Old Daevite Language
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A Note on Daevite Linguistics

The study of the languages spoken by the Daevites is very much unique in the field of historical linguistics. Many aspects of Daevite culture, their language included, were seemingly developed completely independently from any other culture known to us. As such, the Old Daevite language is remarkably different from all of its neighbours, and is classified as a linguistic isolate1.

Regardless, many historical isolates are known and studied by modern linguistics. The most major difference between Daevite and other languages is the way in which the language evolved over time. Much like other aspects of Daevite culture, their language changed and diverged remarkably little over its long written history2.

Historical Daevite inscriptions are generally divided, somewhat arbitrarily, into the following four languages:

Old Daevite Includes the earliest Daevite materials available to us,
and all inscriptions until the destruction and annexation
of the neighbouring Sarkic state at approximately 1000 BCE.
Middle Daevite Includes Daevite materials written after 1000 BCE and before
the fracturing of the Daevite state at approximately 200 CE.
Late Daevite Includes Daevite inscriptions dating after 200 CE and before
the end of Daevite independence at approximately 1300 CE.
Neo-Daevite Includes Daevite-language materials produced after the end
of Daevite independence by remaining native speaker groups.

This document aims to constitute a modern introduction to the Old Daevite language specifically, which is of particular interest to the Foundation due to the many records written in it discussing early Sarkicism and the Xia Anomalous Culture Group.

Phonology

Due to the fact Old Daevite is an extinct language, its exact pronunciation remains unknown. However, a theoretical realization of the following phonemes has been inferred from transliterations of Daevite words into neighbouring languages.

Vowels

Front Back
Close i /i/ u /u/
Mid e /e/ o /o/
Open a /a/ á /ɒ/

The following diphthongs3 are attested:

Initial a Initial e Initial i
Final u au /a͡u/ eu /e͡u/
Final o ao /a͡o/ io /i͡o/
Final á eá /e͡ɒ/ iá /i͡ɒ/
Final e ae /a͡e/
Final i ai /a͡i/

Consonants

Labial Alveolar Post-Alveolar Velar Uvular
Nasal m /m/ n /n/
Stop p /p/ b /b/ t /t/ d /d/ k /k/ g /g/
Ejective Stop ṭ /tʼ/ ḳ /kʼ/
Fricative f /ɸ/ s /s/ z /z/ š /ʃ/ x /x/ h /ħ/
Approximant v /ʋ/ r /ɹ/
Lateral l /l/

Phonotactics

The following phonotactical rules apply in Old Daevite:

  • The maximum syllable is CVCC.
  • Gemination4 is only allowed for nasals and stops.
  • Ejective consonants are not allowed in consonant clusters. If a consonant clusters with an ejective, the consonant is deleted.
  • Voiceless non-ejective stops become aspirated when at the end of a word.

Grammar

Grammatical Gender

Quite unusually for a language of Siberia, Old Daevite possessed a thorough grammatical gender (or noun-class) system. This system affected pluralization as well as verb conjugation. The genders of the Daevite system are as follows:

Leading / Open-Form Conceptual / Coda-Form Animate / A-Form Inanimate / B-Form
Mostly used for rulers, leaders, driving forces in the material world, and occasionally other nouns when they are the subject of a sentence. These nouns usually, though not always, include an open vowel (á or a) in their final syllable. Used for ideas, religious concepts, numbers, and other such things which cannot be physically interacted with. A large amount of these nouns end with nasals or stops. Used for physical objects which are alive to some degree, such as humans, animals, and plants. These nouns rarely have unifying features that distinguish them from nouns with other genders. Used for physical objects which are not alive, such as rocks, tools, and various materials. These nouns rarely have unifying features that distinguish them from nouns with other genders.
Examples:
Potniá "Slave-Owner"
Urdal "King"
Examples:
Tivik "One"
Heug "Spirit"
Examples:
Leux "Child"
Hiz "Tree"
Examples:
Hiázai "Tongue"5
Šeg "Rock"

Noun and adjective declension

Old Daevite possessed three grammatical numbers - a singular, a plural, and, interestingly, a null or "zero" number not found in any other language of the region. As an example:

Singular Plural Null
Ḳast Ḳastau Mazḳast
"One fruit" "Many fruits" "No fruits"

The singular number is always unmarked. However, nouns in the plural and null numbers are marked with an affix that denotes their number and gender, as is any adjective referring to them. These declensions are as follows:

Leading Conceptual Animate Inanimate
Singular
Plural -(t)6a -(t)in -(t)en (t)au
Null maz-

Possession is, in turn, managed by a completely separate set of suffixes which are marked on the possessee and change according to the gender and person of the possessor. If a plural noun is the possessee, these suffixes are added following the plural suffix.

