Nēpoki

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Nepokian
Nēpoki
Pronunciation [neːpoki]
Region Polynesia
Native speakers ~ 200  (1912)
Language family
Indo-European
  • Nepokian
Early forms:
Proto-Nepokian
  • Nepokian
Writing system Latin
ISO 639-3 npk

Nepokian (natively written as nēpoki) is an Indo-European language. Linguists classify it as an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. Nepokian shares some characteristics with the Anatolian languages, which led linguists to group them together. But as Nepokian has some unique features not known to any other Indo-European tongue so far, these similarities may be only due to the antiquity of both branches.


Background

External history

Internal history

The exact temporal origin of Nepokian is somewhat obscure, whether Nepokian is a daughter language of Proto-Indo-European or a sister. Some characteristics, as the gender and case systems, the preservation of laryngeals, presumably genuine inherited vocabulary not found in PIE itself but in Uralic and Nostratic roots point to a very early split from Proto-Indo-European. Some linguists proposed Nepokian is a daughter of Proto-Indo-Uralic, placing it on the same level with Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Uralic.

Proto-Nepokian

Proto-Nepokian was probably spoken in the 3rd millenium B.C, when the people had started to migrate south-eastwards. Some think they may have migrated together with the Anatolians to Eastern Turkey, where Nepokians and Anatolians split into two branches. Linguists haven’t found any evidences in Sumerian or other ancient oriental texts concerning Nepokians migrating into deepest South-East Asia that’s why the exact way and time remains unclear. Mainstream research states that Nepokians were a homogene Indo-European people of some hundreds or a few thousands, who came in contact with Polynesian or, Malayo-Polynesian, peoples in Indonesia about 1800 B.C. For sure, it lacked Polynesian loan words and its phonology was still rather close to Proto-Indo-European.

Old Nepokian

Old Nepokian presumably begins to be spoken in Eastern Indonesia, when Nepokians mingle with (Proto-)Polynesian tribes and adopt words from their new neighbors. However, there are hardly any words from Nepokian in Polynesian tongues. But as Schmidt notes, more research has to be done here. As far as grammar and phonology are concerned, Old Nepokian remains close to Proto-Nepokian. They are grouped together as Earlier Nepokian.

Middle Nepokian

Around 800 B.C., Nepokians and Polynesians arrived at Samoa. This proximity was underlined by the big changes, primarily phonological, which happened in the transition from Old to Middle Nepokian. Though they were deep and Nepokian sounded less and less Indo-European, under certain circumstances some consonant clusters (which are alien to Polynesian) survived in Late Middle Nepokian. This stage ceased to exist when all clusters were finally broken up and r, s and t gradually shifted to l, h and k.

New Nepokian

In the late 18th century, when the Europeans made their first notices about this tongue, some people still pronounced the Nepokian l in certain circumstances as r. Though formerly classified as arbitrary, it was rather a late Middle Nepokian pronunciation. This wasn't the case with s and h, or t and k, as their sound shifts were finished centuries before. Linguists set the transition from Middle to New Nepokian not later than in the 13th century.

Modern Nepokian is spoken since the arrival of German colonialists in Southern Pacific. Over the last 700 centuries, phonological (i.e., múhuki becoming mūki 'five', a very rare exception as there are no such contractions elsewhere) and grammatical changes have been very few, but the vocabulary was enriched dramatically in the last twohundred years.

Phonology

The phonology of Nēpoki is a direct result of sound changes from Proto-Indo-European. Though the sound laws are overwhelmingly regular, the quality of the sound shifts are far away from being typical Indo-European. The phonology of Nepokian is very simple and obviously influenced by surrounding Polynesian tongues. Nepokian has one of the smallest consonant inventories and one of the smallest phoneme inventories. It is phonologically identical to Hawaiian. Though evidentially not directly influenced by it, the Polynesian impact led to the same sound shifts we know from Hawaiian.

Consonants

Consonants
Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop p   t    ~    k ʔ
Fricative h
Sonorant w ~ v l ~ ɾ ~ ɹ

There is basic free variation of [t] and [k]. However, since Nepokian has no affricates, no fricative besides /h/, and no other stops besides /p/ and /ʔ/, any non-labial and non-glottal stop, fricative, or affricate, can function as a /k/. In essence, [d], [s], [z], [ts], [dz], [c], [ɟ], [ʃ], [ʒ], [tʃ], [dʒ], [ɡ], [x], [ɣ] can all "work" as an allophone of /k/. Nevertheless, the main allophones noted by the missionaries in the 18th century, and by linguists, are [t] and [k]. Scheidl pointed out some instances of a [ʔ] allophone. Schütz conjectured that a t-dialect existed in the northwestern islands, and a k-dialect in the southeastern islands. Vom Felde documented a sound between 'th' [θ] and 'k' in free variation with 'k' among elders from remote jungle villages. There is some evidence for instances of free variation between [n] and [ŋ].

