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New language: Tama-i

From:H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Date:Wednesday, October 1, 2003, 19:16
Pronounced [tama"hi].

Believe it or not, I've actually worked out some details of an Ebisedian
descendent lang.

(Internal) Historical background

During the Era of the Kingdom, political unity facilitated a more-or-less
uniform lingua franca, Ebisedian. This kingdom has a vast scope, having
influence over most of the three realms (si'gri) of Ferochromon. After the
First Great Calamity, during which the kingdom was completely devastated,
communication between the three realms ceased, and their language diverged
rapidly from each other (due to regional dialectal differences). This was
the beginning of the Era of Scattering.  The Era of Scattering saw diverse
groups emerging even within the same realm, which had little or no mutual
contact due to the fear and general distrust instilled by the First Great
Calamity. Each developed their Ebisedian dialects. Tama-i is one of these
dialects, spoken by a relatively large group in the early part of the Era
of Scattering.

Comparison with Ebisedian

Because of the relatively short time frame (compared to the length of the
Era of Scattering), a lot of Ebisedian features are still retained.
Nevertheless, there are significant differences.

Sound changes

Tama-i has developed diphthongs, mostly from losing the glottal stop so
prevalent in Ebisedian and merging the adjacent vowels. For example,
_Tai'_ is pronounced [t_ha"?i] in Ebisedian, but in Tama-i it is ["t_haj].
Original long vowels were shortened (although other sound changes gave
rise to new long vowels), and consonant clusters also developed from
elision of unstressed _3_. For example, _pii'z3di_ ["pi:z@\di] became
_pi'zdi_ ["pizdI].

Final unstressed [i] became [I].

Smooth breathing merged with _gh_ [G]:
        _`ylii'_ [Hy"li:] --> _ghyli'_ [Gy"lI].

Harsh breathing merged with _kh_ [x]:
        _holesii'_ [hol&"si:] -> _kholesi_ [xol&"si]

Word-initial glottal stops (harsh breathings) became [h]:
        _w'ri_ ["?8r`i] -> ["h8r`i]

Other glottal stops dropped to form diphthongs, except for a few (such as
in the name Tama-i) where it became [h].

[dZ]   -> [dz]
[tS]   -> [ts]
[tS_h] -> [ts_h]
[S]    -> laminal s [s_m]
[B]    -> [w]

This last is interesting, since it gives rise to interesting shifts in
pronunciation such as _vwwa'_ [B8:"?a] --> _vua'_ ["wa:].

As far as diphthongs are concerned, they mainly arise from merged vowels
that lost the intervening glottal stop:
        [u] + [a]  --> [wa]
        [8] + [a]  --> [wa]
        [i] + [A]  --> [jA]
        [A] + [i]  --> [Aj]
        [A] + [u]  --> [Aw]
        [a] + [i]  --> [aj]
        [&] + [i]  --> [ei]

Also interesting is the development of vocalic /r/ due to elision of
unstressed _3_:
        l3r3si' [l@\r`@\"si] --> lrsi' [lr`=:"si]
        l3rii' [l@\"r`i:]    --> lri'  [lr`"hi]

I haven't decided how to transcribe vocalic /r/ yet, I was thinking of /R/
but Ebisedian transcription is ugly enough as it is with all the mixed
case letters.

(Scary thing is that vocalic /r/ appears to be differentiated by length as
well... but that might turn out to be allophonic. We'll see.)

There are probably lots of other sound changes, but I haven't worked them
out yet. As far as transcription goes: Tama-i speakers still write in
_sanoki'_, the Ebisedian native writing, even though they have changed the
spelling for some words; so I may just decide to retain the same
transcription scheme for Tama-i. *evil grin* :-P

Grammatical changes

In spite of the relatively short timeframe, significant grammatical
changes have happened. Most of these actually began developing late in the
Era of the Kingdom; but they were "kept out" of "official" Ebisedian by
the pedantic way the _hoKasanii'_ taught it in schools.

a) The subjective case: a development which may be even more fearsome to
   those who thought Ebisedian's case system was odd. The subjective case
   is properly not a "case" (in the Ebisedian sense), because it is
   orthogonal to the other noun cases. It marks the subject of the
   sentence, but *independently* of the originative/receptive/... case it
   may already be inflected for. For example:
        pi'zd0i      tw'ma biztau'   -> the man spoke to the woman
        man-ORG-SUBJ speak woman-RCP

        pi'zdi  tw'ma biztau'i       -> the woman was spoken to by the man
        man-ORG speak woman-RCP-SUBJ

   Pronunciation guide for my Ebisedian fans:   ;-)
        pi'zdi   -> ["pizdI]
        pi'zd0i  -> ["pizdAj]
        biztau'  -> [biz"taw]
        biztau'i -> [biz"tawhi]

