The Shaj languages are spoken across the planet Tanoria. The most widely spoken variety is Velshaj. Although the speakers of the language and their homeland are fictional, and most of the language creation was a priori, there is heavy lexical influence from European languages.
Velshaj nouns are mostly agglutinative, but verbals tend to be monomorphemic. There are five genders, five tenses, and many aspects. Word order is typically SOV. There are many cases of consonant mutation and ablaut, and the language is beginning to show signs of developing vowel harmony.
Velshaj has three nasals: /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/. The sequence /n/ + /ĭ/ yields a palatal nasal [ɲ], but this is not regarded as a separate phoneme.
Velshaj has five voiced fricatives /v/, /ð/, /z/, /ʒ/, and /ɣ/. Although they each appear in complimentary distribution with their voiceless counterparts (/f/, /θ/, /s/, /ʃ/, and /x/), they are generally regarded as seperate phonemes.
Velshaj has four plosives /p/, /t/, /d/, /k/, and one affricative /tʃ/. There are very few minimal pairs between /t/ and /d/. One such pair is /te/ "know", and /de/ "turned".
Velshaj has one lateral /l/, and one rhotic /r/. Like its nasal counterpart, the sequence /l/ + /ĭ/ yields a lateral palatal approximant [ʎ], but this is not regarded as a separate phoneme. Semivowels /ŭ/ and /ĭ/ exist, but are not regarded as consonants.
Summary Chart Edit
|Fricative||v f||ð θ||z s||ʒ ʃ||ɣ x|
Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right is voiceless.
Shaj has five cardinal vowels /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/, /u/, and two semivowels /ĭ/ and /ŭ/. Semivowels form rising diphthongs /eĭ/, /aĭ/, /oĭ/, /ŭĭ/, /aŭ/; and falling diphthongs /ĭə/, /ĭe/, /ĭa/, /ĭo/, /ĭu/. Any time /u/ or /ŭ/ precedes /i/ or /ĭ/, the result is /ŭĭ/. There are also two rounded front vowels /y/ and /ø/, one open front vowel /æ/, a homogenous diphthong /ĭĭ/, and a schwa /ə/. There is no length distinction in Velshaj, but there used to be in its parent languages.
Syllable structure can be as large as CCCVC and as small as V (where V stands for any vowel or diphthong). Every word needs a vowel, and no word may end in more than one consonant. Typically, stress is on the first syllable of the root, or the penultimate syllable of a word. Morphemes with two syllables rarely end in a vowel.
Initial consonant clusters are determined arithmetically. Each consonant has a value 1–4. No cluster may exceed three consonants, or have a value greater than 4. Liquids and /z/ each have a value of 1. Stops each have a value of 2. Stops may be preceded by /z/ (which mutates to /s/) to add up to 3, or may precede a liquid also to add up to 3. Fricatives other than /z/ each have a value of 3, and may precede a liquid to add up to 4. Nasals (and word-initial /ʃ/) each have a value of 4. Any nasal — even /ŋ/ — may begin a word.
Mutations and AssimilationsEdit
Stops that precede nasals become nasals, and /n/ will assimilate to the place of articulation of any adjacent consonant. For example: /ekni/ → /eŋni/ → /eŋŋi/ "the man".
Fricatives devoice when adjacent to other obstruents, or when ending a syllable. The exception is /ʃ/, which may occur syllable-initially, but rarely appears in consonant clusters in the same syllable. Sequences of /z/ + another fricative or /tʃ/ also yield /ʃ/. Non-sibilant fricatives following nasals, /l/, or a pause tend to become pronounced as voiced stops rather than as voiceless fricatives. When not preceding a consonant, /z/ is pronounced [ts] at the begining of a word. Although [ts] is not regarded as a seperate phoneme, it is sometimes distinguished in certain orthographies.
Dental obstruents /t/ and /ð/ may not precede /l/. Thus /l/ changes to /ŭ/ in this context.
