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Hu Mitali

[hu ˈ]
Period c. -1200 YP
Spoken in Lukpanic coast
Total speakers unknown
Writing system none
Classification Lukpanic languages
Basic word order VSO
Morphology agglutinating
Alignment NOM-ACC
Created by Dunomapuka

Proto-Lukpanic is the ancestor of the Lukpanic language family. It was spoken in the form described here in the area along the Lukpanic coast around c. -1200 YP.

The term Lukpanic is derived from the Proto-speakers' self-appellation Gbagba Lukpani, "the people facing toward the sea," where gbagba means "people; nation," lu- means "ocean," and -kpani is a directional suffix meaning "facing towards." They also called themselves the Lukpanab, using an agentive form. They usually referred to their language, however, as Hu Mitali -- "flowing speech."



Consonant Phonemes.

Labial Alveolar Velar Labial-Velar Glottal
Plosive p /p/ b /b/ t /t/ d /d/ k /k/ g /ɡ/ kp /k͡p/ gb /ɡ͡b/
Fricative v /β/ s /s/ h /h/
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ ŋ /ŋ/ ŋm /ŋ͡m/
Liquid l /l/

Vowel Phonemes.

Front Central Back
High i /i/ /iə/ u /u/ /uə/
Low a /a/ /aə/
  • Any non-identical simple vowels (/a i u/) can be concatenated. Sequences of /ia/ and /ua/ were pronounced [ea] and [oa] and are spelled to reflect this.
  • When morphology would create a sequence of |a.a|, |i.i| or |u.u|, these are separated as /aka/ /iki/ /upu/ (this was likely at one time a glottal stop). The chief exceptions are the common verbal suffixes -ai (gnomic tense) and -ab (agentive), which coalesce with a preceding /a/ without an intervening consonant: kaŋa "to walk"; kaŋai "walk (gnom.)"; kaŋab "walker."
  • The /aə iə uə/ glides occur only before a consonant.
  • Final consonants are restricted to /p b m l/.
  • /h/ is relatively uncommon non-initially.
  • Consonant clusters are separated with an epenthetic vowel, usually /i/.
  • Two-syllable words are stressed on the first syllable. Otherwise, the accent normally falls on the antepenultimate: lúkpani, tukúigba, haŋmoausígilip. It falls on the penult, however, if the vowel is one of the diphthongs /aə iə uə/: mitalusiúəda.

Verbal Morphology

Verbal morphology is agglutinative. Verbs may take various suffixes which fall into four slots. It is best to describe these slot by slot, as often they do not correspond neatly to standard categories of tense, aspect, etc.

Slot 1

The first slot for suffixes combines information about agency and aspect:

  • The suffix -ai indicates timeless or recurring natural processes, or general states of affairs: mitalai iəta "the river flows."
  • -usi is used for distinct physical actions or events, including natural events: hupusi sumi "it's raining;" gbiusi liŋmili "[they] are building the wall."
  • -iŋi is used for habitual actions (as part of one's profession, etc.): tuipiŋi "[he] is a hunter;" gbikiŋi neamali "he builds boats."
  • -igba is used for actions with distinct agents, but emphasizes communications, social relationships, moods, or psychological states, rather than physical actions: tukuigba vinitali "[they] are performing a ceremony;" ŋanaigba... "[someone] is saying..." This causes unpredictable semantic shifts with many verbs; these will be noted in the lexicon.

All examples above are unmarked for the remaining slots; see discussion below.

Slot 2

The second slot marks information about tense, aspect and mood. All examples are given in the -usi form.

  • The unmarked form marks the present or foreseeable future, or recent or ongoing past activity.
  • -ul is used for the completed past: gbiusiul neamali "he built a boat;" hupusiul sumi "it rained."
  • -gil is used for the speculative future or irrealis states: haŋmoausigil daəb disili "the woman may stab her husband."
  • -ŋmau marks plans or volitions: gbiusiŋmau neamali "I'm going to build a boat."

When the -l of the past and irrealis suffixes comes before a following consonant, it is dropped, leaving behind a schwa offglide.

Slot 3

The third slot marks evidentiality.

  • The unmarked form indicates general knowledge, or leaves the source of knowledge unspecified.
  • -da indicates directly witnessed information: mitalusiuəda iəta "the river was flowing [I saw it];"
  • -bita indicates inference or hearsay: gbikiŋibita neamali "He builds boats [apparently; so I heard]."

Slot 4

The fourth slot marks negation.

  • The unmarked form is positive.
  • -ki is the strong negative (used for things distinctly known to be negative): gbiusiŋmauki neamali "I am not going to build a boat."
  • -ip is the weak negative (to indicate uncertainty or indistinct states): haŋmoausigilip daəb disili "I don't think the woman will stab her husband."

