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Empotle7á was a Western language spoken along the west coast of Peilaš . This grammar describes the language spoken around -2000 YP, give or take a few centuries. One known descendant of Empotle7á is Melì , spoken in the same area about a thousand years later.

Period 2000 BYP-??
Spoken in Coastal Corridor
Total speakers c. 500,000
Writing system attested in Lukpanic script
Classification Western
Basic word order VSO
Morphology agglutinating
Alignment ERG-ABS
Created by Arzena


The Coastal Corridor (Tlonaone7á 'Land of the Long Sunset') is located on the western coast of the Peilaš continent, directly west of Tjakori and north of the Kipceʔ Desert. The Corridor holds a special place in the philology of Akana because it was the urheimat of the speakers of Proto-Western. The language has been dated to c. -3500 YP and is thought to have diversified into separate branches by -2000 YP. Empotle7á and, the Valley Languages of the Western family of languages more broadly, refers to the dialects spoken by the tribes that remained in the Coastal Corridor, not participating in the great migrations of the Proto-Westerners.

The people who spoke Empotle7á had no singular term for themselves. If pressed for a name for themselves that went beyond the bonds of tribe or clan, they would answer with Kotsóámakaná, 'the people of kotsú (virtue, strength)'. If asked for a language, they would reply with 7empotle7á7ó mélí, 'the language of our tribe', which gave rise to Empotle7á, the name of the language in Akanaran philology.

The tribes of the Kotsoamakana practiced a subsistence agricultural lifestyle, supplementing their crop yields with food from hunting and gathering. Across their history in the Coastal Corridor, they came to rely increasingly on agriculture over hunting and gathering. The Corridor, during the wet season, provided watered valleys and highlands that supported garden farms. Innovations in water storage, terracing and canals (from an apparent Wellawi origin) drew water from the perennial streams and springs in the region. The tribes that did not control a permanent source of water migrated to the coast when the dry season came. The bounty of the sea and trade with foreigners such as the Tmaśareʔ and the Lukpani, too, supported a sizable, permanent maritime population

The religious views of the tribes were, like that of their Proto-Western ancestors, based on kotsú (etym. PW. kwacu), the spiritual essence of every being. Bodily fluids, like blood and semen, as well as the organs contained heavy concentrations of kotsú. Like the Proto-Westerners, the tribes practiced ritual cannibalism as a first stage of ancestor worship to absorb the spiritual essence of the departed. Kotsú was a revered substance, so much in fact that virtue and holiness were considered to be states of an abundance of kotsú.

Unlike their ancestors, the tribes came to believe in a feminine counterpart, called tawotsú, to the masculine kotsú. This development (even though tawotsú remained defined in terms of kotsú) opened considerable vistas in terms of cosmological and moral thought. With this development, women gained a space within spiritual practice that was hereto rather male-dominated. Furthermore, the idea emerged that that the spirit world contained an infinite amount of kotsú. Using a whole host of psychedelic drugs, trances, and meditations, shamans (lákathéo) were believed to be able to travel to the spirit world and intercede to the spirits and the ancestors for kotsú. The spirits and the ancestors, in turn, could bestow their blessings and good fortune with kotsú or demonstrate their ire and withhold the precious substance.

Philologists of Akana believe, based on linguistic and genetic evidence, that the speakers of Empotle7á were most related to the speakers of Tmaśareʔ. The evidence comes in the ample exchange of loanwords between the two languages and shared semantic and lexical development from the time of Proto-Western that are without cognates in other branches of the larger Western language family.

In relation its sister languages, Empotle7á shares features with the Steppe and Lake Languages like Iŋomœ and Çetázó: rounded (albeit allophonic) vowels. With Iŋomœ, it shares a second personal plural pronoun from PW *la-du. From Proto-Coastal-Western there are loan words such as topu 'stubborn' and yetsa 'test'. Speakers of Proto-Lukpanic from the city of Doanu also contacted the Corridor tribes. They exchanged words relating to the ocean: 'ocean, sea', kitíwo 'whale', lipí 'crab', Póló 'sea goddess'; sailing: téwo 'tide', kikesá 'tack', taoŋa 'rudder'; and civilization: étú 'brick', popá 'wine', kum 'city', mawa 'salt'.

Other influences in Empotle7a come from Wellawi and Tulameyan sources. In the absence of detailed knowledge of these languages, philologists have tended to assign unexpected loanwords, syntatical and morphological developments to these sources.

Sound Changes from Proto-Western

The following are the sound changes posited from Proto-Western to Empotle7á.

