Loanwords II. Waldaiic, Celtic and others
Nothing is ever simple.
Waldaiic is a branch of Indo-European languages spoken in large parts of eastern and northeastern Europe. Its notable members include, from northeast to southwest, Ethiynic (spoken roughly between the rivers Volga and Daugava), Bhaltic (between Daugava and Vistula), Cherric (between Vistula and Elbe), Undavan and Elbic (south of Cherric). The first attempts to reconstruct the unattested Proto-Waldaiic language were undertaken in the late 19th century.
A rare picture of Jack Nodwhich (left) and Egon Ekbert Schrejber (right) at a meeting of the Waldaiischer Conversations-Bund (Waldaiic Conversational Bunch). Click to enlarge and note the logo on the hatbands. The identity of the moustached man facing the camera remains a mystery.
All present-day Waldaiic languages, as well as Volgan, Suomish, Magyarian, Basque, and the Celtic languages except Danubian, are written in the Waldaiic alphabet, which is the third major European script besides Greek and Lemizh. To spare our readers learning another writing system, we will use the Roman transliteration devised by German linguist Egon Ekbert Schrejber. It is straightforward for vowels (except for Ethiynic which will be described further down); consonants are denoted as follows:
|Voiceless plosives/affricates||p||t||c /t͜s/||k|
|Voiced plosives/affricates||b||d||j /d͜z/||g|
|Voiceless aspirates/affricates||ph||th||č /t͜ʃ, t͜ç/||kh|
|Voiced aspirates/affricates||bh||dh||ǰ /d͜ʝ/||gh|
|Voiceless fricatives||f||þ /θ/||š /ʃ, ɕ/||x|
|Voiced fricatives||v||ð||ž /ʒ/||ɣ|
|Other voiceless sounds||s||hl /ɬ/||hr /r̥/||h|
|Other voiced sounds||z||l||r|
(Schrejber originally wanted to use ß for /s/ and s for /z/, and ß̌ and š for /ʃ, ɕ/ and /ʒ/, respectively; but this proposal was met with general disbelief.)
Glides are written with the vowel letters i and u.
The protolanguage was probably spoken during the late third millennium BC in the Middle East and is classified as a satem language, meaning that Proto-Indo-European velar and labiovelar plosives merged while palatals stayed distinct.
Old Lemizh has loaned some scattered words from Proto-Waldaiic, such as warndzi‑ ‘rice’, shark‑ ‘gravel’, gword‑ ‘rose’, and gweshsh‑ ‘trick’ (from the PWald word for ‘birdlime’).
Phonology of Proto-Waldaiic
Proto-Waldaiic shortened PIE *a and *o and simplified diphthongs, resulting in a nearly regular vowel inventory *a *e *i *o *u, *ā *ē *ī *ō *ū, *ö, with the latter not only being the reflex of *eu̯ but also preserving a trace of the labiovelars – it is the outcome of *e after *kʷ *gʷ *gʷʰ. The two diphtongs, *au *ei, do not continue the PIE ones but are reflexes of earlier *ab(h)/aph *eg(h)/ekh, respectively.
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The following consonants are reconstructed:
|Other voiceless sounds||*s||*h|
|Other voiced sounds||*l||*r|
The recostruction of a consonant inventory with voiceless and voiced aspirates, and voiced, but not voiceless, plain plosives is a matter of ongoing dispute. A number of scholars argue that it is highly unlikely for a language to have only marked (voiced and aspirated) sounds but no corresponding plain ones, as such a system would quickly collapse into a simpler, less marked, one. Schrejber usually responded to such criticism with snide comments about German and English aspiration of voiceless plosives.
Proto-Waldaiic had mobile accent; whether stress or pitch is unclear.
The PIE palatals *k̑ *g̑ *g̑ʰ developed into *š(ž) *j *ǰ, respectively. The most famous diachronic development is the ruki-rule: after *r *r̥ *u *u̯ *k̑ *k *i *i̯, the sibilants *s *z became *š *ž.
