Jouki Stəy

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Jouki Stəy is a Dumic language spoken 0-200 YP in Jouki, a nation occupying the easternmost point of mainland Tuysáfa. This resource-poor area developed somewhat in isolation. The terrain, being rather rocky and rugged, did not grow rice effectively at first and population density remained low. Gradually, the development of local rice strains led to higher crop yields, and large towns emerged ca. 100; ironworking caught on soon after.

The form Jouki Stəy literally means "language of Jouki" and perhaps would be used in contrast to another language, for example Kataputi (typically called Kupséi Stəy "western language"). In more casual speech the language could be referred to by as kəu stəy "our language," psaki stəy "normal language," or some nonce construction.



labial coronal palatal velar
stop p t k
fricative (f) v s ð ʝ
nasal m n
liquid r
  • After another consonant, the fricatives /v ʝ/ are pronounced [w j].
  • /ð/ only occurs initially except in cases of recent compounding.
  • /p t k m n s/ can occur geminated in intervocalic position; initially /pp tt kk ss/ surface as [pf ts ks ts].
  • [f] only occurs intervocalically and in the initial cluster [pf]; it is best treated as an allophone of /p/.
  • Intervocalic single /s/ voices to [z].
  • Only /n/ can occur in final position, where it surfaces as nasalization of the preceding vowel.
  • Intial and medial clusters can occur quite freely, though consonants exhibit a sonority hierarchy of /ʝ/ < /r/ < /v/ < /m n/ < everything else, where those lower on the hierarchy tend to form the second element of a cluster (i.e. /ʝ/ is always the second element, never the first).


There are three simple vowels /a i u/, three falling diphthongs /aʊ ɛɪ oʊ/ and three rising diphthongs /əi əu əɨ/. Any vowel can be nasalized, though /a/ backs to [ɑ~].


/ð ʝ aʊ ɛɪ oʊ əɨ/ are spelled đ j au ei ou əy. The phone [f] is accorded its own letter f.


The language is notable in comparison to its nearest relatives for its lack of inflectional morphology, except in the auxiliary verbal system.

Nouns do not inflect at all. Verbs mark grammatical categories only on a series of auxiliary verbs.


Pronouns, unlike nouns, distinguish number (including one dual form) and absolutive, ergative and oblique cases.

absolutive ergative oblique
I ti tikan təi
you (sg.) ma makan mei
he kan kakkan kanni
she tun tukkan tunni
you and I kuta ktakan ktei
we (excl.) təy təykan tjəy
we (incl.) kəu kəukan kvəy
you (pl.) mou moukan mvəy
they (m.) kammu kmukan kməy
they (f.) tummu tmukan tməy

Auxiliary Verbs

There are five auxiliary verbs, each one marking a category of aspect, further conjugated for voice and mood.

  • kin continuous; basic imperfective
  • ksiri habitual; repeated
  • mjou basic perfective
  • đsei resumptive (referring to continued action after a pause)
  • kmei indicates a sudden change of state or reversal of fortune.

The first two can be grouped together as imperfectives; the other three, as perfectives. The unmarked form of each verb is in the indicative mood and active voice; each can be conjugated of active or antipassive voice, and subjunctive, optative, potential and conditional moods. Each verb also has active and antipassive participles; kin, ksiri and đsei also have imperatives. The following tables show the full conjugation of each verb.

active antipassive
indicative kin ktatta
subjunctive kissan kistatta
optative kitti kteitta
potential kissi kseitta
conditional kimmu kmoutta
participle ktəi ktatəí
imperative kikkoun

active antipassive
indicative ksiri ksireitta
subjunctive ksirisan ksiristatta
optative ksiriji ksirijeitta
potential ksirisi ksiriseitta
conditional ksirəý ksirjoutta
participle ksitrəí ksireittəí
imperative ksikroun

active antipassive
indicative mjou mjouvatta
subjunctive mjousan mjoustatta
optative mjouji mjoujeitta
potential mjousi mjouseitta
conditional mavjóu mavjóutta
participle mjoukóu mjouvatkóu

active antipassive
indicative đsei đseivatta
subjunctive đseisan đseistatta
optative đseiji đseijeitta
potential đseisi đseiseitta
conditional đasjóu đasjoutta
participle đseikóu đseivatkóu
imperative đseikoun

active antipassive
indicative kmei kmeivatta
subjunctive kmeisan kmeistatta
optative kmeiji kmeijeitta
potential kmeisi kmeiseitta
conditional kmupjóu kmupjoutta
participle kmeikóu kmeivatkóu

The verbs đsei and kmei have "expanded" forms đasjéi and kipméi, which can be used for emphasis in storytelling or certain ceremonial registers. These are used as the stems for all forms except the conditional (thus đasjeisan, đasjeiji, etc). Otherwise they are rarely used.


