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Onnawasta emblem of Appa
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  • Ash
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Ash (ảhga, lit. "seaspeak", IPA [ˈʔɑħˌqə]) is the anglicised name of a language mostly spoken around coastal areas, notably the town of Appa (ảhba). Its speakers are familiar with technological advancements such as nautical vessels and steam locomotives.

The language is synthetic, 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.



Due to the small number of underlying sounds in Ash and their high degree of allophonicity, a simple listing of phonemes according to phonotactic patterning is more suitable than a traditional consonant table and vowel trapezium.

Vocalic /a i~j u~w/
Plosive /p t k/
Affricate /t͡ɬ t͡s/
Glottal /h/
Nasal /mᵇ nᵈ ŋᵍ/

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 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 letters:

a ı e y o w b d g l s h m n ŋ

Tilde (e.g. ã) is used to mark nasalisation, doubly wide (e.g. a͠a) on long vowels and diphthongs. Hook above (e.g. ) denotes a word-initial glottal.

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

//ih.Vhˈu.wi// /hihˈwu.wi/ [çɪʍˈʍʊ͡ɪ̯ː] ẻhhoe "hungry"

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

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, 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.


Depending on the underlying nature of a cluster, various processes 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 as well as word-finally, but alternates with [ð] on the phonetic level between vowels.

  • A nasal or fricative geminates before a glide, assimilating to and eliding it in the process.
  • All plosives alternate phonemically with fricatives or affricates before another plosive or an affricate.
  • /h~ʔ/ is a fricative before vowels/glides and plosives but a glottal stop before nasals (as is the case for plosives) and affricates.
  • Affricates are deäffricated intervocalically, before other plosives or affricates, word-finally and before nasals (which are prestopped).
  • Sibilant palatalisation cascades bidirectionally through clusters; sibilants are also palatalised after /i/ word-finally and cluster-initially.
/-j/ /-w/
//Nᴾ-// [ɲ.ɲ] [m.m]
//h-// [ç.ç] [ʍ.ʍ]
//t͡s-// [ɕ.ɕ] [s̠.s̠]
//t͡ɬ-// [ʎ.ʎ] [ɫ.ɫ]
//p-// /h.P/ [ħ.P]
//t-// /t͡s.P/ [s̠.P~ɕ.P]
//-P// //-P͡F// //-Nᴾ//
//h-// [ħ.P] [ʔ.P͡F] /ʔ.ᴮN/
//p-// [ʔ.ᵇm]
//t-// [ʔ.ᵈn̠~ʔ.ᶡɲ]
//k-// [ʔ.ᶢŋ]


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 converbs. 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 is as follows:

Deixis Agency Incorp. Root Deriv. State Mood Involv. Converb.


Each verb has a set of primary stems formed more or less predictably from a combination of affixes. The first stem, the stative (or active, if there is no stative) realis, is used as the lemma when citing words, such as oa "to shine", also a good example of the versatile morphophonology:

Stative Active Inchoative Terminative Intensive
Realis oa










Irrealis oae










All of these terms are to an extent ad hoc. Some verbs are inherently stative or active and do not have two distinct stems. The inchoative and terminative are often used in a perfective sense as opposed to the imperfective or habitual active or stative.

Derived verbs

Derivational suffixes can be used to extend the root and create a new set of stems, such as the causative -y- or the intensive -(d)s-, which can themselves, depending on the word, be stative or active (all derived verbs are inherently one or the other or both and do not display the allomorphy of basic verbs). These are some of the words derived from oo "consume":

Basic Causative Intensive
oo oyya odsa


Nominals are mostly unmarked. A handful of inherited inalienably possessed nominals are however obligatorily marked with a prefix or that disappears during incorporation into a verb. This possessive prefix n- can be preceded by a deictic prefix. Here are the possessed forms of mo͠o "head; hair", an inalienably possessed nominal:

Neutral Proximal Distal
ĩbmo͠o ẽbmo͠o õbmo͠o

Any phrase can be nominalised using a classificatory topic marker (see below). When marked for the locative (see also below), these can be used to connect possessum to possessor.


Converbs are used to denote a place, time or manner. Their formation sometimes resembles case marking or conjunctions or adverbs.

Some prominent converbialising suffixes:

Long Short Example
Locative -la, -da -s ınsooda "where they live; by the house; at home"
Durative -ga, -ya -h oadnah "when it gets bright; in the morning"
Benefactive -ba, -wa -o eahba "in order to see"
Semblative -ya -e ảyya "sea-like; blue; green"


The language lacks true pronouns and due to its pro-drop tendencies commonly avoids alternatives as well. One thing that does get 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); converbial deixis can be either depending on the characteristics of the converb in question.

