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Ash (ảhga, lit. "seaspeak", IPA [ˈʔɑħ.qə]) is the anglicised name of a language mostly spoken around coastal areas, notably the town of Appa (ảhba). Its speakers are familiar with technological advancements such as nautical vessels and steam locomotives. They are in close linguistic and cultural contact with the neighbouring speakers of Ish. Going back many millennia the languages are in fact related through Proto-Ash-Ish but speakers were separated until recent centuries after a long history of migration among both groups.

The language is synthetic, largely based around agglutination with fusional elements. There is a great focus on verbs, nominals being mostly uninflected, and significant pro-drop tendencies and a general focus around deixis rather than pronominal distinctions. The word order is heavily SOV.



Due to the small number of underlying sounds in Ash and their high degree of allophonicity, a simple listing of phonemes according to phonotactic patterning is more suitable than a traditional consonant table and vowel trapezium.

Vocalic /a i~j u~w/
Plosive /p t k/
Affricate /t͡ɬ t͡s/
Glottal /h/
Nasal /mᵇ nᵈ ŋᵍ/

The reasoning for this rather unusual classification is down to phonotactic patterning: these five groups all behave somewhat differently and serve as a more useful distinction than point of articulation when describing the phonology of Ash. There are many allophonic realisations despite the relatively low number of underlying sounds, which is an important feature of the language that makes the variation richer on the surface. For instance, long vowels (romanised by doubling the vowel) and nasal vowels (romanised using a tilde) are not analysed as phonemic.

Additional notes:

  • The unusual poststopped nasals appear to derive from a merger of prenasalised stops and plain nasals in Proto-Ash-Ish going into Proto-Ash. This surfaces in various ways in clusters but is also articulated initially during emphasis and after pausa.
  • The bilabial trill [ʙ] occurs as a free variation allophone of /w/ in some contexts and is common in emphatic pronunciations of the declarative modal clitic yo, sometimes allophonically altered into wo and ww. It is also a common approximation when Ash speakers try to produce Ish's velarised labiodental flap [ⱱᶭ].


The romanisation strikes a balance between representing phonemes versus surface realisations and uses the following letters:

a ı e y o w b d g l s h m n ŋ

An apostrophe (ʼ, U+02BC) marks an elided vowel. Tilde (e.g. ã) is used to mark nasalisation, doubly wide (e.g. a͠a) on long vowels and diphthongs. Hook above (e.g. ) denotes a word-initial glottal. Dot above (e.g. ȧ) denotes that a short vowel in a heavy syllable is stressed where it would otherwise read as unstressed.

An example of a word with its archiphonemic, phonemic and surface transcriptions as well as romanisation:

//i.hVhˈwu.i// /hihˈwu.ji/ [çɪʍˈʍʊ͡ɪ̯ː] ẻhhoe "hungry"

Syllable structure

A cluster cannot exceed two consonants and must be of one of the following configurations:

CC Both consonants are the same
FP Fricative followed by plosive
NP Nasal followed by plosive
PN~FN Plosive or fricative followed by nasal

Prosody and stress

Prefixes are always unstressed. Following the last stressed syllable an iambic pattern of secondary stress on every other underlyingly light syllable follows unless an underlyingly heavy syllable intervenes, resetting the pattern. In addition, stressed syllables are forced to be heavy either by lengthening of the vowel or reduplication of the next syllable's onset consonant if they are not already underlyingly so.


Depending on the underlying nature of a cluster, various processes take place either on a phonemic (phoneme alternation) or on a phonetic (surface allophony) level. For example, /t/ merges with /t͡s/ on the phonemic level before /i~j/ or a plosive or an affricate as well as word-finally, but alternates with [ð] on the phonetic level between vowels.

