Is Burunking

From Linguifex
Revision as of 18:17, 6 April 2019 by Psammead (talk | contribs) (Derivation)
Jump to: navigation, search

Is Burunking
Created byNeil Whalley
Native toBurung
Native speakers? ()
Official status
Official language in

Is Burunking (/is buɾˈunkiŋ/, literally 'Burungian language') is the language of Burung, an island in the north Atlantic Ocean.




Bilabial Alveolar Post-alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal      m      n      ŋ
Plosive p    b t    d k    g
Fricative ɸ      s      ʃ           ʐ ç      h     
Affricate t͡ʃ    d͡ʒ
Flap or tap      ɾ
Approximant      w      j
Lateral app.      l

Consonants generally do not occur in clusters, with some exceptions (see Phonotactics below). Any consonant except a fricative may occur as a geminate word-internally.


Front Back
Close i u
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

Vowels are considered to be short in all environments but may occur consecutively as in eekez 'left' /ɛːkɛz/.

Note: word-initial sequences of i + i and u + uu are written yi-, wu-.


There are six diphthongs proper: ai /ai/, ei /ei/, oi /oi/, au /au/, eu /eu/ and ou /ou/, which may be considered sequences of vowels in measuring syllables. In addition, any vowel is permitted to occur following the 'glides' /w/ or /j/.


Is Burunking has a relatively restrictive syllabic structure, with a maximal form CGVVC, in which C represents a consonant, G a glide and V a vowel or part of a diphthong. Of these, only the central vowel is essential but there are also restrictions on the other elements. The table below shows the rules governing each position in the syllable:

C1 G V1 V2 C2
  • optional
  • only b, g, d, z, f, j, h, x, l, n, ng or m word-initially
  • any consonant word-medially
  • optional
  • only y or w/u
  • mandatory
  • any vowel
  • optional
  • only i, u or the preceding vowel repeated
  • optional
  • only s, sh, ng or z word-finally
  • only n or m before a consonant, except in the case of geminates

The word-final consonants s, sh, ng and z are not permitted to occur before another consonant, so undergo changes in compounds or when consonant-initial endings are added:

  • -s is lost, the preceding vowel is doubled and a following voiced plosive is devoiced:
is 'language, speech' + -do (pejorative) = yito 'curse'
os 'cold' + -pung (abstract) = oopung 'coldness'
  • -sh becomes -i-, forming a diphthong with the preceding vowel, and a following voiced plosive is devoiced:
banash 'fruit' + -to (diminutive) = banaito 'berry'
ush 'empty' + gyong 'person' = wikyong 'vain person'
  • -ng becomes -m before p, b, f and n before any other consonant:
gyong 'person' + -zoi (collective) = gyonzoi 'team, band'
yong 'smooth' + -pung (abstract) = yompung 'smoothness'
  • -z is lost and causes a following consonant to double (except s, z, f, x, h):
az 'man' + -chi (adjectival) = acchi 'masculine'
haaz 'old' + -ki (nominal) = haakki 'antique, relic'

Word-final vowels may also be altered or lost when they come into contact with initial vowels in compounds or endings:

  • In words of three or more syllables, the vowel is always lost, e.g. arato 'food' + -oi (adjectival) = aratoi 'gluttonous', eshayo 'sea' + ugi 'bread' = eshayugi 'seaweed'.
  • Words of two syllables usually lose their final vowel, e.g. binji 'mountain' + arate 'gap' = binjarate 'mountain pass', but when the second word is only one syllable the final vowel sometimes remains, forming a glide in the case of i or u e.g. bigi 'eye' + uz 'water' = bigyuz 'tear'.
  • In reduplication, the final vowel usually remains in disyllables, but an epenthetic k (occasionally y) is inserted between the elements: azekaze 'very dark'.


Primary stress is generally on the penultimate syllable of polysyllables, e.g. berósu 'nine', esháyo 'sea', ázeng 'fish'.

In true verbs, primary stress is always placed on the first syllable of the root, e.g. eróz 'go down', isúru 'go past'.