The deictic stems are as follows:

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

Deixis occurs in the form of isolated nominals ea and oa. In verbs with some form of agency marker, the prefixes irregularly assimilate to it, retaining the initial glottal stop but displacing the vowel, e.g. *e-ả- becomes ẻ-.

Conjunct and disjunct verbs

While Ash lacks a set of first, second and third person pronouns, a system of so called conjunct versus disjunct verb forms can be used in combination with transitivity markers and deixis in order to more or less unambiguously cover the same ground. This concept is also known in the literature as assertor's involvement marking, which might give the reader a clearer idea of the concept: verbs are marked for whether the one making an assertion is involved in the action (conjunct) or not (disjunct).

In simple statements the assertor defaults to the speaker (i.e. first person) but in questions to the addressee (second person). In reported speech the assertor defaults to the source of the quote and may therefore also take on a third person role. First and second person roles are associated with proximal deixis while third person is associated with distal deixis or an explicit nominal.

Conjunct is marked by the suffix -s and disjunct is unmarked.

Simple intransitives

In simple statements proximal deixis combined with a conjunct verb denotes a first person, while combined with a disjunct verb it denotes a second person, whereas in questions this is flipped. Distal deixis or an explicit nominal denotes a third person in both cases. Note that there is no number distinction and so for example first person can imply both "I" and "we" but for the sake of space only one translation is given for each example.

Declarative Interrogative
Proximal Distal Proximal Distal
Conjunct (ea go) emeas
"I am warm"
- (ea go) emeas no
"are you warm?"
Disjunct (ea go) emea
"you are warm"
(oa go) emea
"they are warm"
(ea go) emea no
"am I warm?"
(oa go) emea no
"are they warm?"

Simple transitives

Simple transitive clauses work much the same way but the choice between a direct transitive or inverse transitive marker affects the meaning as well and is the only way to differentiate between agent and patient roles when the referents are first and second person.

Proximal Distal
Direct Inverse Direct Inverse
Conjunct (ea go) ẻhweas yo
"I look at you"
(ea go) ẻsseas yo
"you look at me"
(oa go) ẻhweas yo
"I look at them"
(oa go) ẻsseas yo
"they look at me"
Disjunct (ea go) ẻhwea yo
"you look at them"
(ea go) ẻssea yo
"they look at you"
(oa go) ẻhwea yo
"they1 look at them2"
(oa go) ẻssea yo
"they2 look at them1"

The interrogative patterns the same way except for the first and second person again being flipped. As the last two examples show, the choice of transitivity marker can also serve as a proximate-obviative distinction.

Reported speech

In quotations the conjunct versus disjunct distinction instead focuses on the source of the quote, but only in the subclause. Again this may serve as a proximate-obviative distinction. This means that it is possible to mark distal referents as conjunct in such subclauses.

Conjunct source Disjunct source
Conjunct target (ea go) emeas (ea go) ogaas yo
"I said I am warm"
(ea go) emeas (ea go) ogaa yo
"you said you are warm"
Disjunct target (ea go) emea (ea go) ogaas yo
"I said you are warm"
(ea go) emea (ea go) ogaa yo
"you said I am warm"

Indirect involvement

As the conjunct form denotes merely whether the assertor is somehow involved in the action, the assertor need not necessarily be the agent. A conjunct form would still be used to denote first person involvement as a patient in some statements.

ẽbmo͠o mo ảo ẻhbadsas yo
Ao is braiding my hair

Despite a third person being the agent of the action, the focus is on the first person (the assertor) and the verb is therefore conjunct.


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



Transitivity and volition are tied up in a single grammatical category termed agency. Direct agency 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. The subject requires a topical marker, the details of which will be explained in detail in the section on locative verbs.

ảo ga bahba ẻhhea ga
Ao is looking at the dog
ảo ga bahba ẻssea ga
Ao is being watched by the dog

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

ẻhweas yo
I am looking at them
ẻsseas e
they are looking at me


A verb can also be made reflexive by using a deictic marker in the transitivity slot, meaning a distinction is made between proximal and distal reflexivity, corresponding to the spatial deixis of nominals rather than the normally temporal deixis of verbs.

oadnah ảyısa͠as yo
I wash in the morning
ảo ga oadnah ảyısa͠a ma
Ao doesn't wash in the morning

Reflexivity can be used to disambiguate between cases when the first and second person implications of the proximal deixis would otherwise collapse or as a proximate-obviative distinction.

ẽbmo͠o mo ẻhbadsas yo
you are braiding my hair
ẽbmo͠o mo ẻwıbadsas yo
I am braiding my hair


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.

