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Kāndi tsūyi
Pronunciation[kaːndɪ t͡suβ̞ʝɪ]
Created byWaahlis
SettingUnknown conworld
Native speakers4 million (2015)
  • Tanisi
    • Kandi
Early form
Official status
Regulated byAytšin Tatšūkkāndi
Language codes
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Kāndi, or Tsan (kāndi tsūyi or tsani tsūyi) is a language spoken by the Tsan people. It belongs to the Tanisi language family and is thus distantly related to the Ris language. Kandi is a heavily agglutinating with a complex verbal morphology. The language has repeatedly been analysed as lacking nouns and adjectives altogether, in favour of verbs.

Slightly dated versions of the language were featured in the third and fourth Linguifex relays. These are probably not a good source for the constructed language, but they do give the reader an impression of Kandi's evolution.


The language was supposedly first documented scholarly by the Belgian linguists Émile d'Ivoire and his Scottish colleague John Glenn Crossing, both of which were experienced in the field of the related Jivan languages, including for example the Ris. They first encountered the Kandi people in the early 19th century south of the Caspian Sea, in what is now Northern Iran. The Kandis dwelled in small villages intentionally isolated from the rest of the country. Crossing recognised the language's syntactic pecularities and conjectured it could be related to the Jivan languages, a then rather unfounded speculation.

The Kandi language, which the natives had not given a name, was eponymously named after the speakers themselves; kāndi meaning handy in the language. The word is most likely related to Jávva gánne, Wok khaṃ and Ris san, and can be traced back to the hypothetical Proto-Jasi-Jivan form *kʰãn. The name soon stuck with the Kandi people, although quite a few still call the language kitsūyiwīn, our language. That name is hardly very catchy though.


The Kandi inventory has been documented and assessed repeatedly since the 19th century, the foremost scholar in the field being the Belgian linguist Émile d'Ivoire. This page uses a standard notation where C is a consonant, N a nasal consonant, and V is a vowel. Features are indicated by square brackets [ ] and plus or minus signs, ±. Phonemic sounds are marked with slash brackets / / and more deeply analysed sounds are marked with square brackets [ ].

Phonemic inventory of vowels and consonants

The following is the Kandi inventory of consonants, as analysed by d'Ivoire, a model nowadays serving as standard when analysing the language.

d'Ivoire model
Bilabial Dental Alveolar Dorsal Glottal
central central lateral palatal
Nasals m /m/ n /n/
voiceless p /p/ t /t/ k /k/
voiced b /b/ d /d/ g /g/
Affricates ts /t͡s/ tl /t͡ɬ/ /t͡ɕ/
Fricatives s /s/ š /ɕ/ · y /ʝ/ x /x/ h /h/
Approximants w /β̞/ l /l/ ǧ /ɰ/
Trills r /ʀ~r/

D'Ivoire standardised the phonemic inventory of vowels in the language, as per his conclusion that there were three phonemic short vowels, /i/, /a/, /u/, and three phonemic "long" vowels. The quality of the long vowels is rarely realised as the same as their short counterparts however, but it is likely that they once only differed in quantity, making vowel length a truly distinctive feature.

d'Ivoire model
short long
Close front unrounded i /i/ ī /iː/ [iː]
Open back unrounded a /a/ ā /aː/ [ɔ]
Close back rounded u /u/ ū /uː/ [u͜β̞]


The composition of Kandi words and syllables is restricted, and phonemes undergo a few morphophonemic changes when interacting across morpheme boundaries. Due to the the synthetic nature of the language, some enclitics and affixes may be obscured because of these changes. The morphophonology is highly dependent upon various assimilations, syncope and a few epenthetical vowels.

Syllable structure and morphophonology

The minimal Kandi syllable is simply V, and the maximal structure is CrVCC, where V may be either long or short. In case the following syllable begins with a consonant, the resulting cluster is simplified.

The Kandi consonant cluster VCCV is subject to a few rules.

