There are eight vowel letters in Talossan. The English speaker, who is used to only five vowels, might be a bit afraid when hearing this, but here is no need to be. Five of the vowels, of course, are the same ones that an English speaker is familiar with — a, e, i, o, and u. As we’ll see in a minute, they don’t always sound the same in Talossan as they sound in English, however, but that is not Talosssan’s fault — it is English’s fault.
As every English speaker knows, the same English vowel can sound very different in different words. For example, consider the English vowel a in the word par and the same vowel in the words pat and pane and pare. All four of those sound very different. However, if those same words were Talossan words, the vowel a would sound the same in all of them — pat would sound just like the English word pot.
Unlike English (and just like other Romance languages), vowels in Talossan do not change sounds (very much). Each of them has one particular sound, and its pronunciation is almost entirely uniform from word to word.
The Letter a
We have already covered the fact that the Talossan vowel a is always pronounced as in the English par or spa or ha. This might be a bit of an overstatement — one thing to keep in mind is that when the vowel is not stressed (and especially when unstressed at the end of a word), then it acts just like the same letter in English acts in those same kind of words: it becomes an “uh” sound, as in words like sofa and cola. That’s all there is to say about the vowel a — it is always “ah”, unless it is not stressed, when it is “uh”.
- matra (= mother). Here the first letter a (which is in the stressed syllable) is pronounced “ah” and the second one (since it is not stressed) can degenerate to “uh” (though “ah” is still not incorrect).
- felicità (= happiness). Here the letter a is stressed (that is what the accent mark above the a indicates), and so it is given the full “ah” sound (it does not degenerate to “uh”).
- þáriqeu (= bean). Here is another a that is stressmarked.
The Letter ä
But what if there is a need for the sound that the English letter a makes in words like pat and cat? Well, that is where one of the non-English vowel-letters comes in. That is what the letter ä is used for. And that’s all there is to say about ä — if you want a Talossan word that sounds like the English word cat, then you want cät.
Sometimes, though, it is not very easy to pronounce ä as in English “cat” — for example, when the ä comes before the letter r. In such cases, ä is often pronounced as the vowel sound in English care.
- Listopäts (= October). This word rhymes with the English word “cats”.
- bräts (= arm). This word rhymes with the English word “rats”.
- är (= air). This is pronounced just like the English word.
The letter ä is relatively rare in Talossan — it only appears in about 600 words. In almost all of the words where it appears, it is followed by a consonant, then by the letter s; this is seen above in the examples Listopäts and bräts, and in the word Regipäts, which means “Kingdom”.
The Letter e
“Ah” and “uh” are not the only two sounds that the vowel a makes in English, though. It makes a whole other sound in English words like ate and late. That brings us to the vowel e. The English speaker is used to the vowel e making many different sounds, and even often being silent. This is not the case in Talossan. The Talossan vowel e is always pronounced as in the English word cafe and the Spanish word olé.
This is not the full sound of the vowel in English say, but is the first half of it. English speakers tend to add a y-sound at the end of words like cafe; try not to do that and you have the e of Talossan (and other Romance languages).
This vowel sound often degenerates to simply “eh” as in the English egg.
- vermel (= yellow). Both e‘s in this word are pronounced either as in cafe or egg. Although it is common for an English speaker to pronounce the first syllable to rhyme with fur, it is more proper to give that letter e the more Romance sound described here, so that it rhymes with fair.
- tres (= three). This word is pronounced just as the Spanish number, and much like the English word trace.
The Letter i
In English, the letter i can make many different sounds, as seen in the words ice, rip, and pizza. In Talossan, the letter is always pronounced as in pizza and Rita and police.
- dit (= finger). This word rhymes with the English words treat and neat.
- gitara (= guitar). The first syllable of this word also should be pronounced to rhyme with English treat and neat.
- índigeu (= indigo). The first syllable of this word (which is stressed) is pronounced to rhyme with the English word “seen”.
The Letter o
Once again, English uses the letter o for more than one sound, as seen in the words odd, oven, and over. The Talossan vowel o is used only for the sound in over and or. English speakers sometimes (without even knowing they’re doing it) add a little w-sound to the end of their “o” sounds; try not to do that when pronouncing Talossan.