There is also free variation between [l] (lateral), [ɾ] (tap), and [ɹ] (approximant). Scheidl pointed out some instances of [n] and [ʔ] as allophones. Schütz conjectured that [ɾ] is prevalent in northwestern remote villages.

There is free variation of [w] and [v]. Scheidl stated that there is conditioned variation of [w] and [v], though Schütz meant that there was neither [w] nor [v], but rather "something between the two". This is most likely [ʋ], a labiodental approximant.

Glottal stop

In Nepokian, a phonemic glottal stop historically derives from an earlier consonant.

PIE  Proto-Nepokian  Old Nepokian; New Nepokian;
*ḱ *k *k
*k *k *k
*kʷ *k *k
*g *k
*g *g *k
*gʷ *g *k
*ǵʰ *g *k
*gʰ *g *k
*gʷʰ *g *k
*h₁ *x *x
*h₂ *x *x
*h₃ *x *x
*h₄ *x *x
*y *y *x

Vowels

The number of vowels depends on the analysis of the inventory. The minimum figure of 5 is reached by counting only /u/, /i/, /o/, /e/, and /a/ as phonemes. Diphthongs and long vowels are analyzed as being sequences of two vowels. For example, the written form 〈au〉 is phonemically /au/, and the written form 〈ā〉 is phonemically /aa/.

Monophthongs

Monophthongs
Short Long
 Front   Central   Back   Front   Back 
Close i u
Close-Mid ɛ~e/i
Mid æ/a/ɐ~ə o
Open

Phonotactics

Nepokian syllables may contain one consonant in the onset, or there is no onset. Syllables with no onset contrast with syllables beginning with the glottal stop contrasts with those with glottal stop. Codas and consonant clusters are prohibited in the phonotactics of Nepokian. In foreign words they are split up: ‘ēlekepēle (strawberry) from German Erdbeere.

The syllable has a minimum of one vowel, and a maximum of three.

The structure of the Nepokian syllable can be represented as being (C)V(V), where the round brackets around C and second V mean that the syllable-initial consonant is optional and the syllable may have a long vowel or diphthong. Every theoretically possible V and CV syllables occur in Nepokian.

Stress

Nepokian does not have a fixed stress but it is movable. The original stress of Proto-Indo-European is well preserved. Stress is usually unmarked in normal writing but it can be indicated to avoid confusion or to explicitly show it. On short vowels it is marked by placing an acute above the letter (á, é, í, ó, ú), on long vowels it can either be an acute above the macron (ā́, ḗ, ī́, ṓ, ū́) or a circumflex above the letter (â, ê, î, ô, û).

Phonetic changes

The following two tables sum up (most of) the regular changes from Proto-Indo-European to Nepokian.


Orthography

Since the ‘discovery’ of Nepokian by European, mostly German, adventurers and colonialists, a Latin-based alphabet is used for Nepoki. There is some evidence for hieroglyphoid writing in secondary sources. The letter-to-sound ratio of the modern alphabet is virtually 1:1: Aa, Ee, Hh, Ii, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Uu, Ww, ‘. In older literature, either Qq was used for the glottal stop, or it was dropped altogether as there was hardly no awareness that the glottal stop may be a separate phoneme.

Grammar

The grammar of Nepoki is essentially a ‘reflex’ of Proto-Indo-European. It's an inflectional language with declensional and conjugational patterns, sometimes seeming more conservative than Proto-Indo-European itself. Several striking similarities with Anatolian languages have been found. The presence of allative and elative besides the eight ‘classical’ PIE cases even led to the assumption that Nepoki is a ‘para-proto-indo-european’ language and not a descendent of PIE proper. However, Nepokian allative –a has the same origin as Hittite allative –a (< *- eh₂) and Nepokian elative –e seems to go back to PIE *-er. Nepokian might therefore preserve a very old stage of Proto-Indo-European. As Hittite, Nepokian has two genders, animate and inanimate.

Nouns

Nouns belong to one of two genders: animate and inanimate (neuter). Apart from that, nouns are inflected for three numbers: singular, dual and plural; as well as for ten cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive, locative, allative and elative. All declensions can be traced back to PIE ones, though some simplifications happened.

First declension

The o-declension comprises PIE *-os- and *-ós- declensions, the latter being the basis of the Nepokian first declension. Animate nouns which are often masculine in other PIE tongues, belong here.

Second declension

This declension, being recently established as a separate one, stems from neuter nouns of PIE o-declension (*-óm). All inanimate nouns ending in o belong here. The singular is identical to the first declension.

