Yakots isn't a language spoken in some fantastic otherworldly world. It's not Elvish or Klingon, and it's not the language spoken by a vast and powerful empire that exists only in my head. I've never thought of the people who might speak Yakots. Instead, the language was born of its own sake.

Yakots is a bit tricky to get the hang of, because it combines a hella complex vowel inventory with Semitic-style apophonic inflection, a dash of vowel harmony, and something of a Germanic-style umlaut. That makes it sound tricky, but once the system is mastered, the patterns in the system become clear and the language becomes easy and incredibly expressive. The consonants aren't too tricky, and the syllable structure is downright simple. And, if you can get a grasp on your vowels and wield them like a scalpel, hopefully you'll see that I've tried to make Yakots an expressive and beautiful tongue.



Although there are a total of sixteen vowels, there's only eight vowel phonemes. This is because the value for roundedness is determined morphologically according to the binyan (discussed below in Morphology). The "basic" roundedness for a given height and frontness, which is called for in the imperative verb, is shown in boldface.

Vowels of Yakots
Front Back
Height Unround Round Unround
Close i y u ɯ
Closed-mid e ø o ɤ
Open-mid ɛ œ ʌ ɔ
Open a OE ɑ ɒ

Semi-vowels: w, j, ɥ.


In comparison to the complex system of vowels, Yakots contains a rudimentary set of consonants, numbering seventeen pure consonants plus three semi-vowels.

Bilabial, labio-dental






p, b

t, d

k, g


f, v

s, z, ʃ, ʒ

x, ɣ


Approximates, trills

r, l



j, ɥ



The symbols p, b, t, d, k, g, f, v, s, z, h, r, l, w and j are used as they are in the IPA. [ɥ] is an allophone of [j] which occurs in a rounded environment. It is always written as j.

s̹ and z̹

The remaining consonants are usually shown as follows: [ʃ] = 's̯', [ʒ] = 'z̯', [x] = 's̹', [ɣ] = 'z̹'. However, many writers have historically used other symbols to represent these sounds. 's̹' and 'z̹', in particular, are frequently written with the diacritics attached. The resulting symbols are similar to 'ʂ' and 'ʐ', but with the curls bending to the left instead of to the right. A long time ago, [ʃ], [ʒ], [x] and [ɣ] were written with the digraphs 'sj', 'zj', 'kh' or 'kj', and 'gh' or 'gj', respectively.


The basic symbols for the vowels are as follows:

Basically [-round] Basically [+round]
IPA i e ɛ a u o ɔ ɒ
Short Symbol i e è a u o ò á
Long Symbol ī ē ā ū ō ā́
Modified to [+round] Modified to [-round]
IPA y ø œ OE ɯ ɤ ʌ ɑ
Short Symbol è̥ ò̠ á̠
Long Symbol ī̥ ē̥ ḕ̥ ḁ̄ ū̠ ō̠ ṑ̠ ā̠́

OE Englisc


The orthography of vowels necessarily makes use of diacritics to represent roundedness. Each vowel is considered to have a "basic" value for roundedness, which is called into use for the imperative. The front vowels are considered to be essentailly unround, with roundedness marked, while the back vowels are round with unroundedness marked. The diacritic x̥ is used to mark a naturally unround vowel which has been rounded. The diacritic x̠ is used to mark a naturally round vowel which has been unrounded. In addition, the diacritic x̄ is used to represent a long vowel. Vowels marked with [+/-round] or [+long] diacritics are not considered to be separate letters in the alphabet. The diacritic x̀ is used on e and o to show lowering, resulting in values [ɛ] and [ɔ]. The diacric x́ is used on [a] to show backing, resulting in value [ɒ]. The symbols è, ò and á are considered to be letters in their own right, and are listed separately in the alphabet. As mentioned above, the diacritics x̯ and x̹ are applied to 's' and 'z' to indicate palatalization and velarization respectively. The symbols s̯, s̹, z̯ and z̹ are considered unique letters and are listed in the alphabet as such.

In informal writing, many authors will leave most or all diacritics out. Few will leave out the diacritics on è, ò and á, however. Sometimes, when every vowel in a word is marked with x̥ or x̠, the writer will draw the diacritic just once, either under the first vowel or vaguely under the middle of the word. In handwriting, letters with multiple diacritics usually have them smooshed together. For instance, ḕ will most likely be written with as 'e' with a marking that looks something like a greater-than sign (>) above it. A letter that is marked with the diacritics x̠̄ will sometimes just be drawn with the letter inside a square or a large C, while a letter marked with x̥̄ will be written as the letter inscribed in a large symbol that looks similar to ɕ.



