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Phonology and Orthography


Consonant Inventory
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m /m/ n /n/
Plosive p /p/ b /b/ t /t/ d /d/ k /k/ g /g/
Fricative f /ɸ/ s /s/ h /x/
Affricate ts /ts/
Trill r /r/
Approximant w /w/ y /j/
Lateral app. l /l/


  Front Near- front Central Near- back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg


Proto-Rathmosian is written with the Roman alphabet using the following graphs.

a b d e f g h i k l m n p r s t ts u w y ə

The following table shows the sound to spelling correspondences:

graph a aa b d e ee f g h i ii k l m n p r s t ts u uu w y ə
IPA a b d e ɸ g x i k l m n p r s t ts u w j ə


The basic building block of most Proto-Rathmosian words is the primary root, a simple morpheme which cannot be broken down further. Most primary roots are verbal stems though some nominal elements such as body parts, landscape and family terms are primary.

Primary roots may be formed into other words by (a) the direct addition of derivational and morphological affixes; (b) internal changes within the root to create a secondary or derived root; (c) a combination of both.

A number of grammatical words or particles are not considered roots and do not follow the rules set out below.

Primary Roots

Primary roots are monosyllabic and must have the minimal form VC, in which V represents a single primary vowel (a, e, i or u) and C any consonant. Most roots will also have an initial consonant (vowel-initial roots are relatively rare and may have developed from the loss of an initial /h/ or glottal stop /ʔ/, e.g. */had, ʔad/ > ad-).

Consonant clusters within roots are limited to CL in onset position, in which L represents a liquid (l or r). The initial consonant in these clusters cannot be l, r, w or y. In coda position the only consonant cluster permitted is GC, in which G represents a glide (w or y).

The vowels of primary roots are always short. Diphthongs are not considered to occur and in the combination of vowel + w or y the second element is analysed as a consonant.

Primary roots may take one of the following forms:

  • CVC, e.g. ret- "go, move", ker- "rule"
  • CLVC, in which L represents a liquid (l or r), e.g. glis- "live, stay", mlak- "be dead"
  • CVGC , in which G represents a glide (w or y), e.g. tiyk- "touch, feel", reyk- "love"
  • CLVGC, e.g. trayh- "strangle, choke", sluyn- "seep, ooze".
  • VC, e.g.
  • VGC, e.g.

Secondary Roots

Secondary roots are derived from primary ones by one of three clearly defined and mostly predictable phonological processes:

  • Vowel Lengthening doubles the vowel of the primary root, e.g. ret- > reet-, tiyk- > tiiyk.
  • Vowel deletion removes the primary vowel enitrely, e.g. ker- > Vkr-, hed- > Vhd-. Where this creates an impossible consonant cluster, the reduced vowel ə /ə/ is inserted (its position depends on the order of the consonants), e.g. mlak- > Vməlk-, dreh- > Vdərh-. Where a glide w or y remains after the deletion of a vowel, it becomes vocalic u or i, e.g. reyk- > Vrik-, trayh- > Vtrih.
  • Reduplication involves the addition of the first consonant plus the reduced vowel ə to the beginning of a word, e.g. ret- > rəret-, sluyn- > səsluyn-.


Affixes may take any of the forms: V, VC, C, CV, CVC. They may also be combined into more complex structures. The addition of affixes sometimes requires the insertion of the reduced vowel ə between consonants, or of a linking glide w or y between vowels.

The following processes of assimilation occur when certain sounds come into contact across syllables:

  • voiced plosives /b, d, g/ are devoiced before voiceless plosives or fricatives /p, t, k, ɸ, s, x/.
  • voiceless plosives /p, t, k/ are voiced before voiced plosives and nasals /b, d, g, n, m/.
  • /t/ and /d/ assimilate to any following plosive or /n/
  • /n/ assimilates to a following liquid /l, r/.



Nouns belong to one of three classes and are declined into eight cases and three numbers.

Noun Classes

Nouns are divided into two main classes: animate and inanimate. The fundamental distinction between these two classes is that animate nouns may be the agent of a verb, i.e. they may actively carry out the action of a verb, whilst inanimate nouns may not. Animate nouns therefore include all humans, deities and spirits, animals and certain celestial bodies such as belan "the sun". Inanimate nouns include all other common objects, plants and abstracts.

