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Tusklon[]

This is a language I am creating for a friend of mine. He has a wickedly cool constructed world that features two warring countries, the cruel Ragamar empire, and the unbreakable warrior nation of Tusklon. This is the language I created for their people. Hopefully, my friend will provide me with a cool stub about the country and the language's history so I can show you how super cool it is.

Phonology[]

Consonants[]

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ <ng>
Plosive p b t d k g
Fricative f v θ <þ> ð s z ʃ <sh> x <kh> (h)
Affricate ts <tz> dz
Approximant l j
Trill r

Vowels[]

Front Central Back
High i y <ü> u
High-mid e ø <ö> o
Mid (ə)
Near-low æ <ä>
Low ä <a>

Phonotactics[]

There is not a ton of allophony going on. The most apparent is that /x/ is pronounced [h] initially, and the romanization matches this trend. /e/ weakens to [ə] in unstressed syllables, and /ä/ tends to become [ɑ] when stressed. Additionally, all vowels are pronounced slightly longer in stressed open syllables.

There are only two phonemic diphthongs, /ei/ and /au/. All others can be considered a sequence of a vowel followed by /j/.

Tusklonian sports a rather complex syllable structure, similar to the Germanic languages that inspired its phonology. The maximum syllable structure is CCCVVCCC. Most words are simpler than that, but clusters of spv and rsk are should not be surprising.

Writing System (TBA)[]

Letter
Sound
Letter
Sound
Letter
Sound

Morphology[]

In emulation of one of the greatest conlangers of all time, Mark Rosenfelder AKA Zompist, I will split this grammar into two parts: a morphology section to explain how to inflect everything, and a usage section to explain what to do with all these words. All irregularities will be marked in the lexicon.

Nouns[]

Tusklonian nouns have three forms, the definite, indefinite, and plural. The definite form is the base form, consisting of just the root: krag "man", rolk "dog", dzvö "fire".

The indefinite is formed by suffixing -o if the word ends in a consonant, i.e. krago "a man", rolko "a dog". If the word ends in a vowel, that vowel changes as follows:

Vowel ending Becomes Example
a au lashka → lashkau
e au tzike → tzikau
e jo hole → holjo
i ajo eni → enajo
o ö smeito → smeitö
u ö zalngu → zalngö
ä au tornä → tornau
ö ö nefrö → nefrö
ü ö sjavü → sjavö


Making nouns plural is harder. It is formed through a disfix, i.e. a removal of part of the root, sort of like the masculine in French. It can be rather unpredictable, but in general:

  • Remove a final consonant nik → ni "women"
  • Sometimes a final semivowel is left: krag → kraj
  • Remove a final vowel eni → en "girls"
  • Drop part of a final cluster varn → var "selves"
  • Sometimes the cluster gets a schwa rolk → role "dogs"
  • Sometimes the vowel mutates forg → faur "boys"
  • Monosyllabic vowel-final words tend to be unpredictable dzvö- dzvü "fires"

Classifiers[]

Classifiers are a series of little particles that are used to specify and connect nouns and descriptors. They don't have much of their own morphology, but are a part of the morphology of numerals and demonstratives. See those sections and Usage for more details.

Verbs[]

Each verb inflects for a grand total of 11 forms. The first is the verbal noun, which ends in -ung. I.e. jatlung "love, to love", polung "speech, to speak".

The finite forms of the verb are formed using two stems, the absolutive and the ergative. The ergative is the base stem. Most verbs are athematic (consonant-stem), and the stem is found by removing the -ung ending:

  • jatlung → jatl-
  • polung → pol-

Some verbs are thematic though, bearing a stem vowel to which the endings are suffixed. This usually changes the verbal noun form:

Stem vowel Verbal noun suffix Example Stem
a aung keraung kera-
au aung nisaung nisau-
e jung brorjung brore-
ei ejung dejung dei-
i jung jifjung jifi-
o öng ötöng öto-
u ung imung imu-
ä aung faung fä-
ö öng angöng angö-
va ojung skrazojung skrazva-


The finite forms of the verb are formed using two stems, the absolutive and the ergative. The ergative is the base stem, found by removing the -ung ending. Jatlung → jatl-, polung → pol-.

