Old Vrnallian language

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Old Vrnallian language
Spoken in Vrnallia
 tir Lhaeraidd
 Mardin Isles
RegionNorthern Asura
EraUntil 14th century
Language family
Writing systemVrnallian alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2ovr
ISO 639-3ovr

Old Vrnallian (hogas vrnaljaj saci) is the form of the Vrnallian language spoken until the fourteenth century at the latest. It is attested first from inscriptions dating to the sixth century CE and evolved into Middle Vrnallian by 1300CE. Originally spoken in Vrnallia, the language was spread by colonists to tir Lhaeraidd and the Mardin Isles, though it died out in the latter region with the arrival of other colonial forces. Old Vrnallian has not been conclusively shown to be related to any other languages; it is therefore a linguistic isolate.

Old Vrnallian was originally inscribed, typically on stone, using the earliest form of the Vrnallian script, called Mnovajulún. After vellum was introduced to Vrnallia, it was also written in cursive script. Old Vrnallian was agglutinative, moreso than the modern language, and had a very strict head-final word order. The (partially reconstructed) pronunciation was very different to the modern language, possessing a much simpler inventory of consonants and having a simpler syllable structure.


To some extent the phonology of Old Vrnallian must be reconstructed. Mostly, the pronunciation of a given letter can be assumed to be identical to its basic modern value; for example, the letter <š> was very likely /ɕ/ as it is today, rather than */ʃ/ or */ʂ/ for example. In some instances, however, it is necessary to speculate. The letter <y> for example is usually /ɨ/ today, but may have been a lower vowel such as /ə/ in Old Vrnallian.


The consonants of Old Vrnallian are presented below. Some linguists have posited an additional phoneme, transcribed /H/, which occurs before some word-initial vowels. However, the evidence for this phoneme is minimal (basically just the presence of an initial /j/ or /ɦ/ in some modern words) and even if it did exist, its articulation is unclear. One occasionally therefore sees a word like áže "house" transcribed /Haˑʑe/ instead of /aˑʑe/.

Bilabial Labiodental Dental Coronal Palatal Velar
Plosive p b pʼ t d tʼ k g kʼ
Affricate t͡s d͡z (t͡sʼ) t͡ɕ d͡ʑ (t͡ɕʼ)
Fricative f v ð s z ɕ ʑ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Approximant w l r j

Any consonant except /ð/ could occur at the start of a word, though initial /ŋ/ and /r/ were rare and many loanwords show avoidance of /r/ in the initial position: érrúnna "letter" from Old Lhedwinic rúna "rune".

Old Vrnallian possessed a series of consonants which are believed to have been ejectives, based on Lhedwinic descriptions of these sounds. The letters used to write these sounds represent unaspirated consonants in the modern language, as no dialect has retained ejectives. The sounds /tʼ kʼ/ were common, though /pʼ/ was somewhat rare. The ejective affricates /t͡sʼ t͡ɕʼ/ seemed to have only occurred in some dialects. The only modern dialect which seems to derive from such a dialect is that of Daskavona; elsewhere the ejective affricates correspond to long plain consonants: míc'u or míccu "thick". Plain voiceless plosives may have been aspirated.

The sound /ð/ was quite rare in Old Vrnallian, only occurring word-internally or -finally. The most commonly accepted pronunciation is a voiced dental fricative, as its usual modern descendants are /z/ and /d/ depending on the phonetic context, as well as it reflecting Lhaeraidd /ð/ but not /θ/; cf. guéđi "ceremonial reading of liturgy" from gweddi "prayer" but jéta "foreign language" from ieith "language". It is possible that a voiceless allophone existed before voiceless sounds, eg. [pʼuˑ.iˑθka] for /pʼuˑ.iˑðka/ "song". However, this was not distinguished in writing: p'úhíđka.

Consonant length was distinctive in Old Vrnallian: íkan "it sticks out" but íkkan "it rises". Every consonant except /w/ and /j/ could occur geminated. It is generally agreed that an earlier, unattested stage of the language had long /w/ and /j/ but that these later became /wv/ and /dd͡ʑ/ respectively.

