Arjâm Vâks

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Arjâm Vâks ("speech of the Aryâsas") or Sanvâks ("old speech") is an imagined name given to a language constructed by the notable Indo-Europeanist August Schleicher (1821-1868), which is most notable as the original language of the fable Avis Akvâsas ka ("The Sheep and the Horses").

Some justification must be made at the outset for including this language in an encyclopedia of constructed languages. It must be admitted that Schleicher had no intention of creating an artificial language; to the contrary, he believed that he was scientifically reconstructing the original Indo-European languages, ancestral to the languages on which his reconstruction was based. These were Sanskrit, Avestan ("Old Bactrian," in Schleicher's terminology), Greek, Latin, Oscan, Umbrian, Old Irish, Old Church Slavonic (Old Bulgarian in Schleicher's terminology), Lithuanian, and Gothic. It will be observed that of the ten Indo-European branches for which records survive, only six are represented (Indo-Iranian, Hellenic, Italic, Celtic, Balto-Slavic, and Germanic). Hittite and Tocharian were entirely unknown to Schleicher. I am not sure why Armenian and Albanian were not considered; perhaps at the time their positions within the Indo-European family, and their distinctive characteristics, were too poorly known.

At any rate, it was not a deficiency of data that would render Schleicher's reconstruction utterly obsolete within a few decades of his death (the fatal blow would be dealt by the publication of Karl Brugmann's Grundriß, starting in 1886). It was, if anything, a deficiency of method. For Schleicher, though a keen observer and a systematizer of data, was much less scientific than he believed himself to be. His vision of an early Indo-European language, which took very definite form in his mind, reflected a belief that such a language must be phonologically far more simple than its descendant languages, and while morphologically complex, also much more regular than its descendant languages.

There were valid grounds for both beliefs, since some languages do gain phonological complexity and morphological irregularity over time; however, Schleicher may not have sufficiently considered examples in which the reverse is true. At any rate, current analyses of Proto-Indo-European show a language that is far more phonologically complex than Schleicher ever guessed, and one in which a great deal of morphological irregularity is present ab initio.

Schleicher's pursuit of an Indo-European ancestral language which fit his preconceptions required him to make many choices: which sounds to consider as subject to specific sound-laws, which to allow to be subject to random variation; which morphological variations to consider as original, and which to be regarded as falling away from an original symmetry of structure. In making these choices he was in part guided by adherence to the notion that Sanskrit and Avestan represented the most primitive recorded Indo-European languages; but he was even more guided by a very personal sense of linguistic æsthetics and elegance.

It is the manifestation of this sense which ultimately makes Schleicher's language more than just an erroneous byway on the path to a more strictly scientific reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European. It is, rather, an artistic endeavor, which is all the more remarkable for never being intended as such, and never perceived as such by its author.

Note on the name of the language

The name Arjâm Vâks appears nowhere in Schleicher's writings, though it is consistent in structure with his ideas about the language, which he simply called die indogermanische ursprache (the original Indo-European language). The use of the word Arya (Arja in Schleicher's spelling) as a name for a unified Indo-European people was popularized by Friedrich Max Müller. Schleicher himself may not have agreed with Müller's conclusions, as he uses the words arier and arisch solely in the sense of "Indo-Iranian"; nonetheless, no plausible alternative presents itself, and the name is very characteristic of the time period in which Schleicher created his language. The dismal racial baggage with which the name would ultimately be saddled did not arise until decades after Schleicher's death.


Schleicher envisaged a very simple phonology for his language, with a small number of consonants and vowels. In his analysis of vowels he was largely guided by the structure of Proto-Indo-Iranian; for consonants he postulated an even simpler system, perhaps suggested by Greek.


Schleicher's vowels show contrasts in height (±high) and backness (±back). There are also two series of short and long diphthongs based on the short vowels; a lengthened a is treated as a diphthong. The long a is written <â> in Schleicher's Compendium, and that usage is followed here, but it is <ā> in the first printing of Schleicher's fable.

