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Vaiysi Grammar revised : Intro and phonology

From:Mangiat <mangiat@...>
Date:Sunday, January 28, 2001, 19:24

MGreenlee's wonderful idea of a book about our conlangs led me to this
revision of the grammar of my language Vaiysi. You can take a look at the
old version at

I've decided to post some bits of the revised grammar every day, as Tommaso
did with his Heichi.

As for the grammar itself, I've made some changes in the language - not in
the general mechanism: only the declension and conjugation systems did
undergo them (i.e. I have changed some endings).

For istance, the famous 'fight linguistic extinction etc.' sounded like:

Estes tarmenyau lendouvi qevie... horkyau lendi!

Nowadays it sounds like this:

Tel tarmenyau lendouvi qevie... horkyau lendi!

Minor changes, yet important.

Vaiysi is a Hyarian language, spoken in the south of the Carmian
subcontinent about 1000 years ago. It is today primarily a trade language,
used as a way to cross linguistic troubles within the wide community of
merchants and traveller that plough the waves of the Carmian seas, and as a
literary language, used by scholars, instead of the many regional dialects
sometimes mutually unintelligible. Indeed the dialects have almost
completely replaced it in everyday's life, and sometimes attempt even to
reach a literary status. Vaiysi is nevertheless taught in schools and used
as a lingua franca among the speakers of different vernaculars.

To have a better understanding of the social context and of the grammar
itself of this tongue, we have to move back about 1000 years. Vaiysi culture
and language both flourished between the xix and the xxiii centuries, and
survived during all the first half of our millennium, as symbol of one of
the most advanced Renaissance cultures, 'the first to have recovered from
the darkness of the Middle Ages', as stated Esmie from Sentoure, one of the
greates literates of that age. After the fall in disuse of Suiméni and the
failure of the common policy of the Sixteen Towns, happened in the first
half of the last millennium, the Renaissance-like culture and the dialect of
Leiy, known as Leiouve and, later, as Common Vaiysi, quickly became a common
reference amongst the dweller of the Merie Peninsula and of the near shores
of the Kasmeni Sea, as soon as they appeared (xix century), and gave new
impulse to local economy.

Vaiysi culture was one of the more advanced of its time. But its destiny was
strictly tied to the history of the Kasemenian Sea, and when Northern Carmia
came out of the Middle Ages, generating that phenomenon we call Renaissance
and opening new commercial ways in the North, it quickly declined. The
language and the culture are, anyway, taught and learnt even today in Merian
schools and used, as we have already said, in interurban communications.


 Classical Vaiysi Phonology
The phonemic system of Classical Vaiysi is as follows (in Kirshenbaum IPA):

             labial dental velar glottal
plosives p         t         k     ?
            b         d         g
fricatives f         s                  h
              v         z
affricate          tS
nasals     m       n
lateral               l
approximant      r

In transliteration, the affricate /tS/ is written ch.

h /h/ occurs only word initially, as in hiru 'woman, lady', hodo 'to
prepare', houvo 'to have', and is still pronounced by educated people, but
was generally dropped in many innovative dialects, especially from the xxi
century and thenceforward.

n /n/ has an allophone /N/ (an uvular nasal) before /k/ and /g/. For exemple
vyankeo 'to kill' is pronounced /'v@aNkeo/ while iynteo 'to receive, to get'

r /r/ is not to be pronounced as in English rose, but as in Spanish or
Italian caro, and it should never modify the pronunciation of the previous
vowel. Some dialects tend to pronounce intervocalic r (i.e. those in kouri
'north' and charie 'part, party, League' as an approximant /r./)

Transliterated as q, /?/ is a glottal stop, produced either by the sudden
opening of the glottis under pressure from the air below, or by the abrupt
closure of the glottis to block the air stream. The glottal stop is always
voiceless. It is kind of the sound you can find between the vowels in uh-oh,
and can be found in quite a wide range of words and not only in intervocalic
position: viqre 'nomination, name'.

