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LotM - Aug 17: Mayessa
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CWS is back! And we have a new LotM to boot! Orikrin's Mayessa is more than just the "Mountain Script"; it's got complex prosody, loads of cases, and a quirky verb system to boot.
This public article was written by Admin Sheep on 3 Aug 2017, 04:28.

[comments] Menu
1. Phonology
2. Orthography
3. Morphology and Syntax
4. More on Mayessa
5. A Note on LotM

August is here, and so is a swarm of technical difficulties which took down all of CWS our new Language of the Month, Orikrin's  Mayessa, a highly synthetic a priori language with a crazy alpha-logo-syllabic script.

[top]Phonology

When Mayessa was choosing its phoneme inventory, there must have been a buy-one, get-one sale on palatals and glides. There are a whopping 10 palatal consonants, although many of these are allophones. There are also a total of 9 glides and approximants, including, of course, /j/. This allows for some very front-heavy words like /ɟœjç̠toma/ or /ɟyjsjɛð̞ɛˈs:a/. But there are plenty of other sounds to round out the inventory, including long and short alveolar and bilabial nasals, voiced and voiceless alveolar plosives, and long/short pairs of dental, labiodental, and alveolar sibilant fricatives. A note of phonological interest is that the dorsal plosives are underlyingly /c ɟ/ rather than [k g], which are allophones before back vowels. Finally, we have the alveolar tap /ɾ/, and its rare long allophone /r/.

But wait, there's more! In 6 easy installments of $9.95, you also get this astounding 8-vowel inventory! It includes the front rounded vowels /y œ/, corresponding back vowels /u o/, front unrounded vowels /i ɛ/, and central /a ə/ to complete the set. Word-final /o/ even doubles as bonus back unrounded vowel [ɤ].

Finally, to sweeten the deal, Mayessa has an incredible prosody system, with up to 4 levels of tone produced by the interaction of a relatively simple stress system with a similarly simple pitch accent system. I could not possibly do it justice here, so read the article and learn everything there is to know about Mayessa prosody.

[top]Orthography

The orthography of Mayessa, called the "Mountain Script", is a cursive semi-alphabet with several logosyllabic glyphs. It is utterly unique in its design and shape, and resembles chains of mountains and valleys. The logosyllabic glyphs are not mere combinations of alphabetic characters, but form unique glyphs on their own. The syllabic glyphs express some grammatical affixes and particles, while the logograms express certain basic meanings like "all", "nothing", and "to be". Glyphs are distinguished by whether they are rising or descending, the level of height, the shape of the peak or valley, and the presence of various diacritics.

[top]Morphology and Syntax

Let's start with the Mayessa noun, which has a bewilderingly massive array of cases. In addition to over 15 case suffixes, Mayessa nouns also mark plural or singular. Much like most Uralic languages, there is one plural form for the nominative, and a separate plural form for all the other cases. Nouns also take a prefix indicating referentiality: definite, indefinite, or demonstrative. Adjectives collapse all the non-nominative cases into a single oblique case, which may be marked by a suffix or a prefix, based on euphonic rules.

The Mayessa verb is spare by comparison, with three tenses, two voices, and two moods marked on the verb. Not all combinations are possible, so in practice, there are 6 verbal TAM forms: present (implicitly progressive), future, past (implicitly imperfect; also the most common tense form), conditional, present passive, and past/imperfect passive. Each form fuses with subject agreement, and furthermore with negative polarity markers. One interesting facet of the Mayessa verb system is that whether a prefix or suffix is used actually depends on the tense: verbal agreement/TAM are expressed as suffixes in the past tense forms and as prefixes in all other forms.

Finally, a note on syntax: it's SVO, with overall head-initial tendencies. Since there are so many affixes, including affixes for conjunctions, possessives, and many other forms not covered here, syntax tends to take a back seat to the complex arrays of Mayessa morphology.

[top]More on Mayessa

If you want more, check out its articles, grammar tables, the lexibuild sets, or translations.

[top]A Note on LotM

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Mayessa that wasn't covered and you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot us (phi2dao, argyle, protondonor, or Avlönskt) a PM with your questions, comments, and/or concerns. Also feel free to drop by the LotM clan if you have other feedback, want to join in the voting process, or nominate a language!
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