The ergative is much trickier. It is formed through three methods depending on the final consonants of the final root:

  • C: Vowel mutation
  • CC: Umlaut + schwa infixing
  • CCC: Schwa infixing

Vowel Mutation

Vowel mutation involves changing the vowel of the root in a set of predictable shifts, listed from most common to least common for each vowel:

Absolutive stem Shifts to ergative Example
a ei brak → breik
a ije fjimban → fjimbijen
a eje irnas → irnejes
au ovo skaul → skovol
e i kef → kif
e a rikev → rikav
ei aje freiþ → frajeþ
ei eje hazei → hazeje
i a dig → dag
i eje shnif → shnejef
jo ovo tjom → tovom
o va pol → pval
o u gürto → gütru
o ava or → avar
o avo kartog → kartavog
u üvo tuv → tüvov
u ovo uku → ukovo
ä eje tzät → tzejet
ä ei päng → peing
ö ovo flökh → flovokh
ö üvo tög → tüvog
ö va rön → rvan
ü u nüs → nus
va oje hvad → hojed

Assume the first shift listed, as it will be the most common by far. All stems are listed in the lexicon

Umlaut + Schwa infixing

Beyond that things become simpler. If the stem ends in a CC cluster, split the cluster with a schwa: CeC. The preceding vowel with be umlauted:

Stem vowel Umlaut Example
a ä jatl → jätel
a ei gant → geinet
au ö þjausr → þjöser
o ö mokht → möget
o ä koshk → käshek
u ü bump → bümep
va ö mvard → möred


Schwa infixing

The simplest is by far simply add an e into a CCC stem: zorst- → zorset-

Once the stems are formed, they can be conjugated into the push, pull, imperative, hortative, and subordinate forms.

Push and Pull

Push and pull forms are used as the main finite verb forms. Push (i.e. past-motivated) verbs are formed by the suffix -(e)n on the absolutive stem and -(i)n on the ergative. As an example,

  • polung → polen, pvalin
  • jatlung → jatlen, jätelin
  • zorstung → zorsten, zorsetin
  • ötöng → öton, ötvan

Pull (i.e. future-motivated) verbs are formed by the suffix -(a)sk, where the a manifests if the cluster would otherwise be incongruous. As an example,

  • polung → polsk, pvalsk
  • jatlung → jatlask, jätelsk
  • zorstung → zorstask, zorsetsk
  • ötöng → ötosk, ötvask

The imperative is formed with the ending -(v)u:

  • polung → polu, pvalu
  • jatlung → jatlu, jätelu
  • zorstung → zorstu, zorsetu
  • ötöng → ötovu, ötvavu

The hortative is formed with the ending -(e)no:

  • polung → polno, pvalno
  • jatlung → jatleno, jätelno
  • zorstung → zorsteno, zorsetno
  • ötöng → ötono, ötvano

The subordinate is formed with the ending -(a)r:

  • polung → polar, pvalar
  • jatlung → jatlar, jätelar
  • zorstung → zorstar, zorsetar
  • ötöng → ötor, ötvar

Verbal Particles

Verbs are preceded by a series of particles encoding time, evidentiality, referent-tracking, and mood. These are indeclinable.

Adjectives[]

Adjectives as we know them do not exist in Tusklonian. Instead, the slack is taken up by stative verbs. When acting as a predicate, the adjective is simply the finite verb form: Jamen krag. "The man is good."

When acting as an attributive, the adjective is formed by the verb in the subordinate form: krag jamar "the man who is being good" i.e. "The good man".

Prepositions[]

Prepositions are also lacking in Tusklonian. These are formed through locative verbs in the ergative, in a finite form for an predicative: Käsheken tornä rolk "the dog is next to the wall"

And in the subordinate for attributive (with a linking particle to the noun): rolk käshekar kvo tornä "the dog that is next to the wall"

Usage[]

Nouns[]

The basic form of the noun is the definite. This is used as we use "the" in English. Krag means "the man".

The indefinite form is used when we would say "a" in English, as in krago "a man." It is also used for more unspecific nouns, where we would say "some" in English.

  • Fi ferkoshken krago. "Some guy just came in here."

The plural is used as we would in English, except after numerals or a qualifier of number like ruðar "many":

  • krag kading "three men"
  • krag ruðar "many men"

Most of action in nouns comes through interaction with noun classifiers and descriptor words. See those sections for more details.

Noun Classifiers[]

Tusklonian nouns use a series of classifiers that specify and connect them to descriptor nouns. They are used:

  • With numerals
  • With demonstratives
  • With the objects of subordinate verbs
  • To connect parts of a compound
  • In verb incorporation

There are dozens of classifiers, each one connected to a shared semantic property of the

Numerals are introduced as N.s C N, where the noun in the singular is followed by the classifier, then the numeral. Numerals 1 - 7 take many of the classifiers as a prefix (those that don't are marked in the lexicon):

  • krag kading "three men"
  • netzak maft vonga "eight bones"
  • josk ankhäm "five houses"

Numerals[]

Numerals zero through seven take many of the classifiers as prefixes.

