Saturday, September 1, 2018

Kevarya: Kevaryese Language

Image description: a pair of eyeglasses resting on and magnifying a handwritten alphabet in medieval-style calligraphy.

I'm a bit of a language nerd. (If you know me in real life, you're probably rolling your eyes and calling that an understatement.) And now, like J.R.R. Tolkien before me, I have combined my passion for languages with my passion for fantasy worldbuilding and writing to create a fantasy language of my very own! And now you lovely readers get to experience firsthand how deep the rabbit hole goes. Here's a page full of information on the structure of this fictional language that only I know!

Skip to the "Common Phrases" section if you just want to learn some cool made-up words without getting bogged down in linguistics jargon.

Ver ath Kevarya allai!


KEVARYESE LANGUAGE


Kevaryese (/kɛvɑ:r’jɛzə/) is the primary language of the kingdom of Kevarya. It is a creole language derived from the languages of the two major ethnic groups of Kevarya, the Khasakan and the Slane. The two peoples are said to have been magically “forged” together into the new nation of Kevarya the moment King Talga fe Danaiye called down lightning from the sky to forge the Kevaryese crown. However, given the nature of language, the formation of Kevaryese was more likely to have occurred gradually, over a long period of time, as evidenced by records written in Kevaryese that predate King Talga’s birth. In fact, the shared language was one of the main factors in unifying the two groups, allowing trade, intermarriage, and cultural exchange.

The Kevaryese people place great importance on their language, as they believe that words are sacred and can create and alter reality itself. This is deeply-rooted in their national and cultural identity, and the words Kevarya and Kevaryese themselves come from the phrase ke var, meaning “we created ourselves through speech” by way of the verb kai, “to speak into existence.” Their philosophy is descriptive rather than prescriptive; linguistic innovation is encouraged and considered the highest form of creativity. One demonstration of this linguistic flexibility—and one of the most confusing political subtleties to outsiders—is the title of King Mathylde fa Normonne, the current reigning monarch and the first woman to take the throne. In Kevaryese, she is called Valai, literally “she reigns,” while the standard term is the masculine Velai. Her title is occasionally mistranslated as Queen, but in Kevaryese that title designates a consort (yvelai, “with the King”). To distinguish herself as a woman who is King, Mathylde took the title of Valai. Properly translated, she is the King.


ALPHABET


The Kevaryese alphabet has 23 letters, of which 6 are vowels and 17 are consonants. Words are written from left to right in a cursive script. Double letters such as DD and NN are created by combining the original letter with its horizontal reflection across the center line of the word; the only exceptions are LL and RR, which are written as two letters in a row. A vertical bar ( | ) is used as punctuation between sentences, although a line break may also be used in a shorter text.

PHONOLOGY


Vowels:
A - /ɑː/ (long A)
AI - /aɪ/ (long I)
E - /ɛ/ (short E) or /ə/ (schwa) at the end of words and names
I - /ɪ/ (short I) or /iː/ (long E)
O - /oʊ/ (long O)
Y - /iː/ (long E)

Rhotic:
AR - /ɑːr/
AIR - /aɪər/
ER - /ɛər/
IR - /ɪər/
OR - /ɔər/
YR - /ɪər/

Dipthongs:
OY - /ɔɪ/
EI - /eɪ/

Note: When transliterating foreign names and loan words, /uː/ becomes /oʊ/ and /æ/ becomes /aː/.

Consonants:
B - /b/
D - /d/
F - /f/
G - /g/
K - /k/
L - /l/
M - /m/
N - /n/
P - /p/
R - /r/
S - /s/ or /z/
SH - /ʃ/
T - /t/
TH - /tʰ/ (aspirated T)
CH - /tʃ/
V - /v/
Y - /j/ (written with a different character than the vowel Y)
NY - /ɲ/

Marginal segments:
/ʔ/ - glottal stop between two consecutive repeated vowel sounds

MORPHOLOGY


VERB INFLECTION
There are two verb inflection patterns in Kevaryese, the -AI and -AR. Both are inflected for tense (past, present, or future), number (singular or plural), and mood (imperative, subjunctive/conditional, or necessitive), except in the future tense, in which no distinction is made between singular and plural. Additionally, the subjunctive and necessitive moods are inflected the same way in both -AI and -AR verbs.

