A Ă C E Ĕ H I J K L M N P R Ş S Š T U Ü V Y The introduction to recording Chuvash speech in writing will be based on the script CVLat.
Chuvash recognizes 22
sounds and their variants. The speech sounds naturally fall into 3 groups: 1) Vowels
, 2) Sonorants
, 3) Obstruents
. Sonorants incorporate qualities of both vowels and consonants, that they form a separate group is a very charcteristic of Chuvash. Combined, vowels, sonorants, and obstructives form words. Not a word or morpheme occurs without a vowel. Diphthongs are impossible. When a vowel is expected to be followed by another vowel, an intervocalic sonorant breaks in. Vowels
split into groups according to (1) the backness
and (2) length
. Vowel harmony requires differentiation between front and back vowels. The harmony in Chuvash is progressive – the vowel in the root morpheme assimilates the vowels in all following morphemes. Regressive harmony (Umlaut) in Chuvash is rudimentary and unintelligible to contemporary speakers. It occurs frequently in proper names such as: Ermen /Ärmen/
"Armenian", Jetĕrne /Jätärne/
"town of Yadrin", Elĕk /Älĕk/
"town of Alikovo". However writing habits of 20th century abandoned umlaut altogether. Only the symbol ü for front u reminds of former harmony of the Chuvash vowels. Similarly, the front i
can be paired with the back ı
, front ä
(e) with back a
, front ə̈
(ĕ) with back ə
(ă), front ö
with back o
Interestingly, thanks to umlaut or some other kind of apophony, terms formed in language, semantically congruous but distinguished by backness: sătăr /sətər/
"to rub" – sĕtĕr /sə̈tə̈r/
"to drag", săr /sər/
"to paint" - sĕr /sə̈r/
"to smear", păr /pər/
"to turn" – pĕr /pə̈r/
"to twirl", sămah /səm-/
"word" – sĕm /sə̈m/
"meaning". (1) i ü | u y
e ĕ | ă a
The head of of Chuvash sounds is ă
, a short neutral sound. It occurs in most of original root morphemes, the evolution of ă
into the long a
affixed new meanings and shifted attention of speakers from consonants to vowels. Not only long variants of ă/ĕ appeared but a whole bunch of distinct vowels came around. The shortness of a vowel is shown by the diacritic breve «̆».
(2) ă/ĕ short | long a e u ü y i
Length immediately affects position of stress
in Chuvash words. In fact, stressed syllables are pronounced a longer and louder. Standard Chuvash has a stress rule borrowed from a more archaic upper Chuvash dialect, while the lower dialect has a fixed stress - always stressing final syllables of words. The rule
has it that in a word that has two or more long syllables the last one of them is stressed. In a word with one long syllable that syllable is stressed. In a word with no long syllables the first short syllable is stressed: ăšătmalla, ăšăt, ăšănatăp
Note that unstressed vowels are never subject to any kind of reduction. Although a and ă used to be variants of one sound, they each developed distinct qualities and aren't substitutable. In fact, the speakers of lower dialect take it further, in order to rid of problematic graphemes ă and ĕ some suggest that they should be written as o and ö, which are made more accessible in computer technologies. However, in the upper dialect o and ö occur as separate long sounds opposing short ă and ĕ: lower and standard pušă
, suggested pušo
"empty" - upper pošă
, lower and standard tută
, suggested tuto
"satiate" - upper totă
always come in between vowels in clusters or isolated. Consonants shape meaning by being either short or long. v m n l r j vs vv mm nn ll rr jj p t c ş s š h k vs pp tt cc şş ss šš hh kk
This is the only general rule for consonants in Chuvash, beyond it consonants fall into two groups: sonorants and obstruents. Sonorants
, normally included in Linguistics with consonants, in Chuvash organize into their own group. Distinguishing them helps better understand the system overall. Sonorant group may otherwise be called semi-vowel group. In the upper dialect diphthongs occur while the lower dialect inserts semi-vowel v: höel - hĕvel "sun", toan - tăvan "native", hool - hăvăl "hole". v m n l r j m, n, l
are pronounced similar to the English /m, n, l/. v
/ʋ/ is pronounced rather like <w> in American pronunciation. Grapheme v is suggested for Chuvash /ʋ/ may double, so vv looks better than ww. r
is a rolling sound. It is similar to Russian, Spanish, Italian /r/. Single /r/ is opposed by double /rː/, which makes it an extremely hard sound for an English-speaking learner. j
/j/ is pronounced as in y
of all speech sounds in the language show most flexibility. The system of Chuvash obstruents is similar to that of Old English.
There is no phonematic voiced-voiceless opposition in Chuvash. p t c ş s š h k = b d ʤ ʒ z ʐ ɣ g
Obstruents get voiced
1) in intervocalic position:
a 'bear', ac
a 'child', mana p
ar 'give me';
2) sonorant-obstruent-vowel position: unp
a 'with him', anc
ăk 'puppy', man panulmi 'my apple'.
Obstruents are not voiced in obstruent-obstruent and obstruent-sonorant clusters. Gemination may also be regarded as an obstruent-obstrunet cluster (kajattăm << kaj+at+t+ăm "I used to go"):
ra 'keep', ăsc
ah 'scholar', atte 'father'
Letters p t s h k
represent sounds which are more or less similar to the English. c
stands for English CH as in ch
eep, and G as in g
entle when voiced. ş
is pronounced like SH in sh
eep, and S in pleas
is pronounced like S but with the tip of the tongue pulled up and back to the palate.
S is the most frequent sound in Chuvash.
Ş and Š originate from S: ş=s+j, š=s+h. This phenomenon is not recognized by Cyrillic alphabet, which allows /sj/ and /sh/ in loanwords. CVLat allows sj but not sh, so what is in Russian Chuvash written as <сх> should be written as <sk>. Palatalization
of n l t
is phonematic in Chuvash. This palatalization is shown by ' sign. In RP English there is light and dark L, so it is in Chuvash n, l and t:
'Hun' vs hun'
'spirit' vs hal'
'comfort' vs hăt'
Mostly phonematic n l t occur in old and new loanwords: hal' from Arabic, hăt' from Russian. The affix marking the present tense in kajat'
"does" is related to Indo-European -ti
, hence always palatal.