From stages 1 through 3 tonogenesis occured. Vowels in open syllables gained high tone, while vowels in closed syllables or next to */b d dz dž γ γʷ w/ received low tone. Furthermore, the presence of low tone in words like kotsú descending from PW */kʷatsu/ suggests that, in the PW dialect that gave rise to Empotle7á, /kʷ/ was realized as [gʷ], causing low tone. This is aided by the reflex of PW */kʰakʷʰa/ as kháwó, implying that /kʷʰ/ was realized as [kʷ].

1. Vowel Shift

/u/→ [o] if /a/ is in the preceding or following syllable

/i/→[e] if /a/ is in the preceding or following syllable

/V1ʔV1/→[V:]→[V+high tone]

2. Semivowel, Labiovelar + Vowel

  • Kʷ=any labiovelar







/wo/→[w] /_V

/wu/→[w]: _V






3. Nasals

/Ṽ+alveolar consonant/→[n]

/Ṽ+labial consonant/→[m]

/Ṽ+labiovelar, velar/→[ŋ]

/ŋn→ŋm/ → [mn]

/Ṽkʷ/ → [mn]: */mĩkʷa/→ [memkʷo→ memŋo→ memno→ mœm.nɤ]

3.2 Denasalization

/Ṽ/ → [Vm] : _#

3.3 The Palatal Nasal


4. Labiovelars

/kʷ/→[k], #_ : */kʷẽdu/ > [gʷõɾu > konu > kɤ.nɯ]

/kʷ/→[w], V_V : */ʔekʷẽdu/ > [ʔekʷẽdu > ʔegʷõɾu > ʔewonu > ʔøwonɯ]

/γʷ/→[w], #_, V_V : */γʷiwa/ > [wu.o > wo]

5. /γ/

/γ/→[w], _a, o, u : */daγa/ > [tawa]

/γ/→[j], _i, e : */γedže/ > [jetle], */γiya/ > [jé]

/γl/→[w]: */γlaʔta/ > [waʔá], */γlilĩpu/ > [wylymú]

6. Consonants

/l/, /ɬ/→[ɬ]

[+plosive -voice]ɬ→tɬʰ / #_

/b/, /d/→[p, t] /_ɬ




/ʔ/→[p, t, k] / m_,n_, ŋ_





/d/→[0] / V_V

/d/→[t]/ #_

/t, k/→[ʔ] /_($,#): */ek.ɬi/ > [eʔ.ɬi]

7. Tones



Sporadic or Dialectal Sound Changes

All of the dialects of Empotle7á share sound changes from Proto-Western up until the last three changes in (6). Here are some consonant sound changes that distinguished the dialects. Reconstructing tonal changes of dialects is ongoing.

/ɬd, ɬt/→[tɬ]: * kʰułda > khotla cf. dialectal kholla

/jt/→[ʦ]: * kʷʰeyta > khótsá

/kj/→[ʦ]: *čewkʰyu > tsotsú, *kyupʰe > tsúphé

/d/→[r]/ V_V: *kuda > kora; this was found in the southern dialects, hence Tmaśareʔ loan words with medial /r/

/Cʰ$Cʰ/ where $ = any space within the same lexeme --> [Cʰ$C]: *tʰawa-tʰãda > thothana > thotana

Glottal stop and vowel cluster reduction, most noticeably in compound words: /*kʰa.ya.ʔu.ʔa.šẽ/ > /khé.a.ʔo.ʔa.sem/ > /khéoasem/; */nunéʔukhé/ > /nunúkhé/



labial alveolar palatal velar glottal
stops p pʰ t tʰ k kʰ ʔ
affricates ts tsʰ
lateral affricate tɬ tɬʰ
voiceless fricative s
nasals m n ŋ
lateral fricative ɬ
approximants j w

/ɬ tɬ ŋ ts ʔ j/ will be written <l tl ŋ ts 7 y>


Front Central Back
High i ɯ
Mid e ɤ
Low a

Each vowel is realized as rounded when preceded or followed by a labial or /w/. Any vowel has no more than three potential allophones, with /i/ taking the total while /ɯ/ gets by with [u] as its single allophone.

/a/→[ɒ, ɔ]

/e/→[œ, ø]

/i/→[y, ʏ, ʉ]

/ɤ/→[o, ɞ]


Syllable Structure

Syllable structure is limited to {(C)(w)V((N)l, ŋ)}, where N = the archiphonemic nasal.

