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Period c. 1100 YP
Spoken in Ici Forest
Total speakers c. 3 million
Writing system adapted
Ŋauro script
Classification Edastean
  Eastern Dāiadak
Basic word order SVO
Morphology isolating
Alignment NOM-ACC
Created by Radius



Pencek is a language of the Edastean language family and the dominant tongue of the northeastern half of the great Ici Forest, or Tah Ici. Nowadays, of course, in the 1100th Year of the Prophet, much of this land has been deforested in favor of farms and pastures, but the name remains. The Ici Forest is roughly halfway between the lands of Rathan (Adāta "Rathedān") and Kazc (Naidda "Kasca") which lie to the west and east respectively. The vast and densely populated Eka river valley lies to the north. The Ici forest is peopled by several ethnic groups, but dominant among these are the speakers of Pencek, who call themselves Tactak (Adāta "Dāiadak")

Tah Ici is to this day a backwater region, not well connected to the trade routes and machinations of the more powerful and populous lands that surround it. Perhaps this disconnection is why Pencek remains a vibrant, healthy language spoken by perhaps two million people natively and at least half again as many second-language speakers as a lingua franca throughout the huge but thinly populated Forest region.

Despite its continuing viability and relative social dominance, Pencek is not a majority language even in its home territory - at least in terms of daily speech and usage. Even within the region comprising the lands claimed by all the various Tactak lords, only about 50% are ethnic Tactak and speak Pencek natively. Another 40% are ethnic Miw and speak languages of the Miwan language family (actually a highly diverse dialect continuum) amongst each other on a day-to-day basis, even though the Miwan languages are rarely if ever written. Pencek is the sole language of writing and formal education. The remaining ten percent of people in Tactak-claimed lands speak the foreign languages Sata, Poni, or Nosk, or any of various other non-Miw indigenous languages, such as Necine and Ktacwa.

Of those minority languages, Sata (Aθáta), Poni (Puoni), and Nosk (Ndok Aisô) are all of the Edastean language family, and thus related to Pencek itself. Pencek belongs to the Southwestern branch of Edastean, as it is descended from Adāta, the language that was spoken in the Rathan highlands a millennium ago, and thus is most closely related to Sata and more distantly to Nosk and Poni.

Sociolinguistic History

Pencek diverged rather sharply from Classical Adāta between 1000 and 750 years ago, undergoing a great spate of phonological and grammatical change in that period, but has been somewhat more stable since then.

Initially, Adāta was brought to the Ici Forest by missionaries seeking to convert the mostly-Miw native population to Anaitism and thus bring them under the rule of Rathan. It did not take long for the missionaries to notice the wealth of natural resources in the forest, and in particular the promise of mining - Rathan having been a region long dependent on mines for its wealth. Ores bearing silver (rarely found in Rathan) were found, as well as the priceless and hitherto extroardinarily rare sapphires. Within a generation great waves of miners showed up, bringing with them logistic support from Rathan, their families, their way of life, and of course their speech. The Miw hardly knew what hit them. Since time immemorial they had lived blissfully undisturbed by the ongoings of more advanced nations to the north, and remained largely ignorant of civilization. The Dāiadak colonization ended this isolation. Their advanced technology, intricate culture, and seductive religion transformed the local Miw from a tribal, animist, hunter-gatherer society into a dirt-poor agrarian vassal population of a distant power.

Many Miw of the areas initially colonized, incredulous and impressed, swallowed Dāiadak culture whole. However, what they lacked in advancement, they made up for in numbers: even a century after the first colonists arrived, Miw outnumbered Dāiadak twenty to one. Their first encounters with missionaries had resulted in a pidgin language, with Adāta the primary lexical source; a century later this pidgin had creolized, with thousands of native speakers both Miw and Dāiadak. 25,000 Miw had converted to Anaitism and increasing numbers were fluent in Adāta proper, not just the creolized bastard tongue. Trilingualism in Miw, Adāta, and the creole became commonplace.

