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Language Sketch: Yargish Orkish

From:Andreas Johansson <and_yo@...>
Date:Thursday, August 15, 2002, 16:43

I don't normally see myself as a particularly creative person, but sometimes
inspiration strikes quite irrespective of my conscious wishes. So last
night, and here is a presentation of the results so far; a language spoken
by a group of Orc tribes in an as-yet very loosely defined Fantasy
coniverse. Its preliminary self-designation is _U-Rakh Nayargiz-ung_, which
means "the speech of warriors", and in English I shall for now refer to it
as "Yargish". Both names are still open to revision.


The Orcs' massive lower jaws with protuding teeth make them unable to
pronounce bilabial sounds, and the /f/ and /v/ phonemes are pronounced with
the lower teeth against the upper lip. Otherwise their oral and nasal
cavities are quite similar to our own. The orthography used in this article
isn't very systematic, but should be reasonably familiar-looking to


- labiodental alveolar palatal  velar
-             t        ch [tS]  k
-             d        j  [dZ]  g
- f           s        sh [S]   kh [x]
- v           z        zh [Z]   gh [G]
-             n        ny [n^j] ng [N]
-             r [r]    y  [j]

/ng/ is written as |n'g| to differentiate from |ng| /N/. /Ng/ is written
|ngg|. /nj/ is similarly written |n'y| to differentiate from unitary /n^j/

Valid inital clusters are /kr/, /gr/, /st/ and /zd/. Valid final clusters
are /r/ plus any (oral) stop, africate or fricative, and any nasal plus an
homorganic voiced or voiceless stop. To avoid rampant orthographic ugliness,
what should be |nych|, |nyj| and |ngk| are written as respectively |nch|,
|nj| and |nk|. Note however |ngg| for /Ng/ to differentiate from |ng|=/N/.
Almost all two-consonant combinations are allowed medially, with some


A simple three vowel system /i a u/. The "target" pronounciation for each
vowel is respectively [i], [a] and [M], but quite alot of variation is
acceptable. The Orcs never round any vowels, but would probably not notice
if an outsider speaking their language did.

Phonemic diphthongs don't occur in native words. (-)VyC(-) patterns like
other (-)VCC(-) sequences.


The stress falls on the first syllable of the stem of the head word in each
phrase. Thus in _u-chash-yarga_ "the strong warrior (erg)" the stress falls
on YAR.


Yargish is an ergative SOV language. Despite its interfictionally being
spoken by non-humans, it doesn't have any very alien features (this far, at


Yargish has only one defintie article, _u-_, which is unchanged in all cases
and numbers. Thus, _rakh_ "speech, language", _u-rakh_ "the


The Yargish noun has four cases; absolutive, ergative, dative and locative.
The first three are about what you'd expect, while the locative is only used
in combination with postpositions (see below). The plural number is
indicated with a prefix _na-_, orginally an independent word meaning "many".
Taking the word _yarg_ "(Orc) warrior", the paradigm of a regular noun then

-     sg      pl
- abs yarg    nayarg
- erg yarga   nayarga
- dat yargu   nayargu
- loc yargiz  nayargiz


Yargish pronouns don't have any gender distinctions, nor any formal/informal
distinctions, which makes for a neat pronoun table with forms for three
persons, two numbers and four cases (again, the locative is only used with

- abs ang    nazur  zdi    naja   ach     nava
- erg nga    zura   zda    ja     acha    va
- dat ngu    zuru   zdu    ju     achu    vu
- loc ngiz   zuriz  zdiz   jayz   achiz   naviz


Yargish has a largish number of postpositions, that combines with the
ergative, dative and locative cases. For spatial postpositions, the ergative
carries ablative meaning, the dative allative and the locative, um, locative
meaning. Taking _dir_ "forest" and _-zata_ "in, inside", we then have:

u-dira-zata  "from inside the forest"
u-diru-zata  "into the forest"
u-diriz-zata "in the forest"

Non-spatial postpositions usually combine with the locative. This is seen
the the designation _u-rakh nayargiz-ung_, where _-ung_ is attached to the
pl loc form of _yarg_ "warrior".

Postpositions this far are:

-zata "in"
-ja   "at"
-u    "on the surface of"
-vakh "above"
-ugha "beneath"
-zay  "behind
-in   "in front of"
-kuz  "through" (can't combine with locative)
-ich  "to the right of (from the POV of the speaker)"
-aj   "to the left of (from the POV of the speaker)"
-ung  "of, belonging to" (only combines with locative)
-uz   "by, using" (only combines with locative)


The Yargish verb has two tenses, present and past, and three aspects,
punctual, continuative and habitual. The forms are examplified by the verb
_khak_ "kill" below:

-     present past
- pun khak    khakuz
- con khak-id khakuz-id
- hab khak-ur khakuz-ur

The future is handled by the present form plus an adverbial signifying
"tomorrow" or "next year" or whatever.

The punctual aspect indicates an eventive, more or less instantaneous
action. Therefore is rarely used as a true present - the present punctual is
most commonly found in future constructions. The past punctual roughly
corresponds to the English simple past and perfect.

The continuative aspect indicates and ongoing or repeated action. It's quite
similar to the English "is -ing" and "was -ing" forms.

The habitual aspect refers to actions that are regularly reoccuring, and to
states. The past habitual refers to actions that used to be regularly
reoccuring, and to former states.

Theoretically, any verb can occur in any of the six tense-aspect
combinations, altho' you rarely need the habitual of "to die" or the
punctual of "to sleep".


Yargish has noun-like adjectives, that preceed the noun the modify.

There are no comparative or superlative forms, instead comparation is
handled by constructions with _-vakh_ "above" and _-ugha_ "below". Eg:

_chash_ "strong"
_chash u-yargiz-vakh_ "strong above the warrior"="stronger than the warrior"
_chash ariz-vakh_ "strong above all"="strongest of all"="strongest"
_chash ar-u-nayargiz-vakh_ "strong over all the warriors"="strongest of the


U-chash-yarga najurz khak-ur u-diriz-zata. "The strong warrior (habitually)
kills wolves in the forest."

U-khurga najurz khak-id. "The Chief kills wolves (right now)."

Ach az-ur yarg. "He is a warrior." (note the habitual for a permanent

U-Nazg garuz-id zuru-u. "The Sun was shining on us."

U-stunya u-khurgiz-ung u-yarg khakuz. "The chief's sword killed the warrior"


Any questions and reasonably polite critique is welcome. Much of this is
still very much open to revision, so beware that any suggestion might be


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