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A'stou part I

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Tuesday, May 9, 2000, 10:58
Hi everybody,

I finally managed to make a good Roman transcription of my conlang A'stou
(one of the oldest, it's even older than Moten!), so I decided to share a
little about it. I was quite young and didn't know much about linguistics
at that time, so this language is quite different from the ones of me
you're used of :) . I decided to share because its origin is not unlike the
origin of Leropho. My idea by creating A'stou was to make a Classical-like
language, like Classical Greek or Classical Latin. It finally became the
language of the Dha'stem (yes, I changed the transcription again :) ),
another subspecies of Homo Sapiens, very technologically advanced and
contemporary with Ancient Greeks (but their civilisation was older), living
in a now disappeared continent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Of
course, they are the origin of the legend of Atlantis. The linguistic
situation on this continent seemed to be quite monolithic as in France, so
you can say that A'stou was their official language. Few evidence of its
evolution is known, and it seems to be an isolate, unrelated to any known
language family. The language presented here is the "classical" A'stou,
found in virtually all texts we have.


A'stou was written in the Greek alphabet, and I mean the plain one, the one
known by all mathematicians :))  (no digamma and the like, and all the 24
letters are used). A question is why the language of a civilisation more
advanced and older than civilisations of the Mediteranean Sea is written in
the Greek alphabet. The internal explanation is that with the disappearance
of the continent (called by the Dha'stem "U'lda bi Dha'otid be": The Island
of the People) the only texts which didn't disappear with it were found
around the Mediteranean Sea, and especially in Greece, and those were
written for foreigners (most of the ones found were grammars and other
schoolbooks, which helped a lot for understanding the language, and is only
one of the evidence that the Dha'stem had quite a paternalist relationship
with other people). The writing system would thus be used only around the
Mediteranean Sea, and nobody knows the original writing system. Yet it
seems that this writing system has been designed by the Dha'stem themselves.

The Roman transcription I adopted is meant to reflect the original Greek
writing, except in a few cases where it was easier to reflect the phonemic

There are five (written) vowels in A'stou:
- alpha, called /'ada/ in A'stou and transcribed <a>,
- epsilon, called /'eda/ and transcribed <e>,
- iota, called /'ida/ and transcribed <i>,
- omicron, called /'oda/ and transcribed <o>,
- upsilon, called /'yda/ and transcribed <u>.
a, e and o are called strong vowels, i and u weak vowels. Alone, they stand
for the following sounds:
a: /a/
e: /e/
i: /i/
o: /O/
u: /y/
Length is not a phonemic feature of A'stou.
Diphtongs (digraphs) are formed by combining a strong and a weak vowel.
Falling diphtongs (strong vowel followed by weak vowel) stand for the
following sounds:
ai: /E/ oi: /Oj/        ei: /Ej/
au: /o/ ou: /u/ eu: /9/ as in french 'peur'
In rising diphtongs (weak vowel followed by strong vowel), the weak vowel
stands for a glide: i: /j/ and u: /w/

Vowels can carry two accents:
- the acute accent or tonic accent, showing the stressed vowel and thus the
stressed syllable. It is transcribed <'> after the vowel here. Monosyllabic
words never carry an acute accent, even if they are stressed.
- the tilde or dividing accent, separating vowels that would make diphtong
otherwise. It is put on the weak vowel unless this one makes diphtong with
another strong vowel. It is transcribed <~> after the vowel here.
Vowels can carry both accents. This will be transcribed <^> after the vowel

This is more difficult than vowels, especially the transcription wasn't easy.
First, six letters have a special use and are called "syllabic letters":
- beta, called /'boda/ and transcribed <b_>,
- gamma, called /'goda/ and transcribed <g_>,
- delta, called /'doda/ and transcribed <d_>,
- zeta, called /'zoda/ and transcribed <z_>,
- xi, called /'voda/ and transcribed <bh_>,
- omega, called /'Zoda/ and transcribed <zh_>.
Those letters are used only for six prepositions (which are also prefixes
in front of a few adverbs) pronounced:
b_: /b@/        d_: /d@/        bh_: /v@/
g_: /g@/        z_: /z@/        zh_: /Z@/

NOTE: The schwa is elided in front of vowels.

Then comes the difficult case of eta (called /'hin/). Normally, it notes
the sound /h/ and is transcribed thus <h>. But after a consonnant, it marks
palatalisation and is trancribed <y>. To give it back its /h/ value when
following a consonnant, put the dividing accent (tilde) on it. In this
case, it is transcribed <.h> (the dot is here in order not to confuse with
the digraphs I use).

