The Ilomi Language

Version 2

Last update: 2006-03-06

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Language description

Ilomi looks like this:

oseswe a, atelu anfo emi ay'me awatwi alosa.

It is "vowel-y", like the Polynesian languages. It has these characteristics:

Limited phoneme set. Languages do not all divide consonants into voiced and unvoiced classes; many of them distinguish instead between aspirated and non-aspirated. Therefore, Ilomi's consonants are all voiceless (except for the nasoliquids), but can all be pronounced as their nearest voiced, aspirated, or non-aspirated equivalents. Ilomi uses only the most common vowels as well, and has only one liquid. Ilomi does not use tones and does not require the use of stress or tempo, though it permits all of these things.

Limited phonotactics. Every word begins and ends with a vowel. In fact, the syllables of Ilomi are about as simple as they can be: vowel, consonant / vowel, or semivowel / vowel. ("n" is permitted before consonants as well.) Almost every human language permits syllables like these.

Self-segregating morphology. One can always tell where a core or compound word begins and ends in Ilomi. This is important for learners of the language, because a major obstacle in language learning is parsing out the words one hears, even words that one knows from words that one doesn't know. Ilomi's rules for word boundaries are very easy and can be readily internalized by learners to allow them to make sense of a stream of spoken Ilomi. Such a morphology also provides an architecturally sound base for language design and growth.

Logical and simple grammar. Just as words are self-segregating, so too are clauses in Ilomi. It's always clear which words relate to which other words, and how. Ilomi does not have a "Euro-grammar". Ilomi's grammar tries to take the best points of some of the major natural languages, as well as a number of artificial languages. For example, it avoids conjugation and declension, and uses only limited suffixing, since these are mechanisms largely unknown in many Asian languages and in many creoles.

Simple vocabulary rules. Ilomi uses compounding extensively for word-building. But there are few rigid rules (aside from morphological rules) about how new words may be formed — whether they should be compounds or core words, short or long. Its vocabulary will start small and will grow. New words will be born and will die; they will be carefully thought out or will be invented willy-nilly (again, within morphological rules); they will follow existing patterns, or not. The only rule that really needs to be followed is to distinguish between lexical and functional.

Simple alphabet. Though not all the letters have the same sounds as in English, Ilomi uses a subset of the English alphabet — no accented characters.

Verbosity. Ilomi is not designed to be brief in the way that English, with its complex consonant clusters, or Mandarin, with its tones, can be. Phrases typically take more syllables to say in Ilomi than in English. This is a reasonable trade-off in order to achieve precision, pronounceability, and understandability, especially for learners. Roughly speaking, Ilomi uses about as many syllables as Italian, but its word shape discourages the kind of rapid-fire speech that characterises Italian.

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