In compounds, the primary stress is placed on the second element, with secondary stress on the first.


Is Burunking was originally written in a syllabary called hookozoi, mainly carved into wood or, occasionally, stone.

When the language was initially discovered by Europeans the Greek alphabet was used in its transcription, but later studies preferred to use the Latin script, which is still used today.

Graph IPA
b /b/
ch /t͡ʃ/
d /d/
f /ɸ/
g /g/
h /h/
j /d͡ʒ/
k /k/
l /l/
m /m/
n /n/
ng /ŋ/
p /p/
r /r/
s /s/
sh /ʃ/
t /t/
w /w/
x /ç/
y /j/
a /a/
e /ɛ/
i /i/
o /ɔ/
u /u/
ai /ai/
au /au/
ei /ei/
eu /eu/
oi /oi/
ou /ou/

In word or syllable initial position the sequences ii, uu are written yi, wu. The glide /j/ is always written y but /w/ is written u following a consonant and w syllable initially.




Strictly speaking, Is Burunking, like English, does not have grammatical gender affecting the morphology of words. Their concept of natural gender, however, is substantially different from many other cultures and does influence language to certain extent. It is rooted in a more fundamental understanding of how things in the world are related and categorised.

At its most basic, all things (and the names that describe them) are considered either animate (bixi) or inanimate (es bixi). The primary distinction between these two groups is that animate nouns are capable of movement under their own power, but inanimate ones are not. Humans, animals and deities are therefore considered animate (as are some celestial bodies), whereas plants, rocks and abstract concepts are inanimate.

Within the class of animate nouns, a further distinction is made between three genders: masculine (acchi), feminine (buyachi) or middle (iriji). Inclusion within one of these three groups is based to some extent on biological sex, but also takes into account personality, strengths and a chosen role within society.

At birth, all human children are considered to be iriji and remain so throughout childhood until the onset of puberty. At some point during puberty, depending on the development of the individual, the child will be undergo an initiation into adulthood as either acchi, buyachi or iriji, taking a gendered form of their name and a byname to symbolise this important rite of passage. The choice of appropriate gender is made by the community elders, with input from the parents and/or foster parents, based on an understanding of the individual.

There are no hard and fast rules regarding gender, rather each has a series of complex associations. The table below shows some of the basic characteristics for each group:

Bixi Eipixi
Buyachi Iriji Achi
Element Earth Fire Water Air
Direction East South West North
Season Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Celestial Body Moon Sun Moon Sun
Lunar Phase Waxing Full Waning New
Solar Phase Dawn Day Evening Night
Temperature Warm/Wet Hot/Dry Cool/Wet Cold/Dry
Family Mother Child Father House
Aspect Emotional Intellectual Physical Material
Noun class adult female humans
some female animals
female deities
human children
adult iriji humans
most animals
iriji deities
adult male humans
some male animals
male deities
unmoving objects
most materials

These gender distinctions have a limited effect on the morphology of nouns themselves but affect the way other words behave.


Relationships between nouns in a sentence are marked by particles following the noun.

Case Particle Uses
Topicaliser ba marks a subject or object as the focus of the utterance
Nominative az marks the subject of a verb (where it is not the topic)
Accusative ke marks the direct object of a verb
Genitive eng marks the possessor of an object, 'of'
Dative ni marks the indirect object of a verb, 'to'
Allative a marks movement towards, 'to'
Ablative chi marks movement away from, 'from, of, through'
Locative gang marks location 'in, on, at'
Instrumental ha marks use of, 'with, by'


Nouns are generally not marked for number and context is usually sufficient to show whether, e.g. heuji means 'horse' or 'horses'. Numerals or adjectives can be used to qualify the noun for number, e.g. bade oz 'one dog, a dog'.

There are two collective suffixes, which may sometimes translate the English plural:

  • -zoi is used to refer to a discrete group of things, usually occupying a single location, e.g. gyonzoi 'band, group, team of people', heujizoi 'a herd of horses'.
  • -bua is more abstract, referring to all things within a class collectively and also to the state of being an object within that class, similar in some ways to the English suffix '-hood' in a word like 'priesthood', e.g. gyombua 'everybody, humanity, humankind, population', binjibua 'mountains'.