Then the silver mines ran out. Then the sapphires - searched for with great hope for over a century - finally proved not to be more than sporadic finds. The influx of settlers slowed to a trickle, then a crawl, and then reversed as increasing numbers of miners packed up and went home to Rathan. But a majority of immigrants and their descendents - often half or 3/4 Miw - stayed put. The forest was a pleasant place to live, after all, and they had Miw workers to keep up production from the fields their forefathers had carved out of the forest. The Dāiadak had firmly entrenched themselves as local overlords by the time the mines ran out, and most of those of Miw or mixed ethnicity looked to them for security and social structure.

When a plague struck these lands in the Year of the Prophet 244, the local Miw population was cut nearly in half. Thereafter, their dependence upon the Dāiadak for their wellbeing was absolute. The emergent Empire of Athalē was not unsympathetic: Athalē took seriously its responsibilities to its colonial lands. More and more aid was sent, cementing the empire-colony relationship; over the next 150 years the Miw of the northwestern Ici Forest regained relative prosperity and, for most, full Dāiadak-ization. It was during this period that the Adāta language both became entrenched past the point of no return as well as deeply and fundamentally altered by influence from the doomed creole and from the indigenous Miw tongues.

Connections to the Empire gradually attenuated, and eventually dissolved through disuse without any single event defining the severence. The mixed-ancestry population, which was now in the majority and Adāta-speaking, naturally inherited the power and social prestige. These people continud to call themselves Dāiadak (modern Tactak), and their Adāta had diverged so much from the parent language of three centuries prior that it was no longer fully mutually intelligible with other Adāta dialects. From this time onwards, the Tactak (with their Miw subjects) went their own way in the world and took their language with them.

Nevertheless, population homogeneity never arrived. Local Tactak, cut off from the resources and wealth of the Empire, were less able to absorb the remaining Miw. Meanwhile, Miw and others from other parts of the Forest (the Dāiadak never had control over more than a third of it) were relocating to Tactak lands in the hope of greater prosperity. These mixed with the local Miw minority, reinforcing their Miw identity and increasing social distance from their Tactak masters. This continual immigration, counterbalanced by continual Tactakization, continues to the present day, ensuring that the northwestern half of the Ici Forest will remain precariously bilingual, bicultural, and bi-caste for a long time to come.


The dialect described in this sketch is the Central dialect spoken in the central and northern Ici Forest, which is the most populous of all Tactak areas, and perhaps the most well-known, although it is not necessarily any more prestigious than others. It is also the dialect from which others could be described as diverging: all dialects have more in common with Central Pencek than with any other. Thus, it is the best dialect to sketch if one wishes to address as much of the greater language as possible.

Southwest Pencek

The next most widely spoken dialect, and by far the most divergent, is that of the Southwest. At the time of this description of Central Pencek. the Southwest dialect might be called a separate language by some standards, although its primary divergence is phonological - much of the grammar is identical to that of Central.

Southwestern Pencek merits and will receive an independent linguistic sketch. The sketch will describe SW Pencek at a time approximately 200 years later, in the Year of the Prophet 1300. At about this time, it blossoms into a strong symbol of cultural identity in the Southwest and becomes more unified and codified as a newly independent language, its linguistic divergence completed by substantial differences from Central Pencek. Notable among these differences are:

  • a triangular vowel harmony system
  • further extensive vowel losses
  • loss of the fortis plosives as a distinct set of consonants
  • development of /ɸ/ and /m/ as new phonemes
  • extensive ablaut brought about by vowel harmony and deletions

Far West Pencek

The variety of Pencek spoken in the far west, along the historical border of the Ici forest with Rathedān, is spoken by no more than a hundred thousand people. It merits mention for the following distinctions from Central Pencek:

  • Fortis plosives are retained in many environments from which they were lost in the Central dialect.
  • The distinction between /x/ and /h/ in Adāta has been maintained in Far Western. Nevertheless, other sound changes affecting these have spread to this region: /h/ (which occurs only initially) is [ɸ] before rounded vowels, and /x/ and /h/ both are realized as [ç] before [i].
  • The fusion of Adāta's indirect pronouns to prepositions never occurred in Far Western. Instead it uses invariable prepositions with independent pronominal objects.
  • Ktacwa, a language now nearly moribund but once widely spoken in the semi-arid region between the Ici forest and Rathedān, has been at least as great a source of loanwords as Miw. Nearly all Ktacwa loans in other Pencek dialects were acquired via Far Western. This has resulted in substantial lexical differences.

