Phonological Alternations

In Skerre, the sounds frequently vary phonetically depending on their position within a word. These variations are detailed below. Though many of these variations are not written in the orthography, they, nevertheless, form an integral part of how Skerre is pronounced. As alluded to in previous sections, these alternations can be viewed as the most specific restrictions on which sounds can be adjacent to each other.

The following alternation topics will be discussed:

General Alternations

As their name suggests, the following rules are general, in the sense that they apply to all words with the relevant sounds and environments.

Nasal Assimilation

In nasal-consonant clusters, nasals are articulated in the same place as the consonant that follows them.
NC[α place] -----> N[α place]C[α place]

/tanko/ [taŋgo] people
/tonsi/ [tonzi] stomp (with an alveolar n)

In the event that the second consonant isn't articulated within the oral cavity (as is the case in [nʔ] and [nh] clusters), the nasal is articulated at its default dental articulation.

Nasal assimilation also occurs across word boundaries.

Consonant Cluster Voicing

In all clusters, the segments must agree in voicing. The character of the voicing matches the first segment in the cluster.
C[α voice]C -----> C[α voice]C[α voice]

Examples (see also the examples for nasal assimilation):
/swihes/ [sw̥ihes] spy
/kanti/ [kan̪di] be dear
/eskis/ [eskis] star

The nasal + glottal stop cluster is an exceptional and does not agree in voicing, presumably due to the impossibility of a voiced glottal stop.

Final Deletion

Word finally, the semivowels (including kw) and /h/ are not licensed. They are deleted with concomitant lengthening and, sometimes, contraction: if the semivowel is close to the vowel's place of articulation, there is just lengthening. If they are of different places, the vowels "compromise" and contract.

An example: /konaj/ [kone:] ignore

In the case of final /kw/, it is neutralized to [k], as in:
/sakw/ [sak] hoard

Domain Specific Alternations

A second class of alternations are restricted to particular domains. The most common arise out of affixation where the straight-ahead addition of an affix would not respect the phonotactic constraints of Skerre. Yet not all come out of affixation, as shown by the glottal stop insertion rule below.

Initial Glottal Stop Insertion

Phonological phrases cannot be vowel-initial. A glottal stop is inserted to fix this.
[PhPr V -----> [PhPr ʔV

/ewes=ha/ [ʔewesha] I slept
/a skakos/ [ʔa skakos] a/the cougar

Hiatus Prevention

Two vowels cannot be adjacent to each other. Semivowels (and the glottal stop) are inserted to break up these vowels.
V[+front]V -----> V[+front]jV
oV -----> owV
aV ------> aʔV (a?V)

/ekoir/ [ʔekowiɾ] fuzz, soft fur
/eahor/ [ejahoɾ] ran
/taraok/ [taɾaʔok] (ta4a?ok) hot-shot

These same insertions also occur when two vowels abut within the same phonological phrase.

/koni etsosin/ [konijetsosin] didn't kill
/a arakir/ [ʔaʔaɾakiɾ] the priest

Deletion and Coalescence in Prefixation

The results of prefixation often create forms that violate the phonotactics. To fix these violations, certain sounds either delete or form a new sound with the adjacent one in a process known as coalescence.


Within the strategy of deletion, there are two possibilities: the stem consonant can delete or the prefix consonant can delete. The first possibility, formalized below, is a common choice in Skerre.

C1[stem C2 ------> C1

This repairs almost all illegal sC and tsC clusters (*sʔ, *ss, *sh, *tsts, *tsʔ, *tss, *tsh) created by the nominalizing prefixes s- and ts-. This is also repairs certain clusters (*tʔ, *tw, *th) involving the prefix wat- (see the nouns page for more on s- and ts- and the verbs page for more on wat-).

/s + har/ [saɾ] figher, warrior
/s + sawen/ [sawen] resident
/wat + war/ [wataɾ] be tenth

This is also how /n + j/, /n + w/, and /n + r/ clusters created by the prefix tin- are resolved.

/tin + wiso/ [tiniso] groups
/tin + rijos/ [tinijos] humanity

A few clusters do the opposite and delete the prefix consonant, as formalized below:

C1[stem C2 ------> C2

This repairs t-[stop] clusters (including affricates and the nasal) created by wat-, as in the following:

/wat + tero:/ [wateɾo:] be flooded
/wat + kara/ [wakaɾa] be honorable
/wat + naahi/ [wana:hi] be fearless


When the nominalizing prefixes s- and ts- are affixed to [j]-initial stems, the sounds coalesce and form single palato-alveolar obstruents.
sj -----> ʃ (S)
tsj -----> ʧ (tS)

/s + jas/ [ʃas] (Sas) giver
/ts + jari/ [ʧaɾi] (tSa4i) weapon

Finally, the [t] of wat- coalesces with /s/, /r/, and /j/, to form [ts].
wat + s/r/j -----> wats

/ri: + wat + sa:na/ [ɾi:watsa:na] make blurry
/wat + ra:si/ [watsa:si] teethe
/wat + jat/ [watsat] be first

Forward to Section 5: Prosody
Back to Section 3: Phonotactics
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