Difference between revisions of "Ash"

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|phrase=emmõõ bo ao ehbadsa
|phrase=emmõõ bo ao ehbadsa
|translation=Ao is braiding my hair
|translation=Ao is braiding my hair

Revision as of 13:06, 30 August 2018

Pronunciation [ˈʔɑ̞ħˌqɑ̞ː]
Created by Ava Skoog
Language family
  • Ash
ISO 639-3


Ash (ahgaa, lit. "seaspeak", pronounced [ˈʔɑ̞ħˌqɑ̞ː]) is the anglicised name of a language mostly spoken around coastal areas, notably the town of Appa (ahba). Its speakers are familiar with technological advancements such as nautical vessels and steam locomotives.

The language is mildly synthetic to polysynthetic, largely based around agglutination with fusional elements. There is a great focus on verbs, nominals being mostly uninflected, and significant pro-drop tendencies and a general focus around deixis rather than pronominal distinctions. The word order is heavily SOV.



The underlying sounds of Ash are few enough that a simple listing is preferable to a traditional table:

Vocalic /a~Ø i~j~Ø u~w~Ø/
Plosive /p~β t~ð k~ɣ/
Affricate /t͡ɬ~ɬ t͡s~s/
Glottal /h~ʔ/
Nasal /m~˜ n~˜ ŋ~˜/

The reasoning for this rather unusual classification is down to phonotactic patterning: these five groups all behave somewhat differently and serve as a more useful distinction than point of articulation when describing the phonology of Ash. The pair or triplet given for each phoneme refers to an alternation between various allophonic realisations despite the relatively low number of underlying sounds, an important feature of the language that makes the variation richer on the surface. For instance, long vowels (romanised by doubling the vowel) and nasal vowels (romanised using a tilde) are not analysed as phonemic.


The romanisation strikes a balance between representing phonemes versus surface realisations and uses the following seventeen letters:

a ã e y o õ w b d g l s h m n ŋ

An example of a word with its archiphonemic, phonemic and surface transcriptions as well as romanisation:

//ˈwat.ha.ku// /ˈwah.taˌku/ [ˈʔɔ̯ɑ̞ħ.t̠ɐˌɣʊ] oahdago "during the day"

Syllable structure

A cluster cannot exceed two consonants and must be of one of the following configurations:

CC Both consonants are the same
FP Fricative followed by plosive
NP Nasal followed by plosive
PN~FN Plosive or fricative followed by nasal

Phonological processes

Depending on the underlying nature of a cluster, various processes may take place either on a phonemic (phoneme alternation) or on a phonetic (surface allophony) level. For example, /t/ merges with /t͡s/ on the phonemic level before /i~j/ or a plosive or an affricate, but alternates with [ð] on the phonetic level between vowels.

Alternations before glides

In addition to the aforementioned example, nasals and fricatives will geminate before consonantal glides (i.e. /j w/ when they do not surface as vocalic), assimilating to the glide and eliding it in the process.

/-j/ /-w/
//N-// [ɲ.ɲ] [m.m]
//h-// [ç.ç] [ʍ.ʍ]
/t͡s-/ [ɕ.ɕ] [s̠.s̠]

Before a vowel corresponding to the glide, the first consonant is simply doubled and the glide unwritten (e.g. -nne- for /-N.ji-/) but before other vowels the glide remains (e.g. -nya- for /-N.ja-/).

Alternations before plosives and affricates

All plosives alternate phonemically with fricatives or affricates before another plosive or an affricate.

//p-// /h.P/ [ħ.P]
//t-// /t͡s.P/ [s̠.P~ɕ.P]

Glottal allophony

The phoneme /h~ʔ/ surfaces as a fricative before vowels and glides (geminating in the latter case as outlined in the section on alternations before glides) as well as plosives but as a glottal stop before nasals and affricates.

//-P// //-P͡F// //-N//
//h-// [ħ.P] [ʔ.P͡F] /ʔ.ᴰN/

In addition, each plosive alternates phonemically with the glottal before a nasal, assimilating the nasal to its point of articulation.

//p-// [ʔ.ᵇm]
//t-// [ʔ.ᵈn̠~ʔ.ᶡɲ]
//k-// [ʔ.ᶢŋ]

Affricate alternations

Affricates are simplified to fricatives in much the same contexts as the plosives: intervocalically, before other plosives or affricates, word-finally as well as before nasals which in turn are prestopped.

Prosody and stress

Prefixes are always unstressed. Following the last stressed syllable an iambic pattern of secondary stress on every other underlyingly light syllable follows unless an underlyingly heavy syllable intervenes, resetting the pattern. In addition, unless at the end of a word, stressed syllables are forced to be heavy either by lengthening of the vowel or reduplication of the next syllable's onset consonant if they are not already underlyingly so.


