User:Corumayas/Proto-Eigə Valley

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To Be Continued...
Corumayas is still working on this article. The contents are incomplete and likely to undergo changes.
Proto-Eigə Valley
Period before -3000 YP
Spoken in lower Aiwa valley
Total speakers unknown
Writing system none
Classification Eigə-Isthmus languages
Basic word order SVO, head-initial
Morphology fusional, agglutinating
Alignment NOM-ACC
Created by Corumayas

Proto-Eigə Valley is the last common ancestor of the Eigə Valley languages, one of the two major branches of the Eigə-Isthmus languages. Its descendants include Ngauro, Meshi, and the Miwan languages.



Labial Coronal Dorsal Glottal
Stop p b t d k ɡ (ʔ)¹
Affricate ts (dz)²
Fricative θ ð s z
Nasal m n ŋ
Rhotic r
Approximant w l j

1. I’m not sure PEV had phonemic /ʔ/; it may have been deleted everywhere, or it may just be an epenthetic sound between vowels in hiatus.
2. Whether PEV had /dz/ depends on the timing of the sound change tl dl > ts dz; if this occurred in the daughter languages after they began diverging, /dz/ would not belong to the proto-language.


Front Back
Close i u
Open a

Phonemically, Proto-Eigə Valley had six diphthongs /aj aw ij iw uj uw/. Their realization was not quite as straightforward as this suggests, though; it seems that they tended to become something like [e o əj iw øɥ əw]:

Proto-Eigə Valley Ngauro Old East Miw Forest Miw Meshi
aj ~ e ai ~ ɛ¹ e i i, ∅
aw ~ o au ~ o¹  ?u² u u, ∅
ij ~ əj e  ?  ?a, u ay
iw e iw iw
uj ~ øɥ aü⁴  ?a  ?i
uw ~ əw aü⁴  ?  ?i aw

1. Ngauro [ai au] in open syllables alternate with [ɛ o] in closed syllables.
2. Although it isn't listed in the phoneme inventory for OEMiw or its descendant EMiw, there is one instance of <o> in the EMiw wordlist, in ki:ʁnom ‘robin’. I’ve been assuming that this is either an allophonic variant or a loanword, but maybe it’s actually a reflex of PEV /aw/.
3. Meshi /e/ reflects an earlier /ø/ (which may also underlie the Miwan reflexes of PEV /uj/ and perhaps /uw/).
4. The diphthong transcribed <aü> was probably pronounced something like [œy] in early Ngauro.


Proto-Eigə Valley had a set of tone and/or phonation contrasts, which were inherited in the Miwan languages and probably in Ngauro. The details are not well understood yet, but there were probably three tone/phonation types:

Tone 1 Modal voice a
Tone 2 Breathy voice
Tone 3 Creaky voice

Because they originated from features of adjacent consonants, the tone/phonation types were typically found in certain environments:

  • Tone 1 (modal voice) usually followed a voiced consonant or a fricative
  • Tone 2 (breathy voice) usually followed a voiceless stop
  • Tone 3 (creaky voice) usually appeared in syllables without an onset consonant

Tones 1 and 2 were about equally likely after /ts/, and some onsetless syllables had Tone 2 instead of 3; there were probably other exceptions to the usual distribution as well, which rendered the tones contrastive in other environments.


The syllable structure of Proto-Eigə Valley was C(G)V(G,s,n)(C), where G is any of /j w r l/. The set of coda consonants was restricted to plosives, nasals, and /θ s z r l/. (There were no doubt additional phonotactic restrictions, but the details are still uncertain.)

In clusters of a nasal + a stop or affricate, the nasal assimilated to the place of articulation of the following consonant (I’m not sure whether this occurred with fricatives as well). In clusters of /s/ + a voiced consonant, the voicelessness of /s/ was preserved; this may have been helped by inserting an epenthetic schwa [ə] in some environments.

The language also seems to have had syllabic nasals, generally found word-initially and followed by a homorganic consonant. Most of these are instances of the genitive prefix m-.

Sound changes from Proto-Eigə-Isthmus

These are probably not complete!

  • onset voicing shift (and rise of breathy voice on vowels)
    • b d dz g > bʱ dʱ dzʱ gʱ > pʰ tʰ tsʰ kʰ + breathy voice on following vowel
    • p t k > b d g
    • pʰ tʰ tsʰ kʰ > p t ts k
    • (this shift is blocked in medial clusters of two stops with the same voicing, e.g. PEI gasd~gasd ‘stream~PL’ > PEV kasd~ga(s)d > Ng. kasdgad > NT kasadgad)

(Since *ts doesn't become voiced, *ts and *dz merge: cf. EMiw tun 'red' < *dzusn-, timpi:za 'necklace' < *tsimp-.)

