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A community for the dragon language of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Featured Work February 25, 2015

Pronunciation & Stress

February 25, 2015

An important part of pronunciation is stress, or which syllable to emphasize in a word. For example, the word “dragon” is emphasized on the first syllable, while the word “draconic” is emphasized on the second syllable. Sometimes the placement of stress can change a word’s meaning, such as the difference between the noun “content” and the adjective “content.”

German and Old English follow a very straightforward rule - the root syllable (the first non-prefix syllable) receives the stress. And so, you have words like “hammer” and “elbow,” and “forgive” and “forget.”

Dovahzul, unfortunately, is not so simple. The placement of stress varies greatly. Since we’ve never heard the vast majority of words officially spoken, it’s important to establish where stress falls and why. Below are a set of rules that can describe the placement of stress in most words. Follow them in order to determine how a word should be pronounced.

1. Default stress placement is on the first syllable:

  • KRO-sis
  • HOR-vut
  • NOR-ok
  • HEV-no
  • KRI-lot
  • SU-leyk

2. Where a word ends in a or ah, stress never falls on the last syllable:

  • DOV-ah
  • MO-nah
  • BOR-mah
  • ZEY-mah
  • LIN-grah
  • KRON-grah
  • STRUN-mah
  • DEY-ra

This is rule is more of an extension of the first. Note an exception that sometimes appears with morah.

3. Where a word contains ah as either the first syllable or a middle syllable, that syllable receives the stress unless a syllable with aa, ii, or oo supersedes it (see rule #4):

  • AH-mul
  • AH-krin
  • GAH-rot
  • mo-NAH-ven
  • bor-MAH-u
  • zey-MAH-i
  • zey-MAH-zin
  • ko-NAH-rik
  • nah-GAH-di-NOK
  • ZAH-rah-MIIK

This rule explains the shift in stress that occurs between monah and Monahven, bormah and bormahu, and zeymah and zeymahzin. This stress shift occurs even with possessive suffixes, as seen in bormahu and zeymahi.

4. Where a word contains aa, ii, or oo, that syllable receives the stress. This does not occur in words where the first syllable of the word is “enclosed” by consonants:

  • ah-RAAN
  • dah-MAAN
  • vah-RIIN
  • mul-AAG
  • bo-LAAV
  • ni-MAAR
  • lah-VRAAN
  • fah-LIIL
  • kei-ZAAL
  • ko-GAAN
  • ko-PRAAN
  • vo-KRII
  • fo-LOOK
  • mah-LAAN
  • vo-KIIN
  • vo-THAARN

The exception described above is when the syllables are divided by two consonants rather than one (as seen in all the words above). Thus, words like lumnaar, tinvaak, and geinmaar are all stressed on the first syllable.

For this rule, it’s important to recognize where exactly syllables are divided. The syllables for kopraan are ko-PRAAN, and not KOP-raan. Ah should be treated as a single vowel, so this exception doesn’t apply to words like vahriin and fahliil. Th should be treated as a single consonant, as in vothaarn.

This rule explains why it’s uncommon to see two consecutive syllables with aa or ii, as seen in the word miiraak. It also explains the shortening that happens with the verb ending -aan, as seen in kriaan, indicating that the suffix should receive the stress.

5. Where a word has an affix (besides vo- or -aan), the affix is unstressed. These affixes may be known, like -us or -iik, or only the root word may be known:

  • SAV-iik
  • KRON-iid
  • a-LOK
  • di-NOK
  • di-LON
  • OD-us
  • mot-MAH-us
  • vo-LAAN
  • su-LEYK-i
  • bah-LOK-i
  • BRUN-iik
  • BOZ-iik
  • KRUZ-iik

This rule mainly illustrates how stress changes when a possessive suffix is involved. It also explains words that defy previous rules, such as bruniik and dinok. These are difficult to describe because we can’t be sure of their etymology, but the pronunciation suggests that brun and nok are roots of some kind.

This rule is not considered for the affixes vo- and -aan. The result of this is that -aan will typically receive the stress, and vo- will receive the stress if it isn’t superseded by the vowels aa or ii, as seen in volaan and vokrii.


6. Hyphenated compounds are pronounced as though separate words:

  • GRAH zey-MAH-zin
  • a-LOK di-LON
  • TIID ah-RAAN

Stress is not fixed, and can fluctuate in a sentence. Consider the sentence Alduin wahlaan daanii. This ends up being pronounced as “AL-du-IN wah-LAAN daan-II.” Ordinarily, the possessive suffix wouldn’t receive the stress here, but because the word wahlaan ends with a stressed syllable, the first syllable of daanii becomes unstressed.

These rules should help you arrive at pronunciations for most words. There are still some words that these rules can’t describe. If you have any ideas to further refine them, share your thoughts in the comments!



Mahlaansaviik
February 25, 2015

pogaas nox

by Mahlaansaviik
February 25, 2015

pogaas nox


Frinmulaar
February 26, 2015

Pruzah kroson! This guide is a godsend to my TTS engine. Which I probably should be working on...

by Frinmulaar
February 26, 2015

Pruzah kroson! This guide is a godsend to my TTS engine. Which I probably should be working on...


Kosenu
February 26, 2015

Woah, lotsa new stuff for me here. Nox Paarthurnax, aal hin ven bo mul!

by Kosenu
February 26, 2015

Woah, lotsa new stuff for me here. Nox Paarthurnax, aal hin ven bo mul!


Kronvullok
February 27, 2015

Unslaad nox, paarthurnax. Although, I never really had a problem with stressing syllables. I guess my brain is hardwired for pronouncing different languages.

by Kronvullok
February 27, 2015

Unslaad nox, paarthurnax. Although, I never really had a problem with stressing syllables. I guess my brain is hardwired for pronouncing different languages.


Iakov
February 27, 2015

When put to words, this makes perfect sense!

by Iakov
February 27, 2015

When put to words, this makes perfect sense!


BoDuSil
March 8, 2015

This will help my dovahzul public speaking skills. Thanks paarth

by BoDuSil
March 8, 2015

This will help my dovahzul public speaking skills. Thanks paarth


Dinokviing
March 13, 2015

Thanks, man! The pronunciation usually confuses me. In the second Canon Memrise Course, only some of the words have voice to them. Could there be more ways to help with pronunciation on Memrise?

by Dinokviing
March 13, 2015

Thanks, man! The pronunciation usually confuses me. In the second Canon Memrise Course, only some of the words have voice to them. Could there be more ways to help with pronunciation on Memrise?