VLACH symbols for Oirat / Kalmyk

IPA  listen  VLACH phonetic descriptionexample (translation)
aAanear-open central unrounded vowelaavə́ (father)
æÄänear-open front unrounded vowelnär (party)
bBbvoiced bilabial plosivebu (rifle)
βꞵꞵvoiced bilabial approximantolád (becoming)
dDdvoiced alveolar plosivedääčɪ́ (warrior)
d͡ʒǦǧvoiced palato-alveolar affricateǧirɣɪ́l (happiness)
eEeclose-mid front unrounded vowelnemhə́ (to add)
əƏəmid central vowel haahə́ (to close)
ɛEeopen-mid front unrounded voweleŋkɪ́r (dear)
fFfvoiceless labiodental fricativeFéliks (Felix) 
ɡGgvoiced velar plosivegün (deep)
ɠƓɠvoiced velar implosiveɠanzə́ (pipe)
ɣƔɣvoiced velar fricativeɣarhə́ (to go out)
iIiclose front unrounded vowelinähə́ (to laugh)
ɨYyclose central unrounded vowelcaasýn (paper)
ɪnear-close near-front unrounded vowel kiilɪ́g (shirt); irǧɪ́ (came)
jJjpalatal approximantbajír (joy)
kKkvoiceless velar plosiveküükɪ́n (girl)
lLlalveolar lateral approximantbuulimǧɪ́ (praise)
mMmbilabial nasalmaná (our)
nNnalveolar nasalnarýn (sun)
ŋŊŋvelar nasalŋgə́ (news)
oOoclose-mid back rounded vowelolhә́ (to find)
ɵÖöclose-mid central rounded vowelödɪ́r (day)
pPpvoiceless bilabial plosivepatír (apartment)
rRralveolar trillurýl (lips)
sSsvoiceless alveolar sibilantsarúl (bright)
ʂŠšvoiceless retroflex sibilantšovún (bird)
ʃŠšvoiceless palato-alveolar sibilantšovún (bird) 
tTtvoiceless alveolar plosivetavýn (five)
t͡sCcvoiceless alveolar sibilant affricatecaɣán (white)
t͡ʃČčvoiceless palato-alveolar affricatečinɪ́r (quality)
t̠͡ɕČčvoiceless alveolo-palatal affricatečinɪ́r (quality)
uUuclose back rounded voweluuhə́ (to drink)
vVvvoiced labiodental fricativekevthə́ (to lie down)
xHhvoiceless velar fricativehur (rain)
χHhvoiceless uvular fricativehur (rain)
yÜüclose front rounded vowelükɪ́r (cow)
zZzvoiced alveolar sibilantzaján (fate)
ʐŽžvoiced retroflex sibilantžuulík (rogue)
ʒŽžvoiced palato-alveolar sibilantžuulík (rogue)
 

Principles of VLACH phonetic system for Oirat-Kalmyk language

The approximate IPA based VLACH phonetic system was developed for the presentation of the Oirat-Kalmyk language, founded on the principles described by linguists and phoneticians such as P. Bitkeev, A. Kichikov, D. Pavlov, N. Ubushaev. It includes some practices of Kalmyk orthography, like the designation of a long vowel sound by duplicating its grapheme, e.g. säähɪ́n – сәәхн (beautiful).

In the Kalmyk language, we have to point out a certain regularity in the interaction of sounds. One type of such interaction we follow is vowel harmony (Russ. syngarmonism):

1. A back row vowel requires a back row vowel in the following syllables of the word. Back row vowels are: a, u, o, and y (in the VLACH system for an obscure vowel in a closed syllable), e.g. bodyncýg (potato).

2. A front row vowel is followed by a front row vowel, in other words, there cannot be hard and soft row vowels in the same word. Front row vowels are: ä, ü, ö, e and ɪ (in the VLACH system for an obscure vowel in a closed syllable and after consonants ǧ, č, š), e.g. ködɪlmɪ́š (work); duučɪ́ (singer). ... 3. i is a neutral vowel. Neutral i requires a front row vowel after it, e.g. nimgɪ́n (thin).
Due to the complexity of the identification of the quality of each particular vowel, especially at the end of the word, we use the schwa [ə] as an universal sign to indicate both back and front row vowels at the end of a word. But when the transcriber is sure that the informant pronounces a particular vowel as a front one, [e] is also applicable, e.g. jovhə́ (to go); ködɪlhə́ (to work); terə́/teré (that).

