1. Phonology

1. Vowels

The Black Speech has the following vowels; i, a, u, o. Long vowels are marked by circumflex; î, â, ô, û. They are pronounced roughly like this; i as in sit, a as a short form of the middle ‘a’ in banana, u as a short form of the ‘u’ in rude, o as in offer. The long vowels are pronounced the same way as the short ones but lengthened. The vowels a and u are the most common and can be viewed as primary vowels.

Table 1. Vowels of Zhâburi/The black Speech

Front Central Back
Closed i u
Mid o
Open a

There are also two diphthongs; ‘ai’ which is pronounced like the ‘i’ in drive and ‘au’ which is pronounced like the ‘ou’ in pronounce.

2. Consonants

There are also a number of consonants. Some are pronounced like in English while some does not exist in the latter. Characteristic for the Black Speech are its many fricatives, or hissing sounds.

Labial Coronal Dorsal Lanyngeal
Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Palatialv. Velar Uvular glottal
Stop p b t d k g
Fricative f v th dh s z sh zh kh gh h
Nasal m n ng/k
Trill r
Lateral approx. l

Distribution of sounds

Sonorants All Common Uncommon
Vowels a, i, o, u a, u i, o
glides no
liquids l, r l, r
Nasals m, n, ng m, n ng
Non-soronants
Fricatives f, v, th, dh, s, z, sh, zh, kh, gh th, s, z, sh, zh, kh, gh f, v, dh
Affricatives no
Stops p, b, t, d, k, g b, t, d, k, g p
Letter IPA Pronounciation
p p park
b b boat
m m mother
f f father
v v vice
th θ thing
dh ð they
t t toe
d d die
s s sweet
z z zeal
n n no
n ŋ
thing – before velars g, k, gh, kh
s s shop
zh ʒ
French jor; Russian жук “zhuk”
k k cow
g g great
kh x
German auch-laut; Scottish loch
gh ɣ kh but voiced
r ʀ
like French or German r
h h
hollow (this letter is not allowed as the final consonant of a word on its own)

To show the difference between digraphs where ‘h’ is a part and words where ‘h’ is pronounced separately when ‘h’ appears after another consonant, a apostrophe is used in the latter case.

2.1 Consonant clusters
The black Speech is limited to the following consonant clusters:

Initial consonant clusters: pl-, pr-; bl-, br-; fl-, fr-; vl, vr-; thl-, thr-; tr-; dr-; sp-, sm-, sn-, sl-, sk-; zb-, zd-, zm-, zn-, zl-, zg-; kl-, kr-; gl-, gr-.

Final consonant clusters: -mp, -mb, -ms, -mz, -msh, -mzh; -nk; -sp, -sm, -st, -sk; -zb, -zm, -zd, -zg; -nsh, -nzh, -nk, -ng, -nkh, -ngh; -shp, -shm, -sht, -shn, -shk; -zhb, -zhd, -zhm, -zhg; -lp, -lb, -lm, -lf, -lv, -lth, -ldh, -lt, -ld, -ls, -lz, -ln, -lsh, -lzh, -lk, -lg, -lkh, -lgh; -ks, -ksh; -gz, -gzh; -khp, -kht, -khk; -ghb, -ghd, -ghd; -rp, -rb, -rm, -rf, -rv, -rth, -rdh, -rt, -rd, -rs, -rz, -rn, -rsh, -rzh, -rk, -rg, -rkh, -rgh.

Most medial consonant clusters are permitted but there are some exceptions; voiced and unvoiced plosives and fricatives never stand together, the same goes for fricatives in general. Where this happens when combining words, the words are separated by a apostrophe, for example ‘graz’ + ‘zhab’ > ‘graz’zhab’ (cold-tongue). 

3. Stress
The pronunciation in Black Speech is mostly regular. As a rule, the stress is on the first syllable in each word. Long vowels, marked by circumflex, and diphthongs take over the stress. In other cases, the stress is marked by an accent. Examples (the stress marked by the underlined syllable); ”durbat” (to rule); ”durbatulûk” (to rule them completely); ”uruk-hai”; dúraukashi (the lord commander).

Words that are attached to each other with a hyphen are prononced as different words. The hyphen marks that the words are fixed together in the wordorder. So burzum-ishi (in the darkness) instead of *burzumishi; but burzumi  (the darkness).

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