Ash does not mark words for number, person or case. With regards to syntactic patterning, only three significant word classes can be posited: verbs, nominals and adverbials. Nonetheless there is a degree of mobility between them.


The bulk of all inflection goes on verbs, making them morphemic anchors fundamental to almost any utterance in the language. The general verb template looks as follows:

Deixis Trans./Poss. Preverb Incorp. Class. Root Der. State Mood/Nom. Attr. Adv. Enclitics

The nominalisation slot creates a deverbal nominal and the adverbialisation slot creates an adverbial and so these two serve to change the class of the word; the possession slot is only used on deverbal nominals and not on regular verbs.


Each verb has a set of primary stems formed more or less predictably from a combination of affixes. The first stem, the stative indicative, is used as the lemma when citing words, such as oada "to shine":

Stative Active Translative Causative Passive
Indicative oada oahda oadna oasya oasda
Optative oase oadse oadne oasse oasdse

All of these terms are to an extent ad hoc. For instance the passive stem is only used to form deverbal nominals; there is no true passive construction syntactically. Some verbs are inherently stative or active and do not have two distinct stems. The active or stative stems are the ones that are generally prone to being somewhat unpredictable, whereas the other three are formed productively.

Derived stems

Derivational suffixes can be used to extend the root and create a new set of stems, such as the frequentative -(d)s- and the potential -dãã-.

Base Frequentative
baa "hand; arm" badsa "weave; make"
oo "consume" odsa "gorge; overeat"
doo "smoke" dodso "train; locomotive"

Sometimes stems appear connected through no longer productive processes, such as ohwa "cook", related to oo "consume".


Nominals are mostly unmarked; the main kind of affixation, while resembling case marking, results in adverbialisation, thus changing the class of the word. Nominals can however be marked for possession or be incorporated into a verb.

The possessive prefix n- can be preceded by a deictic prefix. Here are the possessed forms of mõõ "head; hair; top":

Neutral Proximal Distal
ammõõ emmõõ ommõõ


Adverbials are used to denote a place, time or manner. Their formation sometimes resembles case marking or conjunctions more than traditional adverbs, but serves that role as well.

Some prominent adverbialising suffixes:

Suffix Example
Locative -da mehda "by the fire"
Durative -go oadnago "in the morning"
Benefactive -ba eaba "in order to see"


The language lacks true pronouns and due to its pro-drop tendencies commonly avoids alternatives as well. What does get commonly marked is deixis: whether something is close to or far away from the speaker or a previous referent; unspecified deixis is also possible. On nominals deixis is generally spatial while on verbs it is temporal (proximal working roughly as a present tense and distal as a non-present one); adverbial deixis can be either depending on the characteristics of the adverbial in question.

The deictic stems are as follows:

Neutral Ø- (unmarked)
Proximal e-
Distal o-

Deixis occurs in the form of isolated nominals ee and oo as well as verbal and possessive prefixes e- and o-. Neutral deixis sometimes surfaces epenthetically as a- due to phonotactic constraints, but is not underlyingly explicitly marked.


The word order is fairly strictly SOV, with adverbials generally preceding the nominals followed by the verb.


Transitivity and inversion

Transitivity is explicitly marked and through an inversion marker on the verb the roles of agent and patient can be swapped without a change in word order, the purpose of which is topicalisation, leaving the topic in the subject position.

ao bahbo ehhea
[ˈʔɑːʊ̯ ˈβɑ̞ħ.pʊ‿je̞çˈçɛ̯ɑː]
ao dog PROX-TR-see.ACT.IND
Ao is looking at the dog
ao bahbo essea
[ˈʔɑːʊ̯ ˈβɑ̞ħ.pʊ‿jɪɕˈɕɛ̯ɑː]
ao dog PROX-INV-see.ACT.IND
Ao is being watched by the dog

Inversion is especially important when the subject is being omitted as person markers do not exist.