Kuaguatian Pencek

The variety of Pencek spoken in and near the land of Kuaguatia - along the eastern border of the Ici Forest - shows some linguistic interference from Poni (Puoni), the dominant language of Kuaguatia and its vicinity, and which is much more prestigious. This includes a vast number of Poni loanwords that have not made it into other dialects of Pencek. Kuaguatian Pencek is otherwise largely similar to the Central dialect, although it has a somewhat different set of Miw loanwords (and different forms for many of them) as well.



The twelve consonants of Pencek are as follows:

Labial Dental Retroflex Velar
Plosive p /p/ t /t/ k /k/
Fortis Plosive     ph /ˀpʰ/ th /ˀtʰ/ kh /ˀkʰ/
Affricate c /ʈʂ/
Fricative s /s/ z /ʂ/ h /x/
Nasal n /n/
Tap r /ɾ/

Pencek has a triangular seven-vowel system:

Front Central Back
High i /i/ u /u/
Mid High e /e/ o /o
Mid Low     ea /ɛ/ oa /ɔ/
Low a /a/


  1. Plain plosives are voiced between vowels, and are otherwise voiceless.
  2. Fortis plosives are pronounced aspirated before a stressed vowel, and are also preglottalized when intervocalic. (They do not occur in other environments.)
  3. The "retroflex" consonants are, to be more specific, apical postalveolar.
  4. /x/, the velar fricative, becomes glottal [h] in initial position before unrounded vowels (except [i]), and bilabial [ɸ] in initial position before rounded vowels. In some speakers this phoneme is entirely lost in initial position, but this is nonstandard. In all positions it is pronounced [ç] before [i].
  5. /n/ assimilates to the point of articulation of a following consonant: bilabial, dental, retroflex, or velar.
  6. Unstressed mid vowels often reduce to schwa in fast speech, especially in initial position, but the high and low vowels are always maintained.


  1. Pencek speech is stress-timed: stresses tend to occur at roughly equal intervals.
  2. Stress (both primary and secondary) takes the form of higher pitch with markedly greater duration of the vowel.
  3. The accent falls on the first vowel of a word that is preceded by a consonant. That is to say, words beginning with consonants have initial stress, while words beginning with vowels stress the second syllable instead, unless they are monosyllabic.
  4. Alternating syllables after the stressed syllable have secondary stress. Secondary stress is weak or nonpresent if immediately followed by a stress-initial word, and almost as strong as primary stress otherwise.
  5. The intonation contour of a declarative or imperative main clause can range from flat to global fall. The contour of questions is characterized by global rise, except for tag questions which show a quick rise and fall.
  6. Other intonation markers also occur; for example, fronted material (such as the topic in a topic-comment sentence) is set apart from the rest of the clause with a quick rise in the last syllable before the clause begins. Subordinating particles, conjunctions, noun phrases in a list, and expressions of contrastive focus, and many other things, also frequently show intonation that is marked in any of various ways.

Sound Changes from Adāta

The developments undergone by the sounds of Adāta as it changed to modern Pencek are summarized here. This list should not be taken as an exact description of every change in order, but instead a summary of the practical results. For example, the vowel deletions actually occurred in multiple stages, concurrently with some of the changes listed after it, but this is not important for predicting a word's outcome. Further, to the extent that outcomes are unaffected by it, rules are grouped according to type instead of precise chrononology (which is uncertain in some cases anyway). Approximate time depth of each development group is given.

