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Descended directly from Proto-Zu, Proto-Sini is the progenitor of the Sini family. This article mainly deals with the northern dialect, but dialectal differences are discussed at the end of the article. While grammatically, it shares much in common with the Nazya language Kur, phonetically it shares more in common with the Northeast Teq language Igur (compare bèkki to blos in Kur and vöki in Igur, but wek to èk in Kur and ac in Igur).



  • Zu
    • Sini
      • Late Proto-Sini

Position between Nazya and Teq

The proto-Sini language is an interesting case within the Zu language family. Until its discovery and identification, the Nazya and Teq languages were naturally assumed to be separate families; their similarities could only be explained as sprachbund. But there was a problem: the great majority of the Kur texts and hypothetical home of the Teq people lay approximately 1500 km away from each other.

The proto-Zu language is divided in three stages. All sub-branches are descended from paleo-Zu, the earliest known example of any Zu language. The turning point came about around 6000 years ago, when Zu speakers encountered the Indo-Europeans. It was at this time that their language absorbed many loan words from their neighbors and became a primarily right-branching language, even moreso than that of the Indo-Europeans. This identifies the second stage, proto-Zu, and is the ancestor of the Nazya branch. The Teq branch came about some time later, about 1000 years later.

The Sini branch represents a point between these two branches, just barely at the beginning of the late proto-Zu period. Therefore, grammatically speaking, the Sini branch is a combination of the Nazya and Teq branches. While it doesn't share the extensive case systems the Nazya and Teq branches did at the time, its nominal and verbal morphology are still similar. Likewise, its phonology is a mix of Nazya and Teq with a flavor of its own.

However, as close as Sini is to the Nazya languages, the developments of the late stage of proto-Zu from which it is descended and shares a common heritage with the Teq branch is clear. Sini seems to have a primitive noun class system related to that of the Teq languages, and the formation of adverbs is closer to that of the Teq branch than Nazya.




Unvoiced Voiced
p [p] b [b]
t [t̪] d [d̪]
k [k] g [g]
v [v]
s [s] z [z]
š [ʃ] ž [ʒ]
c [x] ğ [ɣ]
ŕ [ʁ]
h [h]
r [ɾ]
y [j]
w [w]
m [m]
n [n]
ŋ [ŋ]


Proto-Sini has 12 vowels, divided into three categories: plain vowels, lax vowels, and centralized vowels. The plain vowels are the six vowels a, å, e, i, o, and u. Proto-Sini introduces the lax vowels à, è, ò, and ù and the centralized vowels ă, ĕ, and ĭ.

The lax vowels can be said to be more open than the regular vowels, much like some English short vowels.

The centralized vowels are reduced forms of plain vowels, and they occur in three positions: open (ă), middle (ĕ) and closed (ĭ).

All vowels can be lengthened, with the exception of the centralized vowels and å.

Plain vowels
a [a]
å [ɔː]
e [e]
i [i]
o [o]
u [u]
Lax vowels
à [ɑ]
è [ɛ]
ò [ɤ]
ù [ʊ]
Centralized vowels
ă [ɐ]
ĕ [ə]
ĭ [ɨ]


These are sound assimilations that occur across morpheme boundaries. They are almost always expressed in writing.

Phonemes Pronunciation Example
n + b, p, m mb, mp, mm nan + bazag > nambazag
n + s, z, v, w, y ss, zz, vv, ww, yy nan + yaryani > nayyaryani
m + s, z ff, vv (southern dialect)
ms, vv (northern dialect)
năm + so > năsso (northern), năffo (southern)
t, d + n nn dut + ned > dunned


Like its Zu relatives, but unlike most other languages, proto-Sini has a base-5 number system, meaning numbers are grouped by fives. Compounds like 32 are formed by inserting , e.g. 32 > ttutsūkkăgōs "thirty-and-two."

For the sake of simplicity, numbers will be written out as they appear in decimal, i.e. 10 will be written as "ten", even though it represents the decimal number 5.

Base-5 Base-10 Proto-Sini
1 1 gyaz
2 2 gōs
3 3 ttut
4 4 nik
10 5 sūk
20 10 gōsūk
30 15 ttutsūk
40 20 niksūk
100 25 vĕšos
1,000 125 ēzu
10,000 625 mwaru

Word order

Although Sini is a free word order language, the following word orders are preferred.

