The Languages of Ewlah
According to the most popular current linguistic analyses, 28 distinct languages are spoken on the continent of Ewlah, which can be divided into 12 families - or lineages - and 8 super-families (or stocks). Such analyses discounts 'mutually intelligible' dialects (such as have been well-attested in Ramajal and Gevey) where dialect speakers at opposite ends of the language's geographical continuum are not, in fact, able to understand what each other are saying.
The traditional linguistic approach is to classify languages into three overarching historical groups:
- northern languages, spoken on the continent of Cheidrah
- southern languages, spoken on the continent of Falah
- insular languages, spoken elsewhere.
The basis for this division has been that the populations of Falah, Cheidrah and the Istran Archipilegos have remained (for the most part) isolated from each other, at least for much of the known historical period. Only in the past 1,000 orbits have more sustained contacts been developed as the colonisation of the third continent, Ewlah, has proceeded, with populations from all three groups establishing a significant presence on the continent, though most of this contact has taken place following the Disaster (now six centuries past).
While archaeological discoveries make it clear that people have colonised Ewlah in the distant past, none of those settlements and cities survived; no evidence has been found showing any human activity on the continent for at least two thousand orbits prior to the start of the current colonisation. To date, linguists have made no progress on decyphering the few scraps of writings so far unearthed from those ancient ruins.
Insular Group languages
The oldest settlements, in the east and north east of Ewlah, were established by the Istran Society. For the most part, the Istran languages - each island has its own - are mediated by a shared trading language which has acted as a 'standard' reference for much of the past two millennia. In other words, while each island language evolves over time, the changes they undergo tend to reflect (or follow) changes in the trading language.
The one exception to this is the language of the settlers in the Land of Yistralhe, who had reduced contact with the rest of Istran Society in the centuries preceding and following the Disaster. Ve Yiso - the language spoken by these settlers - has many similarities to the trading language spoken prior to the Disaster.
The Land of Yilstrhe, on the equatorial eastern seaboard of the continent, has been recolonised by the Istran Society in more recent centuries (following the collapse of the Vreski Empire) and their language, Ve Jasa, is thus much closer to the modern-day trading language.
Most extant languages of Istran stock share characteristics such as a tendency to be highly isolating, with much grammar handled by syntax rather than morphology. Recent consonant loss, and thus a trend towards using tone as a lexical feature, can be tracked in the trading language, which helps explain the use of tones in Ve Jasa but not in Ve Yiso. The use of a wide range of mandatory classifier words is a feature of both languages.
Southern Group languages
The rich diversity of languages that existed on the continent of Falah prior to the disaster is mostly gone: only two Falah Societies colonised Ewlah prior to the Disaster, and it is their language lineages that have managed to survive.
The Telik stock languages
The Telik nations, in the south east of the continent of Falah, were mostly untroubled by more war-like peoples. Nevertheless, competition between the nations could be fierce at times. Each of the city states developed their own dialects and languages over the course of millennia, with more lineages appearing in the coastal areas than in the interior.
The Nakap philosophy first appeared some twelve centuries ago, and found most favour in inland communities. The languages of these communities tended to be more synthetic than the agglutinating/inflexional languages along the coast. The supression of the philosophy's followers in the fourth century was a key trigger that led to the first Telik (Nakap) colonies being established on the southeastern seaboard of Ewlah.
The languages that survive from this first wave of immigration can all be considered to be part of the Nakap lineage; all seem to have developed some time prior to the immigrations.
Yangat is the most widely spoken of the three extant languages, and is the common tongue of the Telik northern coastal Lands: Bazan; Siyaman; Talate; Dizgoele and Arakuushe.
The last of these lands is also the only place where the philosophically reconstructed language Ákat is natively spoken (though debate remains whether a reconstructed language which bears only a superficial resemblance to its source material should be included within the Nakap - or indeed any - language lineage).
The southeastern reaches of Ewlah is the home of the Wenkast language, spoken in the Lands of Dorhegan and Vashaele. The third member of the lineage - Yedwael is found along the southern coasts of the continent in the Lands of Bastouwe and Bodwesan; it is also used as a first language by a majority of the people in the Land of Muhrnose.
A second wave of Telik immigration took place in the sixth century, as the effects of the Disaster began to impact on the Telik nations. Many of these immigrants were from the more linguistically diverse coastal regions. Their main area of resettlement was in the Dhoun'hietuu Telikon - the main estury of the great rivers draining much of the interior of Ewlah; and it is these people who populated the interior.
The linguistic effects of the immigration was a creolisation of existing coastal Telik languages. Because of the nature of the continental interior's geography, this creole quickly developed into eastern and western dialects, which evolved in time into the two languages of the Later Telik lineage.
Ne Derho is the more widely spoken of the two languages, and is the native language of all the Lands along the Tokrhuu, Manuu and Kenzuu river systems. Further east, Jakhas is spoken in the Lands along the Ciekuu river system. In the south around Cebrhuu Derhanizhuu (Lake Derhan) the language populations overlap - this is having an effect on both languages, with more rapid dialect changes being recorded at the southern ends of their respective dialect continuums.
