In my conlang, some consonants can cluster with l at the end. For example, 'story' is 'coánl'; following dictionary.com's IPA for 'metal' as / ˈmɛt l / I had set out pronouncing this like /koˈa:n l/. So trying to be the most clear since I am no expert in how to write these things, (for relevant consonants C) -Cl ending sounded like [Cəl].

Pronouncing over time, I happened to hit on a different way. I like this a lot better. I don't know how to describe it in IPA, though. I have done my best here to use notation correctly and understandably and made my best analysis after trying to figure it out. Maybe the difference is now I'm ending the word with a voiceless vowel? I'd appreciate guidance.

Using coánl, I'm going to make a contrast with what my mouth is doing.

When I end the words / ˈmɛt l / or /koˈa:n l/, my tongue

  • drops from the alveolar ridge
  • stops behind my upper teeth
  • my lips do not keep broadening with the [a:] after the [n]
  • it sounds like the /l/ ends the syllable.

In contrast, my new way of saying 'coánl,'

  • my tongue continues downwards and forwards past my teeth
  • while my lips do continue to broaden in the motion they were making for /a:/
  • I think I stop my vocal cords with the L sound, same as before.
  • With these motions, now the [l] itself sounds like it does at the start of a [-la] syllable rather than the end of an [əl].

I pronounce [la] with only the start of an [a]? Or to put it another way, the /a/ goes through both consonants now? Is this what you call an voiceless vowel, or something else?

Thank you for your thoughts

1 Answer 1


Ultimately, if your vocal cords stop vibrating and you're still pronouncing the word (i.e. there's still breath moving through your vocal apparatus), then whatever phoneme you're pronouncing will be voiceless.

This article has not only a review of the mechanics, but also some IPA notation to help you notate. Particularly initial vs final voicing or devoicing. And this video has good examples of voiced vs voiceless vowels in Cheyanne.

  • Very helpful! I made "voiceless vowel" my sort of hypothesis to question when read that and the voicelessness article with the example of Japanese speakers moving their lips but not saying the vowel. It is helpful to be able to confirm whether I am analyzing correctly from what I am reading; I can grab a new tool by the wrong end sometimes. Thanks for the clear rule and the audio examples!
    – Vir
    Feb 5, 2022 at 17:25
  • 1
    @Vir -- Glad I could be helpful! One of the great things about glossopoesy is that even when you grab the tool by the wrong end, it'll still function! Maybe not quite as expected, but something wonderful is bound to emerge!
    – elemtilas
    Feb 5, 2022 at 20:46

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