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Consonants and Vowels

Isoba has 7 monophthongs (basic vowels), 13 diphthongs (two-vowel combinations), 24 consonants, and 1 pharyngealization phoneme that interacts with nearby phonemes to produce different phonetic results. This page will introduce all 20 vowels and the 24 consonants.

All pronunciation tips in the following table are based on General American English (GenAm) unless otherwise specified.


Vowel Pronunciation Audio Phoneme Notes Pronunciation Tip
a [a] /a/ a in father is too far back. No GenAm equivalent; a in Spanish casa
o [o̞] /o/ Can also be [o̞u̯] ol in cold
u [u] /u/ Can be [ʊ] in indeliberate speech oo in pool without the offglide
e [ɨ̞] /ɨ/ Can be [ə] in indeliberate speech e in chicken but more open, though not as open as ir in Australian English bird
i [i] /i/ Can be [ɪ] in indeliberate speech ee in seed
ö [ɵ] /ɵ/ ö in German schön is too far forward No GenAm equivalent; ir in New Zealand English bird
eu [y] /y/ Can be [ʉ̞] in indeliberate speech No GenAm equivalent; ü in German über
Vowel Pronunciation Audio Diaphoneme Notes Pronunciation Tip
au [ɑu̯] /au/ Can be [ɑʊ̯] in indeliberate speech; [ɑ] is an allophone of /a/. No GenAm equivalent; ao in Mandarin Pinyin
ai [ai̯] /ai/ Can be [aɪ̯] in indeliberate speech ie in lie
oi [o̞i̯] /oi/ oy in boy
ua [wa] /wa/ No GenAm equivalent; hua in Spanish marihuana
uo [wo̞] /wo/ No GenAm equivalent; like uo in Mandarin Pinyin
ui [wi] /wi/ Can be [wɪ] in indeliberate speech we
ei [e̞i̯] /ei/ Can be [e] in indeliberate speech ey in hey
ia [ja] /ja/ No GenAm equivalent; Russian я
iu [ju] /ju/ No GenAm equivalent; Ju in German Julia
ie [je̞] /je/ No GenAm equivalent; ie in Mandarin Pinyin
[jɵ] /jɵ/ No GenAM equivalent; like ё in Russian её
öu [ɵy̯] /ɵy/ Not equivalent to Finnish öy, which is rather [ø̞y̯]; Isoba öu starts more closed and farther back. No GenAM equivalent; pronounce [ɵ], then [y] immediately, emphasizing the former over the latter.
ue [ɥe̞] /ɥe/ No GenAm equivalent; üe in Mandarin Pinyin


Isoba · Tone


Isoba uses tone.

Consonants and Vowels · Pharyngealization


Isoba uses pharyngealization.

Tone · Prosody

Tone · Isoba · Prosody

Morphosyntactic Alignment

Austronesian Alignment


Isoba is a fluid-S active-stative language that uses Austronesian alignment. Austronesian focus indicates a subject in the direct case (DIR) and is denoted in Isoba by inflecting the root morpheme of a selected argument of a verb by shifting stress to the syllable after the syllable stressed in the uninflected version of that morpheme if possible and assigning a rising tone to this newly-stressed syllable.

Consider “desbi,” which means “day” and has high tone stress on the first syllable. When “desbi” is marked for the direct case, it becomes “desbí.”

Consider the monosyllabic word for “cat,” “giu,” which has high tone stress. When “giu” is marked for the direct case, it becomes “giú” because shifting stress forward by one syllable is not possible.

In the Austronesian system, on which Isoban alignment is based, the subject of the sentence is identified by the voice affix on the verb as having one of the semantic roles that exist in the language. Other arguments are marked with their normal noun phrase case inflections. The semantic roles in Isoba and their corresponding verb and noun phrase inflections are listed in the table below.

