' šim 'cord, string'
kaš 'person' ama 'father' enje 'city' ikro 'pebble'
ceka 'lame' haya 'light' aran 'name' yanga 'wind'
sura˝ 'mountain' kapra 'paper' traka 'to buy' tundru 'to lift up'
šoteru 'fog' rapinda 'welcome!' rungombra 'to kill' kandambraka 'senior partner'

Note: ro 'two' + rongo 'hundred' > lorongo 'two hundred'. The word lero 'sun; day' descends historically from *deraw, which by normal sound change would have been *rero; this dissimilation to l is usual if a vowel intervenes between the two r's. Other strategies exist, but are not entirely predictable; deletion of one or the other r is common, e.g. consistently in the case of prefix ru˝- + r-initial base-- ru˝-+raka 'big' > rundaka 'to enlarge' (not *rundraka); note also uširu 'artery' + raka > uširuwaka 'the aorta'. And while one usually gives the time of day with aro 'hour'-- aro mes, aro fan 'one o'clock, eight o'clock'-- 'two o'clock' uses an alternate word, teka 'tick, click' (to avoid *aro ro): teka ro (teka may replace aro in all cases).

The only permitted consonant clusters in a word-base are:

- medial p t k nd mb plus r
- initial p t k plus r

Other clusters may occur when the tense suffixes -sa and -to are added to consonant-final verbs; -to undergoes sandhi (see below) if possible, but -sa, exceptionally, does not-- kamondo (/kamon+to/) 'will be born' but kamonsa (/kamon+sa/) 'was born' (not *kamota). Such clusters are broken up with a brief unstressed schwa-like vowel, as in liveksa, livekto 'was ~will be long'. In the case of s+s or t+t-- e.g. tikassa 'saw', ye˝etto 'will be dizzy' most speakers simply lengthen the s/t.

Sequences of identical vowels (except rare -eye-) do not occur in word-bases; where they occur at morpheme boundaries, they must be separated with the homorganic glides y/w as discussed above. However, when two a's meet-- in the case of the personal prefixes ma-/ha-/ya- with an a-initial verb, they coalesce to a single sound: ma+ale > male 'I am', ya+ahan > yahan 'he creates'. This may optionally occur in some phrases--e.g. mepola amba 'ten thousand', usually pronounced as one word, mepolamba.


Monosyllabic lexical items, or course, are stressed; monosyllabic particles usually are not. Otherwise, polysyllabic bases have regular main stress on the penult; the case and tense suffixes shift the stress one syllable to the right. Other suffixes do not cause stress-shift.

Secondary stresses vary somewhat, but generally 4-syllable words have a secondary stress on the first syllable (indicated in the examples below with grave accent), main stress on the third (penult)-- in effect, alternating stress. Longer words may put secondary stress on either the first or second syllable; the language seems to favor a strong-weak-weak-strong-weak pattern. But for many speakers, the longer the word, the more likely it is to have alternating stress. Examples:

- ßna 'child', anßla 'children', Ónalßmi 'my children'
- acÚce 'stem', acÚceš 'stems', ÓcecÚši 'of stems', ÓcecešÝni ~acŔcešÝni 'of its stems'
- ambßkran 'weapon', Ómbakrßnaš 'weapons', Ómbakranßši 'of weapons', ÓmbakrÓnašÝmi 'of my weapons'

A few compounds and prefixed derivatives of monosyllabic bases retain stress on the base, resulting in anomalous final stress, which is not indicated in writing. It is most regular in the number system, when monosyllabic short forms of the units are used; beyond that, it is somewhat unpredictable. Examples:

- fola '10' + ro '2' > folarˇ '12'; similarly folasÝt, folahß...folasßn '13, 14...19'; rop˛lakÚt '26' etc.
- cek '(imit.) flash of lightning' > cakacÚk 'struck by lightning', but cÚcek 'a lightning bolt'
- tup '(interj.) bounce' > cat˙p 'to bounce (intr.)', but runjßtup 'to make s.t. bounce (caus.)'

Sandhi (combinatorial changes)

When certain consonants come into contact, either through affixation or compounding, various changes take place, mostly involving the nasals and r + consonant, as follows:

- any nasal + fricative > corresponding plain stop: e.g. -˝+s > t, -m+h > k, -n+š > c, -N+f > p
- any nasal + stop/affricate/another nasal > corresponding nasal stop, e.g. -˝+p > mb, -m+c > nj, any nasal +m > mb, any nasal+n > nd; except, any nasal + ˝ > ˝,
- any nasal + stop + r > corresponding nasal stop + r: e.g. -˝+tr > ndr; except, nasal+kr > kr (ngr is not permitted)
- any nasal + r > corresponding nasal stop + r: -m+r > mbr, -˝/n+r > ndr; except, -N+r > kr
- any nasal + l > nd
- any nasal + y > ˝; and any nasal + v > m

Exceptions: (1) as mentioned above, any nasal + -sa 'past tense marker' remains -ns-,e.g. kamonsa 'was born' (not *kamota), and
(2) any nasal +ni '3rd pers. poss.' > -˝i, e.g. karun+ni > karu˝i 'his/their "duke"'; yomom+ni > yomo˝i 'its foundation'

Native grammarians refer to these rules as "hardening", and it is important to keep them in mind, since they affect some of the most common derivational prefixes. In addition, they affect compounding, along with the following:

Final r + stop or nasal undergoes metathesis, then follows the rules above, except:

- -r + any palatal, and -r + v: the r deletes
- -r + non-palatal fricatives > corresponding plain stop + r: e.g. -r+h/s/f > kr/tr/pr
- -r + r > usually tr, or else the first r deletes
- r+l, l+r > tr (with some exceptions-- l can also behave as n or r)


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