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Hyperborean (c) Rebecca Ashling 2019-2020. I assert that the Hyperborean conlang presented here is my intellectual property and confirm that Linguifex may post this material on their site.

Hyperborean (HB:Tinnunaqqa Telhun) is a polysynthetic, fluid-S split intransitive language with VSOX word order that is the official language of Hyperborea (HB: Huqerqarja) and has approximately 236 million L1 speakers with a further 21 million L2 speakers. The Hyperborean Commonwealth (HB: Tinqara Anakte Huqerqarjan) comprises northern Eurasia from the Volga-Kama-Urals line in the west to the Bering Strait in the east as well as all territory west of the Rockies in North America. The nation named itself after the Hyperborea of Greek Mythology.


The original speakers of Hyperborean, the Jamix, belong to the European Pygmy phenotype whose urheimat is believed to have been the forests of prehistoric Central Europe. It is believed to have diverged from other ancient European lineages some 8,000 years ago. European pygmies exist in mostly scattered populations throughout Europe and speak a variety of largely unrelated languages. Hyperborean is a language isolate and has no traceable genealogical relation to any other language, ancient or modern. It is believed however to form an ancient sprachbund with the Uralic languages, sharing such features as a bisyllabic root structure, primary stress on the first syllable, consonant gradation, the negative verb and the expression of 'have' using the copula and an oblique case. The dialect described below is the standard variety promulgated by the Hyperborean Commonwealth.



General Remarks On Orthography

Hyperborean is written in a native alphabet which was derived from an earlier featural abugida amd the Latin alphabet which was introduced in the 19th Century. Both are official but the native script is more often used.

Hyperborean Alphabet

Hyperborean Letter IPA Value Latin Letter
⟨o⟩ /m/ ⟨m⟩
⟨x⟩ /n/ ⟨n⟩
⟨v⟩ /t/ ⟨t⟩
⟨ʌ⟩ /d/ ⟨d⟩
⟨w⟩ /kʲ/ ⟨x⟩
⟨ʍ⟩ /j/ ⟨j⟩
⟨ɴ⟩ /ɹ̠/ ⟨r⟩
⟨z⟩ /l/ ⟨l⟩
⟨n⟩ /k/ ⟨k⟩
⟨u⟩ /h/ ⟨h⟩
⟨m⟩ /kxʷ/ ⟨q⟩
⟨ɯ⟩ /w/ ⟨v⟩
⟨h⟩ /i/ ⟨i⟩
⟨hh⟩ /eɪ/ ⟨ī⟩
⟨ɥ⟩ /ɛ/ ⟨e⟩
⟨ɥɥ⟩ /aɪ/ ⟨ē⟩
⟨b⟩ /u/ ⟨u⟩
⟨bb⟩ /oʊ/ ⟨ū⟩
⟨q⟩ /ɑ/ ⟨a⟩
⟨qq⟩ /aʊ/ ⟨ā⟩


Hyperborean has a total of 12 consonants which according to the World Atlas of Lanɡuaɡe Stucture is a small inventory. The most striking feature of the inventory, according to WALS, is the lack of phonemic fricatives. The consonants are displayed in the table below:

Bilabial Central Alveolar Lateral Alveolar Palatal Alveolar Plain Velar Palatalised Velar Labialised Velar
Stop /t/ /k/ /kʲ/ /kʷ/
Continuant /d/† /h/‡ /j/ /w/
Nasal /m/ /n/
Liquid /l/ /ɹ̠/

† While not phonetically a continuant, /d/ patterns phonologically with them

‡ While not phonetically a plain velar /h/ patterns phonologically with /k/


Hyperborean has a total of 8 vowels. It has 4 vowel qualities. According to the World Atlas of Lanɡuaɡe Structures this is an small vowel quality inventory. Common Minervan has a consonant to vowel quality ratio of 3.0 which according to WALS is an average ratio. The diphthongs are phonologically long vowels. The vowels are displayed in the table below:

Short Front Long Front Short Back Long Back
Hiɡh /i/ /eɪ/ /u/ /oʊ/
Low /ɛ/ /aɪ/ /ɑ/ /aʊ/


1) In word-initial position /p, t, k, kʲ, kʷ/ are realised as [pʰ, tʰ, kʰ, kʲʰ, kʷʰ].

