Talossan has a number of multi-letter combinations, and this poses a challenge in written Talossan when one part of the combination should be pronounced in one syllable, and the other part in another syllable.
For example, the English word “ruin” cannot be transliterated directly into Talossan as simply ruin, since ui is a diphthong, so a Talossan word ruin would be a single syllable, while the English word is spoken in two distinct syllables. As another example, the English word “farmhand” also could not be transliterated simply, since the combination mh would indicate pronunciation of a v suond.
So, in writing, the component letters of such groups must be indicated somehow as being pronounced separately. When the letter combination to be separated is a set of vowels (a diphthong such as ui), there are three methods that can be used to indicate syllabic separation. When the letter combination is a set of consonants (such as mh), then there is only one method that can be used. Let’s discuss the three methods of separating diphthongs first:
- When the vowel to be separated from a diphthong appears in “default” stress position, explicitly stress marking that vowel may be done to indicate the separation. This only works, however, if the stress mark does not have the effect of indicating that the entire diphthong is being stressed. For example, the word sunía (= hallucination) is stressed on the vowel i, which is separated from what would otherwise be the diphthong ia by the stress mark. Notice that this only worked because the stressmarked form of the diphthong ia is iá, not ía. In a word like ruin, then, this method would not be useful, and one of the methods below would need to be used.
- If one of the letters in the diphthong to be separated is the letter e or the letter i, then the separation can be indicated by adding a trema, or diæresis mark (two-dots, identical to the umlaut) over the e or i. This is also done in English, in words like “Zoë” and “naïve”, the diæresis indicating that the latter word is not pronounced as “nave” or “nive”, but that the i stands in its own syllable, so that the word is pronounced “nah-eev”. For example, consider the Talossan word fruïtz (= fruit). Here, what would be the diphthong ui is separated into two syllables, so that this word is pronounced “fru-eetz”. Notice that the word is still not stress marked, so stress falls, by default, on the (now separated) letter i, meaning that the second and final syllable is stressed. Notice also that the word could not be written fruítz, since uí indicates the stressing of the ui diphthong.
- If neither of the above methods can be used, then the separation of a diphthong into two syllables is indicated in writing by inserting an apostrophe between the components of the diphthong. There are only a handful or words in Talossan that must resort to this method. One of them is co’aliziun (= coalition). Here, to indicate that the word does not contain the diphthong oa, an apostrophe is necessary in writing. Most of the other words in Talossan that use apostrophes to separate what would be diphthongs are formed by prefixes as well — for example, retro’actíu (= retroactive) and psüc’ho’analüçaziun (= psychoanalysis). In these cases, a hyphen can also be used instead of an apostrophe, because just as in English (pre-school, post-mortem), hyphenisation can be used at prefix boundaries in Talossan. (Some persons choose to use this method in preference to the ë and ï method listed above, preserving the umlaut only for use to indicate the vowels ä, ö, and ü. Such persons would write fru’itz rather than fruïtz; both are of course proper.)
When the issue is the separation of a group of consonants (instead of vowels), then the only available method is the third one discussed above — use of an apostrophe. Once again, the number of words in which this type of separation is called for is limited to only a few dozen, and again, many are words formed by prefixes, where a hyphen could be used instead — for example, pan’naziunal (= pan-national), út’traval (= workout), and inter’raçal (= inter-racial). But for some words, such as adeg’nás (= dirty white color), t’svaçeir (= racket, for tennis, etc.), and fil’harmonic (= philharmonic), an apostrophe is needed to separate a consonant group that would otherwise indicate an alternate pronunciation.
Other Uses of the Apostrophe
In addition to its use (in a limited number of words, as discussed above) to indicate the separation of what would be a diphthong or consonant combination, the apostrophe is used in Talossan to form the single consonant sound c’h (pronounced like the “ch” in Scottish “loch”) and to indicate elision and contraction.
Elision and contraction is seen in such examples as ¿com’estevás’t? (= how were you?), which is a contraction of come (= how) with estevás (= were), which also is contracted to the object pronoun tu (= you) using an apostrophe. Such cases are much like English examples like “you’re” and “I’m”, meaning that the apostrophe indicates the removal of a vowel sound at the beginning or end of one of two words, and the contraction of the two words into one. The result is a construction where the apostrophe appears between a vowel and a consonant. This dropping of vowels is known as “elision”.
Notice that in this use of the apostrophe, what would have been multiple syllables is often combined into a single syllable. This is the opposite effect from the use of the apostrophe to separate diphthongs and consonant combinations, discussed above.
One extremely common word in Talossan that is an example of elision and contraction is c’e (= it is; so you may think of is as very much like English “it’s”). This is not only a contraction of two words, but also a drastic shortening of one of them. The word c’e is equivalent to ça (= it) + esta (= is). Notice, though, that these two words have nearly been completely lost in the creation of c’e. The ç has turned to a hard c, and esta has been shortened to simply e. Not only that, but by juxtaposing the c with an e (even with the apostrophe separation), the c becomes pronounced as “ch” in English “chair”. So the Talossan word c’e is pronounced as English “cheh” or even “chay”. [Notice that this contraction is ancient, as evidenced by the fact that the Romance verb form esta has since been supplanted by an irregular conjugation taken from Germanic languages, isch.]
The same contraction (without the accompanying shortening of the verb) is seen in the past tense and the subjunctive mood: c’esteva (= it was) and c’estadra (= it might be).
Talossan also can (and often does) use c’e where in English a simple “is” would suffice. That is, an English sentence such as “the lion is yellow” could be translated as either la liun isch vermel (= the lion is yellow) or as la liun c’e vermel (= the lion, it is yellow). However, c’e cannot be used in this way if the subject is a person. That is, va figlheu c’e feliceu (= my son, it is happy) is improper; you must say va figlheu isch feliceu (= my son is happy).
This common contracted form is not only used for “it is”, but also anytime you want to say “this is” or “that is”. For example, c’e ben could mean either “it is good”, “this is good”, or “that is good”. Just as English accepts both “does not” and “doesn’t”, the longer, uncontracted forms are also available in Talossan: ça isch (= it is) and acest isch and aceasta isch (both = this is or that is).