The Language of the Land-Sea

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Solarius
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The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Solarius »

This is the unnamed language of the people who live in the Puyama ('land-sea'), a vast region of wetlands, sounds, and barrier islands at a major river delta. The residents of this region are farmers and fishermen who grow crops and live on small artifical mounds similar to terps in Northern Europe (called Skámá "farm-mound, mounded garden"), a technique which is very necessary in their flood-prone environment, particularly during seasonal river flooding which inundates the whole environment. Some of these people live in floating settlements as well, like the Bajau.

This is very much a work in progress--a lot is not defined yet.

The language is SOV, topic-comment, highly isolating, and predominantly composed of monosyllabic roots which are frequently compounded.

First, the phonology.

Consonants:
/p t k q ʔ/<p/b t/d k/g q ʔ>
/s x h/<s x h>
/m n/<m n>
/l r~ʁ~ʕ j w/<l r y w>

Vowels:
/i e a u/<i e a u>

Phonotactics
This language has a fairly complex syllable structure. Simplified, it's of the form (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C), but the number of permissible clusters is significantly lower than what would be implied by that.

In onsets, all sequences of s+C are valid.
/sqit˩/<sqit> "prefer"
/sluʔ˨˩/ <slǔʔ> "cruel"

Additionally, sequences of obstruent+sonorant are valid as well, as are sequences of any non-glide consonant +/j w/. Obstruents preceding /l/ assimilate to their alveolar counterparts--so /tl/ /sl/ are legal but */pl/ */xl/ aren't.
/kya.˨˩suk˩/<kyǎsuk> "fish trap"
/tlin˥/<tlín> "say, speak"

Finally, any cluster which is permitted under the second rule can also be preceded by an /s/ (unless /s/ is already the first consonant).
/stlet˩/ <stlet> "boy"
/spyu˨˩/ <spyǔ> "hat, governmental authority"

Codas are a little simpler; all consonants can be codas. The only clusters allowed are of /m n r/+/p t k q ʔ/. (Though /rC/ is very rare.)
/mank˨˩/ <mǎng> "smoke"
/qart˩/<qard> "die"

You'll note that these coda stops after /m n r/ are written with voiced letters; this is because they are allophonically voiced here. (This is the only allophony I have so far.)

Tone
You'll have noticed that there are tones in this language. In fact, there are 3: the low, which is unmarked, the high, which is marked with the acute, and the falling, which is marked with breve.

Here's a short text in the language (probably a few errors).

Sya het skámá ma puyama nǐ lúm
.
1p.SG person terp and land.sea LOC dwell
“Our people live on the terps and on the land-sea.”

Puyama ǎnd, Atan het áq rě lúm.
land.sea TOP foreign person there NEG dwell
“Outsiders don’t live there.”

Skámá ǎnd stlǐn ma pu kás um
.
terp TOP branch and dirt be constitute
“The terps are made of branches and dirt.”

Skámá nǐ ǎnd yínd herǔ lúm.
terp LOC TOP PL family (lit. blood-group) dwell
“Families live on the terps.”

Ímper súy tlax malí kyǎsuk sǐx.
3p.PL pig raise and.same.ref fish.trap use
“The families raise pigs and set fish traps.”

Kyǎsuk ǎnd yǔstlǐn kás um
.
fish.trap TOP vine be constitute
“Fish traps are made of vines.”

Herǔ ǎnd níní spáx ma lexnǔ te tlax.
family TOP little millet and fruit cause grow
“The families grow a little millet and fruit.”

Áx konkěr yínd mya qing ax táx.
1p.PL.INCL god PL offering pick.up carry give
“We worship the wise gods.”
Last edited by Solarius on 01 Sep 2022 20:19, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Creyeditor »

I like the general feel of the language which probably results from the small C inventory, complex syllables and q. sqit is such a nice looking word.
I have a few questions: Is /qr/ a valid onset? Is /tr/? In other words, does the assimilation rule apply to complex onsets with /r/ and if so how?
Is the assimilation before /l/ rule synchronically active, i.e. does it lead to any phonological alternations?
Relatedly, will there be any tonal phonological processes?
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Re: The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Solarius »

Creyeditor wrote: 01 Sep 2022 14:08 I like the general feel of the language which probably results from the small C inventory, complex syllables and q. sqit is such a nice looking word.
Thank you!
Creyeditor wrote: 01 Sep 2022 14:08 I like the general feel of the language which probably results from the small C inventory, complex syllables and q. sqit is such a nice looking word.
I have a few questions: Is /qr/ a valid onset? Is /tr/? In other words, does the assimilation rule apply to complex onsets with /r/ and if so how?
Is the assimilation before /l/ rule synchronically active, i.e. does it lead to any phonological alternations?
The assimilation rule doesn't apply to /r/, perhaps because it's frequently uvular or pharyngeal. (I haven't 100% nailed down the allophony of /r/, but it's probably only [r] if it's at the beginning of syllables.)

