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Elvish ideas ...

From:Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 23, 2003, 16:45
I mentioned, last week I think, that I've begun to work on an Elvish language
for the same coniverse that hosts Yargish. Most aspects still remain quite
hazy, but some things are settling down, in particular phonology and spelling.
I thought I'd present some of it here, in the hope of attracting some feedback.

The Elves we're speaking of are essentially just skinny, long-lived humans
with pointy ears - they are not immortal, not in possession of any inherent
superior wisdom or anything like that. Were they to be found in our world,
biologists would, little doubt, conclude they were another species within the
Homo genus.

(Did anyone hear anything more about that proposal for merging half-a-dozen
related genera into Homo? At any rate, I'm talking about something roughly as
close to us as were Neanderthals, not something like Chimps.)

There'll, of course, be multiple languages spoken by this Elves; we're
currently dealing with one spoken in areas close to where the Yargish are
found. That's why these particular Elves have felt the need to come up with
the Yargish orthography I mentioned.

Speaking of orthography, the language uses eighteen glyphs, romanized as:

p b m t d n k g ñ r l s i e a o u h

Most are what you'd expect. _h_ isn't really a letter; it turns the preceeding
(oral) stop into a fricative; _bh_ = [B], _th_ = [T] and so on. As might be
guessed, fricatives (other than /s/) are relative newcomers in the phonology.

_t d c g_ are [t d k g] before back vowels; before _i_ and _e_ they're
respectively [tS dZ tS dZ] - notice that the alveolar-velar distinction is
neutralized; it returns with fricativization, since _th dh ch gh_ before front
vowels is [T D S Z] (cf [T D x G] before back ones).

The "front" versions of these consonants can be forced before back vowels by
inserting a _-e-_; _cea_ is [tSa].

Initially or preceeded by a consonant other than _t d c g ch gh_, _e_ before a
back vowel spells [j], eg _creach_ [krjax].

Similarly, _o_ before an unrounded vowel
spells [w], eg _coar_ [kwar].

The constraints on what constitutes a valid syllable are somewhat complex.
Suffice to say here that valid initial clusters consist of a stop or fricative
plus a liquid, and that valid final ones of a nasal plus an homorganic stop.


As regards morphology, I've this far largely looked at nouns.

A noun can take up to four "modifications" - it can be marked as definite,
plural, accusative and possessive. The corresponding unmarked noun is
therefore indefinite, singular, nominative and, well, non-possessing.

An uninflected noun never begins in a fricative; fricativizing an initial stop
makes the noun definite, eg _creach_ "castle", _chreach_ "the castle". It
should be stressed that "fricative" and "fricativizing" here essentially
means "anything spelt as stop+h" and "add -h" respectively.  Thus we also see
_cea_ [tSa] "lady" and _chea_ [Sa] "the lady". I'm not yet sure what to do
with nouns beginning in a vowel, liquid or [w-] or [j-] - leaving those
without a definite-indefinite distinction strikes me as odd, but I don't
really know what I want to do with them. Something evil, little doubt.

Plurals, more well-behavedly, are formed by adding _-an_, or, after vowels,
simply _-n_, except, for no good reason, when nouns end in a fricative, in
which case the fricative becomes a stop (AKA, the "h" is dropped) and a
homorganic nasal is inserted before the newly-born stop. Eg _cean_ "ladies",
_canan_ "lords" (sg _can_), but _creanc_ "castles".

Accusatives, serving as direct objects, and probably in some other
miscellaneous functions, are formed by suffixing -o to the stem. It goes
before the pl -an (which loses its -a-), but of course after the pl infix with
final former fricatives. Not yet sure how it combines with nouns ending in

The possessive, finally, is formed by infixing an _-i-_ , turning the stem
vowel into an diphthong. Pronunciation; _ii_ [ej], _ei_ [ej], _ai_ [aj], _oi_
[oj], _ui_ [uj]. Yes, _oi_ is ambigious between [wi] and [oj]. The possessive
goes after the thing possessed; _chreach chain_ "the castle of the lord". To
top it off, it, out of misplaced sympathy, echoes any accusative ending on the
thing possessed, giving us things like _chreanco chainon_ "the castles (acc)
of the lords".

Well, that'll have to suffice for now.



John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
JS Bangs <jaspax@...>
BP Jonsson <bpj@...>