Numeral Tusklonian Prefixed form Numeral Tusklonian Numeral Tusklonian
0 zo -zau 8 vonga 20 zükið
1 ish -(i)sh 9 jin 30 dingið
2 zük -zük 10 ilið 40 eivið
3 ding -ding 11 þish 50 hämið
4 eiv -eiv 12 þizük 60 üsvað
5 häm -khäm 13 þiding 70 shrenið
6 uslo -(u)slo 14 þeiv 80 vongeið
7 shren -shren 15 þikhäm 90 jinið

Larger numbers are formed with vaj "100" and makh "1000".

Other numbers are formed through concatenation starting with the smallest unit: eiv shrenið "74", häm üsvað makhding "365".

These follow the nouns they modify:

  • nik keiv shrenið "74 women"
  • tornä kvokhäm üsvað makhding "365 walls"

Demonstratives[]

There is one demonstrative in Tusklonian, ing. This fuses to most classifiers, and can change them. This is the usual method of forming 3rd person pronouns for objects.

  • ka + ing → keing "this person"
  • an + ing → aning "this building"
  • maft + ing → mafting "this long, hard object"

This can follow the noun as an attributive:

  • krag keing "this man"

In colloqiual Tusklonian, one can follow the noun with just the classifier as a distal:

  • krag ka "that man"

Pronouns[]

Pronouns are a very open and fluid class in Tusklonian. Most of them are either demonstratives or nouns used as pronouns, often with a pair of possessive suffixes. Each pronoun encodes a certain level of politeness and formality. This chart (though not exhaustive) gives an overview of some of the most common pronouns:

Singular
Person/ Number Formal Submissive Comrade Close Pejorative
1s "I" vesar sanomar þe/ varn -
2s "you" vesei sanomei tzönei/ zishva pamei gröl
3s keing/ Noun/ Demonstrative
Plural
Person Exclusive Inclusive In-group Pejorative
1p "we" shänei shäning krutei -
1p "y'all" shänar shäning krutar muj
3p "they" shäning

This fails to represent the full complexity of the system, but this is a good rule of thumb.

Singular 1st and 2nd person pronouns distinguish between formal, informal, and submissive contexts with pronouns. Formal contexts are common with superiors (be it in the military or at work) and with strangers. These are generally the most polite pronouns. Informal are used with most other people, largely family, friends, and fellow soldiers. Submissive forms are rarely used except when speaking to a far superior or ruler and when attempting diplomacy, be it literally or to resolve a dispute.

First person singular pronouns are relatively simple. In non-formal contexts it is simplest to refer to oneself as þe "same", which is also the general reflexive pronoun. The emphatic pronoun varn "self" is used when one wants to specify their involvement and in reflexive constructions.

Second-person singular pronouns further divide informal pronouns into comrade and close situations. Comrade pronouns are used with peers that one is on good terms with, such as coworkers, soldiers in the same unit, siblings, or friends. Tzönei is used with men, and zishva with women. Close pronouns are instead used with immediate family and occasionally between very close (usually female) friends. It conveys very deep affection, similar to a pet name. One is most likely to refer to one's spouse/ lover and children with pamei. Other terms can be used. One of the most common is for adults to refer to children as forg "boy" and eni "girl".

Pejorative pronouns, useable both in second and third person, are used to directly express disgust, insult, and contempt for the referent. Gröl "pig" and muj "herd" are not the only available insulting terms, only the most common. Feel free to use anything that conveys that disgust properly.

Third-person singular pronouns can be as simple or complex as you want to make them. Most common is to use keing as a generally third person i.e. singular they. To specify males and females krag "man" and nik "woman" can be used, and to separate by age, the child words forg and eni can also be employed. If one really wants to specify a relationship to the referent, the comrade or even close pronouns can be used, but this tends to be emphatic and nearly a statement in itself. For nonhuman referents, it is most common to use the classifier + demonstrative.

First person plural pronouns split between shänei, shäning, and krutei. While shänei and shäning are often interchangeable, shänei is specifically exclusive, specifying that the listener is not a part of the group, whereas shäning includes the speaker. Krutei covers both inclusive and exclusive realms, and is used to refer to one's "in-group", be it a military unit, group of friends, or family. If a person falls outside of that in-group, it is exclusive, otherwise inclusive.