Examples: /tɬa˩.ŋa˧/, /swo˩/, /tɬi˥Nɬ/, /kɒm˧.pœ˥/, /sa˥/, /ʔa˩ɬ.ɬa˨ɬ/, /ʔa˩.se˧.na˨ŋ/


Empotle7á has a register tone system of two tones: high and low tones. The orthography marks the high tone by the acute accent while leaving the low tone unmarked. As allophones, a high tone is lowered, realized as a mid tone next to a syllable containing a low tone. Additionally, a consecutive sequences of HHH gradually falls to HM1M2 while a sequence of LLL rises via LM2M1.

The nasal that manifests itself at the end of syllables is best analyzed not as an individual sound - /m/, /n/, /ŋ/ - but as an archiphonemic nasal (transcribed as /N/). It becomes /m/ at a syllable coda and a nasal of the same point of articulation as a following consonant at a syllable boundary (while assimilating that consonant into itself).

  • tlím 'bee.SG' /tɬi˥N/ > [tɬy˥m]
  • tlín 'bee.dual' /tɬi˥Nɬ/ > [tɬi˥n]
  • kámam-kulú 'fear-wolf' /ka˥.ma˨Nkɯ˨ɬɯ˥/ > kámaŋolú [kɒ̃˦.wɒ˧.ŋɤ˦.ɬɯ]


Empotle7á tends to add obstructants to roots beginning with vowels: /a/ > [ʔa]; /e/ > [ʲe]; /ɤ/>[ʷo].

  • /a.wo/ 'give, tribute' > [ʔa.wo]
  • /e.mu/ 'mouth' > [ʲœ̃.wu]

The bilabial nasal /m/, medial and final position, and final /ɬ/ weaken, with /m/ becoming [w] with nasalization of the preceding vowel and /ɬ/ becoming aspirated [ɬʰ] even to the point of [h]:

  • /ʔe.ɬːaɬ/ 'dozen' > [ʔeɬːah]
  • /pʰɤ.a.jem/ 'chief's hall' > [pʰo.a.jœ̃w]

Vowels that fall between two aspirated stops, affricates, fricatives or any combination thereof become whispered. In a sequence of WV1WV2WV - where W indicates a consonant that triggers whispered vowels - only V2 becomes whispered :

  • /e.tɬa.kʰa/ 'encouragement, inspiration' > [ʲe.tɬḁ.kʰa]
  • /ka.tsʰe.ɬːɯ/ 'vice, dishonor' > [ka.tsʰe̥.ɬːɯ]

Morphophonological Processes

Vowel Harmony

A vowel harmony based on vowel height exists in Empotle7á. The vowel /a/ can only be followed or preceded with /e/ and /ɤ/. Therefore, if a suffix, prefix, or root that contains /i/ or /ɯ/ comes into contact with /a/ via morphology, those high vowels closest to /a/ will drop to /e/ and /ɤ/ respectively.

  • woná7ú-->woná7ó
  • láwulú-->lawolú
  • wosúkhá-->wosókhá

Consonant Gradation

  • An initial /k/ from Proto-Western */kʷ/ (realized as [gʷ] in the dialect that gave rise to Empotle7a) shifts to /w/ in the presence of a prefix.
tawowuné laná
tá-kowu-né laná-Ø
NC2.ABS-cook-1sg.ERG egg.ABS
I'm cooking an egg.
  • An initial /t/ from Proto-Western */d/ elides in the presence of a prefix.
oalam tá latloŋa?
o-talam tá latloŋa
NC1.ABS-swim 2sg why
Why are you swimming?

Tone Dropping

Prefixes containing a high tone will drop to low tone when next to a historically voiced consonant. E.g.:

  • *taγedže --> tayetle, 'it runs', not *táyetle
  • *tabẽdza--> tawena, 'it cuts', not *táwena
  • tagʷegʷu--> tawowu 'it is cooked', not *táwowu

Similarly, suffixes that originated in Proto-Western from a closed syllable (-CCV) or contained a voiced consonant triggered a low tone.

  • 7allá- 'anger' + -tla 'stative verb suffix' (< PW *-dza) --> 7allatla 'make angry'
  • 7óná- 'tooth' + -llá 'dynamic verb suffix' (< PW *-łpa) --> 7ónallá 'bite'

Nasal Assimilation

In verbal morphology, the initial consonant of any suffix or incorporated word assimilates to the nasal at its point of articulation to a verb stem ending in /N/ or another suffix with a coda nasal. Exception, /Nj/ where N=any nasal > [ŋ].

tákámaŋolóká 7empowolá7é
tá-kámam-kulú-ká 7empo-kolá-7í
NC2-fear-wolf-3sg.ERG our.IP-child
Our son is scared of wolves.

