Innocence Seekers: The Black Rose – Languages (third post)

This is my third post on the languages of Innocence Seekers: The Black Rose. The focus of this post is on the Likkran languages, of which I have posted very little about. Due to the sheer difficulty in creating new language families from scratch, I don’t have that much to show for it. And, of course, Likkra is home to many language families, some familiar to terrestrials, some alien. Despite the fact that there is a wide variety of languages in Likkra, they have a tendency to share several features, something attributed to language contact.

My most developed Likkran language is Namari. I won’t spare you the details on Namari; you can find it on the wiki. However, as an overview, it is based on Japanese, with several unique sound changes and a divergent grammar. Like Japanese, it is primarily a nominative-accusative SOV language. Another common feature is the existence of both nominal and verbal adjectives (many languages only have one or the other). However, it has many differences from Japanese. The once-powerful honorific system has largely atrophied, with the remnants reforming into a gender system. In some remote dialects, there are signs of noun-verb agreement forming (in Japanese, agent-verb agreement is limited to the desiderative mood, where the first person and third person forms differ, and directionality agreement with a set of verbs meaning “to give”). Namari has far more tense-aspect combinations than Japanese (Namari has 16, while Japanese, in some analyses, may have as few as four). While some English tense-aspect combinations are represented using the same forms in Japanese (the “aorist” represents the present and future; the “perfect” represents the simple past as well as all perfect forms, including the future perfect), there is often a one-to-one correspondence between English and Namari. Many dialects of Namari have a dedicated locative case (Japanese uses the dative or instrumental cases for locatives).

Of course, Namari isn’t the only Likkran language I’ve conceived. So far, I have conceived three other Likkran languages. Guruni, the language of the Guruni people who once ruled Likkra with an iron fist, is a Continental Nodaimic language related to Nodaimese and Treproan. Sema is the language of the Sema people (an indigenous Likkran culture) in the south of the continent; they currently don’t have their own nation, but they dominate the southern provinces of the Kingdom of Likkra and the Kingdom of Namari. Blylandic is a Germanic language, distantly related to English, and is the language of the Blylandic people, who have their own nation, the Republic of Blyland, in the north of the continent. Note that for Guruni and Sema I don’t have much more than a list of numbers for these two languages, and I’ve only fleshed out Blylandic grammar a little bit (I’ve been working on Old Blylandic).

Of course, this is a post on Likkran languages in general, not individual languages. So I’ll mention the areal features. One areal feature is the instrumental dual construction. This quirky construction allows a dual agent to be represented using an instrumental case construction in the singular. This can be found in all four mentioned languages. Guruni has actually gone so far as to merge the nominative dual with the instrumental singular (both are marked with -s), even when other dual forms were lost, and this instrumental dual form remains to this day. In Sema, the instrumental case had fallen out of use, but the nominative dual is still often marked with (the old instrumental singular), which occurs alongside the inherited nominative dual -e (although deye “two” uses only the inherited form). While the case system has partially collapsed in Blylandic, very old texts (dating back to the seventh century) used the old instrumental case (which varied between declensions) as a nominative dual, with the verb being marked as if a second person dual agent was used. By this time, the instrumental case had all but fallen out of use, having merged with the dative in the plural. Later Old Blylandic texts used the preposition mir with the dative in instrumental dual constructions, with the verb being conjugated for the plural form, and it is this form which persists to this day. The instrumental dual in Namari is a bit complicated; the Yaezora dialect uses the instrumental case, as would be expected, but the Chiyohara dialect uses the -ji suffix where the instrumental is -de; Haguya dialect uses -ji for both forms.

Another areal feature is the conflation between the nominative, accusative and genitive cases. All four mentioned languages show signs of conflation between at least two of the cases, if not all three, even though the proto-languages may not have conflated the cases at all. The following lists the general suffixes for the four languages in the singular:

  • Nominative: Namari -∅/-i, Guruni -∅, Sema -a, Blylandic: -∅
  • Accusative: Namari -o, Guruni -e, Sema -a, Blylandic: -∅
  • Genitive: Namari -no/-ga, Guruni: -i, Sema: -ai, Blylandic: -er/-s
  • Dative: Namari: -n/-ni, Guruni: -ep, Sema: -ebi, Blylandic: -∅

In Sema, the nominative and accusative have actually merged, due to the loss of word-final /t/ which also affected Guruni. In Old Namari, the nominative and genitive were normally marked identically, with unique markers only used for disambiguation. In Blylandic, neuter nouns always had identical nominative and accusative forms, but the merger of these two cases was extended to all plural forms and most declensional classes, with only two classes retaining the nominative-accusative distinction. While Guruni retains the distinction between the three cases, confusion between the accusative and genitive forms was recorded as far back as the Second Likkran War in the early 17th century.

The conflation of the three cases has interesting consequences for the syntax of the four languages. Namari actually has ergative-absolutive alignment for the potential voice and for two verbs (with the genitive used as an ergative, and the nominative used as an absolutive), and tripartite alignment for relative clauses (the genitive replaces the nominative in transitive constructions). Predicative adjectives could easily take the argument in the accusative case instead of the nominative, especially if a topic exists (since a standalone topic has the same form as a nominative topic). Sema allows the genitive to be used as an accusative if it is followed directly by a verb. Due to Namari influence, Blylandic can use genitive forms as if they were nominative, to free up word order. In recent times, Guruni has come to rely on apposition and compounding to indicate genitives instead of using the genitive case, and the genitive itself is increasingly used as an accusative.

In summary, the conflations are as follows:

  • Namari: nominative-genitive, nominative-accusative
  • Guruni: accusative-genitive
  • Sema: nominative-accusative, accusative-genitive
  • Blylandic: nominative-accusative, nominative-genitive

That will be all for now.