1st Person 2nd Person 3rd Person
Singular -fai -lok -sae
Plural -feut -láket -saed
Null -šu

Finally, there exists a simple adjectivizer prefix, á-, which may be used to transform any noun into an adjective. In case of the noun being adjectivized having adjectives itself, those adjectives are also marked with the prefix. For example:

Noun Adjective
Kaes "mountain" Ákaes "mountainous"
Disat "three" Ádisat "third"

Stop Mutation

Old Daevite included a unique system of stop mutation, based on the relative social standing of the speaker and the listener. This system was not considered to be simple allophony, but rather a core and grammatical part of the language, as is evidenced by these mutations being reflected in the Daevite writing system.

Daevite stop mutation involved shifting all stops in speech to a differet set if the listener was of significantly higher or lower social rank. These two sets being referred to as the High Register and the Low Register respectively, and are contrasted by the neutral Base Register.

Base Register High Register Low Register
b p b
d t d
g k g
p p b
t d
k g
t
k

As an example, the sentence "the king closed the door":

Hios satoku urdal

Would be realized in the High Register as:

Hios saṭoḳu urtal

And in the Low Register as:

Hios sadogu urdal

Verb Conjugation

Verb conjugation in Old Daevite was somewhat complex, with each verb having 50 unique forms based on its number, tense, person, and gender.

The two tenses of Old Daevite were the Future and the Non-Future. The Non-Future was unmarked, while the Future was marked in the Animate, Conceptual, and Leading genders by the suffix -ge. In the Inanimate, this changed to -ke.

The Null number was marked, in both tenses, by the prefix maz-. No person or gender information was encoded in this number.

The person of the verb was encoded using the first consonant of a prefix attached to the verb. For the 1st Person, this consonant was a t, while for the 2nd and 3rd Persons, it was a x and a s respectively.

The vowel of this prefix was determined by both the person and the number of the verb. For the 1st and 2nd Persons, the vowel was i in the Singular and u in the Plural. For the 3rd Person, this vowel was a in the Singular and á in the Plural.

Finally, gender was encoded a few different ways. In the Animate, this was by not attaching any prefix in the Singular 1st Person, and attaching unmarked prefixes in the other conjugations. In the Inanimate, unmarked prefixes are added, and the first consonant of the base verb is geminated if possible.

In the Conceptual, a r is added to the end of the prefix. For verbs in the Leading gender, prefixes are unmarked, while the first vowel of the base verb undergoes a process of mutation wherein it is replaced by a more open vowel. As a and á are completely open vowels, they are unaffected, as are any diphthongs.

Base Vowel Replaced With
i e
u o
e a
o á
a a
á á

To illustrate, various conjugations of the verb nuxe "to eat" and their translations are presented below.

Nuxe "She/He ate", or "She/He is eating"
Nuxege "She/He will eat"
Tinnuxeke "It will eat"
Maznuxe "Nobody ate" or "Nobody is eating"
Maznuxege "Nobody will eat"

Syntax

The general order of sentences and verb phrases in Old Daevite was Object-Verb-Subject. Adjectives were always placed before the nouns they refer to. Somewhat due to the complete lack of any noun cases, this word order was extremely rigid, and materials deviating from it are rare and tend to be much shorter works produced by the lower classes.

It is notable that whenever one is talking of a noun belonging to the Leading gender, it was considered disrespectful to place it in any position in the sentence bar the Subject, in order to maintain their agency. This is reflected in how the Daevites describe both Leading-gender persons or forces they approve of, and those they disapprove of.

Old Daevite completely lacked any form of copula7. In order to state equivalence between two nouns, a speaker simply placed one as the object and one as the subject of the sentence. As this carries no tense information, any change of this relationship over time must be specified using an additional sentence.

Old Daevite employed postpositions. Positional phrases were generally placed before their subject, much like adjectives.