- tornavitz (= screwdriver). The first syllable of this word is pronounced as the English word torn.
- foren (= oven). The first syllable of this word is pronounced like the English for.
The Letter u
The letter u In Talossan is usually pronounced as in English dune, although it can degenerate to the “uh” sound, especially in words beginning with “un-” (as in English under). You’re safest just sticking with the sound in dune, but keep in mind that English speakers often add a little w-sound to the end of their “oo” sounds; try not to do this when pronouncing Talossan.
- uschor (= wife). The first sound of this word is pronounced “oo”, not “uh”.
- vúcul (= uncle). The u‘s in this word are pronounced “oo”.
The Letters ö and ü
The two other vowels in Talossan are ö and ü. Both of these are rather foreign to the English speaking tongue (although if you’ve heard people speaking German, you have heard these vowels), so I’ll cover them together.
There are many different ways that the sounds of ö and ü can be described to an English speaker; perhaps none of them are perfect, but here is mine. For the letter ö, use the sound in English book and good, and you will be pretty close. And for the letter ü, put your mouth in the position to say the vowel in English book and good, and while keeping it in that position, say the English “ee” sound (as in “free”).
Those instructions may not be perfect, and other instructions can surely be found. In point of fact, many English-speaking Talossan-speakers just understand that they are not good at creating these sounds, so they don’t bother, and they use the sound o when they see ö, and they use the sound u when they see ü. Doing this is okay — it simply marks you as having an English-accent when speaking Talossan, but there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you have experience with German, or if you are able to sound out the Talossan vowels ö and ü better than most English speakers, then good for you!
- cüzin (= cousin) and cüzina (= a female cousin).
- alüminüm (= aluminum).
- lüxüs (= luxury).
- sücra (= sugar).
- Gün (= June).
- tü (= turkey, the bird).
- purpül (= purple).
- ärör (= error).
- böf (= ox)
The vowel ü is used in many Talossan words, but ö is much less common. The letter ö is only used in about 400 words, and the majority of those uses are in the combination -ös, which is akin to the English -ous suffix, as in the English words hideous and tremendous.
Stressmarks on Vowels
A few of the examples given above (felicità, þáriqeu, and índigeu) contained a stressmarked vowel. Stress in Talossan words is covered in more detail on another Webpage. However, it is important to know about the various stressmarks to help you as you try to pronounce Talossan words. And so, we will cover just a bit of ground here.
Stressmarks are only used in Talossan when the vowel to be stressed is not in the “default stress position” — thus, although a vowel might not be stressmarked, it may still be the one that is stressed in speech. What this means is that stressmarks (especially certain of them) are actually fairly rare in Talossan.
The vowels a, e, i, o, and u are marked to indicate stress by adding either an acute accent (as in á and é) or a grave accent (as in à and è). Both types of accents (acute and grave) mean the exact same thing, and either can be used. In practice, it is considered stylish to use the grave accent only on the final letter of a word — for example, cüriösità (= curiosity) is considered more stylish than cüriösitá, although both are entirely proper.
[The only exception to this rule of style involves the few short contractions that are built from the Talossan word à (= to). It is considered more proper stylistically to continue the use of the grave accent in those words, such as the contraction àl (= to the).]
The vowels ä, ö, and ü are stressmarked in the same way, by adding an accent mark atop the umlaut (some writers adopt a convenience, such as replacing the umlaut with a macron or tilde). However, words in which such a mark is called for are extremely rare. As a result, the use of the accent mark is usually eschewed, especially in the most common of these words. Such words include säparh (= to know or to know how to), zespäts (= since), the phrase sa mũchet come (= as much as), and ündesch (= eleven).
- piatì (= cymbal). This two syllable word is stressed on the second syllable, so that it sounds like the English sound “pyah-TEE”.
- cócüs (= cook, the occupation). Here, the stressmark indicates that the first syllable is to be stressed, so that the word sounds like “KOH-küs”.
- décadi (= decade). Here again, this is an indication that the first syllable should be stressed in speech, so the word sounds like English “DEH-kah-dee”.
- esperançù (= hope). The final syllable is stressed here.