Jamna Kopiai/Tipatirápai

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Period c. 1500 YP
Spoken in Zeluzhia
Total speakers 100k - 200k
Writing system unwritten
Classification Damo-Tingreya
Basic word order SOV
Morphology agglutinative
Alignment tripartite
Created by Radius

Tipatirápai is a language of the northern Zeluzhian savanna spoken by the Tipati, neighbors of the Jamna people in the middle of the second millennium YP. No descendants of the language survived into the technological age and our knowledge of it is poor, taken entirely from Jamna descriptions and loanwords in Jamna Kopiai and other languages. It is not closely related to any other language, but has been tentatively grouped with the Damo-Tingreya stock of northern Zeluzhian languages to which Jamna Kopiai may also belong. If correct, this connection is distant.

Note that the acute accent in Tipatirápai marks stress, not low tone which we spell with a grave accent. The stress marking is not strictly necessary in a description of this language because it is predictable, and we bother in the name only because we must in our Jamna description.

points of interest

Grammatically, the language is notable for its tripartite nominal case system, with a total of three case forms for all nominals: basic (intransitive), accusative, and genitive, with the latter serving double duty as the main ergative form. The accusative serves also as a definite article, so transitive clause subjects appear in the accusative case if they are definite and full nominals, and the genitive case otherwise. The verb is complex and may be considered polysynthetic, with affixes for many tense-aspect distinctions, bound pronouns for up to two core participants, evidentials, directionals, switch-reference, and numerous derivations, among other things. Instrumental affixes among the semantic morphology of Jamna Kopiai were all borrowed or calqued from Tipatirápai. Morphology is almost purely concatenative, with little fusion (except the intransitive case) and few sound alternations (lenition of /p t/ after low tone to /v r/).

Phonologically, Tipatirápai is notable for is small phonology and for its strict CV syllable pattern with zero tolerance for consonant clusters or even null onsets, at least on the phonemic level. Rather than consonants and vowels freely combining with each other, only some combinations occur, to a total of only 42 possible syllables (discounting tone) rather than the 66 that might be logically expectable from eleven consonants and six vowels. Indeed, it may be considered that syllables are the basic phonological units of Tipatirápai rather than its consonants and vowels taken separately. That said, we can list the apparent segments that do appear: stops /p t k/, fricatives /f ʃ h/, resonants /v m n r j/, and vowels /a e i o u aj/. Only two consonants occur before all six vowels, while [ʃ] can be found only before /i/ and thus may be called an allophone of /h/. /v/ may be a fricative or an approximant; this is uncertain, and it has been borrowed by other languages variously as [b], [f], and [w]. Unstressed syllables /pi ti ʃi ki/ can collapse to fricatives [f s ʃ x] before a voiceless consonant. All syllables with voiced consonants can have either neutral or low tone; all other syllables have only neutral tone. Some evidence suggests low tone may have originated from breathy voicing. Stress is on the penultimate syllable unless this has low tone, in which case stress goes on the antepenultimate syllable. Secondary stresses are assigned to every third syllable to the left of the primary stress, so that every phrase has a dactylic meter ending with a trochee or another dactyl. Tipatirápai may be a metrically timed language, with each metrical foot taking about the same length of time to say, the shorter length of trochees compensated by increased vowel length on the primary stress.

syllable table

neutral-tone syllables

pi pa pu pai
ti te ta to tu tai
ki ke ka ko ku kai
ha ho hu hai
fi fe fo
vi ve va
mi ma mu mai
ni na no nai
ri re ra ro
ye ya yo

low-tone syllables


Total: 60 syllables