Other common peculiarities of Kalmyk oral speech that we often work with and which show in our transcriptions are:
Assimilation of consonants, when the voiced velar plosive [g] is in the position before the voiceless affricate č and the voiceless uvular fricative [h] becomes devoiced [k], e.g. ögčänä́ → ökčänä́ (is giving); öghéökhé (to give).

Progressive assimilation, when a voiced alveolar plosive (weak) [d] is influenced by a previous voiceless alveolar plosive (strong) [t] and becomes voiceless [t], e.g. untdýg -> unttýk (sleeping).
Voiced palato-alveolar affricate [ǧ] influenced by a previous voiceless [k, š] assimilates into a voiceless affricate [č], e.g. ükǧänä́ükčänä́ (is dying); umšǧɪ́umščɪ́ (have read).
Voiceless uvular fricative [h] influenced by a previous voiceless velar plosive [k] assimilates into a voiceless velar plosive [k], e.g. cokhə́cokkə́ (to hit).

Regressive assimilation is when the previous sound becomes similar to the next one. This type of assimilation is the most common in the Kalmyk language. Complete or partial regressive assimilation of consonants occurs in the following situations:

Voiced labiodental fricative [v] before the affix of the present time -na; nä- transforms into a bilabial nasal [m], e.g. avnáamná (takes); tävnä́tämnä́ (puts). Voiced (weak) consonants [g, s, d, b, c] influenced by subsequent voiceless (strong) consonants at the junction of morphemes sound similar to the last ones in voiceless shades, e.g.soŋgsdýgsoŋgstýk (listening); medtɪ́nmettɪ́n (get to know); terztä́terstä́ (with a window); ögsɪ́nöksɪ́n (given); abčkə́/avčkə́apčkə́ (take it).

Devoicing occurs not only at the junction of morphemes, but also in the roots of words, e.g. kögšɪ́nkökšɪ́n (old person).

If the preceding word ends with a reduced vowel and the following word begins with a vowel, then the final reduced vowel of the previous word usually disappears and these words are pronounced together, e.g. härǧɪ́ očɪ́härǧ-óč (returned).

Voiced uvular fricative [ɣ] followed by voiceless consonants assimilates into voiceless uvular fricative [h], e.g. arɣsýnarhsýn (dung).
Alveolar plosive [d] and [t] of the word influenced by the initial c of the affix tends to sound similar to the last one, e.g. odchaláocchalá (went).
Alveolar lateral approximants [l] in front of the consonants [ǧ, č, š] usually become palatalized, e.g. holʹǧád (having moved away).

Progressive regressive assimilation, when there is a mutual influence of two neighboring sounds on each other and their transition into new phonemes.

When the voiceless [č] and [s] of the root merge with the voiced affix -ǧ-, the last one becomes a voiceless [č], and the consonant of the word's root [č] assimilates, turning into a voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant š, e.g. bičǧɪ́biščɪ́ (wrote); tosǧanátosčaná (welcomes). When the voiceless alveolar plosive [t] of the word’s root merges with the voiced affix -ǧ-, it becomes a long voiceless affricate [č], e.g. kevtǧanákevččaná; kevčaná (is laying) (depending on the length of the pronounced sound). However, the transcription of the assimilated phonemes [t] and [d] as reduced ones is also applicable in these kinds of interactions, e.g. Idčkä́di(t)čkä́d (having eaten); martčkíǧmar(t)čkíč (forgot).

In a combination of the voiced uvular fricative [ɣ] and the voiceless uvular fricative [h], the latter assimilates into a voiceless velar plosive [k] and the voiced uvular fricative [ɣ] into a voiceless uvular fricative [h], e.g. ɣarɣhýšγarhkýš (doesn't let out); surɣhə́surhkə́ (to teach).

