Gold language

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The Gold language (also called Diʕì) was spoken around 1900 AD along the south coast of Rilola as well as the homelands of the left-behinds on Fox Island. It is the parent language uniting all Khulls, Thaoa, and Poswa/Pabappa speaking populations.


See Gold phonology.

The consonant inventory was:

Bilabials:             p           m           w   mʷ           
Alveolars:             t       d   n   s   z   l   nʷ      tʷ  dʷ
Postalveolars:                         š   ž   y                                  
Velars:                k   ḳ       ŋ   h   g   gʷ  ŋʷ  hʷ  
Postvelars:                            ħ  (ʕ)          ħʷ

The vowel inventory was

Short vowels:      a  i  u  ə
Long vowels:       ā  ī  ū
Diphthongs:          ai au
                     əi əu


Tones were not well developed in Gold. Syllables could be high or low, and when a high tone occurred immediately before a low tone of the same vowel, this resulted in a falling tone which was considered a long vowel and is Romanized with a macron. However, there is no long form of the schwa; there are only ā ī ū. Note that high tone is Romanized with a grave accent, as in à, to keep in line with its descendants where this tone develops a final glottal stop.

Although there were only two tones, vowel sequences like àa and aà were becoming more common, and this is what led to the long tones of Khulls and its descendants, which are spelled ā and á respectively. Long tones also existed in Thaoa and Poswa but died out. The àa ~ ā type is much more common than aà ~ á. These could also occur with diphthongs, but only on the ā tone. That is, ài was common but was entirely absent, even over morpheme boundaries. Because of this pattern, the grave accent is omitted in the Romanization of falling diphthongs.


Gold grammar was complex, as it was in the process of changing from a prefixing structure to one based on infixes and suffixes, where the infixes tended to appear on the last syllable of the word.


See Gold nouns.

Nouns were often preceded with classifier prefixes, a trait that existed in Andanese at the same time, but soon died out in the Gold side of the family.

Noun classifiers

Many noun morphemes were very short, often consisting of just a single CV syllable. Many of the shortest roots were highly polysemic. However, Gold still retained the classifier prefixes of its parent language, a trait it shared with its close relative Andanese but which died out fairly early on in all of the descendants of the Gold language. Thus, the Gold language had prefixes, whereas its descendant languages such as Poswa, Khulls, and Pabappa formed their words with suffixes and infixes.

Noun classifiers could not carry stress. Thus, very few nouns were stressed on their first syllable: there was a zero-morpheme classifier which was used for certain very commonly used nouns, but even these nouns were not always stressed on their first syllable.

Because of the classifier prefixes, nouns were often three or more syllables long, although monosyllabic roots were not uncommon either because the many possible readings of a single-syllable noun root could be easily resolved by those same classifier prefixes.

Different noun classifiers could attach to the same roots. For example, katăda meant "tree", and kadăči meant "pear tree". By contrast, by changing the prefix, one can say gităda "fruit" and gidăči "pear". Similarly, kaŋŭta meant "tree trunk" and liŋŭta meant "bone".


All of the descendants of the Gold language lost the noun prefixes early on. They hung on, irregularly, in a few words, often in cases where the speakers did not know they were originally noun classifiers. Because of the deletion of the classifiers, all five main branches of the family faced severe problems with homophony early on, and many word roots simply disappeared from the language. Khulls preserved the greatest number of these, as it was the only branch to retain tones, and preserved more distinctions among the consonants than the other branches.

The reason for the loss of the classifier prefixes was a sound change in the history of the Gold language that deleted all unstressed initial vowels. Thus, classifiers that consisted of single vowels were deleted, and the number of words with no classifier prefix was greatly increased. The classifiers remained in the language up to the stage of the classical Gold language, but they were unstable and were lost in all of the descendants except for the irregulars mentioned above.

Marking pluralization

Pluralization was marked consistently by a prefix u- prepended to the noun, before the classifier if there is one. In most cases, this has succumbed to a sound shift deleting all unstressed word-initial vowels, voicing any following consonants, and labializing the consonants if the lost vowel was u-. Because of this sound shift, new classifier prefixes were created that began with voiced labialized consonants. For example, the classifier for fish and other sea life is sa-, but in the plural, it has become wa-. Likewise nu-, the classifier for buildings, becomes nʷu- in the plural.

Marking the accusative case of animate nouns

In a much older stage of the language, the accusative case of animate nouns had been marked by prefixing i- to the affected noun. This prefix was lost due to grammatical reanalysis at much earlier date than the aforementioned deletion of initial vowels, and therefore there are no matched pairs of classifiers beginning with voiced and voiceless consonants. However, the disappearing i- did affect the initial consonants of noun classifiers in other ways, which had become opaque by the time of the classical Gold language but nevertheless persisted even when noun cases came to be marked by mandatory suffixes instead of prefixes (the accusative for most nouns is -ḳ or a derivative of it).

