North-East Antarctican

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NE Antarctican is a cluster of mutually intelligible dialects, spoken in the far future in Antartica, where runaway global warming has melted the ice sheets, while at the same time rendering most of the rest of the world uninhabitable.

The ancestors of the speakers of NE Antarctican lived on the coast of Antarctica, due south of Africa. They spoke a variety of English that was heavily influenced by African languages (some English words became grammaticalised as noun class prefixes), and soon their language was also influenced by Spanish (Patagonia was one of the few nearby places that was still habitable, and many people migrated from there to the Antarctic continent) and by Japanese (Japan established colonies all around the Antarctic coast).

The language has evolved for roughly 2000 years since migration, but still shares a number of features with English. These include prepositions, absence of case marking on nouns, adjectives and numerals preceding nouns, but relative clauses following it, and a two-way voicing contrast on stops.

However, it differs from English in many other ways. Syntactically, it prefers SVO, but is less strict than English, often allowing words to be fronted as topics, or elided if they are obvious from context. This does not create ambiguities, since verbs have hierarchical person marking. The language also marks alienable and inalienable possession. Phonologically, the language uses secondary articulation to contrast a very large number of consonant phonemes, however the phonotactics are extremely restrictive, and most dialects have a Vertical Vowel System (the ones that do not still preserve an older system with vowel harmony).

Even though the dialects are easily mutually intelligible, there is no one name for the dialect cluster. The most commonly used one is /ˈʀɨ̤ŋːasɨ̤/ [ˈʁɤ̤ŋːa̤sɨ]. However, some communities strongly prefer to refer to it as /kɨˈʎə̰ɴbə/ [kiˈʎḛɴbə].



Labial Pal. Labial Alveolar Lab. Alveolar Pal. Alveolar Retro-flex Palatal Velar Uvular Lab. Palatal Lab. Velar Lab. Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ ɲʷ ŋʷ ɴ
Stop p b pʲ bʲ t d tʷ dʷ tʲ dʲ ʈ ɖ c ɟ k g q cʷ ɟʷ kʷ gʷ ʔ
Fricative s ʃ ~ ɕ ʂ ç x çʷ ~ ɸʲ xʷ ~ ɸ h
Approximant ɻ j ɥ w
Flap / Trill ɾʲ ʀ ʀʷ ~ ⱱ
Lateral ʎ ɫ

  • The "glottal nasal" phoneme is similar to the Japanese moraic nasal, or the Burmese placeless nasal. It only occurs in syllable codas. When it is followed by a consonant, it assimilates to the place of articulation of that consonant (e.g. it becomes [m] before a labial consonant, [mʲ] before a palatalised labial consonant). At the end of words, it manifests itself as nasalisation of the preceding vowel.
  • Palatal, labialised palatal, palatalised alveolar, labialised alveolar and retroflex stops are in free variation with the corresponding affricates.
  • /h/ is pronounced [ɦ] before a vowel with breathy voice.
  • /ɫ/ is not actually uvular, but a uvularised alveolar lateral (like English "dark l"). However, in terms of the phonology, it patterns as a uvular consonant.
  • /ɾʲ/ is normally pronounced as a flap, except when geminated when it becomes a trill. /ʀ/ and /ʀʷ/ are usually pronounced as approximants, except when geminated when they become trills.


Vowel frontness / backness is not phonemic. There are 3 phonemic oral monophthongs /a ə ɨ/.

Vowel Allophony

Even though there is no phonemic contrast between front and back vowels, this does not mean that sounds such as [i], [u] and [e] are absent from the language. Front and back vowels occur as allophones of their corresponding central vowels e.g. /ˈhɨ̰mːʲɨ/ - "fjord" is pronounced [ˈhḭmːʲḭ], and /ˈtʷɨ̤pːasɨ/ - "digestion" is pronounced [ˈtʷṳpːasɨ].

There is no difference between how consonants influence the preceding vowel and the following vowel. So if /ɨ/ is between /j/ and /w/, in both cases it will be pronounced /y/, no matter whether the sequence is /jɨw/ or /wɨj/.

The allophones of each vowel are given in the table below. Note that a "lowering" consonant is defined as a retroflex or uvular consonant (labialised or non-labialised, including /ɫ/):

Environment /ɨ/ /ə/ /a/
Default [ɨ] [ə] [a]
Adjacent to a Palatal or Palatalised Consonant [i] [e] [æ]
Adjacent to a Non-Labialised Lowering Consonant [ɤ] [ʌ] [ɑ]
Adjacent to a Labialised Non-Lowering Consonant [u] [o] [a]
Adjacent to a Labialised Uvular Consonant [ʊ] [ɔ] [ɒ]
Adjacent to a Labialised Palatal Consonant [y] [ø] [œ]
Between a Lowering Consonant and a Labialised Non-Lowering Consonant [ʊ] [ɔ] [ɒ]
Between a Palatal / Palatalised Consonant, and a Labialised Non-Lowering Consonant [y] [ø] [œ]
Between a Palatal / Palatalised Consonant, and a Labialised Uvular Consonant [ʏ] [ɵ] [ɐ]
Between a Palatal / Palatalised Consonant, and a Non-Labialised Lowering Consonant [ɪ] [ɛ] [ɐ]