The Agentive

Any verb can be converted into an agentive noun ("doer of X") by adding the suffix -ab: mitalaeab "something that flows;" neamali gbiusiŋmaukeab "one who isn't going to build a boat." Often the first slot is left blank: mitalab "something that flows," etc.

The Gerund

The gerund is formed by adding the suffix -i. Slots 1 and 2 are always left blank; but negation or, rarely, the evidentiality suffixes may be included: iəta mitali "the flowing river;" naəpal nali "the vomiting baby;" daəb huəsadai "the woman [that I see is] singing."

  • The negative -ki combines with the gerund suffix as -kui rather than the expected *kiki: daəb huəsakui "the woman who is not singing."

The Verbal Noun

The verb in its unmarked form is a verbal noun: pamigbaul ŋma tuipili "I witnessed the hunting" (the verb here bears an accusative suffix).

Single-Consonant Roots

A few verb roots consist only of a single consonant: s- "to have," t- the coupla, ŋ- the negative copula. These lack a verbal noun, and the copulas have a defective conjugation: slot 1 is left blank, unless slot 2 is also unmarked, in which case -ai is used (tai "it is"; ŋai "it is not"; tul "it was"). The agentive forms sab "that which has," tab "that which is," ŋab "that which is not" are encountered quite frequently:

  • vaŋi tab that which is red; the red one
  • vaŋi ŋab that which is not red; the not-red one
  • suvum sab the one with leaves

The gerund forms are a common source of compounds:

  • kuŋisikui not having an arm
  • disiti being a husband

Nominal Morphology

The noun in Proto-Lukpanic only takes one inflection for case: the accusative suffix -li.

  • This marks a direct object: hagausiul kumoab simipili "the priest ate the spleen."
  • It also marks the recipient (not the direct object) of a ditransitive verb: abupusiul ŋma sasali u tuəm "I gave my father some buckwheat porridge."
  • If the word ends in -l then just add -i, plus a schwa offglide on the preceding vowel: ŋmal "world;" ŋmaəli "world (acc.)."
  • If there already is a schwa offglide, then just add -i: uəl "sun;" uəli "sun (acc.)."

Number is unmarked on nouns, except optionally by a class of adjectival suffixes. In an ancestral form of the language, a collective could apparently be formed by reduplication (gba "elder" > gbagba "people"), but this is no longer productive.


There are a number of suffixes which turn a noun into a locative adjective.

  • -padi above; on top of
  • -ali below
  • -hisi within; throughout
  • -nai outside of
  • -tui next to; near
  • -igbi touching
  • -kpani facing toward
  • -nuəsi facing away from
  • -gagi among; between; from one to another

These can be nominalized by replacing the -i with the agentive -ab: kibipadi "on top of the house;" kibipadab "something on top of the house." The nominal form of -nai is simply -nab rather than *nakab.


Quantifiers are marked as suffixes on nouns. There are five of these:

  • -mea all
  • -laŋal many; most
  • -bal some; not all
  • -usi few
  • -biu no; none


There is a single demonstrative suffix -ŋu, which can mean either "this" or "that". This absorbs any preceding /l/, leaving behind a schwa offglide.

Suffix Order

Nominal suffixes can be combined quite freely, in the order locative-quantifier-demonstrative-accusative.

  • iətatoabilaŋaəŋu "these many things near the river"
  • liŋmikpanabimeali "all the things facing toward the wall (acc.)"

When the noun is modified by a post-nominal gerund or locative adjective, all nominal suffixes act as phrase-level clitics that attach to a dummy pronoun su "she":

  • naəpal kpaənui sumeaŋuli "all these sleeping babies (acc.)"; lit. "the sleeping babies, all these ones"

When there's only one non-locative modifier, the dummy pronoun is not necessary: naəpal kpaənuiŋu "this sleeping baby". In several descendant dialects, dropping the dummy pronoun became permissible even with locatives, even with more than one clitic, or both.

When there's a locative clitic that refers to a complex noun phrase as a whole, a dummy pronoun is always necessary:

  • naəpal kpaənuiŋu sutui "near this sleeping baby"

In order to emphasize a particular word within a complex noun phrase, the demonstrative may optionally be copied to this word. In some descendants, -ŋu thus ended up grammaticalising into a focus marker.

  • naəpaəŋu kpaənui sumeaŋu "all these sleeping babies"
  • naəpal kpaənuiŋu sumeaŋu "all these sleeping babies"

A few dialects allowed a similar kind of clitic doubling also with the accusative marker -li, and occasionally with quantifiers as well.

Personal Pronouns

The personal pronouns are:

masc. sg. fem. sg. plural
1st ŋma ŋmu ŋmaŋma
2nd gi gu gugu
3rd sa su susu

ŋmaŋma is an exclusive we; ŋmuŋmu was an alternate form. The inclusive form is ŋmagu.