Vowel Assimilation

If a root ends in a vowel and a /V/ or a /ʔV/ suffix with the identical vowel is attached, the vowels assimilate. The product is a phonemically long vowel that is always high toned.



Nominal Morphology


Empotle7á's nominal morphology is simple and straightforward. The language maintains the distinction between singular, dual, and plural like its ancestor while dropping the edible/inedible dichotomy. Three declension classes, vowel stems, m stems, and the -7 stem, separate the nouns. Like many other Western languages Empotle7á marks its nouns for the ergative, absolutive, and construct cases and indicates possession via head-marking. Sound changes from the proto-language eliminated the old plural, resulting in an innovated, head-marked plural morpheme.

singular absolutive ergative constructive
vowel stem -7Í -7Ú
-7 stem
m stem -pÍ -pÚ
  • swo, swo7í, swo7ú
  • la7, la7é, la7ó
  • tlím, tlímpí, tlímpú

dual absolutive ergative construct
vowel stem -l -lÍ -lÚ
m stem -n -nÍ -nÚ
  • swol, swolí, swolú
  • tlín, tlíní, tlínú

Empotle7á created a new morpheme to indicate the plural: -. It seems to come from a truncated form of *lana 'some' or from -*la- a fronted collective classifier.

plural absolutive ergative construct
vowel stem lá- lá-...-wo lá-...-wo
m stem lá- lá-...-pÍ lá-...-pÚ
  • láswo, láswowo, láswowo
  • látlém, látlémpí, látlémpú


Empotle7á distinguishes between alienable and inalienable possession. Alienably possessed nouns are simply preceded by their possessor, cast in the construct, whereas inalienably possessed nouns take an obligatory possessive prefix marking number and person of the possessor. The prefixes follow the plural morpheme -.

Speakers can add nuances to meaning by using or withholding the inalienable prefixes. For example, nawolá means 'my child' and implies a blood relation whereas ná7ó kolá means the same thing but does not imply the blood relation, hence an extended meaning of 'my nephew' or even 'my orphan/ward'. Some exceptions of alienable items marked by inalienable prefixes, as a matter of culture, include livestock, spiritual items, weapons, and horses

singular dual   plural  
1st ná- 7ená- 7empo-
2nd tsé- tlé- 7ie-
3rd 7é- lé- ko-

the children of those two
my family
tó lané? Khel! Othwewo nálané nóké!!!
tá-7ó lané khel o-thwe-wo ná-lané nóké
2sg.CONS horse NEG NC1-become 1sg-horse EMPH
Your horse? Of course not! This is my horse!
éllí kolané
é-llí ko-lané
ANA-C2 3.PL-horse
That is their horse


Classifiers in Empotle7á are used to overtly mark demonstratives and absolutive referents of verbs. Verbs agree with the classes of their A or E arguments, and modifiers agree with the classes of their head nouns. Here they are listed along with their characteristic suffixes. Due to substrate influence, the classifiers, when used as absolutive referent markers, are prefixed on to verbs. Empotle7á nonetheless maintains its Proto-Western roots in suffixing the classifiers to modifiers, demonstratives, and pronoun stems. They are glossed as 'NC1, NC2...

-o- humans, men, favored animals, predatory animals, other beings capable of speech: people, dogs, horses, bears, wolves, eagles, gods, spirits, demons, ancestors etc.
tá-/-llÍ organic substances and women: female humans, edible animals, plants, liquids; parts of the body etc.
-sé- intangible things: emotions, colors, wind, liquids, fire, ideas etc.
-wUm- solid, straight objects: sticks, weapons, arrows, fingers, penises, legs, arms etc.
-kU- inedible objects: rocks, stones, unripe fruit, groups and collections, non-food animals etc.

NB: The two morphemes of the second noun class stem from a merger of PW *-łki- and *-ta-. In Empotle7á, the latter is used as a verbal prefix marking absolutive referents while the former is used as a suffix elsewhere.

Usage notes: -o-, tá-, and -kU- are the dominant noun classes. Ie, when speakers use casual language or do not know what noun class to use for a given nominal, they will default to one of the three. Noun class 4 (-wUm-) finds more use as a derivational prefix, and, as a noun class marker, is nearly merged with (-kU-); noun class 3 (-sé-) remains in use, most clearly in set phrases and proverbs but is starting to merge with tá-. There is an overall trend towards prefixation: -llÍ- has become a fixture of only the most careful speech, set phrases, and simple pronoun referents. The classifiers are beginning to expand further with tá- and wum- are beginning to emerge as nominalizers in derivational morphology.

