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Van (havan [ʔavãn]) is a small language designed for rapid private use. It is very sparse in its phonology and inflections.

Phonetics and phonology


The alphabet consists of the letters: a e h i j k l m n ń o p r s t v .

  • ⟨ń⟩ is a velar nasal [ŋ]
  • ⟨h⟩ is a glottal stop [ʔ]
  • ⟨v⟩ is a labiodental approximant [ʋ]


Consonantal phonemes
Labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop p t k ʔ
Fricative ʋ s
Trill r
Approximant l j


Vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
Closed i
Mid e o
Open a

Vowels are nasalised before nasal consonants (/a/ → [ã], /i/ → [ɛ̃], /o/ → [ɔ̃]), backed and lowered before velar (/a/ → [ɑ̞], /o/ → [ɔ]), raised before j (/a/ → [æ], /o/ → [u]).



The typical syllable in Van is composed of a consonantal onset, a vocalic nucleus, and a consonantal coda (CVC). Occasionally, a syllable may be phonemically onset- or codaless; traditionally in Van terminology these are termed faulty. Syllables of this form are typically found as affixes. Phonetically, they have as their onset either a glottal stop [ʔ] or a copy of the preceding syllable's final consonant, e.g. vana [vã] 'speak' (< van). Note: A coda is not required at the end of sentences.


The word is composed out of syllables but has additional properties that set it apart. A word may only end with either a vowel, sonorant, or a sibilant.


There are a few monovocalic affixes in Van that violate the normal syllable structure. For the onsetless syllables, they can be said to copy the preceding syllables final consonant, or in the case of there being none, using a glottal stop.

Some examples:

  1. The verbal markers -a, -e always copy the nearest preceding consonant, e.g., /vana/ -> [vãnna] ‘speak’, /tore/ -> [] ‘to be excited’. Note: No ʔ is appended as the vowel is word final.
  2. The definite and possessum marker a- conjures up a glottal stop, e.g. /avan/ -> [ʔaʋãn] ‘the speech’.



Nominal morphology is sparse in Van. Number is not marked, but definiteness and state of possession is. Both definiteness and alienable possession is marked with the prefix ha-. Inalienable possession is not marked at all.

Demonstratives and quantifiers


Verbal inflection

Verbs are morphologically simple in Van and the few inflections which exist compound in an agglutinative fashion according to the following principle: stem + mode + voice.


Verbs in Van distinguish two modes: dynamic (dyn) and stative (stat)

All verbs expressing a dynamic meaning have a suffix -a while stative verbs have an -e.

dynamic stative
vana (speak) kore (love)

The distinction between dynamic and stative is most readily gleaned in the example opposition kore tan mir, pa-kon ‘I am in love with you, bacon’ (state) vs. kora tan mir, pa-kon ‘I am loving you, bacon’ (action).


Two voices are recognised in Van, the active (act) and the nonactive (nonact). Of these, the default voice is the active one which is unmarked. The nonactive is indicated by an -s suffix.

Derivational morphology

Derived verbs

It is quite easy to create new verbs: any noun or stem can be turned into a verb by adding the appropriate mode suffix (-a for dynamic verbs or -e for stative verbs).

Derived nouns

There are several semantically-restricted options for creating a new noun from a verb.

  • Nomen agentis: prefix li- to the stem of the verb. Thus, love ‘alive, living’ whose stem is lov- becomes lilov ‘being’.
  • Nomen actionis: add the definite marker to the stem of the verb. laja ‘sing’ → halaj ‘the act of singing’
  • Nomen instrumentis: instruments or tools that go with a verb; marked with the suffix -ka; jasa ‘to watch’ → jasaka ‘glasses’
  • Nomen obiecti: suffix -las; added to transitive verbs denote the object of an action. laja ‘sing’ → lajalas ‘song’

There is one operation available to derive nouns from nouns: the collective (COLL) reduplication, which usually a full initial L→R reduplication. However, for polysyllabic words, only the first CV pair is copied.

