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Waponi Update (long)

From:Leo Caesius <leo_caesius@...>
Date:Tuesday, August 8, 2000, 22:07
    I'd like to post an update regarding recent work on Waponi.  For those
of you just joining us, Waponi is a hypothetical language descended from a
Latin-Greek trading jargon, as used by Jewish and Druid seamen aboard a
Roman galley.  This galley was blown off course sometime in the first few
centuries of the Common Era.  It ended up somewhere near Tahiti, and the
sailors settled on a sparsely-populated island (distinguished by its large
    Due to the manifold factors which complicate designing a language of
this sort, this is a group effort.  If you have any imput at any stage of
the process - phonology, writing systems, vocabulary, grammar, etc., please
do not hesitate to speak up and help us define this thing.

    So far, we have managed to nail down some details about Waponi phonology
and the sound rules which shaped the language.  Currently we are generating
vocabulary by mechanically altering a list of Latin words.

The sound rules which we are using look something like this:
(remember that these rules are not necessarily ordered chronologically)

Rules for generating Vulgar Latin Trading Jargon:
(C is any consonant, V is any vowel, F is any front vowel, B is any back
vowel, Z is any voiced consonant, S is any unvoiced consonant)

Orthographic rules:
ph > f/_
th > t/_
ch > k/_
h > ?/_ (h becomes glottal stop)
y > u/_
qu > kv/_V (v is an approximant /w/).
u > v/#_V
i > j/#_V
ng > N/V_V
gu > v/_V (gu is also an approximate /w/).
c > k/_
q > k/_
x > ks/_

loss of final consonants
er > E/_#
or > O/_#
C > ø/V_#

b > ø/_m
d > ø/_m
g > ø/_n
n > ø/_s
k > t/_t
p > t/_t
p > s/_s
b > ø/m_L
p > ø/n_L

first wave of vowel rules (these are typical of Vulgar Latin so I decided to
throw them in)

ae > e/_
oe > e/_
eki > iki/_
epi > ipi/_

simplification of vowels in hiatus
(Vulgar Latin has a variety of strategies by which it eliminated many vowels
in hiatus, a judicious use of which strategies will allow us to shoehorn
Latin words into Polynesian CVCVCV structure).

ie > e/_
ei > i/_
uo > o/_
ou > u/_
i > ø/#Cr_V
u > ø/#Cr_V
F > ø/B_r
v > ø/C_u

some consonants are palatalized before front vowels:
sk > x/_F (x is a palatal fricative /S/)
d > z/_F
k > c/_F
t > c/_F

more elimination of vowels in hiatus:
kv > k/_o
kv > k/_i
kv > k/_e
F > ø/x_V
F > ø/z_V
F > ø/c_V

a final simplification of diphthongs:
au > o/_C
ai > e/_C
ei > e/_C

Naturally, all geminates are simplified.  This should give us a roughly
phonetic representation of the Vulgar Latin jargon spoken aboard the Roman
Galley (my reconstruction of Vulgar Latin speech follows Sturtevant for the
sake of convenience).

Polynesian influences in the language:
(supplied by Roger Mills)
treatment of stops
p > f/_
mp > p/_
mb > p/_
b > p/_
d > t/#_
nd > t/_
d > l/_

treatment of approximants
r > l/_
l > w/_ (except between front vowels)
w > ø/C_B

treatment of sibillants
s > ø/_C
ks > ?/_
s > ø/C_

voiced to voiceless
Z > S/#_
z > c/_

further elimination of consonant clusters
nt > t/_
Nkv > k/_
kv > k/_
Nk > k/_
gv > N/_
g > N/_
Ngv > N/_
Ng > N/_
n > ø/V_C

treatment of vowels
i > e/aC_
u > o/aC_

    Finally, I'm trying to decide what to do with the vowels that line up
after we've gone to so much trouble to eliminate consonants.  In order to
preserve Polynesian CVCVCV structure, I think that we should insert glides
between vowels of differing qualities, and conflate vowels of identical
qualities into long vowels (hence iu becomes iyu, but ii becomes /i:/).
    RM suggests that words should be restricted to two syllables as much as
possible.  While many of the words become bi-syllabic, there are quite a few
longer words.  I intend to cull the larger ones out of the list and
introduce a haplology or two to force a few more to conform to two
syllables.  Does that sound good?

What remains to be done:
    Once the vocabulary has been devised, a writing system which reflects
the phonology of this language must be created (I'm working on this).
    A name for the language must be determined.
    Loanwords (polynesian, aramaic, greek, etc?) must be introduced into the


    If you have any questions or comments, please post them to the list.

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