I've been working on a new Chinese-inspired conlang, just for fun. I found that agglutinative languages just weren't for me, so I've gone hard in the opposite direction. I haven't got that far so far, but I'm really hoping to get some feedback. I've pretty much just figured out some verb stuff, basic grammar and a handful of vocab. As a full disclaimer, I don't speak or read Chinese, so I'm not sure this will be entirely realistic, but I'd much rather make it interesting than realistic anyway.
A few notes:
- Amanghu is SOV.
- I use a lot of Cyrillic characters with non-standard accents (or at least, accents that are not standard on the letters I'm using them on) and I don't know if this is the same for everyone, but on my browser they don't work well on this forum.
- Amanghu is meant to be descended from an ancestor language somewhere between Proto-Sino-Tibetan and Old Chinese. It's Sinitic, but not actually Chinese. Hopefully this will give me some linguistic breathing room.
- I've tried to be consistent in my use of Chinese characters, but I've had to be creative with my particles. I accept that this probably looks like a mess to any Chinese speakers out there.
- I'm not a skilled linguist and this is only something like my third proper effort at a conlang, so I'm sorry if my terminology is kinda rough.
Amanghu (CYRILLIC: ама̎ңюу̎ HANZI: 天語 IPA: amáŋɥɯ́), also known erroneously as Tienic Chinese, Gam Chinese, and Chinese Altaic, is a mostly-analytic, isolating Sino-Tibetan isolate spoken mainly in Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang, in the People's Republic of China, as well as neighbouring regions of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. It's the historic language of the Gam people, also known as the Blue People (CYRILLIC: г̆а̎мцѡ̎ıк HANZI: 藍族 IPA: /ɡʰámt͡só̰k/). It's spoken by roughly half a million people as a first language.
Old Amanghu was originally spoken by nomadic tribes in what is now north-western China between c.200 AD and c.800 AD. The ancestor of Old Amanghu is commonly considered to be a Sinitic language with a close relationship to Old Chinese, but this classification remains contentious. Amanghu vocabulary is largely sourced from Old Chinese, with a large number of loan words from Kyrgyz, Mandarin and Cantonese. Although Amanghu is often referred to as a variety of Chinese, it is distinct from "true" Chinese languages as it is not descended from Old Chinese.
Amanghu is written in both Chinese characters and a variety of Cyrillic, and both scripts are frequently used, with Cyrillic being the dominant script outside of China.
II. Phonology and Orthography
Most consonants have phonemically distinct aspirated and non-aspirated forms. Amanghu is a tonal language with two tones: low, or neutral (which is unmarked) and high. Additionally, vowels may be creaky-voiced or clear. These two vowel distinctions combine to give the language four tone-like vowel qualities. There are also three glide consonants: /j, w, ɥ/.
/m, n, ŋ/ <м, н, ң>
/p, b, t, d, k, ɡ/ <п, б, т, д, к, г>
/pʰ, bʰ, tʰ, dʰ, kʰ, ɡʰ/ <п̆, б̆, т̆, д̆, к̆, г̆>
/s, ʃ, ʂ, x, h/ <с, ш, щ, х, һ>
/t͡s, t͡ʃ, t͡ʂ, k͡x/ <ц, ч, ж, ҡ>
/t͡sʰ, t͡ʃʰ, t͡ʂʰ, k͡xʰ/ <ц̆, ч̆, ӂ, ҡ̆>
/j, w, ɥ/ <ь, в, ю>
/i, ḭ, í, ḭ́, ɯ, ɯ̰, ɯ́, ɯ̰́/ <и, иı, и̎, и̎ı, у, уı, у̎, у̎ı>
/e, ḛ, é, ḛ́, o, o̰, ó, ó̰/ <е, еı, е̎, е̎ı, ѡ, ѡı, ѡ̎, ѡ̎ı>
/a, a̰, á, á̰/ <а, аı, а̎, а̎ı>
Amanghu has four diphthongs in each of the four "tones": /ie, ɯe, ei, eɯ/, and their tonal variants.
Amanghu has a simple (C)(G)V(C) structure. Syllables can begin with any consonant or glide except for /ŋ/, and end in any nasal or stop consonant.
Just for fun, before I get to the complex bit, here's the ordinal one to ten in Amanghu:
- 一ки̎г /kíɡ/
- 二 ни /ni/
- 三 су̎ıм /sɯ̰́m/
- 四 ҡеб /k͡xeb/
- 五 наı /na̰/
- 六 луг /lɯg/
- 七 си̎д /síd/
- 八 пе̎ıд /pḛ́d/
- 九 ку /kɯ/
- 十 гьу̎б /ɡjɯ́b/
This so far is the only really developed aspect of the language. I'll try and give a brief rundown here, but there are more details in my article on ConWorkShop, here. I use a lot more examples in the article, which I think gives a better feel for how the language is meant to sound.
