Balak language

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RegionVaniua, Puzimm, Lahan
EthnicityBalak-speaking peoples
Native speakersover 150 million (L1)  (2016)
Language family
Writing systemVaniuan
Official status
Official language in Balakia
 Ebo Nganagam
Regulated byInstitute of Balak Language and Linguistics at the University of Qersheven (Balakia)
Balak language map.png
Areas where Balak is spoken
  states where Balak is an official language
  states where Balak is spoken as an L1 or L2 by over 30% of the population

Balak (Balākzem; Balâkzem, [bɑˈlæ:ksɛm]), alternatively known as Jazaghan (Ḑazağan; Jazağan, [d͡ʒɑzɑˈʁɑn]) is a Kashisan language within the Eastern Vaniuan branch of the Vaniuan language family. Balak is a pluricentric language, with multiple standard varieties used in different countries where the language is official, although the most widespread standard form is the Qersheven Standard. Balak is written in the Balak alphabet, a modified variant of the Vucheshian alphabet.

The Balak language is considered a continuation of the Middle Jazaghan language, which was used as a trade language during the later years of the Great Horde. Throughout its history the language has been considerably influenced by the Khamaian language, the ancestor of which also served as a substrate for Proto-Kashisan, as well as the Koman language.

There are over 150 million native Balak speakers worldwide, with the language holding official status in Balakia, Gushlia, Kunjut, Sonka, Ebo Nganagam, Ushia, and Thuyo, and regional or minority status in Komania.

Geographic Distribution





Balak is an official language in Sonka, Ushia, and Ebo Nganagam, and is the primary lingua franca of the region of Kahamogo within the latter.


Balak is present across Lahan as a former colonial language, with it enjoying status as either an official language or otherwise a lingua franca in most parts of the continent.


Balak is spoken by a minority community in Jute, concentrated primarily in the city of Numudu.


Standard Balak is known natively as Balâkzem, pronounced [bɑˈlæ:ksɛm].


Modern Standard Balak is a Kashisan language descended from the Eastern Vaniuan branch of the Vaniuan languages. The Kashisan languages can further be subdivided into Kaatian and the Kothlenic languages, the latter of which includes Standard Balak and the other Jazaghan varieties, Rasha, and the Covayan creole.

The Kashisan languages in eastern Vaniua

Standard Balak is based on Central Balak dialects (no. 10 on the map), which are X.


The Balak dialects are the traditional local varieties of the language; many of them are not mutually intelligible with standard Balak, and exhibit great differences in lexicon, phonology, and syntax. Many of these dialects are in fact considered to be separate languages in some sources.

The Balak dialect continuum is traditionally divided most broadly into Kothlenic Balak and Huklenic Balak, less frequently labelled as Cistarkhan Balak and Transtarkhan Balak respectively.

Kothlenic Balak

Kashis Balak

Kazani Balak

Bashteze Balak

Peninsular Balak

Straits Balak

Huklenic Balak


Ogharan Balak





Old Kothlenic

Middle Jazaghan

Imperial Balak

Modern Balak

Distinguishing features and differences between standards

Sociopolitical standpoints

Official status

Balak is an official language in Balakia, Gushlia, Kunjut, Sonka, Ushia, Ebo Nganagam, and Thuyo.



Balak consonant phonemes
  Labial Alveolar Palatal Dorsal Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p b t d k ɡ
Fricative (f) v s sʷ z zʷ ʃ ʁ h
Affricate t͡s t͡sʷ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Approximant l j
Rhotic r


  • /f/ is only used in loanwords, though some speakers may substitute /f/ with /v/.
  • /sʷ, zʷ, t͡sʷ/ have a number of possible realisations and, in certain dialects, mergers:
    • Whistled sibilants [sᶲ, zᵝ, t͡sᶲ]
      • Distribution: Common in central and eastern Balakia, as well as other conservative varieties and the standard language. It is by far the most common realisation.
    • Consonant clusters [sv, zv, t͡sv]
      • Distribution: Occurs in transitional dialects spoken in Gushlia and close to the Balak-Gushli border.
    • Merger with plain sibilants [s, z, t͡s]
      • Distribution: Present in varieties spoken in southern Balakia and along parts of the east coast. Also occurs in some areas of western Balakia and eastern Gushlia.
    • Merger with post-alveolar sibilants [ʃ, ʒ, t͡ʃ]
      • Distribution: Reported to occur in the idiolects of some younger speakers, particularly in urban regions such as Qersheven.
    • Merger with labiodental fricatives [f, v, p̪͡f~f]
      • Distribution: Present in northwestern varieties, including Torosh Balak.


