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LotM - Apr 19: Kavrinian
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April is here, and so is one of the most staggeringly large Languages of the Month ever, Kavrinian! With over 15,000 words, this language is spoken by the sapient avian species Kavrinhäk of the Sahar country Lhavres. Read on to learn all about it!
This public article was written by Admin Sheep on 1 Apr 2019, 17:15.

[comments] Menu 1. Phonology and orthography 2. Morphology 3. Syntax 4. More on Kavrinian 5. A Note on Kavrinian April is here, and so is one of the most staggeringly large Languages of the Month ever,  Kavrinian! With over 15,000 words, this language is spoken by the sapient avian species Kavrinhäk of the Sahar country Lhavres. Read on to learn all about it!

[top]Phonology and orthography

Kavrinian phonology looks mostly humanoid, but has a couple quirks that separate it from human languages. First, there are no actual labial consonants or rounded vowels, as you might expect from a species with beaks for mouths. Second, there is a phoneme transcribed <v> which, despite that transcription, is pronounced by the Kavrinhäk as a "low, sustained chirp." The rest of the phonology, while more humanoid, is still very interesting. There are 6 stops and affricates, /t t͡s t͡ʃ c k ʔ/, transcribed <t ts č c k '>. There are only two nasals, /ɲ ŋ/ <n nh>. Other than the chirp phoneme, which patterns with the fricatives, there is a very large and asymmetrical inventory of fricatives, /s z ʃ ç ʝ x ɣ h ɦ/ <s z š cs cz q g h ǧ>. The liquids and glides, of which there are five, round out the inventory. In addition to the conventional /l r j/ <l r y>, there are dorsal liquids /ʟ ʀ/ <lh rh>.

Finally, we reach the vowels. There are 9 different vowel qualities, each of which can be long or short. As mentioned above, all vowels in Kavrinian are unrounded. The vowel qualities are /i ɯ ɪ e ɤ ə ʌ æ ɑ/ <i u ï e o ë ö ä a>.

[top]Morphology

Kavrinian morphology is fairly complex and agglutinative. In the nominal department, nouns can inflect via suffix for 3 different numbers—singular, paucal, and plural, 4 cases—nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive, and definite forms. There are two separate noun classes, separated by animacy. The genitive is used to mark the possessor in an alienable possession construction, whereas inalienably possessed nouns take a prefix indicating the possessor. Thus, whether possession is head or dependent marking actually depends on whether it's alienable or inalienable. Some examples of inalienable possession in Kavrinian include kinship terms, social relations, body parts, mental states and processes, and part/whole relationships. Adjectives agree with the number and case of their head noun, except for accusative inanimate forms, which are unmarked relative to the nominative.

Kavrinian verbs are even more complex than its nouns. To start, all verbs agree with the subject of the sentence. This encompasses agreement with person, number, animacy of a 3rd person subject, and clusivity of a 1st person plural subject. These suffixes are essentially fusional, although there are patterns to be found in them. The unmarked tense/aspect of a verb is present habitual; the other tense/aspect combinations—including present continuous, past habitual, past imperfective, past perfective, and future—can be formed via a suffix that precedes the person-marking suffix. The subjunctive and hortative moods are formed similarly. The final mood, the imperative, is formed by one of two special suffixes, singular or plural, that bear little resemblance to their indicative counterparts.

In addition to TAM and person, Kavrinian verbs have two more very interesting quirks. The first is the valency operations. In addition to a passive voice, Kavrinian also has 4 different applicatives, which can serve benefactive, instrumental, comitative, and locative functions. The second is that Kavrinian verbs indicate evidentiality. Directly witnessed clauses are unmarked, but reported clauses and indirectly inferred clauses each have a distinct suffix.

[top]Syntax

Due to its heavy use of case marking, Kavrinian word order is relatively free. However, there is a general tendency towards OVS or SOV word order in the main clause, and SOV word order in subordinate clauses. In addition to being head-final in the clause, Kavrinian also uses postpositions, possessed nouns follow the possessor, and subordinators follow the clause.

In order to express negation, Kavrinian uses a particle nhaa before the verb. For other complex moods, it uses auxiliary verbs, which come after the main verb. In those sentences, the main verb takes the infinitive, and the auxiliary takes the person and TAM inflections.

Kavrinian supports not just one but two different relative clause constructions, one of which precedes and one of which follows the noun. Prenominal relative clauses use SOV word order, and don't have a relativizer, whereas postnominal relative clauses

A final word about Kavrinian syntax is that it has four different copulas. There are two distinctions expressed by these copulas, one being temporary states vs permanent attributes, and another for animate and inanimate nouns. There's a whole article about the fine distinctions and uses of each copula.

[top]More on Kavrinian

That wraps up our tour of Kavrinian! There's loads more to read, so check out Kavrinian's LexiBuild sets, grammar tables, translations, articles, and very, VERY large dictionary!

[top]A Note on Kavrinian

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Kavrinian that wasn't covered and you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot us (protondonor, Hastrica) 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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