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To Be Continued...
Cedh is still working on this article. The contents are incomplete and likely to undergo changes.
Period c. 1 YP
Spoken in southern Tuysáfa
Total speakers unknown
Writing system unknown
Classification unknown
Basic word order VOS
Morphology polysynthetic
Alignment direct-inverse
Created by Cedh


  • Tsemehkiooni

    We understand each other.


Phoneme inventory


labial dental alveolar palatal velar glottal
plosive p · b t · d ts · dz tʃ · dʒ k · g ʔ
fricative θ s ʃ h
nasal m n
rhotic r
glide w j
  • /tʃ ʃ dʒ j/ are written č š j y.


front central back
high i · iː u · uː
mid e · eː (ə) o · oː
low a · aː
  • /iː eː aː oː uː/ are written ii ee aa oo uu.
  • There are also two phonemic diphthongs /ai au/, which are written ay aw.


  • Syllable structure: (C)(C)V(ː)(C)
  • Any single consonant may begin a syllable. However, /ʔ θ r/ do not appear in word-initial position.
  • Legal syllable-initial clusters include at least:
    • /pk pθ ps pʃ pn pw pj/
    • /tk tm tw tj/
    • /tsk tsm tsn tsw tsj/
    • /tʃk tʃm tʃn tʃw/
    • /kθ ks kʃ km kn kw kj/
    • /bw bj/
    • /dw dj/
    • /dzw dzj/
    • /gw gj/
    • /sp st sk sm sw sj/
    • /ʃp ʃt ʃk ʃm ʃw/
    • /hp ht hts htʃ hk hm hn hr hw hj/
    • /mn mw mj/
    • /nw nj/
  • Legal word-final coda consonants are /p t ts tʃ k ʔ s ʃ n/.
  • Word-medial two-term consonant clusters, in addition to the clusters given above, include the following:
    • /pp pt pts ptʃ/
    • /tt/
    • /kt kts ktʃ kk/
    • /ʔp ʔt ʔts ʔtʃ ʔk ʔb ʔd ʔdz ʔdʒ ʔg ʔm ʔn ʔr ʔw ʔj/
    • /θk θm θw θj/ -- (Note: */θθ/ becomes /st/)
    • /ss/
    • /ʃʃ/
    • /mp mb mm/
    • /nt nts ntʃ nk nd ndz ndʒ ng nn/
    • /rb rd rdz rdʒ rg rm rn/
  • Three-term clusters are generally legal if the first two segments match a legal medial cluster, and the second two segments match a legal initial cluster (with a few exceptions and additions).

Phonetic detail and allophony

  • All consonant phonemes have their basic value in word-initial position, with the voiceless plosives being lightly aspirated.
  • /r/ is normally pronounced as a tap [ɾ]. When preceded by /h/, it becomes a voiceless trill [r̥].
  • /m n/ become voiceless [m̥ n̥] when preceded by /h/.
  • /m n/ assimilate in POA to a following plosive or affricate.
  • /b d dz dʒ g/ are often lenited to [β ð z ʒ ɣ] in unstressed intervocalic position, especially when preceded by a stressed long vowel.
  • /k/ becomes [x] after /p t/.
  • Short /i e a o u/ are pronounced [ɪ ɛ ɐ ɔ ʊ] in closed syllables.
  • /u/ is fronted to [ʉ] before /tʃ dʒ ʃ j/ or a consonant cluster containing one of these segments.

Morphophonemic variation

When morphemes are brought into contact morphologically, the following predictable sound alternations are observed at the morpheme boundary:

  • /p t ts tʃ k/ become /w r dz dʒ g/ between vowels. /p t/ may exceptionally become /b d/ instead; in these cases the morpheme boundary is marked in the grammar with a + sign.
  • /b d/ become /w r/ between vowels.
  • /p t ts tʃ k/ become /b d dz dʒ g/ before voiced consonants.
  • /b d dz dʒ g/ become /p t ts tʃ k/ before voiceless consonants or after /h/.
  • Underlying geminated voiced plosives /bb dd ddz ddʒ gg/ become preglottalized /ʔb ʔd ʔdz ʔdʒ ʔg/.
  • /t/ becomes /θ/ after /p k/.
  • /p/ becomes /w/ after /p k/.
  • /w/ becomes /g/ between two rounded vowels.
  • /w j/ metathesize with following /p t k b d g ʔ h/; before other consonants they are deleted.
  • /ʔ h/ are deleted after /p t ts tʃ k b d dz dʒ g ʔ h/; otherwise they metathesize with a preceding consonant.
  • /θ s ʃ/ assimilate completely to following /θ s ʃ/.
  • /ə/ surfaces with the same quality as the most accented vowel occurring in directly adjacent syllables. Expected [i u] become [e o] instead when the reduced vowel is adjacent to /ʔ h/.
  • Long vowels are shortened in closed syllables that do not receive primary or secondary stress, and sometimes also in open syllables adjacent to a long vowel (details TBD).


