Bzəčqi

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Bzəčqi is a language isolate spoken by some 20.000 people somewhere high up in the mountains.

Phonology

Consonants

Labial Dental Post-alveolar Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop/affricate p b t d č ž k g q
Fricative v s z x ǧ h
Trill r
Lateral l

The consonants transcribed as <x ǧ> vary between velar and uvular. <ǧ> in particular is more often uvular than velar, and may also be realised as a voiced uvular stop /ɢ/.

/l/ is in free variation with /ɮ/.

Vowels

Front Central Back
High i u ɨ
Mid ə o
Low e a

The vowels transcribed as <e o> are always pronounced as long /æː oː/. The other vowels are always short.

Nouns

Nouns have four classes, which are marked by prefixes.

Class number Singular prefix Plural prefix Meaning
I ɨ-, Ø- (before vowels) mi-, m- (before vowels) concrete
II Vt- (copies the root vowel) mVt- (copies the root vowel) abstract
III n- (contracts with some root-initial consonants) ər- people and body parts
IV gzo- (deletes any root-initial vowel) mzo- (deletes any root-initial vowel) "remarkable" objects

Examples:

  • Class I:
    • ɨqəbər "icicle" -> miqəbər "icicles"
    • ɨzəqtə "axe" -> mizəqtə "axes"
    • avaq "river" (< *ɨ-avaq) -> mavaq "rivers" (< *mi-avaq)
  • Class II:
    • eterdə "language" -> meterdə "languages"
    • atamaz "rain" -> matamaz "rains"
  • Class III:
    • nogər "woman" -> ərogər "women"
    • numuq "foot" -> ərumuq "feet"
    • ŋiǧir "boy" (< *n-ǧiǧir) -> ərǧiǧir "boys'
  • Class IV:
    • gzopəq "cave" -> mzopəq "caves"
    • gzogə "bird" (< *gzo-əgə) -> mzogə "birds" (< *mzo-əgə)

There exist two oblique case suffixes: singular -ɨm and plural -ləxtə. After a vowel other than ə, -ɨm becomes -m, whereas any final -ə is displaced by the oblique singular suffix.

  • ɨrɨz "fish (nom sg)" -> ɨrɨzɨm "fish (obl sg)", mirɨzləxtə "fish (obl pl)"
  • napa "father (nom sg)" -> napam "father (obl sg)", ərapaləxtə "fathers (obl pl)"

There are also a few prefixes (known as the "special class prefixes") which replace the ordinary class prefixes and are always combined with the oblique case. These include:

  • ɨz- (ɨs- before voiceless consonants): locative
    • ɨzžaxtɨm "in the house"
    • ɨspəqləxtə "in the caves"
  • il-: instrumental
    • ilekɨdləxtə "by hand"
    • iltemɨm "by speaking"
  • əǧ- (əx- before voiceless consonants): purposive
    • əǧzəqədɨm "for the man"

Possessives are marked by special possessive prefixes, which replace the ordinary class prefixes but not the special ones. The possessive prefixes have separate forms for class IV nouns.

Possessor Classes I, II, III Class IV
1sg ŋzət- zək-
2sg l-, lə- zaq-
1pl ŋɨn- zəŋ-
2pl mɨn- zɨm-
Class I tɨ-, t- zɨ-, z-
Class II tVt- (copies the root vowel) zVt- (copies the root vowel)
Class III tən- zən-
Class IV hɨzəq- ənqə-, ənq-

Examples:

  • napa "father" -> ŋzətapa "my father"
  • gzohɨtɨk "beer" -> zənhɨtɨk "his/her/their beer"
  • izžaxtɨm "in the house" -> lizžaxtɨm "in your house"

Note that possessed nouns in the nominative case have identical singular and plural forms.

Verbs

Topic prefixes

Apart from the root, the topic prefix is the only obligatory part of the verb.

First and second person
1sg ək- 1pl ŋə-, ŋ-
2sg aq- 2pl mɨ-
Nominative Oblique
Class I i- Locative sɨ-
Class II t-, ət- Instrumental ili-
Class III Ø- Purposive ǧəz-
Class IV z- Object č-, čə-

Note that if the topic is a possessed noun, the verb agrees with the class of the possessor rather than the possessed.

Object suffixes

A variety of suffixes exists which indicates the object or some kind of grammatical meaning. Many of these suffixes are transparently derived from nouns, but some are not. Currently known "object" suffixes include:

  • Grammatical:
    • -kəŋ: first person
    • -məq: second person
    • -ənči: topic
    • -bazgɨ: indicates a general fact
    • -zəŋ: indefinite
    • -zgərtə: in the same way
    • -bɨz: indicates that a subordinate clause depends on the verb
  • Lexical:
    • -eč: water and other liquids
    • -ərdə: language
    • -harga: siblings
    • -hažɨ: everything
    • -hɨtɨk: alcohol, drunkenness
    • -ilek: snow, ice, cold
    • -vər: air, breath, wind, emptiness

Evidentiality

Tense and aspect

Adverbial prefixes

Negation

Verbs are negated by the prefix kiv-.

Word order

The word order is topic - verb - everything else.