From Linguifex
Jump to: navigation, search


Katäfalsen (pronunciation: [kɑˈtɑːfɑlsɛn]) is an apriori language, which is partially inspired by Basque, Hebrew and Latin. The aim was to construct a language with simple phonology along with unorthodox grammar and syntax. Katäfalsen is highly synthetic and features a free word order and ergative-absolutive alignment.



The consonant phonemes of Modern Katäfalsen are as follows:

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m
Stop voiced b
voiceless p

Fricative f
Approximant r
Lateral approximant l


The vowel inventory of Katäfalsen is quite symmetrical as there are each three front, back, rounded and unrounded vowels.

Front Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i
Mid e
Open a

The only vowel that distinguishes length is /ɑ/ contrasting phonemically with /ɑː/. The long vowel is represented by ä. The sequences /ɑj/, /ɑw/, /ɑːj/ and /ɑːw/ are realised as diphthongs, while adjacent vowels are usually pronounced in hiatus.


The Latin alphabet used for Katäfalsen therefore contains the following letters. Uppercase letters are used for the first letter of a sentence and proper nouns.

a b d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u w y ä


The syllable structure in Katäfalsen is CV(C), where C denotes a consonant and V a vowel. The glottal stop /ʔ/ is only allowed as syllable onset and only intervocalically in hiatus and word initially, i.e. after a break. This is not represented in the orthography.

Metathesis and epenthesis

Metathesis occurs in Katäfalsen when a suffix beginning with a consonant is added to a word. If the word ends with a vowel or diphthong, the morphemes are simply concatenated. The suffix -n, which creates female forms, is used for examples here.

ki + n kin
kaj + n kajn

However, if the word ends with a consonant instead, metathesis of this consonant and the preceding vowel occurs.

fales + n falsen

In words that are either monosyllablic or feature a closed penultimate syllable (although very rare), an epenthetic vowel /ɑ/ is inserted.

sen + n asnen
meslip + n mesalpin

In addition, there is a class of words that ended with /ɑ/ but dropped the ending later. When taking suffixes, this vowel emerges again.

kat + n katan instead of aktan

The epenthetic /ɑ/ occurs also before words which consist of a single consonant and disappears when the word takes suffixes beginning with a vowel.

aj + an jan

Vowel mutation

Old Katäfalsen had the additional phoneme /ħ/, which has disappeared in Modern Katäfalsen but has left still observable effects. We already know that the sequences /ɑj/, /ɑw/, /ɑːj/ and /ɑːw/ yield diphthongs. Moreover, whenever one of the phonemes /j/, /w/ and /ħ/ are syllable codae, they melt into the preceding vowel and cause the mutations summarised in the following table:

/ħ/ /j/ /w/
Nucleus /ɑ/ /ɑː/ /ɑj/ /ɑw/
/e/ /i/ /i/ /y/
/i/ /i/ /i/ /y/
/o/ /u/ /y/ /u/
/u/ /u/ /y/ /u/
/ɑː/ /ɑː/ /ɑːj/ /ɑːw/
/y/ /y/
/ɑj/ /ɑːj/
/ɑw/ /ɑːw/
/ɑːj/ /ɑːj/
/ɑːw/ /ɑːw/

The last five syllable nuclei are never followed by /j/ and /w/ because they solely arise from the mutations above and complex syllable codae are forbidden. When a suffix beginning with a vowel is attached to a word ending with a mutated vowel, the mutation is usually undone.

ty + antojan
ami + anamejan

As already mentioned, the class of words that ended with /ɑ/ in Old Katäfalsen behaves differently:

kat + ankataan [kɑtɑʔɑn]

Double consonants CC were changed to ħC in Old Katäfalsen and also triggered vowel mutation later.

welal + nwilan (via *wellan*weħlan)

In other positions, Old Katäfalsen /ħ/ has merged with /ʔ/. Intervocalically, i.e. syllable initially after a vowel or diphthong, /ħ/ triggered mutation of the preceding vowel in dialects in which /ʔ/ and /ħ/ have both dropped completely.

*meħelmeel [meʔel] or dialectally miel [mi.el]


Katäfalsen features a dynamic stress. In contrast to compounds, the stress in simple words is always initial: katä and falsen are pronounced [ˈkɑtɑː] and [ˈfɑlsen]. In compounds, the stresses of words attached to the right are pulled to the previous syllable, thus the last syllable of the preceding word component. The last stressed syllable in a compound is the heaviest one. Therefore other stresses (including the initial stress on the first word component) are analysed as secondary stresses. If several stressed syllables are in a row, the rightmost is most dominant and the other ones are negligible. To come back to the example above, the compound Katäfalsen is finally pronounced [kɑˈtɑːfɑlsen] with the shifted stress of the second component being more dominant than the initial stress of the first one.

Further examples (the stressed syllables are in bold):

  • kaj-sen: The stress of the last component is shifted to the previous syllable.
  • kaj-sen-kat: The rightmost stressed syllable is most dominant.
  • mesalpi-sedar: The initial syllable of the first component receives a secondary stress.
  • a-mesalpi-sedar: The stress on the second syllable is heavier than the one on the first syllable.




Nouns are declined in four cases, which are found in a subordinate and a coordinate form each. The total number of cases is therefore eight. The case suffixes and their exemplary application to the noun pares (man) are given in the following table:

Coordinate Subordinate
Suffix Example Suffix Example
Absolutive pares parsi
Dative a paresa ä paresä
Locative e parese i paresi
Ablative o pareso u paresu

The glossing abbreviations used here are abs, dat, loc, abl, abs.sr, dat.sr, loc.sr and abl.sr. A selection of the most important usages of the cases locative, dative and ablative is given below. The subordinate forms will be gone into in the section Coordination and subordination.

  • Dative: recipient or affected; where to; beneficiary
  • Locative: place where, time when; accompaniment
  • Ablative: where from; means or topic; cause, reason or value


Most Katäfalsen postposition can be treated as separate words and form (subordinate) compounds with the noun they refer to. The meaning of a postposition may change depending on its and the noun's case suffixes, while the noun always needs to be in the subordinate form. Examples:

  • katätoni: katä-toni, mountain.abs.sr-middle.loc, 'in the middle of the mountain'
  • parsitamali: parsi-tamali, man.abs.sr-thought.loc, 'regarding the man'


Katäfalsen has two personal pronouns, which like nouns do not differ in number intrinsically:

  • aj I, we (from /j/ talking an epenthetic /ɑ/)
  • aw you (from /w/ talking an epenthetic /ɑ/)

The subordinate forms are according the the rules given in Metathesis and epenthesis ajä and awä. The English third-person pronouns he, she, it, they are expressed by one of the demonstrative pronouns:

  • ra and es refer to things or persons which are further specified in different ways:
    • ra: The specification happens by describing the thing or person.
    • es: The specification happens physically, i.e. there is a sensory perception.
  • raj: Refers to things or persons close to the speaker.
  • raw: Refers to things or persons away from the speaker but close to the listener.
  • ä (from /ħ/ talking an epenthetic /ɑ/): Refers to things or persons away from both speaker and listener.

The subordinate form of ä is as ä is analysed as /ɑħ/ and has evolved /ɑħ/ + /ħ/ > /ɑħɑħ/ > /ɑʔɑː/.

Derivational suffixes


Coordination and subordination