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Gbwia, my language (LONG!)

From:R. Nierse <rnierse@...>
Date:Thursday, September 23, 1999, 11:23
Hi all,

As I announced yesterday, I would like to introduce my conlang (one of
them), named Gbw=EC=E0.
But first I will start introducing myself a little. When I was told about
this list, I just plunged into it without introduction (I didn't know abo=
nettiquette or care for etiquette).
I'm 30 years, I've studied Amerindian languages, married with a boy of 16
months. It is easy to explain how a got acquainted with conlanging: I met
Boudewijn and Irina Rempt (not married in those days).

Here is my conlang. It is inspired by African tone languages. Yesterday I
panicked when I wanted to translate the Magical Tree story, because I fou=
out that the grammar wasn't logical or consistent [BTW, how do you
translate so quickly?? A good translation takes so much of my time ;-( ].
Still, I present it because I'm stuck. I hope you can help me out, maybe
your opinions will help me further.



p       t               k       kp (little ingressive) 1        ' 2

mb      nd      ny      ng


@ 3     c       x       q

m       n   (used with low fequency: in loanwords only?)

 Fricatives (may get voiced after nasal)
        s       sh

 Laterals (voiced and voiceless resp.)
        l       hl

w       y

1  Allophones: k/i,e -> tS, c
2 Glottal stop is only used to distinguish two equal vowels: =F9hlel=E8'=E8=
sees him'
3 @ can be pronounced as a bilabial click or as a labial-dental click. BT=
has anybody a suggestion for a better symbol?

i, e, a, o, u.
All vowels can occur in low, high and falling tone.

Gbw=EC=E0 has no diphtongs (yet)

All languages use tone. Some languages have phonologically contrastive to=
and/or word stress, some do not ( e.g. French, Polish). I make a
distinction between stress languages (e.g. Dutch, Spanish), pitch-accent
languages (e.g. Yucatec Maya) and tone languages.

Regarding Tone languages I make a distinction between contour tone system=
(e.g. Chinese and many other Southeast Asian languages) and register tone
systems (e.g. African and Amerindian languages). regarding register tone
systems I make a distinction between systems that have:
no downdrift or downstep
downdrift, but no downstep (e.g. Hausa)
downdrift and downstep (e.g. Igbo)

Gbw=EC=E0 belongs to the last category.
Gbw=EC=E0 has two tones: H(igh) and L(ow). High tone is not indicated, lo=
w tone
is indicated with a grave (`). There is downdrift and downstep. Downstep =
annotated by an aigu (') on the vowel (like in "xi=F3" [//i1o2].
A high tone on the end of a sentence is usually falling. If the tone is n=
falling, than a macron or trema is written above the vowel: #m=E0t=F6. In=
words falling tones occur too without any cause (two equal vowels with H-=
colliding). To indicate this, a ^ is written over the vowel.

Syllable structure
CVC is not allowed, except when final V disappears for syntactic reason. =
that consonant is a voiceless stop, than that stop is pronounced
Note: I'm still doubting here. Should the minimal structure be CV (as I
originally had) or just V ( I accidentally made some syllables beginning
with a vowel)?


Gbw=EC=E0 is inflecting a little. Both nouns and verbs can take affixes a=
reduplication. Verbs can be active or stative, static verbs equalling our
adjectives most of the time.
Gbw=EC=E0 has a split-ergative construction.=20

Nouns concord with the actants of the verb.

Nominative/Ergative (or M-case)
Nouns that correspond with actants that govern prefixes in the verb take
the prefix m-. That is, in complete aspect, the m- case is ergative.

Accusative/Absolutive (or downstep-case)
Nouns that are objects or intransitive subjects in noncompletive aspect
take a zero high prefix. Thus, if the preceding syllable is low nothing
happens, if the preceding syllable is high, downstep occurs (indicated by
an acute).
E.g.: sh=ECa qw=ED [Si1a5!wi4]

Nouns in an oblique case get a 'marked' consonant. Marked in the sense th=
the first consonant of the root gets ejective (p', t', k', @', c', x', q'=
s', sh', l',(hl>)tl') or implosive (mb', nd', ng', gb'). /kp/ may be
ejective or implosive. There is a lot of dialectal variant concerning the
markedness. Some dialects lack the ejectives/implosives, some make all
consonants ejective/implosive.
The semantics of nouns in oblique case is very broad. It means most of th=
time indirect object, 'concerning' or 'in'. A more specific case can adde=
to the noun phrase like  q=E8, kp=E8, gw=EC or nd=EC, to name just the mo=
st used