We cite Proto-Waldaiic verbs in the first person singular present indicative active, which had the ending *‑o in thematic and *‑mi in athematic verbs.
The citation form of nouns is the nominative singular, which typically ended in *‑as for thematic masculine and *‑a for thematic feminine and neuter nouns. Athematic nouns continued the PIE *‑s either as *‑s or as *‑š, unless they were endingless due to Szemerényi’s law.
- Mr Jay Poll and Emir Cornbread (1997, 2002). The Waldaiic Languages. Dearborn & Routledge.
x-pl) is a Waldaiic language spoken in a small area of the Krkonoše or Giant Mountains, near the source of the river Elbe. For our purposes, we are however interested in Old Elbic, which spanned a considerably larger area – from the Baltic region to the Rhine – for a short time around 200 BC during the height of the Elbic Empire.
The Old Elbic vowels were a e i o u, with no contrast between short and long ones. The consonants are:
|Voiceless plosives||t||c /t͜s/||k|
|Voiced plosives||b||d||j /d͜z/||g|
|Voiceless aspirates||č /t͜ʃ/|
|Voiceless fricatives||f||š /ʃ/||x|
|Other voiceless sounds||s||h|
|Other voiced sounds||l||r|
- Simon Clewzeezenkin (1985). History of the Elbic Language. National Scientific Publishers PWN.
Ethiynic (also ‘Ethijnic’ following the German spelling), endonym Eþījnu, is spoken in northeastern Europe, roughly between Lemaria and Suomi.
Modern Lemizh loans include financial terms.
Phonology and orthography
Ethiynic has a complex vowel inventory based on the five standard vowels, which are pronounced differently when unstressed, stressed, stressed and long, or stressed, long and nasalised. Each vowel has a corresponding diphthong; these only occur in stressed positions, and are never nasalised. The following table shows Schrejber’s (German-based) orthography and the pronunciations.
|unstressed (a etc.)||stressed (á etc.)||long (ā etc.)||nasalised (ã etc.)|
* Schrejber’s self-flattering attitude is well known.
Here is the consonant inventory.
|Voiceless affricate||c /t͜s/|
|Voiced plosives/affricates||b*||d*||j /d͜z/||g*|
|Voiceless aspirates/affricates||th||č /t͜ç/||kh|
|Voiced aspirates/affricates||bh||dh||ǰ /d͜ʝ/||gh|
|Voiceless fricatives||f||þ||š /ɕ/||x|
* The plain plosives, written b d g, are voiced in most positions but have voiceless variants in word-initial position and before other voiceless consonants.
|Other voiceless sounds||hl||hr|
|Other voiced sounds||l||r|
- Ms Rapturous* (2005). The Ethiynic Language. Ethiynic Institute.
* also a pseudonym
Uyquaritan is an undeciphered and most likely non-Indo-European language that flourished around the 4th/5th centuries BC in northeastern Asia Minor, and for some reason was written in an early form of the Waldaiic script, with an abundance of diacritics and an additional letter transcribed as ʜ. In Roman transliteration, some letters are written differently from Schrejber to avoid stacking of diacritics (č → ʧ, ǰ → ʤ, ň → ɲ, š → ʃ, ž → ʒ), although this convention makes Uyquaritan texts hardly easier to read. To prove the point, here is the penultimate line from the so-called Ode to ‘Ŋā (although scholars disagree whether this poem is actually addressed at somebody called ‘Ŋā):
õtaim̃ yo pǐr̯amiȷ̈̃ ǟz xõrẍe łvis v̟ǒr̀xes̊ eɣrāps’
Almost needless to say, many linguists have attempted to decipher this language, variously claiming genetic relationships to Boolean, Babylonian, Persian, and even Chinese. Jack Nodwhich has the honour of being the only linguist to actually admit his failure.
This language does not seem to have had any influence on Lemizh whatsoever, unless of course Uyquaritan was the source of the Late Middle Lemizh principle of relativity, which is however mere speculation, if not a hoax.