  • Head + Modifier
  • In main clauses: Subject + Direct object + Indirect object + Locative + Verb + Adverb
    • In subordinate clauses: Verb + Adverb + Locative + Subject + Direct object + Indirect object


  • The dative case has merged with the accusative as the objective case. Reduced dative pronouns now exist as verbal clitics. For nouns, the dative can be achieved with the postposition "nap" (into).
  • The ablative, illative, and terminative cases have merged with the locative case, their functions being taken over by the postpositions "zi" (away), "nap" (into), and "ni" (at), respectively.


Proto-Sini has a significantly simplified case system, which had five cases, in comparison to Proto-Zu, which had nine cases.

Nominative case

The nominative case marks the subject of the sentence:

  • nanŕasni homti "That man sees"
  • nankḕtmom ğumši "This dog hears"

Objective case

The objective case functions similarly to the English objective case, marking the object of a sentence:

  • Hò dutukeuk hihom "I see a house"

Postpositions can also be used to achieve other functions:

  • Indirect object: Yaz zumùmòyukeuk Isniuk nap sošu? "Did you give my book to Is?"
  • Benefactive: Hò Isniuk nap hok vum zumùmukeuk soĕ "I gave Is the book for you"

Genitive case

The genitive case shows possession and relation between two nouns. However, pronouns don't have genitive forms. Instead, clitics are affixed to nouns (see below).

  • Nanzokoni šùnuketiuk hūk šuti zĕŕti "Zoko can't find his bowl"

Locative case

Instrumental case

Example: dut "house"

Singular Plural
Nominative nandut dutun
Objective dutuk dutkoc
Genitive duthut dutut
Locative dutit dunnun
Instrumental dunned duttet

Example: bus "stranger"

Singular Plural
Nominative nambus busun
Objective busuk buskoc
Genitive bushut busut
Locative busit busnun
Instrumental busned bustet


Nominative Objective Locative Instrumental
I hok het hònd
You yaz yāk yāt yùnd
This šīt šik šit šind
That tīt tik tit tind
We sin sūkkă sīttĭ sind
You šīt šink šīttĭ šind
They tum tump tuft tund


Noun classes

By the time proto-Sini came about, proto-Zu was beginning to develop a noun class system in the form of nominal clitics. At this point they are sometimes optional, with some scribes opting only to use them for emphasis.

Singular Plural
People -ni- -nin-
Animals -mom- -mumĕn-
Animate objects -kōk- -kūŋ- / kukĕn-
Inanimate objects -uke- -ĭkin-


Full genitive pronouns have disappeared in proto-Sini. Instead, genitive clitics are inserted between the head noun and the case ending (or between the noun and class clitic if one exists), the nominative singular being the obvious exception, in which case the clitic òy just attaches itself to the end of the noun.

  • Yaz mùnòyukeuk hamšu? "Did you see my cane?"
  • Negršininun šīt hot. "His daughters are not here."
Singular Plural
My -òy- Our -sĕni-
Your -ĕži- Your -šĕni-
This -ši-
That -ti- Their -tĕni-


The dative case has disappeared in proto-Sini, with only one exception. Reduced forms of the dative pronouns now exist as clitics, prefixed to the verb. However, these clitics are sometimes encountered when an accusative pronoun would have been expected.

  • Nantōkkōkti stĭšyarti "Her foot is hurting her."
Singular Plural
Me sò- Us sĭn-
You sĕz- You šĭn-
This šĭ-
That stĭ- That tĕn-


Meaning Sini Case
As, like zi genitive
Away from zi locative
By way of du instrumental
Inside ho locative
Into nap locative
Made of, from zi genitive
Next to, alongside met locative
On mo locative
Outside oke locative
Over šug locative
To, for nap (northern)
ni (southern)
Through, during du locative (northern)
genitive (southern)
Towards ni locative
Under vum locative
With dap locative


Verbs conjugate for the present, past, an future tenses, and the indicative and subjunctive moods. However, the subjunctive mood functions grammatically as a tense itself, so it is not possible to combine another tense with the subjunctive mood.


There are two types of gerunds in proto-Sini: a stative and a dynamic. There is no specific verb form for the gerund. It is expressed as subortinate clause to the nouns ye "state" and ğu "occasion" for the stative and dynamic, repsectively. As gerunds are simply verbs within clauses, they can, unlike in English, occur in tenses other than the present.

yeuk hĭnoèŋ hĭnozĕŋ hūk hitoŋ, wessiukeuk tined zi yĭketĕ.
I state-OBJ 1sg.FUT-feel 1sg.FUT-cold.ADV not 1sg.want, coat-OBJ.INAN-OBJ that-INS away make.PAST-1sg.PAST.
"I don't want to (be) feel(ing) the cold, that is why I made a coat."

