Antarctican

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Antarctican is the most widely spoken language on the continent of Antarctica in the far future, at a time when runaway global warming has melted the icecaps and rendered most of the rest of the word uninhabitable. It evolved from Proto-Antarctican, which in turn evolved from a mixture of a wide variety of modern-day languages, among them English, Spanish, Japanese and many East Asian languages.

It has a complex phonology and morphophonology, especially in the vowel system. There are a lot of features not found in English e.g. a pitch-register system, phonemic vowel length, prestopped nasals, and ejective consonants. However in other ways the phonology is quite simple compared to English, with a very limited range of syllable shapes.

The morphosyntactic alignment is split ergative (as is the syntax), with noun suffixes following an ergative-absolutive system, but person marking on verbs following a nominative-accusative system. Nouns also inflect for alienable and inalienable possession, and they can undergo some quite complex stem changes. There is no real marking of plurality of nouns.

In the verbal morphology, transitivity is clearly marked. Verbs also inflect for person and voice. Tense and aspect are much less important.

The syntax is head-initial, and adjectives are not distinguished from verbs.

Phonology

Vowels

The pronunciation of each phoneme is listed in the tables below, preceded by its romanisation.

There are 11 monophthongs:

Antarctican monophthongs
Front Central Back
Close i /i/ ue /ɨ/ u /u/
Close-mid e /e/ oe /ɘ/ o /o/
Open-mid ae /ɛ/ ao /ɜ/ õ /ɔ/
Open a /a/ ã /ɒ/


And there are 16 diphthongs. 8 of these end in [j], and another 8 end in [w]:

Diphthongs ending in /j/
Front Central Back
Close uey /ɨj/ uy /uj/
Close-mid ey /ej/ oey /ɘi/ oy /oj/
Open-mid aey /ɛj/ aoy /ɜj/
Open ay /aj/
Diphthongs ending in /w/
Front Central Back
Close uew /ɨw/
Close-mid ew /ew/ oew /ɘu/ ow /ou/
Open-mid aew /ɛw/ aow /ɜw/ õw /ɔw/
Open aw /aw/


Vowel length

Vowel length is phonemic, on both monophthongs and diphthongs e.g.


  • kow /kou/ - something absorbed in something else, absolutive
  • koow /koːu/ - a frozen object, absolutive


Vowel Phonation

Antarctican also has a pitch register system (like Burmese and Vietnamese). Modal, tense or breathy voice can occur on either short or long vowels. Vowels with tense voice (marked with a small pharyngeal stop after the syllable e.g. /aˤ/) are pronounced with a high or rising pitch, and vowels with breathy voice (marked with a small voiced /h/ after the syllable e.g. /aʱ/) are pronounced with a low or falling pitch. This distinction is phonemic e.g.


  • kow /kou/ - something absorbed in something else, absolutive
  • ków /kouˤ/ - bigot, absolutive


Tense voice cannot occur on high vowels /i/, /ɨ/, /u/, nor on diphthongs beginning with these vowels. Breathy voice cannot occur on low vowels /a/, /ɒ/, nor on diphthongs beginning with these vowels.

The vowel õ /ɔ/ cannot take breathy voice, and when it takes tense voice, it is marked with a circumflex accent i.e. ô.


Floating Phonation

Similar to floating tones in Bantu languages (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floating_tone), the beginnings of words in Antarctican can have floating phonation (unmarked for modal phonation, written with ' before the word for tense phonation, and ` before the word for breathy phonation). As an example, the following words are pronounced identically when not inflected:


ká /kaˤ/ - coconut milk, absolutive

'ká /ˤkaˤ/ - fence, absolutive


However, when they take the prefix wa- (3rd person topicalised possessive), they are different:


waká /wakaˤ/ - his / her coconut milk, absolutive

'wáká /ˤwaˤkaˤ/ - his / her fence, absolutive


Words beginning with a glottal stop only ever have modal floating phonation e.g.

ámáelái /ʔaˤmɛˤlaiˤ/ - prey, absolutive

wa-ámáelái /waʔaˤmɛˤlaiˤ/ - his / her prey, absolutive (never wá-ámáelái)


Vowel Mutation

When a process such as the above changes the phonation of a vowel, often its quality changes as well. E.g. the possessive prefix for inclusive "we" is yew- /jeu/, however, when it acquires tense voice, it becomes 'yáew- /ˤjɛuˤ/ e.g.


yewká /jeukaˤ/ - our (including you) coconut milk, absolutive

'yáewká /ˤjɛuˤkaˤ/ - our (including you) fence, absolutive


Also, the quality of a modally voiced vowel sometimes changes if the next vowel also has modal voice (this also depends on whether the intervening consonant is voice or voiceless). In the case of the prefix yew- /jeu/, this changes to yoew- /jɘu/ if the intervening consonant is voiceless (other than a glottal stop) e.g.


