Cumbraek has 7 pure vowels, each of which may be long or short according to context.
- a (short) as in bat; (long) as in northern English father
- e (short) as in bet; (long) as in northern English fate
- i (short) as in bit; (long) as in Standard English beet
- o (short) as in pot; (long) as in northern English boat
- oo (short) as in northern English but; (long) as in boot
- ou (short) as in Scottish English foot; (long) the same sound but lengthened
- u (short, non-final syllables) as in Scottish English putt; (short, final syllables) as in northern English butt; (long) as in boot
- y is a variant of i in final syllables as is always short as in bit
Pure vowels may be long or short and vowel length is entirely predictable from the form of the word.
- Long vowels occur in stressed monosyllables, where the vowel is followed by one consonant or fewer: can “sings”, ci “dog”
- Short vowels occur in all other positions: cant “hundred”, dinyon “people”
Cumbraek has nine diphthongs: ai, ay, aw, ey/ei, ew, iw, oy, ow, uw. In most cases these are pronounced as a vowel followed by the semi-vowel y or w, exactly as the spelling suggests, but note the following:
- ai is pronounced /əj/, i.e. as the short ‘schwa’ sound of a in about followed by y.
- ay is pronounced like long a described above.
Besides diphthongs, Cumbraek also has four pairs of vowels which are always pronounced as pure long vowels:
- ae is like long a
- ee is like long e
- oa is either like northern English or or like a in Standard English father
- oe is like long o
Epenthesis and Elision
Epenthesis and elision – respectively the addition or removal of a vowel between consonants to aid pronunciation – are two common processes in Cumbraek, which affect the form and pronunciation of words.
Epenthesis is written in the final syllable of many words as either i (when the preceding vowel is e or i) or u (when any other vowel precedes); for example, maruw ‘dead’, gavur ‘goat’, cenedhil ‘nation’. This only occurs in words ending in -r, -n, -w, -l or -v. In such cases the epenthetic vowel is part of the stress pattern of the word and the stress falls on the preceding syllable: cenedhil [cen-EDH-il], gorchaduw [gor-CHAD-uw].
When words with an epethetic vowel have endings added the vowel is lost in the process called elision: marwol ‘fatal’, cenedhlon ‘nations’, gorchadwav ‘I guard’. However, when the ending begins with a consonant the vowel is lost in writing but remains in speech: marwnat ‘elegy’ [MAR-u-nad], medhwder ‘drunkness’ [MEDH-u-der], idrpriodi ‘intermarry’ [ID-er-pri-OD-i]. In these cases the epenthetic vowel does not form part of the word’s stress pattern and is always unstressed.
Primary stress usually occurs on the penultimate syllable with secondary stress on the pre-antepenult: milyonidh [mil-YON-idh], camyalhtav [cam-YALH-tav].
Final syllables and those occurring between two stressed syllables in polysyllabic words are usually unstressed.
Proclitics are short grammatical words which are never stressed. They include prepositions, prefixed pronouns, the article er and verbal particles.