Guaru

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Guaru [ˈŋuaɾu] (also Gualu, Nguaru, Ngualu) is a constructed language spoken by the inhabitants of Oru, part of an enormous space habitat in an uncertain location, which is putatively a conservation ark and research station developed by an unknown extra-terrestrial civilisation in order to conserve and study terrestrial life. The language itself was developed by a historical figure known only as Orimu, who appears to have been a human involved with the setting up of Oru several hundred years ago. The education system of Oru prescribes a strict adherence to the original structure of the language as detailed in Orimu's original documents, more or less preserving the original orthography and grammar, although sound changes have apparently taken place, most notably the universal change of [p] to [h].

Guaru appears to be unrelated to any other known language. It is a right-branching, analytic language with a very simple phonology, with a small inventory of eight consonants and five vowels and consisting only of open syllables.

History

According to the documents left by Orimu, the creator of Guaru, the language was designed to be an auxiliary language in order to enable communication among the first inhabitants of Oru, who came from diverse language backgrounds, presumably taken either from Earth or another location where humans are kept. There is nothing in the documents that indicates any source or inspiration for the vocabulary of Guaru, so it is not known if it is a priori or derived or influenced by other potentially unknown languages. The small phoneme inventory and relatively simple phonotactics of the original language are probably a feature designed to provide few obstacles to pronunciation.

Orimu is believed to have lived somewhere between about 400 to 600 years ago. The Oru calendar reached its 400th year in February 1998 in the Terrestrial Western calendar and some believe the starting point of the Oru calendar to be the date of Orimu's birth although there is some evidence to suggest that the currently used calendar had its starting point long after Orimu's death.

Informants and speakers

Knowledge of Oru and Guaru on Earth comes only from the hundred or so Oru people who have been dropped on Earth since about the 1970s. It was only in the early 90s that these mysterious undocumented people who were unable to speak any known language were recognised as one singular phenomenon. Many of them had unfortunately wound up in mental health institutions in various countries.

In 1993, linguist Petra Schäfer from Potsdam in Germany compared two cases, a young girl who had appeared in Germany and a man who had appeared in Poland, and discovered that they spoke the same language. Upon uniting them, she was able to record fluent conversations between the two and began to learn the language from them in order to describe it. What information is available about Oru and Guaru comes from interviews with Oru people since those days. The consistency of their reports from interviews conducted in many countries has validated their claims, as outlandish as many of them are.

Oru apparently consists of a series of enormous rotating tubes, the inner surfaces of which are largely hilly and covered in tropical rainforest. Light comes from a sun-like source called the ukana, a long spoke running through in the centre of the tubes which seems to emit parallel beams light that change in angle throughout the day, giving the appearance of an impossibly distant sun. The ukana also emits other lights which seem to simulate the Earth's moon, complete with a monthly cycle, although a crescent shape is not discernable. By climbing the mountainous walls at the ends of the tubes it is possible to access a cave-like linking system in which there is no gravity. These caves are dimly lit and home to thousands upon thousands of bats and swiftlets. Many branches of these cave systems have dead ends, but some lead to other tubes and there are seven or eight inhabited tubes with relatively easy access between them. There are also other tubes which are visible but have no way to climb down into and many people in Oru believe there are many more inaccessible tubes, possibly with people in them too, and that this system is potentially infinite.

A precise estimate of the population of Oru is not available but most estimates are between about 300,000 to 1,000,000. Monolingualism is the norm in Oru. Members of the Tagahu, a kind of militarised, technologically advanced secret society which rules and polices Oru, use a secret language known in Guaru as Uoriuo. The only other language known to the Oru people is a sign language and basic knowledge of this is reasonably widespread among even hearing people, although some informants say there is a separate sign language used by the Tagahu.

Within Oru, there is apparently no knowledge of Earth, although one informant has reported that she has heard of one or two mysterious people who appeared in Oru, initially unable to speak, and who apparently came from a place where people live "on the outside of a ball" rather than inside tubes. This may mean that people from Earth have been transported to Oru in recent times, although they may also be from elsewhere.

Phonology

Consonants

Plain

Single Consonants
Bilabial Dental/
Alveolar/
Retroflex
Velar Glottal Schäfer
Romanisation
Tanner
Romanisation
Nasal /m/
[m]
/n/
[n]
*1
/ŋ/
[ŋ]
< m n g > < m n ng >
Plosive /t/
[t]~[d]
*1 *2
/k/
[k]~[g]
*2
/ʔ/
[ʔ]~Ø
*3
< t k (x) > < t k (ʻ) >
Fricative /h/
[h]~Ø
*4
< h > < h >
Tap / Lateral /l/
[ɾ]~[l]*1
*5
< r > < l >


