Caer (caer [qæɪ̯ʐ] or caeryn [ˈqæjɪˌʐjəǀ] is the ceremonial sacred language of the Vá people. Its use is nowadays primarily restricted to the rituals of lya ('libation') and yayaq (‘divination’) although historically it saw much more use. It is remarkable for being typologically dissimilar to Vánic language with differing morphosyntactic agreement and word order.
- 1 History
- 2 Phonology
- 3 Morphology
- 3.1 Verbal morphology
- 3.2 Nominal morphology
- 3.3 Determiners
- 3.4 Numerals
- 3.5 Personal pronouns
- 3.6 Phrasal clitics
- 3.7 Derivational morphology
- 4 Syntax
- 5 References
Various different names have existed at some point or another for the language. A reference from 1544 in a mercantile letter from the Ottoman empire mentioning a most difficult and strange tongue only known as kecice being spoken among the sandalwood-bearing islands of the far seas probably constitutes the first reference to Caeryn. In the 18th century, noted adventurer-linguist-archæologist-spiritualist Taavi Marsfeld wrote a short description of the language and famously introduced it to the Fartravellers' Society in London with the following passage:
- This illustrious Qaerysh tungue, more befuddling than the Caucasic, more sweet than Finnish morphology, and yet more rewarding than a cat's love, is truly a miracle to behold! A purity greater than Greek, a vigour outdoing the Germanic, a spiciness beyond the Zend, yet as wildly spiritual as the Semitic idiom.
Caer has an interesting phonological system, completely lacking rounded and back vowels; dental, bilabial and velar plosives; or any of the common nasals.
The incredibly sparse consonantal system includes a few uvular consonants, one alveolar sibilant, a voiced retroflex and two clicks.
|Click||〈v〉 /ʘ/||〈n〉 /ǀ/|
|Plosive||〈c〉, 〈q〉 /q/|
|Fricative||〈t〉 /θ/, 〈s〉 /s/||〈r〉 /ʐ/||〈h〉 /χ/|
|Approximant||〈y〉 /j/||〈l〉 /ʟ/|
There are three phonemic vowels in Caer: a /æ/, e /ɪ/, y /ə/. However, there are some who posit six vowels, three long (/æ:/, /ɪ/, /ə:/) and three short.
Each word in Caer can optionally take one of two pitch contours: falling (t₁) or rising (t₂). The falling contour (t₁) ends with creaky voice. Although lexically and grammatically important, it is not indicated in the orthography.
A common minimal pair given in literature is: yayaq [ˈjæˌə̯æ̰q˥˩] ‘divination’ and yayaq [ˈjæˌə̯æq˩˥] ‘calamity’.
Digraph ⟨x⟩ for /χsˡ/, ⟨y⟩ does double duty, etc.
A Caer verb is usually composed of a base, an aspect suffix, a voice suffix, and a number prefix. Depending on particularities of inflection, the verb requires additional affixes filling up the personal affix slots 1 and 2.
catannyvexaseaq ca-tanny-ve-xa-se-aq pl-feel-ext-caus-alter-ipse
- ‘I make you grieve’
Number is obligatorily marked on the verb and distinguishes between a singular (sg) and a plural (pl) depending on the amount of 'referents' for the verb. Thus one observes the distinction between actor and undergoer blurring in Caer when it comes to number.
There are three aspects: imperfective (ipfv), perfective (pfv), extemporaneous (ext). These are morphologically and obligatorily marked on verbs using a set of affixes which follow the base. They are however completely optional if the verb in question follows a previously marked verb sharing the same aspect.
arsela atehavenn, aneatyr arsela, veleran arsela a-teha-ve-nn a-nea-Ø-tyr arsela veler-an man.abs sg-chase-ext-antipass sg-die-ext-refl man.abs life-erg ‘Man hunts. Man dies. Such is life.’
The imperfective is marked with the suffix -ta /θæ˥˩/.
The perfective is marked with the suffix -va /ʘæ˥˩/. It also triggers the filling of the first personal affix slot.
