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Phonology and Orthography


Consonant Inventory
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m /m/ n /n/
Plosive p /p/ b /b/ t /t/ d /d/ k /k/ g /g/
Fricative f /ɸ/ s /s/ h /x/
Affricate ts /ts/
Trill r /r/
Approximant w /w/ y /j/
Lateral app. l /l/


  Front Near- front Central Near- back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg


Proto-Rathmosian is written with the Roman alphabet using the following graphs.

a b d e f g h i k l m n p r s t ts u w y ə

The following table shows the sound to spelling correspondences:

graph a aa b d e ee f g h i ii k l m n p r s t ts u uu w y ə
IPA a b d e ɸ g x i k l m n p r s t ts u w j ə


The basic building block of most Proto-Rathmosian words is the primary root, a simple morpheme which cannot be broken down further. Most primary roots are verbal stems though some nominal elements such as body parts, landscape and family terms are primary.

Primary roots may be formed into other words by (a) the direct addition of derivational and morphological affixes; (b) internal changes within the root to create a secondary or derived root; (c) a combination of both.

A number of grammatical words or particles are not considered roots and do not follow the rules set out below.

Primary Roots

Primary roots are monosyllabic and must have the minimal form VC, in which V represents a single primary vowel (a, e, i or u) and C any consonant. Most roots will also have an initial consonant (vowel-initial roots are relatively rare and may have developed from the loss of an initial /h/ or glottal stop /ʔ/, e.g. */had, ʔad/ > ad-).

Consonant clusters within roots are limited to CL in onset position, in which L represents a liquid (l or r). The initial consonant in these clusters cannot be l, r, w or y. In coda position the only consonant cluster permitted is GC, in which G represents a glide (w or y).

The vowels of primary roots are always short. Diphthongs are not considered to occur and in the combination of vowel + w or y the second element is analysed as a consonant.

Primary roots may take one of the following forms:

  • CVC, e.g. ret- "go, move", ker- "rule"
  • CLVC, in which L represents a liquid (l or r), e.g. glis- "live, stay", mlak- "be dead"
  • CVGC , in which G represents a glide (w or y), e.g. tiyk- "touch, feel", reyk- "love"
  • CLVGC, e.g. trayh- "strangle, choke", sluyn- "seep, ooze".
  • VC, e.g.
  • VGC, e.g.

Secondary Roots

Secondary roots are derived from primary ones by one of two clearly defined and mostly predictable phonological processes:

  • Vowel Lengthening doubles the vowel of the primary root, e.g. ret- > reet-, tiyk- > tiiyk.
  • Reduplication involves the addition of the first consonant plus the main vowel of the root to the beginning of a word and the deletion of the main vowel from the root itself, e.g. ret- > rert. Note that rules of phonotactics laid out below are also applied, so e.g. ker- > kegr- not *kekr-. There are a number of complications to reduplication:
    • Where the root is followed directly by a vowel:
      • Roots of the structure C1VC2 become C1VC1C2, e.g. min- > mimn-.
      • Roots containing an internal glide lose the main vowel and convert the glide into a vowel (y > i or w > u, e.g. sluyn- > suslin-.
      • Roots containing an internal liquid lose their main vowel and then insert the reduced vowel ə before the liquid, e.g. mlak- > maməlk-.
    • Where the root is followed by a consonant:
      • Roots ending with a glide lose their main vowel and convert the glide to a vowel, e.g. biw-n- > bibu-n-
      • Roots ending in a liquid lose their main vowel and replace it with ə, e.g. ker-n > kekər-n-
      • All other roots retain their main vowel, e.g. mlak-n- > mamlagn-, ret- > reredn-


Affixes may take any of the forms: V, VC, C, CV, CVC. They may also be combined into more complex structures. The addition of affixes sometimes requires the insertion of the reduced vowel ə between consonants, or of a linking glide w or y between vowels.

The following processes of assimilation occur when certain sounds come into contact across syllables:

  • voiced plosives /b, d, g/ are devoiced before voiceless plosives or fricatives /p, t, k, ɸ, s, x/.
  • voiceless plosives /p, t, k/ are voiced before voiced plosives and nasals /b, d, g, n, m/.
  • /t/ and /d/ assimilate to any following plosive or /n/
  • /n/ assimilates to a following liquid /l, r/.