  • 1 The phonemes /n t r/ are all most frequently dental but can also be alveolar or occasionally even retroflex
  • 2 The voiced allophones of /t/ and /k/ are more or less in free variation although both are used more frequently by men, more frequently within a word than initially, and [g] appears more often than [d].
  • 3 The phoneme /ʔ/ is frequently elided word initially in casual speech. This largely depends on the surrounding vowels although in very casual speech it is virtually always elided in initial position. In both commonly used romanisations, it is not written at the beginning of a word. Any word that appears to begin with a vowel has at least an underlying glottal stop. A glottal stop within a word, however, is always pronounced and is thus indicated in both romanisation.
  • 4 Similarly, the glottal fricative /h/ is optionally elided from the beginning of monomoraic words (particles). It is, however, always written in the romanisations. It is not elided from polymoraic words.
  • 5 The phoneme /r/ has a variable pronunciation. Men tend to gravitate more towards [ɾ] and women towards [l] however speakers who pronounce /t/ as [d] (who are more often male) often use [l], presumably an example of dissimilation.

Doubled

All consonants may be doubled and are then pronounced as geminate or "strong". This only occurs at the beginning of contentives in the genitive case and appears to have evolved out of syllable reduplication.

Doubled Consonants
Bilabial Dental/
Alveolar/
Retroflex
Velar Glottal Schäfer
Romanisation
Tanner
Romanisation
Nasal /mm/
[mː]~[mb]
/nn/
[nː]~[nd]
/ŋŋ/
[ŋː]~[ŋg]
< mm nn gg > < mm nn nng >
Plosive /tt/
[tː]~[tʼ]
/kk/
[kː]~[kʼ]
/ʔʔ/
[ʔː]
< tt kk x > < tt kk ʻ >
Fricative /hh/
[ɸ(ː)]~[ʍ(ː)]~[p(ː)]
<hh> / <wh>
< hh > < wh >
Tap / Lateral /ll/
[r(ː)]~[lː]~[ld]
<rr> / <ll>
< rr > < ll >

As with the single consonants, the allophones are essentially in free variation.

A geminate glottal stop is written in the romanisation (using the Schaeffer system as here, with <x> although the Tanner system uses <ʻ>), distinguishing it from the word initial single glottal stop which is omitted from romanisations.

Vowels

Guaru has a simple five-vowel system similar to Spanish, Hebrew, Japanese and Hawaiian.

Single vowels
front central back
close i u
open mid e o
low a

When stressed, these vowels have the tense cardinal pronunciations of [i e a o u]. When unstressed, they tend to weaken towards [ɪ ɛ ɐ ɔ ʊ].

Each vowel constitutes a mora or time unit of speech. Vowels may appear together in "couplets" (bimoraic pairs) as illustrated in the following table. The existence of couplets is important in understanding stress, syllabification and allowable vowel clusters within a word.

Vowel couplets
Ending in -i Ending in -e Ending in -a Ending in -o Ending in -u
Beginning with i- ii ie ia io iu
Beginning with e- ee ea eo
Beginning with a- ae aa ao
Beginning with o- oe oa oo
Beginning with u- ui ue ua uo uu

The sequences of identical vowels /ii ee aa oo uu/ are pronounced as long vowels [iː ɛː aː ɔː uː]. In the Polynesian influenced Tanner romanisation, these are indicated with macrons <ā ē ī ō ū> however the Schäfer romanisation, used here, depicts them as separate vowels in order to help better conceptualise the morae within a word.

The particles hi and hu, in casual speech, lose their /h/ and may become pronounced as [j] and [w] respectively, especially when sandwiched between vowels with an initial glottal stop elided, as long as those vowels are not identical. For example ia hi ua is, formally [ˈʔia hi ˈʔua] but in more casual speech any of [ˈ(ʔ)ia hi ˈua], [ˈ(ʔ)ia i ˈua], or [ˈ(ʔ)ia ˈjua].

Phonotactics

Monomoraic initial syllables have the structure CV as in te /te/, ha /ha/. Bimoraic initial syllables have the structure CVV, as in ia /ʔia/, nua /nua/.

Within a word, bimoraic syllables without an initial consonant (VV) are allowed but only under certain circumstances.

As can be seen in the table above, the vowel sequences /*ei *ai *oi *eu *au *ou/ do not occur as couplets. These may appear, however, where a couplet sits adjacent to another vowel or couplet, as in /ke.io/ which consists of the monomoraic syllable /ke/ followed by the bimoraic /io/, or /tio.ua/ consisting of bimoraic syllables /tio/ and /ua/.

Sequences of three or more vowels are only allowed where there is a high vowel /i/ or /u/ beginning a valid couplet. For example, the words /huo.ua/, /no.io/, /li.ie/ /mae.ii/, /ʔua.io.uu/ are permitted; /*laeoa/, /*tuoa/, and /*meeo/ are not. In addition, no more than two instances of any one vowel may occur together, meaning that /*tii.io/ and /*luu.uu/ are not permitted, even though they each consist of valid couplets. Illegal vowel combinations, where they come together, are broken up by one of two methods.