tõn /tɔɴ/ - change (as in coins, money), absolutive

yoewtõn /jɘutɔɴ/ - our (including you) change, absolutive


These changes are given in the table below:


Tense voice Breathy voice Modal, normal Modal, before a voiced consonant followed by another modal vowel Modal, before a voiceless consonant followed by another modal vowel
éy /eiˤ/ ùe /ɨʱ/ i /i/ i /i/ ue /ɨ/
óey /ɘiˤ/ ùey /ɨʱ/ ii /iː/ ii /iː/ uue /ɨː/
áe ~ áae /ɛ(ː)ˤ/ òe ~ òoe /ɘ(ː)ʱ/ e ~ ee /e(ː)/ e ~ ee /e(ː)/ oe ~ ooe /ɘ(ː)/
á ~ áa /a(ː)ˤ/ ào ~ àao /ɜ(ː)ʱ/ a ~ aa /a(ː) a ~ aa /a(ː)/ ae ~ aae /ɛ(ː)/
ów /ouˤ/ ù /uʱ/ u /u/ o /o/ u /u/
óew /ɘuˤ/ ùew /ɨuʱ/ uu /uː/ ow /ou/ uu /uː/
áo /ɜˤ/ ò /oʱ/ õ /ɔ/ ã /ɒ/ õ /ɔ/
áey ~ áaey /ɛ(ː)iˤ/ òey ~ òoey /ɘ(ː)iʱ/ ey ~ eey /e(ː)i/ ey ~ eey /e(ː)i/ oey ~ ooey /ɘ(ː)i/
áy ~ áay /a(ː)iˤ/ àoy ~ àaoy /ɜ(ː)iʱ/ ay ~ aay /a(ː)i/ ay ~ aay /a(ː)i/ aey ~ aaey /ɛ(ː)i/
óy ~ óoy /o(ː)iˤ/ ùy ~ ùuy /u(ː)iˤ/ uy ~ uuy /u(ː)i/ oy ~ ooy /o(ː)i/ uy ~ uuy /u(ː)i/
áew ~ áaew /ɛ(ː)uˤ/ òew ~ òoew /ɘ(ː)uʱ/ ew ~ eew /e(ː)u/ ew ~ eew /e(ː)u/ oew ~ ooew /ɘ(ː)u/
áw ~ áaw /a(ː)uˤ/ àow ~ àaow /ɜ(ː)uʱ/ aw ~ aaw /a(ː)u/ aw ~ aaw /a(ː)u/ aew ~ aaew /ɛ(ː)u/
ôw ~ ôow /ɔ(ː)wˤ/ òw ~ òow /o(ː)uʱ/ ow ~ oow /o(ː)u/ õw ~ õow /ɔ(ː)u/ ow ~ oow /o(ː)u/

Phonation Restrictions

However, not every vowel can have every kind of phonation e.g. tense voice cannot occur on high vowels /i/, /ɨ/, /u/, nor on diphthongs beginning with these vowels. Similarly, breathy voice cannot occur on low vowels /a/, /ɒ/, nor on front vowels, nor on diphthongs beginning with these vowels. The permissible combinations of vowel quality and phonation are listed in detail here (Antarctican/Phonation restrictions):

Consonants

The pronunciation of each phoneme is listed in the table below, followed by its romanisation in brackets.

Antarctican consonants
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar / Uvular Glottal / Placeless
plain palatalised central lateral
Nasals plain m /m/ my /mʲ/ n /n/ ny /ɲ/ ng /ŋ/ n /ɴ/
pre-stopped pm /pm/ pmy /pmʲ/ tn /tn/ cn /cɲ/ kn /kŋ/


Stops/Affricates ejective pq /p'/ pqy /p'ʲ/ tq /t'/ tql /tɬ'/ cqh /c' ~ tɕ'/ kq /k'/
voiceless p /p/ py /pʲ/ t /t/ tl /tɬ/ ch /c ~ tɕ/ k /k/ - /ʔ/
voiced b /b/ by /bʲ/ d /d/ dl /dɮ/ j /ɟ ~ dʑ/ g /g/
Fricatives voiceless f /f/ fy /fʲ/ s /s/ hl /ɬ/ sh /ç ~ ɕ/ h /χ ~ x/
voiced z /z/
Approximant w /w/ v /ɥ/ l /l ~ ɹ ~ ʎ/ y /j/ r /ʁ ~ ʀ/