Variables are as follows:

  1. P = plosives, including affricates except where noted
  2. F = fricatives
  3. V = vowels

1. MONOPHTHONGIZATION perhaps 900 years ago

  • diphthongs with front nuclei > eː
  • diphthongs with back nuclei > oː
  • diphthongs with [a] nuclei > aː
  • i > j / _V

2. STRESS RELOCATION perhaps 900 years ago

  • V(ː) > "V(ː) / #(V(ː))C_
  • V. > Vː / "_

3. FORTITION perhaps 850 years ago

  • P[-vcd] > Pʰ / _"V
  • j > ɖʐ
  • P[+vcd] > P[-vcd]

4. VOWEL SHIFT perhaps 800 years ago

  • e, o > a / (short only)
  • a(ː) > ɛ(ː) / if i(ː) in next syllable
  • a(ː) > ɔ(ː) / if u(ː) in next syllable

5. VOWEL DELETIONS between 600 and 850 years ago

Unstressed vowels were frequently lost, but with many irregular outcomes. Several similar and related vowel-deletion rules occurred in the speech community at the same time, and these often interfered with each other in unpredictable ways. Nevertheless, certain patterns can be found.

The most prominant such pattern is that short vowels were much more likely to be lost than long vowels, especially pre-stress. Another pattern is that no clusters of more than two consonants were formed. Another still is that both long and short vowels were much less likely to be dropped from words that were already short.

No stressed vowels were lost.

6. CLUSTER CHANGES between 600 and 750 years ago

  • z > s / _P
  • z > ɾ / P_
  • PF > FP
  • Pn > nP
  • tʈʂ, ʈʂz > ʈʂ

7. CONTRAST LOSSES between 400 and 700 years ago

  • Vː > V
  • l > ɾ
  • m > n
  • x > h / #_

8. PLOSIVE REORGANIZATION between about 300 and 400 years ago

  • P[+asp] > P[-asp] / unless pre-stress or intervocalic
  • P1+P2 > P1[+asp] / (ʈʂ not included in this change)
  • P[+asp] > P[+asp +preglot] / medially

9. OTHER CHANGES between 0 and 400 years ago

  • z > ʐ > ʂ
  • s > ʂ / _ʈʂ
  • x > k / n_
  • h > ɸ / _V[+rnd]
  • ɾVɾ > ɾVn
  • ɾ > t / s_

10. NASAL ASSIMILATION active rule for at least the last 500 years

  • n > m, ɳ, ŋ / _p, _(ʈ)ʂ, _k


Nominal Morphology

Possession in Pencek is marked on the possessed noun, not the possessor, by means of five suffixes indicating the person and number of the possessor. Pencek nouns do not inflect for any other grammatical purpose, although they may take derivational affixes.

Singular Plural
First -i -ik
Second -ato -aro
Third -ak

These suffixes are simply appended to the noun, overriding the noun's final vowel (if any).


Each Pencek verb has three principle parts: the imperfective, the perfective, and the supine. These verb forms often stand alone, but they also participate in the many analytic verb phrase constructions. No other grammatical category is directly inflected on the verb.

The imperfective is the least-marked form, and thus the citation form. The perfective is marked with a suffix -n, and the supine with the suffix -enc. These suffixes often trigger unpredictable thematic morphemes, predictable morphophonological processes, or both. The resulting inflection patterns are detailed below.

Athematic Verbs

Athematic Pattern 1: simple -n in the perfective; -enc replaces any final vowels in the supine. Most verbs ending in a vowel or r follow athematic pattern 1.

Imperfective Perfective Supine
"punish" pepi pepin pepenc
"celebrate" nirka nirkan nirkenc
"lie" par parn parenc
"bake" thur thurn thurenc

Athematic Pattern 2: perfective -n metathesizes with final consonant; simple suffixation of -enc in the supine. Most verbs ending in plosives follow this pattern.

Imperfective Perfective Supine
"throw" khak khank khakenc
"drink" hap hamp hapenc
"change" oarot oaront oarotenc

Athematic Pattern 3a: the perfective is identical to the imperfective; supine -enc overrides the final vowel and n of the stem. Most verbs ending in n follow athematic pattern 3a.

