Head direction
Nouns decline according to...
Case Number
Definiteness Gender
Verbs conjugate according to...
Voice Mood
Person Number
Tense Aspect

General Information[]

Deshai (natively /téːʃwiɬu/, literally "this language", transliterated as Tḗšwilu)

Classification and Dialects[]

  • Classical Deshai
  • Šánhis-Kátšis Deshai
  • Westosese Deshai



Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral
Plosive p p’ t t’ k k’ ʔ
Affricate ts ts’ tɬ tɬ’ tʃ tʃ’
Fricative s ɬ ʃ x h
Sonorant w m ɹ n j ŋ
  • All consonants may also be geminated after vowels.


Deshai has 15 vowels, easily arranged into five triads of short, long, and nasalized long variants. One could argue for the existence of short nasal vowels, though these are very rare, occurring only in final unstressed syllables with the exception of determiners and verbs. There are no minimal pairs to suggest they are anything but allophones.

Front Back
High i iː ĩː u uː ũː
Mid e eː ẽː o oː õː
Low a aː ãː


Certain sets of consonants cannot occur adjacent to one another. Sonorant and glottal consonants (together called the weak consonants) cannot occur word-initially before another consonant, the alveolar stops cannot occur before coronal fricatives, two exact copies of a consonant cannot occur together (different from gemination), and a pair of consonants differing only in glottalization (i.e. one is the other's ejective counterpart) cannot occur together.

The vowel inserted to break these forbidden clusters varied depending on the second of the two consonants. It is /i/ before /j/, /u/ before a bilabial consonant, and /a/ elsewhere.

Other phonotactic rules[]

Word-final clusters of any consonant followed by a sonorant are not allowed, and are dealt with not by using epenthesis, but by changing the sonorant into a vowel. /w/ becomes /u/, /j/ becomes /i/, /ɹ/ becomes /a/, /m/ becomes /ũ/, and both /n/ and /ŋ/ become /ã/. ex. w-ī-t-w "creator" is realized as wītu.


Stress is contrastive and varies by word class and form.

Writing systems[]

There are primarily two writing systems for the dialects of Deshai: the classic script and the Chevin script.

Classic script[]

The classic script is partway between an abjad and an alphabet. It is cursive and written in top-to-bottom vertical lines starting on right side of the page. It is still used in religious texts and in many Deshaiant-majority countries to varying degrees. The classic script never represents epenthesis or other phonotactic rules.

Chevin script[]

Deshai is usually written in the Chevin script.


Letter a ā ã e ē g h i ī ĩ j k
Sound /a/ /aː/ /ãː/ /e/ /eː/ /ẽː/ /ŋ/ /h/ /i/ /iː/ /ĩː/ /x/ /k/
Letter k’ l l’ m n o ō õ p p’ r s s’
Sound /k’/ /ɬ/ /tɬ’/ /m/ /n/ /o/ /oː/ /õː/ /p/ /p’/ /ɹ/ /s/ /ts’/
Letter š š’ t t’ tl ts u ū ũ w y
Sound /ʃ/ /tʃ’/ /t/ /t’/ /tɬ/ /ts/ /tʃ/ /u/ /uː/ /ũː/ /w/ /j/ /ʔ/
  • When a consonant written with a digraph is geminated, only the first character is doubled. ex. napp’ir /nap’ːíɹ/ "meal"
  • Stress is marked with an acute accent if it does not occur on the vowel immediately preceding the last consonant of the root.



Nouns are usually pluralized by infixing an epenthetic vowel followed by a copy of the first root consonant immediately after that first root consonant, replacing any vowel in that position. ex. lnona "child" > lalnona "children"

Irregularities occur if the first root consonant is a sonorant or glottal consonant, one of /h/, /j/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /ɹ/, /w/, and /ʔ/. These are known as "weak" consonants, and they are the source of most irregularity in Deshai morphology.

