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LotM - Jun 17: Thawayan
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Welcome to summer and congratulations to birbs' Thawayan, the most often nominated conlang in LotM history! Read more about this polysynthetic click language spoken by monkeys!
This public article was written by [Deactivated User], and last updated on 1 Jul 2017, 10:11.

[comments] [history] Menu 1. Phonology 2. Orthography 3. Morphology and Syntax 4. More on Thawayan 5. A Note on LotM This June,  Thawayan, the Leonardo DiCaprio of conlangs, finally wins the Language of the Month award! Thawayan is spoken by monkeys, heavily polysynthetic, and has a very complex system of clicks. On top of that, it has a gorgeous conscript. Read on to find out why this amazing conlang was nominated every month since November 2016!


Thawayan has a small inventory of 13 phonemic pulmonic consonants. Here's all of them: /m n ŋ p ᵐb t ⁿd k ᵑg s ɺ j w/. It also has only 3 phonemic vowels, /i a o/. It has a very simple syllable structure, C(w,ɺ,j)V.

Pretty simple, right? Of course not, because here come the clicks! There are 6 different click releases: bilabial, dental, alveolar, lateral, retroflex, and palatal. In the romanization, these are written with their IPA symbols, <ʘ ǀ ǃ ‼ ǁ ǂ>. Each click release can have a velar or uvular coarticulation. Velar is unmarked, and uvular articulations are marked with <q> after the click letter. Clicks can have a number of phonations: tenuis, aspirated, modal voiced, breathy voiced, or ejective. Using the bilabial click as an example, these are written as <ʘ ʘh gʘ gʘh ʘ'>. Tenuis, modal, or ejective uvular clicks may be affricated as well, which is written with <x> instead of <q>. Additionally, there are three nasal click phonations: voiceless, voiced, and glottalized, which are written as <ʘn nʘh 'ʘn>. All in all, this adds up to a whopping 114 click phonemes.


The amazing complexity of Thawayan phonology is matched by a beautiful conscript, which has been compared* to guillotines, Piet Mondrian paintings, and Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass windows.
*- mostly by the author of this article, to be fair.

The conscript is an abjad, with unique symbols for every pulmonic consonant as well as each combination of click release and coarticulation (i.e., /q/, /k/, or /χ/). Voicing, nasalization, glottalization, and aspiration are indicated with diacritics which lie under or above the consonant glyph. The glyphs are beautifully designed and have a very specific aesthetic, and are definitely worth a look.

[top]Morphology and Syntax

Being polysynthetic, Thawayan has an amazing amount of verb morphology. Verbs can take a lot of suffixes, marking polarity, aspect, evidentiality, mood, interrogative, and finally person and number of both the subject and object, which can be "fourth person", indicating a generic subject. There are a total of 8 aspects, 6 evidential states, and 27 moods, resulting in a grand total of 2592 (!) TAMNE combinations. The object can also be incorporated into the verb as a prefix. Verbs can also be compounded, e.g. miǁx'itwoʘnigǃhisaġotwa, "target-miss-know-GNOGnomic (aspect/mood)
common, timeless truths
-ASSAssumptive (mood/evid)
assumed truth
-4Fourth person (person)
obviative, not present
", "knowing that one missed the target". All of this adds up to a system that can express some very complex meanings in a single verb form.

Unlike many polysynthetic languages, Thawayan also has a ton of noun morphology. Specifically, it has 30 cases. Three cases, absolutive, dative, and ergative, serve basic grammatical functions. There are 10 more relational cases, such as the comitative, genitive, and translative. Finally, the remaining 17 cases, from ablative to superessive, are locational. In contrast to the very complex morphology, syntax is pretty simple, allowing entirely free word order.

[top]More on Thawayan

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

[top]A Note on LotM

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Thawayan 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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on 01/07/17 10:110[Deactivated User]Fixing the folder.
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