From FrathWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
For the other Parseltongue, actually based off of the sounds from the Harry Potter movies, see Stilio

Parseltongue-inspired (Fispa)
Pronounced: ˈfispa:
Timeline and Universe: Harry Potter world
Species: Ophidic
(snakes and snake-likes)
Spoken: All over the HP world
Total speakers: unknown
Writing system: n.a.
Genealogy: Isolate
Morphological type: Inflecting
Morphosyntactic alignment: Accusative
Basic word order: SOV
Creator: Eugene Oh
Created: July 2005

The Parseltongue referred to in this article refers to Parseltongue-inspired, a hypothetical form of J.K. Rowling's Parseltongue. Because the tongue has no written form, the text samples appearing hereafter are in romanised form. This language is an inflecting accusative language with a Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) word order.



Being a language spoken by snakes and the like, Parseltongue, while having the complete basic plosive repertoire ([p]/[b] [t]/[d], [k]/[g]), is rich in sibilants and other fricatives, which occur at a far higher frequency. Plosives also assimilate frequently to neighbouring fricatives or sonorants.

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Post-alv. Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p b t d k g
Fricative f v s ʃ h
Affricate ts dz
Approximants ʍ w
Trill r
Lateral Approximant l


Due to the inherent tendency of snakes (and hence their human inheritors of Parsetongue) to fricativise sounds, plosives commonly assimilate to neighbouring continuants (including aspirate stops), even across word boundaries, except where plosives are geminate. Regressive assimilation is the most common, and changes of the following types have been observed:

  • [p] + fricative = labialised fricative (e.g. pf = fw) except /ps/ > [ps]
  • [b] + fricative = [v] + voiced fricative (e.g. bth = )
    • Occasionally, complete assimilation occurs, e.g. becomes ðð.
  • [t] + fricative = geminate fricative
  • [d] + fricative = geminate voice fricative
  • [k] + fricative = [x] + fricative = geminate fricative in certain cases

When followed by a [h], whether or not separated by a vowel or diphthong, plosives are aspirated, eliding the [h], and in some progressive dialects fricativise.

  • E.g. [t] + [h] = [tʰ] or [θ]

The velar plosives exhibit a slightly irregular pattern of fricativisation, and examples as illustrated below have been noted:

  • [k/k] (i.e. across word boundaries) = [χ]
  • [g] is frequently elided

With sonorants, devoicing frequently occurs before a fricative:

  • [m] + [h] = devoiced m
  • [r] + [h] = devoiced r or [hr]
  • [l] + [h] = devoiced l or [hl]
    • [l] + fricative sometimes causes the [l] to vocalise to an [u]

Frequently, intervocalic [h] is elided.

In the construction of the past tense (see also Verbs below), assimilation takes place regularly with consonant-stem verbs. In the text example provided below, the past tense of "to like" is hinneis; the stem of the verb is actually hil-, but with the adding of the past tense suffix -n-, the -l- of the stem completely assimilates, resulting in a geminate nn.

See also #Diphthongs for more information


Parseltongue vowels are generally voiceless, unless preceded or followed by a nasal([m], [n]) or liquid ([r], [l]). They also have phonemic length, but the distinction is not usually made as speakers generally lengthen and shorten vowels at will, or elide them; only lengthening is substantially common, however, given the tendency of Parseltongue speakers to speak slowly. Occasionally, when two identical vowels occur consecutively (which happens only when they are across a word boundary or when an intermediate consonant, usually [h], has been elided), the resulting sound may be four times as long as normally due to such arbitrary lengthening.


Front Near-front Central Back
High i ɯ u
High-mid e o
Low a

The above table shows the phonemic vowels in Parseltongue. Among them, [e] and [o] have allophones of [ɛ] and [ɔ] respectively.


Historically, Parseltongue had four diphthongs, [ai], [ei], [ao] and [au]. In modern times, only [ai] has remained unchanged over the years, while [ei] has become [e:], [au] has become [o:] and [ao] has taken the place of [au], leaving only two.

Diphthongs, like monophthongs, can also be lengthened, albeit in their case only for the first component vowel. For example, when [ai] is so lengthened, the resulting sound combination (no longer a diphthong, but two separate syllables) is [a:.i].