Proto-Western placed an important morphological distinction on edibility. This continues in Empotle7a in the noun classes. Classes 2 and 4 carry meaning of edibility, with 2 referring to edible referents and 4 to inedible ones. However, the primary distinction seems to be intent towards eating the referent: for example, speakers refer to a group of edible things with noun class four (eg., in the following sentence the referent tilem 'mushroom' takes two referents at different parts of the story: kutluphuné tshú si látelem e7lí wowuká ku pampa - 'I gathered two mushrooms yesterday that daddy cooked').


Modifiers and adpositions follow their head noun.

lané 7eallé
horse slow-NC2
a/the slow horse
Laŋatsompú tawe sépheolláwo kotsú
spirit.world-CONS on NC4-reside-GENEV kwacu
Kotsu lives in the spirit world

Multiple adjectives referring to a single nominal serialized the adjectives by combining them into a single lexeme. The noun classifer fell on the 'last' adjective added to the sequence. If speakers chose not to serialize adjectives, they generally then followed the form ADJ tsá ADJ; three or more simple tacked on tsá 'and' to the last adjective.

  • kulú tlámá tsá ŋallollí
  • wolf red and stupid-NC2
  • the dumb, red wolf
  • kulú tlámáŋallollí
  • wolf red-stupid-NC2
  • the dumb, red wolf

  • kulú tlámá opi ŋallollí tsá
  • wolf red wet stupid-NC2 and
  • the dumb, red, and wet wolf

  • kulú tlámáopiŋallollí
  • wolf red-wet-dumb-NC2
  • the dumb, red, and wet wolf



The class of determiners in Empotle7á includes demonstratives and quantifiers. Both obligatorily use the noun classifiers as suffixes, the classifier agreeing with the referent which is being determined.

Additionally, Empotle7á determiners partook of the nature of phoric pronouns, in that in addition to determining another nominal, they can also stand alone with anaphoric/cataphoric reference.

All dogs shit everywhere, but everyone wants one.

Phoric Pronouns

Simple copula sentences used the anaphoric (ku-) and cataphoric (é-) pronoun stems. Speakers began speaking about new subjects with the latter (glossed as CAT) and switched to the former (ANA) for the remainder of the dialogue. Since the pronoun takes the noun class referent, adding it on the modifier was redundant for same referent. Different referents in the same sentence required that the noun class markers stay on the modifiers.

This horse is slow, and its rider is dumb!
Is it slow?

When speakers wished to discuss the past or future, the phoric pronouns could be combined with verbs like -thwé- 'become' or -é7ellá- 'come' though this was not mandatory.

Kulotlama was such a dumb horse

Indeed, in such cases, ku and é were fronted with the subject of the sentence and often functioned more as discourse particles signifying 'This is a new statement' and 'This is something we were talking about' respectively.

  • Ku pampa ŋé oé7ellámó ékálaŋo
  • Grampa always would be playful.
  • Yámá é pampa omíolláŋémóká ko tá khel!
  • But he never disciplined you!


Empotle7á showed a two way deixis in its demonstratives: visible tle (glossed as VIS), and non-visible ta (NONVIS). They followed their head and took their head's noun class suffix. Reduplication of the prefix increased the distance from the speaker (glossed as DIST). They were also utilized for existential sentences. The non-visible demonstrative ta, in particular, was used to refer to entire past chunks of discourse; cf. lexicalized tlemá 'here' (lit. 'this place') and tletle 'over there' and tamá 'there'.

  • Ku láTsemeswiwo lákemó sésékamam tamá oyelláwo ná ta...
  • 'I heard about that, that the huts of the Tsemeswi are to be found there...'

That star
There was a wolf somewhere around here

I heard what you said but I don't agree with that.


Empotle7á has retained the octal counting system of its ancestor. Counting is performed by counting the spaces between the fingers and the thumb, then by counting the non-thumb (which are used as placeholders for units of 108) fingers themselves. This results in a total of sixteen units.

cardinal ordinal
1 tawo- tawó
2 sí- siu
3 natló- nallo
4 mená- menao
5 7otla- 7otlao
6 míní- míniu
7 ŋallé- ŋalleu
108 senal/ŋawo- ŋawao

Other numbers:

  • 2(108) -- waneŋawo from PW *γãdže-ñaγʷa 'great 108'
  • (108)²--ŋamawo < dissimulation of *ŋa-ŋawo
  • 10008 -- ipipo from Proto-Lukpanic *iub iub 'a great quantity of shells (ie., used as currency)'

The ordinal form of 108, which is homophonous to its cardinal form, has analogized along the lines of other ordinals ending in -ao. Multiples of 108 are formed by prefixing ŋa- to the root number. Other cardinal numbers are formed by the function {(multiple of 108) tsá (ones digit)}.

