Onmaqish, the Language of the OnKitabie (or, wow linguistics is a rabbit hole, ain't it? by Tajani) OUTDATED VERSION
NOTE: THIS IS AN OUTDATED VERSION OF THE LANGUAGE. FOR THE UP-TO-DATE VERSION, SEE THE WIKI.
Onmaqish qish OnKitabiet, mem bakalas manzma shie mem ikitmie Tiemaqil Shike.
Onmaqish is the language of the OnKitabie, the race living in the remote valleys of Tiemaqil Shike. Its name means literally “teaching tongue” (On-maqish). Due to its isolated nature it bears little resemblance to other known languages, and since it is spoken by such a small and geographically localized population, there is little dialectical variation across the population.
It is written in the Onmaqish Script, an alphabet with eighteen consonants and three vowels and heavily used by the OnKitabie, who have a cultural obsession with the written word (which is another reason why the language is relatively standardized).
Onmaqish has 21 distinct sounds (or phonemes), not all of which are shared with English.
For a full list of phonemes, see here.
The vowel of each syllable also determines stress. “e” is the least stressed, then “i” then “ie” then “a” as the most stressed.
Words in Amaqish operate on a tri-consonantal root system similarly to languages like Arabic and Hebrew, where words are derived from a common three-consonant root that has a certain meaning.
For example, one root is m-k-t, which is unpronounceable because it’s not a word, there’s no vowels, idiot, it’s a root, pay attention. These three letters roughly mean "freedom, or the idea of free-ness". Then the structure of m-k-t is applied to various different formats that create different words but still have a common base. So the structure for a location looks like this: 1-i-2-3-ab. Slot the root in, and you get m-i-k-t-ab, or miktab, a place of freedom (which is what the OnKitabie call a library). Otherwise, if we want the verb for "to be free," the structure for verbs is 1-a-2-3-ima. With the root it becomes maktima, to be free. A person is 1-a-2-3-ib, or maktib (a free person), while animal is i-1-i-2-3-a, or imikta. (If any of you can tell me what a “free animal” is, I’m all ears, I have no clue.)
Onmaqish is a Verb-Subject-Object language, meaning its basic sentences are structured similarly English, but the verb generally appears before the noun that does it. So rather than "The person led the army", it would be "Led the person the army", or "Kajtie mem bakal mi thetayafam". Overall, Onmaqish is very Head-Initial, with only prepositions, articles, and sometimes determiners appearing before the noun that they modify. All other modifiers, from adjectives to relative clauses to numerals, appear afterwards.
Onmaqish nouns are separated into three different classes, which operate like grammatical gender in languages like French, Spanish, German, Arabic, and many others. However, instead of being based on gender, Onmaqish nouns are rated on a scale of “least animate” to “most animate”. The three classes are: Idyllic, Animate, and Inanimate.
Idyllic nouns are those perceived by the OnKitabie to have agency and/or destiny, essentially things which are abstract or complex enough to possess sentience or some philosophical equivalent. The classic example is people, though other Idyllic nouns are: books, stories, families, and the world.
Animate is the most restrictive class, this is essentially for just animals, things which are animate and capable of thought, but not sentient as the OnKitabie perceive them.
Inanimate are nouns which are non-living. This includes concrete things like mountains, houses, and the sun, but also abstracts like length and time, and qualities like colors, or timeliness.
The noun class affects three things: pluralization, articles, and modifiers.
Pluralization: When a noun is pluralized, the class effects how that is done. Idyllic nouns pluralize with a -as (people: bakal-as: bakalas), Animate nouns pluralize with a -in (animals: fim-in: fimin) and Inanimate nouns pluralize with a -il (libraries: miktab-il: miktabil).
Articles: In Onmaqish, the indefinite article (“a” in English) is implied with the verb, meaning “a city” would just be “shas” so there’s no need to worry about that. However, the definite article (“the” in English) which causes a noun to become defined, is altered depending on noun class (like how, in Spanish, “the” becomes “la” or “el” depending on the noun’s gender). For Idyllic nouns, it is “mem” (the person: mem bakal). For Animate nouns, it is “maie” (the fish: maie iemba). For Inanimate nouns, it is “mi” (the house: mi minzab).
Modifiers: Modifiers (adjectives & adverbs) are attached different suffixes depending on the class of the noun they are describing. Colors are exempt from this since colors are grammatically weird and stupid. Modifiers also go after the noun, unlike before the noun in English (“story long” rather than “long story”). For Idyllic nouns, the modifiers end in -em (long story: zanam biyam-em). For Animate nouns, it is -aie (holy fish: iemba jilam-aie). For Inanimate nouns, it is -i (hot desert: timqab khimam-i).
- Construct State
Possession in Onmaqish is usually portrayed by something called a “construct state,” where the two relevant nouns are placed one after each other, with the second one being the “dependent”, or the one modifying the first, almost like an adjective. This “dependent” noun is marked with the suffix -it and, if the phrase is defined, only that noun takes the definite marker.
So if I were to say “The house of the person” I would say “bakal mi minzab-it”. Bakal is person, but didn’t take the definite article it normally would, because that was handled by mi minzab-it.
This doesn’t just apply to possession in the way that we think of it, but more generally describes a level of relationship between the two nouns where one is dependent on the other for context. For example, “master of the library”, “kjalit miktab-it”, doesn’t mean that the library is literally possessed by the master, but it shows what the master has mastery over: the library.
When pronouns are involved in possession (such as “my hat” or “their friend”), rather than using the construct state, pronoun suffixes are simply attached to the ends of the possessed noun to show who possesses it. For example, “my farm” would be “nishnab-bn”, and “your story” would be “zanam-ja”. These suffixes define the noun, so the definite article is never applied.
- Prepositional Possession
Finally, possession can be determined with the “to” preposition (“lie”) to describe possession. So while “nishnab-bn” would be “my farm”, “I have a farm” would be written “lie-bn nishnab”. lie here gets the pronoun suffix, and this literally translates to: “to me a farm”.
Verbs in Onmaqish operate on the French system, which is to say, dumb. However, it's not quite as dumb as French, because I’m one person making all this and I don’t want my head to explode from the stupid complexity.
All verbs in Onmaqish end with -ima (see the structure for making verbs in the Morphology section), which when conjugated is replaced with different suffixes and/or prefixes. These conjugations depend on roughly three things: tense (past, present or future), perfection (perfect or imperfect), and noun class (Idyllic, Animate, or Inanimate). I’ll spare you all the conjugations, but for an example let’s take the verb maktima, to be free.
If I want to say I was free, that is first-person past perfect tense. “I” is “ib” and the first-person past perfect conjugation of maktima is “makt” (the -ima is simply removed). Thus “I was free” translates to “Ib makt”. And since the conjugation tells us who the verb is referring to (first-person, therefore, me), one could conceivably even do away with the ib, and have the full sentence be “Makt.” It has the subject (me) and the verb (free), therefore this one word is a full sentence. Handy, why doesn’t English do that? Well it’s because now there has to be a different suffix for each combination of those three conditions mentioned earlier, making at least nine different types of suffixes for just simple first-order conjugation. It’s awful, but at least it’s not French.