  • All nasal plosives N (C[stop][+nas]) voice both preceding and following stops P (C[stop][-nas]).
NP[-voice] > NP[+voice]
P[-voice]N > P[+voice]N
Initial Consonant Final Consonant
m n p t k b d g s š tl ts h x w ǧ y l r
m mm mb mb nd ng mb nd ng ss šš ndr ns mm mm nn ndr
n nd nn mb nd ng mb nd ng ss šš ndr ns nn mm nn ndr
p mb mb pp pt bb pt ps pp ppuh bb pp
t pt tt ttuh tt dd ts ttl tts ttš tt ttuh dd dd tl tr
k ǧm ǧn št kk guh št gg ks ts x x kkuh gg gg
b mm mm pp ud w ud bb ux w bb
d pt tt kk duh dd gg ss šš ttl tts ttš dd ǧǧ duh ǧ dd tl tr
g ǧm ǧn pp tt kk guh dd gg ks ǧ ǧ guh g ǧ
s šm sp st ks suh st ks ss šš ss šš suh x š
š šm šp št šuh št ss šš šš šš šuh x š
h pp tt kk pp tt kk ss šš ttl tts ttš x x w ǧǧ yy ll rr
x ǧm ǧn šp št x šp št ss šš x x xuh ǧ x
w mm mm bb ud bb ud us w w w
y mm mm pp tt yy bb dd yy ss šš ttl tts ttš yy x w ǧǧ yy ll rr
l tl ll luh ll ll
r ndr ndr tr rr ruh rr rr

Syllable structure and phonological processes


Kandi exhibits what’s called predicate/argument flexibility; all content words equivalent to English verbs, nouns and adjectives, can fill the role as predicate or as argument of a clause. The flexibility is due to that the lemma form of all content words corresponds to a predicative expression. All content words have a subject, which in the default is the third person: For example, the word for "dog" is kshawí, but it is also equivalent to "it is a dog".

In essence, the distinction between noun and verb is blurred. All content words may be conjugated and form verbal phrases, they may modify each other, and they all have one of three grammatical genders.

The Kandi grammar consists of a variety of grammatical prefixes and suffixes, all of which fit in a strict affixation template. The Tsan affixation template looks as follows:

genitivemoodplural–[Content word]–applicativecasegendercorespecifier

Core affixes

The Kandi conjugation is rather a form of affixation of relevant arguments, aspects, cases, and moods. The core affixes are the main reason behind the Tsan predicate/argument flexibility, and they consist of a gender part and a stative or dynamic part.

The stative affixes convey a state of being, or function as a copula. The dynamic affixes transform a word into a more verb-like construction, and insinuates some sort of action. These two core affixes are mutually exclusive, and a word can only be affixed with one of them at a time.

What may make many linguists get the hiccups is the seemingly ignorant mixes of nominal and verbal categories. In Tsan, however, these are not important distinctions.

Stative and dynamic affixes
person 1 2 3.PROX (3) 3.OBV (4) 0
-w- -k- - -y- -h-
same -á- -wá -ká (Vy) -yá -há
different -í- -wí -kí - -yi -hí
same -u- wu- ku- u- yu- hu-
different -a- wa- ka- a- ya- ha-

Grammatical gender

Kāndi has a peculiar system of grammatical gender. The genders are purely natural: Women are feminine f, men and males are masculine m, and everything else is neuter n.

Do note, however, that the grammatical gender is not marked. Rather, there is a form of dual marking. The gender of the subject of a content word is marked as either the "same" or "different" to that of the speaker. If the subject gender is the same as that of the speaker, it is marked as the same sam, whereas if the subject gender is different to that of the speaker, it is marked as "different" diff.

It is standard to assume a male speaker in stories. A male speaker is assumed in all examples on the page unless otherwise stated.


It is a songbird.



It is a boy.



You are horses.


The system is sometimes more versatile than the English grammatical gender. In the last example (13), we are able to deduce that the speaker in this instance is a male, since he is of the same gender as the speaker.


She is a woman.


Predicative complements

Simple predicative expressions

In Kandi, the predicative complement of an expression is equivalent to the predicate itself. All content words are predicates in their own right, due to a copula suffix. This copula is a null suffix in the third person proximate, but it congruates with the subject. The subject does not need to be independent, and is only marked on the predicate.


It is a songbird.



I am a songbird.



You are songbirds.


Predicative nominatives

If the subject of the expression is stated independently, it is marked with a specifier, (SPEC), which roughly translates as the English relative determiner that which, or the construction it is […] that is […]. The post-vocalic form is –n and the post-consonantal form is –i.

The predicative complement, or predicate, agrees with the topic. The topic, most often the subject, is marked with the third person singular homus suffix, as well as the specifier.

  • ᎭᎱ ᎧᏊᏪ:
    yan katsawí
    [ʝʌ̃ʔ ˈkat͡sajiɨ̯]
    ya-∅-n katsa-wí
    1SG.M-3SG.PROX.HO-SPEC songbird.N-1SG.HE

    I am a songbird.