Sequences of VV (where V stands for any vowel or diphthong) are prohibited anywhere within a word, or across word boundaries. Thus /l/ (or /ŭ/ if the first vowel is either /u/ or /aŭ/) becomes inserted between the vowels. For example, /ʒax namballet aĭ ik/ → /ʒax namballet aĭ lik/ "I have red hair". Sequences of /uŭ/ or /ŭŭ/ reduce to /ŭ/. Since epenthesis is an aesthetic rule that makes no semantic difference, it is inconsistently ignored both in speech and in writing.
Some words alternate velar and postalveolar consonants. This reflects palatalization in former stages of the language that have yielded some unpredictable irregularities. For example, /vorəx/ "mountain", becomes /vørʒen/ "mountains".
In older stages of Shaj, all labials were bilabial. However, labial fricatives in Velshaj are in free variation between their bilabial and labiodental counterparts. Thus, Velshaj may be pronounced [βelʃaĭ] or [velʃaĭ].
Most coronal consonants are apico-dental. These include /l/, /t/, /ð/, and /n/. The lateral and nasal may be in free variation between their dental and alveolar counterparts. Otherwise, /z/, /r/, and /d/ are strictly apico-alveolar. For this reason, and because there is arguably no voicing contrast in Shaj, /d/ is sometimes reconstructed as /ʈ/ or /ṭ/.
The dental nasal will assimilate to the place of articulation of any consonant that directly follows it, or will completely mutate into any consonant that directly precedes it. For example, /ynken/ → /yŋken/ "walls"; and /unəkno/ → /unəkko/ "the wall".
The rhotic /r/ is typically a tap [ɾ], which devoices at the ends of words, or becomes a trill [r] at the beginnings of words, or when doubled.
The postalveolar consonants /ʒ/, /ʃ/, and /tʃ/ may alternatively be realized as retroflex, or apico-palatal consonants. The sequences /nĭ/, /lĭ/, and /ŭĭ/, may be realized as true dorso-palatal consonants [ɲ], [ʎ], and [ɥ], respectively before vowels.
The velar fricative /ɣ/ becomes pharyngeal [ʕ] between any two non-high back vowels. Additionally, a sequence of /ɣ/ + /r/ may yield a uvular fricative [ʁ] or trill [ʀ]. For example, /ɣroɣa/ "royal" → [ʁoʕa]. A geminated voiceless pharyngeal fricative [ħː] occurs in rare cases (e.g. /ɣroxxa/ "the queen" → [ʁoħːa]).
Vowels and SemivowelsEdit
Open Vowels Edit
Phonemically there are two open vowels /ɑ/ and /æ/. The open back vowel is in free variation with its central or front counterpart [a]. The falling diphthong /ĭɑ/ is often pronounced [jæ]. The open front vowel ranges between [æ], [ɛ], and [e], being more open in closed syllables.
Lax Vowels Edit
Mid and high monophthongs in closed syllables tend to become lax. /ni/ → [ni], /niθ/ → [nɪθ].
Semivowels are typically realized as consonants before vowels, or as non syllabic vowels in rising diphthongs. When /ĭ/ is the only vowel in a syllable, it is pronounced the same as /i/.
The schwa, though always written, may disappear after a consonant, or cause a following nasal or liquid to become syllabic. For example, /vorəx/ "mountain" → [vorx]; or /muʒər/ "cattle" → [muʒr̩]. The vowel itself is in free variation with any non-open, unround, back or centralized sound.
Umlaut and Falling Diphthongs Edit
In younger, non-standard dialects, rounded front vowels /y/ and /ø/ can alternatively be pronounced as falling diphthongs [wi] and [we], respectively. [wi] is still distinguished from the "rising" diphthong [uj].
Voiced Stops Edit
Although voiced stops disappeared as phonemes early in the history of Shaj, they appear as allophones of other phonemes. Voiced stops are in free variation with their voiceless counterparts, except when beginning a word, or following /l/ or a nasal, in which case they are voiceless, and maybe aspirated. Voiced stops also occur in free variation with their voiced fricative counterparts when beginning a word, or following /l/ or a nasal. Otherwise, they are fricative. Voiced stops in loanwords are substituted by voiceless plosives.
