Many languages have sounds that are very hard to pronounce to certain speakers. For example the french "R" sound is hard for English speakers. What if we have a language that accepts many variations of a word so that it's still accepted even if it sounds a little different? For example, Japanese phonology does not distinguish between L and R. This video shows how incredible it is. I think this is a similar concept to how languages can change how many things you can notice, even colors can be hard to distinguish if you don't have a word for it. But if you're coming from a language that does distinguish between the sounds, it will be easier for you to pronounce words of a language that doesn't distinguish it. I think that the Japanese L/R sound is easy because they don't care which one you pronounce, it sounds the same to them.

However, I know it might cause the language phonology to be too simple, which will cause very long words. I have not studied every single language in the world. But is really that bad if we are to create this "combined phonology?"


It is indeed possible to create a non-trivial ‘lowest common denominator’ phonology. I know because I made one myself a while ago. For consonants, I took the 10 most common segments from PHOIBLE disregarding voicing distinctions:

/m n/
/p t k/
/s h/
/l j w/

Vowels are much easier: /a i u/ is suitably lower-common-denominator, and is widely attested.


There are both natlangs and conlangs with extremely simple phonologies.

For natural languages, Central Rotokas holds the record for the smallest attested inventory of consonant phonemes (6).

For a conlang, you may want to look at Toki Pona with an inventory of 14 phonemes: 9 consonants and 5 vowels. Toki Pona has some speech community and is more than just a Plansprachenprojekt.

These examples show that languages with extremely minimal phonologies are feasible. Yes, words and phrases become longer, but this is compensated by a higher speech rate.

  • 2
    With fewer phonemes you can be more careless (ie faster) with pronunciation, as there is more redundancy -- you need to distinguish between fewer elements. Hence the faster speech rate. Don't worry if you slur your vowels if /a/ and /e/ are the same anyway... Jul 23 at 11:21

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