The Dwarven language is can be subdivided into a large amount of dialects - after all, each clan has its own dialect or accent, and given how there are roughly 200 000 Dwarves living in their homelands, with each clan consisting of 500-1000 individuals on average, there could be around 300 distinct dialects/accents. These are all, for the most part mutually intelligible, with the main difference being pronounciation. The large amount of dialects or accents be neatly categorized into five groups (Conservative Southern, Innovative Southern, Conservative Northern, Innovative Northern, Isolates), out of which the first four categories constitute a two-dimensional distinction of Northern vs Southern and Conservative vs Innovative. Isolated or insular dialects would be dialects with Northern features spoken in the South or vice versa.
Northern vs Southern
Northern dialects are characterized by sound shifts (or lack thereof) involving coronal consonants. For example, the historical, Early Classical Dwarven /rˠ/ is consistently pronounced as a coronal rhotic [rˠ~ɽ~ɻ] in the Northern dialects, as opposed to the Southern uvular [ʀ~ʁ̞]. In contrast, Southern dialects have shifted the historical broad rhotic /rˠ/ into a uvular [ʀ~ʁ̞], and they don't usually introduce retroflex sounds, instead being richer in uvular ones. Both Northern and Southern dialects generally pronounce the slender rhotic /rʲ/ as a palatalized (post)alveolar trill [rʲ].
In addition to all of this, Southern dialects typically contain more loanwords from foreign languages like Etrandish, simply by virtue of being geographically connected. Northern dialects traditionally had far fewer loanwords in them, but compensated by retaining a lot of archaic words that went out of use in the Southern dialects. Indeed, Southern Dwarven and Northern Etrandish have a long history of mutually borrowing loanwords from each other, and both feature the Uvular R. This connection between Northern Etrandish and Southern Dwarven goes back all the way to the Kingdom of Steelhelm.
Conservative vs Innovative
- Conservative dialects have a phonology very similar to that of Dwarven Koiné, as well as grammar and vocabulary almost identical to it. These dialects also contain some archaicisms present in Classical Dwarven but lost in Contemporary Dwarven Koiné. For example, some Conservative dialects even preserve the non-sibilant affricates of Early Classical Dwarven [p̪͡fˠ p̪͡fʲ b̪͡vˠ b̪͡vʲ t͡θˠ t͡θʲ d͡ðˠ d͡ðʲ k͡x c͡ç g͡ɣ ɟ͡ʝ] that were deaffricated in Late Classical Dwarven and thus absent in both the majority of dialects and in Contemporary Dwarven Koiné. The vowels are mostly identical to that of the koiné, though some dialects may preserve the original long vowels [æː ɒː eː øː oː iː yː uː] instead of diphthongizing them [aɪ̯ aʊ̯ eɪ̯ øʏ̯ oʊ̯ iə̯ yə̯ uə̯] like the Koiné and the majority of dialects.
- Innovative dialects, as their name suggests, have went through their own sound shifts that made them unique, and different from their conservative counterparts. Rather than preserving archaicisms, they introduce innovations that are not yet part of the standard language, and probably will never be.
- Early Classical Dwarven: "bvartan" [b͡βɑrˠtˠənˠ]
- Late Classical Dwarven: "vartan" [vˠɑʀtˠənˠ]
- Contemporary Dwarven Koiné: "vartan" [ʋˠɑʀtˠənˠ]
- Conservative Southern Dwarven: "vartan" [vˠɑʀtˠənˠ] or "bvartan" [b̪͡vˠɑʀtˠənˠ]
- Innovative Southern Dwarven: "vartan" [wɑʁ̞tˠənˠ~wɒˤːtˠənˠ]
- Conservative Northern Dwarven: "vartan" [vˠɑrˠtˠənˠ] or "bvartan" [b̪͡vˠɑrˠtˠənˠ]
- Innovative Northern Dwarven: "vartan" [ʋˠɑɻˠʈˠənˠ~ʋˠɑɻˠʂˠʈˠənˠ~ʋˠɑʂˠʈˠənˠ~ʋˠɑʈˠːənˠ]
The Four Major Groups
Conservative Southern Dwarven is perhaps the one dialect group that is closest to Dwarven Koiné. The broad rhotic /rˠ/ is consistently pronounced as a uvular trill [ʀ], just like in the standard koiné language. Some dialects may preserve the long vowels that were shifted into diphthongs in the koiné and the majority of dialects, and an even smaller minority of dialects also preserve the non-sibilant affricates of Early Classical Dwarven. The vocabulary and the grammar is mostly identical to that of the Koiné, though it may preserve some archaicisms.