Both of these suffixes are productive, though in some cases the noun with the suffix has taken on a specialised meaning as in azoi 'council, assembly' from az 'man'.

Reduplication may also be used to express a large group of something, often with an intensive meaning, e.g. gyongyong 'crowd, mass of people', yaiyai 'storm' (from yai 'wind').


Adjectives precede the noun they modify and are not altered for gender, number or case.

Comparison is expressed by means of particles. The comparative uses the particle byang, somewhat equivalent to Eng. "than", with a noun (standard) of comparison and the positive adjective. Where English uses the pattern [Noun 1] is [Comparative] + than + [Noun 2] (e.g. Eric is bigger than Tom), Is Burunking uses the pattern [Noun 1] + [Noun 2] + byang + [Adjective] + da (e.g. Eric ba Tom byang enji da). There is no equivalent to the English attributive comparative adjective and phrases such as "Eric is the taller brother" would be translated best with the positive adjective, e.g. Eric ba enji angane da lit. "Eric is the tall sibling".

Superlatives are formed from the positive adjective with the suffix -na and precede the noun they modify, e.g. enjina az "biggest man", lashana ebaz "quietest river". The usual sentence structure follows the pattern [Topic] + ba (+ [Location] + gang) + [Superlative] + [Noun] + da, e.g. Eric ba (Burung gang) enjina az da "Eric is the tallest man (in Burung).


Cardinal Ordinal
1 zu leneng
2 hai uzeng
3 gi gichi
4 baka bakachi
5 utu utuchi
6 xa xachi
7 gyeng gyenchi
8 eileng eilenchi
9 zuneng zunenchi
10 haz hachi
11 zu-haz zu-hachi
20 hatorung hatorunchi
21 zu-hatorung zu-hatorunchi
30 gyauka gyaukachi
40 bakauka bakaukachi
50 utauka utaukachi
60 xauka xaukachi
70 gyengauka gyengaukachi
80 eilengauka eilengaukachi
90 zunengauka zunengaukachi
100 inung inunchi
101 zu-inung zu-inunchi
121 zu-hatorung-inung zu-hatorung-inunchi



Singular Plural
1 inclusive ni bua
exclusive bu
2 yi fu
3 masculine az azoi
feminine buya buyazoi
common xini xinizoi

There are no inanimate forms, the demonstrative pronoun ong being used instead.

Possessives may be formed with the particle eng, e.g. ni eng yata "my father", xini eng eshe "its house".


The reflexive pronoun bera is used as the direct or indirect object of a verb, referring the action back to the subject. The pronoun doesn't change for person or number and simply fills the relevant object slot of the sentence, e.g. az ba bera ke bigiipush fong "he saw himself", ni eng asho ba bera ni inua da "my grandma talks to herself". It is usually only used with animate subjects.


There are three series of demonstratives expressing three degrees of proximity:

  • ong "this" denotes objects close to the speaker
  • uri "that" (proximal) denotes objects close to the hearer
  • ang "that" (distal) denotes objects at a distance or abstract
that (prox.)
that (dist.)
Object (inan.) ong
that yonder
person m azong
that man
that man
that man yonder
f. buyong
this woman
that woman
that woman yonder
c. xinyong
this xini
that xini
that xini yonder
Place ukyong
Way bideung
this way
that way
that way yonder
Time eujong
then (recent)
then (distant)

These forms are all really pronouns, but they may perform adjectival or adverbial functions. The simple forms ong, uri, ang are used as adjectives following a noun, e.g. eshe uri "that house". As pronouns, these are used with inanimate objects and the 'person' forms are used with animates, agreeing in gender with the (natural) gender of the object, e.g. ang ba ni eng eshe da "that is my house", azong ba buya eng yata da "this (man) is her father".

