Vardeu

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In Michael S. Repton's conworld Atragam, Vardeu [vaɾˈdəʊ] is the language of the civilisation of Varde, one of the great civilisations of the millennium preceding the Arêndron Empire. The Vardeu name for Vardeu is Vardesceia, [ˌvaɾtɪsˈcʰe.ə].

Internal history

The Vardeu family have no known connection with any other languages of Atragam, though they share many features with the Ileuran family, such as a largish consonant inventory and a complex inflexional system. The earliest known Vardeu literature dates from the late fifth century AT (see Arêndron calendar); at the time of first contact between the Ileuran and Vardeu people, the Vardeu languages were known throughout Slaudja, though only in the Vardeu region itself did they have official status.

The Vardeu were a seafaring people, and became prosperous through a trade route they set up down the Bæladron Sea with the Islands of Khalgatêr. These islands were never completely overrun by the Empire, and a descendant of Vardeu is spoken in some parts there to this day.

When Vardeu region was conquered by the Arêndron Empire in the second century OA, Vardeu lost its official status, and a century later most people in the region could speak both Arêndron and Vardeu, but only Arêndron was used for trade and politics. By the fourth century Vardeu had died out, though the Vardeu dialect of Arêndron, which later became the language referred to as "Modern Slaudjan", retains a heavy Vardeu influence.

External history

Vardeu is part of a conlang exchange scheme I am taking part in with Waldkater; I have introduced a descendant of his language Archeía into my conworld, without any explanation of how it got there, and he is doing the same with a descendant of Arêndron.

Phonology

Consonants

Vardeu has the following consonant phonemes, shown in X-Sampa (bold) and orthography (italic):

Labial Dental Alveolar Alveolo-palatal Palatal Velar
Plosive p_h p p b t_h t t d c_h c c x k_h k k g
Ejective p_> p' t_> t' ts_> s' ts\_> c' k_> k'
Affricate ts ts dz dz ts\ tj dz\ dj cC cj J\j\ xj
Nasal m m n n J nj N ng
Fricative f f v v s_d ś z_d ź s s z z s\ sj z\ zj C hj j\ j x h
Trill r r
Lateral l l K\ ll

The orthography <ng> only represents /N/ at the end of a word. Otherwise, <ng> is /Nk/; the clusters /Nk_h/, /Nx/ and /Nm/ are written <nk>, <nh> and <nm>, and /Nn/ is <nn>, since geminates such as /nn/ do not occur. Similarly, /J/ before another consonant is simply written <n>.

Note also that /s/ and /z/ assimilate to the dental position before dentals; these are not written with acutes, since they are not distinguished from /s_d/ and /z_d/ in that position.

The trill /r/ is allophonically [4] before a consonant or between two unstressed vowels.

The clusters /sp/, /st/ and /sk/ are each written with the letter for an aspirated plosive, for example <st>; /st_h/ never occurs.

Word-final plosives are silent; if the next word starts with a vowel, the two vowels are joined with [?] (which is not considered phonemic).

The semivowels [j] and [w] are not included in the above chart, as they are usually regarded as realisations of the vowels /E/ and /O/.

Vowels

Vardeu's vowel system is complicated, because several vowels can be represented in more than one way, depending on the word's derivation:

i i y u u u / ou
e ei / i 2 y 7 ue o o
E e / ae O o / oe
ai ai au ao
a a / e A au / a

As a general rule (though not always), which orthography corresponds to which phoneme depends on whether the vowel is short or long (see the section on stress, below, for the rules determining this). Short <a e i o u> are usually, but not always, /a E i O u/ respectively, while long <a e i o u> are usually /A a e o y/. Note especially that the same orthographic vowel can be pronounced differently in two inflexions of the same word: dena ["ta:n@], denje ["tEJi].

Since long <a>, <e> and <o> are pronounced [a:], [E:] and [O:], contrary to the above rule, in some frequent grammatical inflexions, in this grammar sketch and the dictionary I mark these with a grave accent. (This is not done in actual texts.) An acute accent is used to mark an irregular stress; when the acute is used on a digraph, it is written on the first letter only.