Second-person plural pronouns use both shänar and shäning. Shänar also conveys exclusion, specifically "y'all but not me", whereas shäning is more neutral. Krutar, like krutei, covers the "in-group". Two parents talking about their families or two gang leaders discussing where their turf is could easily use these terms.

Third-person plurals tend to use shäning, but like their singular counterparts, effective replacement terms like krut "crew, unit" or tzikeren "family" can be used, as well as demonstratives.

Verbs[]

Mastering the 11 verb forms is vital to speaking proper Tusklonian.

Verbal noun

The verbal noun acts exactly as that, i.e jatlung "love", brakung "fighting, conflict". However, it also sees use as an infinitive, i.e. jatlung "to love", brakung "to fight".

Stems and verb types

Use of the verbs requires alignment of three factors: the verb type, the stem used, and the motivational suffix. The final combination varies in meaning and use.

We'll start with the verb type. Essentially, there are three in Tusklonian: stative, meaning it refers to a state or quality (to sleep, to be cold), intransitive, meaning the verb doesn't usually take an object (to jump, to cry), and transitive, meaning the verb doesn't require an object, but can take one (to eat, to speak). Every verb falls into one of these three categories. Which stem you use can be used differently and can take a certain number of arguments. Essentially:

Absolutive VS Ergative VS Absolutive VOS Ergative VSO
Stative Simple Causative antipassive - Causitive
Intransitive Simple Transitivizer antipassive - Transitivizer
Transitive Passive Antipassive Passive (deagentive) Active (agentive)

All examples will be given in the push-state for clarity.

The simple stative or intransitive or general transitive refers to a state or an action. For statives, this often refers to simple description, where we would use adjectives. These cannot take an object.

  • Vunzen krago "A man is sleeping"
  • Tjomen rolk "The dog is red"
  • Tögen tzike "The child is stepping"
  • Polen ni "Women speak"
  • Nüsen þe "I am listening"
  • Hvaden muj "You losers watch"

If these are used with the ergative stem, they become antipassives of their transitized state. Essentially, it tacks on an object without actually putting one there.

  • Vünezin krago "A man puts someone to sleep"
  • Tovomen rolk "The dog makes something red"
  • Tüvogen tzike "The child steps on something"
  • Pvalen ni "Women talk to someone"
  • Nusen þe "I am listening to someone"
  • Hojeden muj "You losers see something"

The causative refers to someone making something be in a state. If the reflexive pronoun þe is used, it becomes an inchoative, i.e. to start becoming that state.

  • Vünezin krago tzikau "A man put a child to sleep"
  • Vünezin krago þe "A man falls asleep"
  • Tovomen rolk hush "The dog makes the water red"
  • Tovomen rolk þe "The dog reddens"

When an intransitive becomes transitivized, it adds an object, usually a destination or recipient of an action. In English, this is usually something that we show by a prepositional phrase.

  • Tüvogen tzike onko "The child steps on a rock"
  • Pvalen ni ve "Women talk to the soldiers"
  • Nusen þe kasliðaro "I am listening to a whistler"

Transitive verbs are the only ones who can take objects in the absolutive. However, the sentiment created is similar to our passive, showing lack of agency. This is further explored in the next section.

Push and pull

However, all of these examples will sound off to a native speaker. That is because they are all in the push form, and context is vital to understanding which form to use in these contexts.

The basic difference between push and pull is whether the motivation stems from past or future conditions. Push verbs are used if a past event is causing or motivating a present action, and pull verbs are used if an action is done in order to facilitate a future event or plan. For instance:

  • Polen þe "I am speaking" (because someone asked me to, because I feel pressured to, because I have to, ect.)
  • Polsk þe "I am speaking (because I want to, to stall or make a point, to convince you, ect.)

This distinction is pretty straightforward for most combinations of stems and verb types, but transitive verbs- with the agency split in stem type- can be tricky. Basically:

  • Absolutive + push: Passive, focused on the object's fate
  • Absolutive + pull: Passive, focused on the agency used by another to cause its fate
  • Ergative + push: Active, showing lack of agency on the part of the
  • Ergative + pull: Done deliberately to further a goal

Take gokung, to eat:

  • Goken rolk krag "The dog is eaten by him"
  • Goksk rolk krag "The dog is made to be eat by him"
  • Gavaken krag rolk "He is made to eat the dog"
  • Gavaksk krag rolk "He eats the dog"

Not all combinations will really make sense. Absolutive + push and ergative + pull are the most common, but the situation will dictate which form is used. Describing actions done as soldiers usually peeks into the full bevy of possibilities:

  • Spjützen krago þe "Someone was shot by me" (In self-defense)
  • Spjützask krago þe "Someone was made to be shot by me" (Ordered to but didn't want to)
  • Spjutzin þe krago "I was made to shoot someone" (In revenge)
  • Spjutzask þe krago "I shot someone" (As part of a planned attack)

Depending on the word, this can lead to create a semantic division, something akin to a causitive:

  • Oren rolko eni "The girl has a dog."
  • Avarsk eni rolko "The girl takes a dog."
  • Ästrolsk Tragamar tavesk "The army rules Ragamar"
  • Ästrulsk tavesk Tragamar "The army conquers Ragamar

Imperative

The imperative is used as one would expect, to issue commands. Tusklonians used to be more sensitive to politeness in commands, but as the population became more miltarized, the simple imperative became the most common method for superiors, emphasis, or to establish one's place of authority. Using the absolutive renders the command simply, and no object can be taken:

  • Polu! "Speak!"
  • Hvadu! "Watch!"
  • Vunzu! "Sleep!"
  • Goku! "Eat!"

If rendered in the ergative, the command gains an object, making stative verbs causitive and transitivizing intransitives. With no specific object, this is taken as an antipassive, encoding an object into the verb (usually something salient to the conversation):

  • Pvalu! "Talk (to it)!"
  • Pvalu þe! "Talk to me!"
  • Hojedu! "Look (at it)!"
  • Hojedu tzik gva pamei! "Look at your children!
  • Vünezu! "Put (him) to sleep!"
  • Vünezu rolk! "Put the dog to sleep!"
  • Gavaku! "Eat it!"

Hortative

The hortative works similarly to the imperative, with the caveat that the speaker includes themselves in the command. This is often used as the a polite form of command, usually used with friends, comrades, peers, and children, as it doesn't assume authority. It also acts as a weak deontic, sort of like saying "We should..." The difference between absolutive and ergative stems is more or less the same as in the imperative.

  • Polno. "Let's speak."
  • Hvadno. "Let's watch."
  • Vunzno. "Let's sleep."
  • Pvalno. "Let's talk (to them)"
  • Pvalno kasliðar. "Let's talk to the whistler."
  • Hojedno. "Let's look (at it)."
  • Hojedno shäning. "Let's watch them."
  • Vünezno. "Let's put (them) to sleep."
  • Vünezno role. "Let's put the dogs to sleep."

Subordinate

The subordinate form is pervasively used in Tusklonian. It essentially turns a verb into a descriptor on both a word to word and phrase level, sort of like a form meaning "that X's" or "who X's". This is the general method of description, as stative verbs are used for both adjectives and prepositions. A descriptor directly follows the noun or verb it is describing.

  • tzike vunzar "the sleeping child"
  • ves brakar "the soldiers who fight"
  • rolko gokar "a dog that is eating"

Attributive adjectives are formed by modifying a noun with a subordinate verb:

  • jolk tjomar "the red house"
  • enajo jamar "a good girl"

The absolutive stem is used for general stative and intransitive verbs. With transitive verbs it forms something akin to our past/ passive participle. The ergative transitivizes all verbs, creating causatives for statives.

  • rolk gokar "the dog who was eaten"
  • tzik gavakar "the children who eat"
  • vesk tovomar "the soldier who makes things red"
  • kraj vünezno role "the men who put dogs to sleep""

Locative verbs

Tusklonian has very few prepositions as we know them. The only one is gva, used for possession. All other relationships are defined through a series of locative verbs. Used in the absolutive, these state the location of the referent in space:

  • Öton krag "He is here."
  • Koshken josk "The house is nearby."
  • Zirsk nik "The woman is above."
  • Sülemen eni. "The girl is far away."

In the ergative, the verbs define the spatial location in terms of something else:

  • Ötvan krag josk "He is at the house"
  • Käsheken josk rjolkajo. "The house is near the city."
  • Zarsk nik tzönei "The woman is above you."
  • Jifan rolk forg "The dog is with the boy"
  • Sülimen eni zalngu bedzing. "The girl is far away from this world."

This extends into the subordinate. Absolutive statements are similar:

  • nik zirar "the woman that is above"
  • rolk jifir "the dog that is accompanying"

The spatial sense of "this", "that" (nearby), and "that" (far) can be indicated by the verbs ötöng, koshkung, and sülemung respectively:

  • krag ötor "this man"
  • josk koshkar "that nearby house"
  • eni sülemar "that faraway girl"

Example text[]

Tusklonian: Babel text

Tusklonian: Swadesh list

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