Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Lemurian Arabic

In the western ports of the continent of Lemuria, on the old trade route to Uqbar and thence to Atlantis, a dialect of Arabic has been spoken since probably the 6th century AD or so. Its longstanding isolation from other Arabic dialects, and its speakers' bilingualism in neighbouring Lemurian languages, has allowed it to develop some rather unusual features. Like all Arabic dialects, it has lost the final short vowels preserved in Classical Arabic; but, unlike any other surviving dialect, it has largely preserved case and mood marking, thanks to extensive final-syllable ablaut.

For example, the noun "book" is conjugated as follows:

SGPL
NOMkitoobkitaaboot
ACCkitaabkitaabeet
GENkiteebkitaabeet

One thus says royt ilkitaab "I saw the book", sagatʼ ilkitoob "the book fell", deexil ilkiteeb "inside the book". The resulting system is rather reminiscent of Old Irish, among other languages of our own timeline.

Sadly, a full documentation of this fascinating dialect will forever be wanting, due to the difficulty of travelling to fictional destinations and of getting recording equipment to work properly in fantasy universes. However, I trust that the available data is sufficient to establish that phonetic changes such as the loss of final short vowels need not automatically imply the loss of morphological information that the lost phonemes had encoded.

5 comments:

David Marjanović said...

Of mice and men.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Phonemes gang aft agley...

David Eddyshaw said...

Welsh does this a fair bit in noun plurals, with umlaut because of the lost Brythonic final /i/: brân "crow", plural brain. A fair number of adjectives still lower root vowels in the feminine singular because of the lost final /a/, e.g. gwyn "white", feminine gwen.

There are even one or two relics showing umlaut before lost genitive and dative endings; Old Welsh has gwas nim "abode of heaven", where "heaven" is normally nem (= Modern Welsh nef), and the old dative is preserved in relics like heddiw "today" (cf dydd "day"), erbyn "by", from ar "on" and the dative of pen "head."

Kusaal, like other Western Oti-Volta languages, has umlaut before the plural ending -i, e.g. naaf "cow", plural niigi; but they haven't got round to dropping the final vowel altogether yet.

John Cowan said...

And likewise in Sindarin, where umlaut is pervasive rather than on the stressed syllable only: adan 'Man. member of Homo sapiens sapiens' (cf. Quenya atani), pl. edain.

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