Suvile: A Brief Introduction

in Conlangs

I said yesterday that I was going to try to add non-rant material to the site, and here I’m going to start making good on that promise. This is the first in (what I hope will be) an ongoing series of posts detailing both the creation of languages (specifically, constructed languages, or “conlangs”) and those that I have created. In this first post I’ll give a brief introduction to the most developed of my own creations, a conlang called Suvile.

The in-character history of Suvile goes back a few thousand years, on a fictitious planet known as Idzon. Back in the real world, though, the language came into being in 2003. These posts will be out of character, and therefore will use the latter date. Those wanting to see more about the internal history of the language and the world can visit my other site, IdzonWiki.

When I made Suvile, I intended for it to be somewhat like English, in that it was used by different groups of people, some native, some as a second language. For this reason, it doesn’t have a lot of the features that other peoples’ conlangs seem to have, like Chinese-style tone systems, Arabic-like guttural sounds, and grammatical features only found (on Earth) in the deepest jungles. Instead, as a fake lingua franca, Suvile was made to be more like Indo-European languages in its grammar. Later on, I hope to detail some of its neighboring languages, which do have features like those. For now, though, let’s continue the introduction, so I can show you what the language actually looks like.

Look and Feel

The Suvile language has a total of 28 distinct sounds (phonemes), and all but one can be found in most dialects of English. There are 6 vowels, whose values can vary, but are most like the following:

  • a is pronounced like the a in English father, or like the same vowel in most other languages, such as Spanish. Note that it isn’t pronounced like the English short a in cat, as that is ae, seen below.
  • e has two pronunciations, either of which is correct. Before a consonant, it is usually pronounced as the e in bed, but at the end of a word, it sounds more like the a in late.
  • i is usually pronounced the same as in Spanish, or like the ee in meet, though it can also sound like the i in pit before a consonant.
  • o can be pronounced in two ways, either like the o in words like hot, or the long o in code. Like e, this depends on whether there is a following consonant.
  • u is normally pronounced as in Spanish, or like the oo in mood, though the sound of oo in look is also acceptable.
  • ae, also printed as æ, has the pronunciation of the short a sound in cat or mad.

There are a total of 20 separate consonants in Suvile. Two consonant clusters, or affricates, are also counted, thus bringing the total to 22. These have mostly the same value as in English, and are as follows:

  • b, d, g, k, m, n, p, s, t, v, w, y, and z are all pronounced essentially the same way as their English counterparts.
  • c is pronounced as the ch sound in English chair. This is an affricate, a combination of t and sh, and it is written with two letters in the Suvile alphabet.
  • dh, also ð, is the soft th sound in English with or then.
  • j is, like c, an affricate, a combination of d and zh. It is pronounced as the j in English judge.
  • l is normally pronounced as in English let, but it sometimes becomes vowel-like, as a “syllabic” l. In these cases, it is instead pronounced like the le in English bottle. The syllabic l can also be written as ‘l
  • r has three different pronunciations. At the end of a word, or before a consonant, it is usually pronounced as in American English rat. Before a vowel, it can also be pronounced as a “tap” like the Spanish r. Finally, in some cases r can become something like a vowel itself, and these syllabic r sounds are pronounced like the American English er in butter. Sometimes these are written as ‘r.
  • sh, sometimes written as ś, is pronounced much the same as in English.
  • th, also written þ, is pronounced like the hard th in English think.
  • x is the only sound in Suvile that doesn’t appear in English. It is the ch sound of German Bach or the j in some dialects of Spanish. Most English speakers, though, can get away with using the h sound of English here, since Suvile doesn’t have that sound at all.
  • zh, or ź, is pronounced like the s in leisure, or essentially the same as the French j.

There are also a number of diphthongs, or vowel combinations, that appear in Suvile. These have a much more varied pronunciation than the basic vowels, but I will try to give English approximations. The main key is that all Suvile diphthongs have an i or u sound, often written as y or w, respectively.

  • ai is pronounced as the long i sound of English bite.
  • ei is a sort of “drawled” form of the normal Suvile e sound. It is best approximated by the long a of late, as pronounced by someone from the southern US.
  • oi is pronounced like the oy in English boy.
  • au can be pronounced like the ou in lout or the au in maul.
  • ou is a drawled form of o, analogous to ei above.
  • iu, as well as the rare eu, can be pronounced as y+u, like tune in many English dialects. It can also be pronounced as i+w, which has no English counterpart.
  • ui is pronounced either w+i (English wee), or as u+y (the sound at the end of the name Louie).
  • u before any other vowel becomes w, and i before any other vowel becomes y. Other combinations of vowels (such as ea) are pronounced separately.

Suvile syllables can consist of a total of five sounds, with two consonants (the second must be a weak consonant), a vowel or diphthong, and two final consonants (with the first being weak). Words are often many syllables longs, as a number of prefixes and suffixes can be added to any word. Stress is most often placed on the last “root” syllable, with most suffixes being unstressed.

To Be Continued

This introduction was really only to the sounds of Suvile. Next time (which won’t be too long, I hope), I want to actually introduce the language itself–its vocabulary and grammar and syntax. Until then, I’ll leave you with one of the newest translations, the Golden Rule. In the US, this is quoted most often in its Middle English version, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Suvile form, which changes the meaning slightly, looks something like this:

ithilan vwos nin et’l nor wodh.

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