I imagined a language created by humans, not common humans (Homo sapiens), I mean a fictional species named tusked humans, commonly named orcs (their scientific name is Homo desertum) (which means human from deserts).

In the most common language created by orcs, the following phonemes are:

  1. There are two nasal consonants: the /m/ sound (as in English mother) (as in French mère, which means mother) (as in Spanish madre, which also means mother), and the /n/ sound (as in English night) (as in French noir, which means black) (as in Spanish negro, which also means black);

  2. There are six fricatives, four voiceless, and two voiced: the /ɸ/ sound (as in Maori whakapapa, which means genealogy), the /s/ sound (as in English snake) (as in French serpent, which means both snake and serpent) (as in Spanish sangre, which means blood), the /x/ sound (as in Spanish juego, which means game), the /h/ sound (as in English house), the /z/ sound (as in English zoology), (as in French zoologie, which naturally means zoology), and the /ɣ/ sound (as in Spanish amigo, which means friend);

  3. There are six plosives (or stops, if you want), four voiceless, two voiced: the /p/ sound (as in English princess) (as in French père, which means father) (as in Spanish padre, which also means father), the /t/ sound (as in English turtle) (as in French tortue, which means both turtle and tortoise), the /k/ sound (as in English kilogram) (as in French kilogramme, which means kilogram) (as in Spanish casa, which means house), the /q/ sound (as in Somali qaab, which means shape), the /d/ sound (as in English dipteran) (as in French diptère, which means dipteran), and the /g/ sound (as in English green) (as in French gorille, which means gorilla);

  4. There are five affricates, three voiceless, and two voiced: the /ps/ sound (as in French psychologie) (which naturally means psychology), the /ts/ sound (as in French tsar, which means czar), the /dz/ sound, the /ks/ sound, and the /gz/ sound (respectively, as in French réflexe, which means reflex, and as in French xylophone, which naturally means xylophone);

  5. There is only one subfricate (which means inverted affricates): the /sk/ sound (as in English scarlet) (as in French scarabée, which means scarab);

  6. There are three semivowels: the /j/ sound (as in English yellow) (as in French hyène, which means hyena), the /w/ sound (as in English world) (as in French oiseau, which means bird) (as in Spanish abuela, which means grandmother), and the /ɥ/ sound (as in French fruit, which naturally means fruit);

  7. There are ten standard vowels: the /a/ sound (as in French arbre, which means tree), the /æ/ sound (as in English cat), the /ə/ sound (as in French atelier, which means workshop), the /e/ sound (as in French étranger, which means stranger), the /ø/ sound (as in French bleu, which means blue), the /o/ sound (as in French automne, which means autumn), the /i/ sound (as in English hippie) (as in French illusion, which naturally means illusion), the /u/ sound (as in English cook) (as in French ouvrier, which means worker), the /y/ sound (as in French univers, which means universe), and the /ɯ/ sound (as in Japanese kuki, which means air);

  8. There are zero nasal vowels;

  9. There are seven diphthongs: the /aj/ sound (as in English knife) (as in Spanish aire, which means air) (as in French chandail, which means shirt), the /aw/ sound (as in English cow) (as in Spanish menopausia, which means menopause), the /ej/ sound (as in English day) (as in Spanish rey, which means king), the /ew/ sound (as in Spanish neutro, which means neutral), the /oj/ sound (as in Spanish hoy, which means today), the /ow/ sound (as in English show), and the /uj/ sound (as in French ratatouille, which naturally means ratatouille).

So, I wonder why would a language created by humans almost completely lack approximants (the only ones are semivowels).

  • 1
    The lack of /n/ stands out to me more than the lack of /r/ or /l/.
    – Draconis
    Jun 2, 2023 at 22:53
  • 4
    For brevity, please assume most readers here know basic IPA. It's a bit hard to find the content – the lists of phonemes, most of which are common as dirt – among the redundant lists of examples. Jun 8, 2023 at 19:56
  • What actually is the question here? What do approximants in human languages have to do with the phonemic inventory of your conlang; why is the species of the hypothetical speakers of your conlang relevant (perhaps you really have a question for worldbuilding.SE?); and what do rhotacism and lambdacism have to do with any of that? Jul 10, 2023 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


To answer the actual question asked, lacking /r/ and /l/ doesn't seem especially odd. It's very plausible for /l/ to turn into /w/, for example, or for /r/ to turn into /z/ or /h/.

But the rest of your inventory strikes me as very weird in its asymmetry. It's not just about what sounds are missing, but about what sounds you have.

To see this, I recommend putting your phonemes into a table, rather than listing them out like this; most conlangers already know what /d/ means (or can easily look it up if they don't), and giving English and French examples with translations is just clutter. It also doesn't offer much clarity into the pronunciation, because e.g. English and French /d/ are pronounced somewhat differently—is your intent to have it be alveolar, like in English, or dental, like in French?

Once you make a table, some things will stand out:

table of phonemes given in the question

Having only a labial nasal is quite weird. Is there a reason for the lack of /n/? Similarly, the stops are strangely asymmetrical. Having /p/ and /d/, but no /b/ or /t/, is quite unusual. Having gaps in the inventory is fine, like how Arabic has /b/ but no /p/, and /q/ but no /ɢ/. But these gaps usually still have a pattern to them: notice how these gaps in Arabic happen right at the edges of the inventory, to the frontmost and backmost stops.

If you add /t/ and /n/ to your inventory, it'll be more symmetrical and come off as more naturalistic.

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