A semivowel-initial noun infixes the corresponding long vowel. ex. watunu "creation" > wūtunu "creations"

A /ɹ/-initial noun infixes the long version of the typical epenthetic vowel. rašana "lover" > rāšana "lovers"

A nasal-initial noun infixes the nasal version of the typical epenthetic vowel. napp’ir "meal" > nũpp’ir "meals"

A glottal-initial noun infixes /a/ and geminates the following consonant. ha’ẽs "action" > ha’’ẽs "actions"


Possessive pronouns and demonstratives are suffixed onto nouns. Notice that the 3rd person markers are only used for animate referents, as inanimate objects can't possess anything.

Consonant-final nouns[]

sg pl
poss 1 ex -iš -āš
in -āl
2 -u’
3 an -āp
refl -us
dem prox -ul
dist -ag

Vowel-final nouns[]

sg pl
poss 1 ex -ši -šā
in -lā
2 -’u -Ṽ
3 an -V̄ -V̄p
refl -s
dem prox -lu
dist -ga

ex. wā́twisāl "our workshop", gī́tẽga wā́twisā "the seamster's workshop"


Pronouns are normally dropped, as both arguments of a verb are indicated on the verb, possessors are indicated on their possessees, and even adpositions inflect.

sg pl
1 ex ši šā
2 ’u ũ
3 an ā āp
inan prox
refl us

The first person plural distinguishes exclusive from inclusive. The exclusive form refers to the speaker and others, but not the listener, whereas the inclusive form includes both speaker and listener.

The third person singular distinguishes animacy. This is a natural category, much like English's distinction of "it" as a separate category from the other 3s pronouns.

Derivational morphology[]

Nouns are derived from verbs by putting phonemes in between the consonants of the verb's triconsonantal root. Roots with a middle or final weak consonant sometimes have different patterns. Epenthesis also occurs, though it is predictable.

Processes, recurrences, and instances are formed with the template CaCːVC, where the middle consonant is geminated and the vowel matches the aspect infixes (continuous, habitual, and perfective, respectively) that the verb form of the root uses.

  • napp’er "eating"
  • napp’ir "meal"
  • napp’ur "snack, non-usual instance of eating"

Experiencer nouns use the template CCṼC, the vowel of which is unpredictable, though it is always one of ã, , or õ.

  • ltẽj "corpse, casualty"
  • wahõš "runner"
  • kuwõt’ "information, knowledge, data"
  • škãt "frozen thing"

Roots with a final sonorant have different patterns: CCV́na (final /ɹ/), CCúnu (final /w/), CCíni (final /j/), and CCV́nã (final nasal).

  • nup’ena "food"

Agent nouns use the template CīCC.

  • lītj "killer"

Instrumental nouns use the template CḗCwaC.

  • lḗtwaj "murder weapon"

Roots with a final sonorant have different patterns: CḗCwa (final /ɹ/), CḗCwu (final /w/), CḗCwi (final /j/), and CḗCwã (final nasal).

  • gḗtwã "sewing needle"

Location nouns use the template Cā́CCis.

  • ’ā́jpis "bedroom"
  • šā́ktis "refrigerator"

For all three of the preceding nominalizations, weak middle root consonants disappear and leave some irregularities in their wake. Glottals leave gemination on the following consonant, nasals leave nasalization on the preceding vowel, and the semivowels turn the preceding vowel into their long vowel counterparts.

  • l’-ī-hk > l’īkk "slasher"
  • w-ḗ-h-wa-š > wḗwwaš "leg"
  • k-ā́-wt’-is > kū́t’is "library"



Verbs are based on (usually) triconsonantal roots. The citation form shows all inherent consonants and the vowel used in the continuous aspect, which are all that is needed to conjugate any given verb.

ex. k-wot’ "know/find out", l-taj "die/kill", w-hoš "run", š-kat "freeze", l’-hek "slash/cut/chop", n-p’er "eat", w-tew "create", r-šah "love", h-’as "do", t-šay "speak/talk", g-ton "sew", ’-jap "sleep"