Numbers are base-10. There are no separate cardinal and ordinal forms; cardinal numbers after the noun (kika sei "six days") and ordinals come before (sei kika "the sixth day").

  • kau one
  • miki two
  • pira three
  • đata four
  • piji five
  • sei six
  • tatu seven
  • kufu eight
  • nutti nine
  • koun ten
  • tiki one hundred


The word order is always Ergative-Verb-Absolutive-Auxiliary; a verb phrase must include at least one noun argument. An auxiliary verb is usually present at the end of the phrase.

  • tuji nunna đoufa mjou the dog ate a bug
  • tuji nunna mjou the dog ate [something]
  • nunna đoufa mjou the bug was eaten / something ate the bug

The auxiliary can be omitted, but this expresses a feeling of uncertainty, vagueness, hesitation, or displeasure.

  • tuji nunna... the dog is eating...

Postpositional phrases come right before the auxiliary, after everything else.

  • kin ti sanipəu đatrəí mjou I walked across the rice paddy


The auxiliary system does not mark tense; it tends to privilege aspect and narrative structure. The kin-, ksiri-, and mjou-series are the more commonly used; they respectively indicate continuous, habitual/repeated, and completed states.

  • tikan nunna đoufa kin I (am/was) eating a bug
  • tikan nunna đoufa ksiri I eat bugs
  • tikan nunna đoufa mjou I ate a bug

The lack of tense markers can be occasionally disorienting; for example while mjou most often marks a completed past action, it may also indicate a merely incipient one:

  • tikan nunna đoufa mjou I'm about to eat some bugs

This incipient sense is common in the optative forms.

  • tikan nunna đoufa mjousi I'm about to eat some bugs (hopefully); I was planning on eating some bugs

But much of the distinct flavor of the auxiliary system comes from the two "narrative" series đsei and kmei, referring respectively to continued action after an interruption, and a sudden surprise or reversal of fortune. These are best illustrated in the context of a complete story:

  • Kin ti sanipəu đatrəí kin. Tikan nuvu kausa kmei! Tikan kau mjou. Kin ti đsei. I was walking across the rice paddy. I saw a fox! So I killed it. I kept walking.

The basic perfective mjou could be substituted for kmei here, but the effect of surprise would be dulled, as though the speaker were unsurprised or unruffled by the appearance of the fox. Likewise, if mjou and kmei were reversed, the narrative structure would be altered:

  • Tikan nuvu kausa mjou. Tikan kau kmei! I saw a fox... but I killed it!

Sample Text

The chief and the mouse

Kura spaviki pnaroun ktəi, kan tapkóu tatta taun jau taun nukvissi prafa mei mjou, pi kəijunna kan mavjóu.
A famous chief was once imprisoned by his enemies in a hut without any door or roof-opening, and left to die of starvation.

Nikan kan ein maju ru mrəifa kin, paun pnaroun nuvu đviki tpikkein kmei. Riti tpikkein prafa đumma mjou.
As he sat gloomily on the ground, the chief saw a little mouse running across the hut.

Tutti pnaroun pin tnau mjouvatta, ein kata mjou "Kəi kəijunna ti mjousan, paun tikan nunna tpikkein kmeiji!"
He seized his knife, exclaiming: “Rather than die of hunger, I will eat this mouse!”

Paun prəi kan mjou ein satein pin tnau kmeivatta ein kata mjou "Rakkoun tikan kau tpikkein mjousan? Kseitari kəijunna ti mjou kippein đkasi."
But on second thoughts he put away his knife, saying: “Why should I kill the mouse? I shall starve later on, just the same.”

