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Spoken in:
Total speakers:
Genealogical classification:
Basic word order: SOV
Morphological type:
Morphosyntactic alignment: fluid
Writing system:
Created by:

Phonology and phonotactics

Bilabial Labiod. Dental Alveolar Post-alv. Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasals m n ŋ
Plosives p b t d k g ʔ
Fricatives s z ʃ ʒ h
Affricates ts tsʰ dz dzʱ tʃʰ dʒʱ
Approximants j ɰ
Trill r
Lateral Approximant l

Front Near-front Central Near-back Back
High i y u
High-mid e o
Low ɑ


Stress in word roots fall on the heaviest syllable (each root can have a maximum of two syllables). /ʔ/ and /h/ add 1 weight unit (WE), all other consonants and vowels add 2 WE. If both syllables get the same sum, the one with more affricates is considered the heavier. If still both have equal status, the one with more aspiration is considered heavier. If yet both have the same value, the first syllable will get the stress.

Syllable structure

The syllable structure is (C)(C)CV(C)(C) (note however that the first obligatory consonant may be [ʔ]).


The below table shows the allowed two-consonant clusters. The rows stand for the first consonant, and the columns for the second. To be able to tell whether a three-consonant cluster is allowed, for example /kmb/, first check if the first two consonants can cluster /km/ is an allowed cluster in this chart. Then check if the last two consonants can cluster /mb/ is an allowed cluster. Therefore /kmb/ is also allowed. The first consonant can't be the same as the last however (in this sense, aspirated/breathy consonants counts the same as plain ones).

Allowed onset clusters (two consonants)
p b t d k ɡ ɡʱ ʔ m n ŋ s z ʃ ʒ h ts tsʰ dz dzʱ tʃʰ dʒʱ j ɰ r l
p p
b b
t t
d d
k k
ɡ ɡ
ɡʱ ɡʱ
ʔ ʔ
m m
n n
ŋ ŋ
s s
z z
ʃ ʃ
ʒ ʒ
h h
ts ts
tsʰ tsʰ
dz dz
dzʱ dzʱ
tʃʰ tʃʰ
dʒʱ dʒʱ
j j
ɰ ɰ
r r
l l
p b t d k ɡ ɡʱ ʔ m n ŋ s z ʃ ʒ h ts tsʰ dz dzʱ tʃʰ dʒʱ j ɰ r l



The coda can have any of the following phonemes: /p, pʰ, b, bʱ, t, tʱ, d, dʱ, k, kʰ, ɡ, ɡʱ, ʔ, m, n, ŋ, r, s, ts, tsʰ, dz, dzʱ, tʃ, tʃʰ, dʒ, dʒʱ, j or l/, or one the clusters below.

Allowed coda clusters
p b t d k ɡ ɡʱ ʔ m n ŋ s z ʃ ʒ h ts tsʰ dz dzʱ tʃʰ dʒʱ j ɰ r l
p p
b b
t t
d d
k k
ɡ ɡ
ɡʱ ɡʱ
ʔ ʔ
m m
n n
ŋ ŋ
s s
z z
ʃ ʃ
ʒ ʒ
h h
ts ts
tsʰ tsʰ
dz dz
dzʱ dzʱ
tʃʰ tʃʰ
dʒʱ dʒʱ
j j
ɰ ɰ
r r
l l
p b t d k ɡ ɡʱ ʔ m n ŋ s z ʃ ʒ h ts tsʰ dz dzʱ tʃʰ dʒʱ j ɰ r l




', A a, B b, Bh bh, C c, Ch ch, D d, Dh dh, Dz dz, Dzh dzh, E e, G g, Gh gh, H h, I i, J j, Jh jh, K k, Kh kh, L l, M m, N n, Ng ng, O o, P p, Ph ph, R r, S s, Sh sh, T t, Th th, Ts ts, Tsh tsh, U u, Ü ü, W w, Y y, Z z, Zh zh

Letter Pronunciation
' ʔ
A a ɑ
B b b
Bh bh
C c
Ch ch tʃʰ
D d d
Dh dh
Dz dz dz
Dzh dzh dzʱ
E e e
G g ɡ
Gh gh ɡʱ
H h h
I i i
J j
Jh jh dʒʱ
K k k
Kh kh
L l l
M m m
N n n
Ng ng ŋ
O o o
P p p
Ph ph
R r r
S s s
Sh sh ʃ
T t t
Th th
Ts ts ts
Tsh tsh tsʰ
U u u
Ü ü y
W w ɰ
Y y j
Z z z
Zh zh ʒ

If the word begins with /ʔ/ followed by a vowel, the <'> is not written out.