(1) By the glottal stop /ʔ/. Where these sequences could occur across word boundaries, underlying initial /ʔ/ or /h/, which may otherwise be elided, is triggered to appear in all but excessively casual speech.
(2) In casual speech before the particles /hi/ and /hu/ (which frequently lack /h/), by raising an /e/ or /o/ to /i/ or /u/ respectively, for example /kao hi/ becomes pronounced /ka.u‿i/. In more formal or careful speech, the /h/ is preserved and no raising occurs.

Prosody

Stress in Guaru is realised as a slightly louder, tenser and higher tone on the vowel of the stressed mora. Vowels in unstressed morae are laxer and quieter, although just as long.

All words of more than one mora have a strong word stress on the first mora. Any bimoraic syllables within a word also receive a slight stress on the first mora and in long words, there may be a slight stress on the second last mora, even if it is the second mora of a bimoraic syllable.

The last content word within a phrase receives sentence stress, with monomoraic particles being completely unstressed.

Sentences generally drop in tone from the last stress. A level or rising tone indicates that the speaker is not finished. Yes-no questions may be delivered with rising tone from the last stress although this is sometimes absent.

Word Classes

Particles

Pronouns

Pronouns constitute a word class that differs syntactically only slightly from contentives. Unlike contentives, they never need to be preceded by the subject particle he and when appearing as the predicate, they always need to be preceded by the predicate particle hi. They also form their genitive case differently, not by gemination of the first consonant but by substituting /h/ for their initial (unwritten and often unpronounced) glottal stop /ʔ/.

Pronouns distinguish first second and third persons. In the third person, a distinction is made between animate (ANIM) and inanimate (INAN) referents and these are further distinguished by whether they are visible (VIS) or invisible (INVIS) to the speaker at the time of speaking.

Plural pronouns are formed additively by compounding these bases. Generally only two grammatical persons are combined at once grammatical persons together in the order of the following heirarchy:

(1) second person ua
(2) third person animate visible aa (suffixed as -xaa)
(3) third person animate invisible ao (suffixed as -xao)
(4) first person ia
(5) third person inanimate visible ii
(6) third person inanimate invisible io

Very long pronoun forms may be used for groups comprising many different persons. For example, a group including more than one addressee, several third persons, both visible and invisible and the speaker will be referred to with uauaxaaxaoia (glossed as 2+2+3.ANIM.VIS+3.ANIM.INVIS+1). Because combining these can result in hundreds of available forms, the following tables are limited to forms that combine two bases.

Subject pronouns
Header text singular +1 +2 +3.ANIM.VIS +3.ANIM.INVIS +3.INAN.VIS +3.INAN.INVIS
1 ia iaia uaia aaia aoia iaii iaio
2 ua uaia uaua uaxaa uaxao uaii uaio
3.ANIM.VIS aa aaia uaxaa aaxaa aaxao aaii aaio
3.ANIM.INVIS ao aoia uaxao aaxao aoxao aoii aoio
3.INAN.VIS ii iaii uaii aaii aoii iixii iixio
3.INAN.INVIS io iaio uaio aaio aoio iixio ioxio


Many of these combinations are rarely used. For example, it is not often that one wishes to refer to the addressee(s) plus (an) invisible third person inanimate object(s) (ie. "you and it", "you and those things") but on the rare occasions that this happens, the pronoun is uaio.

As with many languages, there is a distinction between the inclusive "we" uaia, which includes any addressees (as "you and I"), and exclusive "we"s, iaia, aaia, aoia. The choice between iaia and aaia is a subtle one. Iaia is used to speak on behalf of a group. Aaia is the same but does not carry this connotation and also indicates that the referents other than the speaker are present or potentially visible to the speaker at the time of speaking. Aoia is used when not all members of the group are present.

The following table, included for the sake of completeness, shows the genitive forms of these pronouns which are all regularly formed by prefixing /h/ (which substitutes the initial underlying glottal stop in all of the subject forms).


Genitive pronouns
Header text singular +1 +2 +3.ANIM.VIS +3.ANIM.INVIS +3.INAN.VIS +3.INAN.INVIS
1 hia hiaia huaia haaia haoia hiaii hiaio
2 hua huaia huaua huaxaa huaxao huaii huaio
3.ANIM.VIS haa haaia huaxaa haaxaa haaxao haaii haaio
3.ANIM.INVIS hao haoia huaxao haaxao haoxao haoii haoio
3.INAN.VIS hii hiaii huaii haaii haoii hiixii hiixio
3.INAN.INVIS hio hiaio huaio haaio haoio iixio hioxio

Contentives