Habeo languages

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The Habeo languages are a group of Xoronic languages spoken on the high Aiwa and the surrounding steppe.

Members and relationships

  • Macro-Edastean family
    • Xoronic branch
      • Proto-Habeo (spoken c. -1000 - 100 YP)
        • Hill Habeo (c. 100 - 900)
          • Red Habeo (c. 900 - 1900)
            • Northern Red Habeo (c. 1900 - ?)
            • Southern Red Habeo (c. 1900 - ?)
          • White Habeo (c. 900 - 1400)
        • Plains Habeo (c. 100 - 1100)
          • Yellow Habeo (c. 1100 - 1700)
        • River Habeo (c. 100 - 700)
          • Old Blue Habeo (c. 700 - 1300)
            • Late Blue Habeo (c. 1300 - ?)
Period c. -1000 - 100 YP
Spoken in Eiwəl Gourun
Total speakers unknown
Writing system none
Classification Xoronic
Basic word order verb-initial
Morphology fusional
Alignment split-S
Created by Pocketful of Songs



The following changes happened between proto-Upper-Xoronic and proto-Habeo (# represents a morphemic boundary):

  • [+dorsal +plosive] → [+labialized]/{_[+vowel +back], [+vowel +back]_#}
  • hl, lh, hs, sh → ł, ł, š, š
  • {h[+plosive], [+plosive]h} → [+plosive +geminate]
  • t → š/_[+vowel +front] & !#_ (sporadic)
  • h → ʔ
  • i, e, a:, a, o:, o, ǝ:, ǝ → e, a, u:, e, u:, a, a:, 0
  • e is inserted to break up illegal clusters caused by the loss of ǝ, avoiding breaking up geminates and with nasal-plosive codas now permitted
  • [+vowel +length] → [-length]
  • [+vowel][+geminate] → [+vowel +length][-geminate]


Proto-Habeo's phonemic inventory is reconstructed as this:

pt  kqʔ      i i:   u u:
mn      e e: a a:

A syllable's optional onset is any consonant, its nucleus is any vowel, long or short, and its optional coda is any consonant or a nasal-plosive cluster. Vowels are not in contact within morphemes, but may be put into hiatus by morphology. When morphology forms an illegal consonant cluster, [e] is inserted at morpheme boundaries within this cluster progressively until it's acceptable. Dorsal plosives in contact assimilate progressively, as do sibilants.


PH is a split-S language -- that is, an active-stative language with lexical selection. It has two alignment systems, selected for by a lexical quality of verbs. The first is accusative in both nominal inflection for case and unmarked constituent order, and the second is ergative in unmarked order, in that the subject of a transitive verb will follow the object, and in case-marking. These case-marking systems relate morphologically like so:

S (v1 SUBJ)nominativeabsolutive
A (v2 SUBJ)nominativenominative
P (v2 OBJ)absolutiveabsolutive

The abbreviations above are S for subject (conventionally meaning, in discussing alignment, the argument of an intransitive verb), A for agent (conventionally meaning, etc.), P for patient, and v for valence, with the following number showing the lexically specified number of arguments: v0 for an impersonal, v1 for an intransitive, v2 for a monotransitive, etc. Verbs with an accusative alignment are called accusative verbs, and so for ergatives.


Count nouns decline for number, singular or plural; and case, nominative or absolutive.


Certain nouns have irregular plural forms, and for those the declension is:


Mass nouns decline in this way:

-  -q

Collectives decline like this:


Lexical adjectival prefixes attach to nouns, generally with those of greatest relevance or salience closest to the noun.

Nouns can be compounded head-finally.

Possessive suffixes

The possessor is in the nominative case and usually directly follows the possessum. In addition to possession, these are applied to numeral nouns to express the quantity of the possessor(s).

 Singular  Plural
1st Exc.-a-ak
1st Inc. -e:kukʷ
3rd Human-e-akʷ
3rd Inhuman  -su-sukʷ


A verb consists of one or more optional lexical preverbs, the first half of an obligatory voice and tense circumfix, an obligatory aspect-mood-polarity prefix, a classifier, the verb stem, one or more lexical manner suffixes (finals), and the second half of the VT circumfix.

