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Tyvan Lesson 1: Vowels & Consonants - Тыва Дыл Бирги Kичээл
by Stacey Borsody
All rights reserved
Most of the original text of this lesson can be found at the Vowel harmony article now.
Long and Short Vowels
The eight different vowels can either be long or short. This is merely the duration that they are spoken for. When a vowel is long, it is written down twice. This means you should hold the vowel sound a little bit longer than you normally would.
ол (ol) - he/she/it
оол (ool) - boy, son
дүн (dün) - night
дүүн (düün) - yesterday
These have been called pharyngeal or glottalized vowels in the past. This means when you pronounce them, it feels almost is as if you are swallowing at the same time because they get produced in the throat. Recent studies (Anderson/Harrison) suggest that these are low pitch vowels, pronounced with at a lower pitch than the rest of the word. Some speakers pharyngealize them, but for most it is only low pitch. They also might be held a little longer when they are pronounced, but not as long as long vowels. It is important to learn to pronounce them because some words look the same and the only difference between them are the kargyraa vowel.
аът (a`t) - horse
ат (at) - name
There are also Tyvan words that have a low pitch vowel but the spelling does not mark it.
каш - how
Nasal vowels occur in some dialects. You may have heard of them, so I mention them here, but we are not going to study them since they are not part of the literary language. You will be understood even if you don't use them.
Consonants, like vowels, have similarities and differences in the way they are pronounced. For example, voiced consonants require the throat to vibrate whereas unvoiced consonants don't. You can feel this by putting your hand to your throat and comparing how it feels when pronouncing T (unvoiced) and D (voiced). Other classifications deal with the position of the tongue in the mouth or the way the tongue moves. A speaker generally wishes to make the pronounciation of consonants as efficient as the pronounciation of vowels. Because of this, when consonants that are not similar end up next to each other in a word, one of the consonants may change to suit the situation. You find this a lot in the suffixes. For example, when a word ends in a 'nasal' (m, n, ng), the consonant that begins the suffix must also be a nasal (like the noun plurals, -nar/-ner). If you were speaking very fluently, it would be more efficient to say nomnar than nomlar.
There are several consonants in Tyvan that become voiced if they end a word and are followed by a suffix that begins with a vowel.
- t -> d at -> adym tut- -> tudar
- sh -> zh esh -> ezhim
In "voiced" environments
- ch -> dzh khoomeichi -> khoomeizhi
Another consonant that is pronounced differently will be g. If it appears next to a stop or a sonorant, it will be a hard g. If it appears in between vowels it will be a soft g. It can also be a soft g if the word ends in g.