The 'place', 'way' and 'time' forms function as adverbs when they take the appropriate case particle, e.g. andosh ba ukyong a etozi heng "the king came here", eujong gang ni ba yus zu "I am leaving now".


Interrogative pronouns and adverbs are formed with the prefix n(o)- and a nominal element:

what nohez
who nogyong
where nuki
how nobide
why nonaze
when neuji

These interrogatives may take postpositions such as nogyong go 'whose'


Indefinite pronouns are formed using the same nominal elements as the interrogative pronouns, but with different affixes.

-thing hedo enohez hebua
-one, -body gyondo enogyong gyombua
-where ukido enuki ukibua
-how bidedo enobide bidebua
(reason) nazedo enonaze nazebua
-time eujido eneuji eujibua

The 'any-' forms are also used as the equivalent of English pronouns with '-ever', e.g. enobide 'however', enogyong 'whoever'. They are also employed in negative sentences to mean 'no-one', 'nowhere' etc.


Burunking verbs are usually composed of two elements: the main verb which contains the semantic information and an auxiliary verb that contains most of the conjugation information. Verbs may be conjugated according to the following criteria:

  • Tense: past or non-past
  • Mood: indicative, hypothetical, hortative, imperative
  • Aspect: imperfective or perfective
  • Valency: transitive, intransitive, applicative or causative.

Main Verbs

Main verbs contain the primary semantic information of the Burunking verb form. At the heart of the main verb is a verbal root, one of a small closed class of elements denoting either basic physical processes (e.g. ANG "eat"), states (e.g. YEKI "stand") or types of movement (e.g. BII "move"). Verbal roots cannot occur independently and, at the most basic, must be accompanied by the prefix e-, i- or y- to create a simple non-finite verb stem, e.g. yang "eat", eyeki "stand", ibii "move".

Note: where verbal roots are shown alone in this article, they will be written in caps to indicate their dependent status, e.g. ANG

The meaning of the verbal root may be modified by one of three processes:

  • Reduplication of the root creates an intensive or frequentative meaning, e.g. ibiibii "flit about", yangang "scoff, gobble", inuanua "chatter, babble" (< NUA "speak, make noise").
  • The infix -na- may precede the root to create a pejorative verb indicating perversity, ill intent or action resulting in unfortunate circumstances, e.g. enaro "molest, chafe" < RO "touch", enaus "flee, escape" < US "move away".
  • The suffix -ki may be added to the end of the root, creating an applicative whereby the direct object of the verb denotes the benefactor, malefactor, recipient, purpose or goal of the action, depending on context and the meaning of the verb, e.g. egonki "wait for" < GONG "wait, stay".

The majority of main verbs replace the prefix with a nominal element that alters the meaning of the root. The initial element may be:

  • a noun denoting the direct object of the verb, e.g. burushigos "throw a spear" (< burushi "spear" + GOS "throw"), xennua "call by name" (< xeng "name" + NUA "speak"). These verbs may be intransitive, with the incorporated noun acting as the true direct object, or transitive taking a new direct object, e.g. az ba burushigos da "he throws a spear", Furiko ba ni eng yata az ni ke xennua zu "my father calls me Furiko".
  • a verbal noun denoting the primary action or state of the verb, e.g. loging "sleep" (< lo "sleep, sleeping" + GING "do"), neilung "want, desire" (< nei "wanting, desire" + LUNG "have").
  • an adjective to denote various senses of being or becoming the quality of the adjective, or to denote the subject's opinion depending on the verb used, furitoz "become white" (< furi "white" + TOZ "come"), onshi "like, approve" (< ong "good" + SHI "think, consider").
  • an adverb indicating the method, direction or means of doing the action, e.g. wengeepii "walk" (< wenges "by foot" + BII "move"), laitekkibii "move quickly" (< laitekki "quickly" + BII).

Main verbs are considered to be imperfective, generally denoting incomplete or non-finite actions. In order to indicate a completed action the perfective suffix -i is added to the verb, e.g. yangi "ate", enaroi "molested", burushigoshi "threw a spear", ibiyi "moved".

