The Chiresh language (Čireš) is a Plains Settameric language spoken by the people, who live in the southwestern plains of the Northern continent. It belongs to the West Plains languages together with Kootayi and Kalyah, but is quite different from both. It is the southermost West Plains language of all three. It is also the only surviving member of the Plains branch of Settameric languages that preserves the original phoneme *r. This and other phonological features (such as vowel metaphony or umlaut and reduced vowels) make it more similar to the Mountains languages to the west. Thus Chiresh is the most distinctive of the Plains languages, however its grammar stays quite similar to other languages of this branch. Some scholars tend to consider it a link between Western and Eastern language groups.
Chiresh had probably originated from the same place, where it is spoken nowadays, and for centuries its native speakers lived a sedentary lifestyle unlike their western neighbours - the Miire people, who had mostly been semi-nomadic. Chiresh is distinctive in a few ways of how some of its consonants developed from a Proto-Plains dialect, in particular *θ, *ł, *s and *j which became /r/, /l/, /x/ and /ɕ/ respectively in modern Chiresh. Also *ny becomes /j/ (as in Kalyah), while *ly is preserved as /t͡ʃ/ (as in Kootayi, where it became /t͡s/).
The consonants are the following:
|Fricative||s||š /ʂ/||ś /ɕ/||x /x/, ([ɣ])|
|Approximant||w [ʋ]||l||r||y /j/|
Geminate consonants can occur word-medially, but they are not separate phonemes and belong to different syllables. The fricatives /x/ is voiceless but become voiced in intervocalic position. For example, śax "berry" is pronounced [ˈɕax], but raxun [ˈra.ɣun] "great". However, geminate "x" does not undergo this lenition. Some consonants also become palatalized before and occassionally after front vowels: /k/, /x/ become [t͡ʃ] and [ʂ] respectively (/x/ can also become [ɕ] before /i/). The phoneme written "w" is usually pronounced [ʋ], but many dialects preserve an older pronunciation of [w], while those few, that have [f], change "w" to a fricative [v] and often devoice word-initially.
|Close||i [i]||u [ʉ]|
|Mid||ö [ø]||ĕ [ɘ~ɤ]||o [o~u]|
|Open-Mid||e [ɛ]||ă [ɛ]||å [ɔ]|
Southeastern dialects keep "u" as a back vowel [u], which is distinct from [o], while most dialects to the north centralize it to [ʉ] and also have a separate vowel [ɔ], which is pronounced the same way as "a" in almost all dialects to the south and east from the hilly Hallu region. And some dialects have centralized their "u", but have no "o"-like sounds, raising [o] to [u]. This however, does not prevent mutual intelligibility between all dialects of Chiresh. Additionally, "o" or "å" occur in loanwords. The vowels written "ĕ" and "ă", are centralized and reduced, thereby differing in quantity from the rest. In unstressed positions, they often resemble a schwa and in some dialects they tend to be dropped word-finally. The vowel "ĕ", especially when stressed, may be somewhat rounded and sound as [ɵ], similar to "ö", though they do not merge in any dialect.
Modern Chiresh has a simple mobile stress. Most words are stressed on their initial syllable, but certain prefixes and suffixes can drag stress towards them. Some southern dialects have a simple initial stress in all words. In its earlier stages of development Chiresh probably had a pitch accent, but it was lost and instead syllables, that used to have a high pitch, tend to become stressed. The same happened in the neighbouring Miirei language.
In general terms, Chiresh is an agglutinative language, with many grammatical functions being served by both prefixes and suffixes, primarily on the verb, though some affixes select nouns as well. A feature, shared by all Plains languages is the use of an obviation system as a way to track which entities and concepts are particularly central/salient to a story. Nouns, verbs, and some adverbs take obviative markers, making it different from the obviation system, like in other Plains languages. Chirseh also makes use of an inverse system, similarly to other West Plains languages. The language also has an overt copula, (y)in ("to be"), which is attached to nouns as a suffix - the feature it shares with Miirei.
Word order in Chiresh is flexible and differ in response to discourse and pragmatic concerns. As is the case with many head-marking languages, it is rare to have both an overt subject and an overt object in a sentence since the morphology of the verb usually makes it clear who is acting on whom. In a "neutral" context, VSO word order is preferred; however, it also alternates with SOV order in short sentences and when a new topic is introduced. The pre-verbal position in VSO-type sentences can be occupied by adverbs and particles.
