Brittainese (bretneis [brətˈneːz] or leng bretneis [ˈlɛŋg brətˈneːz]) is a Romance language spoken by around 400 million people as a native language, mainly in the Brittish Isles, North America, Australia, India and Africa. It is most closely related with the Channel languages and French, with which it forms the North-West branch of the Romance languages, and with which it shares many linguistic features.
Brittainese is a language created by user Llwcybwy, heavily inspired by Ray Brown's fantastic but yet unfinished conlang with the same name. I cannot however claim that this is a continuation of the language, as my conlanger skills are as of now very lackluster as compared to his. Furthermore, some features of the language are, while in my opinion realistic, also influenced by personal taste, and thus breaking one of the rules set up for continuing the conlang.
The goal of the language is basically the same as that which was described by Brown: it is a study of what Latin would have evolved into in the Brittish Isles, meaning that the language is meant to be as realistic as possible. The world is essentially the same as ours however.
The Brittainese alphabet consists of 26 letters, six of which are vowels and twenty consonants. It uses diacritics to distinguish between sounds as well as to mark irregular stress, and contractions make use of the apostrophe to mark vowel omission.
|Letters of the Avendonian alphabet|
While not considered part of the alphabet, Ââ represents a unique sound in the language and is listed along with Aa in dictionaries (compare German Öö, Üü).
Much like in French's alphabet, it is possible to know how to pronounce any given written word, although it is often difficult to know how to write a spoken one. The rules governing this are however much simpler, and are given as follows:
- The letters 〈c〉 and 〈g〉 are pronounced /t͡ʃ/ and /d͡ʒ/, respectively, if followed by 〈e〉 or 〈i〉. A word-final /t͡ʃ/ and /d͡ʒ/ sound can be made by adding an 〈e〉 (which becomes silent) after 〈c〉 and 〈g〉 respectively. Example: brace. Non-mute word-final e after 〈c〉 or 〈g〉is spelled è.
- The digraph 〈sc〉 before 〈i〉 and 〈e〉 makes the sound /ʃ/. Other occurences of /ʃ/ is written as detailed above.
- The sounds of /k/ or /g/ and a front vowel is made using the digraphs 〈qu〉 and 〈gu〉 respectively. Before a non-front vowel, they represent the sequences /kw/ and /gw/.
- 〈h〉 is silent, but is used for etymological purposes, as well as to create a hiatus between vowels. The sound /h/ is made by using the letter 〈ḥ〉.
- All consonants except 〈h〉 and 〈ḥ〉can be geminated, that is written twice next to each other. They can only be geminated between vowels or word-finally. Some consonants or clusters of consonants have a different form of gemination. 〈c〉 is geminated 〈cque〉 word-finally (with silent 〈e〉), and 〈qu〉 is geminated 〈cqu〉 word-medially.
- Some consonants are always geminated. These are /t͡ʃ/, /d͡ʒ/ and /ʃ/.
- 〈s〉 is pronounced /z/ between vowels and sonorants (〈r〉, 〈n〉, 〈m〉 and 〈l〉), and word finally. In all other instances, it is pronounced /s/. 〈ss〉 is always pronounced as /s/, but may not be written word-initially or next to a consonant as stated above. In situations where neither 〈s〉 nor 〈ss〉 can be used to represent /s/, 〈z〉 is used. It represents /z/ where 〈s〉 represents /s/.
Stressed vowels in most dialects of Brittainese can be either long or short, which is indirectly shown in the orthography as follows. Note that 'C' represents a single consonant, 'V' a vowel, 'CC' either a consonant cluster or a consonant geminate and '#' marks a word boundary.
|Letter\Syllable||V||VC#||VC or VCC#||Secondary stress||Unstressed|
An irregularly stressed vowel (that is stress on a vowel which is not the last full vowel, i.e. some loan words) is marked with an acute accent (◌́), accept for a, which uses a grave accent (◌̀). â is always stressed and does not take an additional accent. Pronounciation of an accented diphthong as a diphthong is made using a grave accent on the glide-vowel. The grave accent is also used to mark a pronounced final e after 〈c〉 and 〈g〉.
The Brittainese phonology differs from all modern Romance language, through the retention of archaisms, innovation and foreign influence. It has retained the Proto West Romance voiced dental fricative /ð/ and has developed its allophonic lengthening of vowels into a phonemic distinction of length, a distinction rare in modern Romance Languages.
- Unvoiced stops are most often unaspirated.
- [ŋ] is only an allophone of /n/ preceding /k/ or /g/.
- /θ/ is only marginally phonemic in Brittainese, only appearing in loan words, names and is a common realisation of the cluster /ðs/.
- /ɾ/ can be pronounced in a number of ways depending on the speaker and the situation. It is most commonly weakened to an aproximant or may, depending on the dialect, even be deleted before another consonant or word-finally, sometimes lengthening the previous vowel. It is however never pronounced as [ɻ], and its realisation as [ʀ] has mostly died out in the historically concerned dialects.
