The Kootayi language (Iskóótayi) is a Plains Settameric language spoken by the people, who live in the northwestern plains of the Northern continent. It is the closest relative of Kalyah, another West Plains language. The name "Kootayi" comes from the Western Kalyah word for "tent", since these people live mostly in dwellings made out of sticks, wood, bark and animal skins, unlike the Kalyaheen, who usually live in wooden houses. Kootayi 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 east- and northwards. Among the Plains languages, Kootayi is relatively divergent in phonology and lexicon, yet its grammar is very similar to other neighbouring languages. Unlike Kalyah and its another relative Chiresh, Kootayi has a fairly small phoneme inventory; consisting of 11 basic consonants and three basic vowels that have contrastive length counterparts (border dialects to the east have four vowels and 12 consonants). It is a pitch accent language.
Like the other Plains languages, Kootayi is considered to be a polysynthetic language due to its large morpheme inventory and word internal complexity. A majority of morphemes have a one to one correspondence between form and meaning, a defining feature of agglutinative languages. However, it also has some fusional characteristics as there are morphemes that can fuse into one. Both noun and verb stems cannot be used bare but must be inflected.
Kootayi is a member of the Settameric languages belonging to the West Plains group along with Kalyah and Chiresh. All three share some features, though Kootayi and Kalyah are much closer to each other, than to Chiresh, which has some Mountains Settameric features and resembles its close neighbour Miirei more than languages of its group. Kootayi is spoken in mostly in the Northwestern steppe and tundra regions of the Plains, making it geographically one of the westernmost Plains languages.
Kootayi has eleven distinct consonants, of which all but /ʔ/, /h/, /j/ and /w/ form pairs distinguished by length, which makes it eighteen consonant phonemes in total. There is a sight disagreement on how to count geminate consonants (as two consonants belonging to different syllables, or one, but lengthened). For simplicity geminate consonants will not be treated as different from the plain ones.
- Far northern dialects and Eastern dialects that border the Möhkinis dialect of Kalyah also have /l/ as a phoneme, while in other dialects it disappeared.
Kootayi has three moniphthongs, all can be both long and short. They differ in quality, not just in length. Eastern border dialects also have a fourth vowel /eː~ɵ/, which appears mostly in loanwords from Kalyah, but in other dialects it is represented with /i(ː)/
|Near-Close||i [ɪ]||o [ʊ], oo [oː]|
|Open||a [a]||aa [ɑː]|
There are three additional diphthongs. The first diphthong "ai" is pronounced [aɪ] or [ɛi]. The second diphthong "ao" is pronounced [aʊ], but before a consonant cluster it becomes [ɔ]. The third diphthong "oi" may be pronounced [yː~ɵː] before a consonant cluster and as [oɪ] elsewhere, but this diphthong is quite rare compared to the other two.
Kootayi is a pitch accent language and it is a contrastive feature in the language. Every stressed syllable can have either rising (marked with an acute accent) or falling (usually unmarked) pitch. Note that rising pitch here is used relative to the contiguous syllables, so if a word contains accented vowels the first will be higher in pitch than the second but the second will be higher in pitch than the syllables directly surrounding it, and that syllable will receive stress, but when there is no accented vowels, the word will receive a primary stress and have a falling pitch, when the first syllable is the lowest in pitch. An example of a pitch contrast is íístok [ˈǐːs.tʊk] "silence", iistók [iːs.ˈtǒk] "friend" and iistok [ˈîːs.tʊk] "bush". If a word contains more than three syllables, the pattern will repeat every two syllables: iskóótayi is thus pronounced [ɪs.ˈkǒː.ta.jɪ̌] as if written "iskóótayí", however this is often ommited in a fast speech.
Like most Settameric languages, Kootayi is synthetic and agglutinative, Two main grammatical categories are nouns and verbs, but there are also many adverb-like particles and pronouns (which morphologically behave the same way as nouns). All nouns are required to be inflected for animacy and are classified as either animate or inanimate. Verbs are inflected to match the animacy of all of its arguments. Animacy is a grammatical construct for noun classification, inanimate objects, such as drums and most nouns that are not alive are inanimate, though some abstract things, such as "death" are animate. Verbs are marked with person markers which must agree with the animacy of its arguments. However, animacy is not rigid, in stories in which grammatically inanimate objects are markedly anthropomorphized, such as talking flowers, animate 3rd person markers will be used. Nouns can also be inflected for number: either singular or plural. There is no dual number, like in many other Settameric languages. Verbal inflection also matches the number of its arguments. Because of its rich morphology, word order in Kootayi is flexible, however the SVO form (subject-verb-object) is preferred.