Further reading (selection)
- Bertha R. Quine (2004). Linear Logic in Language Decipherment: The Proof that Uyquaritan is an East Semitic Language. Cambridge University Press.
- Ariadne Menard (1972). Uyquaritan Seals Deciphered: A Mandarin Deer. Kessinger.
- Jack Nodwhich (1958). I couldn’t decipher this language. Cambridge University Press.
All living Celtic languages are descentants of the Insular Celtic subbranch (consisting of Brittonic, Gödelic, and Aballoic) which is, among other features, distinguished by word-initial consonant mutations; the other (‘Continental’) Celtic languages died out in antiquity. The domain of the Brittonic languages is southern Britain (British and Welsh), Scandinavia (Scadian), Jutland (Danish) and Iceland (Eylandic), while Gödelic is spoken in northern Britain (Scottish) and Ireland (Irish), and the only extant Aballoic language is Danubian in central Europe.
The common ancestor of the Celtic languages was spoken around 1000 BC in central Europe, most likely by the people of the Urnfield culture (c. 1300–750).
Phonology of Proto-Celtic
The vowels a e i o u occurred short and long, with the exception of o, which was always short. And here are the consonants:
|Plosives||*b||*t • *d||*k • *g||*kʷ • *gʷ|
- Holger Pedersen (1913). Vergleichende Grammatik der keltischen Sprachen [Comparative Grammar of the Celtic Languages]. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
- Ranko Matasović (2008). Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Brill.
Beskidic (endonym Skid; the prefix Be- is probably from the Magyarian locative adverb) was a Celtic language from the Beskid Mountains that became extinct in the late 15th or early 16th century. The closest living relative is Danubian (endonym Θανυ̨χ), spoken in the Alps and surrounding lowlands.
The main source of Celtic loans in Early New Lemizh is the Tlöngö̀l, which Ramo littered with Beskidic musical terms and words relating to other arts, tree names, and some others such as proxykxa < proxɨkx ‘badger’. Linguist and professional dancer Ida Yana Nash elucidated the intricate but ultimately pointless concepts behind the Beskidic words in the Tlöngö̀l.
Beskidic had eight vowels, a ä å e i ɨ o u, all of which occurred in short and long versions.
Lenition is the change of a consonant after a vowel. Epenthetic ɨ (as in the word for ‘badger’ above) did not give rise to lenition. The pattern of changes was as follows:
|Liquids||l→ł /ɫ/, r→ŕ /ɹ/|
|Plosives||p→b||t→d||k→g • g→ɣ||ʼ→/h/|
* ń was pronounced the same as n but written with a different letter; the difference is purely etymological.
† lengthening of the preceding vowel
Beskidic had no words beginning with a vowel. If the first letter of a word was a vowel letter, it actually began with an [h]: mo åbn [moˈhɒbn̩] ‘my lamb’. The un-lenited form of ‘lamb’ began with a glottal stop: ʼåbn [ˈʔɒbn̩]. An initial vowel sound caused a word to merge with the preceding one: yɨx ‘liver’ → mōɨx ‘my liver’.
Here is the complete consonant inventory:
|Liquids||l, ł, r, ŕ|
|Nasals||m||n = ń|
|Plosives||p • b||t • d||k • g||ʼ|
|Fricatives||f||s||x • ɣ||/h/|
The accent was fixed on the penultimate syllable.
Verbs were inflected for person and number (singular and plural) in the present and past indicative. The citation form is the first person singular present indicative active, which ended in -m for verbs of athematic origin but was endingless for verbs of thematic origin. Most other forms were constructed with auxilliary verbs.
Nouns did not inflect for case. The plural endings were -ib and -ob, which continued the Proto-Celtic dative, ablative (and possibly locative) plural.
- Viola von Storch-Wams (1862). Grammatik der beſkidischen Sprache [Grammar of the Beskidic Language]. Lauffer & Stolp.