Phonemic Transcription Phonetic Transcription Meaning
/ˈhɨ̰mːʲɨ/ [ˈhḭmːʲḭ] "fjord"
/ˈca̰kːɨsama/ [ˈcæ̰kːɨ̰sama] "client"
/ʔakʷɨʔəˈta̰/ [ʔakʷuʔəˈta̰ː] "to squeeze"
/ˈqɨ̰dːɨ/ [ˈqɤ̰dːɨ] "good"
/gʷɨˈkɨ̰da/ [gʷuˈkɨ̰ːda] "to float"
/ˈtʷɨ̤pːasɨ/ [ˈtʷṳpːasɨ] "digestion"
/nɨˈʔə̤qːʷɨʔa/ [nɨˈʔɔ̤qːʷʊʔa] "root of a floating plant"
/ʎɨˈkʷɨ̰ɾʲɨ/ [ʎyˈkʷy̰ːɾʲḭ] "dark yellow"
/ˈkʷə̰sa/ [ˈkʷo̰ːsa] "throwing spear"
/ˈqɨ̰ɫɨ/ [ˈqɤ̰ːɫɤ̰] "giant"
/ʀɨˈʔə̰ɻɨ/ [ʁɤˈʔʌ̰ːɻɤ̰] "rose"
/qɨˈɫɨ̰/ [qɤˈɫɤ̰ː] "evidence"



In each word, one syllable has stress. Stress can occur on any syllable, indeed the location is phonemic. There are many minimal pairs that contrast only in the location of the stress e.g. /ˈqɨ̰ɫɨ/ [ˈqɤ̰ːɫɤ̰] - "giant" vs. /qɨˈɫɨ̰/ [qɤˈɫɤ̰ː] - "evidence", /ˈkə̰tə/ [ˈkə̰ːtə̰] - "short" vs. /kəˈtə̰/ [kəˈtə̰ː] - "concept".


If a stressed vowel is followed by a consonant, then sometimes the consonant is doubled. This is phonemic, and there are minimal pairs distinguished by the presence of gemination e.g. /bɨˈhə̤kɨ/ [bɨˈhə̤ːkɨ] - "bake" vs. /bɨˈhə̤kːɨ/ [bɨˈhə̤kːɨ] - "duty". Geminate consonants cannot occur after the nasal coda /ɴ/


NE Antarctican is mora-timed. Each syllable counts as one mora, except stressed syllables and syllables containing the nasal coda /ɴ/ count for two, and therefore take twice as long to pronounce. If a stressed syllable has an oral vowel, but is not followed by /ɴ/ or a geminate consonant, then the vowel is pronounced long.


There is a phonemic phonation contrast on stressed syllables, between breathy voice and tense voice. There are many minimal pairs that contrast this e.g. /baˈhɨ̤ɴdɨ/ - "liver" vs. /baˈhɨ̰ɴdɨ/ - "to tie together".

Vowels with tense voice are pronounced with high or rising pitch. Vowels with breathy voice are pronounced with low or falling pitch.

Phonation Spreading

Both breathy and tense phonation tend to spread rightwards from the stressed syllable. Breathy voice spreads until it is blocked by a voiceless consonant (other than /h/). So /baˈhɨ̤ɴdɨ/ - "liver" is pronounced [baˈhɨ̤ɴdɨ̤], the breathy phonation spreading from the stressed syllable, through the /d/ onto the final syllable. However, in words such as /bɨˈhə̤kɨ/ - "bake" and /bɨˈhə̤kːɨ/ - "duty", the voiceless /k/ blocks the spread of the breathy voice, no matter whether or not it is geminated. Therefore they are pronounced [bɨˈhə̤ːkɨ] and [bɨˈhə̤kːɨ] respectively.

The rules for tense phonation are slightly more complex. Tense phonation spreads through nasals, approximants, flaps / trills, and laterals, and also through voiceless stops. However, it is blocked by fricatives and voiced stops e.g. it spreads in both /ˈqɨ̰ɫɨ/ [ˈqɤ̰ːɫɤ̰] - "giant" and /ˈkə̰tə/ [ˈkə̰ːtə̰] - "short", but not in /gʷɨˈkɨ̰da/ [gʷuˈkɨ̰ːda] - "to float" or /ˈkʷə̰sa/ [ˈkʷo̰ːsa] - "throwing spear".


Syllable Structures

The only possible syllable structures are CV(ɴ).

Glottal Consonants

There are a few restrictions on the glottal consonants /ʔ/ and /h/. They cannot occur between two identical vowel phonemes (so sequences such as */aha/ are forbidden). Nor can they occur after /ɴ/. Also they cannot immediately follow a stressed vowel. As such, they cannot occur geminated.

Strong and Weak Consonants

A number of consonants are classed as "strong". These are all the fricatives except /s/ (i.e. all the non-sibilant fricatives), the labialised alveolar stops /tʷ/ and /dʷ/, the uvular consonants /q/ and /ʀ/, and their labialised equivalents /qʷ/ and /ʀʷ/. The labialised velar stops /kʷ/ and /gʷ/, and the labialised palatal stops /cʷ/ and /ɟʷ/ also usually pattern as strong consonants, but there are some irregularities here (each of these four phonemes are the result of mergers between a historically strong consonant, and a historically weak consonant).