Examples of Voiced Stops Edit
/velʃaĭ/ = [βelʃaĭ] or [belʃaĭ]
/namvellet/ = [namβellet] or [nambellet]
/panðriʒen/ = [panðriʒen] or [pandriʒen], but not [banðridʒen]
/ʒax/ = [ʒax] or [dʒax]
/tʃarpel/ = [tʃarpel] or [tʃarbel], but not [dʒarpel] or [dʒarbel]
/ɣaləm/ = [ɣaləm] or [ɡaləm]
/kampel/ = [kampel], but not [ɡambel]
When two of the same consonant are next to each other, they are geminated. Obstruents are voiceless and sonorants are voiced. The phoneme /ɾ/ becomes a trill [r(ː)] when geminated.
Orthography (more to come)Edit
The Shaj people devised their own alphabet. Unlike adaptations for natural scripts, Shajchoten do not distinguish voicing in fricatives. Below is an image showing the letters' serif forms. Sentences are written top to bottom, right to left.
The Roman orthography is so far very inconsistent, and is undergoing revision.
The Cyrillic transliteration of Shaj is based mostly off of the Bashkir alphabet because it has dedicated letters for dental fricatives (ҙ, ҫ). The short u (ў) is borrowed from Belorussian (where it is used as a semivowel), not from Uzbek (where it is used as a vowel). The velar nasal is written like it is in Bashkir, as an en with a descender (ң).
Voiceless fricatives (ф, ҫ, с, ш, х) are written differently than voiced fricatives (в, ҙ, з, ж, г). The voiceless alveolar affricate [ts], an allophone of /z/ the occurs at the beginnings of words or after /l/ or a nasal, is written ц, instead of з.
Voiced Stops Edit
There are no true phonemic voiced stops in Shaj, so б is not used. To distinguish /t/ from /d/ (see coronals under phonetics), Cyrillic uses т for /t/ and д for /d/. Although Bashkir has a dedicated symbol for /ɣ/ (ғ), it is often written without the stroke (г) in Shaj.
Iotized Vowels and Palatalization Edit
The soft vowel letters (е, ё, ю, я) are always pronounced /ĭe, ĭo, ĭu, ĭa/, respectively. When they follow coronal consonants, they are written with a soft sign (nia = нья), but when they follow any other consonant, they are written with a hard sign (viot = въёт). Like in Russian, neither the hard sign nor the soft sign begin a word, or are even pronounced. When not iotized, /e, o, u, a/ are written э, о, у, а, respectively.
Umlaut and Schwa Edit
The umlauted vowels (ә, ө, ү) also come from the Bashkir alphabet, and are pronounced /æ, ø, y/, respectively. The schwa phoneme is represented by ы as in Kazakh. There falling diphthong i' /ĭə/ can be spelled with double hard signs (ъъ).
Long and Short I Edit
Lastly, Shaj uses и for both long and short i as the nucleus of a syllable, and uses й after a vowel for the semivowel. Thus, some minimal pairs may become homographs (e.g. both vir 'rabbit' and vyr 'fly' = вир, but viir 'fire' = вийр).
The Perso-Arabic abjad only writes consonants and semivowels, never full vowels. Yeh (ي) represents any instance of i or any heterogenous diphthong containing i. Double yeh (يي) indicates the homogenous diphthong ii. Waw and vav are not distinguished, but cause little-to-no confusion. Waw represents w as a semivowel, or the diphthong aw. Just like the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets, the Perso-Arabic abjad for Shaj distinguishes voicing in fricatives. Since there is no voicing contrast in stops, peh (پ) and tcheh (چ) are often replaced with beh (ب) and jeem (ج), respectively. Instead of using dal for d, the abjad uses tah (ط). When gh is pronounced [ʕ], it is written as ʻayin (ع), instead of ghain (غ). The abjad also uses jeh (ژ) for zh, and nef (ݣ) for nh, from various Turkic adaptations. Nef is often substituted with kaf (ك), but "Zh" is always written jeh. The velar stop is always written qaf (ق). The Alef (ا) signifies a vowel beginning a word, and is otherwise not used.
Summary Chart Edit
Hangul was designed specifically for Korean, whose phonology is quite different than Shaj's. For this reason, it is much harder to transcribe one-to-one Korean phonemes to Shaj phonemes. The current Hangulization of Shaj would not be very intuitive to a native Korean speaker. It is as follows:
Consonants were the easiest to transcribe.