Verb forms in Rathmosian are largely agglutinative and the verbal system could be described as active-stative, in which verbs are marked differently according to the degree of agency the subject has. There is no clear-cut distinction made between conjugation and derivation with, for example, verbal aspect belonging to both categories.

Verbal stems are divided into five classes based on their level of agency, transitivity and activeness. Verb roots may change internally to indicate certain aspects, and derivational prefixes and suffixes may be added to the root to alter its basic meaning. However, the conjugation of the verb is largely carried out with suffixes to indicate aspect, voice, subject and object. The order of elements is fixed in the following ways:

Elements of the Verb
ROOT Aspect

Verbal Classes

Rathmosian verb stems are divided into five classes (I-V) according to whether they are active or stative, and how much agency the subject has. These classes affect the way in which the aspect and voice markers are used.

  • Class I verbs are intransitives in which the subject of the verb is not the agent, and which describe fixed or ongoing states, usually translated into English with 'be' and an adjective, e.g. dreh- "be red", rin- "be alive, live".
  • Class II verbs are intransitives in which the subject is not the agent and which describe a change of state, e.g. mlak- "die", tum- "fall".
  • Class III verbs are intransitives in which the subject is not the agent, and which describe a temporary state or an uncontrolled action, e.g. fal- "sleep", kled- "stand".
  • Class IV verbs are intransitives in which the subject is the active agent of the verb, e.g. yur- "run", met- "speak".
  • Class V verbs are transitives.

Some roots may belong to more than one class with a change of meaning, e.g. yur- "run" may be Class IV when the subject is an animate noun and the sense is "propel oneself quickly" but is Class III when the subject is inanimate and the sense is "flow, move quickly". The distinction, in practice, between the two senses is shown by the suffixes added to the root.


Verbals aspects may be conjugational or derivational.

Conjugational Aspects

These are formed from the root alone and convey the primary aspect distinction between imperfective (incomplete) and perfective (complete) actions or states. These aspects can generally be applied to any verb, with some semantic restrictions.

  • The primary root is imperfective, describing ongoing or incomplete actions/states, e.g. ker- "ruling", fal- "sleeping".
  • The lengthened root is perfective, describing completed actions/states, e.g. keer- "ruled", faal- "slept".

Derivational Aspects

These are generally formed with affixes attached to the root and often alter the semantics of a verb. They may be used in conjunction with the conjugational aspects.

  • The reduplicated root marks the frequentative aspect, usually describing actions characterised by rapid repetition and often used to diminish the intensity of states or actions e.g. fafl- "sleeps fitfully", dedərh- "is somewhat red".
  • The addition of -t- to the root creates the habitual aspect, describing actions that are regularly carried out or states that are regularly attained, sometimes shading towards a gnomic meaning, e.g. kert- "rules (often)", falt- "sleeps (often)", dreht- "is red".
  • The addition of -n- to the root creates the inchoative aspect, describing the beginning of actions or 'becoming' a state, e.g. kern- "begin to rule", faln- "fall asleep".
  • The addition of -ban- creates the terminative aspect, describing the end of actions or states, e.g. kerban- "ceased to rule", falban- "woke up".
  • The addition of -tsat- to the root creates the intensitive aspect, describing more severe forms of the action or state, e.g. kertsat- "tyrranise, subjugate", faltsat- "sleep deeply". After plosives, the affix is -sat-, e.g. kuksat- "gorges".


Voice markers function in different ways for different verbs. They are distinguished primarily for the ways in which they focus the subject or object of the verb. The four primary voice categories are:

  • Patient focus is marked with -a- and is mainly used with intransitive verbs in which the subject is the patient of the verb (i.e. Classes I-III), e.g. dreha- "be red", tuma- "fall". Used with semantically transitive verbs of Class V, it is effectively a passive marker e.g. keyka- "is seen". The subject of patient focus verb is in the Abs. case and there can be no direct object.
  • Dual focus is marked with -i- and is used only with Class V (transitive) verbs in which both the subject and direct object are stated, e.g. keri- "rule". The subject of the verb is in the ergative case and the direct object in the absolutive.
  • Agent focus verbs are marked with -u- and are used with Class IV and V verbs, where the subject is the agent of the verb, but where no direct object is stated e.g. kuku- "eat", yuru- "run". The subject is in the ergative case for both transitive and intransitive verbs.
  • Medial verbs are marked with -e- and are used with Class V transitive verbs when the agent and the patient refer to the same entity, creating a reciprocal or reflexive meaning, e.g. sape- "wash oneself". The subject here is in the ergative case.