Historically, these were aspirated / velarised stops, which were subject to a rule similar to Grassman's Law. The result of this law is that, in the modern language, words cannot contain more than one "strong" consonant. If a process such as affixation would create a violation of this rule, all strong consonants except the last are mutated, by a regular process:

  • /tʷ/ and /dʷ/ -> /t/ and /d/ respectively
  • /ʃ/ -> /tʲ/
  • /ʂ/ -> /ʈ/
  • /ç/ and /x/ -> /c/
  • /q/ and /ʀ/ -> /k/ and /g/ respectively
  • /kʷ/ and /gʷ/ -> /p/ and /b/ respectively
  • /çʷ/ and /xʷ/ -> /cʷ/ (in this case, the resulting /cʷ/ does not pattern as a strong consonant)
  • /qʷ/ and /ʀʷ/ -> /kʷ/ and /gʷ/ respectively (likewise, in this case the resulting phonemes do not pattern as strong).
  • /h/ -> /ʔ/

For example, the noun class proclitic for perennial plants is normally /gʷɨɴ-/. However, when it attaches to the root /ʀɨˈʔə̰ɻɨ/ [ʁɤˈʔʌ̰ːɻɤ̰] - "rose" (containing the strong consonant /ʀ/, the /gʷ/ changes to /b/, giving /bɨɴ=ʀɨˈʔə̰ɻɨ/ [bɤɴʁɤˈʔʌ̰ːɻɤ̰].

Sound Symbolism

Tense voiced vowels and palatalised consonants have a strong association with darkness, night, the moon, the stars, the aurora, winter, the direction south, dryness, land, peace, femininity, being reactive (as opposed to proactive), staticness, permanence, and perennial plants.

Conversely, breathy voiced vowels and retroflex / labialised consonants have a strong association with brightness, day, the sun, clouds, the direction north, rain, the sea, war, masculinity, being proactive (as opposed to reactive), dynamism, impermanence, and annual plants.

Derivational Morphology


Endocentric Compounds

Compounds are head final. Stress, phonation and gemination are lost on all but the first member of the compound e.g. /ˈkə̰tə/ [ˈkə̰ːtə̰] - "short", and /ˈkʷə̰sa/ [ˈkʷo̰ːsa] - "throwing spear" combine to make /ˈkə̰təkʷəsa/ [ˈkə̰ːto̰kʷo̰sa] - "dart" (literally "short spear").

The restriction against more than one strong consonant in a word applies to compound words e.g. when /bɨˈhə̤kɨ/ [bɨˈhə̤ːkɨ] - "bake" is combined with /ˈkʷɨ̤sːɨ/ [ˈkʷṳsːɨ] - "ocean fish", the result is /bɨˈʔə̤kɨkʷɨsɨ/ [bɨˈʔə̤ːkukʷusɨ] - "baked (ocean) fish". Because the /kʷ/ in the word for "fish" is strong, it causes the /h/ in the word for "bake" to shift to a glottal stop.

There is a very strong preference to make endocentric compounds from words that have identical voicing on the stressed syllable. For example, the word /ˈxa̰ɾʲɨ/ [ˈxæ̰ːɾʲḭ] - "freshwater fish", could, in theory, be compounded with /bɨˈhə̤kɨ/ [bɨˈhə̤ːkɨ] - "bake", to form /bɨˈʔə̤kɨxaɾʲɨ/ [bɨˈʔə̤ːkɨxæɾʲi] - "baked freshwater fish". However, since /bɨˈhə̤kɨ/ has breathy voice, and /ˈxa̰ɾʲɨ/ has tense voice, the resulting compound would strike native speakers as inelegant and clumsy.

In cases like the above, native speakers would search for a synonym with tense voice e.g. /qəˈŋɨ̰ɫa/ [qʌˈŋɤ̰ːɫɑ̰], which also means "to bake". A much more commonly used word meaning "baked (freshwater) fish" would therefore be /kəˈŋɨ̰ɫaxaɾʲɨ/ [kəˈŋɤ̰ːɫɑ̰xæɾʲi].

Dvandva Compounds

In contrast to endocentric compounds, these lose stress, phonation and gemination on all but the last member e.g.

/ˈma̰ɴtɨha/ [ˈma̰ɴtɨ̰ha]- "mountain", /ˈkʷɨ̰ɫa/ [ˈkʷʊ̰ːɫɑ̰] - "river" (permanent), /maɴtɨʔaˈkʷɨ̰ɫa/ [maɴtɨʔaˈkʷʊ̰ːɫɑ̰] - "mountains and rivers"

As can be seen from this example though, the rule prohibiting multiple strong consonants in a word still applies, changing /h/ to /ʔ/.

Contrast the above example with the endocentric compound /ˈma̰ɴtɨʔakʷɨɫa/ [ˈma̰ɴtɨ̰ʔa̰kʷʊ̰ɫɑ̰] - "mountain river" (i.e. a river in the mountains).

Exocentric Compounds

These are formed in the same way as endocentric compounds. However, there is a very strong preference for the compound words to have opposite phonation on the stressed syllables e.g.

/ˈnə̰tʷɨ/ [ˈno̰ːtʷṵ] - "North", /gʷɨˈʔə̤/ [gʷuˈʔə̤ː] - "remain", /ˈnə̰tɨgʷɨʔə/ [ˈnə̰ːtṵgʷuʔə] - "person who did not migrate south to Antarctica, but rather stayed to take their chances on the northern continents" (literally "North remain").


