From Linguifex
Jump to: navigation, search
Kalyah language
Settameric West Plains.png
Pronunciation /ka.ˈlʲa.hɛ.kʷɛ/
Created by Raistas
Setting planet Liifam
Ethnicity Kalyaheen
Language family
Settameric languages
  • Western Plains languages
    • Kalyah language
Early forms:
  • Kalyah language
Writing system none
ISO 639-3

Kalyah (with four varieties, known as Möhkinis, Teimyois, Šonoowis and Eihtoomis) is a language, spoken in the western part of a vast flat region of the Northern continent, simply called the Plains. The most commonly spoken variety is Teimyois, it is referred to as an "ð-dialect", because the *θ is still distinct in most cases as a phoneme /ð/. The grammar and the examples used here are from Teimyois, but data on other dialects will be given as well. It is spoken by approximately 117,000 people across the northern part of the Plains near the Frost Bay (Iniikekwa).

Kalyah is believed to have begun as a Plains Settameric dialect spoken between 2,500 and 3,000 years ago in the original homeland, near the Kahaaler mountains and slowly spread eastwards. However, it's divergence into separate dialects began much later, around 700 years ago. The main criteria of division are reflexes of *l, *š and *θ as the boundaries, made by those reflexes, are quite clear. Another important phonological variation involves the palatalisation of the phoneme *k to "č" before /j/ and /i(ː)/, however the division is not as clear, since *ky is often pronounced as [c] in the west, slowly becomes [c͡ç], when moving eastward, until it finally becomes [t͡ʃ] Eihtoomis dialect.



This table shows the possible consonant phonemes in the Kalyah language and its varieties:

Bilabial Dental Postalveolar Palatalized Velar Glottal
plain labialized
Nasal m n ny /nʲ/
Stop p t ky /c/ k kw /kʷ/
Fricative f θ s š /ʃ/ hy /ç/ h
Affricate c /t͡s/ č /t͡ʃ/
Approximant w ð y /j/
Lateral Approximant l ly /lʲ/
  •   Found only in the Möhkinis dialect, where it is a reflex of *č. This dialect has no [t͡ʃ]
  •   Present in Teimyois and Möhkinis. [ð] comes from *θ between two vowels in Teimyois and from *l in Möhkinis. *l is preserved as [l] in Teimyois, becomes [n] in Šonoowis and [j] in Eihtoomis.
  •   Present in Šonoowis and in Southern Eihtoomis. In other dialects *š becomes [s].

When /j/ precedes a consonant, it becomes palatalized. In most dialects /j/ then disappears. For example the name of the language is often pronounced [ka.ˈlʲa.he.kʷe] with a palatalized (or even a trully palatal /l/). In Eihtoomis plain velars also palatalize before /i(ː)/ and become [t͡ʃ]. A unique combination is "hy" which is almost always pronounced [ç], but that sound is rare, for example: lyahyi "rime" is [lʲaçɪ]. Whether palatalized consonants are separate phonemes or not is a matter of debate, but there is at least one minimal pair: lyoma ([ˈlʲo.ma], "hiding") and loma ([ˈlo.ma], "hammer, obviative") since two consonants in a row are not allowed word-initially in Kalyah. Both plosives and affricates (except č) can be preaspirated between two vowels and word-finally in monosyllabic words, which is marked with "h" before a consonant, for example: ahto "man", fohk "leaf", iskahceh "s/he fed it", fiihp "lake", liihkʷ "fire"; these are not separate phonemes, however.


Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close ii [iː] öö [øː~ʉː] oo [oː~uː]
Near-Close i [ɪ] ö [ø~ʏ] o [o~ʊ]
Mid ee [eː]
Near-Open e [ɛ]
Open a [a] aa [ɑː~ɔɑ]

All dialects have the same set of vowels, but they may differ in certain words. Kalyah has several diphthongs as well, that can be monophthongized in many Southern varieties. The quality of those diphthongs varies too among dialects:

Möhkinis Teimyois Šonoowis Eihtoomis
ei [aɪ] [eɪ] [ɛæ] [eɪ]
aa [ɒː] [ɔɑ] [ɔɑ] [ɑː]
oi [oɪ] [ʊɪ] [ɛɵ~œ] [øʏ]
yo [jo] [jo] [œː] [je]
ya [ja] [ja] [ɛæ] [je]
[jo] [jø] [øː] [øː]