It is very important to keep s /s/ and z /z/ apart: the former is unvoiced,
as in send, the latter is voiced, as in realize.

Double consonants are not to be pronounced twice, but they mark a long
consonant: kyemma /k@'em:a/.

 short     long
high i  u     iy  ou
mid e  o     ye
low  a       ya

In transliteration, schwa /@/ is written y.

Other vowels are pronounced a /a/, e /e/, i /i/, o /o/ and u /u/, as in car,
regulate, Jim, crow, full.

Suiméni had two series of vowels: short and long ones. Vaiysi has a series
of diphthongs directly derived from these long vowels (á > ya; é > ye; í >
iy; ó and ú > ou), and treated as such in the vowels'shortening's mechanism.
Alternations between short and long vowels (read: diphthongs) are indeed
very common in the language.

The accent is a stress accent. It generally falls on the last long vowel of
each word. If there are no long vowels, it falls on the first syllable -
monosyllabic words obviously stress the only syllable they have. Thus we
have: taleiy, Houvera, mora, charie and tal.
There are, anyway, a few exceptions: prepositions are proclitic: they do not
bear any accent, as in riyt taluni, meaning 'outside the house' and
pronounced /ri@'t:aluni/

The vowels' shortening
Vaiysi has retained from its mother tongue the use of a long vowels'
reducer; this because, in both the languages, two long vowels can't stand in
two adjacent syllables, and the latter displaces the former. There are
rather complex shortening patterns, but the most important ones affect those
diphthongs derived from Suimeni's long vowels. So:
long vowel  reduced vowel
ya  a
ye  e
iy  i
ou  u

For exemple the verb yego 'he goes' includes a long vowel in its root (yeg)
and a short one in its ending (-o). But if we add a past ending -iye to the
root, we won't get *yeg-iye, but egiye, with the vowel ye reduced to e. Let
us see another case. We can add to the verb vyankeo 'he is killed' (we must
remember that Vaiysi is an ergative language, thus this verb has a passive
meaning) an antipassive suffix -yark, which will turn its meaning into an
active one. *vyank-yark becomes vankyarko 'he kills'. How to say 'he
killed'? Just add the past ending; here you'll have to be careful, anyway:
the root's vowel won't be shortened anymore, because the last syllable -iye,
with its long vowel, has already shortened -yark, and this last one can't
rearrange the root. Thus we won't have *vankarkiye, but vyankarkiye.

Phonological constraints
Most syllables are CV or CVC. Word initial or final clusters are not allowed
in the classical language: Suiméni's clusters all ended up to semplify and
to lenghten the following vowel. Other initial clusters are generally marks
of foreign borrowings or reborrowings from the ancestral language.
A stop (p, t, k, b, d, g) can't be followed by spirants (s, z), fricatives
(f, v), nasals (n, m) or by another stop. Fricatives (f, v), and z can not
precede any stop. Clusters with z are indeed never allowed.


(sorry, to view the letters you'll have to visit the abovementioned page)

The Vaiysi alphabet includes 27 alphabetical symbols (17 consonants and 10
vowels). There is no traditional order for the different signs. The alphabet
is directly derived from the Suiméni alphabet, with some minor changes in
writing styles. The orthography we use in this grammar is that, almost
fixed, used in Leiy around year 1900.


 <> is used both for /s/ and /z/. The two sounds have, nevertheless,
phonemic independent status.

 <> and <> are both used for /tS/ and transliterated as . The only way to
establish wich sign is to be used is etymology; the former represented in
Suiméni, indeed, the sound /k_h/, the latter /t_h/. These two sounds merged
in many cases, but each one retained its traditional spelling.

 Long vowels, as you can see in the chart, are written in the native script
with independent symbols, wich are, though, derived from the reduplication
of short vowels signs.
Vowels are generally written smaller than consonants, and on a higher level.
Thus we'll have <> talu, meaning 'house', or  <> yerke, meaning 'cat'.

This use was introduced in the Merian peninsula in the xviii century.




Tomorrow, the nouns...