I’d like to give you a brief introduction to Himmaswa, a language I created many years ago, dropped due to lack of inspiration, and recently revamped.
Himmaswa is one of several languages spoken by a people who live in a vast region of forests, swamps, rivers, lakes, and low hills. It is an analytic language with topic-comment alignment and T/SVO word order. Nouns are not marked for case, number, or gender. Verbs lack any grammatical agreement and clear tense marking, but take a variety of marking for aspect and mood through the use of a set of auxiliary verbs.
To start out with I will outline only the phonology and orthography, and follow with other grammatical features later on.PhonologyConsonants
Himmaswa has 18 consonants, 19 including the glottal stop. The consonant inventory is as follows:
The glottal stop is predictable in its appearance before initial vowels and will thus be left out of transcriptions.
Additionally, many consonants followed by /i/ vowels become slightly palatalized, particularly /ʧ/ and /ʤ/, which are palatalized to /ʨ/ and /ʥ/ respectively.Vowels
Himmaswa has a fairly complex vowel system. There are 38 vowels, diphthongs and triphthongs. Several types of phonation occur in vowels: length, rhotacization, creaky voice, breathy voice, and rounding, however, they are in many cases non-phonemic.
Some general rules of vowel phonation:
- length is always accompanied by a change in vowel quality, rhotation, or creaky voice.
- rhotation is always accompanied by length and generally by creaky voice.
- creaky voice does not occur in close vowels or front vowels.
- rounding/unrounding is phonemic, but only occurs in the two open-mid vowels.
- breathy voice is always phonemic.
The following is a comprehensive chart of all vowels:
Because of the three-way differentiation of open-mid rounded vowels, in some dialects /ɔ/ is raised to /o/. In other dialects, /ɔ̰/ retains the more archaic diphthongal pronunciation /ɑʊ̯/. Similarly, /ɚː/ is in some dialects rendered as /əː/ or /ɘː/, while in others it is merged with /ɚ̰ː/. Some dialects also merge the diphthongs /æɪ̯/ and /a̰ɪ̯/.Syllable Structure
Himmaswa syllable structure is (C)(C)V(C)
Only nasals and voiceless stops may come syllable-finally, though in compounds voiceless stops sometimes become voiced or undergo other changes.
The initial consonant cluster may contain a wide variety of consonant combinations. The primary restrictions on initial consonant clusters are:
- two nasals never appear together
- two fricatives never appear together
- geminates never appear
- stops never appear with stops of the same articulation point
- nasals never appear as the second consonant when they are of the same articulation point as the initial consonant
- /f/ never appears as the second consonant
- when /j/ and /w/ appear as the first consonant in a cluster, or when nasals are followed by a stop of a different articulation point, an extra-short /ə̆/ is generally inserted between the consonants.
Voiced and unvoiced pairs may appear together, e.g. /pdal/ ‘courtyard’.Orthography
Himmaswa is written primarily in a logographic script called Fkeuswa. (There is also a phonetic script, Fkeumgerswa, which is based heavily on Southeast Asian scripts and thus seems vaguely out of place in a conworld. I may introduce it later). Fkeuswa characters may contain both semantic and phonetic elements. There is at least one semantic element present in every character, be it a pictograph, ideograph, or conceptual radical, but many do not contain any sort of phonetic indicator. Phonetic elements for the most part only reflect the pronunciation of the initial consonant or consonant cluster, but in some cases may give a more complete indication of the pronunciation.
/jøœ̯t̚/ 'cattle' is a pictograph of a bull’s head, and contains no phonetic element.
/na̰ː/ 'to restrict; to limit' comprises two radicals with no phonetic element:
'a cover' and
/wʊɪ/ 'to remain; to be unfinished' comprises one semantic radical and one phonetic element which indicates only the initial consonant:
'a container' and
/wat̚/ 'to replace; instead of'
/tɾœk̚/ 'to know' comprises one semantic radical and one phonetic element:
'mind; thought; logic' and
/ɡœm/ 'region; zone; area' comprises two radicals and one full character used semantically, with no phonetic element:
/ɲɑ̰˞ː/ 'ground; earth; dirt' (abbreviated)
Because of the thickness of the strokes, characters are often simplified or abbreviated when compounded.
This may be a minor simplification, such as in the following character:
/daŋ/ 'therefore' is made up of the radicals
'a body; a stem' and
'ground; support' and the phonetic complement
Sometimes, abbreviation may remove a significant portion of the character:
/ʤɡʊt̚/ 'rain' comprises the semantic radical
(× 3) 'several small objects' and
/kiɔ̯n/ 'thunder; lightning' also employs this abbreviated form of 'sky' with
/kœ̰ɔ̯ŋ/ 'to go' serving as a phonetic complement.
More than one character may be abbreviated in this way:
/ʊp̚/ 'mud' is made up of
/əɪŋ/ 'water' and
/ɲɑ̰˞ː/ 'ground; earth; dirt', both as abbreviated semantic elements.
Simplification sometimes takes on a more extreme form, making the original character all but unrecognizable.
/sɑ̰˞ː/ 'place; spot' is a compound of
/tkuːk̚/ 'noble' and
/əɪ̯t̚/ 'pedestal; what'
/pnɪ̤ç/ 'thing; item; object' is a nearly unrecognizable compound of
'a lid' and the phonetic complement
/pni̤ə̯/ 'to meet', which itself is a heavily simplified compound of the radicals
'ground; support' and
/ɡsəɪ̯/ 'to come together; to gather'
That's all for now.