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Zireen language typology; introducing "Zircon"

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Tuesday, July 15, 2003, 2:25
I've decided to go back to languages associated with concultures, and I
think I've figured out how to get started. Instead of trying to build up a
complex history of inter-related Zireen languages, I came up with the idea
of a Zireen conlang. The idea is that this is a sort of "Zireen Esperanto",
a simplified and idealized form of language that borrows from a number of
related Zireen languages, but without all the complications and irregular-
ities of a real natlang. At the same time, I'd like to try to get a sense
of the overall structure of Zireen languages and how they differ from human
languages in terms of typological parameters. For instance, VOS languages
are fairly common among Zireen languages, but rare for human languages. The
new Zireen conlang, or "Zircon" for short, has a structure typical of
Zireen languages: basic VOS word order, ergative case marking on noun
phrases, and more fricatives than stops.

Basic word orders compared:

VSO - more common in Zireen languages than Human languages
      examples: Jaradh; Welsh
VOS - common in Zireen languages, rare in Human languages
      examples: Ishiriká; Malagasy
SVO - common in both Zireen and Human languages
      examples: Simik (Zirinka); English
SOV - common in Human languages, rare in Zireen languages
      examples: Japanese
OVS - rare in Zireen or Human languages
      examples: Hixkaryana
OSV - rare in Zireen languages, nonexistent in Human languages?
      examples: (Yoda's language)

Note that VO is far more common than OV word order in Zireen languages,
while both are common among human languages; languages with O before S are
rare among human languages, but VOS is as common as SVO among Zireen

Certainly, Zireen languages have a lot in common with human languages, and
it's not my intention to come up with a truly "alien" set of languages.
Zireen are physically very similar to humans, at least superficially, and
their cultures are not so different that they're incomprehensible to us.
All of these similarities are too coincidental to be realistic, but I don't
have the expertise or the interest to create a thoroughly plausible alien
world. The direction I'm interested in is more along the lines of the Star
Trek or Elfquest worlds -- grounded in a reality not unlike our own, but
straying beyond the realm of "hard" science fiction in the direction of

But wherever possible, I'd like to create just enough differences in the
basic structure of language to give Zireen languages a slightly non-human
feel. All of the most widely spoken Zireen languages are ergative. Prefixes
are more common than suffixes. "Zircon" is a typical Zireen language in all
these ways. (Example:)

Sisurul mihrui.
si  -surul mi -hrui
PRES-rise  ABS-moon
"The moon is rising".

Nasesti miulu lehrui kamunga.
na  -sesti mi -ulu  le -hrui ka -munga
PAST-jump  ABS-over GEN-moon ERG-munga
"The munga jumped over the moon".

languages of Azir------> ---<>---
hmiller (Herman Miller)   "If all Printers were determin'd not to print any  email password: thing till they were sure it would offend no body,
\ "Subject: teamouse" /  there would be very little printed." -Ben Franklin