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The Sema language has a total of 29 phonemes, which include 6 vowels, 20 consonants and 3 tones. The following is an inventory of the phonemes in this language.

i ö u
p t k q
e o
low \
b d g
level (unmarked)
c m n ´f s x h z F I w y

2.1.1. General Statements

The vowels and consonants mentioned above are classified on the basis of the place and manner of articulation. A brief discussion of these follows.

2.1.2 Vowels

The vowels in Sema show a three way opposition in terms of both the part of the tongue that is raised and also the height to which each part of the tongue is raised. These opposition are :

(i)             ; part of the tongue that is raised,

                                          central, and
(ii)           the height to which each part of the tongue is raised -
                                          half open, and

These three-way oppositions on the two axes should give a total of 9 vowels. However, not all these slots are filled up. The gaps available are: the central one in the half-close position and back and front vowels in open position. This language has a total of six simple vowels. These are :

(i) A close front unrounded vowel
(ii) A close central unrounded vowel
(iii) A close back rounded vowel
(iv) A half-close front unrounded vowel
(v) A half-close back rounded vowel, and
(vi) An open central unrounded vowel.

Though all the vowels are voiced, voicing is not a relevant feature with the vowels in Sema. Lip rounding is also not a relevant feature, rather it is a redundant feature with all back vowels, i.e., while the back vowels are rounded, the front and the central vowels are ungrounded. However, at the phonetic level, Sema has back unrounded vowels at close and half-open positions. All vowels in Sema are oral ones, i.e., in the production of these vowels, the velic closure is present. In addition to the simple vowels mentioned above, Sema has a few falling dipthongs (complex nuclei), i.e., the second element of these complex nuclei are Monosyllabic vowels. Incidentally, in Sema, only close nonsyllabic vowels occur in this position. Depending upon whether a back rounded form or a front unrounded form occurs as the second element of a complex nucleus, the second nuclei in Sema can be sub-grouped into two, viz., (i) those having a close back rounded non-syllabic vowel as the second element and (ii) those having a close front unbounded non-syllabic vowel as the second element. Of the complex nuclei in Sema, only the ones having /a/as the first element (nucleus) occur in all positions. The complex nuclei having other vowels, viz.,/e, o, u,/as the nucleus occur only in war-final positions. These complex nuclei are, however, phonemic zed as a sequence of the concerned vowel, plus the corresponding approximant, for instance (a*) as/aw/ and [a*] as/ay/ etc. The front and back close vowels do not have any perceptible positional variants. The half-close vowels, viz., /e, o/ have a slightly more open ones as their positional variants, /o/ occurring after a fricative has a slightly more open variety as a positional variant. The six simple vowels mentioned above are capable of showing three-way opposition in tone. These are, falling, raising and level







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