AMP prefixes

 Pos.Neg.Pos.Neg. Pos.Neg.Pos.Neg.
Indicative-mu-u:še-u:šemu- aqʷ-apmu-ʔu-lumu-
Obligativee:ta-e:tamu-uše:ta-uše:tamu- aqʷe:ta-aqe:tamu-  ʔu:ta-lu:tamu-
Hortativekełe-kełemu-  ušeʔ-ušeʔmu- aqʷeʔ-aqʷeʔmu-ʔiʔ-luʔmu-
Volitiveakʷ-a:mu-u:šek-uše:mu- aqʷakʷ-apa:mu-ʔukʷ-lu:mu-
Reputativeas-asnu-u:šes-u:šesnu- aqʷas-apasnu-ʔus-lusnu-
Permissive  pa-pamu-u:šepa-u:šepamu-   a:qʷa-a:qʷamu-ʔupa-lupamu-


Classifiers generally indicate subjects and instruments for monotransitive verbs, and patients and instruments for greater valences; less often, they can show temporals and locatives. A verb may have only one classifier.

  • kem-, a slender rigid object,
  • mełu-, a slender flexible object,
  • pal-, a flat flexible object,
  • še:n-, a round object,
  • qʷa-, a solid, bulky object,
  • mełne-, a pack,
  • tupa-, a container,
  • ʔeʔ-, solid food,
  • su-, fluid,
  • mi-, mushy matter,
  • aši-, non-compact matter,
  • kʷaʔ-, a time or location,
  • nane-, a human body part,
  • muʔ-, a group of discrete items or people,
  • aʔu-, an inhuman animate or tool obviated in discourse,
  • na-, an inhuman animate or tool proximate in discourse,
  • tam-, a human obviated in discourse, and
  • null for a human proximate in discourse.

VT circumfixes

VTPresent  PastFuture
Active--tuu- -ʔe
Passive-se-estuu- -še
Causative-šiš-šištuu- -ši:še
Reflex./Recip.  -kan-ka:tu  u- -ka:ne


"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", Wallace Stevens

  • I.
    • Entet aklasukʷ qʷatik
      • entet akla-sukʷ qʷati-k
      • throughout twenty.NOM-POSS:3PL.INHUMAN mountain-NOM.PL
    • E:nkik ʔa še:nkutu
      • e:nk-ik ʔa še:n-ku-tu
      • thing-only COMPL:ABS CLASS:ROUND-move.ERG.V1-PAST
    • Łateʔsu eskasu.
      • łateʔ-su eska-su
      • eye-POSS:3SG.INHUMAN black-bird
  • II.
    • Pe:qtu uʔeʔakʷ muʔe:tetek a,
      • 0-pe:q-tu uʔe-ʔ-akʷ muʔe:tet-k a
    • Ka aš
      • ka aš
      • like tree.NOM
    • Sus uʔesukʷ eskasuq.
      • sus ueʔ-sukʷ eska-su-q
      • where three-POSS:3PL.INHUMAN black-bird-NOM.PL

Hill Habeo

Changes from proto-Habeo:

  • [+dorsal +plosive +labialized] → p
  • l → w/_{u, u:, a, a:}
  • l → y
  • i, e, u, a: → ɨ, a, o, o:
  • [+vowel +length] → [-length]

Resulting in a phonemic inventory of:

pt kqʔ  iɨu
mn       eo 
w  y     a 

Case remains distinguished syntactically but merges morphologically:

Singular  Plural

The PH classifiers mi-, 'mushy matter', and aši-, 'non-compact matter' semantically merge as mɨ-, the reflex of mi-.

Plains Habeo

Changes from proto-Habeo:

  • ʔ → y/_[+vowel +front]
  • ʔ → w/_u
  • i, u, e, a: → ɨ, ɨ, a, o:
  • [+vowel +length] → [-length]
  • k, kʷ, q, qʷ → k, k, ʔ, ʔ
  • ł → θ
  • š → θ/_{[+vowel +front], ɨ}

Resulting in a phonemic inventory of:

p tkʔ  iɨu
m n     eo 
w ly    a 

Ergative verbs with valences above one become accusative.