Phonological processes

Western dialects of Kalyah allow only three types of consonant clusters: tn, hC and sC, where C is a plosive or an affricate with an exception of "y" which can be added to almost any consonant and almost always disappears palatalizing the previous consonant in the process. Some dialects like Eihtoomis allow more types of clusters, such as nasals with plosives. When a combination of two consonants, that is not allowed, occurs, it is broken by a short vowel i or e (only in person markers). Quite often the cluster that occurs word-finally simplifies in old words, this is not the case with newly created words and word compounds. Palatalization of the sound /t/ to /t͡s/ and /s/ (word-initially from an original ) and /ð/ to /s/ occurs before the vowels /i/ and /iː/ as well as the consonant /j/, but the rule does not apply when /iː/ came from old /eː/. For example, the stem leð "throw" becomes tahkelesiit "we threw it to you" before the ending /iːt/, but etiih "grass", where it is not palatalized before /iː/ (the word came from *eteehs). Palatalization is also found in diminutives, where all instances of /t/ and /ð/ in a word are replaced by [t͡s] before the diminutive suffixes -eni, -e(s)ki, etc. Thus, ilyoð "horse" would become ilyoceni "little horse".


Stress in Kalyahekwe is non-phonemic. Traditionally, the word stress is antepenultimate and dynamic. This means that it falls on the third from last syllable in words with three or more syllables, but on the first syllable of the root in other words. But in Northern dialects it is always placed on the initial syllable instead. Both variations are correct in modern Kalyah. In its earlier stages of development Kalyah probably had a pitch accent, but it was lost completely nowadays. If a word is longer than four syllables, a secondary stress can be placed on the second to last syllable, for instance: koočikwaaniitis [koː.ˈt͡ʃɪ.kʷɔɑ.ˌniː.tɪs] "we might not be running around".


Like most Settameric languages, Kalyah is highly synthetic, meaning it exhibits a great deal of synthesis and a very high morpheme-to-word ratio. It is agglutinating, and thus builds up words by stringing morpheme after morpheme together, rather than having several affixes which carry numerous different pieces of information, but certain morphemes can fuse together.

Kalyahekwe distinguishes between animate and inanimate categories in nouns and person markers. Animate nouns are generally living things that can move on their own, and inanimate ones generally nonliving things, although that is not a simple rule because of the cultural specifics. Some words are distinguished by their noun class and have the same root; for example, hacikwi means "fir tree" and is animate, while hacikw is inanimate and means "wood".


Apart from animacy, Kalyah nouns have a category of number, a simple singular/plural contrast for almost all nouns, but words for naturally paired objects have dual, which acts like plural. Verbs must agree with the animacy and number of its nouns. Kalyah nouns do not have a case distinction, but it has obviation instead, where one of the two participants would be marked as proximate (whichever one was deemed more important), and the other marked as obviative. 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.

Inanimate Animate
"hammer" "woman"
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Proximate lom loma ohča ohčan
Obviate loma lomoi ohčan ohčone

When an object is possessed by somebody, it is marked by a possessive marker. All possessive prefixes are represented in the table below:

Possessive prefixes
singular dual plural
1st k(i)- kas- kil-
2nd t(i)- tas- til-
3rd an. h(i)- has- hil-
3rd inan. yo- yas- yil-


Verbs mark aspect, mood, subject and object and have two categories: independent (in a main clause) and conjunct (used in subordinate clauses, to form participles and with particles, called preverbs). Intransitive verbs can only mark the subject, while transitive can also mark both direct and indirect objects (or one of them). Some markers can show variations among different dialects.

Kalyah verbs have a similar shape to other Plains languages. Here is a template for all types of verbs:

Transitive verbs
prefixes word stem suffixes
particles Ind. Obj. 1,2 Subj. sg. Dir. Obj. sg. Aspect Modality Root DIR/INV Mood 3sg. Subj. Obj. du./pl. Subj. du./pl. negativity interrogative
Intransitive verbs
prefixes word stem suffixes
particles Subj. sg. Aspect Modality Root Mood Subj. du./pl. negativity interrogative
Conjunct verbs
prefixes word stem suffixes
initial vowel Dir. Obj. sg. Aspect Modality Root Mood Subj. sg. Obj. du./pl. Subj. du./pl. negativity interrogative
Middle verbs
prefixes word stem suffixes
ne- Ind. Obj. 1,2 Subj. sg. Aspect Modality Root Mood DIR/INV 3 Subj. sg. Subj. du./pl. negativity interrogative

Below are all person markers for subject and both direct and indirect objects. Variations among dialects are included.