2) In coda position /kʲ, kʷ/ are realised as [tʃ, p].

3) /n/ is realised as [ŋ] in coda position.

4) /ɹ̠/ is realised as [ʃ] in coda position before a voiceless consonant.

5) /ɹ̠/ is realised as [ʒ] in coda position elsewhere.

6) Geminate /t, k, kʲ, kʷ/ are realised as [θ̠, x, xʲ, xʷ].

7) Geminate /m, n/ are realised as [pm, tn].

8) Geminate /l, ɹ̠/ are realised as [tl, tɹ̠].

9) The consonant clusters /ɹ̠h, ɹ̠j/ are realised as [ʃ, ʒ].

10) In closed syllables /i, u/ are realised as [ɪ, ʊ].


1) Words in Hyperborean bear primary stress on the initial syllable.

2) Hyperborean words bear secondary stress on every odd-numbered syllable following the initial syllable.

3) Rhythm type is trochaic.

4) To an English speaker, Hyperborean would appear to be spoken with a slower tempo than English is.


1) The syllable template is (C)V(C).

2) Stops, nasals and liquids are permitted in coda position.

3) Consonant clusters may not have more than two segments.

4) Consonant clusters may only occur across syllable boundaries.

5) Geminate consonants clusters may not occur across syllable boundaries if the following syllable is closed.

6) Stops may not occur at the beginning of a closed syllable if they follow a nasal or liquid.

7) Permitted consonant clusters as per the table below:

/t/ /k/ /kʲ/ /kʷ/ /m/ /n/ /l/ /ɹ̠/

a) The first consonant in a potential cluster runs along top of table, the second consonant in a potential cluster runs down right of table.

b) √ within a cell indicates a potential cluster exists. A blank cell indicates that it does not.

8) /j/ may not follow a long front vowel.

9) /w/ may not follow a long back vowel.

10) /i, eɪ/ may not follow /tʃ, j/.

11) /u, oʊ/ may not follow /kʷ, w/.

12) A lonɡ vowel may not occur in a closed syllable.

13) Vowel clusters do not occur.

14) Canonical morpheme syllable templates:

a) Roots: -(C)V(C)- or -(C)V(C)CV(C)-

b) Prefixes: (C)V(C)- or (C)V(C)CV(C)-

c) Suffixes: -(C)(C)V(C) or -(C)V(C)CV(C)

d) Particles: (C)V(C) or (C)V(C)CV(C)

15) Monosyllabic suffixes may have a word-final allomorph consisting of a single coda consonant which is employed after a short vowel.

16) Roots originating through foreign borrowings may exceed two syllables.


1) Consonant clusters resulting from affixation undergo sandhi as per the table below:

tt xt kt qt mt nt lt rt T
tk kk xk qk mx nx lk rq K
tx xx xx qx mk nk lk rq X
tq qq xq qq mq nq lq rq Q
v̄t v̄t v̄t v̄t md nd ld rd D
v̄k v̄k v̄k v̄k mh nh lh rh H
v̄x xx v̄x v̄x mj nj lj rj J
v̄q qq v̄q v̄q mv nv lv rv V
mt mx mk mm mm nm ml mr M
nn nx nk nq mn nn nl nr N
ll lx lk lq ml nl ll rl L
rr rx rk rq mr nr lr rr R


a) Latin transliteration used for clarity.

b) First consonant of consonant cluster runs along be top of table, second consonant of consonant cluster runs down riɡht of table.

c) v̄ indicates precedinɡ vowel is lenɡthened

2) If a three-segment consonant cluster results from suffixation then an epenthetic /i/ (/e/ after /kʲ, j/) is inserted between the first and second segments of the cluster.

3) If a vowel cluster results from affixation then an epenthetic /n/ is inserted after the first vowel in the cluster.

4) If through suffixation a long vowel should precede a coda consonant or a consonant cluster then it is reduced to its corresponding short vowel.

5) If through affixation /j/ should follow a front long vowel then that front long vowel is reduced to its corresponding short vowel.

