From AkanaWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Period c. -3000 YP
Spoken in west Tuysáfa
Total speakers unknown
Writing system none
Classification West Tuysáfa
Basic word order SOV
Morphology agglutinative
Alignment NOM-ACC
Created by Alces

Pre-Wendoth is the ancestor of the Wendoth language. Our knowledge of the language is tentative and based on internal reconstruction. Judging by the extent of the changes that occured in the course of the development into Wendoth, it was likely spoken a considerable amount of time before Wendoth, perhaps around -3000 YP. Its speakers were probably still hunter-gatherers. It may have been spoken in the central region of west Tuysáfa like its descendant, or in another region; we cannot say for certain.

Sound changes to Wendoth

[+open] > [+front] / _[-syllabic][+front], _[+nasal][-syllabic], [+nasal]#
[+open, -front] > [+back]

[a] was fronted to [æ] before syllables containing a front vowel ([i] or [e]), and also before coda nasals. Elsewhere, it was backed to [ɑ]. This alternation was, at this stage, allophonic.

[+consonantal] > [+front] / _[+front], [+front]_#, [+front]_[+consonantal]
[+consonantal] > [+back] / _[+back], [+back]_#, [+back]_[+consonantal]

Cconsonants before front vowels, or in a syllable coda following a front vowel, were allophonically palatalised, and consonants before back vowels, or in a syllable coda following a back vowel, were allophonically velarised (except for [k], [g], [x] and [ɣ], which were already velar). The previous change had resulted in every vowel being either front or back, so every consonant was affected by this change: before Pre-Wendoth *a, consonants were palatalised if the *a was followed by a syllable containing *i or *e or a nasal in the syllable coda, and otherwise (if the *a was word-final, followed by a syllable containing *u, *o or *a, or followed by a laryngeal in the syllable coda) they were velarised.

[-consonantal] > [-front, -back]

[i] and [u] merged as [ɨ], [e] and [o] merged as [ə] and [æ] and [ɑ] merged as [a]. This caused the distinctions between the palatalised and velarised consonants to become phonemic.

[+syllabic] > [+creaky] / _[LARYNGEAL, -continuant]
[+syllabic] > [+breathy] / _[LARYNGEAL, +continuant]

Vowels before [ʔ] acquired creaky voice and vowels before [ɦ] acquired breathy voice. At this stage, this was an allophonic alternation.

[-consonantal, -close] > a / _[LARYNGEAL]#, _[LARYNGEAL][-syllabic]
[LARYNGEAL] > ∅ / _#, _[-syllabic]

The contrast between the three central vowels ([ɨ], [ə] and [a]) was neutralised before laryngeals in syllable codas; all three were lowered to [a] (this change suggests that the laryngeals may have been pharyngeal or uvular in this environment). Laryngeals in syllable codas were then deleted, but Pre-Wendoth *a, *Vʔ and *Vɦ as syllable rhymes were still distinguished by the differing phonations of the remaining [a]. Every Wendoth word containing creaky-voiced or breathy-voiced /a/ either developed the phoneme by this change (and hence has it in word-final position), or is not of Pre-Wendoth vintage.

[LARYNGEAL, +front] > [DORSAL, +syllabic, -close, -open]
[LARYNGEAL, +back] > [DORSAL, +syllabic, -close, -open]
[-consonantal] > [+creaky] / [+creaky]_
[-consonantal] > [+breathy] / [+breathy]_

The palatalised and velarised glottal consonants vocalised into vowels: [i] if palatalised, [u] if velarised. They also acquired the phonation of the preceding vowel, so that palatalised and velarised [ʔ] became creaky-voiced vowels and palatalised and velarised [ɦ] became breathy-voiced vowels. [i] and [u], of course, remained distinct from Pre-Wendoth *i and *u as those two vowels had merged into [ɨ]. By now, the language had developed a three-way phonation contrast of plain, creaky and breathy registers, although the three were only contrasted word-finally on [a] at this point.

