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LotM - Feb 20: Proto-Osveraali
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February's Language of the Month is Hastrica's Proto-Osveraali, the second Osveraali language from the CWSP project in a row! Again, we have a complex phonology together with sophisticated grammar, serial verbs, vowel harmony and many things more!
This public article was written by Admin Sheep, and last updated on 14 Feb 2020, 17:02.

[comments] [history] Menu 1. Phonology and orthography 2. Morphology and syntax 3. More on Proto-Osveraali 4. A Note on Proto-Osveraali The Osveraali streak of LOTMs continues in February 2020 with @Hastrica’s  Proto-Osveraali! A proto to two other protos, one of which we got to look at last month, Proto-Osveraali is the common ancestor of all the Osveraali CWSP languages. It comes in with a load of uncommon phonemic contrasts, vowel harmony, serial verbs, a large case inventory, a duodecimal number system and some syntactic eccentricities - let’s dive into it!

[top]Phonology and orthography

The first thing one will notice when looking at the sounds of Proto-Osveraali is its overlong vowels, a rare feature in both natlangs and conlangs - every single one of the nine vowel phonemes occurs in a short, long and overlong variant. The vowels are laid out in a pretty symmetrical fashion, with both close and open-mid vowels in rounded-unrounded pairs, plus the open central vowel /ɐ/. This symmetry is exploited in the vowel harmony rules, which come in two flavours: full harmony, which means a suffix must conform to both the rounding and backness of the word, and partial harmony, which is only about backness.

The spelling makes use of no less than five vowel diacritics to combine rounding and length, allowing the reader to tell at a glance if they are dealing with a “normal” vowel (which means unrounded for front and rounded for back) or a “deviant” one (rounded front, unrounded back). For example, the circumflex accent indicates an overlong normal vowel, so <ô> is /o::/, while the hook above, borrowed from Vietnamese, means a long deviant vowel, giving /y:/ for <ỉ>.

The consonant inventory is a little less scary, although it does feature voiceless nasals at four places of articulation - including uvular - and a three-way contrast (voiceless, voiceless aspirated, voiced) in stops and affricates. Another quirk is the absence of a rhotic consonant.

[top]Morphology and syntax

Proto-Osveraali is a quite cleanly agglutinating language with plenty of inflection to go around. Nouns come in eleven cases and four numbers, the two unexpected of which are the dual and the transnumeral. They also inflect for possession, taking possessive suffixes that are partially realised as chronemes - they lengthen the vowel of the following case suffix. Verbs express tense, number and person, with the dual found only in the first person, and several moods, one of which is the negative. Like its daughter languages, Proto-Osveraali has asymmetric negation, with all tense distinctions disappearing in negated sentences. There is also a middle voice suffix that transports reflexive, benefactive or reciprocal meanings and frequently forms new, independent verbs.

Two interesting aspects of the Proto-Osveraali verbs are the applicatives and serial verbs. The applicatives are a must for forming relative clauses, which is only possible on subjects and objects, and help with turning for example an indirect object into a direct one. The serial verbs are almost too many to count, adding both shades of meaning to existing verbs as well as forming new ones. While some are straightforward, like fụfỉsaw “burn die” (burn to death), others are more poetic, e.g. ôlomáṇ “turn say” (deny), fejôšém “taste eat” (undergo) or hoqûbaqupô “sit bleed” (leak).

Proto-Osveraali has few to no conjunctions and relies on the power of context when chaining clauses, for which there is a single verbal adverb that can occur in the present and past tense. The exact relationship between two sentences must be inferred:

šém-iri húsox á-s
e.g. English '-ly'
.PSTPast (tense)
action occurred before moment of speech
happy be-1SFirst person singular (person)
speaker, signer, etc.; I
.PRSPresent tense (tense)
“because I have eaten, I am happy”

šém-iri ɋurox á-s
e.g. English '-ly'
.PSTPast (tense)
action occurred before moment of speech
angry be-1SFirst person singular (person)
speaker, signer, etc.; I
.PRSPresent tense (tense)
“although I have eaten, I am angry”

Relative clauses come before the noun they modify, which is picked up by a resumptive pronoun:

a-n sẹlƙịm nip-â-s-a ʈo hákehêm-m-áv-a õḷ-ỏ
3SThird person singular (person)
neither speaker nor addressee
-GENGenitive (case)
yesterday see-PCPParticiple
adjectival form of a verb
.PRSPresent tense (tense)-1SFirst person singular (person)
speaker, signer, etc.; I
.POSSPossessive (case)
owns, has
-NOMNominative (case)
TRANS subject, INTR argument
man home-3SThird person singular (person)
neither speaker nor addressee
.POSSPossessive (case)
owns, has
-ALLAllative (case)
'to, onto'
-SGSingular (number)
one countable entity
go-3SThird person singular (person)
neither speaker nor addressee
.PSTPast (tense)
action occurred before moment of speech

“the man I saw yesterday went home”
("him yesterday my-seeing man to his home went")

[top]More on Proto-Osveraali

This concludes our short tour of Proto-Osveraali! There's always more to explore, so check out the LexiBuild sets, translations, grammar tables and the grammar doc!

[top]A Note on Proto-Osveraali

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Proto-Osveraali that wasn't covered and you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot me (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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on 14/02/20 17:020Hastricadate
on 03/02/20 21:30+84Hastricabll
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