Vocabulary

Pronouns

Leading Conceptual Animate Inanimate
1st Person Singular tai nau tau
2nd Person Singular ṭaḳá namḳa tuza
3rd Person Singular tintau naxiá taniá surau
1st Person Plural taiai xunau xutá
2nd Person Plural ḳuṭa xunma xuxe
3rd Person Plural tixtiá naxau taosa suxrau
Null mazšu

The Null pronoun was primarily used to refer to the nouns the speaker was unaware of. This was particularly useful for forming questions, although the restrictive nature of the pronoun meant Old Daevite questions only accepted nouns as answers, and questions were always phrased appropriately for that restriction. As an example:

Mazšu xinuxe tuza?

What did you eat?8

Demonstrative pronouns9 were formed by adding a demonstrative suffix, -ne, to the end of any existing pronoun.

Nouns

Ṭao A Human Sacrifice
Giáh A Person
Raex A Religious Sacrifice
Teá Beast, Predatory Animal
Reg Bird
Mašai Blood
Kae Body
Adv Book
Peuv Bronze
Leux Child
Neuh Citizen
Pádn City
Daev A Daeva
Hezhum Desolation, Destruction
Vaduk Dominion, Sovereignty
Hios Door
Dauhk Fire
Ḳast Fruit
Peá God, Deity
Zeu Grass
Ṭaulo Grave
Teán Head
Taef Heart
Vaon Home
Kiáth Horse
Urdal King, Monarch
Ner Lack
Maopt Leaf
Kifenn Longing
Kaes Mountain
Tivik One
Aidr Palace
Kao River
Baox Road
Iohk Road
Nelk Sarkite
Ḳun Slave
Deág Soldier
Heug Spirit, Lesser Deity
Geát Stone
Daošre Thief, Intruder
Hiázai Tongue
Hisp Tree
Tiálḳ War
Ṭeukm Weapon
Ba Wrath

Verbs

Tiḳá To Battle
Paba To Be Wroth
Pove To Call, to Term
Toku To Close
Dáṭe To Command
Mauš To Cover In Blood
Tuṭá To Cut
Hezu To Destroy
Musu To Die
Tiha To Do
Nuxe To Eat
Ḳofá To Enslave
Duhau To Light On Fire
Giho To Force, to Make (a Thing Do Something)
Ḳefe To Place
Naḳa To Rule
Ganu To Set, to Mark
Raxka To Sacrifice
Gusá To Send
Ṭofi To Stab, to Strike

Adjectives

Iárx Black
Tairx Blue
Murx Green
Beulae Old, Ancient
Vihe Shining
Baih Weak
Taiš White

Function Words

Ṭá In, At
Meš No, None, Not
Towards
Maixe Here

The Writing System

The writing system of Old Daevite was an abugida10, written top to bottom, left to right. This is due to the script originally developing as a method of writing on trees, although due to their organic nature, few inscriptions in this medium are available for modern study.

Consonant Notation

Consonants are marked in a downwards line within each word. Words are then separated by a designated word separator.

Word Separator WordSeparator.png

A list of the different consonant letters is available below, next to their romanization.

ConsonantTable.png

Vowel Notation

Vowels were marked using three different symbols, each corresponding to a degree of vowel openness, which could be placed on either side of the consonant line based on frontness. This featural system provided an easy way to mark all 6 base vowels of Old Daevite.

VowelTable.png

In case of a word beginning with a vowel, vowel markings were placed on the word separator that preceded it.

Finally, in order to mark diphthongs, two vowel marks were graphically joined to each other. This was done without significant modification when the two marks are on the same side of the consonantal line. However, when they were on opposite sides, a horizontal connector extended between them.

If the following consonant was a coda of the syllable, then the second vowel mark took the place normally taken by the vowel of an onset consonant. In case of the following consonant being an onset of a separate syllable, it is pushed downwards.

Sample Text

Text found on the empty Tomb of Duvtaen, thought to be a Daevonian general from a fragmented period in Daevite civilization.

Ádaevavaon deág tai. Ṭeukmsae tai. Duvtaen tai. Ápádnfeut leux xipove tai.

Tiálḳ eá tai sagosá pádnfeut. Teátenen tihazu11. Komitenen tiḳáfá.

Tiálḳ ṭá timosu tai. Maixe ṭaulofai sákefe deágenfai. Daošre saṭáfige ápádnfeut ba.

I am a soldier of Daevon. I am its weapon. I am Duvtaen. I am called (by you) Child of our City.

Our city sent me to war. I destroyed many12 beasts. I enslaved many Komians13.

I died in war. My soldiers set my grave here. The wrath of our city will strike at any intruder.

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