Indirect Object Subject Direct Object
singular plural singular dual plural singular dual plural
1st či_
(h)k_ (h)k_as (h)k_iit m_ m_as m_iit
2nd ta_ tal_ ki_ ki_as ki_iit
3rd an. ha_ hal_ _h
3rd inan. _
_as _iin yo_(a)
  • M - Möhkinis dialects, Š - Šonoowis dialect.
  • Here are examples of all four types: Iyohkyeen (yo-hk-yeen) "I see it" (active transitive verb), IIkesseen (k-s-yeen) "I understand" (detransitive verb), nöyon (ne-m-yon "I am seen" (passive) , III eikseen (e-i-hk-s-yeen) "(thing) that I see" (conjunct verb), IVmöhkwi (m-öhkw-i) "I set fire" (deponent verb). As can be seen for these examples, every type has slightly different person markers.

Aspect are shown with multiple prefixes attached to a lexical stem. There are multiple aspect prefixes, sometimes more than one aspectual prefix can be attached to a verb. They are often used in combination with various clitics, but can also be used on their own. Together with person markers and a root they are compulsory parts of a verb. Aspect markers are not used to describe time, the same way as tenses in English, but can tell about the duration or completeness. Comparing to some Southern languages, Kalyah has a moderate inventory of aspectual prefixes. Four modifiers are used to change the valency of the verb. A modifier is always placed right next to the root before any other prefixes.

Aspects Modifiers
Imperfective (vowel lenthening) Causative ta-
Perfective Detransitive s-
Iterative ka- Reflexive koo-
Habitual aa- Reciprocal ee-

Apart from aspect prefixes a verb can also have one or several preverbs that are attached after all previous prefixes. Preverbs are used for various purposes, most commonly to give some additional information about space and time where the took place. They are not compulsory, but some are used quite often.

Preverb Usage
e- Conjunct preverb.
ii- In relative clauses to mark conditional.
yii- Past irrealis (things that could have happened, but did not).
waa- Used as "because", in relative clauses.
mjö- Notes that the actions are simultaneous, like English "when".
mekw- Indicates possible and/or future actions.
hyaa- Indicates distant past, used with imperfective aspect.

Modality allows for expressing a speaker's general intentions (or illocutionary point) and whether the proposition expressed is true, obligatory, desirable, or actual. Modal prefixes in Kalyah have a similar role to modal verbs in English.

Prefix Meaning
oo- possibility, likelyhood
naa- ability
so- necessity
öö- desire, wish
ðe- permission
iih- request

Kalyah has relatively few mood suffixes. The moods are: indicative (indicates that something is a statement of fact), subjunctive (expresses various states of unreality, subjunctive present is used for events that can happen now or in the future, while subjunctive past is used for events that will not occure, but could have happened under different circumstances), and optative (indicates a wish or hope, and is also used as imperative).

Suffix Meaning
-∅ Indicative
-ciin Subjunctive Present
-yii Subjunctive Past
-öön Optative

There are two additional suffixes called negative and interrogative. The negative suffix is used to negate a verb and the interrogative suffix is used to turn a sentence into a question.

Suffix Meaning
-is Negative
-okw Interrogative


Kalyah has three types of demonstrative pronouns: proximal (indicates a person or an object that is close to the speaker), medial (indicates something that is slightly farther away from the speaker, but can be close to the listener) and distal (used, when someone or something is far away from the speaker). There are two sets based on animacy.

Animate Proximate Obviative
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Proximal ii iin yooð yoon
Medial la lan hila hilan
Distal eða
hiið hiin
Inanimate Proximate Obviative
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Proximal eki
yööð yöötni
Medial li lini yeli yelini
  • There are minor differences between Northwestern and Southern dialects, where the initial "e" usually becomes "ya" in Eihtoomis and Šonoowis, but is always "e" in Teimyois.