Innovative Southern Dwarven experiments with uvular consonants - for example, the broad rhotic /rˠ/ is not only pronounced as a uvular [ʀ~ʁ̞], but is often vocalized [ɐ̯]. Before a word boundary or another consonant, /iə̯rˠ yə̯rˠ uə̯rˠ ɪrˠ ɵrˠ ʊrˠ eɪ̯rˠ øʏ̯rˠ oʊ̯rˠ ɛrˠ œrˠ ɔrˠ aɪ̯rˠ ɔɪ̯rˠ aʊ̯rˠ ærˠ ɒrˠ/ are respectively pronounced as [ɪɐ̯ ʏɐ̯ ʊɐ̯ ɪɐ̯ ɵɐ̯ ʊɐ̯ eɐ̯ øɐ̯ oɐ̯ ɛɐ̯ œɐ̯ ɔɐ̯ aɐ̯ ɔɐ̯ aɐ̯ æɐ̯ ɒɐ̯] or [ɪˤː ʏˤː ʊˤː ɪˤː ɵˤː ʊˤː eˤː øˤː oˤː ɛˤː œˤː ɔˤː aˤː ɔˤː aˤː æˤː ɒˤː]. It is important to keep in mind, that the slender rhotic /rʲ/ is still pronounced as a palatalized (post)alveolar flap/trill [ɾʲ~rʲ], both in the syllable onset and the syllable coda, and thus does not colour preceeding vowels in the manner that the broad rhotic does. For example, /bˠɑrˠtˠ/ may be pronounced as [bɑʀt], [bɑʁ̞t] or [bɒˤːt], but /bʲærʲtʲ/ is always [bʲæɾʲtʲ] or just [bæɾt].
Additionally, /k ɡ x ɣ/ are typically realized as uvular [q ɢ χ ʁ̝] - this often causes /ɣ/ and /ʀ/ to merge completely, due to their similarity. Because the voiced uvular stop [ɢ] is difficult to articulate, it may be fronted [g], devoiced [ɢ̊] or lenited [ʁ̝]. Some dialects also realize the broad /lˠ/ as a velar [ʟ] or uvular [ʟ̠]. /ʋˠ/ may also be pronounced as a labiovelar [w] in the syllable onset, though not in the coda.
Conservative Northern Dwarven is perhaps the one dialect group that preserves the most from Early Classical Dwarven. The broad rhotic /rˠ/ is consistently pronounced as a velarized (post)alveolar trill [rˠ], and unlike in the more innovative dialects, this rhotic does not colour preceding vowels. Some dialects may preserve the long vowels that were shifted into diphthongs in the koiné and the majority of dialects, and an even smaller minority of dialects also preserve the non-sibilant affricates of Early Classical Dwarven. The grammar is mostly identical to that of the Koiné, but the vocabulary is rich in archaicisms absent in both the koiné and the Conservative Southern dialects.
Innovative Northern Dwarven experiments with retroflex consonants. For example, the broad rhotic /rˠ/ is pronounced as a retroflex [ɻ~ɽ]. Additionally, clusters such as /rˠtˠ/ are pronounced as [ɻʈ], [ɻʂʈ], [ʂʈ] or just [ʈː] This creates a whole new set of retroflex non-sibilants [ɳ ʈ ɖ ɭ] from /rˠnˠ rˠtˠ rˠdˠ rˠlˠ/ - the clusters /rˠθˠ rˠðˠ/ can optionally also be assibilated [ʂː ʐː]. In addition to that, the when followed by a word boundary or another consonant, /iə̯rˠ yə̯rˠ uə̯rˠ ɪrˠ ɵrˠ ʊrˠ eɪ̯rˠ øʏ̯rˠ oʊ̯rˠ ɛrˠ œrˠ ɔrˠ aɪ̯rˠ ɔɪ̯rˠ aʊ̯rˠ ærˠ ɒrˠ/ are respectively pronounced as [iə̯ɻ ʉə̯ɻ uə̯ɻ əɻ əɻ əɻ eə̯ɻ ɵə̯ɻ oə̯ɻ ɜɻ ɞɻ ɔɻ aə̯ɻ oə̯ɻ ɔə̯ɻ aɻ ɒɻ]. It is important to keep in mind, that the slender rhotic /rʲ/ is still pronounced as a palatalized (post)alveolar flap/trill [ɾʲ~rʲ], both in the syllable onset and the syllable coda, and thus does not colour preceeding vowels and succeeding coronal consonants in the manner that the broad rhotic does. For example, /bˠɑrˠtˠ/ may be pronounced as [bɑɻʈ], [bɑɻʂʈ], [bɑʂʈ] or [bɒʈː], but /bʲærʲtʲ/ is always [bʲæɾʲtʲ] or just [bæɾt].
The slender dorsal stops /kʲ gʲ/ are pronounced as palatal [c ɟ], and may be subject to affrication [c͡ç ɟ͡ʝ]. The broad dorsal /k g x ɣ/ remain velar [k g x ɣ].
Isolated dialects in Dwarven are a phenomenon, when a dialect is spoken in an area where it would be out of place. For example, a Southern-sounding dialect with Uvular Rs spoken in the North, or a Northern-sounding dialect with Retroflex Rs spoken in the South. Contrary to the popular belief, not all such dialects are a result of recent migrations of clans. The majority of isolated dialects are conservative - only a few innovative isolated dialects were reported.
Hybrid dialects in Dwarven are a phenomenon, when a dialect has both Northern and Southern features. All such dialects are innovative. These dialects typically pronounce /rˠnˠ rˠtˠ rˠdˠ rˠθˠ rˠðˠ rˠlˠ/ as [ɳː ʈː ɖː ʂː ʐː ɭː] or [ɚ̯ɳ ɚ̯ʈ ɚ̯ɖ ɚ̯ʂ ɚ̯ʐ ɚ̯ɭ], while any remaining /rˠ/ is pronounced as a uvular [ʀ~ʁ̞]. Without exception, all innovative isolates are hybrids.