The Language of the People of the Plains

January 1st, 2018 by Fiat Lingua

Dashiel N. Stevens received a BA in linguistics from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. With a language-curious background, he stumbled into the world of linguistics through language creation. He has created several languages, favoring a posteriori languages, including Geulish (Geulge), Stranden (Westerlondisc), Briggan (Austerlandisk), Byzerine (Byzedueto), Selenese (Elyird Zeleneziyo), and others. Most of his languages occupy the world of “The Westlands” which is the setting for a tabletop role-playing game and novel that he has been working on for the last few years.

Abstract

The Jogos Nhai are a warlike people who live east of the Bone Mountains on Essos, in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire universe. Their language and culture have been critically underrepresented in associated media, and both are explored (with an obvious focus on the language) in this non-exhaustive reference grammar on Jogos Nhaiang Chahar, the language of the people of the plains, the Jogos Nhai.

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31st Lexember Word

December 30th, 2017 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

etíku [e̞ˈd͡ʑiˑɡʊ̆], intransitive verb: “to be/become new”

For this last day of Lexember 2017, and last day of 2017 itself, I tried to be at least slightly on topic :-).

Etíku refers to to things and concepts that are new, i.e. newly created or newly conceived. It can only be used of things and concepts, not of people or animals, except as a short cut (for instance, you would use etíku to refer to someone as a “new friend”, because the new thing in that case is not the person itself, but your friendship with them, and friendship is a concept).

A peculiarity of etíku is that it has what I call a “fragile vowel”. Simply put, its last, unstressed vowel u gets elided when various suffixes and clitics are added to the verb, even when one wouldn’t expect it to disappear according to the phonotactic rules of Haotyétpi (or its many sandhi rules). In other words, while etíku appears as such when used on its own, when suffixes and clitics are involved, the actual stem of this verb is etík.

So that’s it for Lexember 2017. I hope you enjoyed my additions to the Haotyétpi language. I know I had fun coining these words, and they’ve made me think really hard about the culture underlying this language. Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions about the words I created this month, and see you again next Lexember!


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31st Lexember Word

December 30th, 2017 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

etíku [e̞ˈd͡ʑiˑɡʊ̆], intransitive verb: “to be/become new”

For this last day of Lexember 2017, and last day of 2017 itself, I tried to be at least slightly on topic :-).

Etíku refers to to things and concepts that are new, i.e. newly created or newly conceived. It can only be used of things and concepts, not of people or animals, except as a short cut (for instance, you would use etíku to refer to someone as a “new friend”, because the new thing in that case is not the person itself, but your friendship with them, and friendship is a concept).

A peculiarity of etíku is that it has what I call a “fragile vowel”. Simply put, its last, unstressed vowel u gets elided when various suffixes and clitics are added to the verb, even when one wouldn’t expect it to disappear according to the phonotactic rules of Haotyétpi (or its many sandhi rules). In other words, while etíku appears as such when used on its own, when suffixes and clitics are involved, the actual stem of this verb is etík.

So that’s it for Lexember 2017. I hope you enjoyed my additions to the Haotyétpi language. I know I had fun coining these words, and they’ve made me think really hard about the culture underlying this language. Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions about the words I created this month, and see you again next Lexember!


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30th Lexember Word

December 29th, 2017 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

ompáw [o̞mˈbä͡ʊ], alienably possessed positional: “earlier moment, earlier time; beforehand”

To expand on yesterday’s renás, we now have its opposite. While renás refers to a moment later in time than the time that is relevant to the conversation, ompáw refers to a moment earlier than that time.

Apart from that difference in meaning, ompáw behaves pretty much in the same way as renás. It’s also a positional, meaning it can be used adverbially to mean “before that time, beforehand”.

An interesting use of renás and ompáw is as modifiers of other nouns referring to moments in time. This is done first by adding the copula -(s)e to these nouns (yes, in Haotyétpi, the copula is a suffix), and then using the result as a relative clause completing another noun. When doing so, we get renáse, which in this context means “following” or “next”, and ompáwse, which means in this case “previous” or “last”. For instance, with nów: “month”, we can form renáse nów ta: “next month”, and ompáwse nów ta: “last month” (=ta is mandatory here, as nów is not a positional). It’s an interesting usage, and a pattern that is found in various places in Haotyétpi.


