LotM - Dec 19: Siren
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The last Language of the Month of 2019 is upon us! Congratulations to Rey Wilson and vir excellent Siren, a conlang spoken by an aquatic race using a Greek script. Read on all about the elaborate and detailed Siren language and society!
This public article was written by Admin Sheep on 2 Dec 2019, 22:51.
[comments] syrlotm dec 19lotm Siren! Spoken by an aquatic race of sirens that live alongside humans, Siren has not only a lot of cool linguistic features but a well-developed culture as well! Read on all about it!
[top]Phonology and orthography
Siren has a moderately sized consonant inventory, with some cool allophones. The stop inventory is a classic /p b t d k g/, with two additional affricates /t͡s d͡z/. There are 5 fricatives, /f v s z χ/, but /s z/ have interdental allophones, and /χ/ has a velar allophone [x]. The nasals include not only /m n/ (with /n/ taking a velar allophone before velar stops) but also a palatal nasal /ɲ/. Finally, the liquids are a retroflex /ɭ ɻ/, /j/, and [w] as an allophone of /u/.
The vowels of Siren are more complex, since they incorporate length and tense/lax distinctions. The cardinal vowels /i u e ɐ/ have length distinctions, but the vowels /ɪ ɛ ə o/ only appear as short vowels. Sometimes [æ] appears as an allophone of /ɛ/.
Siren's phonology is relatively clean and simple, but its orthography is where it really shines. Siren is written with an orthography in a mix of the Greek and Latin alphabets. The majority of characters are Greek, but <s z> are used for /s z/ instead of <σ ζ>. There is also an acute diacritic used to differentiate /ɪ ɛ j/ from /i e u/. The letter <χ> can stand for /χ/ at the beginning or end of a word, but may indicate /k/ medially before a back vowel, or /j/ medially before a front vowel. Finally, the most surprising feature of the orthography is the digraph <μπ>, which is used for /b/ (although it sometimes indicates /mp/). This is a feature that the Siren orthography also shares with Modern Greek!
[top]Morphology and syntax
Nouns in Siren combine case, animacy, and number. Siren has an ergative/absolutive alignment, for both nouns and pronouns. In addition to the ergative and absolutive cases, the other cases are genitive, dative, and a combined instrumental-comitative case. Unlike the nouns, adjectives do not indicate case; in fact, adjectives only decline for attributive or predicative use. Proper nouns, and nouns that designate people, also decline for case, but instead of using the combined case/number suffixes that nouns use, they use prefixed particles. In addition to the standard singular and plural numbers, Siren also has a universal number, which is used to make generalizations such as Αλο μίνι έτ zέκεμι sε "(all of the) boys in the city love me." Noun phrases have 3 levels of animacy: person, animate, and inanimate. These are not expressed morphologically on the noun, and are only expressed in pronouns and in the verb conjugations. The way that referents are sorted into these animacy classes is fascinating and complex: for instance, humans are usually in the animate class, not the person class, but countries are in the person class.
In addition to its complex noun morphology, Siren has some pretty hefty verb morphology. Verbs have 4 different tenses: past, present, near future, and distant future. There are also 3 different aspects, including habitual and progressive, as well as an unmarked default aspect that can indicate perfective or imperfective. There is also an imperative mood, which collapses all the tense/aspect distinctions. These distinctions are expressed by suffixes which combine the person and animacy of the subject with the tense/aspect, except in the progressive, which puts person/animacy/tense in a prefix and uses a static suffix -να.
Finally, a few notes on syntax of verbs. Siren has a default verb order of VSO. The subject of a transitive verb can be omitted, producing a passive, but extra morphology is required to create an antipassive. Intransitive verbs have only a patient, similar to English intransitive verbs like "burn" or "melt".
[top]Society and culture
The Sirens have not only a very cool language, but a very well detailed culture. The majority religion in the world of the Sirens is Tazna, a religion with a detailed mythology as well as an elaborate set of attitudes, rites, and taboos surrounding death and dying. A central concept of the Tazna religion is that three divine gifts were given to the sirens—ambition, art, and family—and should be centered in one's life. An interesting part of Tazna mythology is that they do not believe this world is the first to exist, and some factions believe it will not be the last.
In addition to their religion, many other aspects of siren culture are detailed throughout the articles and lessons. For instance, the polite greeting in siren culture is to hold hands, possibly through the whole conversation. Another fun detail is how sirens count on their hands—the Siren language is base 8, but sirens, like humans, have 5 fingers on each hand. They count by touching their thumb to the tip of each finger. Make sure to read all the articles and lessons to learn everything you can about siren culture!
[top]More on Siren
That wraps up our tour of Siren! There's always more to explore, so check out Siren's LexiBuild sets, translations, grammar tables, grammar test, extensive phrasebook and many articles!
[top]A Note on Siren
Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Siren 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! The final Language of the Month is Rey Wilson's fabulous