[-consonantal, +close, -front, -back] > ∅ / _[-consonantal, high]
[+syllabic, -front, -back] > ∅ / [+syllabic, +high]_
[+syllabic] > [-syllabic] / [+syllabic]_

The previous change produced sequences of three vowels in a row, with the middle one being [i] or [u]. This unstable situation was resolved by this change. First, [ɨ] disappeared before [i] and [u]. Secondly, all central vowels (i.e. vowels other than [i] and [u]) disappeared after [i] and [u] (this was probably accompanied by lengthening of the preceding close vowel). The restriction to central vowels is just there to prevent sequences of the form [Viɨi], [Viɨu], [Vuɨi] or [Vuɨu] (< Pre-Wendoth *VHiH/VHuH where H is a glottal consonant) from becoming monosyllabic [Vi] or [Vu], rather than disyllabic [Vii], [Viu], [Vui] or [Vuu]. Finally, [i] and [u] became [j] and [w] when following another vowel, producing the diphthongs [əj], [əw], [aj] and [aw].

Sequences of two identical close vowels, [ii] and [uu], produced by this change were also dissimilated to [ui] and [iu], respectively. This change only applied within stems; outside of them, it was obscured by analogy.

[-consonantal] > [+nasal] / _[+nasal]
[+nasal] > ∅ / _[+consonantal]

Nasals disappeared before consonants, but their former presence was betrayed by nasalisation (which also applied to vowels before remaining nasals). The off-glides [j] and [w] of diphthongs were nasalised by this change, but the nucleus of the diphthongs were not nasalised with them (and in the end the nasalised diphthongs ended up indistinguishable from the non-nasalised diphthongs).

∅ > j / [LABIAL, +palatalised]_
[+nasal] > [-continuant] / _j
[CORONAL, -continuant, +front] > [+delayed release]
[LABIAL] > [CORONAL, +anterior] / _j
j > ∅ / [-syllabic]_

This sequence of changes is behind the curious fact that in Wendoth, the dentals pattern as the palatalised versions of the labials. It is not known exactly how the Pre-Wendoth labials turned into dentals when palatalised, but this is one hypothesis: they initially changed into clusters with [j], then the labials assimilated to the following [j], taking a less anterior position in the mouth, and became coronals, although they still had a more anterior position than the other coronals, and the following [j]s were dropped. It is likely that these new coronals were still palatalised, at least at first. Therefore, the palatalised Pre-Wendoth coronal stops *t and *d were probably affricated to [tsʲ] and [dzʲ] at this time, for otherwise there would be little difference between them and the new coronals.

Pre-Wendoth [m], when palatalised, became a prenasalised stop [nd] rather than dental [n]. This is probably the result of the cluster [mj] undergoing epenthesis and becoming [mbj], with the [bj] then changing as usual to dental [d], and with the preceding [m] assimilating to the [d]'s place of articulation.

[+open, +creaky] > [+front]
[+open, +breathy] > [+back]

Creaky-voiced and breathy-voiced [a] acquired differences in quality from central, plain [a]: creaky-voiced [a] became front [a̟] and breathy-voiced [a] became back [ɑ] (while still retaining their respective phonations).

[-consonantal, -front, -back] > ∅ / [+syllabic][-syllabic]_#,

Word-final central vowels ([ɨ], [ə] and [a]) disappeared, unless they were in the initial syllable. This change must have occured after the change of palatalised labials into dentals, because clusters with [j] are unlikely to have occured word-finally. It also must have occured after the change in quality of creaky-voiced and breathy-voiced [a], because they were not affected by this change.

After this change, a sandhi process started to occur by which, when a word-final consonant was followed by a word-initial consonant, the vowel in the initial syllable of the following word was inserted to break up the cluster.

[-consonantal] > ∅ / #[-syllabic]_[-syllabic][+syllabic]

Vowels disappeared in the initial syllables of words, unless it was the only syllable. Together with the sandhi phenomenon described above, this change resulted in the phenomenon of transformation in the Wendoth proto-language. It was prevented from applying in most unmarked forms by analogy with monosyllabic unmarked forms.