There are three simple vowels, /i/ (+high, -back), /a/ (-high, +back), and /u/ (+high, +back), from which the short and long diphthongs are derived in two ascending grades, comparable to Sanskrit's guṇa and vṛddhi grades.

Simple vowel First grade Second grade
i ai âi
a aa = â âa = â
u au âu


Bilabial Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar
Nasal Stop m n
Voiceless stop p t k
Voiced unaspirated stop b d g
Voiced aspirated stop bʱ <bh> dʱ <dh> ɡʱ <gh>
Fricative s
Approximant w <v> ɻ <r> j

Historical phonology

In terms of its phonology, Arjâm Vâks can be considered a descendant of Proto-Indo-European marked by the following sound changes:


PIE *e, *a, *o > AV a.
PIE *o > AV â in certain contexts.
PIE *ē, *ā, *ō > AV â.
PIE *i, *ī > AV i.
PIE *u, *ū > AV u.
PIE *ey, *ay, *oy > AV ai.
PIE *oy > AV âi in certain contexts.
PIE *ew, *aw, *ow > AV au.
PIE *ow > AV âu in certain contexts.
PIE *ēy, *āy, *ōy > AV âi.
PIE *ēw, *āw, *ōw > AV âu.
PIE *ṛ, *ḷ > AV ar.
PIE *ḱṛd > AV kard, PIE *gʷṛrus > AV garus.


PIE *ḱ, *k, *kʷ > AV k.
PIE *wḷkʷos > AV varkas.
PIE *ǵ, *g, *gʷ > AV g.
PIE *ǵh, *gh, *gʷh > AV gh.
PIE *l > AV r.
All PIE laryngeals are lost, with compensatory lengthening of a preceding *a, *e, or *o, but otherwise without trace.



Personal pronouns

The personal pronouns are found in 1st person, 2nd person, and reflexive forms. (3rd person pronouns are supplied by demonstratives.) They are inflected in all cases except the vocative; the nominative is also lacking in the reflexive.

agam "I"
tuam "you"
svam "oneself"
Singular Dual Plural
1st person 2nd person Reflexive 1st person 2nd person Reflexive 1st person 2nd person Reflexive
Nom agam tuam - masmas [1] tvasmas [2] svasmas
Acc mam tvam svam masmams tvasmams svasmams
Dat mabhjam tubhjam svabhjam masmaibhjam tvasmaibhjam svasmaibhjam
Abl mat, mamat tvat svat
Gen mas, mamas tvas, tvatvas svas, svasvas
Loc mai tvai svai masmasva tvasmasva svasmasva

Demonstrative pronouns

Masculine and Neuter

Singular Dual Plural
mas. neu. mas. neu. mas. neu.
Nom sa tat tâs tai tai
Acc tam tams
Inst tâ, tabhi tabhjâms tabhis
Dat tasmâi taibhjams?
Abl tasmât
Gen tasja tajaus taisâm(s)?
Loc tasmin? taisva(s)?


Nouns are declined for number (singular, dual, and plural and for case (nominative, accusative, ablative, genitive, locative, dative, two forms of instrumental, and vocative). They fall into several types:

Consonant stems

Masculine and feminine
vâk- f.
"voice, speech"
Singular Dual Plural
Voc vâk vâkâs vâkas
Nom vâks
Acc vâkam vâkams
Inst vâkâ, vâkbhi vâkbhjâms vâkbhis
Dat vâkai vâkbhjams
Abl vâkat
Gen vâkas vâkaus vâkâm
Loc vâki vâksva
manas- n.
"thought, mind"
Singular Dual Plural
Voc manas ? manasâ
Inst manasâ, manasbhi manasbhjâms manasbhis
Dat manasai manasbhjams
Abl manasat
Gen manasas manasaus manasâm
Loc manasi manassva
bharant- a.
Singular Dual Plural
m.f. n. m.f. n. m.f. n.
Voc bharant bharant bharantâs ? bharantas bharantâ
Nom bharants
Acc bharantam bharantams
Inst bharantâ, bharantbhi bharantbhjâms bharantbhis
Dat bharantai bharantbhjams
Abl bharantat
Gen bharantas bharantaus bharantâm
Loc bharanti bharantsva