Key: V = verb; N = noun

Semantic Role Voice Name Case Name Verb Inflection (Voice Affixes) Normal Case Inflection
Agent Actor (AT) Ergative (ERG) none none
Patient Patient (PT) Accusative (ACC) ie-V Falling tone stress, shifted forward one syllable if possible
Location Locative (LT) Locative (LOC) so-V-xi N-n1
Instrument Instrument (IT) Instrumental (INS) mix-V N-fhigh
Benefactee or Reason Benefactive (BT) Dative (DAT) ge-V N-tagh
1.^ See the Case page for details on locative case formation.

Active Voice


Unlike Austronesian languages, Isoba does not require every sentence to have a subject; this is in fact the default. Verbs in such sentences are said to be in the active voice (ACT). Since there is no verb inflection for the actor voice, the only difference between sentences in these two voices is the inflection on the agent. In the actor voice, the agent is inflected for the direct case, while in the active voice, the agent lacks inflection, indicating the ergative case. Semantically, the sentence in the actor voice draws more attention to the agent’s volition or intention.

Fluid-S Active-Stative Alignment


In sentences where the main verb is intransitive, the fluid-S active-stative feature of Isoban alignment allows any subject to take the accusative case, though using the ergative or the direct case is also allowed. Using the accusative case conveys a sense of reduced volition.


Vak giu=∅ koy.
Eat.3.ACT cat.SG=ERG meat.SG.ACC
The cat eats meat.

This sentence uses the default active voice and ergative case.

Vak giú koy.
Eat.3.AT cat.SG.DIR meat.SG.ACC
The cat eats meat (by its own will).

Use of the direct case on the agent retroactively makes the verb take the active voice, emphasizing the volition of the agent.

Ie=vak giu=∅ kói.
PT=eat.3 cat.SG=ERG meat.SG.DIR
Meat is eaten by the cat.

Using the patient voice is Isoba’s equivalent of the passive construction.

Vak giu=∅ koy daghde=fhluen.
Eat.3.ACT cat.SG=ERG meat.SG.ACC house.SG=inside.SG.LOC
The cat eats meat inside the house.

This is a regular active voice construction.

So=vak=xi giu=∅ koy daghde=fhlué.
LT=Eat.3=LT cat.SG=ERG meat.SG.ACC house.SG=inside.SG.DIR
The house interior is eaten meat at by the cat.

Using the locative voice directs focus to the place of action. The Isoba locative can also denote time or manner. See the Nouns section for details.

Vak giu=∅.
Eat.3.ACT cat.SG=ERG
The cat eats.

The default active voice construction also applies to intransitive verbs.

Vak gyu.
Eat.3.ACT cat.SG.ACC
The cat eats (not by its own will).

Using the accusative case on the sole argument of an intransitive verb denotes reduced volition.

Vak giú. Eat.3.AT cat.SG.DIR “The cat eats (by its own will).” Using the actor voice highlights volition.

Ie=vak giú. PT=Eat.3 cat.SG.DIR “The cat is eaten.” The verb’s inflection should agree with the agent. Here, in the absence of an agent, the verb is inflected for 3rd person, for 3rd person is the default person when the actor is unknown.

Ie=vak=can haseu=∅ kói. PT=Eat=1PL.EXCL 1PL.EXCL=ERG meat.SG.DIR “The meat is eaten by us.” “Haseu” is usually omitted since Isoba is pro-drop. Notice that because there is an agent—”us”—the verb agrees with it.

Haseu=∅ ie=vak=can kói. 1PL.EXCL=ERG PT=Eat=1PL.EXCL meat.SG.DIR “The meat is eaten by us.” Fronting an argument emphasizes it. Word order does not have any syntactic significance, only semantic.

So=vak=xi dadde=fhlué. LT=Eat.3=LT house.SG=inside.SG.DIR “The house interior is eaten at.” This is an example of the locative voice. Of course, specifying an agent would cause the verb to be inflected for agreement with it. See the next example.

So=vaak=xi ha=∅ koyr daghde=fhlué. LT=eat.1SG=LT 1SG=ERG meat.PL.ACC house.SG=inside.SG.DIR “The house interior is eaten meats at by me.” “Ha” can be dropped.