Tsemehkiooni has a stress accent, which will always fall on one of the last three syllables in a word. Some suffixes require movement of the accent.


Tsemehkiooni does not distinguish morphologically between nouns and verbs. While there are content word roots for both clearly nominal and clearly verbal concepts, all of these roots are treated of members of a single large word class, that of predicates. Such predicates are inflected via a complex, position-based agglutinative system, where most but not all components are optional. An overview of the predicate complex, which may additionally be extended by one or more pro- and enclitics in certain situations, is given below.

-4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7
person/ mode circumstance direction theme STEM instrument/ manner aspect/ aktionsart direct/ inverse object number voice evidential/ modal tense

Pronominal prefixes

The first slot in the template provides information about the person and animacy of the highest-ranking participant, as well as information about valence and mode of the predication.

Person and animacy

Pronominal prefixes have full argument status; any participant that is to be treated as a grammatical core argument must be referenced here, but none of the participants marked on the predicate is required to appear overtly outside of the main "verb". Except for demonstratives, there are also no independent free-standing pronouns.

Tsemehkiooni distinguishes three persons (1st, 2nd and 3rd) and two numbers (singular and plural) in its pronominal prefixes. In addition, clusivity is distinguished for both 1st and 2nd person plural participants, and a three-way animacy classification (human, animate, inanimate) is used for 3rd person arguments. There are distinct transitive prefixes for all possible subjects, but only a few of them distinguish more than transitivity itself, namely the person of second core arguments which are of lower or equal rank on the hierarchy scale 2nd > 1st > 3rd human > 3rd animate > 3rd inanimate. (Lower-ranked arguments acting upon higher-ranked ones use the same prefixes; the "unexpected" direction of the action is indicated via an inverse marker located in slot +3. Distinctions in number for the semantic patient are expressed in slot +4.)


All pronominal prefixes come in several sets that are selected based on the mode of predication.

The most basic mode is the stative, which has only intransitive prefixes. It expresses a state that is considered "permanent" for current discourse purposes, for instance gnomic propositions, background information that does not change during the course of a narrative, or static predications used to identify a "nominal" participant; in the latter function it can also be interpreted syntactically as a nominalizer.

The eventive mode is used for actions and events which are situated in reality. This includes most past and present events, but also states portrayed as the result of a previous activity, as well as future events thought to be certain to occur. The distinction between stative and eventive is mostly one of static vs. dynamic.

The irrealis mode is used for states, actions and events that are considered hypothetical. Most prominently, future events of low predictability, wishes, worries, guesses, intentions, and conditional statements fall into this category. There is no morphological distinction between states and events in the irrealis; a single type of prefix will be used for both (although the transitivity value will generally serve to disambiguate conflicting meanings). The distinction between stative and eventive on the one hand vs. irrealis on the other hand is mostly one of epistemology.

most forms of pronominal prefixes are still tbd...


The second slot of the predicate, in position -3 immediately following the person/mode markers, contains a set of circumstantial prefixes which encode adverbial distinctions of a fairly general nature. At first glance, their meanings appear to be quite incoherent - there is a habitual marker that would normally be considered an aspect in other languages; there are markers of modal/attitudinal value, for instance a volitional and a deprecative; there are morphemes indicating degree of control or success, and there are also manner adverbials with glosses like "playfully" or "". Upon closer inspection, however, a commonality can be found: All these markers describe the role of the predication within its environment, the relationship between the state or event described and the situation it takes place in.

Some of the most important circumstantial prefixes are listed below:



Tsemehkiooni contains an elaborate set of locative and directional prefixes, which serve to locate the predicate in space (and, exceptionally, also in time) by describing the location of an action or, even more prominently, the direction of movement inherent in it. There may be as many as a hundred of these markers that can fill slot -2 in the predicate template; some of them with rather general meanings akin to those of adpositions in other languages, others with remarkably specific semantics. Often the choice of directional will not only depend on the depicted movement itself, but also on the nature and/or orientation of source or target.

Directional prefixes include:

towards here
all around
up to a considerable height
up to standing position
up onto a horizontal surface
down from a considerable height
into an enclosed area
moving far away from the reference point
back and forth

Theme prefixes

Immediately before the stem of the predicate in position -1 we find a set of lexical affixes that reference an object, situation or quality that is in some way involved in the action without necessarily playing a central role. These theme prefixes may refer to a (usually non-overt) participant of the action, typically in the semantic roles of patient, theme, goal, beneficiary, or purpose. They may also describe the type of location or the natural environment that the action occurs in. They may refer to a quality necessary for the action to be carried out, or to a quality that results from the action. Last but not least, they may also indicate a supplementary activity that is intrinsically connected to the action or state described by the rest of the predicate; this latter type of semantics is especially common with predicates built on stems with a comparatively noun-like meaning.