The system of palatalisation seen in Modern Vrnallian does not seem to have existed in Old Vrnallian. Consonant couplets such as /s ~ ɕ/ and /z ~ ʑ/ were consistently distinguished in Old Vrnallian orthography before all vowels: "new" but šíma "weather".


The vowels of Old Vrnallian, which are more speculative than the consonants, are presented below.

Front Central Back
High i iˑ ɨ ɨˑ u uˑ
Median e eˑ o oˑ
Low a aˑ

Old Vrnallian possessed two distinct forms for each vowel phoneme, called "weak" and "strong" vowels. Graphically, strong vowels were marked with an underline which in accordance with transcriptions of Modern Vrnallian is transliterated as an acute accent. The exact difference between each form is a matter of debate. In phonetic transcriptions, it has become customary to show strong vowels using the half-long symbol /ˑ/, but it is not known whether length was the distinguishing factor. Other possibilities include articulatory force or pitch accent. The distribution of strong and weak vowels is predictable; see the relevant section below.

The vowel written as <y> is usually transcribed /ɨ/ in accordance with its modern value. However, this may have in fact had a lower pronunciation of /ə/ in Old Vrnallian, which is suggested by its wide variety of descendants in the modern language: lýkka "coast" gives lekie; myl "next to" gives mul; myllýkkágo "in Mlekie" gives Mlakóv and so on.

Old Vrnallian did not possess phonemic diphthongs. Multiple vowels frequently occurred in hiatus. Two vowels in hiatus are very frequent, but there is some avoidance of three-vowel sequences in inflected forms: ŋího "woman" but either ŋíhóhi or ŋóhi "of the woman" The latter form in this instance was inherited in Modern Vrnallian: but goj.

Strong and weak vowels

The distribution of strong and weak vowels in a word is predictable. The final vowel of a word is always weak, unless the word is a monosyllable, and the two preceding vowels are strong: ráhádu "man", ŋího "woman" but "new". Vowels then alternate between weak and strong: muamóharádéhi "of the immoralities" /mwa.moˑ.a.raˑ.deˑ.i/. As a result of this predictability, vowel strength was not contrastive.

Various theories have been advanced as to what the distinction meant, but this has been made difficult to ascertain as a full understanding of the sound changes from Old Vrnallian onwards continues to elude linguists. A popular original suggestion was that strong vowels were pronounced for slightly longer than weak vowels, and this theory led to the established tradition of transcribing strong vowels as half-long. However, there are other theories, including that Old Vrnallian had a pitch accent, that strong vowels were pronounced louder or more forcefully, and that weak vowels were subject to some sort of phonetic reduction.


Compared to Modern Vrnallian, Old Vrnallian was generally not tolerant of consonant clusters in words. In the word-initial position, most consonants could occur before /w/ and a few could also occur before /r/: muá- "not", suá "water", guóltépta "to trade"; krópta "to make merry", srága "finger", práŋas "slime". Some other clusters were permitted at the start of words, often starting with /s/: skúha "lake", slákápta "to heal", mnáua "brick".

Between vowels, up to three consonants could occur in a cluster, but three-consonant sequences are very rare. An example is dáŋgja "cover". Two consonants very frequently occur together: máŋna "first", égla "patient", lépku "pitch", áktása "obscure", púrtása "fog" and so on.

Sequences of two vowels are common, while sequences of three vowels are rare: sáhónu "low", sómíha "track", uánáhi "tail", átóho "sibling" but either atóhóhi or átóhi "of the sibling", ziháhípta "to go away". No more than three vowels may occur in sequence.



Old Vrnallian has a more consistently agglutinative morphology than the modern language, with for example a clearly distinguishable plural morpheme -de- on all but one noun case. Also, there was an additional case, the lative, primarily used as a marker of motion towards a noun: lýkkýgla "towards the coast". Old Vrnallian nouns did not experience syncope, and all but one nominal (not counting pronouns) were regular.

Old Vrnallian nouns additionally possessed either masculine or feminine gender, which was not entirely predictable. Gender matched an animate noun's semantic category in seemingly all instances, with inanimate nouns having gender assigned based on their final suffix or, when no suffix was present, final vowel. Thus, the vowels /i e a/ marked a masculine noun and /u o ɨ/ marked a feminine noun, while the diminutive suffix -saj or -zaj was feminine when attached to inanimate nouns. Nouns ending in a consonant were feminine unless the consonant was mobile-S: feminine sáhiđ "eye" but masculine číkkas "point".