  • ha-tav ‘a feeling’ → ha-tatav ‘sentiments, emotional state’
  • ha-tok ‘a chicken’ → ha-toktok [ʔa̰d̪ɔg̚d̪ɔ̰k̞͡x̞] ‘poultry’
  • ha-lilov ‘a being’ → ha-lililov ‘humanity’ ( and not **ha-lilovlilov)


Constituent order

The unmarked word order in Van is predominantly (87%) verb-subject-object or VSO. The remaining occurrences (13%) are subject-verb-object or SVO. There appears to be no particular identifiable reason for what makes a sentence SVO or not.

Phrase order

The noun phrase

Numerals and determiners precede their head nouns.


[ʔɛ̃ŋa tʰãm ʔadɔk̚ tʰãn]
hińa tam ha-tok tan
prox.det five poss-chicken 1sg
‘Those five chicken (are) mine’
Possessive constructions

Possessors follow their possessum.


ha-van mir
poss-language 2sg
‘Your language’

Intrinsically possessed nouns or obligatorily possessed nouns like vas ‘head’ do not get prefixed with the possessive marker.

vas tan
head 1sg
‘My head’

Verb phrase

The prototypical verb phrases is composed of the phrasal head, any enclitics, subject pronoun.


karesi tan
kar-e=si tan
grey-stat=little 1sg
‘I'm a little bit grey’


A transitive verb requires at least an object (O) in addition to the previous type.

lana tan ha-tok
lan-a tan ha-tok
cook-dyn 1sg def-chicken
‘I cook the chook’

A transitive verb with discarded object and second argument promotion with the directive marker -e.

nimańa laja tan mire
ni=mań-a laj-a tan mir=e
perhaps=try-dyn sing-dyn 1sg 2sg=dir
‘Perhaps I should try to sing for you’

Non-active constructions

In non-active constructions (autostative, passive, reciprocal, mediopassive; all formed with [-s]) the word order remains the same as in the default word order.

(3.) autostative

nor-e-s tan
joy-stat-nonact 1sg
‘I am happy with myself’

(4.) passive

not-a-s ras
eat-dyn-nonact 3sg.m
‘He is being eaten’

(5.) reciprocal

pok-a-s sor ha
strike-dyn-nonact 3sg.f pl
‘They (f.) strike each other’

Chain construction

When two verbs follow each other in a modifying-action relationship, the main verb (modifying verb) precedes the secondary verb (action).


mań-a laj-a mir tan
try-dyn sing-dyn 2sg 1sg
‘You are trying to sing to me’

Causative constructions

This relationship also holds true for causative constructions where the causative precedes the other verb.


vań-a nor-e tan mir
cause-dyn joy-stat 1sg 2sg
‘I make you happy’


vel-a=vaj mer-e=si mir tan
strike-dyn=suddenly sorrowful-stat=little 2sg 1sg
‘You hit me suddenly and (it makes me) a bit sad’

Comparative constructions

Comparative constructions are created with the conjunction mar in the pattern VP mar VP.

The second VP can be replaced with the common pro-verb vań- as in the second example.


par-e johana mar par-e nansi
red-stat Johanna than red-stat Nancy
‘Johanna is redder than Nancy’


tanir-e tavi mar vań-e mak
rise-stat David than proverb-stat Mark
‘David is taller than Mark’

Sample wordlist

  • sa- ‘not’, prefix
  • ta- ‘good’, prefix
  • ni- ‘perhaps’, prefix
  • -si ‘a little bit’, suffix
  • -ke ‘fast, quickly’, suffix
  • -vaj ‘suddenly’, suffix
  • no- general intensifier, prefix
  • vańa, -e, dummy verb, a pro-verb. Also the causative dummy verb.
  • ta ‘from’, adverb
  • jin ‘here’
  • laja ‘sing’
  • los ‘end’
  • love ‘alive’
  • jan ‘like’
  • jas ‘sight’
  • kon ‘build’
  • kor ‘love’
  • tir ‘see’
  • tore ‘excite’
  • van ‘speech’
  • nar ‘death’
  • sak ‘field’
  • mare ‘upright’
  • lana ‘whisper’, -e ‘be quiet’