As such, the theme prefixes play a role similar to that of compounding, which is not otherwise found in the language. (And it is indeed likely that they derive historically from a fossilized form of compounding or noun incorporation.) They serve as a derivational tool for creating new words with specific semantic connotations, though these connotations are often idiomatic and metaphorical. They also function as a means of providing secondary information, of grouping different actions with identical or similar arguments, or of carrying along established participants through a longer narrative without mentioning them explicitly.

The number of lexical theme prefixes in Tsemehkiooni is even higher than that of directionals. The following sample can only provide a cursory overview of their range; a more detailed list of theme prefixes can be found in the lexicon.

in full daylight; involving brightness or clarity
involving a house or other dwelling-place, or the customary location of sth.

Instrument and manner suffixes

The first slot after the stem (position +1) hosts yet another type of lexical affixes, which refer to the type of instrument used to accomplish the action, or, more fundamentally, to a specific manner of motion exemplified by the predicate. Like theme prefixes, these instrumentals may have rather broad semantics, and many of them are also found in idiomatic constructions whose meaning can be traced to the basic concept only with some difficulty. Nevertheless, they provide a rich and flexible system for classifying situations by the kind of motion involved, whose use is one of the most distinctive characteristics of Tsemehkiooni storytelling.

As a corollary of the highly productive motion-related morphology in the language, most word stems relating to movement are relatively low in semantic content by themselves. Motion is only rarely expressed without both a directional prefix and an instrumental/manner suffix. In fact, combinations of these two layers of morphology can form viable predicates even in the absence of an overt word stem; a fact that has been explained variously by positing an underlying null stem -Ø- "go, move", or by treating the morphemes that can occur in the instrument/manner slot as bound roots that may serve as the base for a predicate provided a suitable selection of prefixes offers a phonological host for them. Whichever of these comes closer to the truth, the fact remains that a large percentage of movement predicates in Tsemehkiooni are formed without a dedicated verb stem.

A selection of typical instrument/manner suffixes is presented below:

with smooth/nonviolent repetition
with sudden/violent repetition
by speech
by jumping
by stepping on sth.
by walking
by running


There are relatively few morphemes that can appear in position +2, but the use of these aspect suffixes is mandatory in present-tense eventive predicates. Since aspect is one of the most common verbal categories cross-linguistically, the meaning of these morphemes is fairly straightforward, even though some of them conflate notions of grammatical aspect, lexical aspect ("aktionsart"), and telicity.

The following list shows the most important aspect markers:

momentary: Signifies that the predicate is valid and relevant at a certain point in time, but not necessarily much earlier and/or much later. May have connotations of semelfactive, punctual, ingressive, or non-permanent progressive aktionsart.
durative: Signifies that the predicate is valid at a certain point in time, as well as an extended period of time both before and after the reference point. May signify ongoing states and activities ("permanent progressive" / imperfective).
telic: Signifies that the action described by the predicate has a purpose and/or goal (and typically also that any circumstantial prefixes should be evaluated with regard to this purpose or goal).
inchoative: Focuses on the beginning of the action or state described by the predicate, without necessarily implying that this situation has already begun. May be interpreted as ingressive, evolutive, prospective, or intentional.
terminative: Focuses on the end of the action or state described by the predicate, without necessarily implying that this situation has already ended. May be interpreted as egressive, cessative, completive, resultative, or perfect.

Direct/Inverse marking

Object number


Tsemehkiooni does not make much use of grammatical voice per se, but it contains a small set of valency-changing suffixes that can be added in slot +5 of a predicate to perform voice-like functions.

passive: promotes a semantic patient to subject
reciprocal: signifies that plural subjects are acting upon each other

Evidentials and modals

evidential: known from experience


Tsemehkiooni possesses a highly detailed system of indicating tense, which is marked by the last suffix on a predicate, in position +7 of the template. There are no less than five different past tense morphemes and three future markers, which differ in their temporal distance with regard to the reference time. The different past and future categories exhibit a certain amount of overlap; the choice of a given tense marker often depends on discourse factors such as other events against which to contrast the current predication, or the age of the people involved in the conversation. It has been suggested that the main difference between the various tenses is not absolute distance in time, but the unit of time used to measure that distance.

The tense markers are as follows:

remote past (measured in generations): more than a few years or decades earlier, depending on the age of speaker and listener.
distant past (measured in years): more than about half a year earlier (i.e. before the last summer or winter, whichever is the opposite of the current season), but within the lifetime of all relevant discourse participants.
intermediate past (measured in months): more than a few days earlier, but usually within the last year. This form is also used as a fallback to describe past situations where the speaker is unsure when exactly they happened.
recent past (measured in days): within the last few days.
immediate past (measured in situations): earlier on the same day, usually within the time period after the last meal.
immediate future (measured in situations): later on the same day, usually within the next few hours.
near future (measured in days): within the next few days.
distant future (measured in months, years, or generations): more than a few days later