In addition, there is a Causative infix -əm-, which may be used preceding the voice markers in the following ways:

  • -əmi- and -əmu- form the basic causatives and are added to intransitive verbs (Class I-IV) to create a transitive, or to transitive (Class V) verbs to make a ditransitive, e.g. mlak- "be dead" (intrans.) > mlakəmi- "kill" (trans.), keyk- "see" (trans.) > keykəmu- "show, explain" (ditrans.). In the first case (əmi), both the subject and direct object of the causative verb are stated; in the second (əmu), the direct object is omitted. The subject ('causer') of the causative verb is always in the ergative. The subject of the original verb, whether transitive or intransitive, takes the absolutive case. The direct object of an originally transitive verb is demoted to the dative.
  • -əma- creates the Patient Causative, used to describe an action or state which is assumed to be caused, but without reference to the 'causer', e.g. keyk- "see" > keykəma- "is made to see, understands", mlak- "be dead" > mlakəma- "is killed".
  • -əme- creates an Autocausative, in which the agent causes the action to itself, e.g. mlakəme- "kill oneself".


There are five moods, indicated by affixes that follow the voice markers:

  • The indicative or realis mood, which denotes events deemed by the speaker to be real, is indicated by the absence of a mood marker, e.g. keeykatsu "I saw you".
  • The potential mood, which indicates that an event is likely, is marked by -bel-, e.g. keeykabeltsu "I probably saw you".
  • The possible mood, which indicates that an event may have taken place, is marked by -ker-, e.g. keeykakertsu "I may have seen you".
  • The irrealis or hypothetical mood, which denotes events known not to be true, is indicated by -wal-, e.g. keeykawaltsu
  • The hortative mood, which denotes a request or encouragement, and the imperative, which denotes a command, are marked with -p-. The hortative is used in the first and third persons, e.g. keykupu "let me see", falapəd "let him/her sleep". The imperative is used only in the second person, e.g. kukupisk! "eat".


Negation of the verbal string is indicated with the negative prefix ga- added to the beginning, e.g. gakuukibu "I did not eat it".

Subject and Object Markers

The absolutive markers agree with the subject of a intransitive verb or the direct object of an transitive verb. The 3rd person may be animate or inanimate.

Absolutive Markers
Singular Plural
1 -n -l
2 -ts -h
3an -d -w
3in -b -r

Where the previous element ends in a consonant, the epenthetic vowel ə may be inserted, e.g. mubnaməd "he was saddened",

The ergative markers agree with the subject of a transitive verb. Since inanimate nouns cannot be the agent of a verb, by definintion, there are no inanimate ergative markers.

Ergative Markers
Singular Plural
1 -u -an
2 -isk -enk
3an -et -af


  • reykitsu "I love you"
  • keeykiwan "we saw them"
  • falaw "they are sleeping"
  • yuurut "he/she ran"

Verbals Nouns and Participles

Each verb has a verbal noun and most have two or three participles.

Verbal nouns are created from the root of the verb + either -a or -u:

  • Class I verbs take -a to create an abstract noun of state, e.g. dreha "redness (the state of being red)", nuka "darkness".
  • Class II & III verbs take -a to form a simple gerund, e.g. tuma "falling", fala "sleeping".
  • Class IV & V verbs take -u to form a simple gerund, e.g. yuru "running", kuku "eating".
  • Class V verbs can also take -a to create a passive verbal noun, e.g. kuka "being eaten".

Verbal nouns can be formed from extended stems, e.g. mlagna "dying", metsatu "speaking quickly, babbling".

Two forms of participles exist, one ending in -t and one ending in -s.

Participles are formed in a similar way to verb nouns, with an additional -t after the voice marker. The primary root is used to form the equivalent of a present participle, e.g. yurut "running", falat "sleeping". The lengthened root forms a past participle, e.g. kuukat "eaten", tuumat "fallen".


Nouns belong to one of three classes and are declined into eight cases and three numbers.