  • A nasal or fricative geminates before a glide, assimilating to and eliding it in the process.
  • All plosives alternate phonemically with fricatives or affricates before another plosive or an affricate.
  • /h~ʔ/ is a fricative before vowels/glides and plosives but a glottal stop before nasals (as is the case for plosives) and affricates.
  • Affricates reduce to plain fricatives intervocalically, before other affricates or plosives, word-finally and before nasals (which are prestopped).
  • Sibilant palatalisation spreads in both directions through clusters; sibilants are also palatalised after /i/ in coda position.
/-j/ /-w/
//Nᴾ-// [ɲ.ɲ] [mʷ.mʷ]
//h-// [ç.ç] [ʍ.ʍ]
//t͡s-// [ɕ.ɕ] [s̠ʷ.s̠ʷ]
//t͡ɬ-// [ʎ̥.ʎ̥] [ɬʷ.ɬʷ]
//p-// /h.P/ [ħ.P]
//t-// /t͡s.P/ [s̠.P~ɕ.P]
//-P// //-P͡F// //-Nᴾ//
//h-// [ħ.P] [ʔ.P͡F] /ʔ.ᴮN/
//p-// [ʔ.ᵇm]
//t-// [ʔ.ᵈn̪~ʔ.ᶡɲ]
//k-// [ʔ.ᶢŋ]

A nasal before another nasal due to its poststopped nature results in the same kind of cluster as a plosive before a nasal but additionally nasalises the preceding vowel, even across words.


Ash does not mark words for number, person, or case. It can be analysed as having only three word classes: verbs, nominals, and converbs. Nonetheless there is a degree of mobility between them.


The bulk of all inflection goes on verbs, making them morphemic anchors fundamental to almost any utterance in the language. The general verb template is as follows:

Deixis Agency Incorp. Root Deriv. Mood Involv.


Each verb has a set of primary stems formed more or less predictably from a combination of affixes. The first stem, the stative (or active, if there is no stative) realis, is used as the lemma when citing words, such as oa "to shine", also a good example of the versatile morphophonology:

Stative Active Inchoative Terminative Intensive Causative
Realis oa












Irrealis oae












All of these terms are to an extent ad hoc. Some verbs are inherently stative or active and do not have two distinct stems. The inchoative and terminative are often used in a perfective sense as opposed to the imperfective or habitual active or stative.

Derived verbs

Derivational suffixes can be used to extend the root and create a new set of stems, such as the causative -y- or the intensive -(d)s-, which can themselves, depending on the word, be stative or active (all derived verbs are inherently one or the other or both). These are some of the words derived from oo "consume":

Basic Intensive Causative
oo odsa oyya


Nominals are mostly unmarked. A handful of inherited inalienably possessed nominals are however obligatorily marked with a prefix that disappears during incorporation into a verb. This possessive prefix n- can be preceded by a deictic prefix. Here are the possessed forms of mo͠o "head; hair", an inalienably possessed noun:

Neutral Proximal Distal
ĩbmo͠o ẽbmo͠o õbmo͠o

Any phrase can be nominalised using an unstressed determiner usually followed by a classificatory topic marker (see below). Proper nouns do not need the determiner. When marked for the locative (see also below), these can be used to connect possessum to possessor. Verbs and converbs require a nominalising particle in the form of an unstressed determiner—either the generic n or one of the deictic e and o (again see below)—which attaches directly to the classifier if present.

dodsa ŋ-go ảhhedse-s yo
I like looking at trains.


Converbs are used to denote a place, time or manner. Their formation sometimes resembles case marking or conjunctions or adverbs.

Some prominent converbialising suffixes:

Long Short Example
Locative -la, -da, -nda -s sonda "where they live; by the house; at home"
Durative -ya, -nya -h oadnah "when it gets bright; in the morning"
Benefactive -wa -o, -wı ehwa "in order to see"
Qualitative -ya -e, -yı ảyya "sea-like; blue; green"
Quantitative ~dna -na nõdna "how many; some amount"


The language lacks true pronouns and due to its pro-drop tendencies commonly avoids alternatives as well. One thing that does get marked is deixis: whether something is close to or far away from the speaker; unspecified (neutral) deixis is also possible, denoting a general fact. Deixis is simultaneously spatial and temporal, focussing on the proximity of an event to the speaker's current frame of reference.