I also just kind of like frequent /tl/ and /stl/ clusters because they make it look a little alien to English speakers without actually being super unusual. One of the goals for this project is to make an isolating, monosyllabic language which nevertheless doesn't look much like something from SE Asia, so I've been taking inspiration from West African and Western European languages, especially the latter. But I don't want to sound super euro either so /tl/ helps with that.

The rule is quite synchronically productive; e.g. you have words like ětlur "book" from ěk "northern" + lur "scroll, manuscript." (This comes from books originating in areas to the north).
Creyeditor wrote: 01 Sep 2022 14:08 Relatedly, will there be any tonal phonological processes?
Not sure. There will probably be a bit of light tone sandhi but I'm still not sure. All I know is that the falling tone has a bit of creaky voice.
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Re: The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Solarius »

This language is topic-comment. There are several ways to mark topics, each with their own particular implications.

One strategy is to simply do nothing. This is only permissible is the subject is a topic.

Sqat tám ti qǎu.
2p.SG TOP word vocalize communicate
"You said something."

More common, and with wider applicability, the particle ǎnd can be used to mark a topic. This is pretty neutral, though a bit heavy if the topic is a subject.

Skámán ǎnd sǔs lúm
.
beehive TOP bee dwell
"As for beehives, bees live there."

lyat, coming from a verb meaning "to come," can also be used.

ʔám lyat yínd rě ni
.
woman TOP tall NEG be
"Well, regarding the woman, she's not tall."

It suggests that the topic has been recently introduced in the discourse--i.e. the woman in question was just brought up by someone else so it's a bit fresh.

Another topic marker is hǐx, from "to go." It carries the implication that the speaker is trying to change the topic of discussion.

Máu ma syǐl hǐx sya herǔ sqit náw.
cat and dog TOP 1p.SG family prefer lizard
"As far as cats and dogs are concerned, my family prefers lizards."

Here for example, the speaker is trying to shift the discussion to focus more on lizards.

Another topic marker is ti qǎu, from the serial verb construction meaning "to say." This one has less strong discourse overtones but suggests a return to a previous point in the conversation.

Máu ma syǐl ti qǎu sya lyúm.
cat and dog TOP 1p please
"Well, cats and dogs please me."

As a serial verb outside of this use, ti qǎu implies only vocal communication--it literally is a serial verb of ti "to vocalize, to sing" and qǎu "to communicate"--so speakers can also use other similar constructions like ít qǎu (which implies communication via body language) or hén qǎu (which implies written or visual communication).

Nipre ít qǎu nirax rě ax
.
dance.move TOP choreographer NEG carry
"The choreographer did not teach that dance move."

These are a bit fiddly though; you can always use ti qǎu (though prescriptivists critique this usage).

Apologies if these don't make sense--I may not be properly understanding topic-comment structure as I haven't used it much before.
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Re: The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Omzinesý »

Solarius wrote: 01 Sep 2022 16:57 One of the goals for this project is to make an isolating, monosyllabic language which nevertheless doesn't look much like something from SE Asia,
I assume the goal does not apply to syntax. Topic-prominence and string verbs are very SE Asian.
Apologies if these don't make sense--I may not be properly understanding topic-comment structure as I haven't used it much before.
I think your clausal constructions are ok.

Actually topic-comment is not very different from NP - VP analyses in a language that can promote non-agent participants to subjects.

This is a nice project. It seems that the lang "has a soul".
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Re: The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Creyeditor »

I think the gloss in your first example is slightly off. The number of words and glosses do not match.
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Re: The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Solarius »

Creyeditor wrote: 04 Sep 2022 14:36 I think the gloss in your first example is slightly off. The number of words and glosses do not match.
Indeed it is, because I was trying to indicate that the topic is unmarked. Probably should have used <Ø> but I always find that vaguely fiddly. [:P]
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Re: The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Creyeditor »

You could also indicate the TOP by .TOP after the subject to inficate that this is a topic without a marker. Or you could leave it out. There is probably a third option in the Leipzig Glossing rules.
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Re: The Language of the Land-Sea

Post by Solarius »

Omzinesý wrote: 03 Sep 2022 13:14 This is a nice project. It seems that the lang "has a soul".
This is very kind!
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