The class of animate nouns is further divided into masculine and common nouns. The distinction is based on natural gender, so that all male humans, deities and spirits are masculine, as are male animals where the sex is known. All other animate nouns are common. Masculine nouns are generally marked forms, with a base form usually ending in l or k. Thus, ker means "ruler; queen" and is common, but keril means "lord, king" and is masculine.

Summary of Noun Classes
Animate Common Female humans, deities and spirits; female animals and those with unspecified gender
Masculine Male humans, deities and spirits; specifically male animals
Inanimate All plants and non-living objects; abstracts


Nouns are declined according to eight cases:

  • Absolutive denotes the patient of a verb, either the direct object of a transitive verb or the subject of certain intransitive verbs.
  • Ergative denotes the agent of the verb, either the subject of a transitive or certain intransitive verbs.
  • Dative denotes the indirect object of a verb and describes motion towards.
  • Genitive denotes the possessor of an object.
  • Ablative denotes motion away from.
  • Instrumental denotes use of.
  • Locative denotes location in, at or on.
  • Comitative denotes location with or beside.


There are two numbers: singular and plural.


Animate Common: vocalic stem (negu "woman")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - negu -wa neguwa
Ergative -s negus -ns neguns
Dative -yep neguyep -nep negunep
Genitive -y neguy -ni neguni
Ablative -ta neguta -nta negunta
Instrumental -ra negura -rra negurra
Locative -yen neguyen -nen negunen
Comitative -kun negukun -nkun negunkun
Animate Common: consonantal stem (ker "ruler")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - ker -wa kerwa
Ergative -s kers -ns kerəns
Dative -ep kerep -nep kernep
Genitive -i keri -ni kerni
Ablative -ta kerta -nta kerənta
Instrumental -ra kerra -rra kerərra
Locative -en keren -nen kernen
Comitative -kun kerkun -nkun kerənkun
Animate Masculine (keril "lord, king")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - keril -wa kerilwa
Ergative -s kerils -ns keriləns
Dative -ep kerilep -nep kerilnep
Genitive -i kerili -ni kerilni
Ablative -ta kerilta -nta kerilənta
Instrumental -ra kerilra -rra kerilərra
Locative -en kerilen -nen kerilnen
Comitative -kun kerilkun -nkun kerilənkun
Inanimate: vocalic stem (keril "lord, king")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - keril -wa kerilwa
Ergative -s kerils -ns keriləns
Dative -ep kerilep -nep kerilnep
Genitive -i kerili -ni kerilni
Ablative -ta kerilta -nta kerilənta
Instrumental -ra kerilra -rra kerilərra
Locative -en kerilen -nen kerilnen
Comitative -kun kerilkun -nkun kerilənkun


Verb forms in Rathmosian are largely agglutinative and the verbal system could be described as active-stative, in which verbs are marked differently according to the degree of agency the subject has. Verbal stems are divided into five classes, according to agency, transitivity and activity. Verb roots may change internally to indicate certain aspects, and derivational prefixes and suffixes may be added to the root to alter its basic meaning. However, the conjugation of the verb is largely carried out with suffixes to indicate aspect, voice, subject and object. The order of elements is fixed in the following ways:

Elements of the Verb
ROOT Derivational

Verbal Classes

Rathmosian verb roots are divided into five classes (I-V) according to whether they are active or stative, and how much agency the subject has. These classes affect the way in which the aspect and voice markers are used.

  • Class I verbs are intransitives in which the subject of the verb is not the agent, and which describe fixed or ongoing states, usually translated into English with 'be' and an adjective, e.g. dreh- "be red", rin- "be alive, live".
  • Class II verbs are intransitives in which the subject is not the agent and which describe a change of state, e.g. mlak- "die", tum- "fall".
  • Class III verbs are intransitives in which the subject is not the agent, and which describe a temporary state or an uncontrolled action, e.g. fal- "sleep", kled- "stand".
  • Class IV verbs are intransitives in which the subject is the active agent of the verb, e.g. yur- "run", met- "speak".
  • Class V verbs are transitives.