  • coda ts dz > s z
  •  ? z > s /V_C
  • vowel mergers: e ej ew > aj i iw (although maybe ej > ij in some environments)
  • intervocalic ʔ h (if they both existed) induce phonation—creaky voice and breathy voice respectively—on adjacent syllables, then are deleted
  • the preposition ʔum > a prefix m-, which then assimilates to the POA of a following stop (perhaps some other unstressed initial vowels are deleted too; but ʔas- seems to be preserved as Miwan as-)
  • onset tl dl > tɬ dɮ > ts dz (this change may occur after the daughter languages begin to diverge—I think it'd be fun to have some hints of the lateral affricate stage in the daughters)

(This change has to happen after the merger of original *ts *dz > *ts; cf. FMiw dimbal 'wife' < *tlujb-.)


Nominal morphology

Proto-Eigə Valley nouns were marked for number and probably case.


Number marking distinguished singular and plural, with plural number marked in either of two ways: by a suffix (-wa), or by suffixed reduplication. The choice of plural marker may have been connected to gender, perhaps with -wa preferred for animate plurals and reduplication for inanimates.

PL -wa ~RDP


Case marking probably distinguished direct and genitive cases, and perhaps also a dative or locative. These categories appear to have been marked by prefixes: the direct case was unmarked, while there may have been two prefixes for the genitive case (a̰s- and m-, perhaps used to distinguish gender as with the two forms of plural marking) and perhaps a dative or locative prefix (za-). The genitive prefix m- was apparently syllabic, at least before obstruents, and assimilated to the place of articulation of a following obstruent; it may also have induced the tone of the following syllable to become Tone 3 (creaky voice).

GEN a̰s- m-
or LOC?

It’s possible that some or all of these prefixes would be better described as clitics, or even that one or both of a̰s and za were free prepositions in Proto-Eigə Valley. If so, it might be debatable whether the language had true case marking.

Inflection or derivation?

The number- and case-marked forms tended to become lexicalized (cf. Ng. kasdgad ‘streams: the Aiwa delta’ and mbes ‘of the people: Ngauro’; the latter is cognate with other autonyms in the family, including OEMiw miw ‘of the people’ and the first syllable of Me. meshi ‘of the holy people’). As a result, it’s difficult to say whether they were inflectional or derivational categories in Proto-Eigə Valley.


A third category affecting nouns was gender; all nouns were inherently either animate or inanimate. Gender assignment was semantically predictable, with at most a handful of exceptions. Gender may have affected the choice of plural and/or genitive markers; there may also have been gender agreement in pronouns, adjectives, and/or verbs.

Verbal morphology

Proto-Eigə Valley verbs were marked for aspect, voice, and possibly subject agreement. As with number and case for nouns, aspect and voice forms tended to become lexicalized, and may perhaps be seen as derivational rather than inflectional.


Aspect marking was the innermost layer of verbal morphology in Proto-Eigə Valley. The categories marked probably included perfective/punctual, imperfective/durative, resultative, and inceptive/inchoative; and there may have been others as well. The aspect forms are known as grades, and were mainly marked by infixes or suffixes, depending on the conjugation class of the verb.

Aspect Grade Infixing Suffixing
Perfective/Punctual Zero-grade
Imperfective/Durative N-grade <(i)n> -(i)n
Resultative S-grade <(u)s> -(u)s
Inceptive/Inchoative J-grade <i>, <j> -i, -j

All the infixes and suffixes had syllabic and non-syllabic variants. After a consonant (except /j w/) or any of /ij iw uj uw/ they were always syllabic; after /a/ they were always non-syllabic. After /aj aw i u/ they could be either, depending on the verb.

Some verb roots underwent vowel mutations in the final syllable in certain grades. For example:

  • /aj aw/ in verbs that took non-syllabic affixes became /i uj/ in the J-grade instead of adding an affix.
  • /i u/ became either /ij uw/ or /ajj aww/ (I’m not sure which is correct) before a syllabic affix, and some /iw uj/ may similarly have become /ajw awj/.