Vowels in Brittainese vary greatly between dialects. Below is listed one rendering of the vowels for the Standard Brittainese, Brittish Brittainese and American dialects, although the view in the matter may differ among specialists.
|Mid||ɛ||ɛː eː||ə||ɔ||ɔː oː|
|Diphthongs||ai̯ ei̯ eu̯ u̯i|
|Diphthongs||ai̯ ei̯ øʏ̯|
|Diphthongs||ai̯ ei̯ eu̯ u̯i|
Vowel length is phonemic in Standard Brittainese, but is only contrastive in the primarily stressed syllable. It arose from the allophonic vowel length of Proto-West-Romance, that became phonemic due to the loss of many vowels in the Old Brittainse stage of the language. Vowels will always be long in open syllables, but may be either long or short in closed syllables.
Vowel length used to be phonemic in all Brittainese dialects, although this has been lost in favor of a lax/tense distinction in American Brittainese. It was instead replaced by an allophonic lengthening of stressed vowels in open syllables and final syllables with a one-consonant coda.
Unstressed Brittainese vowels are pronounced differently from stressed vowels in every dialect, although their precise realisation may differ. In Standard and Brittish Brittainese unstressed vowels must always be short, as only primarily stressed vowels may be long. In the American dialect however, as it lacks a contrastive vowel length, only stressed vowels may be tense, while unstressed vowels are always lax. All dialects however contrast three unstressed vowels /ə i u/. Below are listed their exact pronunciations in Standard, Brittish and American Brittainese.
- Standard Brittainese: [ə i u]. /a/ is pronounced [ɐ] in secondarily stressed syllables.
- Brittish Brittainese: [ə ɨ ʉ]. /ʉ/ is unrounded to [ɨ] before coda /r/ or /n/. /a/ is pronounced [ɐ] in secondarily stressed syllables.
- American Brittainese: [ə ɪ ʊ].
Unstressed syllables may also contain a syllabic sonorant [n̩], [l̩], [r̩] or more rarely [m̩], from unstressed /ən/, /əl/, /ər/ and /əl/ (not to be confused with the sequences [ən] etc, from an underlying unstressed /an/).
Most Brittainese words can receive both primary and secondary stress. Only a few words receive no stress, such as articles, clitics, prepositions e.t.c. The placement of the primary stress is phonemic, but is most often given to the last full syllable. In that case, a secondary stress is given to the first vowel (unless it is in an adjacent syllable to that of the stressed vowel). Some words however have their stress on another vowel than the last full. In addition to the secondary stress on the first syllable, they also receive a secondary stress on the last vowel (unless it is in an adjacent syllable to that of the stressed vowel).
Compound words created from two or more words keep their original secondary stress, but the primary stress of all words but the last are converted to secondary stress, leaving only one vowel with primary stress.
Brittainese is a moderately inflected language. Adjectives and some pronouns are inflected for number (singular and plural); nouns, personal pronouns and some pronouns are inflected for person, gender, number and case; and verbs, for tense, aspect, mood, and the person and number of their subjects. Certain verb features are marked using auxiliary verbs.
Brittainese nouns have one of two genders (masculine or feminine) that must be learned together with the word, as there are no reliable rules governing which gender any given word has. They are also inflected for two numbers (singular and plural) and for case (nominative and oblique). Unlike Brittainese verbs, the nouns are generally more conservative than many other Romance languages, as they have preserved the distinction between the nominative and oblique (descended from the Latin accusative) cases. In that regard it is most similar to Old French, although many archaic features have been leveled over time.
A regular Brittainese noun belongs to one of three main declensions, a group of nouns with similar inflected forms. The declensions are identified by the oblique singular form of the noun.
The first declension is the largest of the declensions and the most productive, and contains many irregularities and subgroups. It is characterized by the fact that nominative and oblique forms have identical endings in both the plural and singular, although they are not always identical.
It contains almost all feminine nouns, as well as a few masculine nouns. It is the main declension assigned to foreign loan-words that don't fit into any other declension, such as tsunàmi. It is descended from the Vulgar Latin first declension (which in turn comprises the Classical Latin fifth declension) as well as feminine third declensions, soft-stemmed masculine third declension and some neuters.
A common subgroup to the first declension is the so-called Ia declension. The endings are the same as for any other first declension noun, but the stem of the word is different in the nominative singular. This declension arose primarily from natural sound changes (such as sorr, see below), but also from the temporal -Ø/-ad suffix (such as journ, see below).
The second declension is the smallest of the two inherited declensions and is no longer productive. It contains almost exclusively masculine nouns (with one feminine exception mans "hand"). It is characterized by a nominative singular -s and oblique singular -Ø.
It is mainly descended from the Latin second, third and fourth declension, as well as from many neuter nouns. Note however that, unlike in other Romance languages and notably French, many nouns that were originally neuter became feminine first declension in Brittainese (notably body parts that come in pairs).
