Proto-Settameric

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Proto-Settameric
PS
Created by
Setting planet Liifam
Region Northern continent
Era 3000–3500 years ago
Language family
Aiwanic languages
  • Settameric languages
    • Proto-Settameric
Early forms:
Proto-Aiwanic
  • Proto-Klesuic
    • Proto-Settameric
Writing system Latin
ISO 639-3 None

Proto-Settameric (abbreviated PS) is the proto-language from which all languages, spoken on the planet Liifam, are descended. It is generally estimated to have been spoken around 3,000 years ago, but on the question of where it was spoken, there is less agreement, since no archeological evidence of that period has been found so far. The Settameric family, which is a branch of the much larger Aiwanic macrofamily, is usually divided into three large subgroups: Eastern, Western, and Southern Settameric, which are considered to be genetic groupings, however all three had probably been very close to both the proto-language and each other and broke apart very soon. It is one of the most fully reconstructed proto-languages of the Aiwanic family, because its daughter languages are all quite conservative. Its ancestor was Proto-Klesuic, a language of ancient scripts, a dialect of which was attested, but there is not enough information to know much about that language, even its phonology is not well understood.

Introduction

I started making the Aiwanic languages in 2018 for my short sci-fi stories, but they were not genetically related at first. Then I created a fictional history of a small star cluster, located in our galaxy, where all those stories take place and just came up with the idea of a planet colonisation (to explain, why all those planets are inhabited by humans). Not much is known about the Old Aiwanic language itself apart from the fact that it existed, as none of the colonies retained the old level of technological development and almost everything about the period before a mysterious event (usually called "the Event" for simplicity) remains unknown.

History

Most Settameric languages are similar enough that their genetic relatedness can easily be recognized. The Southern branch is the most divergent among all three, but in its earlier stages it still show similarities to other branches. Many languages share a great number of word roots and even cognates with almost exact meanings, though with some languages it is not as obvious because of various sound changes they underwent. The homeland of the protolanguage is commonly placed near the Kahaaler mountain range to the west of the Northern continent, however this a matter of debate, because the earliest archeological remains was found in several places throughout the Northern continent. Certainly, those, who spoke Proto-Settameric, had a more advanced means of communication, than the current inhabitants of the continent, and the loss of those technologies led to the separation of the main dialects. It is unclear how those dialects developed later, but most of them probably became extinct, while others could have become a substrate to modern languages, spoken in those areas.

Phonology

Vowels

Proto-Settameric had seven basic vowels, three (or four) of which had long counterparts, for a total of ten (or eleven) vowels. The only difficulty with this reconstruction is the vowel *ää, as it is unclear whether it could only be long or could also have a short counterpart. All instances of the short *ä appears either word initially or before a velar fricative. Both long and short *ä appear rarely, compared to other vowels. According to another theory, *ää was a long counterpart to *ə, which adds symmetry to this vowel system.

Front Central Back
Short Long Short Long
Close i ii [iː] u uu [uː]
Mid ee [eː] ə oo [oː]
Open (ä [æ]) ää [æː] a [ɑ] aa [ɑː]

Consonants

Proto-Settameric had a quite large consonant inventory, but it is still small, when compared to reconstructions of its earlier stages. There are 48 consonants in total. The consonant denoted as *nj likely had two allophonic realizations: [ɲ] word-initially and [ŋ] elsewhere, with a few roots later getting doublets in some branches, like *njool/*ŋool “to fly”, or *njapʰee/*ŋapʰ “dying, death”. In addition, a consonant denoted as *ɣʷ merged with *w in all languages, except for two Northwestern languages, where it merges instead. Though apparently the change was not conditional, so *ɣʷ is very likely to be a separate phoneme, even though its non-labialized counterpart was likely an approximant [ɰ] rather than a fricative (there were no other voiceless fricative apart from these two consonants). Still, the exact realization of *ɣʷ is unknown, but it should have been distinct from *w. A phoneme, written as *r, was likely a tap [ɾ], or an approximant [ɹ], rather than a trill.