Imperfective Perfective Supine
"live" tanan tanan tanenc
"scratch" eran eran erenc
"admire" hastin hastin hastenc

Athematic Pattern 3b: the same as pattern 3, except the supine -enc is simply affixed. A few verbs ending in n follow this pattern instead of 3a.

Imperfective Perfective Supine
"split" ran ran ranenc

Thematic Verbs

Thematic Pattern 1: Perfective -n follows thematic -a-; supine -enc is simply affixed. Most verbs ending in consonant clusters or fricatives follow this pattern.

Imperfective Perfective Supine
"hunt" tenk tenkan tenkenc
"die" nas nasan nasenc
"trade" theank theankan theankenc

Thematic Pattern 2: Perfective -n follows thematic -za-; supine -enc follows thematic -z-. The -za- and -z- replace any final vowel unless the vowel follows a consonant cluster. The themes become -ra- and -r- following plosives, and such plosives become plain if they were fortis. No verbs ending in s or z follow this pattern - those that otherwise might, have all changed to follow thematic pattern 1 instead.

Imperfective Perfective Supine
"ask" khano khanzan khanzenc
"pray" pane panzan panzenc
"tie" khipe khipran khiprenc
"steal" khuthe khutran khutrenc

Thematic Pattern 3: Perfective -n follows thematic -aza; supine -enc follows thematic -az-. Both replace any final vowel.

Imperfective Perfective Supine
"make" pho phazan phazenc
"think" ce cazan cazenc

Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs typically belong to one of the main patterns with only minor differences keeping them from being a perfect fit. Most such differences consist of vowel changes or aphaeresis in the perfective and supine. Other irregularities can also occur.

Imperfective Perfective Supine Pattern irregularity
"consider" sirok sirank sirakenc Athematic-2 vowel change
"cry" aphan aphen aphenc Athematic-3b vowel change
"need" ete tazan tazenc Thematic-3 aphaeresis
"fix" khunan khunzan khunzenc Thematic-2 final an deleted before suffixes as in Athematic-3a


Pencek adjectives are characterized by their ability to take a comparative/superlative suffix, and inability to inflect in any other way. This suffix is -nsa following a vowel or -ans following a consonant.


Pencek has nine core prepositions, which inflect for the person and number of their objects.

1sg 2sg 1pl 2pl 3 meaning
asin asant asi astak asa at, in, on
hin hant hi harko ha of, from, out of, belonging to
hert herton herti herak herta until, as far as, up to
nin nent ni nerko ne inside, among, between
pean panton peani parak pana near, by, with (comitative)
rapen rapant rape raprak rapa along, while, during, throughout
then thant the tharko tha to, into, towards
tin tent ti terko te via, with (instrumental)
zin zont zi zorko za for, about, concerning, made of


Main Clauses


A declarative main clause, for the purposes of this discussion, is defined as a statement made with a full verb (i.e. any verb but the copula).

Word Order

Constituent word order in declarative clauses is SVO (transitive) or SV (intransitive).

A sin zurk.
He likes cheese.

I cant.
I slept.

Advebial material has a strong tendency to be located at the end of the clause, although simple adverbs and occasionally prepositional phrases can also precede it.

I cant cap.
I slept poorly.

The Subject

In Pencek, the grammatical subject of a clause is always a pronoun. Full nominals are disallowed from the subject position (immediately before the verb phrase). When a full nominal must be indicated anyway, a topic-comment structure is employed.

Thanu, a nas nah.
Thanu, he's ill today.

Note that direct pronouns are used for sentence subjects; indirect pronouns are used for everything else.

The Direct Object

No such restriction applies to direct objects. Full nominals and pronouns can both directly follow the verb. Pronouns in this position are always in the indirect case.


Predicatives are statements that use the copula.

Word Order

Constituent order in predicatives is subject - copula - predicate.

The Subject

As with declaratives, full nominals are barred from sentence subject position. A direct pronoun is always the subject, and always required, but topic-comment structure can be employed to express full nominals.

Si nuran, a par kek.
The ice, it is dangerous.

