Kyrdan languages

From Linguifex
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Created by
Mu (Archaean Earth)
Linguistic classificationOne of the primary language families
  • Kirtumur
  • Cirdamur
  • Kērsalur
  • Sērsal
  • Ilusal
  • Ruosal
  • Kired gōsalkanu
    Old Ķyrdum

The Kyrdan languages (known natively as Ķyrdesalka) are the ancient language family, distantly related to other Aiwanic languages. They do not form any larger subgroup with other languages of the Aiwanic macrofamily and are considered to be their own separate group, that, however, shares many features with other ancient Aiwanic languages. The family consists of three well recorded languages with various transitional dialects between them as well as some languages that left little to no written records. Of the three major Kyrdan languages, a variety, known as Kērsalur is the closest to the proto-language, and the most divergent being the southern dialects of Cirdamur (called Sersal, which used to refer to a dead language spoken in the same area). However, all Kyrdan languages are closer to each other than to their proto-language, having about 70 to 80% lexical overlap depending on a dialect.

At their highest peak there were more than 60 million native speakers of Kyrdan languages throughout the continent, mostly in the southern region of Pilmu and the Kappālu plains. The Cirdamur language has always been the most widespread of all varieties, spoken across the whole continent and becoming a lingua franca after the decline of Kērsalur.


The term Ķyrdesalka comes from the name of the Old Ķyrdum language. The word ķyrdum itself is much older and is likely derived from the word ķiur "proper (speech)"; this word did not survive in its original meaning anywhere, but can be found in a few compounds, for instance, in the expression kirea, "alright" (and kērea in Kērsalur), or nucirēya "do it right". This old root probably entered Kērsalur becoming the noun with the meaning "language" before disappearing completely, but surviving as the name of the family.


The classification of the Kyrdan languages is difficult, because most of the linguistic area is a dialect continuum, and in some cases it is difficult to tell which dialect belongs to which language. They all form a single language family, while their external connections with other Aiwanic branches are weak. The Kyrdan languages show more similarities to ancient Aiwanic languages than to the modern ones, mostly because they retain various features or vocabulary, lost in other more innovative branches. But this fact does not make them close to the ancient languages of the previous Era before the Unknown Event, they are not mutually intelligible.

Within the family the most prominent division is between Western vs Eastern groups along the Urugumis line ( after the Urugumis Mountains, which divide the continent into its western and eastern parts. Linguistically the line demarkates a number of important isoglosses that distinguish Kyrdan languages west and east from it, such as development of tense and lax plosives and *ķ, and morphological features, like the formation of plurals). Eastern group thus includes Kirtumur and Kērsalur as well as some transitional dialects, while Western group contains only Cirdamur and its dialects. Old languages are not included into any of these two groups, since they became extinct before this division formed.

Another division is made based on the most usual outcomes of Proto-Kyrdan vowels (disregarding vowel harmony in Kirtumur, Ruosal and Sērsal), although this division is less precise, it sets clearer boundaries among the six main varieties:

Proto-Kyrdan Sērsal Cirdamur Kirtumur Kērsal Ilusal Ruosal
*u /u/ /u/ /u/ /u/ /u/ /u/
*a /a/ /a/ /ɑ/ /ɑ/ /a/ /ɑ/
*i /i/ /i/ /i/ /i/ /i/ /i/
*e /e/ /ə/ /ɛ/ /ɛ/ /e/
/ɛː/ (stressed) /eː/ /eː/ /eː/ /ie/ /ie/
/e/ (unstressed)
*ei /eː/ /eɪ/ /eɪ/ /ie/ (initial) /ie/ (initial)
/i/ (elsewhere) /i/ (elsewhere)
*ai /eː/ (stressed) /aɪ/ /aɪ/ /eː/ /eː/
/i/ (unstressed)
*y /oː/ (stressed) /i/ /i/ /eː/ /uo/ /uo/
/u/ (unstressed)
/ɔː/ (stressed) /oː/ /oː/ /oː/ /oː/
/o/ (unstressed)
*au /aː/ /aʉ/ /ɑʊ/
/ɛː/ (stressed) /aː/ /oː/ /aː/ /oː/
/a/ (unstressed)

Other characteristics, that differentiate Western and Eastern languages, are:

  • Phonemic voicing of lax plosives, which happens in the west but not in the east.
  • Depalatalisation of the phoneme *ķ to the east, but to the west it became an affricate instead.
  • Merging of all affricates to /t͡s/ (lax) and /t͡sʰ/ (tense) in the east, but fricativisation of lax affricates in the west.
  • The western fricative chain shift: *z>s>š>x that completely eliminated "z" /θ/ did not occur in the east.
  • Use of regular plurals in -ka in the west vs. irregular plurals with vowel harmony in the suffix -k or -an in the east.
  • The copula clitic in the form of in the west, but -x or -ax in the east (but Kērsalur yis "this is" with "-s" as a relic).
  • Development of the cluster/kt/, which develops to /xt/ > /it/ in the west (progressing further to /tʃ/ in the southwest) but /tt/ or /kt/ in the east.
  • Development of *f: disappeared in the west, but became /h/ in the east.
  • Development of *w: merged with *j in the west but preserved unchanged in the east.
  • Development of *q: became /ʔ/ or /h/ in the west, but became /h/ only word-initially in the east.