A - is put between syllables in cases where it would otherwise be ambiguous where the syllable boundary is.


Word order is SOV.

Verb forms

All verbs have a single suffix containing grammatical content. The suffix has the following structure: 123V45.

Phoneme slot Grammatical element Values
1 Aspect
  • /l/ = continuous
  • Ø = no aspect
2 Tense
  • /k/ = past
  • Ø = present
  • /kʰ/ = gnomic past
  • /h/ = gnomic present
3 Subject age
  • /ɰ/ = old
  • /j/ = young
  • Ø = no subject (intransitive verb or reflexive voice)
V Gender
  • /i/ = masculine subject, masculine direct object
  • /e/ = masculine subject, feminine direct object
  • /ɑ/ = masculine subject or direct object (intransitive verb or reflexive voide)
  • /u/ = feminine subject, masculine direct object
  • /y/ = feminine subject, feminine direct object
  • /o/ = feminine subject or direct object (intransitive verb or reflexive voice)
4 Direct object age
  • /r/ = young
  • /l/ = old
  • Ø = no direct object (intransitive verb or reflexive voice)
5 Voice
  • /p/ = reciprocal
  • /t/ = reflexive
  • Ø = no voice

Gwongbholü is a split-S type of language; therefore intransitive verb takes either a subject or an object as their argument. The verb usually takes an object if the it describes a passive action, in the sense that the action does not involve a lot of movement, like sleeping or standing. Note that the noun's case is marked on the verb and not on the noun itself.

Noun forms

Noun classes

There are three different types of noun classes in Gwongbholü: gender, age and actual classes. All nouns bear all these class types. The gender is based on actual sex when talking of living beings; male beings getting the masculine and female beings getting the feminine gender. For mixed groups and animals whose gender is unknown, the speaker can use either gender (usually the masculine because of male normality). Objects that are typically used by women get the feminine gender, and vice versa. For other types of objects, the feminine gender corresponds to a yin-quality, and masculine gender to a yang-quality. But this division is somewhat arbitrary.

The age class is relative to the speaker. The following table explains which age class should be used, depending on the speaker's and the referee's age (bear in mind that all numbers are only approximate). The rules are very complicated when the speaker is a child referring to another child, so even approximate numbers are hard to give.

Age division
Age of the speaker Age of the referee Age used
Children (up to 16y/o) Other children Young
Singnificantly older children Old
Adults Old
18y/o ~ 30y/o Children Young
18y/o ~ 10 years older than self, but less than 40y/o Young
10+ years older than self or 40+y/o Old
40y/o ~ 50y/o 0y/o ~ 30y/o Young
40+y/o Old
50+y/o 0y/o ~ 50y/o Young
20+ years younger than self, but older than 50y/o Young
Less than 20 years younger than self ~ older than self Old

When referring to inanimated things, young age is simply used if the item is newer than the speaker (often human-made objects) and old age when the item is older than the speaker (often natural objects).

Age and gender are only used in the verb suffix which encodes subject and/or object, but the third group of noun classes is used when forming plural number, genitive case, and in counters.

Noun classes
Class Use Examples
Round Items with a round shape Pot, bottle, ball
Long Items with a long and narrow shape Broom, sword, road
Cold Things that are typically cold Ice, snow, night
Warm Things that are typically warm Sun, fire, lamp
Shiny Shiny or sparkly things Star, armor, jewel
Grain Powders and dry substances Rice, salt, dust
Thin Thin and bendy materials Fabric, paper
Book Things with writing on it Book, scroll, inscription
Equipment Miscellaneous man-made items Oven, wagon, plow
Vital Edibles and other things necessary for living Vegetable, water, air
Tree Trees (but not bushes) Pine, bamboo, mulberry tree
Plant Other non-edible plants and mushrooms Rose-bush, grass, fly agaric
People Pronouns, individuals, ethnic groups
Spirit Non-concrete beings God, demon, soul
Bird Birds and insects that typically fly Owl, crane, ladybug
Fish Water-living creatures Salmon, seal, frog, turtle, clam, sea slug
Reptile Land-living reptiles and toads Tortoise, snake, lizard, toad
Bug Insects and other land-living bugs Ant, spider, snail, centipede
Carnivore Carnivore and omnivorous mammals Tiger, fox, dog
Herbivore Herbivore mammals Yak, rabbit, mouse