Other cases that govern the oblique case:
This case is used for:
location in something
movement into something
! NB: most of the time q=E8 is omitted! Thus the oblique case becomes the=

This case is used for:
location on periphery
vague location (in the neighborhood of)
movement towards the outside of something (against, to)
active agent (by)
route (via)
re, concerning (I'm sorry, I can only come up with the Interlingua 're' f=
this case)
reason, motive (because, for)
price (for)

Furtheron, some verbs govern le automatically like mba ' to look at', qon=
'to have recollection of' and xehlo 'to aks for'.

This case indicates a removal in the broadest sense of the word: origin,
cause, reason, startingpoint, second element of a comparison etc..
Some verbs and adjectives govern gw=EC, like gb=E0nd=EC 'to forget'.

This case indicates companionship by persons (together with) and serves a=
a comitative. Some verbs govern nd=EC. E.g. xesh=EC=E0 mqohl=E0 gb'a nd=EC=
 'the man
is angry with his mother.'

Lesser used cases are:

=E0ndi  'on top of'
        'on the ground'

cw=E2   'towards', 'in the direction of'
        'to his house'

bweu    'through',' via'
        'you have fallen through your mouth' -> 'you have a loose tongue'

pw=EC=EC        'until' , 'as' (function)
        'we shall appoint him as our leader'

in=E0   'like'
        'it is as hard as rock'

nwa=F4  'before' (in time)
        'for my father'

tw=FB   'after' (in time)
        'after that', 'afterwards'

ng=E0nya        'while' =20

@ang=E8 'not sooner than'

mu=FB   'without'

Other cases consisting of q=E8 plus other element:
q=E8c=E8        'until tot aan'

q=E8@=E0c=E2    'for (the sake of)'

ng=F2nd=EA      'under'

q=E8 + nouns
-kp'weq=E8              'behind'
g'wouq=E8               'on top of'
mb'undeq=E8     'in the middle of'
mb'uq=F2q=E8            'within'
-s'wolandeq=E8  'before' (location)
k'wumuq=E8      'besides'
kp'ixiq=E8              'close to'
d'we=F9q=E8             'behind'
hl'uq=E8                'under'

Personal Pronouns
        sg      pl
1.      t=E4    ti=E2
2.      t=FC    ti=EA
3.      hl=EB   hl=EE

Deictic elements
this    @i
that    @a

here    kp=E8@i
there   pk=E8@a


Dependent pronouns are inflected with prefixes an suffixes.=20

1.      =E0-
2.      =EC-
3.      =F9- + last high tone of root becomes low, or in case of low tone: lo=
tone vowel disappears.

These prefixes also occur on nouns referencing the possessor. As verbal
prefixes they signal agreement with the transitive agent and with
intransitive subjects in noncompletive aspects. In the completive aspect
intransitive subjects are marked by suffixes (see below), resulting in a
split-ergative verb-agreement system.
The system is ergative in the completive aspect where transitive agents a=
marked by prefixes and intransitive subjects and transitive objects by
suffixes. The system in nominative in the noncompletive aspect where
subjects are marked by prefixes and objects are marked by suffixes. =20

1. -(x)=E8
2. -(c)=E0
3. -0
The brackets indicate that the consonants are used when the stem of the
noun ends in a vowel, i.e. when the 3rd person prefix is used.
Besides the above mentioned function, these dependent pronouns are suffix=
to adjectives and nouns in stative constructions: gb=E2-x=E8    'I have been

hlwo-x=E8                       'I have slept'  (or: Ta hlwo-x=E8, or: ta hlwo)

=E0-hlwo        'I am sleeping' (or: m-ta =E0-hlwo, or m-ta hlwo)

=F9-hlel'-=E0   'He is seeing you' / 'He has seen you'  (or: m-hle (=F9-)hl=

I'm still figuring out if I want to use this rule: If (pro)noun is used,
the afffix(es) is (are) optional.

Plurality is indicated by the following optional suffixes (they tend not =
be used):
1. -=E2
2. -=EA
3.      -=EE /-=E2

Both prefixed and suffixed actants can be put in plural with these
suffixes. If there is any ambiguity, independent pronouns are used to

Tense, mood and aspect
Tense is not morphologically marked, but lexically (with words like
'yesterday', 'in the past' etc)

Completive and noncompletive are indicated by the way the verbs are
conjugated (see above).