Amanghu is distinguishable from varieties of true Chinese by the presence of particles that indicate tense. These particles are placed before the verb they mark. In the majority of sentences, especially simple sentences in the past tense, these particles are not used. This is because tense is generally implied through other means. For example, the perfect aspect suggests that a verb is in the past tense unless context suggests otherwise. Additionally, tense particles are not used where the sentence is placed in a specific timeframe. For example, 「厶走上星期一」 "вие̎ сѡı дьаң се̎ıңг̆у-ки̎г" /wié so̰ djaŋ sḛ́ŋgʰɯkíg/: "I will go on Monday."
Present tense verbs are unmarked, while past tense verbs are preceded by 旦 юѡ̎н /ɥón/, and future tense verbs are preceded by 弗 щѡı /ʂo̰/. Although both particles have their own pronunciations, they are generally not pronounced in speech, except in archaic or emphatic contexts. Instead they affect lenition of the onset of the verb they affect. For example, the verb 吃 к̆а̎ /kʰá/ "to eat" becomes 旦吃 гк̆а̎ /gʰá/ in the past tense, and 弗吃 хк̆а̎ /xá/ in the future tense.
Lenition is very regular and occurs through either sonorization, where a phoneme becomes more voiced, and debuccalization, where a point of articulation of the phoneme moves towards the glottis. Past tense lenitions become more sonorized (that is, more voiced) and more debuccalized (that is, more glottised), while future tense lenitions do the opposite.
Amanghu uses verb-ending particles to distinguish between four morphologically-distinct aspects: simple/perfect (see below), prospective, progressive, and gnomic. Simple/perfect verbs are unmarked, whereas the other three are marked by the particles 正 тиең /tieŋ/, 了 веı /wḛ/, and 有 хуе /xɯe/, respectively.
Unmarked verbs conflate simple and perfect aspects. The sentence 「厶上鎮走」 "вие̎ дьаң щаı сѡı" /wié djaŋ ʂa̰ so̰/ "I walked to town" has a more literal reading of "I had walked to town", indicating that the action occurred earlier than the time under consideration. Note that the example sentence does not use the past tense particle 旦 юѡ̎н, as the aspect particle implies that the action took place in the past. 旦 might be used, however, if you wanted to distinguish this sentence from an action in the present tense, or to specify that this action took place in the past.
In simple sentences involving only one main verb, such as the initial example, 「厶上鎮走」, the unmarked verb can usually be considered to take place in the simple aspect, but it is far more common to use the progressive particle when referring to actions which are still ongoing within the sentence's timeframe.
正 тиең: Prospective
The prospective particle 正 тиең /tieŋ/ marks verbs as actions that are imminent or upcoming. It is the equivalent of the English "about to". Unlike the simple/perfect aspect particle, 正 does not imply any particular tense. The sentence 「厶旦吃正」 "вие̎ к̆уд тиең" /wié kʰɯd tieŋ/ "I am about to eat" is steadfastly present tense.
了 веı: Progressive
The progressive aspect is marked with the particle 了 веı /wḛ/. It's notable that this is typologically identical to the Standard Chinese perfective particle 了, with which it is a cognate. Despite their shared etymology, however, the two particles function very differently. The Amanghu 了 functions similarly to the English suffix "-ing", and is used for both progressive and continuous aspects.
了 is generally omitted in simple sentences where there is sufficient context or where it is not considered to be relevant. There is generally little meaningful distinction between the sentences 「厶吃」 "I eat" and 「厶吃了」 "I am eating", for example, if the addressee can see if one is still eating. 了 is still frequently used to distinguish an action from the perfect aspect. Note that the unmarked 「厶吃」 can be read as either "I eat" or "I have eaten", leaving it ambiguous as to whether the act of eating has concluded or not, but strongly implying that it has. 了 clears up this ambiguity and firmly declares the verb as an ongoing action.
有 хуе: Gnomic
The gnomic particle 有 хуе /xɯe/ is used to declare general truths or aphorisms. For example, 「馬跑有」 "маı буı хуе" /ma̰ bɯ̰ xɯe/ "horses run" is a general claim about the nature of all horses. It is also used to declare axiomatic or even hypothetical and assumed truths, such as 「李師父亡老是有」 "Ру-си̎ба ма̎ң руı щуıң хуе" /ɻɯ síba máŋ ɻɯ̰ ʂɯ̰ŋ xɯe/ "Master Ru is not old", in a context where Ru's age or vitality is in question.
有 also functions as a marker for the aorist or preterite, declaring actions as having been fully completed in the past.