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a new project of conlang

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Sunday, November 15, 1998, 16:05
        I've just begun a new project of conlang, which will be connected to
a conculture (very new for me). I want to modelize the evolution of language
and culture over thousand of years (like the evolution Latin->Romance
languages) with a brand new language and culture. As I've got no name yet
for the language and its speakers, I'll call the former PL (Proto-Language),
and the latter AP (Ancient People).

        Well, let's see the language:


vowels:front unrounded / back rounded
             'a    <------->    a
              e    <------->    o               + schwa '
              i    <------->    u

        'a (a acute) is the front a of French "patte" whereas a is the back
a of French "p^ate", but rounded (the difference has disappeared nowadays,
but I think many of you know what both sounds were). The other vowels are
pronounced as in Spanish. The schwa is not really a vowel, but a blank thing
used when consonnant clusters are too difficult to pronounce.


Occlusives: there are three orders: unvoiced, voiced, and voiced nasalized:
                                        p       b       ~b (like /mb/)
                                        t       d       ~d (like /nd/)
                                        k       g       ~g (like /Ng/)

Fricative: there is only one fricative: s which has different pronunciations
according to the phonemes near to it:
when preceded or followed by a vowel:
        if the vowel is front, s is pronounced /s/ or /z/.
        if the vowel is back, s is pronounced /S/ or /Z/.
        when s is surrounded by two vowels, only the following is important
(the schwa is not considered at all).

when preceded or followed by a consonnant:
occlusives: when the consonnant is unvoiced, s is pronounced /s/ or /S/.
            when it is voiced (nasalized), s is pronounced /z/ or /Z/.
            s can never be surrounded by two occlusives.

approximants: sj is pronounced /S/, whatever other surroundings.
              sw is pronounced /s/, whatever other surroundings.

Nasals: there are three nasals: m, n and ~n (/N/).

Approximants: there are three appproximants: w, j and trilled r.


For the root, the morphology of the syllabe is (C1)(C2)V(C3) where:
        C1 can be an occlusive, a nasal or s.
        C2 can be s (unless C1 is a nasal or s) or an approximant.
        V can be any vowel (except ').
        C3 can be s, a nasal or an approximant.

For prefixes and suffixes, the morphology of the syllabe is (C')(V')(A)=
        C' is any consonnant (it undergoes consonnant harmony).
        V' can be any vowel (it undergoes vowel harmony).
        A is any approximant (it _doesn't_ undergo consonnant harmony).

Roots are mainly mono- or disyllabic.
Consonnant clusters are resolved with ' when necessary.
Vowel clusters are _always_ resolved with r (two vowels can't follow each


PL is an agglutinating language where prefixes and suffixes undergo harmony.
There are two kinds of harmony:

It's the harmony front unrounded<->back rounded (see the arrows in the list
of vowels). The vowel of a prefix (if it has one) takes the frontness and
the roundness of the first vowel of the root. The vowel of a suffix
undergoes the same change, but with the last vowel of the root (there is
always one).

As they undergo harmony, prefixes and suffixes are listed here with front
unrounded vowels.

This harmony is more complex than the vowel harmony. As for vowels, prefixes
undergo harmony with the first consonnant of the root (even if it's not the
first letter), and suffixes undergo with the last consonnant of the root.
The possibility of a single-vowel root is considered below, with the
different kinds of harmony.

When the root consonnant is:
        an unvoiced occlusive, s (pronounced /s/ or /S/), sj or sw: the
affix consonnant is unvoiced:
        p->p    s->/s/ or /S/
        t->t    w->pw                   others don't change.
        k->k    j->tj

        a voiced occlusive, s (pronounced /z/ or /Z/), w, j, r, or no
consonnant at all (a single-vowel root): the affix consonnant is voiced:
        p->b    s->/z/ or /Z/
        t->d                            others don't change.

        a voiced nasalized occlusive or a nasal: the affix consonnant is
nasalized and voiced:
        p->~b   s->/z/ or /Z/
        t->~d   w->mw                   others don't change.
        k->~g   j->nj

As they undergo, prefixes and suffixes are listed here with C': unvoiced
occlusive, s, nasal or approximant.


        In all this explanation, parentheses are used to show optionnal

        PL recognize 6 kinds of words (merely by their inflection, roots
have no distinctions like nouns or verbs). They are: nouns, genitives,
attributives, adjectives, verbs and particles. All those kinds of words are
differenciated by their inflection.

(NOTE: genitive and attributive are only names I found simple to use to show
the use of those constructions. They are NOT cases of nouns, but rather
special constructions that can be connected to adjectives)


        They are used nearly like in English. They have the following

        (pronominal complex)-gender-root-case


        These are three different constructions whose purpose is to
determine a noun with another noun, or the meaning of a root.

        Genitives are used to show inalienable possession (like body parts,
but also other things that can be explained only culturally). They have the
following construction:

        (pronominal complex)-gender of the determined noun-gender-root
        + genitive affix that is placed towards the determined noun

        Attributives are used without case ending to show alienable
possession, and with case endings for other meanings (place, time:
yesterday's party, etc...). Their construction is between genitives and

        (pronominal complex)-gender of the determined=
        + attributive affix towards the determined noun

        Adjectives are nearly the same as in English (except that they can
be only epithets). They agree with the noun they complete in gender, and
optionnally in case:

        gender of the determined noun-root-(case of the determined noun)
        + attributive affix towards the determined noun (the same as


        Like in many languages, they are the center of the sentence, and
they content the expression of modality (not aspect) and time, but in a
different construction:

        modal-(object complex)-(factitive or causative complex)-root-subject
complex-(listener complex)


        They are just roots that stand alone in the sentence. All particles
that appear in a sentence generally agglomerate in a single particle complex
that stands anywhere in the sentence.