Noun classes are divided into two categories, based on grammatical gender: animate and inanimate. Additionally, all nouns must be marked for number. When a sentence contains two or more nouns as arguments, proximate and obviative markings are used to disambiguate. There may only be one proximate argument in any given sentence but multiple obviates are permissible. All agreement suffixes attach to noun stems and take eight forms, as shown in the table below:
Kootayi 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, 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|
|Indirect Object||Subject||Direct Object|
|3rd an.||hi-||hi(y)-||-aa (prox.)
- Here are some examples of verbs from different types: ikkiniin (ikki-niin) "I see it" (active transitive verb), II – ikkistóón (ikki-s-nóón) "I understand" (detransitive verb), sonníín (si-m-níín) "I am watched" (passive), ákkisciin (á-kki-s-niin) "(thing) that I see" (conjunct verb), naʼpáí (naʼ-m-háá-i) "I am getting here"(middle verb).
In order to make relative clauses, one should use conjunct verbs. These verbs can also be nominalized with an addition of nominal suffixes and thus behave like nouns. Here is an example of a sentence with a relative clause and a nominalized verb:
iʼta ááttaʼaa ácoi skiyínni. iʼt-a á-∅-at-haʼ-aa á-a-coo-∅-i ski-y-ínni-o man-AN.SG CONJ-3sg.-INCH-go.PFV-3.sg.AN CONJ-STAT-fish-IN.SG-NMLZ 1.sg.POSS-epenthetic."y"-husband-AN.SG "The man who has just gone fishing is my husband".
Word order in Kootayi is quite flexible in response to discourse and pragmatic concerns. It is rare to have both a subject and an object in a sentence since the morphology of the verb makes it clear who is acting on whom (the same is true for other Plains languages). In a "neutral" context, SVO word order is preferred; however, it also alternates with SOV and VSO orders. The pre-verbal position can also be occupied by adverbs, as seen in this example:
iskiim ikkinoniit tiiki yikoi. iskiim ∅-ikki-non-iit tiik-i ∅-yiko-i today 3sg.AN.Obj.-1.AN.Subj.-see.PFV-pl.AN.Subj. crow-AN.SG 3.sg.AN-white-STV "Today we saw a white crow".
Direction of the agent-patient relationship is often obvious from person markers on verbs. The inverse system in Kootayi is observable only in interactions between third persons. The following example shows the difference between direct and inverse:
iʼta yistoʼni nonaa. iʼt-a yist-o-ʼni ∅-non-aa man.AN.SG.PROX woman-AN.SG-AN.OBV 3sg.AN.-see.PFV-3sg.AN.DIR "The man (proximate) saw a woman (obviative)". iʼtani yisto nonok. iʼt-a-(ʼ)ni yist-o ∅-non-ok man.AN.SG.-AN.OBV woman-AN.SG.PROX 3sg.AN.-see.PFV-3sg.AN.INV "A man (obviative) saw the woman (proximate)". yisto sinon (iʼta). yist-o si-∅-non (iʼt-a) woman-AN.SG PASS-3sg.AN.-see.PFV (man.AN.SG) "The woman was seen (by the man)".
The third example shows that the inverse construction is different from passive, which is a valency changing operation and promotes the object to the subject of the sentence, while inverse does not change roles of nouns in the example.
The following table shows words in Kootayi and its eastern dialects with corresponding words in the Möhkinis dialect for comparison. Many words were borrowed from Kalyah into Kootayi while some were borrowed into Möhkinis. 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.
|"man (male adult)"||iʼta||iʼtayo||ahto|
|"it is big"||óón||woin|
|"s/he sees it"||yiniinaa||yoseeneh|
|"it is windy"||iyoosi||iloosi||lyöθ|