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs carry most of the information regarding tense, mood and valency in the verb form. Each auxiliary is based on one of twelve particles, four intransitive, four transitive and four causative, to indicate past and non-past indicative, hypothetical and hortative moods. In addition, there is an imperative mood, created from the main verb alone. The table below indicates the particles with the primary uses.

Function Intransitive Transitive Causative Usage with Imperfective or Perfective (excl. Causative)
Non-Past da zu dara Impf: denotes an action ongoing at the time of speaking or a future, e.g. yang da "eats, is eating, will eat".
Perf: denotes an action completed at the time of speaking, creating a near-past tense, e.g. yangi da "has eaten".
Past heng fong herang Impf: denotes an action ongoing at some past time (past progressive), e.g. yang heng "was eating"
Perf: denotes an action completed at some past time (remote-past), e.g. yangi heng "had eaten".
Hypothetical li lu lerai Impf: denotes an ongoing hypothetical action, e.g. yang li "may be eating, may eat".
Perf: denotes a completed hypothetical action, e.g. yangi li "may have eaten".
Hortative bii byo berai Used only with the Impf. to express a wish or an entreaty, e.g. yang bii "let's eat"
Imperative -- -- -- Used only with the Impf. to give a direct command, e.g. yang! "eat!"

To these base particles, a number of prefixes may be added, in reverse order:

  • The negative prefix is ei-, which becomes -i- after another prefix and always causes a following d- or b- to devoice, e.g. yang eita "doesn't eat".
  • The conditional prefix is ba-, equivalent to "if" in English, e.g. yangi baheng "if he has eaten". The negative form is bai-, e.g. baita "if it is not".
  • The modal prefixes are:
    • nei- denoting desire or wish to do something, e.g. yang neida "want to eat". The negative form is neiki-, e.g. yang neikita "don't want to eat";
    • nau- denoting ability or possibility, e.g. Inlanko ke eiranging nauzu "can read". The negative form is nawi-.
    • bez- denoting necessity, e.g. yang bedda "need to eat"


Spatial relations are largely expressed by means of the case particles, but additional senses can be expressed by nominal elements in combination with the gentive eng and the locative gang. A concise list of forms expressing spatial relations is given below.

Simple Particles
a to, towards, up to buya ba ibya a ewangi heng "the woman went to the river"
chi from, of, off, through ni eng asho binji chi ewashi heng "my grandmother came down from the mountain"
gang in, on, at arato ba jibang gang da "the food is on the floor"
ha with, by eba byo aneeto ha "cut it with a knife!"
heez across, over, beyond
ni to (recipient), for (purpose, intent)
ta with (comitative)
Compounds with eng ... gang
auda beside, by
bee under, below, beneath
beekaz behind, at the back of, after
bozu inside
geeng outside
gyang on top of, on
iriji in the middle of, inside
waz in front of, before


Derivation is carried out using a number of suffixes and independent particles, and by compounding.

Suffix Use Example
-chi (nouns) 'of, like, pertaining to; full of, covered with' buyachi "feminine, female" (buya "woman"), busochi "shitty"
-dazi (noun) 'of a person/thing from, -ian, -ese' binjidazi 'of a mountain-dweller'
-i (nouns) 'having the characteristics of'
(verbs) perfective participle
eechii "sweet" (eechi "honey")
inuai "said" (inua "say")
-jing (nouns) 'resembling' (often pejorative) ajing "man-like" (az "man")
-king (nouns) 'of, relating to' Burunking "of Burung"
-oi (nouns) tending to, fond of aratoi "gluttonous" (arato "food")
-ri (nouns) forms colour adjectives odouri "red" (odoi "blood")
-bua (nouns) collective, abstract gyombua "people, population; humanity" (gyong "person")
-daz (noun) person or thing from eshayodaz 'foreigner' (eshayo "sea")
-do (nouns) pejorative bazedo "mocking laughter" (baze "laughter")
-iri (nouns) thing connected with, found near yipuiri "glove" (yipu "hand")
-ki (adjectives) concrete noun bixiki "living thing" (bixi "alive")
-ko (nouns) instrument, person connected with
(verbs) agent, instrument, tool
goudeko "ploughman" (goude "plough")
exooko "creator"
-no (nouns) diminutive (often pejorative) ano "coward" (az "man")
-sho (nouns) diminutive
-te (adjectives) abstracts, states bixite "life" (bixi "alive")
-teng (nouns) diminutive
-to (nouns) diminutive hizito 'piglet' (hizi "pig")
-zoi (nouns) collective, group eshezoi "settlement" (eshe "house")
-zung (nouns) possessor of ombazung "parent" (omba "child")