The nasal consonants ᄆ /m/ and ᄂ /n/ remained completely unchanged. The velar nasal /ŋ/ is always written as ᄋ, even syllable initially. The null consonant is ᄒ, because Shaj lacks the phoneme /h/.
Plosives and Affricates Edit
All of the stop phonemes of Shaj are represented. The aspirated letters ᄎ, ᄏ, ᄐ, and ᄑ denote /tʃ/, /k/, /t/, and /p/, respectively. The tense letter ᄄ represents /d ~ ʈ/, and the tense letter ㅉ represents syllable-initial /ʃ/.
Unlike the other adaptations of Shaj, Hangul does not distinguish voicing in fricatives. Korean has more stops than fricatives, and Shaj has more fricatives than stops. Therefore, the letters ᄀ, ᄃ, and ᄇ, denote /ɣ/, /ð/, and /v/, and their voiceless counterparts, respectively. ᄉ denotes /z/, but also /s/ (and [ts]), and ᄌ denotes /ʒ/, but also syllable-final /ʃ/.
Both /r/ and /l/ are Hangulized as ㄹ. This doesn't seem to produce too much ambiguity. The semivowels /ĭ/ and /ŭ/ are treated as vowels.
Vowels proved to be the most tricky, since they behave so differently in each language. Rather than being adapted phonetically, the vowels used existing hangul letters in a new system.
Common Vowels Edit
ᅵ /i/ and ᅭ /ju/ are the only vowels that retained their original Korean values. ᅡ /ə/ and ᅩ /o/ differ from their original Korean values (/a/ and /u/, respectively) only in height. ᅳ /u/ differs from its original Korean value (/ɨ ~ ɯ/) only in rounding. ᅮ /ɑ/ differs from its original Korean value (/o/) in both hight and rounding. And ᅥ /e/ differs from its original Korean value (/ʌ/) in backness.
Semivowels are not distinguished from their full/syllabic counterparts. Thus, ᅵ denotes either /i/ or /ĭ/, and ᅳ denotes either /u/ or /ŭ/.
Other Vowels Edit
Umlauts (fronted back vowels) are formed by combining a back vowel with a corresponding front vowel. Rising diphthongs are formed by adding ᅵ/i/, regardless of the quality of the second element. Most falling diphthongs are formed by doubling the stroke attached to the base line of the vowel letter. ᅴ denotes either /y/ or /ŭĭ/.
Most parts of Noun Phrases (NPs) in Velshaj merge together into a single word. For example ran'khcharpelloin is one word meaning "in the red hat". The adjective prefixes to the noun, the article suffixes to the noun, and the postposition suffixes to the entire NP:
ran'kh- charpel -lo -in
red- hat -the -in
Pronouns to not decline for case. Instead, position in the sentence determines part of sentence.
There are three first person pronouns, Zhakh 1sg., and Ros or Es 1pl. Ros means "we" and includes the second person. Es means "we" and excludes the second person.
There are many second person pronouns, each with their own specific uses. Iit is singular and familiar. It is what to use when addressing someone well known like a friend. Von is plural and familiar. It is what to use when addressing many people at once, but like Iit, it implies a certain degree of familiarity and informality. Zhi is formal and either singular or plural. It is what to use when addressing any number of people who are not known very well, or who have a different social status.
Summary Chart Edit
Like many languages, Shaj distinguishes between singular and plural nominals. Shaj also has five "genders", which are only marked on definite articles, distal demonstratives, or personal pronouns. They are as follow:
Masculine, Feminine and NeuterEdit
These three genders may refer to people or to animals. Groups of all masculine things are masculine, but groups of people or animals of different genders are neuter.
Natural and Artificial "Gender"Edit
The "natural" gender refers to non-human, non-animal things and phenonena as they occur in their natural state. The category covers plant life like Kwelennii "the trees", but also celestial bodies like Ziellu "the sun", or forces of nature like Iirru "the wind". Natural gender is also used for geographical locations like Vor'khkhu "the mountain". Sometimes totems or deities are natural gender, rather than masculine or feminine. Abstract nouns are neutral gender instead of artificial or natural.