i- and u-stems

avis "sheep"
sunus "son"
Singular Dual Plural
i- u- i- u- i- u-
Voc avi (1868 avai) sunu avijâs sunuvâs avajas sunavas
Nom avis sunus
Acc avim sunum avims sunums
Inst avjâ, avibhi sunvâ, sunibhi avibhjâms sunubhjâms avibhis sunubhis
Dat avajai sunavai avibhjams sunubhjams
Abl avajat sunavat
Gen avajas sunavas avjaus sunvaus avjâm sunvâm
Loc avaji sunavi avisva sunusva


Primary endings
Active Mediopassive
sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st -mi -mas -mai -madhai
2nd -si -tasi -sai -sdhvai
3rd -ti -anti -tai -antai

Athematic verbs

as- "be"
Primary endings
Present Active
sg. pl.
1st asmi asmas
2nd assi astasi
3rd asti asanti
Conjunctive sg. pl.
1st asâmi asâmasi
2nd asasi asatasi
3rd asati asanti
Future sg. pl.
1st assjâmi assjâmasi
2nd assjasi assjatasi
3rd assjati assjanti
Secondary Endings
Imperfect sg. pl.
1st âsm âsmas
2nd âss âstas
3rd âst âsant
Optative sg. pl.
1st asjâm asjâmas
2nd asjâs asjâtas
3rd asjât asjânt
Optative Perfect sg. pl.
1st âsjâm âsjâmas
2nd âsjâs âsjâtas
3rd âsjât âsjânt
Imperative sg. pl.
2nd asdhi astat
3rd ? ?
Perfect sg. pl.
1st âsa âsmasi
2nd âsta âstasi
3rd âsa âsanti
da- "give"
Primary endings
Present Active Mediopassive
sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st dadâmi dadamasi dadamai dadamadhai
2nd dadâsi dadatasi dadasai dadasdhvai
3rd dadâti dadanti dadatai dadantai
Conjunctive sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st dadâmi dadâmasi dadâmai dadâmadhai
2nd dadâsi dadâtasi dadâsai dadâsdhvai
3rd dadâti dadânti dadâtai dadântai
Future sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st dâsjâmi dâsjâmasi dâsjâmai dâsjâmadhai
2nd dâsjasi dâsjatasi dâsjasai dâsjasdhvai
3rd dâsjati dâsjanti dâsjatai dâsjantai
Secondary Endings
Imperfect sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st adadâm adadamas adadama adadamadha
2nd adadâs adadatas adadasa adadasdhva
3rd adadât adadant adadata adadanta
Optative sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st dadajâm dadajâmas dadajâma dadajâmadha
2nd dadajâs dadajâtas dadajâsa dadajâsdhva
3rd dadajât dadajânt dadajâta dadajânta
Optative Perfect sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st dadâjâm dadâjâmas dadâjâma dadâjâmadha
2nd dadâjâs dadâjâtas dadâjâsa dadâjâsdhva
3rd dadâjât dadâjânt dadâjâta dadâjânta
Aorist sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st adâm adamas adama adamadha
2nd adâs adatas adasa adasdhva
3rd adât adant adata adanta
Imperative sg. pl. sg. pl.
2nd dadadhi dadatat dadasva dadasdhva
3rd ? ? ? dadantâm
Perfect sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st dadâ dadamasi dadamai dadamadhai
2nd dadâta dadatasi dadasai dadasdhvai
3rd dadâ dadanti dadatai dadantai