The extemporaneous, alternatively called the universal, gnomic or indefinite. Most often, it is used to express general truths. It is marked with the suffix -ve /ʘɪ/.
Caer distinguishes morphologically between four voices (active, causative, middle-reflexive-reciprocative, antipassive) which are indicated on the verb after the aspect-inflected base.
The most basic is the unmarked active which is used for sentences with a transitive verb and an object. It does not require the filling of the secondary personal affix slot (‘agent slot’) when used with an NP in the ergative case.
valcaxan cavaertase valcaxa-an ca-vaer-ta-Ø-se Maker-erg pl-strike-ipfv-act-alter ‘You are cursed with ill-fortune’ (lit. maker strikes you)
Caer verbs can optionally take two verb affixes (ipse vs. alter) slotted in either the object or agent position, though in some older analyses the terms ‘ego’, ‘1~3P’, or ‘self’, ‘non-topic’ are sometimes encountered. These terms are now recommended against by most language experts. They present one of the most confusing aspects of Caer for the novice.
The so-called ipse (ipse) marker -aq refers usually to the most salient previously mentioned NP. In transitive sentences this is usually the agent. If there is no specific NP it is automatically assumed to refer to the speaker, i.e. it then corresponds to what would in other languages be termed the first person.
Intransitive sentence without an explicit NP.
anennytaq a-nenny-ta-aq sg-cry-ipfv-ipse ‘I was crying.’
Antipassive sentence with explicit undergoer NP. (Optional)
arsela annavannaq arsela a-nna-va-nn-aq man.abs sg-eat-pfv-antipass-ipse ‘A man ate.’
In a causative sentence with two NPs. Here, the agent is marked ipse.
arsela catannyvexaseaq veleran arsela ca-tanny-ve-xa-se-aq veler-an man.abs pl-feel-ext-caus-alter-ipse life-erg ‘Life causes man grief.’
Likewise, the equivalent alter (alter) marker -se refers usually to the second least salient NP. If there is no specific NP to pair with, it is either assumed to refer to the listener or an unspecified grouping of people depending on context.
In a transitive sentence with two NPs and only object marking. Here, the object is marked alter.
arsela catehatase nnahan arsela ca-teha-ta-se nnaha-an man.abs pl-chase-ipfv-alter woman-erg The woman woos the man.
In a transitive sentence lacking an explicit object NP. Here, the agent is marked alter and the object arg. is assumed to be the speaker, i.e. ipse which has to be marked.
catehataxe nnahan ca-teha-ta-aq-se nnaha-an pl-chase-ipfv-ipse-alter woman-erg The woman woos me.
Caer extraordinarily includes a third-person suffix -yn (divposs) which is marked on the possessum. The affix bears connotations of transitivity when the inflected word is combined with a head noun or phrase. Finally, it is only utilised when referring to deities.
Caeryn uses a senary number system and has unique terms for the powers of six all the way up to 66. Perhaps tellingly, six is a sacred number of the Vá religion and a recurrent motif in the legends.
A distinction between proximal (prox) and distal (dist) is optionally added to the end of a phrase to express spatial, temporal or emotional distance from the speaker, sometimes even a form of evidentiality.
valcaxa acaxavenna'ya valcaxa a-caxa-ve-nn-aq=ya maker.abs sg-create-ext-antipass-ipse=prox ‘The Maker creates (implied: everything around us.)’
Caer is OVS. However, agent-verb word order is also common in transitive sentences where the verb is marked for object. 
The possesum follows the possessor and is also marked by the third person suffix -yn (divposs).
- Their/His/Her libation.
valcaxa caer-yn Maker secret-divposs
- The Maker's given secret.
- Sammina, Karolyna. (2011). Yneaqyn: Songs of the Vá
- Sammina, Karolyna. (2011). Yneaqyn: Songs of the Vá
- Hayan, Abd ibn. (2012). Kajirsiskans klitiska partiklar: ett samtida perspektiv.
- Schlanger, Josef Maria. (1985). In der Nacht wandert ein Drache : Wortfolge in der Sprache der Kajirsen.