  • látálawalláné ŋaméní tsá 7otla kítiwo! 'I see sixty five whales!'
  • ótláwam éo míniuo lá. 'He's the sixth man to die.'

Sound changes from Proto-Western produced near homophones in *mená 4 (< *mẽca-) and *mení 6 (< *mẽči-); *nalló 3 ( < *nałtu-) and *nallé 7 (< *nalši-). The irregular outcomes for these numbers are interpreted as efforts to distinguish the numbers in counting.

We see for 108 senal 'two hands' instead of the expected outcome ŋawo. However the ordinal form - ŋawao - from the Proto-Western root remains.

Unlike other determiners, numbers preceded their noun head and did not take its class markers:

  • mená la7 - 'four men'
  • ŋallé láoyetle - 'seven runners'

Speakers, however, did use class markers to clear ambiguity and to mark ordinal and determinal numbers:

  • Koye koláyéwu. Sío tsá senallé, ŋallowu.
  • 'No, you brat. Two (of a referant that takes NC1) and eight (of a referant that takes NC2), dummy.'
  • tátsééné siullí
  • tá-tséé-né siu-llí
  • NC2-want-1sg.ERG second-NC2
  • I want the second one.


The personal pronouns explicitly refer to the speaker and to the addressee. Both are distinguished in number between singular and plural; dual forms have been lost. Replacing them is the construction two + pronoun. The second person shows a T-V distinction in its plural form.

  absolute     ergative     construct  
1st singular ná7é ná7ó
1st plural sá7é sá7ó
2nd singular tá7é tá7ó
2nd formal/plural lao tu7í
  • The 2nd person formal/plural is from PW. *la-du, with the case forms eliding the initial la-.
  • Casual or rapid speech reduces the pronouns from the pattern Cá7é and Cá7ó to and .

Third Person

There are two 3rd person pronouns: anaphoric é (things already mentioned) and cataphoric ku (things not yet mentioned). They take noun class to mark their referents. Their plural stems do not form with - and are the irregular ek- and kuk- respectively.

  é-     ek-     ku-     kuk-  
1st noun class éo eko kuo kuko
2nd noun class ellí e7lí kullí ku7lí
3rd noun class ésé e7sé kusé ku7sé
4th noun class éwum ewum kuwum kuwum
5th noun class éku e7ku kuku ku7ku
Láomésáwénem sá7é eko.
lá-o-mí-sáwé-nem sá7é ek-o
We fought them.
Osáwewaná kuo
o-sáwé-wam-ná ku-o
NC1.ABS-EVID3-fight-2.Erg CAT-NC1.ABS
So, you fought this guy...


The indefinite pronoun in Empotle7á is phá-, it takes noun class.

  • Othásená sallem pháo.
  • NC1.ABS-do-sing surprisingly indef.-NC1
  • Surprisingly, anyone can sing.

Fourth Person

For generic, indefinite, and unknown referents

To express natural states, such as the weather and other natural phenomena, a verb was marked with the absolutive class marker --

  • Sékhatlalo!
  • There's an earthquake! (lit. It shakes!)
  • Sé7awotli tsá tshú oéya7thamóká ésé ná!
  • It rained yesterday which frightened me!

The anaphoric pronoun ku is used for generic, indefinite, and unknown referents.

  • Oméla7áká kuo7í lásaŋkhá.
  • o-mí-la7á-ká ku-o-7í lá-saŋkhá
  • NC1-PAST-steal-3sgERG ANA-NC1-ERG PL-thing
  • Someone stole my things.

  • Támékámané ko kotá.
  • ta-mí-kamam-né ko ku-tá
  • NC2-PAST-fear-1sg.ERG NEG ANA-NC2
  • I wasn't scared of those beasts! (notice the speaker's hypercorrection of NC2 -llÍ- to --).

The Verb

Empotle7á is an ergative-absolutive language. The verb is marked for participant reference, evidentiality, and tense.


(absolutive) [marked by noun class] (tense) stem (incorporated noun) (secondary ergative = causative) (evidential) (primary ergative)

A modal verb: "We will make them eat the crab meal".

látá oté kowu lipí thá-nem tli kam

The result, after vowel harmony, nasal assimilation, and consonant gradation, is:


Referent Markers


Nouns in the absolutive are simply marked by their corresponding noun class marker. Plurals place the - before the noun class. If a group of nominals with conflicting noun class markers are absolutive objects of a verb, speakers tend to default to the "highest" ranking class in a hierarchy of animacy (that is, trees and stones are subordinate to animals which are subordinate to humans etc); in a pinch, speakers will default to noun class 1:o-.