Lastly, the "artificial" gender covers things that are either man made, or used in ways contrary to their natural state. Whereas Kwelennii means "the trees", Kwelennet means "the logs". Historically, many mass nouns are derived from plural artificial-gender noun-phrases. For instance, Kwellet means "wood".
Summary Chart Edit
Articles and DemonstrativesEdit
Definite articles, distal demonstratives, and third-person pronouns are all the same in Shaj. Nia means "they" or "it" or "that" or "the". Ni means "this", and Nien means "these". Neither Ni nor Nien denote gender. Likewise, Ar means both "one" and "a/an", and does not denote gender.
There are four classes of plurals: regular plurals, fish plurals, umlaut plurals, and irregular plurals.
Regular plurals add -en to nouns and -n to adjectives. For example, Ek "man" → Eken "men"; Ek ura "tall man" → Eken uran "tall men". When adjectives precede nouns, they loose all inflection: Eken uran → Ureken "tall men". Articles follow the plural morpheme: Enhnhy "the/that man", Ekennyn "the/those men".
Fish plurals are named after the word nuren "fish", which exhibits this type of change. This rule only affects some words whose nuclei are rising diphthongs and whose codas are nasals. The diphthong changes to a corresponding monophthong, and the nasal changes to a corresponding liquid. Some of the correspondences are not phonetically intuitive. See the charts below:
Vowel Changes: Edit
Consonant Changes: Edit
Word Examples: Edit
nwin "fish" ⇒ nuren "fish"
zoim "self" ⇒ zolen "selves"
ghawm "hill" ⇒ ghalen "hills"
ein "god" ⇒ iren "gods"
Umlaut plurals are restricted to two-syllable words with back vowels and a schwa. The schwa rarely occurs in other types of words. The plural form of a word changes the back vowel to a front vowel, or a rising diphthong to a falling diphthong, and the schwa disappears. After the plural suffix -en is added, all relevant consonant mutations occur.
|Back Vowel or
|Front Vowel or
Word Examples: Edit
Vor'kh 'mountain' ⇒ Voerzhen "mountains"
Oir'l 'mouth' ⇒ Iorlen "mouths"
Awl'th 'triumph' ⇒ Ialdhen 'triumphs'
Adjectives typically prefix the noun that they modify. Otherwise, they take the suffix -a and follow the noun phrase. Adverbs follow the verb, adjective, or adverb that they modify, and take the suffix -da. Postpositions that do not have objects also take the suffix -da.
Copula (to be) Edit
In the younger varieties of Shaj, the structural copula is not overt, like in Russian, Uzbek, or AAE. Therefore, Enhnhy l'ura l'ik means 'the man is tall,' but is literally "the man tall'. In more formal or archaic was of speaking, the verb Y means "am, is, etc." Therefore, Enhnhy l'ura l'y l'ik means 'The man is tall.'
Like Southwest Romance languages, Shaj has two words that mean to be. Y (as stated above) correlates to Spanish ser, but Zu correlates to Spanish estar. Zu is not omitted, and bears a more distinct meaning of feeling. Therefore, Zhakh ghova zu can mean 'I am happy', or 'I feel happy'.
The word yzer is a hold-over from Old Shaj (i-sêr) that litterally means 'he is' (or be-that). In modern Shaj, it means 'being', or 'to be'. It is used in the phrase Echyzeren, which means 'human beings'. It often takes the place of ydu or zudu, both meaning 'to be' in modern Shaj.
Unlike most Indo-European languages, verbs are not conjugated. Instead, the verb appears uninflected near the end of a clause, and all information about tense, aspect, or mood follow the verb as separate words. For example Zhakh uenhkallial'a wir ur means, 'I'm going to go to the castle', but Zhakh uenhkallial'a wir ai means 'I went to the castle'.
Usually, the past tense is marked with ai. However, tra is used in rare cases where the speaker is describing an event they have never experienced. Therefore, tra is called the historic past, and is often used when telling stories.
Usually, the present tense is left unmarked, but in younger, vernacular varieties of Shaj, u has come to mean present tense.