There are three tiers of the morphology of Yakots. These are:

He speaks to himself.png
  1. Consonant tier. A stem consisting of two consonants or clusters of consonants, in the form C1-C2. The consonant tier encodes for basic semantic information.

  2. Vowel tier. Consists of up to three vowels, labled X, Y and Z. The vowel tier encodes information about tense and person.

  3. A binyan or structure tier, around which the vowels and consonants form. The binyanim are responsible for voice, aspect and mood. They are also responsible for the harmonic features of the vowels tier, because the binyanim determine the value [±round] of every vowel in a particular word. A binyan will have slots for the two consonants of the consonant tier, labled C, and a number of vowels, labled X, Y and Z. A binyan may also include additional phonological information, such as obligatory affixes.

The Verb.[]

The verbal morphology may appear particularly complex, but there's actually a quite sturdy system behind the madness. To demonstrate the simplicity, included below is a simplified conjugation of the verb l-f, "sing."

Simplified Conjugation Paradigm for l-f, "sing"

1st Person

2nd Person 3rd Person
Thematic Vowels: X: [ɛ~œ], Y: [ɛj~œw], Z: [a:~OE:] X: [ɯ~u], Y: [ɯɥ~uw], Z: [ɤ:~o:] X: [i~y], Y: [ij~yw], Z: [e:~ø:]
Active, Present Tense
Indicative Imperfective lèfè, [lɛfɛ], "I sing" lu̠fu̠, [lɯfɯ] lifi, [lifi]
Indicative Perfective lèf, [lɛf], "I have sung" lu̠f, [lɯf] lif, [lif]
Subjunctive Imperfective lè̥f, [lœf], "I should sing" luf, [luf] li̥f, [lyf]
Subjunctive Perfective lè̥fḁ̄n, [lœfOE:n] "I should have sung" lufōn, [lufo:n] li̥fē̥n [lyfø:n]
Reflexive, Present Tense
Indicative, Imperfective lāfè, [la:fɛ], "I sing to myself" lō̠fu̠, [lɤ:fɯ] lēfi, [le:fi]
Indicative, Perfective lāf, [la:f], "I have sung to myself" lō̠f, [lɤ:f] lēf, [le:f]
Subjunctive, Imperfective lḁ̄f, [lOE:f], "I should sing to myself" lōf, [lo:f] lē̥f, [lø:f]
Subjunctive, Perfective lḁ̄fḁ̄n, [lOE:fOE:n], "I should have sung to myself" lōfōn, [lo:fo:n] lē̥fē̥n, [lø:fø:n]
Passive, Present Tense
Indicative, Imperfective lèjfe, [lɛjfe], "I am sung to" lu̠jfu̠, [lɯɥfɯ] lijfi, [lijfi]
Indicative, Perfective lèjf, [lɛjf], "I have been sung to" lu̠jf, [lɯɥf] lijf, [lijf]
Subjunctive, Imperfective le̥wf, [lœwf], "I should be sung to" luwf, [luwf] li̥wf, [lywf]
Subjunctive, Perfective lè̥fḁ̄n, [lœwfOE:n], "I should have been sung to" luwfōn, [luwfo:n] li̥wfē̥n, [lywfø:n]

Certainly this isn't a simple system, yet the patterns can be easily seen. All that's needed to co-ordinate the binyanim with the vocalization is to know which values Y and Z correspond to which X, in both states of roundedness. The vocalization scheme is very similar to that of German and English strong verbs, and the change in roundedness is paralleled in German's subjunctive.


Each stem consists of two consonants in the form C-C. Below are some example verbal stems:

k-m, "go"; z-p, "wish"; l-f, "sing"; zh-g, "hear"; k-ts "speak."


Vocalic Variables.[]

All of the vowels in a verb can be discerned by knowing one of them and its relevant vocalic variable. Each vocalic variable, labled X, Y or Z, indicates the values of the other two in context because each value for a given vocalic variable is associated with preordained values for the other two. That is, for a given vowel X there will always be specific values for Y and Z. As discussed above under the Phonology section, there are a total of sixteen vowel phones, but only eight phonemes because the quality for [round] is determined by the binyan. Both [+round] and [-round] forms are shown below.