[+open, +nasalised, -back] > [+front]
[+open, -front] > [+back]

Nasalised and non-nasalised [a] acquired differences in quality: nasalised [a], if not already backed due to breathy voice, became front [a̘] and non-nasalised [a], if not already fronted due to creaky voice, became back [ɑ]. This eliminated all remaining instances of central [a] from the language. To summarise, [a] became front [a̘] when creaky-voiced or nasalised and modally-voiced, and [a] became back [ɑ] otherwise (when breathy-voiced or non-nasalised and modally-voiced).

[DORSAL, +back, -approximant, -front] > [+low]

Velar non-approximants ([k], [g], [x], [ɣ] and [ŋ]), if not palatalised, became uvular ([q], [ɢ], [χ], [ʁ] and [ɴ]).

[DORSAL, +back, +open, -sonorant] > [-voice] / _#
ɢ > ʁ
rˠ > ʁ

Word-final voiced uvular obstruents ([ɢ] and [ʁ]) were devoiced. Then remaining [ɢ] and [rˠ] merged into [ʁ], the latter probably via [ʀ]. The change of [rˠ] to [ʁ] reintroduced word-final [ʁ], but it was later elided in this environment (see below).

[-consonantal, -close, -open, -nasal] > [+open]
[-consonantal, +close, -nasal] > [-close]
[-consonantal, +open, +back] > [-open] / _[-syllabic]

A vowel shift occured which affected non-nasalised vowels only. First, [ə] became [a] and [ɨ] became [ə]. This affected creaky-voiced and breathy-voiced versions of [ə] in the diphthongs [əj] and [əw] as well. Then, [ɑ], in order to contrast further with [a], raised to something like [o]. However, word-final [ɑ] (which was always breathy-voiced) did not become [o].

[-consonantal, +nasal] > [-nasal]
a̘ > a
ɨ > ṳ / [LABIAL]_, _[LABIAL]
ɨ > i̤

Nasalised vowels were denasalised. The front [a̘] which was formerly nasalised merged with the central [a] which originated from former [ə]. The vowel [ɨ], now only present where it had formerly been nasalised, as it had shifted to [ə] elsewhere, merged with either [i̤] or [ṳ]: [u] adjacent to labials, [i] elsewhere. It is likely that its nasalisation was reinterpreted as breathy voice, rather than it being lost first.

ʁ, ɴ > ∅ / _#, [+syllabic, +close]_
ʁ > ∅ / #_
ŋʲ > ∅ / _#

[ʁ] and [ɴ] disappeared word-finally and after [i] or [u] (creaky-voiced, breathy-voiced or neither). [ʁ] also disappeared word-initially. Palatalised [ŋʲ] also disappeared word-finally.

nˠ, ɴ > ŋ

Velarised [n] and remaining [ɴ] merged into [ŋ].

lʲ > j / _[+syllabic, -close] ^ [+syllabic, +close]_
lˠ > w / _[+syllabic, -close] ^ [+syllabic, +close]_

Palatalised and velarised [l] became semivowels [j] and [w] except in syllable codas and adjacent to [i] and [u].

At some point, a change in the stress must also have occured where, in words containing [i] or [u] (i.e. long vowels), the stress was shifted to the rightmost syllable that contained one of these vowels.



The following table shows the reconstructed consonants of Pre-Wendoth.

Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p b t d k g ʔ
Fricative f v s z x ɣ ɦ
Liquid r l

Before u and o, and also before a if it is followed by a syllable containing u, o or a (unless the a is followed by a nasal in the syllable coda), it is impossible to distinguish Pre-Wendoth g, ɣ and r. G is used to represent an indeterminate g, ɣ or r in this environment. For example, soGo 'be old' might be sogo, soɣo or soro.


Pre-Wendoth is reconstructed with the standard five vowels.

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

It is likely that a had a front allophone before nasals in the syllable coda and syllables containing i or e, and a back allophone elsewhere. After ʔ and ɦ and before ʔ and ɦ in the syllable coda, it is impossible to distinguish the close vowels and the mid vowels from each other (although *a can be sometimes be distinguished via morphology); I is used to represent an indeterminate front vowel and U is used to represent an indeterminate back vowel. For example, ŋuʔU 'sweat' might be ŋuʔu or ŋuʔo (but its morphology shows that it is not ŋuʔa) and lanIɦ 'girl' might be laniɦ or laneɦ. I and U are also used to represent the final vowels of certain particles, because final vowels were lost during the development into Wendoth (this is not a problem for morphemes that take endings, but it is for particles). For example, the submissive imperative particle nixI might be nixi or nixe.