There is a very productive process that forms nouns and adjectives (they are not distinguished in the language, all nouns can be used as adjectives and vice versa) from verbs by shifting the stress (along with the phonation) leftwards. This creates nouns with the meaning "the result of doing X", or "what was made by doing X" e.g. from the verb /qəˈŋɨ̰ɫa/ [qɑˈŋɤ̰ːɫɑ̰] - "to bake", we can derive the noun /ˈqə̰ŋɨɫa/ [ˈqʌ̰ːŋɤ̰ɫɤ̰] - "baked food". Likewise, from the verb /gʷɨˈkɨ̰da/ [gʷuˈkɨ̰ːda] - "to float", we can derive the noun /ˈgʷɨ̰kɨda/ [ˈgʷṵːkɨ̰da] - "something which is floated".

However, since stress cannot spread onto a vowel immediately before a glottal consonant, sometimes the nominalisation shifts the stress more than one syllable e.g. /kɨnəˈʔɨ̤qːɨ/ [kɨnəˈʔɤ̤qːɤ] - "to twist" becomes /ˈkɨ̤nːəʔɨqɨ/ [ˈkɨ̤nːə̤ʔɤqɤ] - "something twisted". And if there is no possible syllable to shift the accent onto, some verbs become nouns without any change e.g. /gʷɨˈʔə̤/ [gʷuˈʔə̤ː] means "remain", but it can also mean "that which is left over".

Irregular Cases

The above cases were all regular. Vowel quality, phonation and gemination (if applicable) all migrated unchanged from one syllable to another. However, there are many cases in which the nominalised word undergoes irregular changes e.g. /kʷaɴˈdɨ̰ka/ [kʷanˈdɨ̰ːka̰] - "to reverse" becomes /ˈkʷa̤ɴdɨka/ [ˈkʷa̤ɴdɨ̤ka] - "reversal", /ɲɨkɨˈhə̰ɻa/ [ɲikɨˈhʌ̰ːɻɑ̰] - "to rent out land" becomes /naˈʔɨ̤kɨhəɻa/ [naˈʔɨ̤ːkɨhʌɻɑ] - "land for rent", and /cɨtanaˈhɨ̰/ [citanaˈhɨ̰ː] - "to make dirty" becomes /cɨhəˈta̤nːə/ [cihəˈta̤nːə̤] - "dirty (thing)".


Similarly, nouns / adjectives (they are not distinguished in the grammar) can become verbs meaning "to make X" by shifting the stress to the right e.g. /ˈkə̰dːəmə/ [ˈkə̰dːəmə] - "child" becomes /kəˈdə̰mːə/ [kəˈdə̰mːə̰] - "to have a child", and /ˈka̤ɫːaʔɨdʷɨʔa/ [ˈkɑ̤ɫːɑ̤ʔudʷuʔa] - "warm" becomes /kaɫaˈʔɨdːʷɨʔa/ [kɑɫɑˈʔṳdːʷṳʔa] - "to make warm".

There are also many irregular verbalisations e.g. /ˈkʷa̰jːa/ [ˈkʷœ̰jːæ̰] - "fire" becomes /kʷaˈja̤/ [kʷœˈjæ̤ː] - "to burn", and /maˈhɨ̤ɻːɨ/ [maˈhɤ̤ɻːɤ̤] - "goop / mush" becomes /mʲɨˈɾʲɨ̰/ [mʲiˈɾʲḭː] - "to mash up".

Noun Phrases

The basic word order in noun phrases is Determiner - Numeral - Adjective - Noun.


There is a 3-way distance contrast in demononstratives. There is also a plural contrast, except in the one that indicates "that over there".

Pronominal Demonstratives

/dʷaˈʔɨ̤sːɨ/ [dʷaˈʔɨ̤sːɨ] - "this"

/dʷaˈʔɨ̤ːɻɨ/ [dʷaˈʔɨ̤ːɻɨ̤] - "these"

/dʷɨˈʔa̰tːɨ/ [dʷuˈʔa̰tːɨ̰] - "that"

/dʷɨˈʔə̰ːɻɨ/ [dʷuˈʔʌ̰ɻɤ̰] - "those"

/ˈʔa̰ʃːɨ/ [ˈʔæ̰ʃːi] "that / those over there"

Adnominal Demonstratives

Demonstratives have separate forms when they are used to modify nouns (e.g. to say "I ate that fish" as opposed to "I ate fish"). They are clitics, and are phonologically part of the following word. They sometimes have allomorphs depending on whether the following word's stressed syllable has breathy or tense voice.

Meaning Following Word has Breathy Voice Following Word has Tense Voice
This /dʷaʔɨsɨ/ [dʷaʔɨsɨ] /dʷɨsɨ/ [dʷusɨ]
These /dʷaˈʔɨɻɨ/ [dʷaˈʔɨɻɨ] /dʷɨɾʲɨ/ [dʷyɾʲi]
That /dʷɨʔətɨ/ [dʷuʔətɨ] /dʷɨʔatɨ/ [dʷuʔatɨ]
Those /dʷəɻɨ/ [dʷɔɻɤ] /dʷɨʔəɻɨ/ [dʷuʔʌɻɤ]
That / Those over there /haɴ/ [haɴ] /haɴ/ [haɴ]

The forms corresponding to "that" and "those" are also very commonly used where English would use a definite article.