The deictic stems are as follows:

Neutral ∅- (unmarked; verbs and inalienable nouns),
N- (deverbal and deconverbial nouns)
Proximal e-
Distal o-

Deixis also occurs in the form of isolated nominals ea and oa. In verbs with some form of agency marker, the prefixes irregularly assimilate to it, retaining the initial glottal but displacing the vowel, e.g. *e-ả- becomes ẻ-.

Conjunct and disjunct verbs

While Ash lacks a set of first, second, and third person pronouns, a system of so called conjunct versus disjunct verb forms can be used in combination with agency (transitivity and volition) markers and deixis in order to more or less unambiguously cover the same ground. This concept is also known in the literature as assertor's involvement marking, which might give the reader a clearer idea of the concept: verbs are marked for whether the one making an assertion is involved in the action (conjunct) or not (disjunct). Unlike some languages however, the assertor in Ash is always the speaker, even in reported speech.

Conjunct is marked by the suffix -s and disjunct is unmarked.

Simple intransitives

A conjunct verb denotes the involvement of the speaker and thus the first person. Note that there is no number distinction.

Declarative Interrogative
Conjunct emeas e
"I am warm", "we are warm"
emeas no
"am I warm?", "are we warm?", "maybe I am warm", "maybe we are warm"
Disjunct emea e
"you/they are warm"
emea no
"are you/they warm?", "maybe you/they are warm"

The additional unstressed words e and no are obligatory modal clitics and will be described in a later section.

Simple transitives

Simple transitive clauses work much the same way but the choice between a direct transitive or inverse transitive marker affects the meaning as well and is the only way to differentiate between agent and patient roles when the referents are first and second person.

Proximal Distal
Direct Inverse Direct Inverse
Conjunct (ea go) ẻhheas yo
"I look at you"
(ea go) ẻsseas yo
"you look at me"
(oa go) ẻhheas yo
"I look at them"
(oa go) ẻsseas yo
"they look at me"
Disjunct (ea go) ẻhhea yo
"you look at them"
(ea go) ẻssea yo
"they look at you"
(oa go) ẻhhea yo
"they1 look at them2"
(oa go) ẻssea yo
"they2 look at them1"

As the last two examples show, the choice of transitivity marker can also serve as a proximate-obviative distinction.

Indirect involvement

As the conjunct form denotes merely whether the assertor is somehow involved in the action, the assertor need not necessarily be the agent. A conjunct form would still be used to denote first person involvement as a patient in some statements.

ẽbmo͠o mo


ya ẻsbadsas yo


ảo ga


ẽbmo͠o mo ya ẻsbadsas yo ảo ga


Ao is braiding my hair.

Despite a third person being the agent of the action, the focus is on the first person (the assertor) and the verb is therefore conjunct.

Interrogatives and reported speech

Unlike in some languages with involvement marking, the reference point of the conjunct marker does not change in questions or quotations in Ash. This has partially to do with the lack of distinct personal pronouns, and partially to do with the difference in the evidential (first-person-centric) nature of its modal devices (the reportative word gaa and its reduced clitic form ga, and the the interrogative clitic no), and the fact that the interrogative is really "indeterminate" and also used for (again first-person-centric) uncertainties ("maybe").

Thus the conjunct -s always refers to the first person, i.e. the speaker, but again not as a subject or agent marker but merely an involvement marker, thus also as an object or patient marker.


The basic word order is fairly strictly noun-verb, with converbs preceding verb phrases. The opposite order makes the verb attributive. Word order alone does not mark a noun phrase for any particular role (e.g. subject or object). This is determined instead by context and factors like salience, agency, and animacy. An explicit topic governing the main verb is introduced by a preceding auxiliary verb phrase.



Ash is a direct-inverse language. Transitivity and volition are tied up into a single grammatical category termed agency. Direct agency is explicitly marked, and the roles of agent and patient can be swapped without a change in word order by way of an inversion marker on the verb. The purpose of this is topicalisation, leaving the topic in the subject position. The subject requires such a topical marker, which will be detailed in the section on locative verbs.