There may also have been an iterative or intensive aspect, marked by reduplication of the first CV syllable of the verb (as in Proto-Eigə Valley’s sister language Proto-Isthmus):

Iterative/Intensive Reduplicated grade RDP~

And there may have been other infixing-suffixing grades as well; possibilities include l-grade, r-grade, and w-grade. It’s unknown what categories these might have marked (though I’m considering using the w-grade for plural agreement somehow).


Voice marking was the next layer of verbal morphology, marked by suffixes (traditionally known as stem vowels). The basic suffixes were active -(ʔ)a, causative -(ʔ)i, and detransitive -(ʔ)u; these could be combined to form compound suffixes, in which they recursively changed the valency of the verb: -i increased valency, while -u decreased it. (In compound suffixes the vowels were not separated by another glottal stop, but merged into diphthongs or sequences of vowels and semivowels.) The active marker -a did not alter the valency of the verb, but may have been added for various reasons: for emphasis, for clarity, to add phonological substance, to adjust the prosody of the word by adding a syllable, or simply for stylistic variation.

The voice suffixes were quite productive in Ngauro and Meshi; I’m not sure about the Miwan languages.

Here’s a fairly complete list of possible suffixes, I think; many of these (especially the longer compound suffixes) were infrequently used if at all:

Active -(ʔ)a
Causative -(ʔ)i, -(ʔ)aj, -(ʔ)aja
Detransitive -(ʔ)u, -(ʔ)aw, -(ʔ)awa
Detransitive of Causative -(ʔ)iw, -(ʔ)aju, -(ʔ)iwa, -(ʔ)ajwa, -(ʔ)ajaw, -(ʔ)ajawa
Causative of Detransitive -(ʔ)uj, -(ʔ)awi, -(ʔ)uja, -(ʔ)awja, -(ʔ)awaj, -(ʔ)awaja
Causative of Causative -(ʔ)ij, -(ʔ)ija, -(ʔ)ajaj -(ʔ)ajaja
Detransitive of Detransitive -(ʔ)uw, -(ʔ)uwa, -(ʔ)awaw, -(ʔ)awawa


Subject agreement, if it was found at all, may have been less elaborated than in Isthmus languages. Perhaps verbs simply agreed with their subjects for number? (I’m considering using the w-grade for plural subjects, but I’d have to figure out how it interacts with the aspect-marking grades.) Alternatively, perhaps they agreed for person and number, with third-person being the least marked form.


As in Proto-Isthmus, the s-grade of verbs was used to derive resultative nouns in Proto-Eigə Valley. In addition, at least two nominalizing suffixes are known:

  • The suffix -ti formed action nouns.
  • The suffix -ju formed agentive nouns.

Other verbal markers

There are a couple of particles in Meshi which appear to be cognate with verbal affixes in Old East Miwan:

  • Reciprocal: Meshi saz, OEMiw sa:v- seems to reflect a PEV form like *sa̤ðV or maybe *sasðV
  • Negative: Meshi ga, OEMiw -χa(s) might reflect PEV *gats or *gadz (implying that OEMiw has undergone a change like g > χ /V_V)

The following is a list of other verbal affixes (both inflectional and derivational) that appear in attested Miwan words:

  • d- appears to form patientive nouns in OEMiw: cf. dre:χurfi: ‘speech-flow.together’ ~ *re: ‘to speak’, possibly saχudwa ‘flat-food’ ~ *wa ‘to eat’
  • -s might be an exhaustive plural in OEMiw re:sti ‘election’ (lit. ‘everyone speaking’)
  • -stu appears to form a cessative aspect in FMiw: cf. FMiw/OEMiw gwastu (n. or v.) ‘(to) dump’ ~ FMiw gwa: ‘to use’, FMiw nidri:stu ‘to regret’ ~ nidri: ‘to feel warm towards’
  • -ʔi privative (with nouns) or non-potential (with verbs) suffix in OEMiw: cf. gwa:ʔiti ‘not important, useless’ (becomes -hi in Southern)

In addition to this, Old Eastern Miwan had a hearsay marker tu:zi, which apparently was a free-standing particle (loaned into Naidda as tuze ‘I guess’). This appears to be an inflected form of the verb tu:m- (< PEV tlṳm-) ‘tell, recount’, probably meaning something like ‘so it is told’ or ‘so they tell’. The precise function of the suffix -zi is currently unknown, but it could be

  • an agreement marker or subject pronoun
  • an object pronoun (probably a demonstrative ‘thus, so’)
  • a passivizer
  • a tense or aspect marker

or some combination of these.