  • sé7awollí 'It's really raining'


The position of the ergative referent markers on the verb complex is position VII. The referent markers for the ergative case differ depending on the type of verb stem.

In the presence of verb stems or morphemes ending in a nasal, such as kámam or -wam-, the ergative endings are as follows:

person  singular   plural 
 1st  - -nem
 2nd  - -nam
 3rd  -ŋá -ŋam
  • o-kámam-ŋam ná-->okámaŋam ná 'They're scared of me.'

The 2nd. person absolutive endings were appropriated to the ergative case after -*/čʰe/ and -*/čʰẽ/ merged with -*/ne/ and -*/nẽ/ in the presence of nasal consonants.

For a vowel stem, in either verbs or morphemes, the endings are as follows:

person  singular   plural 
 1st  - - nem
 2nd  - tshé - tshem
 3rd  - - kam
  • o-tlemé-né tá-->otleméné tá 'I'm dreaming of you'

Nominal and Verbal Incorporation

The incorporation of a nominal imparts a meaning to the verb incorporating the noun. It increases the indefiniteness and generic nature of the statement.


Our child is scared of the wolf


Our child is afraid of wolves

Similarly, when two verbs are incorporated, the meanings are conflated. The dvandva forms by placing the first verb in the construct state with --; one of the most common such verbs - tséé 'want' - has the special dvandva form -tséu-:

Do you want to listen?


Verbs had system of of evidentiality markers which denoted the origin of the speaker's evidence for a statement. There were eight categories of evidentiality, marked by suffixes occurring directly following the verb's root if a causative was not present. Speakers of Empotle7á considered evidentials to be a more important source of information than tense: Two verbal morphemes -- and -oté- function akin to tense and mark perfective and future non-perfective aspects, respectively. Speakers tend to avoid them, however, in favor of evidentials and explicit adverbs of time (ie. yesterday, tomorrow, last year, etc), and a verb unmarked for evidentiality was considered to be indicative of an irrealis mood.

The Senses

The first set of evidentiality markers indicated that the evidence was gained directly by the speaker via the senses. There were three such markers: -tli-/-é-, which denotes that the speaker felt, heard, or witnessed the action visually. Men characteristically used -tlI- while women used -é-. This evidential was avoided with verbs of explicit perception like 'see', 'touch', 'hear', etc; -- was preferred instead. Next is -pUm-, which denotes that the speaker smelled the evidence, and -mpel-, which donates the speaker tasted the evidence. Speakers also used -mpel- to emphasize their statements.

You farted (I know because I heard it).
I want you to listen to me!


The second set of markers indicated that the evidence is secondhand and not directly derived from the speaker's experience. There were two such markers: -wam-, which indicates that the information was received via hearsay and may or may not be accurate (glossed as HEARS), and -llÍ-, indicating that the speaker has no doubts about the information he has received (glossed as NDBT). Story-tellers often use -wam- throughout narration, reserving -llÍ- for their story's moral or climax.

They say he died.
É Etsatlówal othwélléká tle7á7ó 7empokathéo
é Etsatlówal o-thwé-llí-ká tle7á-7ú 7empo-kathéo
ANA Etsatlówal NC1-become-NDBT-3sg.ERG ANA-NC1 tribe-CONS 1pl.POSS-shaman.ABS
That's why Mixes-the-Smoke is our tribe's shaman.


The morpheme -- served as a quotative evidential marker on the verb stem. It conveys that the speaker is quoting someone else:

Ótlaké kulú
o-ótla-ké kulú
NC1-die-QUO1 wolf
"The wolf died"

When quoting a specific source, the quotative ergator was placed after the ergative or absolutive subject of the quoted verb:

Ótlaké kulú phoao7í
o-ótla-ké kulú phoao-7í
NC1-die-QUO wolf chief-HON-ERG
"The wolf died," said Sir Chief

A combination morpheme -kéwam- indicated that the news was heard second-hand:

ótlákéwam Etsatlówal
o-otlá-kéwam Etsatlówal
NC1-die-QUO2 Etsatlówal.ABS
Etsatlówal died (so I've heard second hand).


The third set indicated that the information was not personally experienced but was inferred from degrees of evidence. There were three of these markers: -lU-, which indicated that there was physical evidence (glossed as PHYSEV); and -wo-, which indicates that the information comes from a past event, is inferred or assumed based on the speaker's past experience of similar situations, or that the information is general knowledge (glossed as GENEV); and -- which indicated that the speaker directly participated in the event (glossed as PRTEV).


