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Chevraqis: a sketch

From:Yoon Ha Lee <yl112@...>
Date:Thursday, August 10, 2000, 3:38
I am very new to this...if anyone has comments and suggestions for
reading I would be very grateful.  (I'm working on acquiring linguistics
texts, but I'm in college loans up to my ears....<wry g>)  Apologies for
mangled terminology; I'm still learning terms for things.

I'm unhappy with the phonetics, which seem rather too "English" since I
only knew French, Korean and English when I devised the !@#$ set (for a
story, so I could start generating names, except I had no clue what I was

alphabet equivalents:
n  m  b  br  v (also f)  vr  r (l in some dialects)
s  z  sj (sh, or the almost "sh" you find in Korean)
j  ch
t (glottalized at the end of a word)
d (ditto)
q (ditto, and pronounced as a k)

(Still learning the IPA.  Apologies for poor notation.)

vowels (strong/weak)
i (i/I)
e (e/schwa)
a (a/schwa)
o (as in Japanese o)
u (as in Japanese u)

aé (eI)
aí (aI)

"quasivowels" (due to a peculiarity of the writing syste--I wish I had a
better name for them):
y (j)

syllable structure: (C)V
if word-final, (C)V(n,v,r,s,z,t,d,k)

Regular pitch accenting (count in three's from the end of the

No articles, but 4 cases, which may be a mistake:
nominative (transitive subject, intransitive voluntary subject): -(r)a
  (-ra if something ends with a vowel, occuring generally in names or
  irregular nouns)

accusative (transitive object, intransitive involuntary subject): -(r)e

genitive (ownership possessive): -(r)en

locative (places/times or non-ownership possessive): -(r)ad

pronouns that exist, and decline close to but not quite regularly:

I (naí), inclusive we (ni), exclusive we (naíhi)
singular you (sjer), plural you (sjeri)
s/he or they--personal 3rd (bre)
it, one, or they--impersonal 3rd (vre)

The rest of the language doesn't distinguish between plural and singular.

Infinitives always end in -u.
Verbs inflect only by tense, not by number or person.

Sample conjugation: (dynamic form given first, static given second)

infinitive/imperative: visjaru (to meditate/dream)
present reportive: visjarras/visjarraz
present: visjarrad/visjarrat
present probable: visjaren/visjarin

participle: visjareq/visjariq (used somewhat as in Japanese)

past reportive: visjares/visjare
past: visjared/visjaret
past probable:L visjarev/visjariv

The present progressive uses inu (to come) as an auxiliary:
  visjareq/visjariq iras/irad/irin

The past progressive uses asu (to go) as an auxiliary:
  visjareq/visjariq arras/arrad/aren

Inu and asu are irregular, and have no progressive form (throwback to the
ancestor language, which I haven't named yet).

I'm using "reportive" to mean something that the speaker has witnessed,
or a "fundamental truth" (generally religious, sometimes used in
discussing math or philosphy).  "Plain" past or present indicates
reasonable certainty, and the probable mood indicates some doubt (I stole
that from Japanese, too).  The present and present probable are used to
speak of the future as well.

Adjectives/adverbs (as per German?) conjugate somewhat like verbs, except

base form/participle: jinaíru (sharp)
present/present reportive: jinaíri
present probable: jinaíriya
past/past reportive: jinaíre
past probable: jinaíreya

Adjectives/adverbs appear *before* the phrase they modify (head-final,
with postpositions, and I hope to heaven I'm not getting this reversed).

General morphology:
3-consonant morphemes as per Arabic, or what I know of it.  :-/  Affixes
form different nouns, verbs, and the adjective.  This is how you get
moods/aspects (sorry, not too clear on the distinction between the two).

e.g. mhr (question/riddle)
base infinitive: CiCaCu (miharu--to ask/wonder)
causative infinitive: CiCoCu (mihoru--to cause to ask/wonder)
generic infinitive: CeCaCu (meharu--used when speaking of questioning/
  riddling in general, not specific cases)
iterative infinitive: CiaCaCu (miaharu--to ask/wonder over and over)
habitual infinitive: CieCaCu (mieharu--to ask/wonder often, habitually)
intensive infinitive: deCiCaCu (demiharu--to ASK/WONDER strongly)
attenuative infinitive: ruCiCaCu (rumiharu--to ask/wonder mildly)
evolutive infinitive: CiCuCu (mihuru--to ask/wonder more and more
de-evolutive (?) infinitive: CeCuCu (mehuru--to ask/wonder less and less)

All the infinitives conjugate regularly.

base adjective: CiCaíCu (mihaíru--puzzling)

noun describing state: CiCaCa (mihara--casual question, riddle)
noun describing profession or performer: CeCoCena (mehorena--questioner)
noun describing a tool: CeCaCa (mehara--question or riddle as, say, asked
  by a magistrate in performance of his duty)

I've been having fun with the static/dynamic distinction, and coming up
with how meanings cluster around these things, though I'm probably
getting it all wrong.  <wry g>

"To be" is expressed either by nivaru (to guard/be located at) or misu
(to live or exist/to have the characteristic of, identity); misu is

Naí Birechanat naivarraz (I'm at Birechan--Birechan is a canton in Qenar)
Birechana Qenare nivarrad (Birechan guards Qenar, here using the dynamic
sense of nivaru)

Naí Abriorene miez (I was Abrioren--a character in the story)
Naíre mias (I live, against my will).

Word order:
Defaults to SOV, mainly because I was looking at Latin at the time, but
can have somewhat-free word order.  The subject of the sentence is often
omitted if the listener can deduce it from context (which happens a lot
in Korean conversation), e.g.

Vanena Irezane res (Vanen watched Irezan--both people)
Bre chimarrat ( (he) loves her)

Relative clauses:
Can't remember which language I stole it from, and I have no idea how to
notate it, but to say "Irezan likes the daggers that Vanen likes," it
becomes something like:

Irezana Vanenen vre chimariq e    jenare          chimarat
Irezan  Vanen   it  liking   that (the) dagger(s) likes

"the daggers that Vanen likes" becomes
"Vanen (subject) it (resumptive? pronoun) liking (verb becomes
participle) that (comes at the end of the phrase)"

Noun phrases take the form RAN (relative clauses, adjectives, nouns):
(relative clauses) (possessive) (number) (adverb) (adjective) noun

Still trying to hammer out syntax.  I may end up defaulting to
Korean/Japanese, because it's something familiar (and therefore less easy
to screw up), and is sufficiently different from French, English, etc.

Sorry this looks so screwy.  :-/  It's a slow and rewarding, but
sometimes painful, learning process....

Yoon Ha Lee