Certain PH classifiers are lost, semantically merging in this way:

kam-kem-, a slender rigid object
maθɨ-mełu-, a slender flexible object
pal-pal-, a flat flexible object
θen-še:n-, a round object
ʔa-qʷa-, a solid, bulky object
tɨpa-mełne-, a pack
tupa-, a container
yeʔ-ʔeʔ-, solid food
sɨ-su-, fluid
mi-, mushy matter
aθɨ-aši-, non-compact matter
kaʔ-kʷaʔ-, a time or location
*nane-, a human body part
mɨʔ-muʔ-, a group of discrete items or people
tam-aʔu-, an inhuman animate or tool obviated in discourse
tam-, a human obviated in discourse
na-na-, an inhuman animate or tool proximate in discourse
null← null for a human proximate in discourse
  • Human body parts are treated as their owners would be.

Yellow Habeo

Changes from Plains Habeo:

  • t → c/_[+vowel +high]
  • k → č/{{[+vowel +front], ɨ}_, _{[+vowel +front], ɨ, y}}
  • ʔ → k
  • θ → t
  • o → u
  • a → o
  • e → a
  • ɨ → i

Resulting in a phonemic inventory of:

pt k   i u
 cč  a o
wl y    

The distinction between ergative and accusative monotransitives is lost and the language takes on a fluid-S alignment.

The Plains classifiers pal-, for flat flexible objects, and kaʔ-, for times and locations, semantically merge as pol-, the Yellow reflex of pal-.

River Habeo

Changes from proto-Habeo:

  • p → f/_[+vowel +high]
  • a:, e:, i: → e:, i:, a:
  • k, kʷ, q, qʷ → k, p, k, p
  • ʔ → y/_[+vowel +high], [+vowel]_[+vowel]
  • ʔ → 0
  • ł → s
  • š → x

Resulting in a phonemic inventory of:

ptk  i i: u u:
mn   e e: a a:

River Habeo has a verb-second word order, which could be analyzed as underlying VSO with required topical fronting of a verbal argument or adjunct.

The distinction between ergative and accusative verbs is lost and the language takes on a nominative-accusative alignment, with the former nom. as the new nom. and the former absolutive as the new acc.

Certain proto-Habeo classifiers are lost, semantically merging in this way:

kem-kem-, a slender rigid object
mełu-, a slender flexible object
pal-pal-, a flat flexible object
kʷaʔ-, a time or location
xi:n-še:n-, a round object
qʷa-, a solid, bulky object
mesne-mełne-, a pack
tupa-, a container
ye-ʔeʔ-, solid food
su-su-, fluid
mi-mi-, mushy matter
axi-aši-, non-compact matter
ne-nane-, a human body part
*muʔ-, a group of discrete items or people
u-aʔu-, an inhuman animate or tool obviated in discourse
na-, an inhuman animate or tool proximate in discourse
nulltam-, a human obviated in discourse
← null for a human proximate in discourse
  • Groups are treated as an individual from them would be.

For comparatives, RH uses a -nek suffix to the adjectival noun prefix, forming a word that follows the described noun, and for superlatives prefixes u- to the -nek word, rather than the usual Habeo -ne suffix to the adjective which is prefixed to the noun as normal.

The future in u-, seen in the proto-Habeo section above as the prefixed part of the voice-tense circumfix, is no longer used.

Old Blue Habeo

Changes from River Habeo:

  • i, i: → e, e:/_[+consonant +voice]
  • t, k → c, č/_[+vowel +front]
  • u, u:, a, a:, e, e: → i, i:, u, u:, a, a:

Resulting in a phonemic inventory of:

ptk   i i: u u:
mn   a a: 

Late Blue Habeo

Changes from Old Blue Habeo:

  • c, č → s
  • l → n/!_[+vowel]
  • f, x, y → 0
  • i:, a:, u: → ai, au, u

Resulting in a phonemic inventory of:

ptk   i  u
mn   aiau 
 l   a