Thematic verbs

bhar- "carry, bear"
Primary endings
Present Active Mediopassive
sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st bharâmi bharâmasi bharâmai bharâmadhai
2nd bharasi bharatasi bharasai bharasdhvai
3rd bharati bharanti bharatai bharantai
Conjunctive sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st bharâmi bharâmasi bharâmai bharâmadhai
2nd bharâsi bharâtasi bharâsai bharâsdhvai
3rd bharâti bharânti bharâtai bharântai
Future sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st bharsjâmi bharsjâmasi bharsjâmai bharsjâmadhai
2nd bharsjasi bharsjatasi bharsjasai bharsjasdhvai
3rd bharsjati bharsjanti bharsjatai bharsjantai
Secondary Endings
Imperfect sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st abharam abharâmas abharama abharâmadha
2nd abharas abharatas abharasa abharasdhva
3rd abharat abharant abharata abharanta
Optative sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st bharaim bharaimas bharaima bharaimadha
2nd bharais bharaitas bharaisa bharaisdhva
3rd bharait bharaint bharaita bharainta
Optative Perfect sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st babhârjâm babhârjâmas babhârjâma babhârjâmadha
2nd babhârjâs babhârjâtas babhârjâsa babhârjâsdhva
3rd babhârjât babhârjânt babhârjâta babhârjânta
Aorist sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st abharsm abharsmas abharsma abharsmadha
2nd abharss abharstas abharssa abharssdhva
3rd abharst abharsant abharsta abharsanta
Imperative sg. pl. sg. pl.
2nd bharadhi bharatat bharasva bharasdhva
3rd ? ? ? bharantâm
Perfect sg. pl. sg. pl.
1st babhâra babharmasi babharmai babharmadhai
2nd babhârta babhartasi babharsai babharsdhvai
3rd babhâra babharanti babhartai babharantai



1. aina 2. dva 3. tri (f. tisar-) 4. katvar 5. kankan 6. saks (?) 7. saptan 8. akta, aktan 9. navan 10. dakan 11. ainam dakan 12. dvâ dakan 13. trajas dakan 14. katvar dakan 15. kankan dakan 16. saks dakan 17. saptan dakan 18. akta dakan 19. navan dakan 100 kantam[3]


1st. prama 2nd. dvitja (?) 3rd. tritja 4th. katvarta 5th. kankanta, kankta 6th. saksta (?) 7th. saptama/saptata 8th. aktama 9th. navama/navanta 10. dakama/dakanta


The only extant text in Schleicher's language, thus far, is his own composition of The Sheep and the Horses, which follows:

Avis akvâsas ka.
Avi-s akva-asas ka
Sheep-NOM.SG horse-NOM.PL and
"The sheep and the horses."
Avis, jasmin varnâ na â ast,
Avi-s, ja-smin varn-â na â as-t,
"A sheep, on whom there was no wool,"
dadarka akvams,
da~dark-a akva-ms,
PRF~see-3.SG.ACT horse-ACC.PL,
"saw horses,"
tam, vâgham garum vaghantam,
ta-m, vâgha-m garu-m vagh-ant-am,
DEM-ACC.SG.M, vehicle-ACC.SG heavy-ACC.SG.M pull-PTCP.PRS-ACC.SG
"that one, pulling a heavy vehicle"
tam, bhâram magham, tam, manum âku bharantam.
ta-m, bhâra-m magha-m, ta-m, manu-m âku-Ø bhar-ant-am.
DEM-ACC.SG.M, burden-ACC.SG great ACC.SG.M, DEM-ACC.SG.M, man-ACC.SG swift-ACC.SG.N carry-PTCP.PRS-ACC.SG
"that one, [pulling] a great burden; that one, swiftly carrying a man."
Avis akvabhjams â vavakat:
avi-s akva-bhjams â va~vaka-t
sheep-NOM.SG horse-DAT.PL. PST AOR~say-3.SG.ACT
"the sheep said to the horses"
kard aghnutai mai vidanti manum akvams agantam.
kard-Ø agh-nu-tai ma-i vid-ant-i manu-m akva-ms ag-ant-am.
heart-NOM.SG grieve-NU-3.SG.PRS.MED 1.SG-LOC see-PTCP.PRS.-LOC.SG man-ACC.SG horse-ACC.PL drive-PTCP.PRS-ACC.SG
"[my] heart grieves in me seeing a man driving horses."
Akvâsas â vavakant:
akva-asas â va~vak-ant
horse-NOM.PL PST AOR~say-3.PL.ACT
"The horses said:"
krudhi avai, kard aghnutai vividvant-svas:
kru-dhi av-ai, kard-Ø agh-nu-tai vi~vid-vant-svas:
hear-2.SG.IMP sheep-VOC.SG heart-NOM.SG grieve-NU-3.SG.PRS.MED PF~know-PTCP-LOC.PL
"listen, O sheep, [our] heart grieves in [us] having known:"
manus patis varnâm avisâms karnauti
manu-s pati-s varnâ-m avi-sâms kar-nau-ti
man-NOM.SG master-NOM.SG wool-ACC.SG sheep-GEN.PL make-NU-3.SG.PRS.ACT
"Man, the master, makes the wool of sheep"
svabhjam gharmam vastram
sva-bhjam gharma-m vastra-m
REFL-DAT.SG warm-ACC.SG.N garment-ACC.SG
"for himself [into] a warm garment"
avibhjams ka varnâ na asti.
avi-bhjams ka varn-â na as-ti
sheep-DAT.PL and wool-NOM.SG NEG be-3.SG.PRS.ACT
"and for the sheep there is no wool."
Tat kukruvants avis agram â bhugat.
Ta-t ku~kru-vant-s avi-s agra-m â bhug-a-t
"having heard that, the sheep was fleeing to the field."