Masculine nouns include: semantically masculine nouns such as ráhádu "man"; nouns ending in /i/ such as búcki "ear"; nouns ending in /e/ such as býňe "profit, reward"; nouns ending in /a/ such as ísa "thing"; nouns ending in mobile-S such as mábas "foot"; nouns with the gerund suffix -nu such as krónu "celebration" and nouns with the suffix -(á)ndo such as táhándo "death". Feminine nouns include: semantically feminine nouns such as nátta- "mother"; nouns ending in /u/ such as dáku "snake"; nouns ending in /o/ such as dábo "frog"; nouns ending in /ɨ/ such as úsky "world"; nouns ending in a consonant other than mobile-S such as tóroŋ "?grease" and nouns with the feminine suffix -ua such as alékúua "hen".

Nouns decline differently depending on whether the stem ends in a vowel or a consonant. Nouns ending in a vowel decline as follows (ísa "thing"):

Singular Plural
Absolutive ísa ísaš
Ergative ísan, ísar ísáde
Genitive ísáhi isádéhi
Dative ísan, ísar isádéhi
Locative íságo isádégo
Essive ísášta isádéšta
Lative íságla íságla, isádégla

Note that unlike in Modern Vrnallian, the plural is almost consistently marked with the affix -de, with two complications: in the absolutive plural, the fusional ending is used, while in the ergative plural we see the plural marker occurring by itself rather than with the ergative ending as *-den or *-der. The use of -n to mark the ergative seems to be a dialectal feature of Dvrieska, with most texts favouring -r.

In later texts, the lative singular seems to be used with plural meaning, perhaps demonstrating the partial loss of the lative case.

When the genitive suffix -i occurs after two vowels in hiatus, frequently the first vowel is completely elided. Generally the resulting irregularities were resolved in Middle Vrnallian, though a few persisted. Examples are ŋóhi as the genitive of ŋího "woman", nóhi as the genitive of náho "finger" and sómáhi as the genitive of sómíha "track".

After a consonant, unlike in the modern language, there was no irregularity, though the endings were different, as follows (sáhiđ "eye"):

Singular Plural
Absolutive sáhiđ sáhíđyš
Ergative sáhíđyn, sáhíđyr sáhíđje
Genitive sáhíđi sahíđjéhi
Dative sáhíđyn, sáhíđyr sahíđjéhi
Locative sáhíđjo sahíđjégo
Essive sáhíđja sahíđjéšta
Lative sáhíđua sáhíđua, sahíđjégla


Descriptive adjectives declined to agree in case, number and gender with their head noun. There were some differences between masculine and feminine declension, as follows (pábu "good"):

Masculine Feminine
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Absolutive pábu pábuš pábúua pábúuaš
Ergative pábun, pábur pábúde pábúuan, pábúuar pabúdéua
Genitive pábúhi pabúdéhi pábúkui pabúdékui
Dative pábun, pábur pabúdéhi pábúuan, pábúuar pabúdékui
Locative pábúgo pabúdégo pábúgo pabúdégo
Essive pábúšta pabúdéšta pábúšta pabúdéšta
Lative pábúgla pábúgla, pabúdégla pábúgla pábúgla, pabúdégla

The locative, essive and lative cases seem to have not distinguished gender, but other cases did: pábúhi rahádúhi "of the good man" but pábúkui ŋóhi "of the good woman".

Adjectives had regular elative and negative elative forms just like the modern language: pábúne "better/best/very good" and pabúnému "worse/worst/not very good". However, Old Vrnallian adjectives also had a distinct equative form: pábúđđo "as good". This was totally lost by the Middle Vrnallian period.


Unlike in the modern language, any Old Vrnallian verb seems to have been able to take any inflection. The verbal morphology possesses both similarities and differences to the modern language. The plain present and past tenses of the verb áksápta "to kill" are given below:

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First person áksat áksáttu ákságut akságúttu
Second person áksak áksáklu ákságuk akságúklu
Third person áksan áksánnu ákságun akságúnnu

Old Vrnallian did not have short-form plurals corresponding to modern , -l, -dn.