Dissimilation is when two different or two less similar sounds are obtained from two identical or similar (in whole or in part) sounds.

In combination of [s, š, z] of the word’s root with initial [s] of the affix, the last one turns into voiceless affricate [c], e.g., bossýnbosčýn (stood/got up); tavšsýntavšcýn (marched/trampled); üzsɪ́nüscɪ́n (seen).

When a word's root ending with a voiceless uvular fricative [h] is followed by the affix -h-, the last one is dissimilated to a voiceless velar plosive [k]. E.g., tohhə́tohkə́ (to saddle).

Loss of consonants, when in the flow of speech, the consonants are not pronounced. This loss is caused by the tendency of the language to simplify the pronunciation of the word flow.
When merging with the auxiliary verb bäänä́ or bilä́/bääǧɪ́ (is; was/had been), the initial [b] disappears when combined with the [d/g] of the prior word, e.g. duldýg bilä́duldýg-ilä́ (used to sing/had been singing). The long vowel [a] in such a situation often loses its longitude: kelä́d bäänä́kelä́d-änä́ (is speaking/saying); kedɪ́g bääǧkedɪ́g-äǧ (used to do/had been doing). In a situation when [b] is partly reduced and loses its quality, we transcribe it using the [β] sign, as it sounds like a voiced bilabial approximant [β̞], e.g. bajín boládbajín βolád (becoming rich).

When merging with the verb jovhə́, its initial [j] disappears once combined with [ǧ/č] of the prior word, e.g. garčɪ́ jovnágarč-ovná (is going out); güüǧɪ́ jovnágüüǧ-ovná (is running).

Affricates [ǧ/č] at the end of the word when joining the auxiliary verb čadhə́ (be able), or any other word, that starts with the same [ǧ/č] often disappear and are not pronounced, e.g. kelǧɪ́ čadhýškel-čadhýš (cannot speak); ǧirdɪgčɪ́ ǧilǧirdɪ́g ǧil (fortieth year).

Often the [d] of the participle affix -äd- is not pronounced, e.g. eklä́d → eklä́ (starting out); jovád → jová (going).

Our main principle is to transcribe speech as close to its pronunciation as possible. Nevertheless, we take into account the grammar of the Kalmyk language.

We indicate double graphemes -dd-, -ll-, and so on, to show important grammatical interactions within words and the affixes that carry their own functions even in cases when the length of phonemes is not obviously pronounced or is absent, e.g. med-dɪ́g (knowing/has a knowledge); küükɪd-téküükttə́ (to children); kel-lä́ (told). We also double phonemes when we need to distinguish the words which have a similar pronunciation, but a different connotation, e.g. bärčk-hébärčkkə́ (will capture) and bärčkə́ (hold it).

The stress in the Kalmyk language has barely been studied. However, as a rule, the stress falls on the last syllable. An exception is when songs are performed, in which the melody and rhythm of a song determines on which syllable the stress will fall.

The used phonetic system operates only within the framework of VLACH projects and does not claim to be an alternative to existing systems for transcribing the Oirat-Kalmyk language and its vernaculars.

Due to the fact that many of our informants spoke Russian during the interview, we transcribed those parts using the VLACH phonetic system as well. However, we should mention that Russian is not one of the priority languages we are dealing with within the VLACH projects.

Bibliography:

1. BITKEEV, PETR TS. [AND OTHERS] (1983): Грамматика калмыцкого языка. Фонетика и морфология [Kalmyk grammar. Phonetics and morphology], Elista, Kalmyk publishing house.
2. KICHIKOV ANATOLY SH. (1963): Дербетский говор. Фонетико-морфологическое исследование [Derbet dialect. phonetic-morphological research], Elista, Kalmyk publishing house.
3. PAVLOV, DORDZHI A. (1963): Современный калмыцкий язык. Фонетика и графика [Modern Kalmyk language. Phonetics and the alphabet], Elista, Kalmyk publishing house.
4. UBUSHAEV, NIKOLAY N. (1979): Фонетика торгутского говора калмыцкого языка [Phonetics of the Torgut dialect of Kalmyk language], Elista, Kalmyk publishing house.