The Vreski stock languages
Imperial Vreski, at the height of its powers, controlled much of the northwestern part of the continent of Falah. The Vreski language itself - a state-controlled prestige dialect spoken in the areas around the capital known as 'Imperial Vreski' - was aggressively promoted as a lingua franca throughout the Empire for at least two centuries but failed to displace a number of local languages, particularly those further away from the Vreski heartlands, though its lexical effects on those languages was strong.
The first settlements along the southeastern coastal areas of Ewlah can be dated back some fourteen centuries, though these were mostly seasonal in nature before permanent occupation took place during the second century. These settlements were supported by the Empire, and the commonest language was Imperial Vreski. Even so, a good number of immigrants were from non-Vreski stock, and some of these peoples retained their various languages, and in time each settlement in Ewlah (away from the key cities) developed its own 'hearth tongue'.
The Vreski settlers lost contact with the Empire in Falah late in the third century (before the Disaster), though the Ewlah posessions continued to call themselves an Empire. The population expanded and developed new settlements along the Vaeyuu and Lower Tiete river systems, as well as conquering the Istran settlements in what is now the Land of Yilstrhe. A final act of expansion took place in the fifth century when the interior areas of the lower Frenuu river were colonised.
The linguistic effects of such a rapid expansion over such a large area was the development of regional dialects, with Imperial Vreski eventually losing its status as a prestige dialect. By the seventh century the dialect of the eastern cities, known as 'Trade Vreski', had become the prestige language. Beyond the cities, the hearth tongues also continued to evolve and adapt.
The collapse of the Empire, in the early eighth century, appeared to be both sudden and cataclysmic, though in fact the roots of the crisis had been sown over a century earlier in a series of civil wars - a consequence of which was a large population movement north along the Taete river.
For those who remained in the Vreski lands, the collapse of Empire led to isolation. As a result, the geographical dialects took their own evolutionary paths, leading to the four modern languages of the New Vreski languages lineage.
All four languages in the New Vreski lineage retain the word 'vreska' in their names. All four are highly inflected languages, though the inflections have started to degrade in different ways and are leading to each language developing novel strategies to disambiguate the grammar.
Northern Vreski (Vreska Laela) is the language of the Land of Frejige - the Frenuu river settlements were the earliest to be isolated, and the language is perhaps the most conservative of the four.
Further south, 'Shop Vreski' (Vreska Magzaeta) is the language of the Imperial heartlands, now divided between the Lands of Vrheskidiese and Vrheskiyose. Southern Vreski (Vreska Trola) is spoken in the southernmost Land of Laeyoemavrheske; some linguists argue that it is in fact a dialect of Vrheska Magzaeta, though the general consensus is that the differences between them is now too wide for such an argument to be sustainable.
'Jungle Vreski' (Vreska Rhabgata), spoken in the Land of Cieyevrheske, is the least conservative of the four languages; inflection decay is more pronounced, to the point where we have to question whether it should be classified as an inflectional language. There has also been a tendency for a greater syntactical role in the grammar (stricter word order). Conversely, there has been little in the way of lexical innovation over the past few centuries, and few significant phonological developments.
The origin of the Balhe languages is, at best, murky. Good cases have been made for these languages to be treated as a stock in their own right, on grammatical grounds, but the fact that much of the lexicon can be traced back to various Vreski sources suggests that they should rather be treated as a sister lineage to the modern Vreski languages.
The grammatical differences - for instance the extensive yet closed conjunctive word category, three open word categories (object, action, modifier), comment fronting tendencies, etc - suggest that the underlying grammar arose from a 'hearth tongue' rather than a Vreski dialect, or was possibly an effect of creolization during the refugee period that marked the emergence of the Balhe Society from the wider Vreski Society.
Four languages comprise the Balhe lineage, of which Gevey is by far the most widely spoken (in the Lands of Cantane, Illhe, Meskause and Taete). Of the other three, linguists now believe that Ba'had (spoken in the Land of Ba'hade) has evolved the least - the Ba'hadim people being the first group to split away from the others, in 699. Zeleur - the language of the southernmost Land of Frhadose - and Nulim, the language of the Jaesconesh religious sect expelled from the Taetuu valley in 856 and now found in the Lands of Nulime and Frheete, are much more recent developments.
Northern Group languages
The continent of Cheidrah, unlike Falah, remains inhabited to this day though its population has declined significantly. The effects of the Disaster, triggering as it did massive population movements and some conflicts between northern and southern regions, are still being felt today - particularly in linguistic terms.
Cheidran immigration to Ewlah occurred in the late fifth and sixth centuries; prior to that time there had been some settlement - often seasonal - mostly of offshore islands, and after that time contact between the two continents failed for over two centuries. Because of these circumstances the language stocks and lineages spoken in the Pentuuk, Bartak and Ambostak Societies all date back to pre-Disaster times and have not been influenced by the subsequent linguistic chaos that befell the originating continent.