All of the demonstrative proclitics undergo a special process when the following word begins with a glottal consonant /h/ or /ʔ/. In all cases, the following word's initial glottal consonant is deleted.

In the case of /haɴ/ - "that over there", the /ɴ/ changes to /n/, resulting in /han/. So a word like /ˈhɨ̰mːʲɨ/ [ˈhḭmːʲḭ] - "fjord" combines with the demonstrative to form /haˈn=ɨ̰mːʲɨ/ [hanḭmːʲḭ] - "that fjord / those fjords over there".

The other demonstratives all lose their final /ɨ/, so the prefix /dʷɨsɨ/ [dʷusɨ] - "this" would combine with /ˈhɨ̰mːʲɨ/ [ˈhḭmːʲḭ] to give /dʷɨˈsɨ̰mːʲɨ/ [dʷuˈsḭmːʲḭ].

Consonant Mutations

Since adnominal demonstratives are phonologically part of the following word, they are affected by the rule that prohibits more than one strong consonant in a single word. So /ˈkʷɨ̤sːɨ/ [ˈkʷṳsːɨ] - "ocean fish" becomes /ʔaɴ=ˈkʷɨ̤sːɨ/ [ʔaŋˈkʷṳsːɨ] - "that ocean fish over there", not */haɴ=ˈkʷɨ̤sːɨ/, or /dəɻɨ=ˈkʷɨ̤sːɨ/ [dəɻʊˈkʷṳsːɨ] "those ocean fish", not */dʷəɻɨ=ˈkʷɨ̤sːɨ/.

Noun Classes

There is a complex animacy hierarchy, and, in the absence of demonstratives or other determiners, nouns phrases begin with a particle indicating the noun's position on the hierarchy. These particles also mark nouns for singular and plural. In the case of uncountable nouns (e.g. water), the plural form of the particle is used.

Each particle can have up to 4 allomorphs, conditioned by the same factors as demonstratives i.e. the following word's stressed vowel phonation, and whether the following word begins with a glottal consonant (which is replaced with the final consonant of the demonstrative).

Class Breathy Phonation Tense Phonation Breathy Phonation + Initial Glottal Cons. Tense Phonation + Initial Glottal Cons.
Honorific Human(s) hɨʔa- hə- ʀʷ- ʀ-
Male Adult (Singular) qaʔɨ- qɨ-* qaʔɨj- qɨj-
Female Adult (Singular) ʂaʔɨ- ʃɨ-* ʂaʔɨj- ʃɨj-
Child (Singular) kɨha- kə- kʷ- k-
Humans (Plural) dʷə- dʷaʔɨ- dʷɨʔəj- dʷɨʔaj-
Animals (Singular) haʔɨɴ- hɨɴ-* haʔɨn- hɨɲ-
Animals (Plural) ɻahɨɴ- ɾʲɨɴ-* ɻaʔɨm- ɾʲɨmʲ-
Body Parts (Singular) hɨmɨ- hɨmɨ- hɨm- hɨm-
Body Parts (Plural) hɨmɨ- hɨmʲɨ-* hɨm- hɨmʲ-
Perennial Plants (Singular) gʷɨmaɴ- gʷɨmaɴ- gʷɨman- gʷɨman-
Perennial Plants (Plural) gʷɨɴ- gʷɨɴ- gʷɨm- gʷɨm-
Annual Plants (Singular) ʈahɨɴ- tʲɨɴ-* ʈahɨn- tʲɨn-
Annual Plants (Plural) ʈahɨ- tʲɨ-* ʈahɨj- tʲɨj-
Fruit / Eggs / Seeds (Singular) ʔahɨ- hɨ-* ʔahɨj- hɨj-
Fruit / Eggs / Seeds (Plural) hama- hama- ham- ham-
Concrete Nouns (Singular) bɨwaɴ- bɨwaɴ- bɨwaɴ- bɨwaɴ-
Concrete Nouns (Plural) bɨ- bɨ- bɨw- bɨw-
Abstract Nouns (Singular) tɨwaɴ- tɨwaɴ- tɨwan- tɨwan-
Abstract Nouns (Plural) tɨ- tɨ-- tɨw- tɨw-
Locations (Singular) kɨwaɴ- kɨwaɴ- kɨwan- kɨwan-
Locations (Plural) kɨ- kɨ- kɨw- kɨw-

If proclitics marked with an asterisk are followed by certain consonants, they are palatalised. The sound changes are:

  • Retroflex /ʈ/, /ɖ/, /ʂ/ and /ɻ/ become post-alveolar /tʲ/, /dʲ/, /ʃ/ and /ɾʲ/ respectively.
  • Labio-Velar /kʷ/, /gʷ/, /ŋʷ/, /xʷ/ and /w/ become Labio-Palatal /cʷ/, /ɟʷ/, /ɲʷ/, /çʷ/ and /ɥ/ respectively.
  • Labial /p/, /b/ and /m/ become /pʲ/, /bʲ/ and /mʲ/ respectively.
  • /x/ and /ɫ/ become /ç/ and /ʎ/ respectively.

Also, the honorific human prefix /hɨʔa-/ and the prefix for children /kɨʔa-/ labialise any following dorsal consonant (palatal, velar and uvular). The only exception to this is lateral consonants, which have no labialised equivalents.


Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns occupy the same syntactic "slot" as adnominal demonstratives and noun class particles. They also cause replacement of any subsequent glottal consonant, and have different allomorphs depending on the stressed vowel phonation of the following word.