The Predicate

The predicate may consist of a noun phrase (including indirect and locative pronouns), adjective phrase, or prepositional phrase.

I par nuhant.
I am a baker.

To par nump.
You are stupid.

A par ne si tah.
He is in the forest.

Existential Clauses

Pencek does not distinguish existential clauses from simple predicatives.

Phir, a par ne si kinz.
There's a goat in the kitchen.

Possessive Clauses

Possessive clauses are predicatives (that is, they use a copula, not a full verb) with a prepositional phrase as the predicate. The preposition is invariably pana, "with".

A par pana si rohok.
She has the pox.


Yes/No Questions

Neutral yes/no questions are formed in Pencek by applying question intonation to standard declarative or predicative clauses.

A sin zurk?
Does he like cheese?

Confirmation-seeking questions are formed by adding a tag question to the end of the clause. Many different questions tags are in use in various locales and registers, but the trait common to them all is that the tag suggests the answer one wants confirmed.

A sin zurk, rat?
He likes cheese, correct?

Open-Ended Questions

Question words are always the leftmost word in a clause, and open-ended questions always show question intonation.

Questions asking the subject of the clause insert the appropriate question word in place of the direct pronoun.

Haza seap a?
Who wants it?

Questions asking what would otherwise be the direct object of the clause, require the clause be made passive.

Haza par sinenc tent?
Who do you like? (literally "who is liked by-you?")

Questions asking for obliques employ a more complex left-dislocation: to form these, change the NP asked for into the appropriate demonstrative pronoun ("there", "then", etc), then add the corresponding question word to the front of the clause before the direct pronoun.

Nara i nan tha hoar?
Where am I going? (literally "where I go to there?")


Imperatives in Pencek are quite simple. They take the form VO: first verb, then the direct object if there is any. The perfective verb form is used for general and polite imperatives, while the imperfective is used to convey immediacy or urgency.

Cant taco.
Sleep well.

Pea puci!
Kiss me (right now)!


Except for the negative particle, auxiliaries never appear in imperative clauses.

Nat khun puci, zora!
Don't hurt me, please!

Noun Phrases and Usage

Basic Order

The canonical Pencek NP word order is article or quantifier - noun - adjectives - phrasal and clausal modifiers

sik ra naran ikhi phe asa ha harza
the-PL ten horse black big in that pasture
the ten big black horses in that pasture

Articles/Demonstratives and Quantifiers

Demonstratives are as follows.

Singular Plural
this si sik
that ha hak

In most cases, Pencek nouns require one of these particles to come at the beginning of the NP if the noun is definite. Si and ha are necessary to mark definiteness (much as "the" does in English); however, unlike English "the", they still retain the meanings "this" and "that" respectively. In cases where the distinction between "this" and "that" is irrelevent, si is used.

The suffix -k on one of these articles indicates that the noun is plural.

Indefinite nouns are unmarked with any article. Plural and singular numbers are not grammatically distinguished for indefinite nouns, unless one wishes to specify with a numeral or other quantifier.

Quantifiers (non-numeral) are as follows.

Meaning Word
none ni
few pha
some kea
many ura
most utoa
each or
all, every aza

These quantifiers are mutually exclusive with the definite articles. Typically they are used with indefinite nouns, but can also in some cases replace the article for definite nouns, whenever semantically appropriate.

Numerals can take the place of an article or co-occur with one (e.g. "the horses", "two horses", "the two horses"), but are mutually exclusive with non-numeral quantifiers.

Possessive Suffixes

The five possessive suffixes of Pencek are also sufficient to determine a noun in place of an article, and do not co-occur with one. They can however co-occur with both numerals and non-numeral quantifiers.

The four suffixes for first and second persons, singular and plural, function very much like possessive pronouns do in English. The third-person suffix, however, does not; it not only doesn't specify the grammatical number of the possessor (if any), it doesn't specify anything except that the noun is possessed. The possessor could even be first or second person, for instance if the speaker wished to conceal the fact that he or she is the noun's owner. It can also be used when a possessor is unknown.