Itterative is indicated by reduplication of the last syllable of the root.
Gba-gb=E2-x=E8  'I had been hungry all the time'

Unexpectedness/non-control: ejective (voiceless) / implosive (voiced).
gb'=E2q=ECx=E8          'Suddenly I got hungry'

The major auxiliary verbs to do, to have and to be.

pos     neg
gba     mba     to be (intr)
wa      ndwa    to have (bitr)
kpe     nge     to do/to make(tr)

Negation can only be done by using the auxiliary verb

gb=E2x=E8               'I've been hungry'
gb=E2 mbax=E8   'I haven't been hungry'
=E0gb=E2                'I 'm hungry'
gb=E2 =E0mba    'I'm not hungry'


relative clauses
The following relative clauses are encircled by clitics indicating the

'That'  s=E9 + mi       {NB always downstep!}
qohl=E0 s=E9    =E0-hlel=E8-0           mi
man     SUB     1-see-3         SUB
'The man that I see.'

'If'    co + co
co      =EC-c=F2        gbi     @a      co,     =EC-gbi sha     kpwi=E0
if      2-can   know    this    if,     2-know  too     much

other subordinations still need to be done
other things like comparison also need to be done

Gbw=EC=E0 text

M-wiw=E0hlel=E8kp=E8 =F9-ndop' ik=F2t=F2 q'w=EA q=E8 ngwaw=E8-=EE qw=F2se=
 wiw=E0-=EE  =F9-hlel=E8-hl=EAl'.
Shu ng'waw=E8, =F9-lwa=F2  hlw=E8obe ng=E0nya, =F9-mba-mb' ng'w=E1w=E8 kp=
=E8 a=F3 q'wuco c'=F2gbi
q=E8 kp'ac=E8 kp=E8.
=D9-gbwa=F2kpo a=F3 =F9-lw=E8oqo =F9-hlwaada-=E2  a=F3 =F9-xwuu-=E2, a=F3=
 =F9-dwi=E0  dwa=F2 kp=E8 kwumu.
M-w=F9asho =F9-kwi-kwi  c'wi kp=E8, a=F3 =F9-hlel=E8 hla gbe =F9-hlw=F9iq=
=F2:  "Lwa@=E0,
ndwandw=E8. Gb=F4,  hl'w=E8obe x'w=E0d=E8 kp=E8 gbe =F9-gba kp'ixi, a=F3 =
w=F9=E1sh=F2 hlel=E8 gbe =F9-gba q'oqe?"

"The Astronomer"

M-wiw=E0hlel=E8kp=E8    =F9-ndop'       ik=F2t=F2       q'w=EA  q=E8    ngwaw=E8-=EE    qw=F2se
m-starlooker    3-use_to        go_out  past    loc     night-pl        during=20

wiw=E0-=EE              =F9-hlel=E8-hl=EAl'
stars           3-observe (=3Dsee intensively)
"An astronomer used to go out at night to observe the stars."

Shu     ng'waw=E8(q=E8),        =F9-lwa=F2              hlw=E8obe       ng=E0nya,       =F9-mba-mb'
One     evening (in),   3-wander                suburb  while,  3-look_intens.

ng'w=E1w=E8     kp=E8   a=F3    q'wuco-0        c'=F2gbi        q=E8    kp'ac=E8        kp=E8.
sky     loc     and     fall-noncntrl-3 well    in      accidently kp=E8.
"One evening, as he wandered through the suburbs observing the starts
intensively, he fell accidentally into a well."

=D9-gbwa=F2kpo  a=F3    =F9-lw=E8oqo    =F9-hlwaada-=E2         a=F3    =F9-xwuu-=E2,=20
3-lament                and     3-bewail        3-sore-pl               and     3-bruise-pl,

a=F3    =F9-dwi=E0      dwa=F2 kp=E8    kwumu.
and     3-cry   help for        loudly.
"While he lamented and bewailed his sores and bruises, and cried loudly f=

M-w=F9asho      =F9-kwi-kwi             c'wi    kp=E8,=20
m-neighbor      3-run(walk_intens)      well    towards,

a=F3    3-hlel=E8       hla     gbe     =F9-hlw=F9iq=F2:        "lwa@=E0-0, ndwandw=E8."
and     3-see   say     what    3-happen:       "Hark-imp, mister.
"A neighbor ran to the well, and learning what had happened said: "Hark y=