Low unstressed vowels, especially a, e and o, often disappear before a word-final nasal or a nasal and another consonant, with the result that the nasal becomes syllabic. This is not indicated orthographically: for instance, bardan and bardon are both pronounced ["pa4tn=].

Unstressed word-final a, e and o are pronounced [@], [i] and [u] respectively; thus onda is pronounced ["Ont@]. This does not occur when the vowel is followed by a silent plosive, so ondat is pronounced ["Onta].

The endings -ar and -er (when unstressed) are both pronounced [@4]. Monosyllables ending in <r> have the following pattern: <ar> [A4], <er> or <eir> [E4], <ir> [i4], <or> [O4], and <our> [u4]. Only <ur> is variable, being [u4] in some words (lur, tsur) and [y4] in others (bur, dur). In all cases the vowel is short, contrary to the usual rule for monosyllables (see below).

Unstressed vowels in other positions, except in the first syllable of a word, are reduced, particularly in a final syllable before a sibilant, or in the third-last syllable of a longer word. When reduced, /a/ and /A/ tend towards [6], other unrounded front vowels (including /ai/) towards [I], rounded front vowels towards [Y], and other back vowels (including /au/) towards [U].

Vardeu has certain rules for clusters of two consecutive vowels:

  • Combinations with <a> after a stressed vowel. If the first vowel is ae, e, or y then the a is silent, but still counts as a syllable for stress purposes. (For instance, endya is pronounced [En"t2:], with the y being stressed as it occupies the penultimate position.) If the first vowel is i, o, ou or u then both vowels are pronounced: for instance, t'ia [t_>e:@]. (As usual, final unstressed a is [@].)
  • Similarly, word-final <oea> is [O:] and takes the stress, as the a still "takes up" one syllable.
  • Unstressed e, o before another vowel are pronounced differently depending on the preceding consonant (if any). After a light consonant or word-initially, they are [j], [w] respectively; after a palatal or alveolo-palatal, e disappears and o is given a separate syllable [O]; after another heavy consonant, both get separate syllables [E] and [O]. (These syllables are short; pronouncing them long is considered a characteristic of rustic speech.) Similarly, <ae> varies between [j] and [E], and <ou> and <u> between [w] and [u].
  • The combinations <eo>, <io>, <iu>, and <uo>, when they occur with the first vowel stressed, are given two syllables. So is <yo>, which only occurs in one word, pyod.
  • So is <ie> usually. There are two exceptions: word-finally, <ie> is just [i], with the stress moving to the preceding vowel; and if the stress would normally fall on the <e> it becomes [i:], as in neiriede, [ne"ri:ti].
  • The combination <ui> occurs only in one word, navui. The "standard" pronunciation is a diphthong [Ui], but many people pronounce it [wi].
  • Combinations with <ai>, <ei>, <oe>, or <ue> before another vowel are always given two syllables, joined by a glide [j]. For instance, koeada is pronounced [k_hO"jA:t@]. The only exceptions are word-final <oea> (see above) and <eie> (see below).
  • The "standard" pronunciation of word-final <eie> is [e:i], but most speakers make it a diphthong [ei] (keeping the stress). Conversely, the combination <oue> is standardly a diphthong [Ui], but is usually pronounced [7:].

Syllable constraints

It is important to be aware of the distinction Vardeu makes between heavy and light consonants. Ejectives, all alveolo-palatals and palatals, and /K\/ are considered heavy; all other consonants are light.

The syllable structure is (C)(C)V(C). The only permitted initial clusters are dv, gv, sp, st, sk and sv. All light consonants except aspirated plosives are permitted to end a syllable.

The following chart shows permissible medial clusters:

p b t d x k g t' s' tj dj sj xj m n nj f v ś ź s z j h r
d dv
g gv
m mp mb mt' ms' mn mv
n nt nd nt' ns' nv ns nh
nj nx ndj nsj nxj
ng nk ng nm nn
ś st sn śv śr
s sp sk stj sm sf sv sh
r rp rb rt rd rx rk rg rt' rs' rdj rsj rxj rm rn rnj rf rv rz rj
l lp lb lt ld lk lg lm lf lv ls

The only three-consonant clusters are ndv, ngv, nst, rdv, rgv and stv. Clusters other than those in the table do occasionally occur in compounds, proper names and foreign loanwords.