The singular is unmarked, while the plural is expressed with a suffix which depends on the noun's class:

  • Round - gerg
  • Long – ’jüng
  • Warm – hweg
  • Cold - zdzeg
  • Shiny - gyirg
  • Grain
  • Thin - werg
  • Book - rüg
  • Equipment - tenjh
  • Vital - shleng
  • Tree - nyig
  • Plant – tser
  • People - ghreg
  • Spirit
  • Bird – ir’
  • Fish - züg
  • Reptile - khreg
  • Bug - gü
  • Carnivore – dhre’
  • Herbivore – mü’

Genitive case

There is both a preposition and two suffixes (alienable and inalienable) that can be used to form genitives. The preposition is only for composition, origin, description and compound uses. The alienable suffix takes one of these forms depending on the noun class:

  • Round - gar
  • Long – ’jun
  • Warm - hwa
  • Cold - zdza
  • Shiny - gyirk
  • Grain
  • Thin - welb
  • Book - ru
  • Equipment - tandzh
  • Vital - shlan
  • Tree - nyi
  • Plant – tsal
  • People - ghra
  • Spirit
  • Bird – ’irg
  • Fish - züy
  • Reptile - khra
  • Bug - gu
  • Carnivore - hdrag
  • Herbivore – mu’

The inalienable suffix takes one of these forms:

  • Round - bar
  • Long – pjun
  • Warm - mwa
  • Cold - ntsa
  • Shiny - byirk
  • Grain
  • Thin - melb
  • Book - mru
  • Equipment - pandzh
  • Vital - mlan
  • Tree - myi
  • Plant – btsal
  • People - bhra
  • Spirit
  • Bird – pirg
  • Fish - müy
  • Reptile - phra
  • Bug - bu
  • Carnivore - ndrag
  • Herbivore – mu

Adjective nouns

There are no adjectives in Gwongbholü, all words that correspond to adjectives in English are nouns. The genitive case is used together with this noun to describe things:

Omtsh ro htakr
woman of shortness
A short woman
Htakr.bhra omtsh
short-GEN.PEOPLE woman
A short woman

Some of these adjective nouns don't really have a determined gender, age and/or noun class. In that case it’s the same as for the noun it describes.


  • 1 – ’tye
  • 2 – tspi
  • 3 – drang
  • 4 – küm
  • 5 – kümag’tye
  • 6 – tspiri-drang
  • 7 – kümagdrang
  • 8 – bwaysul

Gwongbholü has an octal numeral system. The names of numbers 9-15 consist of 'tyeüd + final digit, 17-23 of tspiüd + final digit, 25-31 of drangüd + final digit, etc. Number 16 is called tspihlemde, while the rest of the even numbers consist of the prefix together with -üd + hlemde.


When one is telling how many there are of a certain thing, the noun is followed by the number and a counter. The counter agrees with the noun's class:

  • Round - ga
  • Long – ’ju
  • Warm - hwi
  • Cold - zdzi
  • Shiny - gyir
  • Grain
  • Thin - wel
  • Book - ri
  • Equipment - tan
  • Vital - shla
  • Tree - nyi
  • Plant – tsa
  • People - ghri
  • Spirit
  • Bird – ’ir
  • Fish - zü
  • Reptile - khri
  • Bug - gi
  • Carnivore - hdri
  • Herbivore – mu


Omtsh kümag’tyeüddrangghri
woman five.ORD.three.PEOPLE
43 women

Ordinal numbers are formed by adding -üd after the counter.

Omtsh kümag’tyeüddrangghriüd
woman five.ORD.three.PEOPLE.ORD
The 43rd woman

If the counter that the ordinal suffix is added to ends with a consonant, the consonant becomes an onset in the next syllable with the ü as nucleus.