ảo ga bahba ẻhhea ga
Ao is looking at the dog.

A simple transitive phrase like this can be inverted:

ảo ga bahba ẻssea ga
Ao is being watched by a dog.

Such a phrase can also have the agent moved after the verb-final clitic and classified in its own right. A determiner is placed in its position in the initial phrase.

ảo ga wa ẻssea ga bahba go
Ao is being watched by the dog; watching Ao was the dog.

With ditransitive verbs such as causatives two referents can appear before the verb or the same displacement can take place.

oas ga bahba sa͠a ỏhhoyya ga
Oas=CLF dog water DIST-DIR-eat.CAUS=MOD:REP
It was Oas who gave the dog water to drink.
oas ga wa sa͠a ỏssoyya ga bahba go
It was Oas the dog offered water to.

Inversion is especially important when the subject is being omitted as person markers do not exist.

ẻhheas yo
I am looking at them.
ẻsseas e
They are looking at me.


Besides the direct and inverse agency prefixes, verbs can also take a reflexive one.

oadnah ảyısa͠as yo
I wash in the morning.
ảo ga oadnah ảyısa͠a ma
Ao doesn't wash in the morning.

Reflexivity can be used to disambiguate between referents.

ẽbmo͠o mo ẻsbadsas yo
You are braiding my hair.
ẽbmo͠o mo ẻwıbadsas yo
I am braiding my hair.


The number of unmarked nominal arguments that a verb can take depends on its valency. There are other ways to introduce more referents, one of which is to incorporate the third nominal into the verb.

ảo ga bahba ỏdsoyya ga
Ao=CLF dog DIST-DIR-water-consume.CAUS=MOD:REP
Ao was giving the dog water to drink.

However this is limited to very few nouns and is more of a derivational process than a grammatical one. On the other hand, the fact that the main verb phrase is separate from the topic (or classifier) phrase means that it's possible to use one of its argument slots, even when intransitive, as a kind of subject with semantics much like that of an incorporated noun, as the subject implicitly remains the topic from the previous clause.

enya ga bahba ảyıgaa e
younger_sibling=CLF dog REFL-sound=MOD:EXP
My sibling barks like a dog.

The above main verb phrase can be taken to mean something like "dog-sounds (oneself)" or "dog-calls (oneself)".


The other method is to completely remove the valency of the nominal by turning it into a converb, which is why this process sometimes resembles case marking.

ảo ga wa mehda ỏdsoyya ga bahba go
Ao was giving the dog water to drink by the fire.


While there is no explicit marking for animacy, an underlying hierarchy ranging roughly from natural forces at the top to people and animals in the middle and inanimates at the bottom governs certain parts of the grammar. The main aspect of this hierarchy is that inanimate referents cannot act as agents which affects how transitive and inverse marking is interpreted in their presence. Conjunct verbs are treated as if between regular animates and high animates.

Transitive Inverse
Animate bahba go ảhhea yo
"dogs watch it"
bahba go ảssea yo
"dogs are watched"
Inanimate sa͠a sa ảhhea yo
"water is watched"
*sa͠a sa ảssea yo


New non-verb information is focused by fronting, i.e. introducing the word or phrase earlier in the sentence. This means that the order of subject and object might shift in order to focus on the object. When the object is inanimate inversion is not possible nor necessary, while for an animate object it is. The nominal in focus also receives a topic marker, explained in detail in the section on locative verbs.

Normal Fronted
Animate oas ga wa ỏhhedsa e bahba go
"Oas was looking at the dog"
bahba go wa ỏssedsa e oas ga
"it was the dog Oas was looking at"
Inanimate oas ga wa ỏhhodsa e sa͠a sa
"Oas was drinking the water"
sa͠a sa wa ỏhhodsa e oas ga
"it was the water Oas was drinking"


Relativisation is done simply by chaining phrases one after another, with no special marking. Subclauses go before main clauses, in which the deictic context is centered around the subject of the subclause.

