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LotM - Oct 17: Ulyan
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We ring in October with juxlus' Ulyan, the enigmatic polysynthetic language of a world abandoned by its mysterious creators. Read all about its creative morphology and complex syntax!
This public article was written by Admin Sheep on 1 Oct 2017, 20:24.

[comments] Menu 1. Phonology and Orthography 2. Morphology 3. Syntax 4. More on Ulyan 5. A Note on LotM October's language of the month is juxlus' fantastic  Ulyan, a polysynthetic language of the world created by the mysterious Iya, who abandoned the world they made.

[top]Phonology and Orthography

Ulyan's consonant inventory is heavily focused on stops, affricates, and fricatives, which come in pairs of voiced and voiceless sounds. The voiced/voiceless pairs include /p b f v t d ts dz s z tʃ dʒ ʃ ʒ k g/. Additionally, the unvoiced fricatives /θ x/ exist without corresponding voiced sounds. /x/ is in free variation with the allophones [χ h]. Rounding out the consonant inventory are the two nasals, /m n/, and the approximants /ɹ l j w/. Ulyan's vowel inventory contains 5 standard cardinal vowels, /i ɛ a o u/, as well as two lax vowels /ɪ ʊ/. Diphthongs are /ɛi ai oi/.

The orthography of Ulyan is quite simple in comparison. Most symbols match their IPA values, with the exceptions of <j> /ʒ/, <dj> /dʒ/, <ü> /ʊ/ and <ï> /ɪ/, <th> /θ/, and the quite inspired choice of <c> /ʃ/ and <tc> /tʃ/.

[top]Morphology

Ulyan has a complex morphology, with each major part of speech undergoing many inflections. At its core, it is a polysynthetic, nominative-accusative language, with the majority of morphology on the verb.

Nouns can take five cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and locative. These combine with four different numbers: singular, plural, innumerable, and negative number. These combinations are mildly fusional, but overall the first consonant of the suffix determines number and the final consonant-vowel combination determines case. Adjectives also decline for case, with similar suffixes. They also mark degrees, such as superlative, comparative, and moderative, via a series of prefixes. Adjectives can also be incorporated directly onto nouns or verbs, with an optional suffix for adverbial use. Pronouns are also worth a mention before we move on to the verbal system. They distinguish two numbers, singular and plural, which are marked by suffixes similar to those used for nouns. There are actually four different persons of pronoun, with the "fourth person" used as an indefinite or generic person. There are also a wide variety of interrogative pronouns, including single pronouns for concepts such as "how far" or "how often".

Finally, we reach the verbal system. The verb is the most complex part of the Ulyan clause, because it combines polypersonal agreement, noun incorporation, and a full-fledged set of TAMNE (tense-aspect-mood-negation-evidentiality) affixes. Subject and object are combined into a single affix. Four evidentials, four tenses, six aspects, and eleven moods combine for a dizzying array of verbal expression. Verbs can also take an augmentative or diminutive final suffix, and can take two nominalizers, which turn the verb into a noun denoting either the place where the action was carried out, or the person who carried out the action. Two alternate voices, passive and causative, are also present; fortunately for the casual Ulyan learner, these are expressed by auxiliary verbs thuek and lo, instead of by more affixes.

[top]Syntax

The basic order of the Ulyan clause is VSO. However, this is complicated by the polypersonal agreement prefixes on the verb. The rest of basic Ulyan syntax is also strongly head-initial: prepositions precede the noun, possessees precede the genitive, and nouns precede adjectives. Relative clauses, which precede the noun, are the major exception to this rule. Relative clauses are optionally bounded by the particles ank and kai; the initial particle ank may be omitted or replaced by a relative pronoun such as cwor. Auxiliary verbs follow the main verb of the clause, leading to VAuxSO order in clauses using an auxiliary, including passive and causative clauses.

In addition to relative clauses using ank, there are a large array of other subordinating and coordinating constructs in complex Ulyan sentences. These include six different coordinating conjunctions, four correlative conjunctions, over nine different conjunctive adverbs, and many, many different subordinating conjunctions.

[top]More on Ulyan

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

[top]A Note on LotM

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Ulyan 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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