Any of these can be turned into an accusative with the suffix -li, or a possessive with -nu. The feminine pronouns likely descend from gender-neutral ones and were still often used as such.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
absolute supu ŋmib hul deau nium tapagbu ueaŋmib ueahul ueadu ŋmibai
x5 nium ŋmibai hulai deai gabam gabam nium gabam ŋmibai gabam hulai gabam deai papa
suffix -su -ŋmib -hul -du -uea

The suffixes are used attributively, like the quantifier suffixes: apoasu "one lizard." There are only suffixes for numbers one through five. To say, for example, "seven lizards," the construction "two lizards after five" is used: apoaŋmib nu nium. For multiples of five, for example "fifty lizards," "lizard fifty" is used: apoa papa (with the stress pattern of a separate word, not a suffix: ápoa pápa, not *apoápapa).

The absolute forms are used in isolation, or when counting, etc. Some of these have transparent meanings: nium "five" seems to be the word "fist;" tapagbu "six" means "other hand." Higher numbers are formed with the multiple of five, plus the unit, plus the suffix -la ("and"): hulai ŋmibila "seventeen" (literally "fifteen and two").

Many of the descendant dialects borrowed absolute forms from the Western languages, especially the numbers 6-8, as these were more concise. There was some confusion resulting from the contact between the Lukpanic base-5 system and the Western base-8 system, however.

An ordinal is formed with the preposition u, plus the absolute noun: apoa u deau "the fourth lizard"; apoa u ueaŋmib "the seventh lizard."

Interrogative words

There are two interrogative root words, kpi and pi, which could be translated as "what" and "which" - the latter implies a choice among known options. They are used both as nouns and determiners, and can refer to any noun. Derived terms include:

  • kpisa when?
  • kpinal how; in what manner?
  • kpim of what significance; what of it?

The last, used on its own, essentially means "so what?" The shade of meaning varies according to context:

  • kpim daəb? so what if it's a woman?
  • kpim eatuŋu? why is this brick here?

There is no independent word for "where" - rather, kpi and pi are combined with the locative adverbs:

  • kpitui? near what?
  • kpihisi? in what?
  • pipadi? on top of which one?


The basic sentence order is VSO. Subject pronouns are usually omitted in simple sentences, except for disambiguation or particular emphasis.

In the Classical language, most modifiers come before the noun, though gerunds and locative adjectives come after. Simple compounds of the form noun + noun (Kpitamoa, "butter harbor") were common, with the second noun as the head. The order could be reversed with preposition u (moa u kpita, harbor of butter).

In the Late Classical period the u began to be omitted from phrases of this type, and so the default order of compounds was reversed. Most modifiers migrated to after the noun. Thus the Isi dialect, for example, came to be known as Hu Isi rather than the Classical Isi Hu.

Derivational Morphology

Though Lukpanic morphology is mostly suffixing, its derivational morphology resembles a potpourri of suffixes, prefixes, circumfixes, and infixes.


-mi marks a location or point of contact or connection.

  • kaka to drink > kakami seat (at a dining table)
  • kuŋi arm > kuŋimi armpit
  • pasa copper > pasami treasury; cache
  • lu sea > lumi island

-si denotes a derived or resulting substance.

  • abu to give > abusi food
  • deab to ebb > deabisi sea foam
  • viŋma hibiscus > viŋmasi hibiscus tea
  • aŋi blood > aŋisi blood (euphemistic)

-u denotes a woman or female. It is commonly used for female animals; when said of people it often connotes that a man was expected instead (compare Eng. "lady cabdriver" etc.) and can be slightly impolite.

  • buəl person (esp. a stranger) > buəlu strange woman
  • tuipab hunter > tuipabu huntress
  • goap cattle > goapu cow

The circumfix a- -b denotes a person belonging to a group or nation.

  • Isi a city > aisib inhabitant of Isi
  • Doanu a city > adoanub inhabitant of Doanu
  • lumi island > alumib inhabitant of Poalugbum

The infix -pi-, placed (as with all infixes) after the stressed syllable, is a diminutive, sometimes with an affectionate sense.

  • butu honey > bupitu mead
  • laki finger > lapiki nail; peg
  • mita dog > mipita doggie; pup

The infix -gba- is a strong despective.

  • mita dog > migbata mangy hound
  • ugbu hand > ugbagbu ugly mitt

-gi- is also despective, with a notion of smallness or inadequacy.

  • dui fish > dugiki measly catch
  • ugbu hand > ugigbu withered or crippled hand
  • lumi island > lugimi barren little island

The previous two are often combined for maximum affective power.

  • lumi island > lugbagimi godforsaken little rock