I am looking at it
it is looking at me


There is a limit on two unmarked nominal arguments of a verb. There are two ways to introduce more arguments, one of which is to incorporate the third nominal into the verb.

ao bahbo odsãmmoyya
[ˈʔɑːʊ̯ ˈβɑ̞ħ.pʊ‿wo̞ʔˈt̠͡s̠ɑ̞̃mˌmʊʝ.ʝɐ]
ao dog DIST-TR-water-consume.CAUS.IND
Ao gave the dog water to drink


The other method is to completely remove the valency of the nominal by turning it into an adverbial, which is why this process sometimes resembles case marking.

mehda ao bahbo odsãmmoyya
[ˈmᵇe̞ħ.t̠ɐ‿ˈʔɑːʊ̯ ˈβɑ̞ħ.pʊ‿wo̞ʔˈt̠͡s̠ɑ̞̃mˌmʊʝ.ʝɐ]
fire-LOC ao dog DIST-TR-water-consume.CAUS.IND
Ao gave the dog water to drink by the fire


While there is no explicit marking for animacy, an underlying hierarchy ranging roughly from natural forces at the top to people and animals in the middle and inanimates at the bottom governs certain parts of the grammar. The main aspect of this hierarchy is that inanimate referents cannot act as agents which affects how transitive and inverse marking is interpreted in their presence.

Transitive Inverse
Animate bahbo ahhoo "dogs eat it" bahbo assoo "dogs are eaten"
Inanimate sãã ahhoo "water is drunk" *sãã assoo (ungrammatical)


New non-verbal information is focused by fronting, i.e. introducing the word or phrase earlier in the sentence. This means that the order of subject and object might shift in order to focus on the object. When the object is inanimate inversion is not possible nor necessary, while for an animate object it is.

Normal Fronted
Animate ao bahbo ohhea "Ao was looking at the dog" bahbo ao ossea "it was the dog Ao was looking at"
Inanimate ao sãã ohhoo "Ao who was drinking water" sãã ao ohhoo "it was water Ao was drinking"


Relativisation is done simply by chaining phrases one after another, with no special marking. Subclauses go before main clauses, in which the deictic context is centered around the subject of the subclause.

oo oahdago bahbo ossoyya ee oahdago esseana
[ˈʔu̯oː‿ˈwɔ̯ɑ̞ħ.t̠ɐˌɣʊ ˈβɑ̞ħ.pʊ‿wʊs̠ˈs̠ʊʝ.ʝɐ‿ˈji̯eː‿ˈwɔ̯ɑ̞ħ.t̠ɐˌɣʊ‿jɪɕˈɕɛ̯ɑː.n̠ɐ]
today I saw the dog that you fed yesterday


Attributive verbs are formed using the connector suffix -s and go before the noun phrase.

boonas bahbo
a large dog
oadas ao ammõõ
shine.STAT.IND-ATTR ao POSS-head
Ao's fair hair

Locative verbs

An important part of Ash grammar is an extensive set of so called locative verbs which are used almost like a noun classification system and cover location, motion and related concepts while providing specific information about the referent at hand, such as specifying whether liquid is involved.

These are some of those verbs:

Lemma Gloss Semantic range
laa LOC:STAT General stative (indefinite or permanent)
goo LOC:ACT General active (temporary or dynamic)
sãã LOC:LIQ Water and other liquids
see LOC:AER Air and weather
boo LOC:CRESC Growth (hair, plants et c.)
doo LOC:PART Particles (powder, sand, dust, smoke, spores et c.)
mee LOC:PYR Fire


One function of locative verbs is to resolve potential ambiguities. When used solely for classification in its unmarked form, a locative verb is unstressed and thereby shortened, resembling a particle.

ammõõ bo
hair (on the head)
ammõõ la
head (on the body)
ammõõ go
head (detached from the body)

Further verbs can be serially connected after indicating the nature of a nominal using a locative verb.

ao ammõõ bo oada
Ao's hair is fair

Used this way they nonetheless remain verbs with the accompanying syntactic implications. Since they create subclauses, a nominal specified for category with a locative verb cannot be used in object position and so will always precede any agent.

emmõõ bo ao ehbadsa
Ao is braiding my hair

Since the locative verbs are only necessary when introducing new information, this ties neatly into the established system of topicalisation by fronting and so the net effect is that this limitation does not make much of a difference to normal syntax. Nominals can then be unambiguously reüsed without the classifying verb as the information is thenceforth known from the previously established context. Note that if the classified nominal had been animate in the above example (mõõ is not) inversion would have been necessary in order to specify it as the object rather than subject as usual.


To denote motion, an andative ("going") or venitive ("coming") prefix is placed into the verbal classifier slot.

ao algoo
Ao moves (away)
ao aŋgoo
Ao moves (hither)

The preverb slot can be used to specify manner, location or direction.

ao negoo
[ˈʔɑːʊ̯ ɲɪˈɣu̯oː]
Ao is below
ao nelgoo
[ˈʔɑːʊ̯ ɲɪɬˈku̯oː]
Ao moves down

Use with adverbials

Adverbial location is generic and locative verbs can be used to specify the meaning.

ahda sã
in the ocean; at sea
ahda la
by the ocean