[owahdah bahba go ỏssoyya we]1 [ewahdah eyea wo]2
[Yesterday dog=CLF DIST-INV-consume.CAUS=MOD:EXP]1 [today PROX-see-CONJ=MOD:DECL]2
[today I saw]2 [the dog that (you) fed yesterday]1.

This is also how stative verbs are used to assign qualities to nominals.

osy’ oada bahba go ẻsseas no
Have you seen the white dog?

Unstressed words

In addition to unstressed locative verbs used as topicalising classifiers (see below) there are a few other words that can be unstressed to serve various purposes, mostly after verbs.


Declarative ebadsa yo
"(really, obviously) they're weaving"
Negative ebadsa ma
"they're not weaving"
Interrogative ebadsa no
"are they weaving?", "maybe they're weaving"
Felicitative ebadsa sa
"(I'm pleased that) they're weaving"
Miserative ebadsa na
"(I'm displeased that) they're weaving"


Reduced forms of some verbs can function as evidential markers, such as e for direct experience and ga for hearsay.

Experiential ebadsa e
"(evidently) they're weaving"
Inferential obadsa me
"(I have a feeling) they were weaving"
Narrative obadsa ga
"(it goes that) they were weaving"
Direct report obadsa hga
"(they told me) they were weaving"
Indirect report obadsa wwa
"(they were told) someone was weaving"

Note how most of these take the distal prefix o- as the speaker cannot be currently present to confirm their veracity. The inferential falls somewhere between modality and evidentiality and makes sense with any deixis depending on the situation and the verb.

Locative verbs

An important part of Ash grammar is an extensive set of so called locative verbs which are used almost like a noun classification system and cover location, motion and related concepts while providing specific information about the referent at hand, such as specifying whether liquid is involved. These also have reduced clitic forms used as classifiers and topic markers.

These are some of those verbs:

Locative Classifier Gloss Semantic range
laa la, da, na :STAT General stative (indefinite or permanent)
goa go, ŋo :ACT General active (temporary or dynamic)
sa͠a sa :LIQ Water and other liquids
sea se :AER Air and weather
boa bo, mo :CRESC Growth (hair, plants et c.)
doa do, no :PART Particles (powder, sand, dust, smoke, spores et c.)
mea ne :PYR Inside, essence, fire
baa ba, ma :MAN Hand and instrumental (things held; implements and tools)

There are also some classifiers without corresponding verbs:

Classifier Gloss Semantic range
ya, wa, nya :GEM Used mainly of pairs (e.g. eyes, hands) but does not denote dual number
na :COLL Used mainly of collectives (e.g. people) and higher animates but does not denote plural number

Others do have corresponding verbs but not locative ones, such as the personal ga~ŋa corresponding to gaa "say", used for referring to individuals by name (e.g. ảo ga the person vs. ảo sa the sea).

Classificatory topicalisation

An unstressed locative verb is required as a topical marker following a fronted nominal, resembling a particle. The choice of verb functions much like a noun class classifier and can be used to differentiate between various meanings of a single nominal lexeme.

ĩbmo͠o mo
hair (on the head)
ĩbmo͠o na
head (on the body)

Used this way they nonetheless remain verbs and form separate clauses.

ẽbmo͠o mo ya ẻsbadsas yo ảo ga
Ao is braiding my hair.


In addition to serving as a topical marker, an unstressed locative verb can also be used as a nominal conjunction. As subject and object are never both topically marked, a series of topicalised nominals serves as a single noun phrase in the fronted subject position.

ảo ga bahba go oas egoa e
Ao and the dog are over there.

Use with converbs

Converbial location is generic and locative verbs can be used to specify the meaning.

ảo sas sa͠a
(be) in the sea
ảo sas laa
(be) by the sea


The fossilised set of nouns that take the possessive prefix n- can follow directly after a classified possessor.