Class Breathy Phonation Tense Phonation Breathy Phonation + Initial Glottal Cons. Tense Phonation + Initial Glottal Cons.
1st Person Singular mə- mɨha- mɨhəj- mɨhaj-
1st Person Plural haɴsɨ- haɴsɨ- haɴs- haɴs-
2nd Person jəhɨ- jəhɨ- jɨw- jɨw-
3rd Person Masculine Singular qɨɻɨ- qɨɾʲɨ- qɨɻ- qɨɾʲ-
3rd Person Feminine Singular qɨ- qɨ- kɨʀ- kɨʀ-
3rd Person Nonhuman hɨsɨ- hɨsɨ- hɨs- hɨs-
3rd Person Plural dʷɨʔə- dʷɨʔa- dɨʔəʀ- dɨʔaʀ-
3rd Person Honorific jɨɫɨ- jɨɫɨ- jɨɫ- jɨɫ-
3rd Person Topicalised Possessor həɴ- həʔɨɴ- hən- həʔɨn-

Alienable and Inalienable Possession

If a noun is possessed by a pronoun, possessive grammar is relatively simple. But if the possessor is another noun in the sentence, then things get more complicated.

The same pronouns as above are used to mark the possessed noun, but the location of the possessor depends on whether or not the possession is alienable or inalienable.

In the case of inalienable possession, the word order is Possessed - Possessor e.g.

dɨʔa=bəˈhɨ̰ɴ ɾʲɨmʲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰

3PS.POSS.PL=bone animal.PL=dog

Dogs' bones (in their bodies)

In the case of alienable possession, the word order is the opposite (i.e. Possessor - Possessed) e.g.

ɾʲɨmʲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰ dɨʔa=bəˈhɨ̰ɴ

animal.PL=dog 3PS.POSS.PL=bone

Dogs' bones (that they eat / play with / bury etc.)

Verb Morphology

Unlike nouns, verbs have a complex morphology. The verb template is: [Relativiser] [TAM Prefix] [Transitivity / Object Pronoun / Hierarchical Prefix] Stem [TAM Suffix]. Affixes have different allomorphs depending on whether the stressed syllable of the root has breathy or tense voice. Additionally, if a prefix is followed by a glottal consonant, then that consonant is deleted and replaced with another consonant that is determined by the prefix (like demonstrative clitics).

Pronominal Objects

If the direct object of a verb is a pronoun, it is marked by a prefix.

TAM Breathy Phonation Tense Phonation Breathy Phonation + Initial Glottal Cons. Tense Phonation + Initial Glottal Cons.
1PS Singular mɨhə- mɨha- mɨʔəh- mɨʔəh-
2PS tɨhə- tɨha- tɨʔəh- tɨʔəh-
1PS Plural nɨha- * nə- nɨhas- nəs-
Reflexive sɨhə- sɨha- sɨʔəh- sɨʔəh-

The prefix /nɨha-/ labialises the following consonant (if possible), for example when it attaches to /kaɫaˈʔɨdːʷɨʔa/ [kɑɫɑˈʔṳdːʷṳʔa] - "to make warm"., the result is /nɨʔa-kʷaɫaˈʔɨdːʷɨʔa/ [nɨʔa-kʷɒɫɑˈʔṳdːʷṳʔa] - "to make us warm".

Inverse Marking

If a transitive verb does not have a pronominal object prefix, then it must usually be marked as either direct (unmarked) or inverse (with the prefix gatɨ- / gat-). Direct marking is used when the subject has greater animacy than the object. The animacy hierarchy is Lords etc. > Men > Women (their culture is quite sexist) > Children > Animals > Plants > Anything else. Inverse marking is used when the object has greater animacy than the subject. Marking on the verb overrides word order when determining subject and object e.g. both the below sentences have direct marking.

/dʷə=ˈma̤ɴ ˈbə̤tɨ-ta hɨɲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰/

human.PL.INDEF=man bite=PST.TEL animal.SG.INDEF=dog

Some men bit a dog.

/hɨɲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰ ˈbə̤tɨ-ta dʷə=ˈma̤ɴ/

animal.SG.INDEF=dog bite=PST.TEL human.PL.INDEF=man

A dog was bitten by some men.

While both the below sentences have inverse marking:

/dʷə=ˈma̤ɴ gatɨ-ˈbə̤tɨ-ta hɨɲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰/

human.PL.INDEF=man INV-bite=PST.TEL animal.SG.INDEF=dog

Some men were bitten by a dog.

/hɨɲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰ gatɨ-ˈbə̤tɨ-ta dʷə=ˈma̤ɴ/

animal.SG.INDEF=dog INV-bite=PST.TEL human.PL.INDEF=man

A dog bit some men.

If both the agent and the patient of a transitive verb are equal on the animacy hierarchy, whichever one is earlier in the sentence counts as more animate e.g.

/ɾʲɨɴ=ˈça̰ɾʲɨ ˈbə̤tɨ-ta hɨɲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰/

animal.PL.INDEF=fish bite-PST.TEL animal.SG.INDEF=dog

Some fish bit a dog.

/hɨɲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰ ˈbə̤tɨ-ta ɾʲɨɴ=ˈça̰ɾʲɨ/

animal.SG.INDEF=dog bite-PST.TEL animal.PL.INDEF=fish

A dog bit some fish.

