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LotM - Mar 17: Town Speech(aka. Urban Basanawa)
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Spring is almost here, and so is our new language of the month! Congrats to UniBlackSister's Town Speech, a.k.a. Urban Basanawa, a Low German language written in a Japanese-derived writing system. Read on to learn about this fascinating blend of East Asia and West Germanic!
This public article was written by [Deactivated User], and last updated on 1 Mar 2017, 15:25.

[comments] [history] Menu 1. Phonology and Orthography 2. Morphology and Syntax 3. Lexicon 4. More on Town Speech 5. A Note on LotM Spring is almost here, and so is our new language of the month, UniBlackSisters  Town Speech! The native name of this language, 町語, is read /bʊrxsprɑ:k/, because this is actually a Low German language written with a Japanese-derived writing system. Read on to learn about this fascinating blend of East Asia and West Germanic!

[top]Phonology and Orthography

The phonology of Town Speech should be familiar to any speaker of a Low German language. There's a very large vowel inventory, with both length and tense/lax distinctions, adding up to 11 total vowel qualities and 4 distinct diphthongs. Consonants are a bit tricky, due to a large number of allophones. There is a phonemic voicing distinction in stops, but the voicing distinction in fricatives is mostly allophonic. A notable exception is /z/, which is allophonic in native Germanic words but phonemic in loanwords. The phoneme /x/ also stands out as having multiple allophones, including [h] and [ç]. Finally, as is common in continental West Germanic languages, the voicing distinction in stops is neutralized at the end of a word.

Where this language really stands out is in its unique orthography. Town Speech is written with a combination of Chinese characters, called kandji in Town Speech, along with hiragana and katakana. Borrowed from Japanese, this writing system has been repurposed to fit a Germanic phonology and lexicon, with kandji having both Sino-Xenic and native Germanic readings.

[top]Morphology and Syntax

Overall, Urban Basanawa is an SVO analytic language. It has migrated away from the V2 word order common in West Germanic, and has also lost the method of forming questions via word order inversion. Instead, questions are formed through the use of an initial question particle. As an analytic language, it has lost many of the declensions and cases of its Germanic relatives. However, nouns still mark plural in -/(ə)s/ (written -す) or -/(ə)n/ (written -ん), and verbs still agree with the subject in person and number. Relativization uses an invariant particle rather than the relative pronoun found throughout Germanic. Since it is an analytic language without case marking, the morphosyntactic alignment is neutral.


The lexicon is where Town Speech really stands out. As a base, it has a large vocabulary of native West Germanic words, which have clear cognates in Dutch, German, or English. This includes most of the words in the most colloquial registers, and many basic colloquial sentences, when transcribed into the Latin alphabet, can be understood by a speaker of Dutch or Low German. On top of that are added a large number of Sino-Xenic (i.e., originally Chinese) loanwords, acquired via Japanese. These include words for scientific and technical concepts, as well as a large number of the words for modern-day life, such as bank (銀行 ginkoo), battery (電池 dentschi), and government (政府 seefu). Finally, there is a delightful sprinkling of loanwords from various other East Asian or European languages, to add flavor. The overall effect is a fascinating blend of Germanic function words with Sino-Japanese technical vocabulary.

[top]More on Town Speech

If you want more, check out this article on Town Speech historical phonology, the Town Speech lexibuild sets, or the staggeringly large number of detailed translations into Town Speech.

[top]A Note on LotM

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Urban Basanawa that wasn't covered and you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot us (phi2dao, argyle, protondonor, or Avlönskt) a PM with your thoughts, suggestions, and hate mail. 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!
[link] [quote] [move] [edit] [del] 01-Mar-17 15:41 [Deactivated User]
Congrats @[Deactivated User]! This is a really interesting language and I love that you've seamlessly blended 2 otherwise completely different language families.
[link] [quote] [move] [edit] [del] 01-Mar-17 15:11 [Deactivated User]
Interesting and well done, just want to say that the link to the translations leads to the wrong page! :)
Edit history
on 01/03/17 15:25-32[Deactivated User]one of these days I'll get this right on the first try
on 01/03/17 04:50-9[Deactivated User]wip whoops
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