Five of the eight language stocks currently extant in Ewlah come from the Northern Group of languages.
East Cheidran and Western Insular stocks
The first settlements established in the northwest of Ewlah were in the Kaarname and Paragame isles. Initially seasonal, the settlements were used by a range of different groups, many from the islands to the south of Cheidrah. At some point in the third century the settlements became permanent.
The development of the languages spoken in each set of isles is somewhat hazy, particularly as the source languages from which they arose were not as well studied as other Cheidran languages prior to the Disaster. Kanis - the language spoken in the Land of Kaarname - appears to be most closely related to the languages spoken in the Akady Isles, making it of East Cheidran stock.
Pargam - the indiginous language of the Land of Paragame - is believed to be of West Cheidran (more specifically Western Insular stock); a majority of linguists agree that it is probably part of the Terys languages lineage. A key problem for linguists is that not only have both languages been significantly affected by subsequent immigration activities, but there also appears to have been considerable amounts of trade and intermarriage between the two sets of islanders in the century prior to the Disaster, with marked effects on the languages of both.
The history of the Kumatti language, spoken in the Land of Alflitahrhe, is much simpler to understand. The Kumattis were closely involved in the Hambosga evacuation, and many took the opportunity to start a new life on Ewlah when it was offered by the Hambosga Authority. Ewlah Kumatti has been heavily influenced by Ramajal over the past few centuries (something like 40% of the lexicon is of Ramajal origin), but the grammar remains very close to the Cheidran Kumatti mother tongue (part of the East Cheidran stock).
Western Continental and Western Mountain stocks
Two other language lineages arise from the West Cheidran superstock, sharing that stock's preference for mild agglutination, accusative grammar and SOV word order: the most significant is the Hambosga lineage (from the Western Continental stock), which gave rise to today's Ramajal - not only the language of every Ambostak Society Land, but also the de facto language of the modern internet. While Ramajal has developed a number of dialects, some of which are mutually difficult to understand, it has not yet disintegrated into separate languages; arguments about why Ramajal has proven to be more resistant to linguistic evolution continue to this day.
The Tells lineage (from the Western Highland stock) has not been so fortunate, in that the original language of the Bartak Society settlers has already divided into eastern Varam Bathtel and western Dam Bathtel. The major difference between the two is lexical and phonological rather than grammatical.
The third language of this lineage, Oute, is currently of great interest to linguists as it appears to have aquired a split ergative grammar - a characteristic of Pentuuk Society languages to the south.
Central Cheidran stock
Unlike the Bartak and Ambostak immigrations, the Pentuuk Society immigration was an entirely commercial affair, open to anyone who was able to pay the money. Two companies operated an immigration service: Manuuwam, the larger company, operated in the most appealing areas of eastern Ewlah, particularly the Anrhuu, Namorhuu and Zhivuu river systems; Swaath'he (originally an acronym rather than a name) was active further south around the Fileguu and Shenguu rivers.
Immigrants came from a wide range of linguistic backgrounds, and as the immigrations progressed there was a great mixing of languages in the settlements. However, the majority of immigrants came from the Central regions of Cheidrah - Massos, Kodrol, Milys, Kumby - and it was a Massos language that came to predominate in the north, and a Milys language in the south.
Along with most other Central Cheidrah stock languages, the Massos lineage and the Milys lineage languages demonstrate a marked preference for split ergative grammatical systems, and tend to be inflective rather than agglutinative. The Milys lineage - represented by Swaato, spoken in the Lands of Penin-Swaath'he and Shengi - is verb-initial and dechticaetiative (a rare morphosyntactic alignment for a modern language, most of which are dative).
The Swaath'he settlements have, for the most part, enjoyed a relatively peaceful time since their arrival. The story of the Manuuwam settlements is very different, with large conflicts between various groups occurring several times over the past six centuries. Some linguists have argued that this history has helped drive the evolution of the Massos lineage languages, though many remain unconvinced by the theory.
Today the Massos lineage is represented by four languages, for the most part geographically based. Vaus al Kad is the language of the Manuuwam heartlands, and thus the official language of the Lands of Penin-Syuule and Gelpe; to the west the Haar ol Gond language predominates, while beyond the Pisyuu Zhivizhuu in the northwest most people speak Masos Gond. The last language - Shahr ol Kond, spoken in the Land of Okange - is possibly the most endangered language on the continent with fewer than 15,000 speakers.
|Insular||Istran||Southern Main||Ve Yiso|
|Late Telik||Ne Derho|
|Vreski||New Vreski||Vrheska Laela|
|Western (Highland)||Tells||Varam Bathtel|
|Massos||Vaus al Kad|
|Haar al Gond|
|Shahr ol Kond|
|Eastern||Kumatti (South Isles)||Kumatti (Ewlah)|