  • Ꮡ:Ꮾ ᏡᎪᏕ:
    yóni tsháatlí
    [ˈʝɒ̃ʔi ˈt͡ɕaːt͡ɬiɨ̯]
    yón-∅-i tsháatli-í

    John is nice.


  • Ꮡ:Ꮾ ᎪᏌᎪ
    yóni anda
    [ˈʝɒ̃ʔi ˈʌ̃tʼa]
    yón-∅-i anda-∅

    John is a man.


Predicative accusatives

Kandi has one copula, and one copula only. In English you may find a variety of related verbs with similar function to the main copula to be; for example to feel, to seem and to become. In Tsan, the semantics of these verbs are all conveyed by means of modifying the copula with evidentials, mood markers, applicatives and other constructions.

Typically, what may be percieved as an increase in valency is marked with the copula and an appropriate applicative-like affix. The former subject is always demoted to the object or patient.

  • Ꮡ:Ꮾ Ꮝ:ᎪᎭᏌ:
    yóni sáayandá
    [ˈʝɒ̃ʔi saːˈʝʌ̃tʼaː]
    yón-∅-i sáay-anda-∅

    They call John a man.


  • yóni wandátsu
    [ˈʝɒ̃ʔi β̞atʼaːt͡su]
    yón-∅-i <wúu>-anda-∅<tsu>

    I made John a man.


  • sáayayómbá

    They call me John.


Intransitive clauses

When you accept that two content words in a predicative expression co-function as predicate and subject, it is not difficult to imagine other clauses with one core argument. The simplest are the corresponding English intransitive clauses. Tsan makes an important dichotomy between stative and dynamic content words.

Stative clauses

Stative predicates, such as to hang, to lie, to be on fire, to taste like and to know are almost exclusively expressed by means of the copula suffix. See also predicative complements, which is an equivalent interpretation.

  • tátshuyi kákawiká
    [ˈta:t͡ɕʊʝi ka:ˈk͡xajika:]
    tátshuy-∅-i kákawi-ká
    guard.N-3SG.PROX.HO-SPEC fire.N-3SG.OBV.HO

    The guard is burning [up].


  • téndatshiwí...

    I am not sure I know.


Dynamic clauses

Dynamic predicatives on the other hand, including to run, to lay, to put on fire, to savour, and to learn, are formed with a conjugating dynamic prefix, acting in the same manner as the copula.

  • tátshuyi yáakákawi
    [ˈta:t͡ɕʊʝi ʝa:ˈka:k͡xaji]
    tátshuy-∅-i yáa-kákawi
    guard.N-3SG.PROX.HO-SPEC DYN.3SG.OBV.HO-fire.N

    The guard is burning [something].


  • wáaténdatshi...

    I am not sure I learn [anything].


  • yáanti katsan
    [ʝaːˈʔani ˈkat͡sʌ̃]
    yáa-anti katsa-∅-n
    DYN.3SG.OBV.HO-walking.N songbird.N-3SG.PROX.HO-SPEC

    The songbird walks.


Flexibility of arguments and predicates

It is in these dynamic and static clauses that Tsan first exhibits its flexibility of arguments. By simply switching the prefixes of the content words, the meaning is reversed or changed drastically.

  • tátshuyá kákawin
    [ˈta:t͡ɕʊʝa: ˈka:k͡xajẽ]
    tátshuy-∅ kákawi-n
    guard.N-3SG.OBV.HO fire.N-3SG.PROX.HO-SPEC

    The fire is a guard.


  • yáatátshuy kákawin
    [ʝa:ˈta:t͡ɕʊʝ ˈka:k͡xajẽ]
    yáa-tátshuy kákawi-n
    DYN.3SG.OBV.HO-guard.N fire.N-3SG.PROX.HO-SPEC

    The fire is a guard.


  • yáakatsa antin
    [ʝaːˈk͡xat͡sa ˈʔanẽ ]
    yáah-katsa anti-∅-n
    DYN.3SG.OBV.HO-songbird.N walking.N-3SG.PROX.HO-SPEC

    *The walk songbirds.


See also

Tsani language
Orthography Cree syllabary
Phonology IPA for TsanPhonology
Grammar GrammarArgumentsSyntax
Vocabulary Basic vocabularySwadesh list
Example texts The Lord's PrayerThe North Wind and the SunThe Tower of BabelThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Geneaology Tanisi languagesProto-Tanisi