Syllable structure

As far as can be told, all syllables were of the form CV except for final syllables, which could have a final consonant: either a nasal or a laryngeal. CVC syllables could also appear before some morpheme boundaries (e.g. before the second noun in a compound or before a classifier suffix). In this document, morpheme boundaries of this kind have been indicated by hyphens. It is possible that there were also CVC syllables, even within morphemes, ending in nasals, but as nasals in syllable codas were deleted during the development into Wendoth this cannot be determined. It is, perhaps, unlikely, though; after all, there were certainly no CVC syllables within morphemes that ended in laryngeals.


In Pre-Wendoth, stress probably fell without exception on the penultimate syllable if there was more than one syllable. The loss of word-final vowels during the development into Wendoth resulted in the stress falling without exception on the final syllable. The movement of the stress to preceding close vowels is likely a later development.



Only three cases are reconstructed for Pre-Wendoth: nominative, accusative and dative. The suffixes are -∅ (nominative), -ʔU (accusative) and -mo (dative). The suffixes are altered slightly when added to stems ending in a final consonant: the -ʔ- of the accusative suffix disappears after a laryngeal but annihilates a preceding nasal, while the -m- of the dative suffix disappears after a nasal but annihilates a preceding laryngeal.

Each nominal stem in Pre-Wendoth had no more than three syllables. Disyllabic nominal stems were not significantly more common than trisyllabic ones. Monosyllabic nominal stems were rare and always had a final laryngeal or nasal, e.g. ʔiʔ 'hand', sum 'person'.


Six personal pronominal morphemes are reconstructed for Pre-Wendoth: bu '1p sg. nom.', doɦ '1p sg. acc.', ruka '1p excl. pl. nom.', sun '2p sg. nom.', muɦU '2p sg. acc.' and niŋ '2p pl. nom.' The first-person inclusive plural pronoun was formed by compounding the second and first-person singular pronouns: sun-bu '1p. incl. pl. nom', muɦU-daɦ '1p. incl. pl. acc'. The accusative forms of the first-person exclusive plural and second-person plural pronouns were formed by reduplication of the corresponding singular pronouns: doɦ-doɦ '1p excl. pl. acc.', muɦU-muɦU '2p pl. acc.'. The dative endings for each pronoun were formed regularly from their nominative forms.

First-person Second-person
Singular Incl. pl. Excl. pl. Singular Plural
Nominative bu sun-bu ruka su(n) niŋ
Accusative doɦ muɦU-doɦ doɦ-doɦ muɦU muɦU-muɦU
Dative bumo sun-bumo rukamo suno niŋo

The final -n of sun tended to be dropped in the Wendoth languages by analogy with bu. There was also a tendency for the final -U of muɦU to be dropped by analogy with doɦ.

There was also a reflexive pronoun la, which declined regularly. When it occured as the direct object of a verb, it was incorporated into the verb as the suffix -la.

be ʔamu-la.
be    ʔamu-la
1p.SG hit -REFL
'I hit myself.'

Seven demonstrative pronouns are reconstructed, which decline regularly: ta(-bu) 'this (near me)', ta-sun 'that (near you)', dIɦ 'that (around us)', vo 'that (visible and close to us)', vo-vo 'that (visible and far away)', xu 'that (out of sight but close to us)', xu-xu 'that (out of sight and far away)'. It is possible that vo-vo and xu-xu are later innovations that were not present at the Pre-Wendoth stage. Evidence from most Wendoth languages suggests ta for the proximal demonstrative, but evidence from others suggests ta-bu; it is impossible to tell whether the addition of -bu is an innovation or not.

Two interrogative pronouns, with an animacy distinction, are reconstructed: meɦi 'who' and meɦu 'what'.


