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Semberek is a small family of languages spoken in the Aegic desert on the planet Halonia by escaped human slaves. It spits into two subgroups, North and South. The two most populous dialects are Sembare (~5,000 speakers), a Southern language, and Hrilin (~12,000), from the North. These are descended from a form known as Old Semberek (OS), which originated about 600 years ago; divergence into North and South languages occurred about 200 years ago.
This article will deal with comparisons between the forms (using Sembare and Hrilin as bases) and the historical links between them. A seperate article for Sembare dialect will be added soon.
In this article, forms with * are exclusive to Old Semberek, forms in bold are Sembare-only, and forms in italics are Hrilin-only. Forms with no marking whatsoever are found in all dialects/ stages.
Semberek has a relatively small phonemic inventory, with 13-17 consonants and 5-10 vowels (depending on dialect). OS and Sembare do not feature phonemic voicing, although Hrilin has acquired it; overall the language might sound something like Arabic to English speakers.
Comparative & Historic PhonologyEdit
- There is no labiovelar glide [u] but it occurs naturally to link many vowel clusters.
|Plosive||b||t [t̪]||k||q||h [ʔ]|
|Affricate||ƾ [ts]||j [dž]|
- The sound denoted by 'x' in Sembare is more accurately thought of as the pharyngealization of the following vowel; e.g. axa = [aa̰], not [aɦa]. However it is more econmical to type it axa or [aɦa] - and many non-native speakers approximate the pharyngealized vowels by inserting an uvular, glottal or pharyngeal fricative before or after the appropriate vowel.
|Plosive||b p||d t||k||q|
- voicing has become a distinctive feature in the bilabial and alveolar stops, allowing /b/ and /d/
- voice onset is very early, aspiration is only occasionally present in the voiceless stops
The changes from OS to Sembare and Hrilin can be only partially summarized with the tables of phonemes; other sounds were redistributed, with splits and mergers; and other sounds have new allophones that were not present in OS.
Many of the allophonic changes described in Sembare have similar parrelels in Hrilin that operate at a phonemic level; the key difference is that in Sembare, most sounds merely assimilate or dissimilate, whereas in Hrilin, cluster reduction occurs. For example, OS [nb] clusters go to [np] in Sembare, but simply [p] in Hrilin.
- /t/ is a result of fronting
- /ts/ from
- initial *[kj] or *[ki]
- /dž/ from *[nš] and *[tš]
- /*χ/ goes to
- /ʔ/ in most contexts
- /ɦ/ where intervocalic
- Ø word-finally
- allophonic changes
- s → θ/ _š
- b → p/ _#, _n
- t → ʔ/ _l
- VV → VV̰
- V: → VV̰
- word-final */b/
- *[nb] or *[mb]
- word-initial */t/
- before /b/
- /θ/ from *[fs] and *[sš]
- /*χ/ goes to:
- /x/ in most contexts
- /w/ from intervocalic /*χ/
- merges with /q/ before tense back vowels word-initially
- merges with /k/ before other vowels word-initially
|Front tense||Front lax||Back lax||Back tense|
|High||i||i [ɪ]||u [ʊ]||u|
|Mid||e||e [ɛ]||o [ʌ]||o|
|Low||a [æ]||a [ɑ]|
Vowels have not changed at the phonemic level, for the mostpart, since OS; with the exception of Hrilin, where a longh/short distinction has been gained as well as tense/lax.
The tense/lax distinction itself is mostly predictable, but not enough so to merit its treatment as a system of allophones. Nevertheless, Semberek only writes with five vowels.
AlphabetEditSemberek is written in a cursive, top-down left-right abugida. Interestingly, the direction of the consonants is unimportant; any sound can be written 'backwards,' according to which letter preceeds it (the direction of the first letter in the word is up to writer preference). An English counterpart to this system would not merely be to write letters upside-down, but also to have them hanging under the baseline.
The romanized script is visible in the phonemic inventory charts above.
Semberek allows syllabic nasals, hiatus, and consonant clusters.
Stress is trochaic, with right-to-left assignment, iterativity, and left-headedness. Heavy syllables include coda nasals (long vowels in Hrilin), as well as coda /l/ and /r/.
Semberek is a polysynthetic language family with a rich case system and free word order (with the exception that adjectives should be adjacent to what they're describing). Its distinctive features inclde its high frequency of infixes and other stem-changing processes, and its three grammatical numbers (singular, plural, and aggregate).
In Old Semberek, plural was marked with -yu and aggregate with -uχu, both of which were suffixes. The system is still similar in Hrilin, with the simplication of -yu to -i or -u depending on context and the expected sound change of -uχu to -uwu in the aggregate. In Sembare, these suffixes were generally incorporated into the stem, forming base mutations instead.
The aggregate number is used to refer to collective, non-count nouns, as well as groups; OS lusan 'horse,' plural lusanyu, could have its aggregate form lusanoχo translated as 'herd of horses.' There is no direct translation into English. It is not forced to agree with either singular or plural, since the rest of the language inflects with allowance for these forms.
In verbs, number is not marked on the pronoun itself, but the verb stem.