Nanğu gukti sārmomuk nut găbdi
NOM-occasion cook-3sg.far animal-ANIM-OBJ is.3sg.far loose.ADV-3sg.far
"Cooking an animal is easy"


As in all other Zu languages, the negation word hūk comes before the verb, the only exception being the verb sa "to be", which has special negative forms.

  • Hò yāk hūk hijĕkwar "I do not believe you"
  • Hò ogut vĕšosut huwā̀k "I am not fifty years old"

Present participle

The present participle is derived from reduced personal verb endings. However, unlike regular verbs, present participles take a prefix rather than a suffix. Normally only the third person prefixes are used, but the others can be used when modifying a personal pronoun.

I ĭ-
You šĭ
Yaz ttesḕttĭ hūk yīpdu sĭcĭdu băkdu
You 2sg-thirst not walk-2sg more-2sg should-2sg
"You shouldn't walk any further if you're thirsty"
lit. "You, thirsting, should not walk more"

Nankădimom nangăzad zicti
NOM-cat-ANIM NOM-3sg-sleep dream-3sg
"That sleeping cat is dreaming"

Past participle

b- + stem w/ ablaut


The purposive is used as an adverb. It is derived from a combination of the future tense, past tense, and aorist. It is translated as "in order to". It is formed by infixing -(e)s between the ablauted stem and verb endings of the head.

Hò zunekinkoc vokoc tētĕ yĭketesĕ wetukeuk
I leaf-OBJ.INAN.PL-OBJ.PL many-OBJ.PL gather.PAST-1sg.PAST make.PAST-PURP-1st.PAST cover-OBJ.INAN-OBJ
"I gathered many leaves in order to make a roof"

Past tense

All verbs ablaut in the past tense, with the first non-centralized vowel becoming more open. The short lax vowels always ablaut to ă, with the exception of à, which stays the same.

Present Past
Plain vowels
a a
e a
i e
o a (northern)
å (southern)
u o
Long plain vowels
ā̀ à
ū̀ ò


The aorist aspect is all but disappeared. Its prefix has merged with the past tense endings, but lax vowels bring out an interesting artifact. In the past tense the lax vowels reduce to ă [ɐ]. In the perfect, the personal ending becomes stressed, taking a full vowel if it has a schwa.

  • hihòš [hi.'hɤʃ] "I move" > hăše [hɐʃ.'e] "I have moved"
  • šùmsĭn ['ʃʊm.sɨn] "We call out" > šămsan [ʃɐm.'san] "We have called out"

However, in the plain past tense, or imperfect, the lax vowels take a liaison, -gu-, as most verb endings are already reduced and may be pronounced as schwas, à being the exception to this rule. For example:

  • hihòš [hi.'hɤʃ] "I move" > hăškue [hɐʃ.'ku.ə] "I moved"
  • šùmsĭn ['ʃʊm.sɨn] "We call out" > šămgusan [ʃɐm.'gu.san] "We called out"

Conjugation tables

Regular verbs

Present Past Subjunctive Future
I hi- hī- hĭno-
You -du -šu -de -dun
This -tti -sa -ttī -ttun
That -ti -so -tī -tun
We -sĭn -sĕn -sin -sĭn
You -šĭn -šĕn -šin -šĭn
They -sĕn -san -sĕn -sĕn

Irregular verb forms

yuk "to do"
Present Past Subjunctive
I huk hàk ṑhuk
You yūz yăgyaz iyūz
This ayūš yāš eyūš
That ayĭk yak eyĭk
We yūsĕn yāsĕ iyūsĕ
You yūšĕn yāšĕ iyūšĕ
They yūtĕm yātĕ iyūtĕ
sa "to be"

Positive forms

Present Past Future Subjunctive
I wā̀k ōk ùnwā̀k yā̀k
You åz os ùnot yåz
This nuš sĕci ùnḕtuš ītuš
That (near) soŕi
That (far) nut soŕti ùnḕtuš ītut
We es as ùnes is
You ùneš
They et at ùnt it

Negative forms

Present Past Future Subjunctive
I huwā̀k huwōk ùggĭwā̀k huyā̀k
You huwĕz huwĕs ùggĭwot huyåz
This hunuš husĕc ùggunuš hunuš
That (near)
That (far) hunut husĕŕ ùggunuš hunut
We hos hus ùggus hus
You hoš huš ùgguš huš
They hot hut ùggut hut

Auxilliary forms

The name of this section may be misleading; proto-Sini does not have modal verbs like Germanic languages do. The meaning conveyed by verbs such as "can" and "will" may be translated as nouns, adverbs, or verb forms.