Tense, aspect and mood

Two verbal tenses are reconstructed, past and non-past. The suffixes are -∅ (non-past) and (past). The -ŋ- of the past suffix annihilates a preceding laryngeal. There were no verb stems that ended in a nasal.

In order to convey aspectual and modal information, verb compounds can be formed, with the head being appended after the stem, including the tense suffix, of the complement verb. The head also bears a tense suffix of its own. The meaning of the resulting compound is 'to H the act of doing C', where 'H' is the head verb and 'C' is the complement verb. Some examples of verbs that can be used as heads are listed below.

  • fa 'come' and gi 'go'; often added after verbs involving movement, with a kind of vague intensifying effect
Pa zaseŋ-giŋ!
pa      zaseʔ-ŋ   -gi-ŋ
'He fell right over!'
  • ɣa 'precede, come before'; used together with an adjunct noun in the dative case to indicate that the event described by the noun (which is understood to have been carried out by the subject of the main clause) preceded the event described in the main clause. Tended to have gi appended afterwards as well, so that the reflex in the Wendoth language is og(e-) (< ɣa-gi) (some Wendoth languages have tog(e-) by analogy).
bu foʔira-Gahuŋo xonuŋ-ɣaŋ.
bu        foʔira-Gahu -ŋ   -mo  xonu-ŋ   -ɣa     -ŋ
1p.SG.NOM sleep -begin-PAST-DAT cry -PAST-precede-PAST
'I cried before I went to sleep.'
  • ti 'succeed, come after'; used together with an adjunct noun in the dative case to indicate that the event described by the noun (which is understood to have been carried out by the subject of the main clause) succeeded the event described in the main clause. Tended to have gi appended afterwards as well, so that the reflex in the Wendoth language is cheg(e-) (< ti-gi).
bu xonuŋo fooʔira-Gaɦuŋ-tiŋ.
bu        xonu-ŋ   -mo  foʔira-Gahu -ŋ   -ti     -ŋ
1p.SG.NOM cry -PAST-DAT sleep -begin-PAST-succeed-PAST
'I went to sleep after I cried.'
  • te 'accompany, be alongside'; used together with an adjunct noun as the object of the comitative postposition xi to indicate that the event described by the noun (which is understood to have been carried out by the subject of the main clause) took place at the same time as the event described in the main clause. The time of reference, for the event described by the noun, is taken to be the time of the event described in the main clause, and tense suffixes are used accordingly. Tended to have gi appended afterwards as well, so that the reflex in the Wendoth language is tag(e-) (< te-gi).
bu xonu ce foʔira-Gaɦuŋ-teŋ.
bu        xonu ce   foʔira-Gahu -ŋ   -te     -ŋ
1p.SG.NOM cry  with sleep -begin-PAST-succeed-PAST
'I went to sleep crying.'
  • ɣaɦu 'begin' and goɦu 'end'; used to indicate inchoative and cessative aspect, respectively. Possibly compounds ɣa-hu and go-hu, although the indistinguishability of the complement of this compound from ɣa 'precede' might be a coincidence.
sufi niheroʔ-Gahu.
sufi niheroʔ-Gahu
sky  be_dark-begin
'It's getting dark.'
  • ko. The meaning of this verb is uncertain, but it developed into the subjunctive suffix -q(a-) of the Wendoth proto-language.
  • se. The meaning of this verb is uncertain, but it developed into the habitual suffix -sh(a-) of the Wendoth proto-language.

Like nominal stems, verbal stems had one to three syllables. Unlike nominal stems, monosyllabic verbal stems of the form CV were possible, and quite a few of them can be reconstructed. As well as the ones above which were used in verb compounds, there were also verbs like ho 'exist, be true', nu 'see, know', la 'resemble'zi 'be the same as'.

Argument reference

Verbs also take classifier prefixes and suffixes indicating the nominal class of their subject and object. The prefixes indicate the class of the subject and the suffixes indicate the class of the object. For each class, the corresponding prefix and suffix are identical in form. The suffixes are added after the tense suffixes.

There are eleven noun classes in total. The associated affixes are listed below.