Glossary to the fable

  • â augment prefixed to verbs indicating past tense (PIE *e)
  • √ag- v. drive, force to go (PIE *H₂eǵ-)
  • agam 1st person singular pronoun I, locative mai (PIE *eǵóH, *eǵHóm)
  • √agh- v. be grieved, mourn (PIE *H₂egh-)
  • agras n. field (PIE *H₂éǵros)
  • âku- a. swift (as av., swiftly) (PIE *eH₃ḱú-)
  • akvas n.m. horse (PIE *éḱwos)
  • √as- v. be (PIE *H₁es-)
  • avis n.m.f. sheep (PIE *H₃éwis)
  • √bhar- v. carry (PIE *bher-)
  • bhâras n.m. burden (PIE *bhorós)
  • √bhug- v. bend; run away, escape (PIE *bhewg-)
  • √dark- v. see (PIE *derḱ-)
  • garu a. heavy (PIE *gʷṛrú-)
  • gharma a. warm (PIE *gʷhṛmó-)
  • jas, jâ, jat rel. pron. which (PIE *yos, *yeH₂, *yod)
  • ka cj. and (suffixed to the word to be joined) (PIE *kʷe)
  • √kar- v. make, do (PIE *kʷer-)
  • kard n.n. heart (PIE *ḱēr, *ḱerd-)
  • √kru- v. hear, listen (PIE *ḱlew-)
  • magha a. great (PIE *meǵH₂-)
  • manus n.m. man (PIE *mánus)
  • na av. not (PIE *ne)
  • patis n.m. lord (PIE *pótis)
  • sa, sâ, tat dem. pron. that (PIE *so, *seH₂, *tod)
  • sva a. (his, her, its, their own) (PIE *se-)
  • √vagh- v. move, pull, carry (PIE *weǵh-)
  • vâghas n.m. vehicle (PIE *woǵhós)
  • √vak- v. say (PIE *wekʷ-)
  • vastram n.n. garment, clothing (PIE *wéstrom)
  • √vid- v. know (PIE *weid-)


Schleicher, August, Eine fabel in indogermanischer ursprache, Beiträge zur vergleichenden Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete der arischen, celtischen und slawischen Sprachen, 5. Bd., 2. H. (1868), pp. 206-208


  1. ^ From masmajas < masmaisas or masmâsas
  2. ^ From tvasmajas < tvasmaisas or tvasmâsas
  3. ^ From *dakandakanta