Some roots may belong to more than one class with a change of meaning, e.g. yur- "run" may be Class IV when the subject is an animate noun and the sense is "propel oneself quickly" but is Class III when the subject is inanimate and the sense is "flow, move quickly".


Verbal aspect is marked by altering the form of the root itself or by adding suffixes to the primary root:

  • The primary root is considered to be generic or gnomic in aspect, describing states or actions without regard to their state of completeness, e.g. ker- "rule", mlak- "be dead"
  • The lengthened root is imperfective, describing ongoing actions, e.g. keer- "rules, ruling".
  • The reduplicated root is perfective, describing completed actions, e.g. keker- "ruled"
  • The addition of -n- to the root creates the inchoative aspect, describing the beginning of actions or 'becoming' a state, e.g. kern- "begin to rule", mlagn- "die"
  • The addition of -tsat- to the root creates the frequentative aspect, describing repetitive events or habitual states, e.g. kertsat- "rules (often)", kuktsat- "eats often, grazes", plustsat- "often be sick".
  • The addition of -t- to the root creates the intensitive aspect, describing more severe forms of the action or state, the latter equivalent to "very ...", e.g. kert- "tyrannise, subjugate", plust- "be very sick".


Voice markers function in different ways for different verbs. They are distinguished primarily for the ways in which they focus the subject or object of the verb.

  • Patient focus is marked with -a- and is mainly used with intransitive verbs in which the subject is the patient of the verb (i.e. Classes I-III), e.g. dreha- "be red", tuma- "fall". Used with semantically transitive verbs of Class V, it is effectively a passive marker e.g. keyka- "is seen". The subject of patient focus verb is in the Abs. case and there can be no direct object.
  • Dual focus is marked with -i- and is used only with Class V (transitive) verbs in which both the subject and direct object are stated, e.g. keri- "rule". The subject of the verb is in the ergative case and the direct object in the absolutive.
  • Agent focus verbs are marked with -u- and are used with Class IV and V verbs, where the subject is the agent of the verb, but where no direct object is stated e.g. kuku- "eat", yuru- "run". The subject is in the ergative case for both transitive and intransitive verbs.
  • Medial verbs are marked with -e- and are used with Class V transitive verbs when the agent and the patient refer to the same entity, creating a reciprocal or reflexive meaning, e.g. sape- "wash oneself". The subject here is in the ergative case.
  • Causative verbs are marked with -im-, which is added to intransitive verbs (Class I-IV) to create a transitive, or to transitive (Class V) verbs to make a ditransitive, e.g. mlak- "die" > mlakim- "kill", keyk- "see" > keykim- "show, explain". The subject ('causer') of the verb is always in the ergative. The subject of an originally intransitive verb or the direct object of an originally transitive verb remains in the absolutive case. The subject of an originally transitive verb is demoted to the dative.
  • Patient Causative verbs take -am- and are used to describe an action or state which is assumed to be caused, but without reference to the 'causer', creating a passive causative, e.g. keyk- "see" > keykam- "is made to see, understands", mlak- "die" > mlakam- "is killed"
  • Autocausative verbs take -em and create a causative in which the agent causes the action to itself, e.g. mlakem- "kill oneself".

Subject and Object Markers

The absolutive markers agree with the subject of a intransitive verb or the direct object of an transitive verb. The 3rd person may be animate or inanimate.

Absolutive Markers
Singular Plural
1 -n -l
2 -ts -h
3an -d -w
3in -b -r

Where the previous element ends in a consonant, the epenthetic vowel ə may be inserted, e.g. mumubnaməd "he was saddened",

The ergative markers agree with the subject of a transitive verb. Since inanimate nouns cannot be the agent of a verb, by definintion, there are no inanimate ergative markers.

Ergative Markers
Singular Plural
1 -u -an
2 -isk -enk
3an -et -af


  • reeykinu "I love you"
  • kekeykiran "we saw them"
  • faalad "they are sleeping"
  • yuyurut "he/she ran"