Labial Dental Denti-Alveolar Postalveolar/Palatal Velar Uvular
plain labial plain labial
Nasal m n nj [ɲ] (ŋ)[note 1]
Plosive unaspirated p t c [t͡s] č [t͡ʃ] k q
aspirated cʰ [t͡sʰ] čʰ [t͡ʃʰ] kʷʰ qʷʰ
glottalized cʼ [t͡sʼ] čʼ [t͡ʃʼ] kʼʷ qʼʷ
Fricative f θ s, ł [ɬ] š [ʃ] x
Approximant voiced w d [ð̞][note 2] ɾ j ɣ [ɰ] ɣʷ
glottalized ɾʼ, lʼ ʟʼ
Lateral Approximant l lj [ʎ] ʟ
  1. ^ Is an allophone of *nj, sometimes written *ng.
  2. ^ Most likey was a dental approximant [ð̞] but its exact realization is unknown, this consonant could only appear word-initially and merged with *r in the Western branch and with *l in other languages.

Phonotactics

The most typical syllable structure was CVC (where C stands for any consonant and V for any vowel), but CV was common too and CCV was also allowed word-initally. Reconstruction of the initial consonant clusters has been relatively difficult, and their evolution in the daughter languages have been complex. It is not known what consonants could and couldn't be in a word-initial cluster, as only two languages preserve any traces of them. Word-medially, however, almost any consonants can appear in a cluster if the second consonant was a non glottalized plosive and the same might have been true for word-initial clusters as well, for instance, roots like *mkoom ("hill"), which violate the sonority hierarchy, are reconstructed. Words could only end with a single consonant or a vowel, so word-final clusters were not allowed (the same is still true for the modern descendants of Proto-Settameric). If a word root ended with two consonants or a glottalized consonant, it received a vowel ending, the original quality of which is not preserved in any modern language. Two glottalized consonants could appear in one word if separated by a vowel, but later usually the first consonant lost its glottalization, like *kʼʷitʼə ("claw") became *kʷitʼə, but in some languages the reverse happened as well yielding *kʼʷitə ("spike") and thus doublets were created, which often received different meanings. Two vowels could not appear together and were usually separated by an approximant *w or *j, but this was often reversed in many daughter languages.

Grammar

All modern descendants of Proto-Settameric have similar verb structures and their nouns behave almost exactly the same way, so the grammar of their proto-language is well understood. Its nouns had an animate/inanimate contrast: nouns representing humans, animate beings ( as well as some plants and natural phenomena viewed as having spiritual powers) were classed as animate, while all other nouns were inanimate. The animacy of a noun was not strict and depended from other nouns in a sentence (*čʰuu "fish" was treated as inanimate when a human was the subject of a sentence, but animate with any other nouns). The plural marker differed in form depending on whether the noun was animate or inanimate: animate nouns took a plural suffix *-n, *-t or *-r, while inanimate nouns took a plural suffix *-ayin. Another important distinction involved the contrast between nouns marked as proximate (absolutive or ergative) and those marked as obviative. It was an active–stative language and its proximate animate nouns could be sometimes be treated as a subject and received the ergative marker (usually a lengthening of the final vowel) or as an object (absolutive, which remained unmarked), however this system was likely irregular, being substituted by obviation completely, and only traces of it can be found in modern descendants as fossilized suffixes. Proto-Settameric had six verb types: transitive, detransitive (verbs similar to intransitive, but derived from transitive verbs, like *sinoonʼan "I look"), passive (intransitive verbs with only the object marker), impersonal (verbs without a specified person marker), middle (stative, reflexive or deponent verbs) and antipassive verbs. Only some of these types were preserved in its daughter languages, many of which merged certain types into one and then created new ways to express information previously conveyed by them.