The vowels for the other two aspects are predictable from the vowel used in the continuous aspect. The aspect vowel is infixed before the final consonant of the root and receives the word stress.

cl.1 cl.2 cl.3
cont -a- -e- -o-
hab -e- -i- -i-
pfv -o- -u- -u-

The first aspect is the continuous, used for actions or states that are ongoing. The second aspect is the habitual, used for actions occurring ordinarily, usually, or customarily. The last aspect is the perfective, used for an action viewed as a complete whole, or when an action occurs in a single point in time. As Deshai verbs do not encode tense, each of these aspect can refer to a past, present, or future event, with temporal phrases, adverbs, or context determining when an action happens.

Absolutive argument[]

As an ergative language, the absolutive argument of a verb corresponds to the subject/experiencer of an intransitive verb and the object/patient of a transitive verb. It is signified with an infix placed after the first consonant of the root.

sg pl
1 ex -ī- -aš-
in -al-
2 -ū- -ũ-
3 an -ā- -ap-
inan --
  • The 3s.inan usually has a null infix, but epenthesis can occur here in its usual environments.

Ergative argument and Mood[]

The ergative argument of a verb, if any, as well as the mood/modality, are shown by a fusional suffix.

ind sbjv imp
sg pl sg pl sg pl
ntr - -V -i
1 ex -iš -āš -Vši -Všā -iši -išā
in -āl -Vlā -ilā
2 -u’ -V’u -Ṽ -i’u
3 an -āp -V̄ -V̄p -īp
refl aff -us -Vs -is
neg -ep -Vp -ip
  • The vowel used in the subjunctive is /a/, /e/, or /u/, based on aspect.
  • Notice that the 3rd person markers are only used for animate referents, as inanimate objects can't be the agent of a verb.

The moods are indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. The indicative is used for statements describing reality. The subjunctive is used for statements describing what is not known to be real, including hopes, hope-nots, and questions. The imperative is used to issue a command to a listener to bring out the statement.

Also occupying the ergative marker slot are a set of markers labeled "refl" in the table. These are antipassive voice markers, which are used to delete the absolutive argument, the object/patient, of a transitive verb, which leaves the absolutive markers free to signify the ergative argument, the subject/agent. This is parallel to a passive construction in English, as it both decreases the verbs valency and promotes the remaining argument.

The negative is also an antipassive marker, meaning that all negative verbs are intransitive, and need to resort to other means to reintroduce a patient.

Antipassives are commonly used to signal a reflexive or reciprocal meaning, which explains the affirmative antipassives' similarity to the reflexive possessives used with nouns.


Kalwut’āp. /kaɬwút’aːp/ "They found out about us."

Kapwut’āl. /kapwút’aːɬ/ "We found out about them."

Napp’erep lnōnalā. "Our kids aren't eating." Lnōna is the irregular experiencer nominalization of l-nor "be a child, have a child"

Rũšahus! "You guys are in love!" Here we see the antipassive used as a reciprocal.

Tušayip! "Shut up!" is literally "Don't talk." Here the negative also acts as an antipassive, removing a potential absolutive argument, one being talked to, and promotes the person talking, the listener, to the absolutive role.


šu "in"



Deshai numbers are base-10 up to 20, thereafter they become base-8 due to Westosese influence.

# #+8 #+16 #*8
0 štuu 8 ji 16 kurug 0 štuu
1 tuk 9 yaan 17 kuhet 8 ji
2 tetš 10 (ku)wewt2 18 kuji 16 kurug
3 pin 11 t'een1 19 kuyaan 24 pinji
4 muut' 12 jaj1 20 'ukuug1 32 muut'ji
5 tark' 13 kupin 21 kurug-tark' 40 tark'ji
6 rug 14 kumuut' 22 kurug-rug 48 rugji
7 het 15 kutark' 23 kurug-het 56 hetji
8 ji 16 kurug 24 pinji 64 'its'iij
  1. 11, 12, and 20 have unique names.
  2. The ku- in kuwewt (10) is optional, and is typically heard in formal speech.