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Phonology and Orthography


Consonant Inventory
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n
Plosive p b t d k g
Fricative ɸ s x
Affricate ts
Trill r
Approximant w j
Lateral app. 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 subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb.
  • Ergative denotes the subject of a transitive verb.
  • 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 three numbers: singular, plural and collective, the last of which may denote a discrete group of objects or a class as a whole.


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


Verbal conjugation is agglutinative and verbs may be marked for aspect (imperfective, perfective), valency (transitive, intransitive, passive, causative), and argument (absolutive, ergative).

The primary division in verbal morphology is made between dynamic (Class I) verbs and stative (Class II) verbs. Dynamic verbs denote actions and verbs of motion while stative verbs refer to states of being and include the large class of adjectival verbs, such as dreh- "to be red", mlak- "to be dead". A verbal stem belongs primarily to one or other class, depending on its semantics but the boundaries are not inflexible.

Class I verbs are marked for aspect. The imperfective, denoting incompleted or continuous action and often understood as non-past, is marked with the infix -n- following the root. The perfective, denoting completed action and usually referring to the past, takes -t-. For example yur- "run" → yurn- "runs, running", yurt- "ran". Class II verbs are not marked for tense. As stative verbs they are understood to be imperfective and general in time. Because of the way aspect marking occurs, verbs are able to pass between classes. Class I verbs may be treated as Class II (i.e. unmarked) in order to give a gnomic sense, though this is generally restricted to poetic and proverbial usage hedər hedus "birds fly". Far more common is the use of Class II roots with Class I aspect markers to give an inchoative sense, e.g. mlak- "be dead" → mlagn- "become dead die", mlakt- "became dead, died".

The aspect markers, or the stem directly in Class II verbs, are followed by valency markers: -a- for intransitive verbs, -i- for passive verbs and -u- for transitive verbs. Class II verbs are always intransitive.

Elements of the Verb
Prefixes Root Derivation Aspect Marker Valency Marker Absolutive Ergative

The aspect markers are -n- for the imperfective and -k- for the perfective in Class I. Class II verbs are not marked for aspect.

The valency markers are -a- for intransitive verbs, -i- for antipassive verbs and -u- for transitive verbs.

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. The 1st and 2nd person forms differ depending on whether they are followed by an ergative marker.

Absolutive Markers
Singular Plural
1 -f-, -p -mf-, -mp
2 -h-, -k -nh-, -nk
3an -s- -ns-
3in -b- -w-

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 -em -ib
2 -en -ig
3an -er -id