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30th Lexember Word

December 29th, 2017 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

ompáw [o̞mˈbä͡ʊ], alienably possessed positional: “earlier moment, earlier time; beforehand”

To expand on yesterday’s renás, we now have its opposite. While renás refers to a moment later in time than the time that is relevant to the conversation, ompáw refers to a moment earlier than that time.

Apart from that difference in meaning, ompáw behaves pretty much in the same way as renás. It’s also a positional, meaning it can be used adverbially to mean “before that time, beforehand”.

An interesting use of renás and ompáw is as modifiers of other nouns referring to moments in time. This is done first by adding the copula -(s)e to these nouns (yes, in Haotyétpi, the copula is a suffix), and then using the result as a relative clause completing another noun. When doing so, we get renáse, which in this context means “following” or “next”, and ompáwse, which means in this case “previous” or “last”. For instance, with nów: “month”, we can form renáse nów ta: “next month”, and ompáwse nów ta: “last month” (=ta is mandatory here, as nów is not a positional). It’s an interesting usage, and a pattern that is found in various places in Haotyétpi.


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29th Lexember Word

December 28th, 2017 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

renás [ɾe̞ˈnäˑɕ], alienably possessed positional: “later moment, later time; afterwards”

Now for something completely different! Or, in this case, not “now”, but “later” :-P. Simply put, renás is a noun that refers to a moment in time later than whatever moment in time is relevant at this point in the conversation. That moment can be “now”, but it can also be some point of time in the past or the future. It doesn’t matter when the relevant moment in time is, renás refers to a time after it.

A peculiarity of renás is that it is a positional. Positionals are a subtype of nouns that usually refer to locations, in space or time, and have a somewhat different behaviour from normal nouns regarding the use of locative particles. In particular, when they are used with the plain locative particle =ta (“at, on, in”), that particle can actually be omitted. Effectively, this means such nouns can be used as is with an adverbial meaning of “at + location”. Examples of such nouns are ciéke (“house” -> ciékun: “at home”, literally “(at) my house”) and (“day” -> kaam ké: “today”, literally “this day”). That’s why renás can be used on its own to mean “afterwards”, i.e. literally “(at) a later time”. It’s not wrong to say renás ta, but it’s felt as redundant and thus would only be used to be emphatic.


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29th Lexember Word

December 28th, 2017 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

renás [ɾe̞ˈnäˑɕ], alienably possessed positional: “later moment, later time; afterwards”

Now for something completely different! Or, in this case, not “now”, but “later” :-P. Simply put, renás is a noun that refers to a moment in time later than whatever moment in time is relevant at this point in the conversation. That moment can be “now”, but it can also be some point of time in the past or the future. It doesn’t matter when the relevant moment in time is, renás refers to a time after it.

A peculiarity of renás is that it is a positional. Positionals are a subtype of nouns that usually refer to locations, in space or time, and have a somewhat different behaviour from normal nouns regarding the use of locative particles. In particular, when they are used with the plain locative particle =ta (“at, on, in”), that particle can actually be omitted. Effectively, this means such nouns can be used as is with an adverbial meaning of “at + location”. Examples of such nouns are ciéke (“house” -> ciékun: “at home”, literally “(at) my house”) and (“day” -> kaam ké: “today”, literally “this day”). That’s why renás can be used on its own to mean “afterwards”, i.e. literally “(at) a later time”. It’s not wrong to say renás ta, but it’s felt as redundant and thus would only be used to be emphatic.


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28th Lexember Word

December 27th, 2017 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

yakisú [jäd͡ʑɪˈzuˑ], transitive verb: “to hurt (s.o. or sthg)”

As I explained yesterday, akimés can mean “to hurt”, but only in its intransitive sense. In Haotyétpi, valency is an important property of a verb, and a verb cannot usually change valency without an explicit voice affix being added to it. This is very different to English, where many verbs can be used transitively and intransitively without a single morphological change.

So akimés can only be used to mean “to hurt” in the sense of “my foot hurts”. If you’d rather say “I hurt my foot”, you need to use another verb, in this case yakisú.

Yakisú is used when it’s the object that is in pain (and that object can be a person or a body part, basically like the subject of akimés), and the subject is the cause of that pain (or its unwitting facilitator, as it often enough happens :-P).