Mix=vak pá. IT=Eat.3 mouth.PL.DIR “Mouths are eaten with.” This is an example of the instrument voice.

Ge=vak qér. BT=Eat.3 health.SG.DIR “Health is eaten for.” This is an example of the benefactice voice.


In the Morphosyntactic Alignment section, six cases were identified:

  • Ergative
  • Direct
  • Accusative
  • Locative
  • Instrumental
  • Dative

The table in the aforementioned section provided a basic overview of how nouns declined for these cases. This section provides examples for and further information about each case.

Ergative Case


Uninflected nouns are identical in form to their ergative case counterparts; the first syllable of the root morpheme takes a high tone. For the sake of simplicity, uninflected nouns be treated as if they were truly in the ergative case.

The ergative case is used for the following purposes:

  • Identifying the agent of a transitive verb or the sole argument of an intransitive verb while implying but not emphasizing volition. This was covered in the Morphosyntactic Alignment section.
  • Addressing or pointing out entities.
    • “Giu” means cat. To address a cat, one can say, “Giu!” (“Cat!”) or “Ei giu!” (“Hey, cat!”)
    • Pointing out a cat means to utter “cat” to imply its presence, during a walk in the park, for instance. It would be appropriate to say “Giu” to point out the cat. This is nearly equivalent to saying “La gyu” which means “there is a cat.” In this construction, the accusative case is used.
  • Using a single noun phrase as the answer to a question, even when that noun would be in a different case were the answer a complete sentence.
    • “Lé xyn” means “What do you see?” An acceptable answer is “Giu,” though the accusative form “Gyu” is also acceptable.
  • Equating arguments with the copula “hi,” which means “to be.”
Hi giu=∅ duxa=∅.
Be.3 cat.SG=ERG animal.SG=ERG
The cat is an animal.

Note that “duxa” is not in its accusative form, “duxaa.” Also, note that this statement is in reference to a specific cat because the general statement “Cats are animals” would have to use the plural forms of both “giu” and “duxa,” “giur” and “doxa,” respectively. More on the verb “hi” can be found in the Verbs section.

Direct Case


Accusative Case


Locative Case


Instrumental Case


Dative Case



This is an Isoba-English dictionary. The following sections are arranged in Isoba alphabetical order, which is as followsː

a o u e i ö eu m b p f fh n d t s z l r ll g k h ch j c x sj zs q gh
num. one; a; an
Must be used with appropriate classifier, like "se," to quantify a noun.
eu se giu
one CL cat.SG=ERG
one cat

The North Wind and the Sun

The North Wind and the Sun is one of Aesop's fables. The following text is used in comparative linguistics for phonetic demonstrations:

The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak. They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other. Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him; and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak. And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.

The Rainbow Passage

The Rainbow Passage is a public-domain reading used for English speech evaluation. The original text is as follows:

When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act as a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors. These take the shape of a long round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon. There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end. People look, but no one ever finds it. When a man looks for something beyond his reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Throughout the centuries, people have explained the rainbow in various ways. Some have accepted it as a miracle without physical explanation. To the Hebrews, it was a token that there would be no more universal floods. The Greeks used to imagine that it was a sign from the gods to foretell war or heavy rain. The Norsemen considered the rainbow as a bridge over which the gods passed from earth to their home in the sky. Others have tried to explain the phenomenon physically. Aristotle thought that the rainbow was caused by reflection of the sun’s rays by the rain. Since then physicists have found that it is not reflection, but refraction by the raindrops which causes the rainbows. Many complicated ideas about the rainbow have been formed. The difference in the rainbow depends considerably upon the size of the drops, and the width of the colored band increases as the size of the drops increases. The actual primary rainbow observed is said to be the effect of super-imposition of a number of bows. If the red of the second bow falls upon the green of the first, the result is to give a bow with an abnormally wide yellow band, since red and green light when mixed form yellow. This is a very common type of bow, one showing mainly red and yellow, with little or no green or blue.