6) If through affixation /w/ should follow a long back vowel then that long back vowel is reduced to its corresponding short vowel.

Consonant Gradation

1) Consonants eligible for consonant gradation are geminate consonants and single stops following a nasal, liquid or vowel.

2) It is triggered when eligible consonants are at the beginning of an open syllable and that syllable becomes closed due to suffixation.

3) The affected consonants lenite as per the table below:

Base Form Gradated Form
tt t
kk k
t d
k h
mm m
nn n
ll l
ɹ̠ɹ̠ ɹ̠

4) Consonant gradation takes effect after the effects of consonant sandhi.

5) Prefixes are unaffected by consonant gradation.


General Remarks On Morpholoɡy

1) The morphological cateɡories used in Hyperborean are summarised in the table below:

Category Description Inflected?
Noun Nouns, pronouns, numerals Yes
Verb Verbs, many adjectives, adpositions Yes
Affix Prefixes and suffixes expressing adjunction, inflection or derivation No
Particle Conjunctions, some adverbs, interjections No

2) Hyperborean is an affixal polysynthetic lanɡuaɡe and only one root per word is permitted.

3) Compoundinɡ of roots does not occur.

4) According to the World Atlas of Language Structures, Hyperborean has a moderate preference for suffixinɡ.

Nominal Morphology

General Remarks On Nominal Morphology

1) Nouns indicate distinct entities. Nouns are inflected for number, possessor, demonstration or case.

2) Maximal nominal structure:

demonstrative or possessive prefix + adjectival prefix(es) + nominal or verbal root + derivational suffix(es) + number suffix + case suffix


1) There are two main systems of nominal number in Common Minervan:

a) Sinɡular-Plural

b) Collective-Singulative

2) Singular nouns are singular by default and take the plural suffix to indicate more than four instances.

3) Collective nouns indicate more than four instances by default or are mass nouns. They take the singulative suffix to indicate a singular instance or a very small part of the whole.

4) Common Minervan also has a paucal number which is used to mark nouns that are greater than one or fewer than five in number. Also indicates matched sets of entities of any number.

5) Number suffixes are summarised in the table below:

Number Suffix
Plural -at
Singulative -in
Paucal -uk


1) Case marks relationships between noun and noun or noun and verb.

2) Common Minervan cases are summarised in the table below:

Case Abbreviation Suffix (Allomorph) Functions
Absolutive ABS -∅ a) Marks citation form of nouno

b) Indicates O argument of a transitive verb

c) Marks S argument of a stative intransitive verb

Nominative NOM -nu (-n) a) Indicates A argument of a transitive verb

b) Marks S arɡument of an active intransitive verb

c) Indicates the possessor

Dative DAT -hē a) Marks X argument of active intransitive verb

b) Marks beneficiary of action

c) Indicates purpose or intent

Instrumental INST -tik a) Marks X argument of stative intransitive verb

b) Marks use of tool or instrument

c) Indicates proximal cause

Equative EQU -te (-t) a) Indicates similarity in function, manner or behaviour

b) Marks the subject complement of copula

c) Indicates similarity to, alike to

c) Made or consisting of a particular substance d) Indicates the comparative

Comitative COM -qe (-q) a) Marks physical proximity or social connection to someone

b) Indicates collaborative effort with someone in a joint activity

c) Marks reciprocicity

Locative LOC -li (-l) a) Indicates place where

b) Marks time when

Allative ALL -va a) Marks motion towards

b) Indicates time until

c) Marks destination or goal

Ablative ABL -jā a) Indicates motion away from

b) Marks time since

c) Indicates the source or origin

d) Marks aversion to or opposition to

e) Indicates the source of comparison

Perlative PERL -am a) Marks motion across, along, through or by way of

b) Indicates duration

c) Marks mode or means of transport or transmission

d) Indicates reason, motive or ultimate cause

e) Marks topic of conversation

NB: Parenthesised forms are word-final allomorphs employed after a short vowel.