Values for the Vocalic Variables X, Y and Z
[-round] [+round] [-round] [+round] [-round] [+round]
i, [i] i̥, [y] ij, [ij] i̥w, [yw] ē, [e:] ē̥, [ø:]
e, [e] e̥, [ø] ej, [ej] e̥w, [øw] ḕ, [ɛ:] ḕ̥, [œ:]
è, [ɛ] è̥, [œ] èj, [ɛj] è̥w, [œw] ā, [a:] ḁ̄, [OE:]
a, [a] ḁ, [OE] aj, [aj] ḁw, [OEw] aw, [aw] ḁj, [OEɥ]
u̠, [ɯ] u, [u] u̠j, [ɯɥ] uw, [uw] ō̠, [ɤ:] ō, [o:]
o̠, [ɤ] o, [o] o̠j, [ɤɥ] ow, [ow] ṑ̠, [ʌ:] ṑ, [ɔ:]
ò̠, [ʌ] ò, [ɔ] ò̠j, [ʌɥ] òw, [ɔw] ā̠́, [ɑ:] ā́, [ɒ:]
a̠, [ɑ] á, [ɒ] á̠j, [ɑɥ] aw, [ɒw] ew, [ew] e̥j, [øɥ]

Note that for each vowel X, the vowel Y is a diphthong formed by X+[w, j or ɥ]. The vowel Z is usually a lowered and lengthened X (as, for example X: [i], Z: [e:] ), except for when X is already [+low], in which case a diphthong is formed (as in X: [a], Z: [aw] ).


The above values are constant associations which never change. What makes them "variables" is how they are put into use to encode for information related to the grammatical person of the subject of the verb and the tense of the verb. There are three persons, aptly labled 1st, 2nd and 3rd. There are in additon two tenses, present and past. Thus, there are a total of six possible values for X, depending on the person and tense. Additionally, there is one infinite form which is used with the infinitive, participle and gerund binyanim. One must remember also that the vowels come in round and unround forms, both of which are shown in the table below.

X-Matrix Conjugation of the Vocalic Variables
Present Past
Unround Round Unround Round
First Person

è, [ɛ]

è̥, [œ] a ḁ, [OE]

Second Person

u̠, [ɯ] u

ò̠, [ʌ]

ò, [ɔ]

Third Person

i i̥, [y] e e̥, [ø]




All of the information encoded in the stem and the vocalic variables is put together into a pronounceable structure by the binyanim (singular: binyan). The role of the binyanim is to provide a structure around which the stem and vowels may form. The binyanim encodes for voice, mood and aspect as well.

Finite Forms




Active (X-oriented)

Passive (Y-oriented)

Reflexive (Z-oriented)




C-X-C unround

C-Y-C unround

C-Z-C unround


C-X-C-X unround

C-Y-C-X unround

C-Z-C-X unround


C-X-n-Z-C unround

C-Y-n-Z-C unround

C-Z-n-Z-C unround


X-C-C-Y unround

Y-C-C-Y unround

Z-C-C-Y unround




C-X-C-Z-n round

C-Y-C-Z-n round

C-Z-C-Z-n round


C-X-C round

C-Y-C round

C-Z-C round



C-X-l-X-C round

C-Y-l-Y-C round

C-Z-l-Z-C round



C-X-C basic

C-Y-C basic

C-Z-C basic



C-X-C-Y unround

C-Y-C-Z unround

C-Z-C-Z unround

Infinite Forms










Nominal (gerund)


Examples of Fully-Formed Verbs and Verb Phrases.[]

k-m, to go:

kœmɶ:n, “I should have gone”

kumo:n zip, “He wished that you had gone”

k-ts, to speak:

zhœ:lœ:g pa kœ:tsø, "He speaks to himself so that he can hear himself."

zh-g, to hear:

ʌɥzhʌ:g?, “did you hear?”

ʌktsʌɥ lo zhaga, “I heard what you were saying.”

l-f, to sing: lOEɥnOEɥf, "We used to sing to each other"

lɔf zhogaw zɛpɛ, "I wish that I could hear you sing.

The Noun.

