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LotM - Feb 19: Qgam Dzwo
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For February's Language of the Month, we have Qgam Dzwo by clawgrip, an isolating, aspect-heavy a priori conlang with internally headed relative clauses and not one, but two beautiful writing systems!
This public article was written by [Deactivated User], and last updated on 4 Feb 2019, 20:46.

[comments] [history] Menu 1. Phonology 2. Grammar 3. Writing System 4. More on Qgam Dzwo 5. A Note on Qgam Dzwo Welcome back! For February's Language of the Month, we have  Qgam Dzwo by @clawgrip, an isolating, aspect-heavy a priori conlang with internally headed relative clauses and not one, but two beautiful writing systems!


The phonological system of Qgam Dzwo has several points of interest to it. The glottal stop is a full, fledged phoneme (in fact, it occurs in the name of the language, romanised as <q>). While voicing is distinctive in plosives, there are only voiceless fricatives. For the affricates, the alveolar place of articulation has only a voiced one (/d͡z/), while the velar affricate /k͡x/ is voiceless. The two other affricates are an alveopalatal voiced-voiceless pair (t͡ɕ d͡ʑ). There is an alveolar and a palatal lateral; the only other liquid phoneme is retroflex /ɻ/.

On the first look at Qgam Dzwo’s vowel chart, one might think the distribution of vowels is highly skewed: one long and four short vowels, with /ɔ/ the only rounded vowel, contrasting with its unrounded counterpart /ʌ/. However, because of a process of coda approximant assimilation, Qgam Dzwo has actually developed the long vowels /i:/, /e:/, /ɨ:/, /ə:/ /u:/ and /o:/ from old /ij/ /ɛj/ /iw/ /ew/ /ow/ /ɔə/ /ʊə/, with the last two only occurring before /ɻ/. This brings the total to four short and seven long vowels, plus the diphthongs /eə/, /ʊə/ and /ɔə/. There is a considerable amount of allophony in vowels, caused by alveolpalatal and palatal consonants. These generally trigger fronting of back vowels.


Qgam Dzwo is, by and large, an isolating language that does a lot of work with independent particles and has little inflection. The basic word order is SOV, and it follows the convention of natural languages with this word order in that it uses postpositions and places genitives and adjectives before their heads. Tense, aspect and mood are, however, marked on an auxiliary verb that occupies the position immediately after the subject. There are many different auxiliaries for a multitude of combinations of tense (present, past and future), aspect (continuative/progressive, perfect, iterative), number (singular/plural) and mood (indicative, necessitative). The only inflection the auxiliary shows is between singular and plural, which is expressed by umlaut - a change in the vowel.

Where other languages might use case, Qgam Dzwo uses postpositions. Of these, am is probably the most important, as it marks the direct object and thus acts as an accusative. This high frequency is reflected in the fact that it loses its vowel after vowel-final nouns. There are two genitive constructions, one for alienable and one for inalienable possession. The first simply uses a personal pronoun (between possessor noun and possessee if an explicit noun is given) while the other uses the postposition to.

Postpositions have a close relationship to nouns, and a number of them can in fact act as independent nouns, such as gwaa, which means “behind” as well as “back”. Nouns are not obligatorily marked for definiteness, but can take an explicit definite article that comes after the noun and replaces the accusative postposition. Plurals can be formed by reduplication: mya “day”, mya mya “days”.

It falls to verbs to do much of the work prepositions do in English, since the Qgam postpositions are few in number and rely on spatial prefixes that describe the direction and motion a verb involves. An example is st-, a spatial prefix that means “change of position between inside and outside” and thus means “into” when used with the postposition di “to, towards”, but “out of” when used with gwo “from”. Combining the postpositions and directional prefixes, Qgam Dzwo is able to create complex locative expressions. Another combining strategy that Qgam Dzwo employs is verb serialisation, saying for example dzaa šraa “hold come” for “bring”.

Qgam Dzwo’s relative clauses are another really intriguing part of the language: they are internally headed and nonreduced:

snaa do myaa ’m klea
man PRESPresent tense (tense)
.SGSingular (number)
one countable entity
fish ACCAccusative (case)
TRANS direct object; patient
“The man eats fish.”

snaa çe myaa 'm klea do ta hlear
man AUXAuxilliary fish ACCAccusative (case)
TRANS direct object; patient
eat PRESPresent tense (tense)
.SGSingular (number)
one countable entity
RELRelative be.old
“The man who eats fish is old.”

Here the auxiliary moves out of its post-subject position, leaving behind the dummy auxiliary çe; it reappears after the verb of the relative clause and additionally takes the relative particle ta. Qgam Dzwo seems to prefer the relative clause head in the subject position, promoting it with a passive construction if it is in a different syntactic role.

[top]Writing System

Qgam Dzwo is written in two different scripts. The more common one (in universe) is the Chinese-based Qonklese logographic script which lends itself well to the isolating structure of the language. The traditional script, however, is a beautiful top-to-bottom alphabet whose letters connect to each other according to a fixes set of rules. Its glyphs are divided into initials, vowels and finals, and vowels may change orientation depending on which consonant precedes them. There are even two examples of different letter styles - check them out here.

[top]More on Qgam Dzwo

That’s about it for this brief tour of Qgam Dzwo! It’s definitely worth it to look at the LexiBuild sets, grammar tables, translations and articles, too.

[top]A Note on Qgam Dzwo

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Qgam Dzwo that wasn't covered and you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot us (dendana, protondonor or 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 04/02/19 20:41+186[Deactivated User]links
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