  • Consonants separated with a tilde (~) are not separate phonemes but are either allophones or in free variation e.g. /ɟ ~ dʑ/ indicates that there is a single phoneme that can either be pronounced [ɟ] or [dʑ]. The most common pronunciation is always listed first.
  • The glottal stop is unmarked word initially (since all words must begin with consonants), and is marked by a hyphen elsewhere.
  • Prestopped nasals e.g. /tn/, /pm/ etc., pattern as voiceless and as nasals (and thus sonorants) in terms of the phonology. They are only found between syllables with modal vowel phonation (or modal voice floating phonation if at the beginning of a word).
  • The placeless nasal /ɴ/ is only found at the end of syllables. Before a glottal stop or at the end of a phrase, it nasalises the preceding vowel. Otherwise it assimilates to the same place of articulation as the following consonant e.g. it becomes [n] before /d/, [m] before /b/ etc.
  • Voiced obstruents (stops, fricatives and affricates) are only found in four cases.
  1. Separating two syllables with modal voice (or a modal voice floating phonation if at the start of a word).
  2. After a syllable containing breathy phonation (or a breathy voice floating phonation if at the start of a word) and before a syllable containing modal phonation.
  3. Separating two syllables with breathy voice (or a breathy voice floating phonation if at the start of a word). In this case they are pronounced with breathy voice, like the murmured/voiced aspirated consonants of many Indian languages.
  4. /z/ can also be found before vowels with tense voice.
  • Fricatives other than /s/ and /z/ (spirant / non-sibilant fricatives) are only found separating two syllables with modal voice (or modal voice floating phonation if at the beginning of a word), or separating two syllables with tense voice (or tense voice floating phonation if at the beginning of a word).
  • Ejectives are only ever found separating two syllables with tense voice (or tense voice floating phonation if at the beginning of a word).
  • The velar nasals /kŋ/ and /ŋ/ never occur at the beginning of words.
  • The alveolar stops /t/ and /d/, and the velar fricative /χ/ are never found before /i/ and /ɨ/ (with any phonation), nor before tense voice /eˤ/ and /ɘˤ/, nor before diphthongs starting with these.
  • The phoneme /l/ is pronounced as a palatal lateral [ʎ] before a high vowel, [ɹ] before a vowel with tense voice (high vowels cannot have tense voice), and [l] elsewhere.
  • Unpalatalised labial consonants can be velarised or doubly-articulated consonants (e.g. /p/ can be pronounced as [pˠ] or [kp]). This is especially the case with /w/ and before front vowels).


Consonant Harmony

Consonants in Antarctican can be grouped into two sets, soft and hard. Many affixes have two alternate forms, one with a soft consonant and one with a hard. When they attach to a word that begins with a soft consonant, the form of the affix with the soft consonant is used. If the word begins with a hard consonant, the form of the affix with the hard consonant is used. The soft consonants are the palatal consonants, the palatalized labial consonants, and the lateral consonants. All the other consonants are hard.

For example, the antipassive voice is formed by an infix that comes after the first consonant of a word. For words that begin with a hard consonant, the infix is am /am/ (which contains a hard consonant) e.g.

  • zuutlòeji /zuːtɬɘʱɟi/ - to know (a person), indirect
  • zamuutlòeji /zamuːtɬɘʱɟi/ - to know (a person), indirect, antipassive

However, if the word begins with a soft consonant, the infix is emy /emʲ/ e.g.

  • pyi-uu /pʲiʔuː/ - to purify, indirect
  • pyemyi-uu /pʲemʲiʔuː/ - to purify, indirect, antipassive
  • hli-õ /ɬiʔɔ/ - to perform, indirect
  • hlemyi-õ /ɬemʲiʔɔ/ - to perform, indirect, antipassive (not *(hlemi-õ) /ɬmiʔɔ/)

Phonotactics

Syllable structures are extremely limited, with only shapes being CV and CVɴ.


Distribution and Dialects

Antarctican is spoken across a large continent, by a diversity of cultures. As would be expected, there is significant dialectical variation within the language. The differences are most pronounced in the vocabulary, less in the morphology, and even less in the syntax and phonology.

Most speakers of Antarctican will also be bilingual in a second language that is only spoken in their local region. Typically, Antarctican will be used in more formal situations, and the local language used with family and friends. However, it is very common for regional varieties of Antarctican to borrow words from other local languages (which will typically have many similar features to Antarctican due to the Antarctican Sprachbund).

Noun Morphology

Nouns inflect for case either through suffixation or a change of the final vowel, and possession (via prefixes). Unlike many European languages nouns do not inflect for either gender or number.

Verb / Adjective Morphology

There is no distinction between adjectives and verbs in Antarctican. Instead of attributive adjectives like “good”, “bad”, “strong”, “weak”, there are descriptive verbs meaning “to be good”, “to be bad” and so on.

Syntax

While on the surface Antarctican Syntax may look superficially similar to English (i.e. they both permit SVO sentences and place relative clauses after the noun), it is actually is quite different from English, being topic-prominent and syntactically ergative.