/ɾʲɨɴ=ˈça̰ɾʲɨ gatɨ-ˈbə̤tɨ-ta hɨɲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰/

animal.PL.INDEF=fish INV-bite-PST.TEL animal.SG.INDEF=dog

Some fish were bitten by a dog.

/hɨɲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰ gatɨ-ˈbə̤tɨ-ta ɾʲɨɴ=ˈça̰ɾʲɨ/

animal.SG.INDEF=dog INV-bite-PST.TEL animal.PL.INDEF=fish

A dog was bitten by some fish.

Reciprocal Voice

To express the meaning of "each other" or "one another", the first syllable of the verb root is reduplicated e.g. from /ˈbə̤tɨ/ - "to bite", the verb /bəˈbə̤tɨ/ - "to bite each other" can be derived.


Many intransitive verbs are derived from transitive verbs with the prefix /ba-/ e.g. /cɨtanaˈhɨ̰/ [citanaˈhɨ̰ː] - "to make dirty" becomes /ba-cɨtanaˈhɨ̰/ [ba-citanaˈhɨ̰ː] - "to become dirty".

Tense / Aspect / Mood

TAM can be marked by prefixes, suffixes or circumfixes, that come before the previously mentioned prefixes.

Telicity is very important in the TAM system. Except for future, negative and conditional forms, verbs are marked for telic vs. atelic aspect.

TAM Breathy Phonation Tense Phonation Breathy Phonation + Initial Glottal Cons. Tense Phonation + Initial Glottal Cons.
Present Atelic ja- ja- jah- jah-
Present Telic gʷɨʔə- gʷɨʔa- bɨʔəʁ- bɨʔaʁ-
Future ɥɨha- jə- ɥɨʔah- jəh-
Nonpast Conditional ŋa- ŋa- ŋah- ŋah-
Past Atelic -ta -ta -ta -ta
Past Telic gʷɨʔə- -ta gʷɨʔa- -ta bɨʔəʁ- -ta bɨʔaʁ- -ta
Past Conditional ŋa- -ta ŋa- -ta ŋah- -ta ŋah- -ta
Nonfuture Atelic Benefactive -kɨ / -ja -kɨ / -ja -kɨ / -ja -kɨ / -ja
Nonfuture Telic Benefactive gʷɨʔə- -kɨ / -ja gʷɨʔa- -kɨ / -ja bɨʔəʁ- -kɨ / -ja bɨʔaʁ- -kɨ / -ja
Future Benefactive ɥɨha- -kɨ / -ja jə- -kɨ / -ja ɥɨʔah- -kɨ / -ja jəh- -kɨ / -ja
Conditional Benefactive ŋa- -kɨ / -ja ŋa- -kɨ / -ja ŋah- -kɨ / -ja ŋah- -kɨ / -ja
Nonfuture Atelic Applicative -ŋɨ -ŋɨ -ŋɨ -ŋɨ
Nonfuture Telic Applicative gʷɨʔə- -ŋɨ gʷɨʔa- -ŋɨ bɨʔəʁ- -ŋɨ bɨʔaʁ- -ŋɨ
Future Applicative ɥɨha- -ŋɨ jə- -ŋɨ ɥɨʔah- -ŋɨ jəh- -ŋɨ
Conditional Applicative ŋa- -ŋɨ ŋa- -ŋɨ ŋah- -ŋɨ ŋah- -ŋɨ
Nonpast Negative na- na- nat- nat-
Conditional Negative ŋa- -nakata ŋa- -nakata ŋah- -nakata ŋah- -nakata
Past Negative -nakata -nakata -nakata -nakata
Atelic Nonfuture Irrealis ja- -ʈa ja- -ʈa jah- -ʈa jah- -ʈa
Telic Nonfuture Irrealis gʷɨʔə- -ʈa gʷɨʔa- -ʈa bɨʔəʁ- -ʈa bɨʔaʁ- -ʈa
Future Irrealis ɥɨha- -ʈa jə- -ʈa ɥɨʔah- -ʈa jəh- -ʈa
Conditional Irrealis ŋa- -ʈa ŋa- -ʈa ŋah- -ʈa ŋah- -ʈa
Atelic Nonfuture Optative -tɨ -tɨ -tɨ -tɨ
Telic Nonfuture Optative gʷɨʔə- -tɨ gʷɨʔa- -tɨ bɨʔəʁ- -tɨ bɨʔaʁ- -tɨ
Future Optative ɥɨha- -tɨ jə- -tɨ ɥɨʔah- -tɨ jəh- -tɨ
Conditional Optative ŋa- -tɨ ŋa- -tɨ ŋah- -tɨ ŋah- -tɨ
Negative Optative na- -tɨ na- -tɨ nat- -tɨ nat- -tɨ
Gerund -ʈa -ʈa -ʈa -ʈa

The benefactive form is used for actions that are done for the benefit of the speaker (if suffixed with -kɨ), or for the listener (if suffixed with -ja). For example, the root /wɨdɨkʷaˈja̤/ [wudukʷœˈjæ̤ː] - "to burn dried wood" can take the nonfuture telic benefective to become /bɨʔə-wɨdɨkʷaˈja̤-kɨ/ [bɨʔowudukʷœˈjæ̤ːkɨ] - "burnt up the dried wood for me", or /bɨʔə-wɨdɨkʷaˈja̤-ja/ [bɨʔowudukʷœˈjæ̤ːæ̤] - "burnt up the dried wood for you".