Balak has a system of 10 phonemic vowels, typically analysed as featuring a distinction between 5 short vowels and 5 long vowels. Vowel length is not always considered a distinctive feature in Balak phonology, because it normally co-occurs with changes in vowel quality. One feature or the other may be considered redundant, and some phonemic analyses prefer to treat it as an opposition of tenseness. However, even if not considered part of the phonemic opposition, the long/tense vowels are still realised as phonetically longer than their short counterparts. The changes in vowel quality are also not always the same in all dialects, and in some there may be little difference at all, with length remaining the primary distinguishing feature as in other standard varieties of Jazaghan.

Short/lax vowels
Front Back
Close ɪ ʊ
Mid ɛ ɔ
Open ɑ
Long/tense vowels
Front Back


  • Long vowels may be pronounced as short or half-long vowels when unstressed, but typically retain their quality.


The basic formula for a Balak syllable is (C)(v)V(F); C denotes any consonant, V denotes any vowel, and F denotes any consonant except for /sʷ, zʷ, t͡sʷ/. /v/ can occur as a medial consonant between the rest of the syllable onset and the syllable nucleus, but only after the consonants /t, d, k, g/.

Phonological processes

Voicing assimilation

Cluster simplification


Stress is moderately variable in Balak, and most words regularly follow a set of rules for stress placement:

  • If a word contains at least one syllable which either:
    • contains a long vowel
    • ends with v or y as a coda
    • begins with sv, zv, or cv
    • features a medial v
then the last occurrence of such a syllable receives primary stress.
  • If no such syllables are present in the word, the final syllable receives primary stress.

Secondary stress is placed on every second syllable away from the syllable with primary stress in either direction.


Balak is written using the Balak alphabet, which is a modified variant of the Vaniuan script that uses different pronunciation and additional letters not found in other Vaniuan languages.


The Balak alphabet adds 7 letters to the Vaniuan script, as well as 3 digraphs which are categorised as distinct letters:

Sound Uppercase Lowercase Romanisation Name
/d͡ʒ/ j yuh de
/t͡ʃ/ Ç ç ç yuh ce
/æ:/ Ā ā â bêh a
/i:/ Ī ī î bêh i
/e:/ Ē ē ê bêh e
/o:/ Ō ō ô bêh o
/u:/ Ū ū û bêh u
/sʷ/ SV ~ Sv sv sv se ve
/zʷ/ ZV ~ Zv zv zv ze ve
/t͡sʷ/ JV ~ Jv jv cv ce ve


There are 2 letters in Balak whose pronunciations diverge from their typical readings in Vaniuan languages:

Sound Uppercase Lowercase Romanisation Name
/t͡s/ J j c ce
/h/ Q q q qaman qe

Historical characters

There are 4 obsolete characters previously used to write older forms of Balak, but are now only used in certain loanwords and place names in the standard language:

Sound Uppercase Lowercase Romanisation Name
/s/, /z/ Þ þ þ (jaza) þe
/j/ Ñ ñ ny (jaza) nye
/n/, /g/ Ŋ ŋ ng (jaza) nge
/ɛ/ Æ æ á (jaza) á

Overview table

Letter Name IPA Transliteration Notes
L l le le /l/ l
B b be be /b/ b
P p pe pe /p/ p
V V ve ve /v/ v
F f fe fe /f/ f
S s se se /s/ s
SV sv se ve se ve /sʷ/ sv
Z z ze ze /z/ z
ZV zv ze ve ze ve /zʷ/ zv
D d de de /d/ d
Ḑ ḑ yuh de yuh de /d͡ʒ/ j
T t te te /t/ t
R r re re /r/ r
K k ke ke /k/ k
G g ge ge /g/ g
M m me me /m/ m
J j je ce /t͡s/ c
JV jv je ve ce ve /t͡sʷ/ cv
Ç ç yuh ce yuh ce /t͡ʃ/ ç
C c ce şe /ʃ/ ş
Þ þ (ḑaza) þe (jaza) þe /s/, /z/ (þ) Obsolete, historical /θ/;
Still used in grammars to denote certain qumta stems
Q q qaman qe qaman qe /h/ q Pronounced as /χ/ in learned speech
Ğ ğ ğe ğe /ʁ/ ğ
N n ne ne /n/ n
Ñ ñ (ḑaza) ñe (jaza) nye /j/ (ny) Obsolete, historical /ɲ/
Ŋ ŋ (ḑaza) ŋe (jaza) nge /n/, /g/ (ng) Obsolete, historical /ŋ/
Y y ye ye /j/ y
X x xe xe /h/ x Only used to transcribe Daikhra loanwords
H h he he /h/ h
Æ æ (ḑaza) æ (jaza) á /ɛ/ (á) Obsolete
A a a a /ɑ/ a
Ā ā bēh a bêh a /æ:/ â
I i i i /ɪ/ i
Ī ī bēh i bêh i /i:/ î
E e e e /ɛ/ e
Ē ē bēh e bêh e /e:/ ê
O o o o /ɔ/ o
Ō ō bēh o bêh o /o:/ ô
U u u u /ʊ/ u
Ū ū bēh u bêh u /u:/ û


Balak is a moderately agglutinative language, though it does preserve fusional affixes for nouns and verbs. Nouns are divided into two animacy classes - animate and inanimate - and are inflected slightly differently depending on the class they are on; inanimate nouns don't inflect for plural number, while animate nouns do.

