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I'd like to create a language with only consonants, using the letters b, ch, d, f, g(hard), j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, sh, t, th (voiced and unvoiced), v, z, and (most importantly) h. I feel like the h would just become a mixture of unvoiced vowels as humans spoke the language. Is this likely to happen over time?

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  • Why would you want only b, ch, d, f, g(hard), j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, sh, t, th (voiced and unvoiced), v, z, and h? Why would you not be looking to adapt a Semitic tongue, since they don't rely on vowels? In any case, how far have you got, up to now? Oct 10, 2023 at 20:08
  • I just thought it would be a neat idea. I've not actually done any work on it, mostly because I wanted to see the answer to my question. If the language would be likely to develop vowels, I probably wouldn't go ahead with the project. Oct 11, 2023 at 21:05
  • You're wholly entitled to see Draconis' Answer as satisfactory and I suggest you really do think about the first sounds babies make while learning to use their mouths. Doesn't 'everyone know' that in every recorded language, the word for 'mother' starts with an 'm' sound? Listen to the babies and explain in detail where vowels come into what they're experimenting with, as opposed to the formats various students need to use to transcribe those sounds onto paper. Average out the babies' sounds and will you still insist they're using vowels, or just playing with 'm'? Oct 14, 2023 at 23:13
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    Since conlanging is a pretty niche field, it can be hard to do research on these things before posting. I don't see any fundamental issues with this question.
    – Draconis
    Oct 15, 2023 at 1:35
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    You could have a language with no vowel contrasts. Trying to recall something I read somewhere (sigh): Conventionally it is considered universal that every language has at least three vowels, but there's at least one language for which a controversial analysis proposes only one or two vowel phonemes with lots of allophones. Dec 6, 2023 at 2:43

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Well, over time, you're almost certainly going to gain vowels. Vowels are very easy to pronounce (think about the first sounds babies make as they're learning to use their mouths), and very easy to hear. So the evolutionary forces that apply to any language in productive use will tend to introduce vowels. They're just so useful!

If you want this language to be naturally spoken for a long time without evolving vowels, you'll need some way to prevent that. One way would be to have the speakers lack vocal cords, or not be able to use them (so they're always whispering). This makes vowels a lot harder to hear, so they lose some of their evolutionary advantage. But this will probably remove all the nasals, too, since those are practically impossible to hear without voicing.

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  • Are you suggesting there are no - perhaps even, could be no - languages without vowels? I can't conclusively contradict that and don't you believe Semitic tongues at least almost always avoid vowels? Oct 14, 2023 at 23:18
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    @RobbieGoodwin Semitic languages have vowels, they just often don't write them. Very important difference there. I'm not aware of any language that doesn't have phonetic vowels (i.e. sounds produced with very little constriction of the vocal tract that are mostly defined by their formants).
    – Draconis
    Oct 15, 2023 at 1:33
  • This is the not the place for that particular extended discussion and still, how will Mr Layman not see having unwritten vowels as almost an impossibility? How could the reader understand the inclusion of unwritten sounds? Please be sure, this is not asked for the sake or argument; I'd really like to know, but I don't understand and can't imagine. If it's not asking too much, would you mind Posting a new Question with its own Answer explaining that? Oct 16, 2023 at 18:34
  • @RobbieGoodwin If you're interested in the difference between letters and sounds, feel free to ask a new question, and we can answer it.
    – Draconis
    Oct 16, 2023 at 18:44
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    @RobbieGoodwin I say this in complete sincerity: I'm happy to answer questions on the topic (I in fact teach a class on that), but a comment doesn't give enough room for detail to be sure what you're actually asking. This is why I'm suggesting that you ask it as a separate question. For example, are you concerned about names specifically? Why would it be more confusing than e.g. English "lead" vs "lead" vs "lead"? Etc. A question has room for that, a comment doesn't.
    – Draconis
    Oct 16, 2023 at 19:20
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I personally don't think it is possible to have a language without vowels unless you are talking about a sign language or some code like language that doesn't use syllables (as in clicks or taps or dots and dashes like morse code). Though I think @Draconis has a point, maybe if they whispered a lot, or maybe if the speakers were snake people and hissed everything and replaced the vowels with 'S's.

However far more achievable would be to have little to no supporting and elongating vowels, and as little vowels as possible.

Nothing would be drawn out, all sounds immediately followed by another sound when two or more phonemes are put together. Very up and down sounding, like stuttering on purpose but language.

Instead of having vowels stressing/not stressing/raising them up or down for the sake of tone, I theorize that rhythm would instead become far more crucial. Something like iambic pentameter must exist especially for more formal kinds of talk/occasions. And people singing or just arguing probably always sounds like rapping/a rap battle.

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