Talossan has a number of consonant combinations (graphemes) that indicate specific sounds, sometimes surprising to the new learner. For example, glh and tx are rather jarring to the eye accustomed to reading English. The combinations are not too difficult to get used to, however, and are easily and quickly explained.
If a consonant is doubled in Talossan, this means that it should be pronounced with its “default”, or “full” value. In other words, a doubled letter d between two vowels will not “degenerate” to the “th” sound as would a single d in such a position, and a doubled letter l at the end of a word will not “degenerate” to the “w” sound.
This is why a word like Talossan will have the letter s sounded as in English “saw” rather than in English “rose”, which is how it would be pronounced if the letter s were not doubled.
The Combinations sch and tsch
The combination sch is one way in Talossan to indicate the English “sh” sound (as in “she” and “ash”). For example, suorsch (= mouse), dúdesch (= twelve), and uschor (= wife).
Note, however, that when preceded by a t, the sound changes. The combination tsch is another way in Talossan to form the “ch” sound as in English “chair” and “churn”. This method is typically seen at the end of a word, or (less frequently) when the vowel that follows is not an e or i (in which cases the combinations ce and ci would be available instead to indicate the “ch” sound). As discussed above, though, this means that tschu and ciu sound exactly alike, both pronounced like the English word “chew”. For example, squetschadoira (= printer), calatsch (= cake), sändwitsch (= sandwich), La Republica Tschec (= The Czech Republic), Tzaratütsch (= Germany), and vaintsch (= twenty).
When you see ch which is not preceded by an s, however, this means something different. We will discuss this next.
The Combinations che and chi
In the letter combinations che and chi, the letter c becomes a “hard c” (that is, pronounced like English k) and the letter h is silent. This (the changing of c to ch) is the method by which the “hard c” sound is indicated when the letter that follows is an e or an i. For example, in the word Chenapura (= Friday), the first syllable is pronounced like the English word “cane”, and in the word ambracafirancheu (= reddish brown), the ch is pronounced like English “k”.
Since this combination is only used to introduce an e or i, no Talossan word ends in ch (except as part of the sch grapheme discussed above).
The Combination c’h
The apostrophe in c’h is an integral part of the combination and cannot be omitted. These three symbols (the two letters and the apostrophe) together form a single sound in Talossan. Some call it the “throat-scraping sound”, others the “hard h” sound; you may think of it as the sound you hear in the Scottish word loch (= lake, as in Loch Ness). Talossan words containing this sound include c’hrom (= chrome), lüc’ht (= file), and nic’ht (= night).
The Combinations sc’h and s’che and s’chi
The two combinations sc’h and s’ch often give some students of Talossan a little trouble, since they are similar in appearance, not only to each other but to the combination sch.
The first of these (sc’h) is parsed as (s)(c’h) — it is the s sound followed by the sound from the Scottish word loch. This is seen in the word vesc’ha (= spade).
The second of these combinations (s’ch) is parsed as (s)(ch) and only ever appears before a letter e or i. The apostrophe in s’ch indicates the separation of the two elements (which would otherwise combine into the single sound sch). Since this combination consists of the s sound followed by “the hard c” sound, the Talossan word s’chi (= ski) is pronounced just like the English word.
The Combination glh
The consonant combination glh is one of the first ones that someone new to Talossan encounters, since it begins the word glheþ (= language). The exoticness of this letter combination (and the þ that ends the word) often makes an English speaker hesitate before beginning to learn Talossan. It is not really that scary once you learn how to pronounce it, though.
In Talossan, glh is pronounced as “lli” is pronounced in English words like “million” and “billion”. You can think of this, then, as the sound of a letter l (as in “bill”) followed immediately by an English letter y (as in “you”). For example, figlheu (= son), Fevraglh (= February), uglh (= eye), and aureglha (= ear).
Don’t be afraid of glh; glh is your friend.
The Combination gh
The combination gh is exceedingly rare (so much so that it is hardly worth mentioning; it appears in only a handful of words), but if you ever run into it, pronounce it like the gurgling sound at the end of the pirate cry “arrrrgh!”
The Combination gnh
The combination gnh is pronounced as the Spanish ñ (as in Señor), which is the sound heard in the English words “onion” and “canyon”. Examples of words containing gnh are pignheta (= wrist), Polognh (= Poland), and tristimognha (= sadness).
The Combination ng
The Talossan letter n is pronounced just like the English letter n, even in the way the sound of that letter changes when it is involved in the consonant combinations ng, nc, and nk (and any other combination in Talossan, such as nche and nchi, in which n is followed by a “hard c” sound). This combination is pronounced exactly as in heard in the English words “sing” and “sink”, and this is seen in the examples ambracafirancheu (= reddish brown) and bísquinc (= ten).
Just as in English, the letter g is pronounced in an ng combination only if this combination is followed by a vowel or a “liquid consonant” (meaning the consonant l or r); otherwise the letter g is silent in the combination. English examples of the pronounced g include “anger”, “angle”, and “hungry”. Talossan examples include Anglatzara (= England) and langosteu (= lobster). Talossan examples of a silent g (as in English “sing” and “ring”) include sang (= blood), angström (= angstrom), and lung (= long).
The Combination rh
The combination rh is very often seen, because it appears at the end of the infinitive form of every Talossan verb. In fact, this is virtually the only place where this combination is seen — rh only appears in a couple other words.
The English speaker might be surprised to learn (and it may be difficult to get used to) the fact that the Talossan combination rh is pronounced like the English sound “sh”, as in “ship” and “she” and “ash”. Yes, that is right, the Talossan word amarh (= to love) is pronounced “ah-mahsh”, to rhyme with the English words “wash” and “gosh”.
The Combination xh
Since the letter j is a vowel (essentially equivalent to i) in Talossan, and the letter g is pronounced as in “age” in only a small number of words, the sound of the English letter j (as in “jump” and “jive”) is spelled using the combination xh in Talossan. For example, xhenoglh (= knee), roxh (= red), vexhetal (= vegetable), erxhent (= silver), and traxhedà (= tragedy).
The Combination tx
The combination tx is rather unique in Talossan, since it is a combination that does not include the letter h. This combination is pronounced as the sound in the middle of the word “measure” and “vision”, and the beginning of the Hungarian name Zsa Zsa. For example, marótxena (= ice cream) and fatxot (= bassoon).