Third declension

This declension corresponds to the second declension of most other Indo-European languages.

Fourth declension

The fourth declension goes back to PIE *-is-declension.

Fifth declension

The fifth declension goes back to PIE *-u-declension. Nouns of the u-declension which have a dark colored vowel in their stem change it to e in all oblique cases (all but nominative, vocative and accusative). For instance, the dative singular of kolu (tree) is kelewei.

Sixth declension

The sixth or l-n-declension preserved the peculiarities of PIE r/n-heteroclitic declension. Nouns which have an o in the stem change it to e in oblique cases, that is, all but nominative, vocative and accusative. woka (water) belongs here, but it is highly irregular, as it changes o to e in nominative, vocative and accusative plural (wekō) and has the stem uk- instead of wek- in all other plural cases. This goes back to the proterokinetic oblique stem *udén-. Nepokian is the only contemporary Indo-European tongue which has preserved totally this original declension of *wódr̥.

Seventh declension

The seventh, or e-declension, mostly comprises words of non-inherited origin. (Native words rather end in ē, which goes back to PIE -ḗr.)

Eighth declension

More or less, the eighth declension comprises all words ending in ēr in Proto-Indo-European. The final r was dropped in the basic form but remained in all but nominative and vocative singular cases because word-medial r has been preserved as l in New Nepokian. Both PIE acrostatic and proterokinetic stems belong here, the forms of the latter ones being the basis of the New Nepokian eighth declension.

Pronouns

Syntax

Most Nepokian varities prefer the verb-subject-object structure, though others exhibit VOS pattern. Adjectives usually follow the noun they modify (e.g. "king new"), but patterns like "new king" also occur and are subject to stylistic preferations.

The king sees many stars on the sky Word for word Comments
'Awueki 'ulē'o ahikela me'i nepei Sees king stars many on the sky Most widespread
'Awueki ahikela me'i nepei 'ulē'o Sees stars many on the sky king Common in some northwestern varieties

Vocabulary

Unlike one may expect, the influence of foreign tongues on Nepokian is rather small. In course of time, only three languages have had impact on Nepokian. The oldest one of these is Polynesian, presumably Proto-Polynesian itself in the 2nd millennium B.C., as there is no indication that one special Polynesian language acted as intermediary. The borrowed words belong to various fields, mostly flora (ahihi - sandalwood), fauna (awa - milkfish), toponyms (Hanaloa - Fagaloa) and hitherto unknown cultural things (wa'a - canoe). But even here, Nepokians sometimes coined their own words: Often by changing the meaning of old Indo-European words, as the original meaning became useless in Polynesia. For instance, the seahorse got the horse's Old Nepokian xikus (nowadays 'i'u), as there were no horses in Polynesia.

The reason why around 1000 B.C., Nepokian borrowed from Old Chinese, however, is still unavowed. During the Old Chinese period, Chinese culture expanded no more southern than to Yangtze river. Thus the distance between Chinese and Nepokian peoples remained high. There seemed to be a great cultural impact, as Old Nepokan Trunksnqers (nowadays Kulunahanele) and Mrankstsei (nowadays Malanahakahei) clearly go back to the Old Chinese words for Confucius and Mencius. Silk too came to Nepokians this way.

The next big foreign influence started with the upcoming European adventurers and colonialism in the Southern Pacific. As a coincidence, these adventurers were, like the colonialists afterwards, mostly German. Up to now, it is still the only European language with a major impact on Nepokian. As Nepokian lacked vocabulary for things of the modern industrialized world, European institutions and products, German was used to fill this gap: Kaika - emperor, keke - cheese or helekoko - duke, and so on.

The oddest words however, making up roughly 1% of the vocabulary, are those for which there is no canonical etymology. Almost all of them belong to everyday life and basic vocabulary, which leads researchers to believe that they are inherited rather than borrowed. Though some think these words are vestiges of an unknown extinct tongue, more and more linguists argue they are indeed remnants of Indo-European vocabulary only preserved in Nepokian: hikaio - lightning, puna - bosom or 'aluwi - together, and so on. Moreover, Indo-Uralists and Nostraticists ascribe this part of vocabulary successfully to Indo-Uralic and Nostratic roots, respectively. They see these Nepokian words and Nepokian in general as a missing link between Proto-Indo-European and its antecedent(s).

Overall, the percentage of inherited vocabulary is very high. Roughly 80 to 90 percent of all known words are directly inherited from Proto-Indo-European. The percentage depends on 1. whether Nostratic or Indo-Uralic words unattested in other IE languages are seen as inherited words and 2. which proper nouns are counted as Nepokian. Polynesian and German words make up around 5% each, and Chinese 1%.