  • Pampa, sémásewo émao latloŋa?
  • pampa sé-másé-wo éma-o latloŋa
  • papa NC4-shine-PHYSEV sun-ABS-HON why
  • Papa, why does sun shines?

-lU- and --

  • Tátlophúmúné tshú kulótlená
  • tá-tluphú-mú-né tshú kulótlená
  • NC2-hunt-PRTEV-1sg{ERG} yesterday bear{ABS}
  • I went hunting for a bear yesterday (not that I got anything).
  • Tátlophúluné tshú kulótlená
  • tá-tluphú-lu-né tshú kulótlená
  • NC2-hunt-EVID5-1sg{ERG} yesterday bear{ABS}
  • I went hunting for a bear yesterday (and here's the pelt).
  • Othwélu tótlaŋalo; tu7 táwowumúnem otlú.
  • o-thwé-lu tótlaŋalo tu7 tá-kowu-mú-nem otlú
  • NC1.ABS-become-PHYSEV ancestor.ABS | therefore NC2-cook-PRTEV-1pl.ERG liver.ABS
  • He became an ancestor; therefore we cooked his liver (I participated in the event).


Empotle7a innovated three negation particles - ko, khel, and koyé - from the reconstructed Proto-Western phrase *kʷe ye X kʰełka, lit. "but not a stone".

The first word of the phrase *kʷe gives the common negator for verbs: ko.

  • óteotlellé ko phoa.
  • o-ote-otle-llí ko phoa-Ø
  • NC1-FUT-die-EVID5 NEG chief.ABS
  • The chief will never die.
  • otamoyétli ko ná! 'I don't have an erection!'

It can be joined with the other negative particle, khel, after the object (which does not take a noun classifier in this case), topicalizing the negated element.

  • Támewowu7ónam ko otlú khel.
  • tá-mí-kowu-7ú-nam otlú-Ø khel
  • NEG NC2-PAST-cook-EVID6-1pl.ERG liver.ABS NEG
  • We didn't cook the liver.

In pausa speakers used koyé, from the first two elements of that Proto-Western phrase:

  • Olinimpuwoká lamno7ú ná? Koye
  • 'Does the priest dislike me?' No.

It has four general realizations - [kɤ˧.je˧] [kɤi˨] [ke˨] [kœ˩] - spread across speakers.

The latter part of the Proto-Western negation phrase, *kʰełka, enters Empotle7á, too, as the negation particle khel. Whereas ko follows its head, khel by contrast negated nominal phrases:

  • Khelo phoao tamá
  • 'The chief isn't here'
  • Khellí lálané tlemá yámá tletle
  • 'The horses aren't here but over there').

Proto-Western's original negating particle *ye survived in Empotle7á as é. It was considered archaic and preceeded its head:

  • é tlho so tlhó
  • Not walking but family (a proverb)
  • É séwenatlekam láphétlowo kotsú wokútú lálanétsum
  • 'The humans do not know the swiftness of horsekind'

Lané tsá Lámeŋu/The horse and the sheep

Látátselláwamo wóé7ú tawe lané7í lámeŋu. Khuwésáwaŋá 7ásempí tawó meŋú thólá. Táwa7áwaŋá kolá7é siu meŋu. Táotletlawaŋá lá7é nallo meŋu. Tawowowaŋam éo7ú khé7ú na7 menao meŋu.

Támétawatlawamo lané7í tásé meŋu: "O7wetlawokam láphétlowo kotsú tsá látátháthálo7ekam láwótsú lámeŋu."

Ométlatséwamo meŋú meŋutsum: "Otséuyellámpel ná, laneo nó! Tápháphaékútlekam láphétlowo kotsú lané wokúllí tsá o7wetlawokam ná. É séwenatlekam láphétlowo kotsú wokútú lálanétsum, yámá láotéwenawo oto7am láphétlowo kotsú tsá pham otéthwémpel tá7é eko7ú wollu!"

Tsá sémíyéllío tasé tsá omíyetle7atlollí lané7í tákatle7ú ké.

  • linguistic notes: The narrator uses an older form of ergative marking with the nominal classifiers. Note that, as story characters, the horse and the sheep have been elevated to the rank of humans with the classifer -o-: látátselláo and cf. reconstructed Proto-Western *čeldawata. In contrast, the opening to The Horse and the Sheep in current speech would be látátsellá. Other archaic linguistic features of this speech include the negative é and the use of ko in its original sense of the conjunction 'but'.