   "Nominator sentences" in Ebisedian have become obsolete in favor of
   this new subjective case.

b) The instrumental case became an adjectival inflection. The original
   instrumental meaning is now covered by the originative. As a
                p33'z3da   cww' jww3'.   ["p@\:z@\d@\ "tS8: dZ8:"?@\]
                man(instr) lock door(cvy)
                "The man locks the door."
                pi'zd0i       cw'  jw3'. ["pizdAj ts8 "dzw@\:]
                man(org,subj) lock door(cvy)

   Adjective example:
                n0    Pa'n33       d0    gur3k0'       tww're.
                (org) majesty(cvy) (org) guardian(org) stand(v)
                [nA "p_han@\: dA gur`@\"kA "t8:r`&]
                "The majestic guardian stood up."
                (Note the use of a relative clause here.)
                Pa'na        gurk0i'            tw're.
                majesty(adj) guardian(org,subj) stand(v)
                ["p_hana gur`"kAj "t8r`&]

c) Semantic changes in verbs:
   - the inceptive verb became solely an imperative (as my Ebisedian fans
     would know, Ebisedian often uses the inceptive verb in an imperative
     sense; this is the culmination of that usage):
        le's ["l&s] -> "Go!"
   - the consequential has become an emphatic imperative:
        ale's [ha"l&s] -> "Go, or else!"
   - verbs have developed tenses. The deliberative verb has fallen out of
     use, but has been adopted via false analogy [1] into a future tense.
        uly's [hulys] -> "will go"
        0ly's [hA"lys] -> "went"
     (Note: nevertheless, narratives still use the present tense; the past
     tense may be more accurately described as a past perfect in such

     [1] Actually, the deliberative verb became a future tense, but the
     Ebisedian form of the perfective, _luy's_, has been replaced by
     analogy with the inceptive form, _ule's_, to form _uly's_ (u- + the
     perfective incidental _ly's_, originally _lyy's_).

   - verb domain fell out of use, leaving only passing resemblances
     of previously cognate verbs.

Open issues

What other sound changes will there be?  What happens other grammatical
features such as the correlatives so prevalent in Ebisedian? What happens
to core grammatical details such as pronouns, prepositions, and such? What
are some vocabulary shifts that might have happened?  There is a
possibility that tones may develop as a result of some of the sound
changes (esp. involving long vowels that result from the [8]->[w] change
where a glottal stop elision also happened).

Some examples

Here are more miscellaneous examples Tama-i, as compared with Ebisedian:
(some of these may have sound changes I didn't describe above; I'm still
working out the details of these)

Ebisedian                       Tama-i
---------                       ------
bis33'di   [bi"s@\:di]          bis3'di  [bi"s@\dI]
Ka'l3ri    ["k_hal3r`i]         Ka'lri   [k_halrI]
vyy'i      ["By:?i]             vii'     ["wi:]
K00'i      ["k_hA:?i]           K0i'     [k_hAj]
k0'rumi    ["kAr`umi]           k0'rmi   [kAr`mi]
keve       [k&B&]               keve     [k&w&]
fww't3     ["P8:t@\]            fw't     ["hw8t]
lee'r3     ["l&:r`@\]           le'r     ["l&r`]
t3ragi'    [t@\r`a"gi]          tragi'   [tra"gi]
t3mi'      [t@\"mi]             mmi'     [?"mi]
tacwi'     [tatS8"?i]           tacui'   [ta"tswi]
th3r3Ka'si [T@\r`@\"k_hasi]     thrKa'si [Tr`="k_hasI]
jibei'     [dZib&"?i]           jibei'   [dzi"bej]
cutuo'     [tSutu"?o]           cutoo'   [tsu"to:]

For a more dramatic illustration of the changes that have occurred,
consider the case forms of _by0'ni_ in their Ebisedian and Tama-i forms:

                Ebisedian               Tama-i
Originative     byo'n0 [by"?onA]        bio'n0 ["bjonA]
Receptive       bi0'nu [bi"?Anu]        bi0'nu ["bjAnu]
Instrumental    bwa'na [b8"?ana]        bwa'na ["bwana] (adjectival)
Conveyant       bwa'n3 [b8"?an@\]       bwa'n  ["bwan]
Locative        by0'ni [by"?Ani]        bi0'ni ["bjAnI]

I'm actually beginning to like Tama-i a lot. It sounds "smoother"
(possibly 'cos Ebisedian phonology was kludged up when I had very little
experience with how phonology works), and has a certain suave flavor to

What do fellow conlangers think of Tama-i? Is it a worthy successor to
its Ebisedian heritage? :-)


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upon execution. -- Robert Sewell


Joe <joe@...>