Several features divide the Western branch more, into Northwestern and Southwestern:

  • Degemination of geminate stops, which happens to the southwest but not to the northwest.
  • Deletion of initial unstressed front vowels, again in the southwest but not the northwest.
  • The palatalisation of the phoneme *ķ goes further in the southwest, where it becomes /s/.
  • Merging of tense affricates to /t͡s/ in the northwest vs. /t͡ʃ/ in the southwest. In Old Sērsal the merger did not occur.


The two most widely spoken Kyrdan languages are Cirdamur (in the western region, called Kabālmu) and Kirtumur (spoken in the Umu region to the east of the Urugumis mountains - Urukum). Approximately 50% of the population speak Cirdamur, which is the official language of Kabālmu and Pilmu, but the majority of the population also know it as a second language, or at least can understand it. Kirtumur is the second most spoken language (natively spoken by about 35% monolingually, but the number of both monolingual and bilingual speakers is higher - about 45%). It is the official language of Umu. The third language that has its own written standard is Kērsalur, which used to be spoken natively in the mountainous region of Tilkirik in the northeast of Umu and was a language of prestige before the continent split into three countries. It is still considered by a society to be the superior and the most "correct" language, closest to the original proto-language. Nowadays it is only learnt by the priests and higher nobility and is rarely spoken and thus all its speakers are bi- or trilingual.

Other varieties are generally not considered to be separate languages and are not standardised. Though they still survive as primarily spoken languages, the use of them is restricted to day to day conversations between the native speakers. Almost all speakers of these dialects are bilingual and know at least one of the standard languages. The situation is much better in the east, where the locals generally speak in more or less pure Ilusal or Ruosal with each other and only introduce new loanwords if necessary, while in the south Sērsal mixed with Cirdamur and is now extinct, even though it was the only dialect that had any literary tradition. In Pilmu people predominantly speak Cirdamur with various degrees of Sērsal admixture, although there have been attepts to revive the language and standardise it.

A few languages left little to no written records and are extinct, among those Old Ķyrdum is the most well known thanks to several inscriptions and temple metal tablets. It is likely that Kērsalur slowly substituted Ķyrdum, becoming a new prestige variety and liturgical language. An evidence of this is the bilingual inscription from the temple of Entirŋum, which tells about the sermon, delivered in that temple by the Green Goddess with the Kērsalur words on top and a smaller text and a less precise translation in Ķyrdum (this is also the only bilingual text with Ķyrdum words). Other language, known from another Ķyrdum inscription the lake Aita, was called Qaǯašale, but nothing is known about it apart from its name. The inscription also implied the existence of other languages in that area, but no names were mentioned in it.

Writing systems

The Kyrdan languages have kept the ancient logo-syllabic writing system, called Namķaudir (from Ķyrdum "that preserves words"), adapting it to their evolution. This writing system was in use for over a millenium and was kept almost completely unchanged until the regularisation of the Kērsalur spelling. The first inscriptions were purely ideographic, which makes them technically impossible to know in which language they were written, though some ideograms later became logograms in Namķaudir, so many of these ideograms can be recognised and read, even though their original pronunciation is unknown. This later script is a syllable-based logography (or a logo-syllabic system) in which symbols represent morphemes and individual syllables rather than whole words or even sentences. Thus many words are written with purely phonetic glyphs with only small common morphemes having their own separate logograms. Along with words written phonetically, a special set of symbols, called zēalak ("silent words") are used, which are not pronounced, but indicate proper names, placenames, natural phenomena, stars and planets, living beings (except humans). They have no direct counterpart in spoken language, but help to disambiguate interpretation. The exact number of symbols is unknown, since most of them are rarely used and can be found in religious text or old inscriptions. Kērsalur has the largest amount of syllabic symbols - 460, while Cirdamur and Kirtumur have less - 333 and 360 respectively. All three varieties have separate set of symbols: one for syllables of the form CV and one - of VC (where C is a consonant and V is a vowel).

Vocabulary comparison

The table below provides a vocabulary comparison that illustrates phonetic correspondences among different Kyrdan varieties:

English Sērsal Cirdamur Kirtumur Kērsal Ilusal Ruosal
water yo ya wa wa wa wa
night ŋuš ŋuš ŋus mus mus ŋus
city ičal ēdal ektal ektal ittal ettal
sky sɛ̄n sān zōn zān hōn zōn
window nim nim nim lim lim nim
man baki beki pekhi pekhi pikki pekhi
small yɛ̄ča yēci yēri yēši yieri yieri
fog din eddin etten etten itin ettin
storm kōr kir khir kwhēr fuor khuor
column gōkabir guggabir kukkapir kukkapir kukkapir kukkupir
shore ališ attiš arris aššis arris arris
image nilen nillin nizzin neššen niššin nezzen