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LotM - Jan 18: Heláin
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Let's start off the 2018 right with Hélain!
This public article was written by Admin Sheep, and last updated on 28 Feb 2018, 02:49.

[comments] [history] Menu 1. Phonology 2. Orthography 3. Morphology 4. Syntax 5. More on Heláin 6. A Note on LotM @EllaHansen's  Heláin is an ergative-absolutive language with a nifty abugida and a number of interesting articles on the language and culture. It's an a posteriori conlang spoken by the coastal states, or freanda, of the Telian Commonwealth, an area with a detailed history and culture. Read on about this gorgeous language and its elaborate backstory!


The consonant inventory of Heláin has a lot of dental and alveolar consonants, giving a mellifluous sound to the language. In fact, the total inventory of coronal consonants is /n̪ t̪ d̪ θ ð s l r ɾ/ - that's 9 coronal consonants, with 4 of them being sonorants. There's a large number of labials too, including /m p b ɸ β ʍ/. Velars are pretty sparse, consisting of only the velar nasal /ŋ/ and two stops /k g/. Finally, rounding off the consonant inventory is the glottal /h/.

The vowel inventory is also quite interesting, with an emphasis on lax and centralized vowels. The only cardinal vowel is /u/, pronounced as a compressed rather than rounded vowel. [i] also occurs, but only as an allophone of /ɪ/ before vowels and /r/. There are three different front mid vowels, /e:/, /ɛ/, and /jɛ/, which collapses to [j] before a vowel. /ɛ/ also becomes [e] before a vowel. Finally, we have the central low vowels /ɞ/ and /ä/. There are two low closing diphthongs as well: /ɞj/ and /ɒj/.

Heláin has a complex syllable structure, with a set of strict rules about which consonant clusters are permitted. Allowed initial clusters consist of plosives or non-sibilant fricatives followed by liquids, whereas allowed final clusters consist of homorganic nasal + stop or nasal + affricate clusters, doubled nasals and liquids, or a liquid followed by a stop or fricative. The most permissive rules apply to medial clusters, which can be any legal initial or final cluster, as well as homorganic nasal + fricative clusters, and clusters of /s/ with a liquid, voiceless plosive, or voiceless fricative, in either order. Finally, between morphemes a variety of sandhi rules apply, to prevent the development of disallowed clusters. It's all worth reading about in this exhaustive article about Heláin phonology (and many other things).


The orthography of Heláin is the Ceivicitien script, which is a modified abugida. Vowels are represented by diacritics and consonants by full letters. Unlike Indic abugidas, consonants have no "inherent vowel", and there is no "virama" diacritic. Instead, a consonant without a diacritic simply does not have a vowel. The resulting system is an interesting combination of alphabetic, abjad, and abugida features. There is also a strong featural component to the script: base symbols indicate place and manner of articulation, and diagonal lines indicate voicing or nasalization. However, this system only seems to apply to the plosives, nasals, and fricatives; semivowels and liquids have their own unique symbols, and the voiceless semivowel /ʍ/ is indicated by adding a diagonal line to /h/. Finally, the letter /h/ is also used to indicate two vowels in sequence, since sandhi rules cause the phonological deletion of /h/ between vowels. The aesthetic of the Ceivicitien is similar to Latin capital serif letters.


Heláin noun morphology seems deceptively simple at first: two genders which are only distinguished in the singular, singular and plural number, and five cases (absolutive, vocative/ergative, reflexive, genitive, and oblique). Each number, gender, and case combination is expressed by suffixes on the noun. However, digging a little deeper is a wealth of morphological complexity. There are two main classes of noun: strong and weak. Strong nouns do not decline for case, but they do mark number, and many of them mark more numbers than just singular or plural, including dual, trial, and collective numbers. The weak nouns form the vocative/ergative, used as a citation form, in a number of distinct ways, many of which are unpredictable or totally irregular. Most weak nouns decline in a similar way aside from the citation form, but some, especially verbal nouns, have a different method of forming the reflexive or genitive. Finally, nouns may have diminutive forms, which are almost always feminine, and follow their own rules for declining case.

Continuing the theme of combining simplicity with hidden depth, the verb system marks no person or number at all, but does mark a wide variety of tense, aspect, and mood combinations. These are expressed not just by simple affixes, but by various forms of reduplication and mutation of the stem. For instance, the simple past is formed with the prefix Ce-, where C is the initial consonant of the stem. Another example is the aorist, which doubles the final consonant before adding the suffix -en. In addition to the aorist, perfect, and imperfect aspects are the frequentative and inchoative; the simple declarative mood is unmarked and joined by the imperative, potential, counterfactual, and optative moods. Rounding out the verb conjugation are five verbal noun forms: the infinitive, active and passive participles, instrumental, and locative forms. Most verbs are regular, but a small number of verbs—"be loved", "be remembered", "speak", "be", and "be wielded"—are defective or irregular in a small number of forms.


As can be inferred from the names of the cases, Heláin has an ergative morphosyntactic alignment, where the vocative case, having been merged with an earlier ergative case, serves the ergative role. There are also some elements of tripartite alignment, particularly with copular constructions, which use the reflexive case instead of the absolutive. The overall word order in a basic clause is VOS, as exemplified by clauses like sig alle sor be.sung.IMPImperative (mood)
god-ABSAbsolutive (case)
TRANS object, INTR argument
.MMasculine gender (gender)
masculine or male
1First person (person)
speaker, signer, etc; I
-VOCVocative (case)
'O [addressee]'
.MMasculine gender (gender)
masculine or male
. Much as verbs precede their object, nouns precede determiners and adjectives. To form complex clauses, there are a wide variety of subordinators and coordinating conjunctions, such as fie dha'l "so that", which interact with moods to form meanings such as purpose. This article has many examples, and is still being updated, so stay tuned there for more on Heláin syntax!

[top]More on Heláin

If you want more on Heláin, check out its articles, grammar tables, LexiBuild sets, or translations.

[top]A Note on LotM

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Heláin 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!
Comments (1)
[link] [quote] 09-Jan-18 16:10
CWS Conlanger
Thanks for reading my (very dry and unfinished) reference grammar! I think Heláin is really a priori, that is, it's not based upon any other language, real-world or otherwise. (The archaic roots given in the dictionary chiefly come from patterns that I've discovered by chance; there's no coherent proto-lang.)
Edit history
on 28/02/18 02:49-13protondonorwhy is this still a wip?
on 08/01/18 16:23+6959protondonoractually wrote the article
on 07/01/18 17:450severygfdgfdgfdgdgxfd
on 07/01/18 17:45+10severyLINK DAMN YOU
on 07/01/18 17:44+16severyrtrdgd
on 07/01/18 17:43+8severytypo
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