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Callistic revisited (mostly phonology)

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Friday, May 7, 1999, 0:06
I've done more work on my very own Indo-European language, Callistic.  I
wrote about it a while ago, but made some changes.  Below is a summary of
the main sound changes and a little of the grammar.

Callistic, as I said before, is written in Latin script, using no diacritics
(though it did in the past).  All letters but <w> are used; foreign words
with <w> simply use <v>.

The bulk of Callistic's consonants are stops, as is the case with the common
reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European.  All five of the articulatory
positions are distinct in Callistic, making it unique among the IE
languages, a _satem_ language (palatal stops become sibilant affricates)
that preserves the labiovelars (which have become uvulars today).  All three
types of stop are preserved, but a Grimm's Law-like shift occurs along the
lines of Armenian: voiceless stops (p/t/k^/k/kw) usually become voiceless
aspirated (written ph/th/ch/kh/qh; c = /ts/ and qh = /x/), voiced plain
stops become voiceless ejectives (written p/t/c/k/q), and voiced aspirated
stops usually become voiced plain stops (written b/d/z/g/ng; z = /z/ and ng
= /N/)

The token IE fricative, /s/, is preserved.  However, other fricatives which
are mostly attested only in Hittite and the other long-extinct Anatolian
languages are the "laryngeals", which were probably a glottal fricative /h/,
and two or three other similar consonants: probably /hj/ and /hw/.  Or they
could've been velar fricatives, /x/ and /G/, or the pharyngeals of Arabic
and other Semitic languages.  Callistic has three laryngeals, but much
change have they undergone through history.  The neutral pharyngeal, <h> or
<h2> became Callistic <h>, the voiceless glottal fricative.  The palatized
laryngeal, <h^> or <h1> became the velar fricative <x>.  The labiovelarized
laryngeal, <hw> or <h3>, became the labiodental <f>.

The IE nasals, <m> and <n>, are preserved perfectly in Callistic, as are the
lateral <l> and the trill <r>.  The IE semivowels, <u^> and <i^>, are
written <v> and <j> in Callistic, and are pronounced /w/ and /j/.  However,
a growing trend towards pronunciation of <v> as [v] is beginning, thanks to
Italian, Albanian, and other influences.  Sometimes an intermediary voiced
bilabial fricative, [B], is found.  But the [w] pronunciation is still that
of the official language.

There are five vowels <a e i o u>, each appearing long and short, plus a
central "schwa", written <y> (along the lines of Welsh).  Long vowels are
written as doubles: <aa ee ii oo uu>; <y> is never long.  The IE diphthongs,
<ai ei oi au eu ou>, become long monophthongs in Callistic.  <ei> and <ou>
are close versions of <ee> and <oo>.  <ae> and <oe> are fronted <aa> and
<oo>, comparable to the two "umlaut" vowels of Finnish (a" o"), or "a" in
English "cat" and "eu" in French "deux".  <au> and <eu> are backed vowels;
the former is like "aw" in English "saw" and the latter is like "y" (bI) in
Russian "chetyre" (4eTbIpe).  One additional front rounded vowel, <ui>, has
been inherited mostly from foreign words; it is pronounced as "u" in French
"tu" (IPA /y/).  Diphthongs as they are are rare in Callistic; they appear
mostly in foreign words and are written as <aj> for /ai/ "eye", <av> for
/au/ "ow!", etc.

The IE syllablcs <n.>, <m.>, <r.>, and <l.> became schwa+consonant in
Callistic: <yn>, <ym>, <yr>, <yl>.

The consonants are "neutral" (unchanged) before <a>, <aa>, <au>, <eu> and
<y>, palatized (y-colored) before <ae>, <e>, <ee>, <ei>, <i>, <ii>, <oe> and
<ui>, and labiovelarized before <o>, <oo>, <u>, and <uu>.  When palatized,
the sibilants <c>, <ch>, <s>, and <z> take on postalveolar sibilant
qualities, thus being pronounced [tS'], [tS], [S], and [Z] ([S] is as in
"she", [Z] "vision", [tS] "church").  (This is similar to what happens with
"slender" <s> in Irish and Scots Gaelic.)  Short <i> and <u>, especially at
the end of a word or morpheme, is often lost (still written but not
pronounced), leaving behind palatization and velarization of the preceding

This is Callistic phonology again:

Conson  Labial  Dental  Sibilan Palatal Velar   Uvular  Glottal
-V asp  ph /ph/ th /th/ ch /tsh/        kh /kh/ qh /qh/
-V ejec p /p'/  t /t'/  c /ts'/         k /k'/  q /q'/ * /?/
+V      b /b/   d /d/   z /z/           g /g/
Fric    f /f/           s /s/           x /x/          h /h/
Nasal   m /m/   n /n/                   ng /N/
Liquid  v /w/   l /l/   r /r/-trill     j /j/

*Used to separate a morpheme ending in a vowel and one beginning in a vowel;
written with an apostrophe <'> except when initial.

These consonants become palatized before front vowels, labiovelarized before
back vowels.  The sibilants, when palatized, become "shibilants": /tSh/,
/tS'/, /Z/, /S/.

Vowels  Ft-Unr  Cnt-Unr Back-Rd Ft-Unr  Ft-Rd   Cnt-Unr Back-Rd
        Short           Long
High    i /I/           u /U/   ii /i:/ ui /y:/ eu /1:/ uu /u:/
Mid-Hi                          ei /e:/ oe /6:/         ou /o:/
Mid     e /E/   y /@/   o /O/   ee /E:/                 oo /O:/
Low             a /a/           ae /&:/         aa /a:/ au /A:/

Short <i> and <u> are often silent, especially when final; they still cause
palatization and labiovelarization of the previous consonant, however.

Though stress in PIE was variable and tonal (as in Lithuanian and Sanskrit),
Callistic is regular and non-tonal.  Stress falls on the first "long"
syllable; that is, the first syllable that ends in a consonant or contains a
long vowel, and is not a prefix.


Some preliminary notes on grammar:

Word order was free in IE, but in Callistic tends to be SVO
(subject-verb-object), with non-indicative clauses often being different (a
tendency towards SOV for subjunctive mood and VSO for optative/imperative
mood).  Free word order is entirely possible because of a complete noun
declension schema.

Callistic has three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), and three numbers
(singular, dual, plural).  Nouns are declined according to an eight case
system (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, vocative, ablative,
locative, instrumental).

There is neither the definite ("the") or indefinite ("a/an") article.
(However, _oe_ "one" may function as a global article.)

So far, I have only one sentence made up:

Phyxtheer, vylqh ngengyth threim hechvom!
"Father, the wolf killed three horses!"

And so far, I got for the numbers, which are fully declined (except for
zero), and used with singular (1), dual (2), genitive singular (3, 4), and
genitive plural (5+).

0  cifr
1  oe (sem is also used)
2  tvo (fem./neut. tvoe; used with dual)
3  threi (fem. thrisre, neut. thri)
4  qhethvore
5  phenqhe
6  svekhs
7  sephthym
8  okhthoo
9  nevyn
10  dekhymt

Ordinals for 3 and up are marked with _-tho_: _threitho_ "third",
_qhethvoretho_ "fourth", _phenqhetho_ "fifth", etc.  Of course they are
declined like normal adjectives.  "First" and "second" are _pherm_ and

More later when I finally get a brain.


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