Summary of Particles

a allative "to, towards, up to"
Noun az az Example
au interrogative, precedes auxiliary verb
Aux. Vb. Example Example
az nominative
Noun Example Example
ba1 topicaliser
Noun Example Example
ba2 conditional "if"
Aux. Vb. Example Example
chi ablative, "from, off, of, through"
Noun Example Example
eng genitive, "of"
Noun Example Example
gang locative, "in, on, at"
Aux. Vb. Example Example
ha instrumental, "by, with", "in" (with languages)
Noun (language) Lating ha "in Latin"
heez "across, over, beyond, past"
Noun Example Example
ke accusative
Noun Example Example
meng hearsay, precedes auxiliary verb
Aux. Vb. Example Example
ni dative, "to" (recipient), "for" (purpose)
Aux. Vb. Example Example
ta comitative, "with", "and"
Noun ni az ni eng buya ta egong da "I live with my wife"
te uncertainty, precedes auxiliary verb
Aux. Vb. Example Example


Kinship Terms

In Burungian society, each individual belongs to a broad group known as an yenu "tribe" and within that to a family group called an as "clan", the members of which claim matrilineal descent from a pair of common ancestors known as the heuji (male) and beus (female). A person belonging to the same clan is called a beraako, whilst anyone beyond the clan group is an ase.

Somewhat distinct from the clan group is an individual's close family group, known as osunka "kinsmen". While a person traces his clan group as a vertical line, descending through a series of individuals, his osunka is more like a network extending in every direction. Anyone who shares a common great-grandfather (araato) or great-grandmother (ashoto) with a person is considered his angade "relative, kinsman". Within this family group there are then three degrees of proximity, which restrict such things as marriage and are relevant in the inheritance of property:

  1. Exoolaing, the direct line (lit. 'line of begetting'), includes a person and his direct ancestors (parents, grandparents and great-grandparents) and descendants (children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren). Marriage and sexual relationships are strictly prohibited within the exoolaing.
  2. Yipugyong, the secondary line, includes a person's siblings and their children, their spouse and their spouse's parents and children, and their parent's siblings or spouses. Half-siblings are not distinguished from full siblings as they still contain one parent's blood. Step-parents are considered identical in relation to parents-in-law and step-children to children-in-law. Marriage within this line is prohibited (except in the case of spouses), but sexual relationships are not.
  3. Audagyong, the side line, includes anyone descended from a great-grandparent not included in the above, and anyone within a spouse's secondary line. There are no prohibitions regarding marriage or sexual relationships between these people.

Within these three groups, distinctions are then made by generation, and, in some instances, by gender.

1st Degree 2nd Degree 3rd Degree
Gen. -3 great-grandfather: araato
great-grandmother: ashoto
other older collateral relative:
Gen. -2 grandfather: aras
grandmother: asho
Gen -1 father: yata
mother: ama
parent's brother: xoba
parent's sister: xeba
parent's sibling (iriji): hanauba
father-in-law, step-father: neba
mother-in-law, step-mother: aneepa
Gen. 0 EGO: NI husband: az, xengaz
wife: buya, xengaz
older sibling: angane
younger sibling: azeba
other same-generation relative:
Gen. +1 child: omba nephew/niece: yoba
step-child, son/daughter-in-law: ezang
other younger collateral relative:
Gen. +2 grandchild: xemba
Gen. +3 great-grandchild: xembato