Nouns are structurally much simpler than verbs, because the binyanim and the vowel patterns are parts of a single system.

Nouns are declined according to a rich ergative-aligned case system, but nouns do not reflect gender of any kind or number, and unlike in many European languages, there's only one declension which is fully regular.

Yakots Declension
Case Semantic Role Form Example
Basic cases
Absolutive Subject, object C-a-C laf, "[the] song"
Ergative Agent C-o-C lof, "[the] song"
Genitive of X C-y-C lyf, "of [the] song"
Locative cases
Adessive on, at, in X C-ɔ-C lɔf, "in [the] song"
Ablative from X f(œ)-C-OE-C flOEf, "from [the] song"
Allative to X dø-C-ø-C døløf, "to [the] song"
Essive cases
Subjessive as X, like X C-i-C lif, "as [the] song"
Conessive with X ɛ-C-ɛ-C ɛlɛf, "(together) with [the] song"
Abessive without X s(ɛ)-C-a-C slaf, "without [the] song"

into X (something changes)

de-C-e-C delef, "into [the] song"
Vocative Oh, X! u-C-u-C uluf!, "Oh, song!"

The Modifiers.[]

Adjectives agree with nouns by taking their central vowel. For instance, an adjective which is part of an absolutive noun phrase will have the form C-a-C. Any prefix that might be in the nominal declension, however, is dropped, so that for instance an allative adjective will have the form C-ø-C, clipped from the noun form dø-C-ø-C. Adverbs which modify adjectives (such as "very big car" or "happily absent coworker") follow this pattern as well, while adverbs which modify verbs ("swiftly run") take the form C-i/y-C-a/OE, as in zipa kim, "she has hopefully gone."

Derivational Morphology.[]

Nominal Derivational Affixes
Form Input Semantic Example Output
-[e/ø]k dort, farm Agent of action dortøk, farmer
-[e/ø]l(ɛ/œ) dort, farm Recipient of action dortlœ, farmland or farm crops
-[e/ø]m(ɛ/œ)z dort, farm Result of action dortmœz, produce/farm products
-[i/y]ɥ(ɤ/o)n dort, farm Abstract noun dortyɥon, agriculture
-[ɯ/u]zh(a/OE) dort, farm Collective noun dortuzhOE, farm country (collection of farms)
-[i/y]st(ɛ/œ) tork, music Locative noun torkystœ, music hall
-[e/ø]w(ɤo)j tork, music Process of X torkøwoj, music-making, the creation process of music


Word Order.[]

Although word order is technically "free" thanks to the declensional system and concord, there's a strong tendency to put the head at the end of a given phrase, clause or sentence. The standard word order is SOV. Modifiers precede what they modify. There are very few prepositions, with postpositions vastly preferred, and relative clauses are "backwards" to an English speaker. For example,

zhœ:lœ:g           pa   kœ:tsø.              "He talks to himself in order to
hear.3rd.ref.cond  for  talk.3rd.ref.ind      listen to himself."

Pronouns and Demonstratives.[]

Yakots again makes use of its vowel changes in pronouns and demonstratives.

1st, k-n 2nd, s-t 3rd, d-k
Absolutive kan sat dak
Ergative kon sot dok
Genitive kyn syt dyk
Adessive kɔn sɔt dɔk
Ablative fœkOEn fœsOEt fedOEk
Allative døkøn døsøt dødøk
Subjessive kin sit dik
Conessive ɛkɛn ɛsɛt ɛdɛk
Abessive skan sɛat sɛdak
Transessive deken deset dedek
Vocative ukun usut uduk


Intonational Contours. The tendency among speakers of Yakots is to bring the tone down at the end of a clause (where a comma would be) but up at the end of a sentence (where a period would be). This is similar to the "uptalk" that's become prevelant in English. Questions need not have a stronger upwards incline, because it's understood that a question is being asked when the verb takes on the interrogative mood.

Word List.[]

d-rt, N: "a farm", V: "to farm"

k-m, N: "a movement", V:"to go"

k-ts, N: "a speech, a language", V:"to speak, to say, to talk"

l-f, N:"a song", V:"to sing"

t-rk, N:"music", V:"to make music"

z-p, N:"a wish, a want", V:"to wish, to want"

zh-g, N:"(sense of) hearing, sound", V:"to hear, to listen"

Example Texts.[]

to do when everything else is done.