The irrealis forms are used for events that the speaker considers hypothetical, or at least unlikely e.g. the telic nonfuture irrealis /bɨʔə-wɨdɨkʷaˈja̤-ʈa/ [bɨʔowudukʷœˈjɐ̤ːʈɑ] - "would have burnt up the dried wood".

The optative is used to express commands and hopes e.g. /bɨʔə-wɨdɨkʷaˈja̤-tɨ/ [bɨʔowudukʷœˈjæ̤ː-tɨ] - "hopefully burnt up the dried wood".

The future optative is used for things that need to be done sometime in the future, as opposed to now e.g. /ɥɨʔa-wɨdɨkʷaˈja̤-tɨ/ [ɥyʔawudukʷœˈjæ̤ːtɨ] - "should burn the dried wood" (but not now, sometime in the future, perhaps when winter comes).

The conditional optative is a conditional form that is used for things that are / were supposed to have been done (e.g. as a duty). For example /ŋa-wɨdɨkʷaˈja̤-tɨ/ [ŋawudukʷœˈjæ̤ːtɨ] - "if ... had burned the dried wood" (which ... was supposed to do).


Verbs in relative clauses are marked by the prefix /gʷa-/ e.g.

dʷɨs=ɨˈɲɨ̰ gʷa-ˈbə̤tɨ-ta hɨmɨ=bəˈhɨ̰ɴ

this=dog REL-bite-PST.TEL bodypart.SG.INDEF=bone

This dog that bit a bone.

Transitive verbs in relative clauses must still take direct and inverse marking e.g. compare

dʷɨs=ɨˈɲɨ̰ gʷa-gatɨ-ˈbə̤tɨ-ta dʷə=ˈma̤ɴ

this=dog REL-INV-bite-PST.TEL human.PL.INDEF=man

This dog that bit some men.


dʷɨs=ɨˈɲɨ̰ gʷa-ˈbə̤tɨ-ta dʷə=ˈma̤ɴ

this=dog REL-bite-PST.TEL human.PL.INDEF=man

This dog that some men bit.

Sentence Level Syntax

The word order is quite strict, but is not connected with subjects and objects. The word order is as follows: [Topicalised / Proximate Noun] [Wh-Phrase] [Verb] [Obviate Nouns] [Adverbs].


In North-East Antarctican, the copula is the particle /haˈʔɨ̤sːɨ/. This can be used for nominal predication e.g.

dʷaˈʔɨ̤ːɻɨ haˈʔɨ̤sːɨ ɾʲɨmʲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰

these COP animal.PL.INDEF=dog

These are dogs.

It can also be used for locational predication (with a locative noun class marker) e.g.

mɨhaj=ɨˈɲɨ̰ haˈʔɨ̤sːɨ kɨwaˈn=ɨ̰mːʲɨ


My dog is at a fjord.

Finally, it can also be used for adjectival predication e.g.

mɨhaj=ɨˈɲɨ̰ haˈʔɨ̤sːɨ ˈka̤ɫːaʔɨdʷɨʔa

1PS.SG.POSS=dog COP warm

My dog is warm.

However, it is important to note that, unlike English, the copula /haˈʔɨ̤sːɨ/ is a particle and not a verb, and does not take TAM or other inflections.

Predicative Possession

Like English, there is a transitive verb meaning "to have", /ˈka̤gːʷɨ/ e.g.

dʷəɻɨ=ˈma̤ɴ ja-ˈka̤gːʷɨ ɾʲɨmʲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰

those=man PRES.ATEL-have animal.PL.INDEF=dog

Those men have dogs.

Normally, /ˈka̤gːʷɨ/ is used with atelic prefixes. With telic prefixes, it means "get" or "obtain" e.g.

dʷəɻɨ=ˈma̤ɴ bɨʔa-ˈka̤gːʷɨ ɾʲɨmʲ=ɨˈɲɨ̰

those=man PRES.TEL-have animal.PL.INDEF=dog

Those men got dogs.

Comparative Constructions

North-East Antarctican has different comparative constructions depending on what the two things are being compared in terms of.


To say "A is more X than B", where X is an adjective or noun, North-East Antarctican replaces the particle /haˈʔɨ̤sːɨ/ with the particle /ma̤sːɨ/. For example, from the following sentence:

mɨhaj=ɨˈɲɨ̰ haˈʔɨ̤sːɨ ˈka̤ɫːaʔɨdʷɨʔa

1PS.SG.POSS=dog COP warm

My dog is warm.

we can derive a comparative sentence:

mɨhaj=ɨˈɲɨ̰ ma̤sːɨ ˈka̤ɫːaʔɨdʷɨʔa jɨw=ɨˈɲɨ̰

1PS.SG.POSS=dog CMPR warm 2PS.POSS=dog

My dog is warmer than your dog.


To say "A does X more than B", B takes the preposition /dʷa̤ɴ/ e.g.

mɨhaj=ɨˈɲɨ̰ ja-bə~ˈbə̤tɨ dʷa̤ɴ jɨw=ɨˈɲɨ̰

1PS.SG.POSS=dog PRES.ATEL-RECP-bite more.than 2PS.POSS=dog

My dogs bite each other more than your dogs.