Noun Classes

Nouns are divided into two main classes: animate and inanimate. The fundamental distinction between these two classes is that animate nouns may be the agent of a verb, i.e. they may actively carry out the action of a verb, whilst inanimate nouns may not. Animate nouns therefore include all humans, deities and spirits, animals and certain celestial bodies such as belan "the sun". Inanimate nouns include all other common objects, plants and abstracts.

The class of animate nouns is further divided into masculine and common nouns. The distinction is based on natural gender, so that all male humans, deities and spirits are masculine, as are male animals where the sex is known. All other animate nouns are common. Masculine nouns are generally marked forms, with a base form usually ending in l or k. Thus, ker means "ruler; queen" and is common, but keril means "lord, king" and is masculine.

Summary of Noun Classes
Animate Common Female humans, deities and spirits; female animals and those with unspecified gender
Masculine Male humans, deities and spirits; specifically male animals
Inanimate All plants and non-living objects; abstracts


Nouns are declined according to eight cases:

  • Absolutive denotes the patient of a verb, either the direct object of a transitive verb or the subject of certain intransitive verbs.
  • Ergative denotes the agent of the verb, either the subject of a transitive or certain intransitive verbs.
  • Dative denotes the indirect object of a verb and describes motion towards.
  • Genitive denotes the possessor of an object.
  • Ablative denotes motion away from.
  • Instrumental denotes use of.
  • Locative denotes location in, at or on.
  • Comitative denotes location with or beside.


There are two numbers: singular and plural.


Animate Common: vocalic stem (negu "woman")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - nega -wa negawa
Ergative -s negas -ns negans
Dative -yep negayep -nep neganep
Genitive -y negay -ni negani
Ablative -ta negata -nta neganta
Instrumental -ra negara -rra negarra
Locative -yen negayen -nen neganen
Comitative -kun negakun -nkun negankun
Animate Common: consonantal stem (ker "ruler")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - ker -wa kerwa
Ergative -s kers -əns kerəns
Dative -ep kerep -nep kernep
Genitive -i keri -ni kerni
Ablative -ta kerta -ənta kerənta
Instrumental -ra kerra -ərra kerərra
Locative -en keren -nen kernen
Comitative -kun kerkun -ənkun kerənkun
Animate Masculine (keril "lord, king")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - keril -wa kerilwa
Ergative -s kerils -əns keriləns
Dative -ep kerilep -nep kerilnep
Genitive -i kerili -ni kerilni
Ablative -ta kerilta -ənta kerilənta
Instrumental -ra kerilra -ərra kerilərra
Locative -en kerilen -nen kerilnen
Comitative -kun kerilkun -ənkun kerilənkun
Inanimate: vocalic stem (hemaku "sky")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - hemaku -r hemakur
Dative -m hemakum -rm hemakurm
Genitive -ya hemakuya -rya hemakurya
Ablative -ta hemakuta -rta hemakurta
Instrumental -ra hemakura -rra hemakurra
Locative -yen hemakuyen -ren hemakuren
Comitative -kun hemakukun -rkun hemakurkun
Inanimate: consonantal stem (renadik "book")
Singular Plural
Absolutive - renadik -ər renadikər
Dative -m renadikəm -ərm renadikərm
Genitive -ya renadikya -ərya renadikərya
Ablative -ta renadikta -ərta renadikərta
Instrumental -ra renadikra -ərra renadikərra
Locative -en renadiken -ren renadikren
Comitative -kun renadikkun -ərkun renadikərkun

Note that inanimate nouns do not have ergative forms.


There are two forms of adjectives, verbal adjectives and nominal adjectives.

Verbal Adjectives

Verbal adjectives are Class I verbs and behave like any other member of that class, taking the same inflexional and derivational endings.

When used predicatively, verbal adjectives behave as normal verbs and follow the noun they qualify, e.g. negu manad "(the) woman is strong", belun harad "the sun is hot". When the subject of the sentence is a pronoun, the verb alone may be used or the pronoun may be added for emphasis, e.g. faawkan or ni faawkan "I was afraid".

When used attributively, these adjectives take their participle form, e.g. manat negu "(the) strong woman", harat belun "the hot sun".

Nominal Adjectives

Nominal adjectives are those derived from other parts of speech, be it a verb, noun or another adjective.

neguyak gisul "the feminine man", Karakin keru "the Carrackish ruler".

gisul neguyakad "the man is feminine", keru Karakinad "the ruler is Carrackish".