The third declension is not inherited from Latin, but rather borrowed from the Classical languages during the Renaissance as an effort to preserve the newly-borrowed words' original declension. As these words became more wide-spread, these inflections simplified and became more general to create the modern-day third declension.
This declension is productive in mostly high-educated vocabulary, and during later years, some words from non-classical languages have been attributed this declension (although they were never inflected this way in their original languages), such as bábuschka (from Russian ба́бушка). It has a nominative singular -s or -Ø and oblique singular -m. Note that if the root ends in a vowel (most often u or o), this vowel will be replaced with i in the nominative plural. One exception to this is if it ends with a, in which case the vowel isn't deleted and an e is added to the end (pronounced like an unstressed ai).
One subset of this declension called IIIa deals with Latin and Ancient Greek neuter nouns, which has identical nominative/oblique forms in -on or -um in the singular and -a in the plural. Note that not all neuter nouns ended up here, as many where instead reanalyzed as masculine or feminine.
Brittainese nouns are inflected for two cases: a nominative and an oblique. The nominative is used to note the subject of a sentence, while the oblique is used to mark direct objects or after a preposition. The specific usage of both cases may vary between dialects; for example, they have almost entirely disappeared in American Brittainese except as a vocative, but have innovated a use in comparative constructions in British Brittainese.
Due to most nouns having identical nominative and oblique forms, the word order is much more strict than that of Latin (and to some degree that of Old Brittainese). A word order different from SVO in declarative sentences may sound wrong or poetic to a native speaker, even though the cases might remove any ambiguity in the meaning.
While Brittainese nouns are typically considered conservative when comparing to other Romance languages, the once very complicated verbal system has simplified considerably over the decades - in many ways more than in French. They do have some notable conservative features though, notably the preservation of the Latin third person singular and plural -t in some verbs.
The verbs are conjugated by isolating the stem of the verb and adding an ending. In weak verbs, the stem is easily identifiable from the infinitive, although its vowel might change in different paradigms. For example, the stem of dormir ("sleep") is dorm-, but the stem of parlar ("speak") is pârl-. For strong verbs however, the relationship between the infinitive form and the stem is less consistent, and up to three distinct stems are needed to produce all the forms in the paradigm. For example, the verb podr ("be able") has the stems pod- and pos-.
The ending depends on the mood, tense, aspect, and voice of the verb, as well as on the person and number of its subject. Every conjugation exhibits some degree of syncretism, where the same (homophonous, and possibly also homographic) form is used to realize distinct combinations of grammatical features. For instance, the conjugated form pârl can be the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person singular indicative form of parlar, or the singular familiar imperative. The prevalence of syncretism in conjugation paradigms is one functional explanation for the fact that Brittainese does not allow null subjects, unlike most of the other Romance languages but much like French and the Channel languages.
Aside from essr (considered a category unto itself), Brittainese verbs are most often grouped into two conjugation classes.
The traditional model, based on Latin and French, stating that there are four classes has in the recent decade lost traction, instead grouping the 1st, 2nd and 4th conjugations into one weak verb group with an intrinsic thematic vowel, the 3rd group becoming the strong verb group.
- Weak verbs consists of verbs with the thematic vowels -a, -e and -i. It is by far the largest verb group, encompassing nearly all verbs, and the only one that is still productive. He verbs are all conjugated similarly, though there are a number of subclasses with minor changes arising from orthographical and phonological considerations (notably in the stem vowel).
- Strong verbs is increasingly labeled as the "irregular" paradigm (so much so that irregular verbs that originally belonged to another group became strong, and regular verbs gained a thematic vowel - most often -e - and became weak), lacking any true thematic vowel and consisting of many irregular verbs.
As with French verbs, Brittainese verbs have both non-finite moods (li moid impersonales), also called verbals, and finite ones (li moid personales).
The finite moods are the indicative (lis indicativ), the imperative (lis imperativ), and the subjunctive (lis subjonctiv). While the rules that determine the correct mood are quite complex, they are simplified and summarized in the following table:
Tenses and aspects
The indicative mood has five "simple" (synthetic) tense-aspect forms, conveying three tenses (times of action) (future, present, and past) and two aspects (fabrics of time) (perfective, conveying an action viewed in its entirety without its time frame being considered in more detail, and imperfective, conveying an action that occurs repeatedly or continuously). Note however that the synthetic imperfect has been mostly relegated to very literary contexts. The tense-aspect forms of the indicative mood in Britainese are called the present (lis presents: present tense, imperfective aspect), the simple past (lis passadh sempl: past tense, perfective aspect), the imperfect (lis passadh emperfeit: past tense, imperfective aspect), the future (lis futúros: future tense, unspecified aspect), and the conditional (lis conditionnals: future-in-past tense, unspecified aspect). The use of the various tense forms is described in the following table: