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|Nouns decline according to...|
|Verbs conjugate according to...|
Kreteja is a constructed language based on the Linear A inscriptions left by the so-called "Minoan" civilization.
The Linear A script has yet to be deciphered. In fact, we know almost nothing about the spoken language it encoded. We don't even know to which other languages, living or dead, it might have been related. About all that can be said for certain is that it was not a form of Greek.
However, many of the Linear A signs have been assigned tentative phonetic values, based on their resemblance to the Linear B script later used as the earliest writing system for Greek. Given that, it's (barely) possible to guess at some of the morphological and grammatical features of the underlying language, and assemble a little vocabulary. That's not enough to decipher the Linear A script, and I make no pretense that's what this project is about. On the other hand, it's more than enough to begin building a constructed language that, in small doses, might be plausible for anyone but an expert.
I intend to write some historical-fantasy fiction using the Minoan civilization as part of the setting. This constructed language will eventually be used to provide names, scraps of dialogue, and background flavor for those stories.
I am thoroughly indebted to Dr. John Younger of the University of Kansas, who maintains a comprehensive website collecting the entire Linear A corpus, with extensive notes on what little is known about the Minoan language. Many thanks, and my apologies for the horrible things I'm doing to the serious endeavor of ancient Aegean scholarship.
|Plosive||[p] [ph] [b]||[t] [th] [d]||[k] [kh] [kw]|
Kreteja is unusual in that it does not have a complete series of voiced stops - but it does distinguish non-aspirated from aspirated stops, and the labiovelar stop [kw] is quite common.
Kreteja has only one liquid [ɹ], and native speakers often have difficulty distinguishing between that and [l] (as, for example, when listening to the speech of Greek "barbarians").
In many cases, Kreteja uses the glides [j] and [w] in word-initial position, and between vowels that do not explicitly form diphthongs.
Kreteja has an incomplete five-vowel system, with [a], [i], and [u] by far the most common vowel sounds. [e] and [o] are less common, and in everyday speech [e] and [o] tend to be closed toward the more common [i] and [u].
Several diphthongs occur, most notably /ai̯/ and /au̯/.
For the sake of coherence, Kreteja should be written in the Linear A script ... but that would be painful for all concerned. I may develop an alphabetic script for the language at some point, under the assumption that any post-Minoan culture would probably have picked up the Phoenician alphabet and come up with its own version of that. Sample vocabulary and texts will be produced in a Latin-alphabet transcription (with a few Greek letters) for the foreseeable future:
Most of the Latin letters will have the expected value as if from the IPA symbol-set. The three letters taken from Greek have their original values, representing the aspirated stops. Q will represent the labiovelar stop, not too far from its value in English. Š will represent the unvoiced postalveolar fricative [ʃ] or /sh/.
Syllable structures attested thus far all fall under (C)(C)V(C). The simple open syllables are by far the most common: V and CV. Diphthongs should be considered single vowels within this structure.
Words usually receive a light stress on the next-to-last syllable. Exceptions will be marked with an accent acute.
Kreteja is almost entirely agglutinative in its noun morphology. Noun stems consist of up to four syllables, and almost invariably end in a vowel. Morphemes (almost always suffixes) are added to the stem to mark case and number, and to indicate diminutive or honorific tone.
Kreteja nouns take singular and plural forms. In the singular, a noun stem is unmarked. In the plural, the stem takes the suffix -ka, unless the last syllable in the stem began with a k- or a consonant cluster including a k. In this case the suffix becomes -na. So, for examples:
|erai "olive"||eraika "olives"|
|kiki "fig"||kikina "figs"|
Kreteja is a nominative-accusative language. It has four attested noun cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative.
The subject of any verb is in the nominative case, and takes no case marking.
The direct object of a transitive verb is in the accusative case. It takes the suffix -ma as a case marking.
If one noun modifies another noun, most often in cases of possession or composition, the two nouns form a compound word, genitival noun first, then head noun. The genitival noun takes the suffix -ti as a case marking, unless the noun stem ends in an -e, in which case the suffix becomes -te.
The indirect object of a ditransitive verb is in the dative case. Dative case is not marked with an inflectional suffix on a noun stem. Instead, the clitic prefix i- is attached to the front of the noun or noun phrase. If the first syllable in the noun or noun phrase already begins with i-, then the clitic is normally dropped, and the placement of the noun in the sentence suffices to mark its sense as the indirect object.
Diminutives and Honorifics
A diminutive is formed by changing the final vowel of a noun stem to -a (or -i if the stem already ends in -a) and adding the suffix -ra.
Kreteja occasionally adds an honorific to certain proper names. When referring to a social superior (such as a lord, a king, a priest or priestess, or a deity), or directly addressing the superior under normal conditions, the honorific suffix -me is added. In cases where the speaker is directly addressing the social superior and wishes to express extreme humility, the suffix becomes -mana.
Order of Noun Markings
A noun stem always takes a diminutive or honorific first, then a marking for number, and finally a marking for case.
Kreteja uses a strict subject-verb-object (SVO) sentence order, except that the indirect object of a ditransitive verb normally falls just before the verb.
Noun phrases are head-initial. All adjectives modifying a noun fall immediately after that noun.
|api||n||"trench for making libations to the dead"|
|asija||n||"distribution (of goods)"|
|Assara||n||theonym, the "Queen of Heaven" (cf. Hebrew Asherah)|
|dubure||n||"lord" or "master"|
|eraiwa||n||"olive-tree" (cf. Mycenaean Greek e-ra-wa and Classical Greek ἐλαία)|
|iφina||n||"wine" (cf. Hattic findu "wine")|
|kira||n||"balance" or "remainder"|
|kiri||v||"to owe (a debt or obligation)"|
|kiro||n||"debt" or "obligation"|
|Kreteja||n||"Cretan," the Minoan language|
|χaroba||adj||"golden" or "gilded" (cf. Hurrian hiarohhe "golden")|
|rute||adj||"mixed (as of wine)"|
|sirute||adj||"unmixed (as of wine)"|
|θáratta||n||"the sea" (cf. Classical Greek θάλασσα)|
|unaruka||v||"to offer as a dedication"|