        These are affix complexes that are used when we use demonstratives,
possessives or pronouns. They are composed of:

        (factitive or causative affix)-gender-pronoun-time affix-(case when
employed with a verb)

        Case must be employed with verbs as the functions of subject and
object have not a single case (nearly every case can be used with those
functions, depending on the meaning).


        Reduplication is used with roots or affixes with a meaning of
completeness that can be understood as:
        - complete group for nouns (each, every, 'tous les' in French)
        - perfective for verbs ('result')
        - superlative for adjectives and particles (very, completely, quite)
        - completive for pronouns (we all, you all, etc...)

        Now let's see the affixes.




        Gender is neither the unproductive system that we find in French,
nor the classes system of Swahili. It's rather a productive system of
derivations (roots have no gender in themselves, roj meaning for example
'human' in a very broad sense) that can seem a little like Esperanto, but
with a "gender-like" flavour. As gender is used for agreement between nouns
and their determinants (pronominal complexes with antecedents, genitives,
attributives and adjectives), I kept the name 'gender' to describe that
system. A gender can have subgenders, and subgenders can have subsubgenders.
The tree of this system is:

- animated: letter k.   - human: k'a.   (- masculine: k'a-n.)
                                        (- feminine: k'a-ti.)
                                        (- group: k'a-se.)
                        - animal: ki.   (- masculine: ki-n.)
                                        (- feminine: ki-ti.)
                                        (- group: ki-se.)
                        - other (gods, extraterrestrials...): k.
- inanimated: letter m. - plants: me.
                        - part of animated: mi-k.
                        - object: m'aj.
                        - 'material' (used with ingredients in cooking): m.
                        - pseudo-animated (fire, planets, earthquakes):=
- conceptual: letter j. - idea, art, doctrine (everything in -ism): jer.
                        - abstraction (of something concrete): j'a.
                        - quality (in a broad sense): j.

        I borrowed this idea from Carlos Thompson and adapted it in my way.
He picked my curiosity with his idea of subgenders.



        What I call 'pronouns' constitute a kind of affixes that englobe
personal pronouns and 'demonstratives' (rather anaphoric and cataphoric
deictics used for the third person, as the third person is not
differenciated from demonstratives). Persons don't have any idea of number
(except some affix that _de facto_ have a sense of plural 1st person). Those
pronouns are:

1st person (I): ter.
                1st person strictly inclusive (only me and you): te-wir.
                1st person inclusive (me and you and others): te-wi-p.
                1st person exclusive (me and others): te-p.
2nd person (you, thou): wir.
3rd person: letter p.   - new information: p'ar.
                        - something we've just mentionned: pej.
                        - something we mentionned before: per.
                        - something we'll mention after: pi.
4th person (one, 'on' in French): no affix.


        There are for 'tenses'. As they are used with pronominal complexes
(not with verbs in themselves), they are in fact a feature of the nouns.

atemporal (out of the time line): no affix.
actual (now, nowadays): si.
past: new.
future: r'a.


        Modal prefixes are used only with verbs. There are four modalities
with three degrees in each:

- possibility:  - allowed: si.
                - known: se.
                - being able: s'ar.
- obligation:   - (own morals): n'a.
                - (exterior morals): new.
                - physically mandatory: nir.
- hypothesis:   - hypothetic: ri.
                - possible: rej.
                - probable: r'a.
- volonty:      - wanted: ter.
                - desired: t'aj.
                - wished: ti.


        As the functions 'subject' and 'object' can be handled by nearly any
case, and as factitive-causative, genitive and attributive are not cases,
cases must be seen as functions, not in the sentence but in the meaning of
the sentence. I use terms that are broadly used, but with a meaning
generally a little bit changed (I prefered doing that rather than creating
new terms from nowhere). Cases are:

ergative (animated and volitional agent, can't be used with inanimated):=
nominative (inanimated agent): e.
absolutive (subject of a single-participant verb): ir.
accusative (patient): i.
equative-attributive-dative (speaks for itself): not marked.
final (goal): ke.
instrumental (means): m'a.
ablative (way of doing): ~n.
benefactive (for): t.
partitive (between, used with adjectives to show comparative): pi.

local cases:
            | be: tej | go: not marked | come from: kir | pass through: mer
at: mir     |  mi-te  |      mir       |     mi-ki      |      mi-me
in: 'a      | 'aj-te  |      'a        |    'ar-ki      |     'ar-me
above: sej  |  se-te  |      sej       |     se-ki      |      se-me
under: ~nir | ~ni-te  |     ~nir       |    ~ni-ki      |     ~ni-me
near: p'aw  |  pe-te  |     p'aw       |     pe-ki      |      pe-me
around: we  |  we-tej |      we        |     we-kir     |      we-mer

        Anything else resort to vocabulary (yes, negation and subordination
resort to vocabulary). In fact there is neither a single way of making a
negation, nor subordination at all. I'll explain it in another post, when I
will have increased the vocabulary (now, I have only some affixes and two
roots!). I will post examples of the actual use of the grammatical features,
and features of the culture of the AP (at least the few things I know about
them) in another post, if you're interested in them, as I think this mail
has become too long. Sorry for such a long post. Tell me what you think of
the language.

                                                Christophe Grandsire
                                                |Sela Jemufan Atlinan C.G.

"R=E9sister ou servir"