In proto-Sini, there are two ways to translate the English word "can." The first way is with the noun sōk "ability." Sōk denotes a physical or natural ability:

Zukut nansōk ùmkōkut stĭhunut
Zuk-OBJ NOM-ability eye-OBJ.ANIM.PL-GEN.PL
"Zuk can't see"/"Zuk is blind"
lit. "The ability of the eyes is not to Zuk"

Tik nansōk hòšmohut pokurhut stĭnut ĭkti
Him.OBJ NOM-ability play-GEN poker-GEN 3sg.far.DAT-is.3sg.far well.ADV-3sg
"He can play poker well"

The second translation of "can" is the adverb zeŕ, literally translated as "lie (down)". Typically, zeŕ only pertains to immediate situations, rather than general ability, so it tends to turn up more referring to immediate inability.

Sin vwağĭkinkoc hūk homsĭn zeŕsĭn
We star-OBJ.INANIM.PL-OBJ.PL not see-1pl lie.ADV-1pl
"We can't see the stars (right now)"

Nanšeguke rīt minut tīt hòwavti zĕŕti
NOM-sea-OBJ.INANIM still COND-is.3sg.far that sail-3sg.far lie.ADV-3sg.far
"If the sea is still, one can sail"



As a verb, bṑkti translates as "to pull". When used as an adverb, it is analogous to "must" or "should."

Sin nùmsĭn bòksĭn iŋsĭn, hūk yesĭn bòksĭn
We go-1pl pull.ADV-1pl now.ADV-1pl, not sit-1pl pull.ADV-1pl
"We must go now, we shouldn't wait"

Yaz Iŋniuk tīttĭ hūk sīpmodu băgdu
You Ing-PPL-OBJ thusly not tease-2sg pull-2sg
"You mustn't tease Ing like that"

Generally, this carries the notion of duty. The subjunctive mood typically covers the suggestive function of "should."

Yaz gwavukeuk iskōkit zi warde ĭŋde
You.NOM pot-OBJ.INANIM-OBJ fire-OBJ.ANIM-LOC away bring-2sg.SUBJ now.ADV-2sg.SUBJ
"You should take the pot off the fire now."

Nanisni hūk bĕbogdun măktun
NOM-Is-PPL not swim-3sg.far.SUBJ far.ADV-3sg.far.SUBJ
"Is shouldn't swim so far our."

The necessitative function of "must" is accomplished with the verb ğišti "fall".

Yāk nap nanğu bèŋdu abukeuk dĭdiukened ğišti ănmati ğuk ğišti

You.OBJ to NOM-occasion hit-2sg tree-OBJ.INAN-OBJ axe-OBJ.INAN-INS
fall-3sg.far cause.ADV-3sg.far occasion-OBJ fall-3sg.far

"You have to hit the tree with the axe in order to make it fall"
lit. "It falls to you to hit the tree with the axe in order to cause it to fall"


Might/Presumptive must


The continuative aspect is achieved in English by using the helping verb "to be". Although in proto-Sini it is largely ignored, it can be translated translated with the adverbial form of nùmti "to go" for emphasis.

Hò hūk hiğum hinăm
I not 1sg-hear 1sg-go.ADV
I still don't hear (anything)

Sin magzĭn nùmsĭn
We eat-1pl go-1pl
We are still eating (as opposed to having finished eating)

Relative clauses

As in Kur, relative clauses follow the noun they modify, although word order becomes VSO

Dialectal differences

In time, these differences will contribute to the two different branches of Sini. The northern dialect is considered standard.

North dialect

  • There is a greater tendency to omit the noun class clitics
  • The dative verbal clitics are sometimes used for the objective, as well
  • å ablauts to a
    • årti > årso (North), arso (South)

South dialect

  • o ablauts to å
    • rogdi > ragzo (North), rågzo (South)
  • Changes such as im > īp and èn > ḕt do not occur
    • nancḕt (North), nancèn (South)
  • The dipthong ea cannot occur after fricatives or glides, becoming ē instead
    • nambăwear (North), nambăwēr (South)
  • Z, Ž and V devoice, lengthening the following vowel
    • zyarti (North), sēarti (from *zear)
  • Final consonants devoice
    • tosned (North), tosnet (South)
  • Locatives appear at the end of subordinate clauses, rather than just after the verb
    • hamĕ ti hò tik "which I saw there" (North), håmĕ hò tik ti (South)

See also