ảo ga bahba ỏdsoyya ga
ao=CLF.TOP dog DIST-DIR-water-consume.CAUS.RLS=REP
Ao was giving the dog water to drink


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

ảo ga bahba mehda odsoyya ga
ao=CLF.TOP dog burn-CVB:LOC DIST-DIR-water-consume.CAUS.RLS=REP
Ao was giving 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 bahba go ảhhea yo
"dogs watch it"
bahba go ảssea yo
"dogs are watched"
Inanimate sa͠a sa ảhhea yo
"water is watched"
*sa͠a sa ảssea yo


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. The nominal in focus also receives a topic marker, explained in detail in the section on locative verbs.

Normal Fronted
Animate ảo ga bahba ỏhhea e
"Ao was looking at the dog"
bahba go ảo ỏssea e
"it was the dog Ao was looking at"
Inanimate ảo ga sa͠a ỏhyoo e
"Ao was drinking water"
sa͠a sa ảo ỏhyoo e
"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.

[owahdah bahba go ỏssoyya]1 [ewahdah ẻsseaŋas yo]2
[today I saw]2 [the dog that (you) fed yesterday]1

This is also how stative verbs are used to assign qualities to nominals.

osya bahba go ẻsseaŋas no
light-SEMB gloss=dog=CLF.TOP shine.STAT.RLS PROX-INV-see.INCH.RLS-CONJ=Q
have you seen the white dog?

Unstressed words

In addition to unstressed locative verbs used as topicalising classifiers (see below) there are a few other words that can be unstressed to serve various purposes, mostly after verbs.


Declarative Negative Interrogative Desiderative
ebadsa yo
"(really) weaving"
ebadsa ma
"not weaving"
ebadse sa
"hopefully weaving"


Reduced forms of some verbs can function as evidential markers, such as e for direct experience and ga for hearsay.

Experiential Reportative
ebadsa e
"(evidently) weaving"
ebadsa ga
"(allegedly) weaving"

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 also have reduced clitic forms used as classifiers and topic markers.

These are some of those verbs:

Locative Classifier Gloss Semantic range
laa la, da, na :STAT General stative (indefinite or permanent)
goo go, ŋo :ACT General active (temporary or dynamic)
sa͠a sa :LIQ Water and other liquids
see se :AER Air and weather
boa bo, mo :CRESC Growth (hair, plants et c.)
doo do, no :PART Particles (powder, sand, dust, smoke, spores et c.)
mea me :PYR Fire (by extension core or centre)
baa ba, ma :MAN Hand and instrumental (things held; implements and tools)

There are also some classifiers without corresponding verbs:

Classifier Gloss Semantic range
ya, wa, nya :GEM Used mainly of pairs (e.g. eyes, hands) but does not denote dual number
na :COLL Used mainly of collectives (e.g. people) and higher animates but does not denote plural number

Classificatory topicalisation

An unstressed locative verb is required as a topical marker following a fronted nominal, resembling a particle. The choice of verb functions much like a noun class classifier and can be used to differentiate between various meanings of a single nominal lexeme.

ĩbmo͠o mo
hair (on the head)
ĩbmo͠o na
head (on the body)

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. However, since this is in line with the normal rule of topicalisation by fronting, it has no actual implications for the syntax.

ẽbmo͠o mo ảo ẻhbadsas yo
Ao is braiding my hair


In addition to serving as a topical marker, an unstressed locative verb can also be used as a nominal conjunction. As subject and object are never both topically marked, a series of topicalised nominals serves as a single noun phrase in the fronted subject position.

ảo ga bahba go onda egoa e
Ao and the dog are over there

Use with converbs

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

ảo sas sa͠a
(be) in the ocean; at sea
ảo sas laa
(be) by the sea


The fossilised set of nouns that can take the possessive prefix n- can follow directly after a classified possessor.

ảo ga ndoo ya
Ao's foot
ảo gã bmo͠o na
Ao's head

Otherwise the locative converbialiser -s serves to mark the possessor of a possessum.

ảo gas osee go
ao=CLF-LOC breath=CLF.TOP
Ao's breath (lit. "breath at Ao")

Pragmatics and conventions


Wants, needs, desires and possibilities are often just expressed through morphological means in Ash, such as irrealis forms, potentials and interrogatives.

ẻhhodses yo
I want/need to eat; I am hungry
ẻhhodses no
perhaps I should eat something
bahba go ẻhhodse no
maybe the dog is hungry

Colour terms

Colours are mainly expressed through semblative converbs, likening the appearance of the referent to something else, such as mea "fire" → nayya "red; yellow; orange; brown" or ảo "sea" → ảyya "blue; green".

nayya bahba go
fire-SEMB dog=CLF.TOP
a brown dog