Note that there is no voicing assimilation: <dv> for instance is [tv], not [dv]. Be careful not to pronounce the cluster <sh> as /S/!

Stress

Stress is by default on the penultimate syllable; exceptions are always marked with the acute accent. Secondary stress, where applicable, falls two syllables before the primary stress. Words ending in /A/ usually also have a secondary stress on the /A/, which is pronounced half-long. (Making it fully long is considered a characteristic of rustic speech.)

Stressed vowels are pronounced long before single light consonants, before vowels and word-finally; short before heavy consonants and consonant clusters. The exceptions are the diphthongs /ai/ and /au/, which always have the length of a long vowel. Unstressed vowels are always short and are often reduced (see vowel reduction, above).

Most monosyllables have a long vowel, unless they end in <r>. Grammatical function-words have a long vowel if they have no final consonant, but most have a short vowel otherwise.

(Note that pairs of palatal and non-palatal consonants before [i], such as /ki/ and /ci/, or word-final /nE/ and /JE/ where the /E/ is pronounced [i], are often pronounced alike but distinguished by this effect on preceding stressed vowels.)

Verbal morphology

Strong conjugation

Strong verbs are those whose stems end in a plosive, a fricative, or /n/. Strong verbs form the past and future tenses by changing the stem consonant, as follows:

Present Infinitive Past Infinitive Future Infinitive
p, b tj, dj mp, mb ndj s' sj
t, d cj, xj nt, nd nxj ts, dz tj, dj
k, g c, x nk, ng nx s' sj
f, v sj, zj nv nsj sf, zv sj
ś, ź sj, zj nsj ś sj
s, z sj, zj ns nsj s sj
h hj nh nj sh sj
n nj nj nj ns nsj

(Note that verbs in -ś and -s do not change in the future at all.)

In addition, strong verbs with ai or au before the stem consonant change these to e, o respectively in the past tense. (This only applies to verbs with orthographic <au>, not to <a> even when it also represents /A/.)

The following table shows the person and number endings of strong verbs (with "(j)" showing palatal mutation of the stem consonant, as in the above table):

Active Mediopassive Example (to find)
Infinitive -(j)e -et denje denet
1st Sing -a -ande dena denande
2nd Sing -is -iste denis deniste
3rd Sing -e -et dene denet
2nd Formal -eion -(j)unde deneion denjunde
1st Pl -im -àmed denim denàmed
2nd Pl -àse -àsed denàse denàsed
3rd Pl -en -ende denen denende

Weak conjugation

Weak verbs are those whose stem ends in -a. They form the past and future tenses by taking a different set of personal endings, as follows:

Present Past Future Example (to gather)
Active Mediopassive Active Mediopassive Active Mediopassive
Infinitive -ai -at -aunje -aunje -auje -asda ondai ondat
1st Sing -a -ande -an -anjad -au -anjad onda ondande
2nd Sing -as -aste -anis -aniste -aus -ajeste ondas ondaste
3rd Sing -a -at -an -anta -au -asda onda ondat
2nd Formal -aion -ajunde -aneion -anjunde -aujon -ajunde ondaion ondajunde
1st Pl -am -àmed -anim -anàmed -aume -aumed ondam ondàmed
2nd Pl -àse -àsed -anàse -anàsed -ause -aused ondàse ondàsed
3rd Pl -an -ande -en -ande -auna -ande ondan ondande

Mixed conjugation

Mixed verbs are those ending in consonants or clusters other than those of the strong conjugation. All mixed verbs form the present tense like strong verbs, but, depending on what the stem consonant is, might form a weak past or future or both. The following table shows which for each stem consonant, and for those that have either a strong past or future, shows how the stem consonant changes:

Stem Infinitive Past Future
st stj ns Weak
t' c' Weak Weak
m nj nj Weak
nj nj nj Weak
nd nxj Weak Weak
ng nx Weak Weak
nz nsj Weak Weak
l, ll j ll Weak
j j nj Weak
r zj rn Weak
rb rdj Weak rs'
rd rxj Weak rz
rg rx Weak rs'

Note that the stem consonant cannot always be predicted from the infinitive: for instance, an infinitive in -nj may have a stem in m, n or nj.

