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I'm working on an alien species for a fantasy-ish world I'm making, and I recently started on making a language for them. For the most part, their consonant-making abilities are very similar to humans, but with one very key difference: alveolar plosives can only appear in affricates, and not by themselves, due to having their tongue operate with two muscles conjoined in parallel instead of meeting at a point, making all alveolar plosives (or any other similar consonants that involve pressing the tip of the tongue against something) be affricates. What I'm curious about is, with that in mind, would it be reasonable for such a species to naturalistically have all of (in xSAMPA) /ts s dz z tS S dZ Z/, or even have alveolar affricates at all?

additional question: if not, would it make more sense for the language to have only palatal consonant analogs, but not any alveolar consonants?

(also I'm not entirely sure this is the right stackexchange branch to go to for help on something like this, so if it would better fit on the wordlbuilding one or something, please let me know so i can move it)

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  • Zackbuildit777, welcome to this site. Your question is perfectly fitting for this site and I'm sure it will attract some good answers. Apr 9 at 12:29
  • @jk-ReinstateMonica thats good, because im likely going to also be asking similar questions in the future, since finding information about phonemic sounds for nonhuman species is even harder than it might first seem, due to the very little research scientists have into animals with similarly complex vocal communication methods as humans. Apr 10 at 21:44

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Those are some very good question!

On your first question, I'd say yes. In fact, there are natural languages that contain all these phonemes together! (e.g. Czech) Since your species does not have any alveolar plosives, one could even say that the affricates would be proportionally more common than in natural human languages (where they take a back seat to plosives) to compensate.
The one thing I'd recommend against is including voiced affricates without their voiceless counterparts; it is very rare for a language to have any voiced consonant without its voiceless analogue (this is also a language universal in the Universals Archive).

On your second question: That would be imaginable, but /s/ is among the most common consonants in natural human languages (9th most common acc. to Phoible), while /C/ is much rarer (similar for other alveolar vs palatal analogues), so I'd say lacking the former and having the latter would be rather unlikely.

Of course, this analysis is based on human languages; it's your species and language, and things could be completely different in whatever way you choose! (Like, if you want your aliens to like alveolar consonants less, maybe giving them shorter tongues, or putting their tongues further back, would be possible? I'm not an expert here, that's just a guess.)

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  • good to know that it would likely reasonable for language evolution, as i have been told its extremely rare for a language to have an affricate without having the corresponding plosive and fricative also be phonemic. Apr 10 at 21:42
  • @Zackbuildit777 Oh yeah, if you had asked about human languages, my answer would've gone more towards it being unlikely. But here, there's no plosive for the affricate to be subordinate to, so that doesn't apply anymore! (I'd still say /s/ is probably more likely to be phonemic than /ts/, but e.g. Hawaiian has /t/ and not /s/, so /ts/ without /s/ is surely good as well)
    – Richard
    Apr 11 at 18:08
  • yeah, the language does have all the normal corresponding fricatives, the only weird thing is the affricates without phonemic corresponding plosives. thank you! Apr 11 at 18:52

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