Old Vrnallian lacked the interrogative and emphatic moods of the modern language. Questions were instead formed with a sentence-final particle láma (source of modern -la) or dáru. The difference between the two is uncertain, though the former is more common. However, Old Vrnallian possessed imperative and conditional verb forms, as well as two mood which were later lost: the volitive mood expressing a desire which persisted into Middle Vrnallian and the gnomic mood expressing general statements which is scarcely attested and seems to have been lost early.

The imperative forms of áksápta are given below:

Singular Plural
First person áksátra áksáter
Second person áksákra áksáker
Third person áksánra áksáner

Evidently this mood was marked by a singular suffix -ra and a plural suffix -er, distinct from the presumed original ending *-nu used in the unmarked (indicative) mood.

Old Vrnallian had fully utilised present and past tense forms for the conditional. They are given below:

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First person áksáhit aksákáttu akságúhit áksagúkáttu
Second person áksáŋky áksáŋkluđ akságúŋky akságúŋkluđ
Third person áksáhin aksákánnu akságúhin áksagúhínnu

This paradigm is more complicated than other paradigms. In the first and third persons we have a singular affix -i- and a plural affix -ka-, but unlike in the imperative the plural affix is accompanied by the suffix seen in the indicative: -káttu and -kánnu instead of *-kat and *-kan. The second person endings -ŋky and -ŋkluđ are clearly related, but already in Old Vrnallian must be analysed as fusional.

The volitive and gnomic moods were very regular. Both possessed an element -t- which might be an original irrealis marker. The full volitive ending was -te- or rarely -téǯǯo- while the gnomic was -táuvo-. It has been suggested these derive from earlier *t-éjjo- and *t-áwwo. Both moods seem to have lacked a distinct past tense. They are given in full below:

Volitive Gnomic
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First person áksátet, aksátéǯǯot aksátéttu, áksatéǯǯóttu aksátáuvot áksatáuvóttu
Second person áksátek, aksátéǯǯok aksátéklu, áksatéǯǯóklu aksátáuvok áksatáuvóklu
Third person áksáten, aksátéǯǯon aksáténnu, áksatéǯǯónnu aksátáuvon áksatáuvónnu

The volitive was used to express the speaker's desires: ziháhítet "I want to go away". Outside of the first person, there was significant semantic crossover with the imperative, which is occasionally found where a volitive verb might be expected even in Old Vrnallian texts; "may [he] go to a difficult death" is rendered with an imperative kálýjan táhándo ápa áhíhin within the Third Chamber of the Hagamnova Temple but the similar "may you meet with death" is rendered with a volitive tá táhándor dýnátek on one of the Uro Sarcophagi.

The gnomic was used in expressing generic statements: úŋrékkyš nékóhi álídaš uatáuvónnu "the people of Hujre are wealthy". At times this seems to have covered a habitual sense: dúgo míhígo díži aptóuáňaš k'aggéuvóttu "we men of God live in this place". This mood was eventually lost, replaced by the indicative as a matter of course in Middle Vrnallian and later.

Old Vrnallian distinguished between one uninflected infinitive form and various inflected infinitive forms. The uninflected ending was -ta, which survives in some irregular Modern Vrnallian infinitives like hoziéd "to do". Inflected infinitives instead had the ending -pta, which could decline like a noun. However, not all possible cases are attested. Absolutive, genitive and lative forms are attested and are the source of the modern V-infinitive, P-infinitive and S-infinitive respectively. Some verbs are also attested with the ergative ending, and seem to have had an adverbial use. Compare the following Old and Modern forms of the verb íkkápta "to rise":

Old Modern
Indeclinable íkkáta
Absolutive íkkápta hakata
Genitive ikkáptáhi hakatej
Lative ikkáptágla hakathál
Ergative íkkáptar khatar

Old Vrnallian had only one participle, ending in -ri and corresponding to the modern ergative participle. However, a participial function seems to have been occasionally fulfilled by the adjunct ending -kky or -ka: aríhákky or aríháka "floating". The distribution of these participles is limited, possibly only occurring with stative verbs, though the details are not fully understood.