In Chiresh the situations, which involve the use of first- or second-person markers on verbs, require using markers from two (or three in case of some verbs) sets of markers, for a subject and for an object. But when both the subject and the object are the third person singular, both will require zero markers. As a consequence, the inverse system on a verb will be used to clarify the interaction between these third persons along with obviation on nouns. The following example shows the difference between direct and inverse constructions:
xuttĕ ilăxăn nonnă. xutt-ĕ ilăx-ăn ∅-∅-nonn-ă man.AN.SG.PROX woman-AN.SG.OBV 3sg.AN-3sg.AN-see.PFV-DIR "The man (proximate) saw a woman (obviative)". xuttĕn ilăxă nonu. xutt-ĕn ilăx-ă ∅-non-u man.AN.SG.OBV woman-AN.SG.PROX 3sg.AN-3sg.AN-see.PFV-INV "A man (obviative) saw the woman (proximate)".
In Chiresh dependent clauses are marked with an "i-" prefix on a verb and an obligatory VS(O) word order, as are questions and relative clauses. The nominalization of a verb usually does not require the i- prefix, but insead it is characterised by an initial vowel change, for example, pură "he/she drinks" turns into (-i)pör "drinking", when nominalized, where "-i" only appears when prefixes are attached.
Chiresh nouns have a category of animacy (a two gendered system of animate and inaimate nouns, common for almost all Settameric languages); number, a simple singular/plural contrast for almost all nouns, but words for naturally paired objects have dual, along with plural. Verbs must agree with the animacy and number of its nouns. Unlike all other Plains languages, Chiresh nouns have a case distinction. One word can have many suffixes, which can also be used to create new words and also indicate the grammatical function of the word. In some situations, like when a sentence contains an intransitive verb, obviative marking is omitted. This is also true of sentences with only one noun where the role of the noun is obvious from the personal marking on the verb. There are six noun cases:
There are also several additional suffixes that act like clitics: terminative -(ĕ)čin, distributive, -isen, desubstantival (denoting the characteristic of a substance, material, object or a group) -reš. When an object is possessed by the first or second person, it is marked by a special possessive marker, otherwise it uses the possessed case. All possessive prefixes are represented in the table below:
Chiresh verbs have a very similar shape to other Plains languages. All verbs belong to one of three categories: transitive, intransitive and mediopassive. Like in Kalyah and Kootayi, there are independent (in a main clause) and conjunct (used in subordinate clauses, to form participles and with particles, called preverbs) forms, but the conjunct form looks exactly like the mediopassive form with the only difference being an initial conjunct prefix. Here is a template for all types of verbs:
|particles||Ind. Obj.||1,2 Subj. sg.||Dir. Obj. sg.||Aspect||Modality||Root||DIR/INV||Mood||3sg. Subj.||Obj. du./pl.||Subj. du./pl.||negative||interrogative|
|particles||Subj. sg.||Aspect||Modality||Root||Mood||Subj. du./pl.||negativity||interrogative|
|Ind. Obj.||1,2 Subj. sg.||Aspect||Modality||Root||Mood||DIR/INV||3 Subj. sg.||Subj. du./pl.||negative||interrogative|
There are four moods in Chiresh: indicative, optative, conditional, and subjunctive. Different verbs determine (or govern) the case of the subsequent nouns, pronouns and adjectives of a sentence, for most transitive verbs their arguments are in proximate and obviative. In infinitive forms, most Chiresh verbs end in -a. Some exceptions include a few verbs ending in -o and the verb "to be" has no infinitive at all. There are three types of infinitives: simple (only vowel "-a" or "-o"), continouos ("-(a)wa", "-owa") and nominal (with the i- prefix). The contionuos infinitive is used to indicate action as a process, to denote that two actions were going on simultaneously, for example in ăškumă rarwa "she/he was thinking while sitting" the word rarwa is used in the second infinitive. The third infinitive is very similar to a verbal noun and is used in the same way as gerund in English: čăpat itöra śinxa "I like walking here"
|Indirect Object||Subject||Direct Object|
|3rd an.||hu-||hul-||-ă (prox.)
In most cases in Chiresh, the conjugation patterns remain regular across most verbs. Some verbs can change their root vowel and turn "-ă" in 3sg animate into "-å", which can not be determined from the verb itself in the modern language and speakers must memorize which verbs have these changes in their conjugation. Most cases of such changes have been completely regularized, however.