Personal Pronouns

1) Common Minervan personal pronouns and their associated possessive suffixes are summarised in the table below:

Person Abbreviation Pronoun Possessive Prefix
1st Person Singular 1SG ni min-
2nd Person Singular 2SG ki kin-
3rd Person Singular 3SG ti tin-
4th Person Sinɡular 4SG li lin-
1st Person Paucal Exclusive 1PC EXCL nuk nunku-
1st Person Paucal Inclusive 1PC INCL muk munku-
2nd Person Paucal 2PC kuk kunku-
3rd Person Paucal 3PC tuk tunku-
4th Person Paucal 4PC luk lunku-
1st Person Plural Exclusive 1PL EXCL nat nantu-
1st Person Plural Inclusive 1PL INCL mat mantu-
2nd Person Plural 2PL kat kantu-
3rd Person Plural 3PL tat tantu-
4th Person Plural 4PL lat lantu-

2) Personal pronouns take case in the same manner as nouns.


1) Adnominal demonstratives are suffixes attached to the noun as per the table below:

Name Locus English Equivalent Prefix
Proximal Near speaker this, these di-
Medial Near listener(s) that, those hu-
Distal Away from speaker and listener(s) yon ra-

2) Demonstrative pronouns are formed by adding the appropriate demonstrative suffix to the appropriate third person pronoun.

Emphatic Pronouns

These are no dedicated emphatic pronouns but as the verbs mark A, S and O arguments, the use of the pronouns correlating with these can be used for emphasis.

Reflexive Pronouns

These are no reflexive pronouns in the nominative or the absolutive cases although there is an absolutive reflexive pronominal suffix on the verb. Reflexive pronouns for obliques are formed by prefixing the appropriate possessive prefix to the reflexive pronoun yet which derives from the word yevet 'shadow'.

Interrogative Pronouns

1) There is one interroɡative pronoun: je 'who, what' which is undifferentiated for number.

2) All other interrogatives are built from this by adding the appropriate case. Eɡ: jex 'where?', jebwe 'with whom?'

3) There is an interrogative pronominal possessive prefix: jen- 'whose?'.

4) Prefixing je- to a noun gives the sense of 'which?'.

5) The canonical word-order of Common Minervan is VSOX. Interrogative pronouns or nouns taking an interrogative pronominal possessive prefix violate this by being fronted to before the verb.

Indefinite Pronouns

There is one indefinite pronoun jeyet 'somebody, something'.

Verbal Morphology

General Remarks On Verbal Morphology

1) Verbs express actions, processes or states of being. Verbs are inflected for A, S and O arguments, aspect, valency and mood.

2) Maximal verbal structure:

interrogative prefix + nominative pronominal prefix + auxiliary prefix + causative prefix + verbal or nominal root + derivational suffix(es) + applicative suffix + aspect suffix + adverbial suffix(es) + absolutive pronominal suffic

Pronominal Affixes

Person Absolutive Suffix (Allomorph) Nominative Prefix
1st Person Singular -ni (-n) nin-
2nd Person Singular -ki(-k) kin-
3rd Person Singular -ti(-t) tin-
4th Person Sinɡular -li (-l) lin-
1st Person Paucal Exclusive -nuk nunku-
1st Person Paucal Inclusive -muk munku-
2nd Person Paucal -kuk kunku-
3rd Person Paucal -tuk tunku-
4th Person Paucal -luk lunku-
1st Person Plural Exclusive -nat nantu-
1st Person Plural Inclusive -mat mantu-
2nd Person Plural -kat kantu-
3rd Person Plural -tat tantu-
4th Person Plural -lat lantu-

NB: Parenthesised forms are word-final allomorphs employed after a short vowel.


1) Transitive verbs in Common Minervan have three voices:

a) Active

b) Passive

c) Antipassive

2) These are indicated by the presence or absence of verbal pronominal affixes as per the table below:

Voice Abbreviation Nominative Prefix? Absolutive Suffix? Promoted Argument Case Of Demoted Argument Function
Active ACT Yes Yes N/A N/A No topicalisation of either argument
Passive PASS No Yes ABS INST Topicalisation of O argument
Antipassive ANTIP Yes No NOM DAT Topicalisation of A argument


Constituent order

Noun phrase

Verb phrase

Sentence phrase

Dependent clauses

Example texts

Other resources