Gb=F4,  hl'w=E8obe      x'w=E0d=E8      kp=E8   gbe     =F9-gba kp'ixi  (q=E8), a=F3    =EC-n=
why,    strive  pry     in      what    is-3nc  heaven  (loc),  and     2-do_neg

w=F9=E1sh=F2    hlel=E8 gbe     =F9-gba q'oqe   (q=E8)?
Manage  see     what    3-is    earth   (loc)?".
"Why, in striving to pry into what is in heaven, do you not manage to see
what is on earth?".

Gbw=EC=E0 culture
Some background to understand the Gbwia culture.

Geographic location
The Gbwia live on the eastern peninsula of my conworls. They must have be=
there for a very long time. They have no myths of an other homeland other
than their present homeland.
The ground is arid, except for the fertil oasisses (?) and the central pa=
of the peninsula.

Male culture
The culture is dominated by men. Men have political and control warfare,
trade, justice . Women have some social power, for examle they choose the=
husband, not the other way around.
Gbwia society is organised in clans, ranging in seize from a couple of
dozen to about three or four thousand. Men are extremely loyal to their
clans. This is one of the reasons that a nation has never arisen; there i=
too must animosity among the clans on the subject of political power. The
most important and biggest of all clans are the Ndw=E1ndwe (aso the word =
'sir, 'mister').
There is a complex system of changing clans (except fr marrying, which is
quite straightforward: women change side).

Animals an agriculture
The Gbwia live mainly of animals an herding. Some agriculture is done in
the oases and Central Gbwia land.

Although not living in the central part of the continent, Gbwia clans hav=
a large influence in trading and caravans (see > contacts with D=FCzg=FCr
(under construction)).

No writing, but tokens
Gbwia people have never evolved a writing system. Borrowing scripts wasn'=
a success either, since Gbwia peculiarities (especially the feature tone)
are hard to incorporate into those scripts. The Gbwia relay almost
completely on two other systems : the storytellers and the token counters.
The token counters are men that count amounts of good (for trade), taxes
and other kind of economical stuff. Forgetting or making errors is a
serious crime severely punished, sometimes even by death when done
To facilitate remembrance, tokens (made of clay or wood) are just to keep
track of the count. The counters have different shapes, each shape
indicating the sort of goods, the size indicating the number of goods. Th=
counters are kept in special bags. Theft of these bags is almost as serio=
a crime as the theft of the properties the tokens represent.
Some forms have the same 'meaning' all over Gbwia territory. E.g. the con=
stands for goats, a cube stands for salt etc.. Some forms are very rare a=
the meaning of it is only known to the token counter that designed the

Some people suggest that the pictures of the Gbwia are a sort of writing.
Indeed do the pictures have a (deeper) meaning, but most of the time it i=
used as decoration, although some records mention the use of magic by mea=
of these pictures.
Every clan and town has a picture of its own. These can often been seen o=
the token-bags.

Story tellers
Story tellers have a high social position. Their job is to tell stories:
legends of the past, riddles, amusing stories on feasts and parties and
chronicles, announcements and news for towns and courts.

Staffs and status
Every man in Gbwia society has a staff when the come of age (at about 15
years). They make it themselves. The staff indicates the clan and social
status of the owner. The biggest staffs with most ornaments belong to the
most powerful and influential people.
The staff is not just a property of the owner (a man keeps his  staff al
his life), staffs can also be associated with social and political
functions (mayor, policeman, godfather, spokesman of the tribe/clan) so o=
person can have several staffs.
Staffs are also connected with honor. Making a statement when you wear/be=
your staff or making a promise is taken very seriously. Breaking that
promise makes you fall in social hierarchy.
Sometimes a man tells something, suddenly puts down his 'personal' staff,
taking up the mayor staff and declare something and after that change
staffs again. He thus illustrates that he made the statement not on
personal title (he may even hint to the fact that he himself dislikes the
decision) but as a mayor.=20

There are several gods the Gbwia worship. The Gbwia religion is in betwee=
the worship of the forces of nature / shamanism and polytheism.
The 'church' is highly organized and there are several functions within t=
organization, each having different rights (e.g. to perform rituals) and
privileges and different obligations.