Jáhkarrá language

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Jáhkarrá
Jáhkarrá
Pronunciation[ˈjahːkɑrːaː]
RegionAtsiq
Native speakers800,000  (2018)
Language family
Isolate
  • Jáhkarrá
Writing systemJáhka script
Official status
Official language inJáhkavarra
CWS codejhk

The Jáhkarrá language is the sole official language of the country of Jáhkavarra. Spoken by about 800,000 people, it is classified as a language isolate, with a postulated genetic relationship to the Osveraali languages remaining doubtful.

Background

Phonology

Consonants

Bilabial Labio-dental Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n nʲ ŋ
Plosive p t tʲ k
Fricative θ s ʃ h
Affricate t͡s t͡ʃ
Approximant ʋ j
Trill r
Lateral app. l

Jáhkarrá does not distinguish voicing. All consonants can be long (geminated).

Vowels

Front Near-front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e
Open-mid ɔ
Near-open æ
Open a ɑ

The vowels /a/, /ɔ/ and /e/ may be analysed as having an underlying chroneme, which surfaces as vowel length in open syllables and syllables with a single coda consonant but not if the vowel is followed by a long consonant. The case of /i/ is more complex since it occurs both with and without the chroneme, but before consonants the chroneme becomes /j/, effectively forming a cluster. In final position, long and short /i/ effectively contrast, but on the whole vowel length is not distinctive.

Jáhkarrá also has the diphthongs /uɔ/, /ie/, /eɑ/ and /ɔɑ/.

Stress

Jáhkarrá stress is non-fixed but predictable. Stress is on the first superheavy syllable, that is, on the first vowel followed by more than a single consonant. If no such syllables are present, the last underlyingly long vowel or diphthong receives stress. If a word has none of the aforementioned vowels, stress falls on the penultimate syllable.

Phonotactics

Orthography

Morphophonology

Consonant gradation

Elision and assmilation

Morphology

Jáhkarrá is a highly inflected, exclusively suffix-agglutinating language. There is no grammatical gender, but a three-way number distinction (singular, dual, plural), clusivity (inclusive-exclusive) on first person dual and plural pronouns and a synthetic impersonal, as well as a fourth person that refers to a non-topical noun phrase.

Nouns

Nouns inflect in five grammatical (nominative, accusative, ergative, genitive and vocative) and seventeen local cases (allative, adessive, ablative, illative, inessive, elative, translative, essive, exessive, supralative, superessive, delative, sublative, subessive, subelative, abessive, comitative) and express demonstrativity and possessedness via suffixes.

Jáhkarrá features a category of nominal suffixes called postbases, which are effectively verbalisers corresponding to light verbs in other languages. The most frequent of these is haid "to be", which is attached to inflected nouns to form a copula clause: orgŋojohai "I am that man", vuodnarahea "he is at home".

Verbs

Just as with nouns, Jáhkarrá verbs are highly inflected and often supply enough information to express a whole sentence on their own.

Person, number and gender

Verbs conjugate in the singular, dual and plural, with four persons in every number. The fourth person indicates a third person referent that is non-topical or does not refer to a previously mentioned noun phrase. The dual and plural distinguish an inclusive first person from an exclusive one. There is also an impersonal form that indicates a nonspecific agent, which is usually inferred to be human.

Singular and dual subject agreement suffixes are identical but differ in consonant gradation. Singular suffixes always take the first grade, while dual suffixes take the second. The plural is formed by combining the singular suffixes with a change in the stem vowel.

Gender is not a category in Jáhkarrá, although pronouns do make a human-nonhuman distinction.

Stems

From a verb root, Jáhkarrá derives a transitive, an intransitive and a passive stem, each characterised by a thematic vowel. Transitives and passives are usually related in that the passive expresses actions that are transitive, but with the subject as the patient. Intransitive verbs can have reflexive or reciprocal meanings and frequently are semantically more generic than their transitive counterpart.

Agreement

Transitive verbs agree with both subject and object, while intransitive verbs agree only with the subject. Passive verbs are unusual in that they agree not only with the patientive subject, but with the agentive as well, which is thus considered a core argument. Agreement suffixes for transitive objects and passive agentives are different.

Tense, mood and aspect

The main inflectional TAM category of the Jáhkarrá verb is mood. Besides the indicative, there are the necessitative, desiderative, potential and permissive, all of which occur in a present and past tense. The indicative is the only mood that also has a future tense. All moods combine with a suffix called the tentative, which softens the modal expression or provides an element of doubt.

The imperative is not considered a mood, but a category on its own that takes the form of a suffix that can attach to any verb form. It is only indirectly associated with commands, but expresses the speaker's conviction that something is supposed to be a certain way. With the past and future tenses, it expresses epistemic modality.

Aspect is not a grammatical category. The past tense frequently expresses the perfect aspect, lumping it together with actions that happened in the past. Likewise, the present tense can be habitual or progressive, depending on context. There are, however, numerous verb suffixes that express aspectual distinctions, although none of these are mandatory and are usually classified as derivational morphology.

Infinite forms

Jáhkarrá verbs form a large number of participles, one for each tense/mood combination, that replace relative clauses and adverbial clauses. They can express person via possessive suffixes and decline in most local cases, making the use of conjunctions largely redundant. A frequent construction is the circumstantial adverbial participle, where a participle form takes the adverbialiser -e and is moved to the beginning of a sentence, indicating a circumstance whose exact relation to the rest of the sentence must be resolved by the listener.

The infinitive is used as the object of transitive verbs that take a complement clause. Infinitives can further be augmented with suffixes to form interrogative content clauses. On their own, infinitives act as verbal nouns that decline in all cases.

Derivational morphology

Syntax

Word order

Complement clauses

Adverbial clauses

Valency operations