AI VERBS
Present singular: /STEM/ + ai (/aɪ/) 
Present plural: /STEM/ + a (/a:/) 
Past singular: /STEM/ + y (/ɪ/) 
Past Plural: /STEM/ + e (/ɛ/) 
Future: /STEM/ + o (/oʊ/) 
Imperative singular: /STEM/ + aivye (/aɪvjɛ/) 
Imperative plural: /STEM/ + aver (/a:vɛər/) 
Subjunctive singular: /STEM/ + ei (/eɪ/)
Subjunctive plural: /STEM/ + eiyi (/’eɪji:/)
Necessitive singular: /STEM/ + oy (/ɔɪ/)
Necessitive plural: /STEM/ + oyi (/’ɔɪji:/), sometimes transliterated as oyyi

AR VERBS
Present singular: /STEM/ + ar (/a:r/) 
Present plural: /STEM/ + air (/aɪər/) 
Past singular: /STEM/ + yr (/ɪər/) 
Past Plural: /STEM/ + er (/ɛər/) 
Future: /STEM/ + or (/ɔər/)
Imperative singular: /STEM/ + arvye (/a:rvjɛ/) 
Imperative plural: /STEM/ + airver (/aɪərvɛər/) 
Subjunctive singular: /STEM/ + ei (/eɪ/)
Subjunctive plural: /STEM/ + eiyi (/’eɪji:/)
Necessitive singular: /STEM/ + oy (/ɔɪ/)
Necessitive plural: /STEM/ + oyi (/’ɔɪji:/), sometimes transliterated as oyyi

GENDER
Kevaryese is a language that employs grammatical gender. Nouns have masculine, feminine, and/or neutral forms; there are also different 3rd person singular pronouns to indicate masculine, feminine, and neutral nouns. Verbs are not inflected for gender, but adjectives are.

DERIVATIONAL MORPHOLOGY
Verb → noun: /STEM/ + a (for AI verbs only; AR verbs can be used as nouns in the infinitive)
Noun → verb: /STEM/ + ai (AI verbs only)
Ex. kalai, to want → kala, desire or wish; sandar, to weave → sanda, (woven) cloth
Noun → adjective: Suffix: -n (masc.), -an (alt. masc.), -na (fem.), -anna (alt. fem.)
Ex. tak, iron → takan/na, iron-red; nate, humor or amusement → natan/na, funny
Verb → adjective: /STEM/ + an/anna
Adjective → noun: replace suffix -an/anna with -a
Adjective → adverb: replace suffix -an/anna with -en
Ex. kalapan, kalapanna, hungry → kalapen, hungrily
One who Xs (e.g. paint → painter): Suffix: -ye (masc.), y (alt. masc.), -ya (fem.), -yese (pl.)
Ex. mar, to fight → mary, marya, soldier or fighter
Accusative/Object of X (e.g. to love→ beloved): Suffix: -d /d/ or -dda /da:/
Ex. kai, to create through the Word → kaid, kaidda, creation (being that is created)
Place where (e.g. wine → winery): Suffix: -ya /jaː/
Ex. far, to sell → farya, marketplace
Diminutive: Suffix: -sha /ʃaː/
Ex. va, woman → vasha, girl; velai, King (m.) → velaisha, prince
Augmentative: Suffix: -ra /raː/
Ex. aya, water → (a)yara, ocean (lit. “great water”)
Plural Inflection: Suffix: -i /i/, -chi /tʃi/
Negative Inflection: Suffix: -nya /nja:/, -nyese /njɛz/

SYNTAX


Subject-object-verb structure. Adjectives are usually placed after the noun which they modify, but this is not always the case. Question words are placed at the end of the sentence and are spoken with a rising-pitch inflection.

Time is indicated by an adverb or adverb phrase placed at the beginning of the sentence, with which the verb must be in agreement. Other adverbs and adverb phrases are placed before the verb that they modify. Adverb phrases are generally much more common than adverb words, and adverbs are rarely directly derived from adjectives.

COMMON PHRASES


Allai (/ɑː’laɪ/) - Hello, welcome; literally "(I) greet (you)"

Kiallei (/ki:ɑː’leɪ/) - Goodbye; literally "may (I) greet (you) again"

Kai vy... (/kaɪ vi/) - My name is...; literally "I name myself..." Kevaryese culture insists that each introduction of a person's name is a reaffirmation of its validity. See notes on the verb kai.

Kai vye vod? (/kaɪ vjɛ voʊd/) - What is your name?; literally, “What do you call yourself?”

Nya (/ɲɑː/) - No (as interj.); literally “false,” also used as a suffix to indicate negation of a verb

Ar (/ɑːr/) - Yes (as interj.); literally “it is (true),” used to affirm the truth of a statement

Vye dai (/vjɛ daɪ/) - (I) thank you (alt. forms: ver dai, vye da, ver da)

Kevaryese yv agni kar (/kɛva:r’jɛzə i:v ‘a:gni: ka:r/) - (I) only speak a little Kevaryese; literally “I speak Kevaryese like the birds”

[Ye] korrai kofai y fari ro? (/jɛ ‘kɔəraɪ ‘koʊfaɪ i ‘fɑːri roʊ/) - How much does [this thing] cost?

Ath [ya] korrai ai ko? (/aːtʰ ja ‘kɔəraɪ aɪ k/) - How do I get to [this place]?

Ka var yv varya talga (/kɑ: vɑ:r i:v 'vɑ:rjɑ: tɑ:l'gɑ:/) - We create ourselves as we forge our nation; official motto of the kingdom of Kevarya

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