Shaj splits the future into three parts: far, near, and imminent. The far future corresponds mostly with English's use of 'will', and describes an action that has not yet happened, but is sure to happen sometime. The near future corresponds mostly with English's 'going to', and describes an action that will happen soon, or within a relatively short period of time. The imminent future can be thought of as a subset of the near future, and is used to describe and event that is about to happen imminently or immediately.
Perfect and Pluperfect Edit
Shaj distinguishes many aspects buy using one of the following words between the verb and the tense. There is af, which indicates perfect mood, just like english 'have'. For example, Zhakh ie l'af means 'I have eaten'. There is also af ai, which indicates pluperfect mood, just like english 'had'. Therefore, Zhakh ie l'af means 'I had eaten'.
Perfective and Imperfective
There is also ik, which occurs at the end of many Shaj sentences. It is used to make the meaning of a sentence apply to all or any instance in time. Confused? It kind of means 'usually' or 'always'. When used in the past tense, it has a similar meaning to Spanish's imperfecto. However, unlike Spanish, Shaj can use ik in sentences of any tense. For example, Na iova! means 'She is angry [because of something that just happened]', but Na iova ik! means 'She is angry' as in 'she is an angry person'.
Imperfective aspect can co-occur with perfect aspect. For example, Ny vor'khkhia l'ueffwir means 'he is [now] climbing the mountain, but Ny vor'khkhia l'ueffwir af ik means 'he always used to climb the mountain', or 'he would always climb the mountain'.
Summary Chart Edit
|Subordinative||that||where||when, until||only if, unless||because|
|Universal||each, every; all; both||everywhere||always|
|Negatory||no; none; neither||nowhere||never|
Brief Description Edit
Onsets denote semantic role, and rhyme denotes syntactic category. This is the reverse of how many natural and constructed languages' correlatives are constructed.
Roles Disambiguation Edit
Only four roles are distinguished. N- denotes a thing or a person (so, noi means 'who', or 'what'). However, one could speak more specifically by saying Echchoi, 'what person' if context were not enough. Ghw- denotes a time or a place. Still, one could further specify Lar'ththoi, 'what place', and Zor'ththoi, 'what time'.
Unlike English, Shaj has separate forms for different categories of complementizers. Interrogative complementizers are used as variables in questions, but do not need to move to the front of the sentence. Noi chissia ie l'ai? means 'Who ate the cheese?', but Na noi chissia dha l'ai? means 'to whom did she give the cheese? Relative complementizers introduce relative clauses. Ni enhnhi nei chis ie l'ik means 'He is the man who eats cheese'. Al ghwei kor ik means 'Home is where the heart is'. Subordinative complementizers introduce subordinate, and often conditional clauses. Ni nië zhakh chis kaer ik aite l'ik means 'He knows that I like cheese'.
The universal quantifiers mean either 'each' or 'every', and also mean 'both' when talking about two things. The existential quantifiers mean either 'some' or 'any', and also mean 'either' when talking about two things.
Vocabulary (more to come) Edit
Mieth = Color
Nanh = Red, or any similar warm color such as Pink or Orange, but not Yellow.
Ghal'kh = Yellow, or any similar bright color such as Lime or Chartreuse.
Vur'th = Green, or any similar cool color such as Blue, but not Purple.
Azh'r = Blue, or any similar color between the domains of Nanh and Vur'th and outside the domain of Ghal'kh.
Ok = White
Ash = Black
The Shaj translation is subject to change as the lexicon grows.
Atechizeren vyranut kiinanut na zakhkhetinut dhanetinut ik. Nen velmynnetut velchinetut dha i' l’ik, u i’nena iirarin vronnethu she nyth ik.
Атэчизэрэн виранут кинанут на заххэтинут ҙанэтинут ик. Нэн вэлминнэтут вэлчинэтут ҙа ъъ лик, у ъънэна ийрарин вроннэҫу шэ ниҫ ик.
اتجزرن ورنت قننت ن زغغتنت ذنتنت يق. نن ولمننتت ولجنتتت ذ ي لق، و ينن ييرين ورننث ش نث يق
Rough Translation Edit
All human beings are born free and equal in giving and receiving. They are given good thought and good faith, and must to each other in a spirit of brotherhood.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.