  • I (males): pa
  • II (females): ka
  • III (food): ɦI
  • IV: (strong animates): za
  • V: (weak animates): ra
  • VI: (instruments): xim
  • VII: (fluids): boʔa
  • VIII: (solids): ʔe
  • IX: (places): fIʔ
  • X: (feelings): ma
  • XI: (abstractions): dora

Little can be said about which nouns were assigned to which class, because it tended to be highly variable between different Wendoth languages. In fact, different classifiers could often be used with the same noun to give different meanings. One notable phenomenon attested across the Wendoth languages is the use of the III and IV classifiers to distinguish animals from their associated meats:

nuŋ-za bu doŋuʔU.
nu -ŋ   -za bu        doŋu-ʔU
see-PAST-IV 1p.SG.NOM hare-ACC
'I saw a hare.'
hIkeŋ-ɦI  bu doŋuʔU.
ɦIke-ŋ   -ɦI  bu        doŋu-ʔU
eat -PAST-III 1p.SG.NOM hare-ACC
'I ate hare meat'.


Determiner roots always end in a consonant. They are inflected so as to agree with the noun they modify with respect to both case and class. The endings for the accusative and dative cases are the same, so the agreement only distinguishes the nominative from the other cases. Similarly, the agreement only distinguishes four kinds of nouns with respect to class: nouns referring to humans (classes I-II), nouns referring to animates (classes III-V), nouns referring to inanimates (classes VI-IX) and nouns referring to abstractions (classes X-XI). The endings are as follows.

Nominative Accusative / Dative
I-II -i-ne -Iʔ-ne
III-V -i -Iʔ
VI-IX -u -Uʔ
X-XI -u-ve -Uʔ-ve

The demonstratives can also be used as determiners; for each demonstrative, one adds to the end of the nominal root to get the determiner, except in the case of dIɦ 'that (around us)' which already has a final consonant. There is also an interrogative determiner meɦ- (compare the two interrogative pronouns meɦi 'who' and meɦu 'what').


Pre-Wendoth had a small, closed class of postpositions. Exactly seven are reconstructed: pe, ze, ve, ʔI, xi, seɦ, koʔI.

pe and ze are the locative postpositions. Depending on the case of the object noun, they carry different meanings, given by the following table.

from at to
outside ze + accusative pe + accusative pe + accusative
inside ze + nominative ze + nominative pe + nominative

Either preposition can also take its object in the dative case, in which case it connotes imprecision.

ve and ʔI are the possessive postpositions. The key difference between them seems to be that ʔI is only used for possession of an inanimate by an animate. The object takes the accusative case if the possession is inalienable and the nominative case if the possession is alienable. ve is used to indicate other kinds of possession where one animate possesses another animate (e.g. kinship relationships), one inanimate possesses another inanimate (e.g. compositional relationships), or an inanimate possesses an animate (e.g. the possession of an agent by an action taken). Again, the object takes the accusative case if the possession is inalienable and the nominative case if the possession is alienable.

bu ʔI noki
bu    ʔI noki
1p.SG of head
'my head'

The remaining three prepositions, xi, seɦ and koʔI, have, respectively, comitative, instrumental and benefactive meanings, and their objects all take the nominative case.

There are a variety of nouns which are used in fixed phrases with combinations of adpositions to give more specific meanings. For example, there are two nouns ɣele and todo, whose meanings can be glossed as 'the space above sth.' and 'the space below sth.', and are used to convey the meanings of 'above' and 'below'.

bu zuʔa-ʔUgoraʔU ve ɣele ze pa-niʔIŋ      
bu        zuʔa-ʔUgora-ʔU  ve ɣele  ze pa  -niʔI-ŋ
1p.NOM.SG tree-top   -ACC of below in MASC-sit -PAST
I sat under a tree.


Internal reconstruction of syntax is difficult, so little is known about Pre-Wendoth syntax. It does seem that it was originally head-final, but transitioned to head-initial during the development into Wendoth (although determiners remained preceding their head nouns). The basic word order was, therefore, probably SOV, and postpositional phrases preceded their head nouns.


See Wendoth/Lexicon.