All right, so, I decided I will, in fact, devote myself to the years of effort it will take to create a fully-realized fictional, naturalistic language/culture for a people in one (and thank god only one!) of my stories. Up until this point, even the challenging parts - coming up with a reasonable syntax, idioms, vocabulary, creation of an orthography that includes a cursive system (I think I'm almost done on this, maybe, except for some kinks revealed by the cursive experiments that I may or may not ask for advice on later) etc. - have been fun. So far I'm happy with the phonemes as represented by the syllabary, which I even like the look of, though again, I may ask for advice on that in the future.
Aaaaand finally we get to the first true roadblock, particularly if I plan to share the language with anybody: I'm inexperienced with IPA, Wikipedia and such seem to not be very helpful at clearing up my first question on it (particularly since my native language is English, and at least one of the other languages or families whose sounds I can both imagine and actually pronounce that lends sounds to the conlang in question is something I can't read, so the IPA guides on Wiki aren't 100% consistently usable for me?), Zompist's Language Construction kit is more helpful but only comes close to solving the problem, and in summary:
I'm having a hell of a time trying to figure out how to describe the pronunciation of a new vocabulary word I came up with today, using IPA-style orthography. (Which leads me to worry since how the heck am I going to ask for advice on this if I can't transcribe the words or syllabary completely into IPA!?) So I need help teasing out and articulating exactly what a linguist would render this word as.
OK. So. Here goes:
The basic phonemes in this word, near as I can tell, would be represented thusly:
kɒ ti, all one word, though there is possibly some kind of stop in the middle.
It's hard to say if I can call it that (a "stop") without some input though, because the only foreign language I've learned where "syllable stops" were important was a lot more obvious about it (Japanese) and it there it's a very distinctive feature that could completely change what you were saying... whereas both the k and t phonemes tend to be very pronounced in the fictional language I'm working on, so what I'm feeling as a sort of micro-pause might simply be just the flow of the language from its natural accent (at least as it goes over short words like that), and not a true stop, and therefore not a real concern to linguists? I really don't know. But this is almost coincidental to my question, because the REAL trickiness is how to describe the ending sound!
Basically, emphasis falls somewhat for on the ti; pitch rises slightly (from the natural tendencies of the accent), and the i is... shortened? Truncated? I want to call it a "glottal stop", but that doesn't sound right. It's hard to figure out from the resources I've got if that can apply to a phoneme that ends in a vowel, though I strongly suspect it isn't, just from the position of the mouth on the sound (the glottis is pretty far down in the throat), but is there a vowel equivalent stop that uses a different part of the mouth/throat that can describe this? Or is it not a stop, and I'm simply using the wrong character to represent it? :\ It's not quite devoiced... it's actually emphasized, in fact, just much briefer.
I feel like a total noob for having to ask this, and the answer will probably be something I will *facepalm* over once it's explained to me. But hey, you don't learn without asking a stupid question once in a while, I guess... and anyone who can put up with me long enough to answer would be greatly appreciated!
As for the overall sound of the language, think of the accent as being somewhat like... I guess the closest equivalent would be something like Russian, though perhaps a tad softer? Maybe like Romanian? The overall accent of the language blends some mostly-Japanese phonemes, and what an outsider would think of as "something very Eastern-European sounding". Which I realize doesn't clear up a lot, but while I can imitate a lot of foreign phonemes, I don't necessarily know what languages they exist in, so... yeah, it's a pain trying to describe this. :P
I guess it sounds kind of like what you'd get if you took Romanian or something close to it (like Romanian if it didn't occasionally sound as close to Italian at times, maybe?), and smacked it together in a blender with Japanese. Possibly with an additional vowel; I don't know if Romanian has both an I [ - IPA] and an i [ -IPA] sound (I know its accent only from select music samples), but I do know Japanese doesn't, and this fictional language will (though in some sets of consonant-vowel sounds in the syllabary, they would end up close enough to each other they'd ended up using only one or the other; the other vowels roughly match up to the remaining ones in Japanese or Spanish, meaning each non-ending consonant can be paired with either five or six vowels, depending on how close they sounded when pronounced with the accent).
It's fairly vowel-heavy, too; the only ending consonants are ʃ, k and n. Overall, it wouldn't sound out of place in Eastern Europe, I don't think, though it would not be mutually intelligible with pretty much any of it. As for the writing system, I wish I had a scan uploaded of my complete, super-neat syllabary, but I don't; you can however, click here and here if you want to look at my first run-throughs on working out the kinks via scribbly attempts at figuring out the cursive equivalent.