Xuni substrate language

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Xuni substrate language
RegionQuaxin Xun
Native speakers0  (no date)
Language family
CWS codeqxsub

The Xuni substrate language is a hypothesized source language for several dozen words of otherwise unclear etymology in the languages of Quaxin Xun and surrounding areas. These words are most clear in Mañi and its descendants, and in the endangered Walyavalywa language of insular Quaxin Xun.


The Xuni substrate language is completely unclassified, and it's not entirely clear whether it is one language or a family of similar languages, since it is only known by its reflexes in Ngerupic languages. Attempts have been made to link it to the pre-Ngerupic Kwang substrate, to Vaniuan, and to Trans-Ebo-Puzimm, but they are widely regarded as incorrect.


The Xuni substrate hypothesis dates back to 1884, when the Ngerupic philologist Řąziya Ngunim Łak noticed a pattern of vocabulary, mostly comprising maritime words, in Hlung that had previously been attributed to contact with Rietic languages, Kwang languages, and Termic languages. She postulated that none of these languages accounted for this vocabulary, that the previous explanations were nonsensical, and that a hitherto unknown substrate must account for this vocabulary. Her theory was ignored until Zįꞌzą́ Chístzi brought it back to light in 1934.

The substrate itself is theorized to be one of the indigenous pre-Ngerupic pre-Rietic langauges of southern and possibly western Soltenna.



The Xuni substrate has been reconstructed with a larger sibilant inventory than the languages that succeeded it. It is assumed that this inventory includes cross-linguistically common consonants like /s/ and /ts/ which are rare in the Ngerupic-dominated area of Akulanen and southern Soltenna; however, it is impossible to say what the exact phonetic values were.

It has also been reconstructed with glottalized consonants, possibly ejectives, due to the reflexes containing clusters of stops and glides with glottal stops.

Morphology and syntax

The syntax of the Xuni substrate language is completely unknown, since it was unwritten, and no Mañi or early Walyavalywa inscriptions contain descriptions of or quotes from the language.


The words that can be traced back to the Xuni substrate language include a large amount of maritime vocabulary, such as *ʼwatłonta "low tide" and *mąniłkʼo "reef". They also include words for native flora and fauna of Soltenna, such as *tsʼiitǫxa "Southern Soltenna pit viper" and *spetʼosko "ginseng".

Examples and comparison with Mañi and Walyavalywa

Meaning Reconstructed substrate Mañi Walyavalywa
cormorant *ątsusani ʼachùlani aʼzuzar
boar *yąątłe yaʼatł yacľan
wave *skekotse xkekotł zekakezan
iris *uuchawsaʼy uuchawxaʼi ucawzayʼan

Implications for Mañi prehistory

Some scholars, such as Zį²ʼą¹zą² Hé³xi² Wá²ko¹xe², have hypothesized from this vocabulary that the speakers of Pre-Mañi did not have sophisticated naval technology such as sails or even oars. His hypothesis, outlined in Sharks and Sailors of the Ocean: How the Mañi Came to be Seafarers, is that proto-Mañi Ngerupic peoples island hopped from Akulanen to Soltenna, encountered the speakers of the Xuni substrate language, and assimilated them while also acquiring their maritime technology. Since the Xunid phenotype is considered by physical anthropologists to be intermediate between the Kwangid phenotype of northern Soltenna and the Awatid phenotype of northern Akulanen, Zį²hé³ postulates that this also accounts for the striking phenotypic difference between the Xuni people and the peoples of Akulanen.

See also