In terms of morphology, yakisú is formed using the verb-forming suffix -su, basically the opposite of -mes (-mes marks attachment, -su marks emission). The y- prefix it also sports is common in verbs that refer to a sensation or a feeling, or verbs referring to the workings of one’s brains (like yortamés: “to remember” and yortasú: “to suppose”). It originates from an applicative voice prefix that isn’t productive anymore.


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28th Lexember Word

December 27th, 2017 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

yakisú [jäd͡ʑɪˈzuˑ], transitive verb: “to hurt (s.o. or sthg)”

As I explained yesterday, akimés can mean “to hurt”, but only in its intransitive sense. In Haotyétpi, valency is an important property of a verb, and a verb cannot usually change valency without an explicit voice affix being added to it. This is very different to English, where many verbs can be used transitively and intransitively without a single morphological change.

So akimés can only be used to mean “to hurt” in the sense of “my foot hurts”. If you’d rather say “I hurt my foot”, you need to use another verb, in this case yakisú.

Yakisú is used when it’s the object that is in pain (and that object can be a person or a body part, basically like the subject of akimés), and the subject is the cause of that pain (or its unwitting facilitator, as it often enough happens :-P).

In terms of morphology, yakisú is formed using the verb-forming suffix -su, basically the opposite of -mes (-mes marks attachment, -su marks emission). The y- prefix it also sports is common in verbs that refer to a sensation or a feeling, or verbs referring to the workings of one’s brains (like yortamés: “to remember” and yortasú: “to suppose”). It originates from an applicative voice prefix that isn’t productive anymore.


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Detail #366: A Morphophonological Quirk

December 27th, 2017 by Miekko
For examples here I'll use cases. However, this applies to any prevalent morphological thing - tense, aspect, volitionality, evidentiality, number, etc - it's just a question of finding a way of applying it.

Now, sometimes, sound changes happen at boundaries of words. An example of this is how the former Finnic accusative case suffix -m has merged with the genitive case -n, due to a sound change that turned all final -m into -n, including stem-final -m. Thus, some words whose nominative form ends in -n have inflected forms with an -m- instead: sydän, sydämen. Historically, there's probably also been a form sydämem, which now comes out as sydämen as well.

Beyond cases, a language can have other affixes, e.g. possessive affixes, various clitics, etc. We can now imagine a situation where a different affix blocks a merger of cases by means of having had a different sound change induced (or just plain prevented it), a case distinction can survive in a limited environment, such as, say, before something analogous to Latin -que and similar. Finnish has -kin serving a similar role as -que, and we can imagine then a different version of Finnish having a change -mk- > -mp-. Then, we'd have a situation where 'a heart (nominative) too' would be 'sydämpin', 'a heart's too' would be 'sydämenkin' and 'a heart (acc) too' 'sydämempin'. The negative version of 'too', -kaan ('not even', 'not ... either', 'neither a/the ...'

Now, as I mentioned, this needn't be a case - could be a volition marker or whatever.

Describing such morphological quirks in tabular form requires some special notation, e.g. some kind of diacritic that serves exclusively to mark the existence of an underlying phoneme that may resurface. For the faux-Finnish example, we can consider m̄ for this role. Now, we could get the following pattern for the word sydäm̄:
case underlying formrealization
nom: sydäm̄sydän
acc:sydäm̄em̄sydämen
acc, clitic kin:sydäm̄em̄kinsydämempin
gen:sydäm̄ensydämen
gen, clitic:sydäm̄enkinsydämenkin
The thing I find relevant or interesting here is really the distribution of mergers vs. distinction. However, a convenient and succinct way of encoding such things in a morphological table is obviously relevant for descriptive purposes. The approach given above - using arbitrarily redefined diacritics - seems to have one great disadvantage: the requirement of learning to mentally apply the sign. In a short description, this is surprisingly taxing. If you've devoted your life to study a particular language, it is no big deal, but in a text you barely read once, it is a bit taxing. Another method that would require a bit more awkward writing, but be more parseable could be something like the following:
lexical example: sydämm > n / _#
morphological example: -emm > n / _#
Essentially replacing m̄ by mm > n / _# throughout the dictionary. Of course, for this use, I assume a really short sample dictionary in a fairly short text.

This could be expanded into marking relevant sound changes wherever they apply in morphophonological contexts.