Kata tpikkein kanni ra kmei: "Nvakki pnaroun! Makan pummu ti mjou, ein pi tikan pummu ma mjoukóu, jikka ti mjou."
To his surprise the mouse said to him: “Noble Chief! You have spared my life, and in return I will spare yours.”

Pi kin tpikkein muppa kein mrəifa mi mjou. Kseitari kin tpikkein đsei, tpikkein mikkóun miji pikróun đijan đutta ein tutti kmammu ein đviki muku kin.
The mouse then disappeared into a hole in the ground, and returned some time afterwards followed by twenty or thirty other mice, all bearing grains and small fruits.

Səikoun nunna kan kməy kin mjou, kika piji đatrəí. Nusi rajoun prafa kan tapkóu mjou, sei kika ta. Kura ein đuku pnaroun mjoukóu, nasoun kammu mjou.
For five days they fed him in this manner, and on the sixth day the hut was opened by the chief’s captors, who were astonished to find him still alive and in good health.

"Məi si pnaroun psikki skou kissan mjəy!" kata kammu mjou. "Kika kan taun masa taun jiji kin kissi mjəy!"
"This chief must have a powerful charm!” they declared. “It appears that he can live without eating or drinking!”

Pi rəyku kmukan kan ein jitein kan kattan tau sipkasi mjou.
So they released him and let him return in freedom to his own country.


The full lexicon can be found here: Jouki Stəy/Lexicon

This is a brief lexicon representing only words used in this article, excluding auxiliary verb forms.

ein conj. and
jau n. door
jiji n. water
jikka v. reciprocate
jitein v. allow
kammu pron. they (masc. abs.)
kan pron. he (abs.)
kanni pron. he (obl.)
kata v. say; speak
kattan n. homeland; native land
kau num. one
kau v. kill
kein pp. by; with (instrumental)
kika n. day
kin v. come; go
kippein conj. without
kmammu n. grain
kmukan pron. they (masc. erg.)
kməy pron. they (masc. obl.)
koun num. ten
kseitari adv. later
kufu num. eight
kura v. live; be alive; exist
kəi negative particle
kəijunna v. starve
ma pron. you (sg. abs.)
maju v. sit
makan pron. you (sg. erg.)
masa n. food
mei v. you (sg. obl.)
mi post. in; at
miki num. two
miji conj./adv. maybe
mikkóun num. twenty
mjəy adv. so it seems; it appears that
mrəifa n. surface; floor
muku n. fruit
mippa n. hole
məi v. have; hold
nasoun v. be surprised
nikan v. worry; be sad; be anxious
nukvissi n. roof opening
nunna v. eat
nusi conj./adv. then; therefore; consequently
nutti num. nine
nuvu v. see; look
nvakki adj. good; virtuous
paun conj. but; however
pi conj. so; thus
piji num. five
pikróun num. thirty
pin conj. with
pira num. three
pnaroun n. chief; leader
prafa n. thatched-roof hut; beehive
prəi v. think (of what to do); consider
psikki adj. strong; powerful
pummu v. spare one's life
ra post. to; for (dative)
rajoun v. open
rakkoun adv. why
riti v. run
ru post. on; upon
rəyku v. release; liberate
satein v. close; stop using; put away
sei num. six
si pron. this
sipkasi n. journey
skou n. magic
spaviki adj. renowned; famous
səikoun adv. like this; in this way
ta post. on; at
tapkóu n. enemy
tatta v. put down; set down; bring
tatu num. seven
tau post. to (directional); toward
taun negative or private particle
ti pron. I (abs.)
tikan pron. I (erg.)
tiki num. one hundred
tnau n. knife; dagger
tpikkein n. mouse
tuji n. dog
tutti v. carry; wield
đata num. four
đatrəí post. across; along
đijan v. follow; chase
đkasi n. effect; outcome
đoufa n. crawling insect
đuku v. be healthy
đumma v. take
đutta n. the same one; the aforementioned
đviki adj. small


Jouki Stəy does not exhibit wide dialect divergence. The main isogloss is between Eastern and Western dialects. This sketch describes the Western standard; Eastern has far fewer speakers, and is spoken only at the very tip of the peninsula, and on the largest offshore island, Prousoun (local Proso).

The Eastern dialects are marked by monophthongal pronunciation of ei ou, loss of final nasals, and reversed order of some clusters, so Western pnaroun "chief" : Eastern nparo.