Word stems

In addition to a word's basic stem, many Balak words have an additional qumta stem, which features a phonological alteration not present in the base stem and can be considered an oblique stem. Qumta stems typically surface when inflectional suffixes are applied to a word. If a word has a qumta stem, this is typically given alongside its base stem in dictionaries. The exact alteration in a qumta stem is lexically determined but there are two categories:

  • Vocalic qumta stems: feature an additional final vowel
  • Theta qumta stems: feature an alteration between stem-final -z and -s, with -z occurring before vowels and -s in other environments; commonly notated using the otherwise obsolete letter

Morphophonological processes


The final consonant of a noun or verb’s base stem in Balak may undergo a form of mutation depending on the morphological context. This process, known in traditional Balak grammars as softening, occurs whenever inflectional suffixes beginning with a vowel are added to a word. Stem-final consonants are altered through softening as follows:

  • -b, -d, -g become -m, -n, -n
  • -p, -t, -k become -b, -d, -ğ


Depending on the suffixes added to a word, the final consonant of a word may be (further) altered through a process of palatalisation, another form of consonant mutation which is common in Balak. Traditional grammars denote that a suffix causes palatalisation using a capital -Y- before the suffix. Stem-final consonants are altered through palatalisation as follows:

  • -t, -c, -k become
  • -d, -g become -j
  • -s, -z become
  • -n, -ğ become -y
  • -l becomes -r


Nominal declension involves five cases - direct, accusative, oblique, postpositional, locative - in two numbers (singular and plural). The usage of each case can be summarised as:

  • Direct
    • citation/dictionary form
    • default form on signs etc.
    • verbal subject
    • indefinite direct object of transitive verbs
  • Accusative
    • definite inanimate direct object of transitive verbs
  • Oblique
    • indirect object
    • beneficiary of an action
    • definite animate direct object of a transitive verb
  • Postpositional
    • object of a postposition of movement
  • Locative
    • location of an action taking place
    • modifier describing a noun's location
    • object of postpositions of location
    • topic of a sentence

Definiteness is not distinguished in Balak aside from through differential object marking.

The category of animacy is relevant in Balak nominal declension. Only animate nouns, aside from a small subset, can take plural marking. Additionally, animacy plays a role in differential object marking; for definite direct objects, inanimate nouns take the accusative case, while animate nouns take the oblique case.

Balak has two declension patterns:

  • Back-vowel declension: nouns whose final syllable contains one of the vowels a, o, u, â, ô, û
  • Front-vowel declension: nouns whose final syllable contains one of the vowels e, i, ê, î

Back vowel declension

Singular Plural
Direct -ac -aş
Accusative -an -an ----
Oblique -em -em -mā -mâ
Postpositional -yā -yâ -yan -yan
Locative -ok -ok -okrā -okrâ

Front vowel declension

Singular Plural
Direct -Yic -Yiş
Accusative -Yin -Yin ----
Oblique -em -em -mī -mî
Postpositional -yī -yî -yin -yin
Locative -Yek -Yek -Yekrī -Yekrî


Personal pronouns

Singular Plural
1st 2nd 3rd 1st 2nd 3rd Animate
Inanimate Animate
Direct zov zov ceğ şeğ cil şil le le ber ber ēç êç jok cok
Accusative ---- ---- cij şic ---- ---- ---- ----
Oblique zayen zayen cen şen cim şim arem arem beren beren ēçen êçen jemā cemâ
Postpositional zanā zanâ acnā aşnâ cih şih arnā arnâ ben ben men men jeren ceren

Reflexive pronouns

Singular Plural
1st 2nd 3rd 1st 2nd 3rd Animate
Inanimate Animate
zeh zeh ackā aşkâ cik şik ā â beleh beleh em em jağkā cağkâ

Objective suffixes

Singular Plural
1st 2nd 3rd 1st 2nd 3rd Animate
Inanimate Animate
-zon -zon -ac -aş -cij -şic -al -al -bon -bon -em -em -jen -cen




Word formation


The default word order in Balak is SOV.