Hitatc languages

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Historical background

The Hitatc languages were widely spoken in the regions south of the Eigə river in preclassical times; most notably by the Wan and Mlir tribes, nomadic inhabitants of the Milīr steppe regions who turned out to be the only "primitive" peoples capable of resisting an invasion by the legendary Ndak emperor Tsinakan. This affair was ashamedly left out of most official Ndak chronicles, but apocryphic records provide glimpses to the earliest attested bits of Hitatc culture and language.

At the time of Tsinakan (around -1900 YP), Hitatc peoples populated almost all the land between the Rathedān highlands (NT daing emwel) to the west and the Ici forest (ntâug pai tam) to the east. They had a nomadic lifestyle, and were divided into many small tribes with separate but similar identities and traditions. Descendants of the closely related (and possibly intercomprehensible) Wan and Mlir languages continued to be the main tongues in the region until the third century after the death of the prophet Zārakātias, and the Hitatc nomads firmly held on to their lands. It was only in the Itatizan War in 229-231 YP that the emergent Empire of Athalē conquered the lower and middle Milīr valley. In the meantime, the Wan-Mlir dialects had diversified into about half a dozen languages, the most important one being Ktacwa (Ad. itatizan). At least three of these received the attention of Dāiadak scholars. As most of the Wan-Mlir languages were never written, almost all that is known about them derives from these studies. After the conquest by Athalē, the Wan-Mlir languages became extinct within a few centuries, leaving traces only as a substrate in the southern varieties of Adāta and descendants thereof (e.g. Aθáta and Pencek).

Only two minor Hitatc languages were known to have survived into the second millennium YP. Both of them were spoken in remote mountain areas on the upper Milīr, and both had many features in common with the languages from downriver areas. However, it is general consensus among linguists that the Uplands Hitatc languages diverged from their more prominent Wan and Mlir relatives a few centuries before Tsinakan.

To the surprise of many scholars, early attempts at reconstructing the common ancestor of the family resulted in a lexical stock that pointed to an origin in a lush, forested area rather than to the semi-dry Milīr region. While some linguists fiercely rejected this conclusion, others began to look for possible relatives, variously proposing connections to Miwan, Peninsular or even Xšali. None of these suggestions withstood a closer examination, but two small isolate languages could convincingly be linked to the Hitatc family: Necine, spoken in the southern Ici forest around +1000 YP, and Pirikõsu, spoken in the Şepamã valley near the east coast of the continent six centuries later.

Family tree

Known members of the Hitatc language family include:

  • Proto-Hitatc (Ici Forest, c. -2800 YP)
    • Western Hitatc
      • Proto-Wan-Mlir (Milīr valley, c. -2200 YP)
        • Hitatc Wan (lower Milīr valley, c. -1900 YP)
          • Ktacwa (lower Milīr valley, c. 200 YP)
        • Hitatc Mlir (upper Milīr valley, c. -1900 YP)
      • Uplands Hitatc
        • Eteucu (upper Milīr valley, c. 1500 YP)
    • Eastern Hitatc
      • Common Eastern Hitatc (Ici Forest, c. -2000 YP)
        • Necine (western Ici Forest, c. 1000 YP)
        • Pirikõsu (Şepamã valley, c. 1500 YP)

Proto-Hitatc

Main article: Proto-Hitatc
Old information.
Old information.
The contents of this article are heavily out of date.
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Proto-Hitatc
Period c. -2800 YP
Spoken in Ici forest
Total speakers unknown
Writing system none
Classification Hitatc
 Proto-Hitatc
Typology
Basic word order VSO w/ topic fronting
Morphology lightly agglutinating
Alignment ERG-ABS
Credits
Created by cedh audmanh

Consonants

 labial   coronal   palatal   velar   uvular   glottal 
plosives p · b t · d c · ɟ k · ɡ q · ɢ ʔ
fricatives s χ h
nasals m̥ · m n̥ · n ŋ̊ · ŋ ɴ̥ · ɴ
laterals l̥ · l
trills r̥ · r ʀ
  semivowels ʋ j ɰ

Vowels

 front   central   back 
     high i u
mid e ə o
low a

Morpheme structure

Almost all surface syllables in Proto-Hitatc were of the form CV, that is, exactly one onset consonant followed by exactly one vowel. The only exception is that word-initial consonants appear to have been optional; some linguists have argued that this would be a strong argument for including the phoneme as distinct from *h, so a pure CV structure could be maintained.

However, a more detailed analysis of morphophonemic alternations and certain other irregularities shows that underlying morphemes could actually both begin with a vowel and/or end with a consonant. The underlying syllable structure must therefore be analyzed as (C)V(C).

Basic roots usually consisted of two or three syllables. Monosyllabic morphemes are also reconstructed; these were mostly affixes or grammatical function words such as pronouns or adpositions. A small number of affixes were subsyllabic C or V or antisyllabic VC in their underlying form; sandhi would make these conform to the canonical syllable structure where necessary.

The general morpheme structure can be summarized as follows:

  • roots: (C)VCV(CV)(C)
  • particles: CV(C)
  • affixes: -(C)V(C)- or rarely -C-

Stress

Proto-Hitatc seems to have had a fairly strong dynamic stress accent, leading to significant vowel reduction especially in the western daughter languages. The location of the accent was phonemic; any syllable of a root could be stressed.

In some daughter languages, most prominently in the western ones, affixes could cause word stress to move. All such affixes, however, were only grammaticalized after the breakup of Proto-Hitatc. With the current state of research, Necine (of the eastern branch) seems to be the only post-Zārakātiāran Hitatc language that preserved the original accent location for all basic morphemes.

Diachronics

The most important differences between the eastern and western subfamilies can be summarized as follows:

  • The eastern languages merged the voiceless nasals with the voiced ones. The western languages turned them into fricatives instead.
  • In the western languages, stress could move when affixes were added, creating significant stem allomorphy when vowel syncope set in. The eastern languages preserved the original stress pattern for much longer.
  • The eastern languages tended to remain fairly close to the original CV syllable structure. In contrast, the western languages syncopated many unstressed vowels, becoming distinctively rich in consonant clusters. This feature was famously commented on by the great Dāiadak historian Saphamīx, who remarked about the Ktacwa language in 208 YP:
    • XA KOIA AX ĀITATIZAN RO ATHE BAXA ON HONULAK, ON IAL RO ĀPAZATHI MABA IAKHO. NIN RO ZŌMA ĪRAKĒMEIEN.
      That speech of the Itatizan is rough and unclear, and it makes a hard mouth. Therefore it is difficult to learn.