Note also that for verbs in -ll and -nj, the past tense is the same as the present.

Verbs in -rb, -rd and -rg all form a future infinitive in -rsj.

The verb "to be"

Infinitive tsi
1st Sing tjau(ja)
2nd Sing tsi(s'o)
3rd Sing tsi(to)
2nd Formal jeion / jéinesi
1st Pl tsime(me)
2nd Pl jase(se)
3rd Pl tsina(sa)

Nominal morphology

Articles

Vardeu has two articles, definite and indefinite plural (the latter corresponds to "some" or "many" in English). Both articles are proclitics, shown in writing by joining them to the noun with a hyphen. Both articles change form depending on the noun's case:

Nom/Inst Gen/Abl Dative Acc/All Locative
Definite o- os- oe- on- oa-
Indef. Pl. sa- sas- sai- san- sang-

Notes:

  • The article is always unstressed, so the nominative and dative forms of the definite article are pronounced alike, [O] normally or [w] before a vowel. Indeed, the dative form is often written without the <e>, no matter how much prescriptivists insist that it must be kept!
  • The articles os- and sas- lose the s before another sibilant.
  • In the forms ending in a nasal, the nasal becomes [m] (and is written thus) before a labial, is lost altogether before a lateral, and assimilates to the same point of articulation (but is written <n>) before any other consonant.
  • The locative article oa- becomes o- (pronounced [w]) before a vowel; and sa- becomes s-.
  • In the partitive case, the definite article is o-. Since the partitive has no plural, it never occurs with the indefinite plural article.

Lenition

In nouns beginning with a stop consonant, the consonant lenites when an article is present:

Consonant Lenites to Example
Ejective Unaspirated plosive p' to b
c' dj
Aspirated plosive Unvoiced fricative p to f
Unaspirated plosive Voiced fricative d to ź
Affricate Fricative ts to s

Vocalic declension

Nouns ending in vowels decline in slightly different ways depending on the final vowel. Nouns in -avo are treated separately as these are irregular; many future participles fall into this class.

Stems in: -a -e -o -avo
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative -a -aś -e -eś -o -oś -avo -ausa
Genitive -as -àse -es -èse -os -òse -áos -ausas
Ablative -ara -àsa -era -àsa -ora -òsa -aura -ausara
Dative -e -aia -ie -eia -e -oea -ouje -ause
Accusative -an -án -en -én -on -ón -áun -ausan
Allative -anja -anja -enja -enja -onja -onja -auna -ausanja
Locative -ang -as'a -a -es'a -a -os'a -oua -ausang
Instrumental -aź -aźa -eź -eźa -oź -oźa -avoź -ausaź
Partitive -aion -eion -óen -avion
Subject topic -ad -aśad -ed -eśad -od -ośad -avod -ausad
Object topic -ande -ande -ende -ende -onde -onde -aunde -ausande
Dative topic -aide -aide -iede -eide -oede -oede -ouede -ausaide

Nouns in -aea, -ea or -eo form a dative singular -eie and a dative topic (both singular and plural) -eide. Nouns in -oua form a dative singular -ouje and a dative topic (both singular and plural) -ouede.

Numbers

Pre-Vardeu uses a vigesimal number system:

1 ojo 6 lenjo 11 majenjo 16 kajenjo
2 nja 7 lenwe 12 majenwe 17 kajenwe
3 kaura 8 lenka 13 majenka 18 kajenka
4 t'ia 9 lenxja 14 majenxja 19 kajenxja
5 len 10 majen 15 kajen 20 beia

Personal names

Those names marked with an asterisk are the most common.

  • Male: Ardon, Balenho, Bijanho, Earjon, Jadon, Kaedon, Kaidon, *Keio, *Nordon, *Ordon, Oreston, Tjeldon, Urnillo, Urnos, Xadon, Xòton
  • Female: Amilla, Àmis, Balenha, Bijanha, Boesa, *Eilenja, Èngis, *Ens'a, *Jasa, Jasilla, *Kela, Koema, *K'onja, Milla, Tjèlis, Tsilla, Urna, Urnilla, Xèsa, Xòsa
  • Epicene: Conker, *Delker, *Jèker, *Janker, *Màker, *Orker, *Tjelker, Tselker