An example of this shift is the prefix for human males, tə-, changing to hə- in the accusative case, alongside the addition of the accusative suffix on the other end of the noun. In this morpheme, the initial h- descends from what was once a palatalized t-. This prefix may further change depending on the gender of the agent; some genders can "affect" males while others cannot.


Private verbs

The grammar of the Gold language was the last to preserve the private verbs of its parent language. Private verbs are those whose meaning is dependent on the noun classes of the subject and object precedes it. Noun class in this context includes species and gender. Thus, for example, only humans have special verbs relating to holding objects. Only "fish"[1] had words for swimming. For example, nusan was a type of fish, where nu- is a classifier for fish. The verb for "swim" is . Other animals have no verbs for swimming; a duck or human would thus need to take a specially modified form of the verb, nubĭ. Thus, all words describing swimming begin with nu-, though this is omitted when describing a fish. Nubĭ could be analyzed as "to move like a fish".


All infixes are inherently stressed, with short, high-tone vowels. All infixes are inserted in the final syllable of the word. All exceptions to this pattern are surface manifestations of tonal sandhi and historical sound changes that have become grammaticalized. Some infixes appear to extend out to the end of the word because of sound changes like these. For example, all of the noun case markers were originally infixes, even though many now appear to be suffixes.


The orthography of the language was an alphabet derived from the Tapilula syllabary. The letterforms were of the angular, less-ornate western branch, but the letter order was derived from the eastern (Andanese) branch.

Vowels and consonants were considered to belong to two different alphabets and either of the two could be placed first. In the descendant languages, however, the tradition of placing the consonants first came into practice.

The letter order for consonants was:

ʕ l j h ḳ k ŋ p m t w n hʷ g s d ġ b z č ǯ

And for vowels:

a i u ə

Descendant alphabets


See Khulls script.

The classical Khulls alphabet was:

p ṗ b m h ʔ ʕ ḷ ṡ ṣ̌ z ŋ̇ ṁ ṅ l x k ḳ ġ ŋ t ṭ d n gʷ xʷ g s r š ž č ǯ kʷ ḳʷ ġʷ pʷ ṗʷ bʷ ʕʷ hʷ
a i o u e

The vowels had six tones in stressed syllables and one for unstressed syllables, but most writers used only six of the seven columns, and later most used only five, as two of the tones had come to be distinguished more by sandhi than by their primary tone.


The Proto-Moonshine alphabet was:

p b ʔ ʕ l s š z ŋ m n j h k t w hʷ g r ž č ǯ ň kʷ ŋʷ pʷ mʷ gʷ 
a i o u e

There were four tones: three for stressed syllables and one for unstressed syllables. Tone sandhi had nearly disappeared from the language, causing two of the tones to merge with two other tones, and a later unrelated sound change removed both members of one of these tone pairs entirely.


The Thaoa alphabet was:

l j h k kʰ ŋ p pʰ m t tʰ n s x š b ž č ň ʔ
a i u y e o

Thaoa had a six vowel system. Early on, the three secondary vowels y e o were considered to be centralized variants of the three primary vowels a i u, because even though y had been in the language for a long time, it was very rare. Later, however, Thaoa speakers came to see the setup as a six-vowel system with no internal divisions, and y remained the rarest vowel of the six.


Babakiam did not have a stable orthography, as its people were fond of creating ornate artistic scripts which imitated those of the Andanese people who lived amidst them. These artists of the alphabet could be likened to calligraphers, but they worked in a more abstract medium; for example, one form of the alphabet replaced the letters with interlocking shapes resembling a Tangram puzzle.

Letter order was variable, since the alphabet itself was seen as a work of art, and by grouping the letters together in a particular sequence a distinctive picture could be formed.

However, the use of the original script survived, and the most common letter order in use for it was:

p m s b y v k ŋ š ž t n f č
a i u ə ā ī ū

Long vowels were mostly descended from vowels that had been on the ā tone in the Gold language. They were no longer pronounced with a distinctive tone, but their length had remained. The Bābā people considered them to be separate vowels rather than variations of their short counterparts, even though the quality of each vowel was unchanged.


Gold divided into two branches, one for Khulls and the other for Babakiam. Babakiam is the ancestor of Poswa and Pabappa.

  • Khulls (by far the most widely spoken language, having more descendants and more speakers than all the others combined)
  1. Proto-Moonshine language


  1. In the loose sense embodied by English terms such as "shellfish".