Then we have easy consonnants :) :
- lambda, called /'lin/ and transcribed <l>, standing for /l/,
- mu, called /'min/ and transcribed <m>, standing for /m/,
- nu, called /'nin/ and transcribed <n>, standing for /n/,
- rho, called /'rin/ and transcribed <r>, standing for /r/ (trilled).

And then we have the last consonnants. Like the preceeding ones, they stand
for only one sound (palatalisation not counted), always voiceless, but they
can also carry a dot (voicing accent) which makes them into the
corresponding voiced consonnant. Consonnants without and with dots are
transcribed differently for ease of reading and writing, and I use lots of
digraphs with h to give a Greek-like feeling :) (that's why I use <.h> to
transcribe eta-tilde):
- kappa, called /'kin/ and transcribed <k>, standing for /k/,
- kappa-dot, transcribed <g>, standing for /g/,
- pi, called /'pin/ and transcribed <p>, standing for /p/,
- pi-dot, transcribed <b>, standing for /b/,
- sigma, called /'sin/ and transcribed <s>, standing for /s/,
- sigma-dot, transcribed <z>, standing for /z/,
- tau, called /'tin/ and transcribed <t>, standing for /t/,
- tau-dot, transcribed <d>, standing for /d/,
- chi, called /'xin/ and transcribed <kh>, standing for /x/,
- chi-dot, transcribed <gh>, standing for /G/,
- phi, called /'fin/ and transcribed <ph>, standing for /f/,
- phi-dot, transcribed <bh>, standing for /v/,
- psi, called /'Sin/ and transcribed <sh>, standing for /S/,
- psi-dot, transcribed <zh>, standing for /Z/,
- theta, called /'Tin/ and transcribed <th>, standing for /T/,
- theta-dot, transcribed <dh>, standing for /D/,

NOTE: <sy> and <zy> (palatalised sigma and sigma-dot) are homophonous to
<sh> and <zh> (non-palatalized psi and psi-dot). Also, <ty> and <dy>
(palatalized tau and tau-dot) are realized as affricates [tS] and [dZ].


The structure of the syllable is quite free for the onset but very
restrictive (in comparison) for the coda. In general, we can write it
(C)(C)(C)V(C'). Yes, three consonnants are allowed for the onset, but only
one vowel (diphtongs included) per syllable (two vowels in a row count for
two syllables) and only one consonnant at most after the vowel. I won't
list all the possible consonnant clusters (there are quite a lot, A'stou is
nearly as free as Russian as for consonnant clusters), but here are a few
- Onset clusters must be of the same voicing (all voiceless or all voiced,
with the letters that cannot carry a dot considered neutral in this
respect). Yet, as a cluster inside a word is composed of a consonnant of
coda of the previous syllable and the consonnants of onset of the next one,
the first consonnant of such clusters can be of different voicing than the
other consonnants.
- Coda consonnants cannot be palatalized, nor can /h/ appear in coda position.

NOTE: There is evidence that the structure CCCVC' was well known from the
Dhastem themselves. This evidence is the form of the letter sigma, which
was written closed in onset position, but open (as in the end of Greek
words) in coda position (like in the word A'stou itself).

Here are a few examples of A'stou words:
- A'stou /'astu/: the name of the language.
- Dha'stem /'Dastem/ (singular Dha'os /'DaOs/): the word used by the
Dhastem to refer to themselves. I don't translate it. It has a connotation
of nationality but also of race. The Dhastem knew they were quite different
genetically speaking from the other humans on Earth (except one other group
of humans I'll talk about on Conculture if anyone's interested).
- Dha'otid bi /'DaOtidbi/: The People ('bi' is the definite article).
Refers to the Dha'stem as a whole. Without the capital, it simply means "a
- U'lda bi Dha'otid be /'yldabi 'DaOtidbe/: The Island of The People
('u'lda' means 'island', 'be' is the accusative-genitive form of the
article - I'll send another post later about the noun and its declination
-). It's the name of the continent on which the Dha'stem lived, and which
finally drowned under water. But you can call it 'Atlantis' if you want :) .

In my next post about A'stou, I'll talk about the noun morphology.

                                                Christophe Grandsire
                                                |Sela Jemufan Atlinan C.G.

"Reality is just another point of view."

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