ảhdo ga ndoo ya
Atwa=CLF POSS-foot=CLF
Atwa's foot
ảhdo gã bmo͠o na
Atwa=CLF POSS-head=CLF
Atwa's head

Otherwise converbs such as the locative -s serve to mark the possessor of a possessum depending on the relationship.

ảhdo gas ảnda mmo
Atwa=CLF-CVB:LOC bread=CLF
Atwa's bread (lit. "bread at Atwa"; they already have it)
ảhdo gawı ảnda mmo
Atwa=CLF-CVB:BEN bread=CLF
Atwa's bread (lit. "bread for Atwa"; they do not yet have it)

Pragmatics and conventions


Wants, needs, desires and possibilities are often just expressed through morphological means in Ash, such as irrealis forms, potentials and interrogatives.

ẻhhoes yo
I want/need to eat; I am hungry.
ẻhhoes no
Perhaps I should eat something.
bahba go ẻhhoe no
Maybe the dog is hungry.

Related are the fully stressed verbs referring to experiences and emotions. Two very versatile words in Ash are ınsaa "to please, to like" and ĩdnaa "to displease, to dislike". They can stand in for many words where the Ash speaker chooses to focus instead on the resulting emotion, while fully conveying the intended meaning in context.

eae ẻhbadse no ẽdnae e
Doing it like that won't work / lead anywhere. (lit. "will displease")
noyy’ ensae ẻhbadses no
How would you prefer I did it? (lit. "which way to please")

Colour terms

Colours are mainly expressed through qualitative converbs, likening the appearance of the referent to something else, such as mea "fire" → nayya "red; yellow; orange; brown" or ảo "sea" → ảyya "blue; green". They are used together with attributive verbs, which have longer allomorphs in subordinating position.

bahba go nayy’ oa we
dog=CLF fire-CVB:QUAL shine=MOD
The dog is brown.
e nayy’ oada bahba go
MOD=fire-CVB:QUAL shine.ATTR dog=CLF
It's a brown dog.

Weather and phenomena

Because forces of nature are associated with high animate actors in Ash, the hierarchy—where high animates outrank even conjunct referents—means that verbs referring to them always take direct agency. Because this can be confusing without context, the force in question is usually topicalised using the determiner-classifier combination oa na (not unlike "it" in "it's raining" in English).

oa nadseenas e
It started to rain (on us) (lit. "it (the high animate) started to rain on us")

The full noun can also be explicitly stated if the verb itself does not clearly specify which force is meant.

sãdn’ onahhodse hga
They said the rain was battering them over there.

Reported speech

As mentioned previously, while languages with speaker's involvement marking will often express reported speech from the perspective of the one whose speech is being reported, this is not the case in Ash. However there are direct and indirect modals for reported speech in Ash which may depend on who was talking to whom. Some examples follow below.

dosmo ga ỏsgaas yo ebmo͠o na booda hga
Dosmo told me my head is big.

Here the speaker uses the declarative modal yo as they were spoken to directly so no evidential is needed. The actual reported speech is followed by the ıhga modal marking a direct report, i.e. something the speaker heard personally.

dosmo ga wa ỏhgaa e oas ga yy oa gõ bmo͠o na booda hga
I saw/heard Dosmo tell Oas their (Dosmo's) head is big.

This sentence has more referents and so additional markers are necessary to keep track of things. The experiential evidential e is now used as the speaker was not spoken to but merely witnessed a conversation. The contrastive function of determiners is used to shift the topic back to Dosmo after Oas is introduced.

dosmo ga wa ỏhgaa hga oas ga yy obmo͠o na booda wwa
I'm told Dosmo told Oas their (Dosmo's) head is big.

This last example uses ıhga in the first half to denote that the speaker was told by someone else what Dosmo had said and so the actual speech must be reported using the indirect speech report marker ıwwa instead.

PROX:proximal deixis INTS:intensive MOD:modal auxiliary verb CLF:classifier auxiliary verb INV:inverse agency CONJ:conjunct involvement