These pronouns act like separate words, but in some Northern dialects they can be used with verbs as prefixes instead of person markers. These pronouns can also attach prefixes, that would change their meaning, for example: nökweð "where (is it)?" (n-ökw-eð, where "n-" is a spatial prefix and "ökw-" is an interrogative prefix). They can also act as separate sentences, for instance: nökweðan "where are they?", which does not require any additional verbs, unlike a similar construction in English.


The basic transitive sentence is of the form SVO (subject-verb-object), which is typical for the Eastern Plains languages, but other order forms are also possible. Both subject and object noun phrases may be omitted from a sentence, if this information can be inferred from the context. Full noun phrases are often only used in the beginning of a conversation or later for emphasis.


Direction of the agent-patient relationship is often obvious from person markers on verbs, but it is double marked on nouns (as obviation) and on verbs (as a direct or inverse marker) and these two markings must agree. If a proximant noun is an agent, than the direct marker is used, but if an obviate noun is an agent instead, the inverse marker is attached to the verb right after its root. The direct marker is usually either "-e-" or zero, while the inverse marker is "-a-". These markers are only used when both subject and object markers are in the 3rd person. If a subject is inanimate or of lower animacy than its object, the inverse marker is always used. For example, yeeniit "they sees him/her" has a direct marker "∅", but yeenali "he/she sees them" with an inverse marker "-a".


Some intransitive verb contain a transitive verb stem and an incorporated nominal root as a prefix. This is not compulsory and not all nouns can be incorporated (most can, however). Such verbs would thus have a narrower meaning and denote habitual action. Not only nouns can be incorporated, though they is certainly the most common type. For example, ilyoð hayiðeeleh "the horse is scaring him/her", which means there is a particular horse nearby, while hilyosiðeeli "he/she is scared of horses (occassionally and right now too)". There is a second option: hilyoðeiðeeli "he/she is scared of horses" with a habitual marker "-aa-" (-aayi->-aai->-ei-), and the meaning is the same, but it specifies, that the action is constant.

Locative particles

Kalyah has four locative suffixes, similar to locative cases in some languages, but these suffixes are not real cases. These suffixes are: -iin/-niin which can be translated as "here" or "near", -(w)aah which has a basic meaning of position ("on", "at", "in"), -(a)mo "towards", "in front of it", "along" and -aahk which has distributive meaning ("among", "part of"). An example can be kookesaah "on my shoulders" (from ookes "shoulder"), or eihtomo "along the river" (from eihto "river", hence eihtoomis "which is along rivers" - one of the four main dialects of Kalyah).


The following table shows words in Teimyois and corresponding words in a selection of other dialects. From it a number of similarities and some differences can be seen. Most differences are phonological and some are lexical. Their grammar operates more or less in exactly the same way, so if one person knows sound correspondences between the dialects, it is easy for them to understand speakers of those dialects. Verbs can sometimes have different conjugation patterns, but usually it does not create any major problem when it comes to intelligibility. In the following table, each verb is given with a third person singular subject, and if a verb is transitive, with a third person object or objects, nouns are given in their singular form.

Teimyois Möhkinis Šonoowis Eihtoomis
"morning" noikin noikin niikin niičin
"fire" liihkw ðiihkw nookw yehkw
"horse" ilyoð issot iyoo iyoo
"leaf" fohk ceθin pilah
"man (male adult)" ahto ahto ahto ahto
"my younger sister" (ki)niisi (ki)niisi kiniiši činiisi
"mother" kaana neeya maama kaana
"my mother" (ki)maama (ki)maama kimaama (či)maama
"s/he eats" kööhceh kööθeh kahceh kahcih
"s/he swims" mooh mooh mooh mooh
"s/he knows him/her" koomah koomah koonšah sökoomih
"town" ohtiikim ohtiikim ohtiikim ohtiičim
"cloud" ökwal istoot ökwan ökwii
"s/he sees it" yoyeeneh yoseeneh yeenih yeeniih
"it is snowing" kooni hiyeθi kooni kooni
"it is big" woin woin oon een
"outside" neimii naimii ništaamii nyekasmii
"one" yeem yeem yaam yaam
"two" mohčii moθθii močii mohčii
"three" kyösti kyösti kööšti čöösti
"four" mečis meθis mečis mičis
"five" fen epahiikw fyan fyen
"rock" teim teim cikwi cikwi
"yes" eha aih yaa yaa
"no" iče iiθ ena