Arbitrary lengthening sometimes also alters the quality of Parseltongue diphthongs, when the next vowel (irrespective of whether there is an intervening consonant) is identical to the second component in the diphthong. E.g. arsiæ hinneis "my sister liked" [ˈai ˈ] (two words) >ˈa:i ˈ] (two words) >ˈ] (as though one word).



Parseltongue, having no native script, is romanised with English consonants and Italian vowels.

Vowels that cannot be reduced or elided are marked with an acute accent ( ́), while stress is normally unmarked. In the rare cases where a vowel is prohibited from arbitrary lengthening, a breve is used to mark the vowel.

The full alphabet of 22 letters used to romanise Parseltongue is as follows (sounds in IPA):

Letter Sound Letter Sound Digraph Sound
Aa a Mm m Ai ai
Ææ ai Nn n Ao au
Bb b Oo o Au o:
Dd d Pp p Br2 bɯr
Ee e Rr r Ch
Ff f Ss s Ei e:
Gg g Tt t Hw ʍ
Hh h Uu u Sh ʃ
Ii i Vv v Ts ts
Kk k Ww w
Ll l Yy1 ɯ


If, when [ɯ] elides in everyday speech, the preceding plosive is immediately followed by a fricative, assimilation takes place. When voiced plosives are followed by [h], they are aspirated, e.g. dy hí "and who-ACC" [dɯhi] > [dhi] > [dʰi].


Historic [r̩] unpacked itself to become [ɯr]. When followed by a vowel, [ɯ] elides and the digraph becomes the consonant cluster [br].


A fictional history involving J. K. Rowling's magical world in the Harry Potter series

Romanisation of Parseltongue for writing was first done by English wizards in the 17th century, by the principle of having, as far as possible, one letter to one sound without using letters outside the basic Roman alphabet or extraneous diacritics. There is one odd extra letter, <æ>, adopted from the Icelandic alphabet, to represent the diphthong [ai], but only where it denotes the first person genitive case (e.g. arsi, sister; arsiæ, my sister), the first-person verb ending (), or the third-person masculine one (-æs). Besides the logically understandable diphthongs, digraphs are historically explicable:

  • ch and sh were written as in English
  • ts was adopted from romanisation of Greek and Russian


Word order

Basic Parseltongue word order is Subject Object Verb, i.e. Sam eats oranges would be, literally translated, "Sam oranges eats", although, unlike most SOV languages, it makes use of pre- instead of postpositions.

Modifiers, including genitives, precede head nouns and verbs; more generally, subordinate clauses precede the particles that mark them, e.g. where English would have I thought that he was dead Parseltongue would say he was-dead that I-thought. In that same vein, verbs precede their auxiliaries, going by the logic that, for example, the progressive verb "is driving" is a type of progressive aspect ( to be -ing) instead of a type of driving, since the verb inflection behaves according to the auxiliary.


Parseltongue does not mark nouns for gender or number, and, consequently, neither do adjectives, although the historical loss of such inflection has not occurred with pronouns, which survive in fossilised forms today, much as in English (see #Pronouns below). Inflection does survive in the case system, however, albeit barely, distinguishing the common, genitive and ablative cases (these latter also undergoing attrition). As with gender and number distinctions, pronouns have fossilised other once-marked cases like the dative (though not the locative) and the accusative.


Historically, Parseltongue had three noun declension systems for masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, each of which exhibited a fair degree of variation depending on the ending of the noun stem, through processes such as assimilation to achieve homophony. Later systematic analogical readjustments and phonetic attrition, however, served to level out the differences between the various case endings within genders (including the plural), spreading across genders as well. This resulted in the gradual fudging of the boundaries between different gender categories, culminating in their eventual loss, and the stabilisation of the one remaining declension paradigm today.

Common case

The common case is used, with the appropriate particles or prepositions in Parseltongue for the nominative, accusative, dative, locative, instrumental and vocative cases (the surviving genitive and ablative cases are discussed below), and is the basic form of the noun.

Genitive case

The genitive case marker, originally -VtV, where V stands for a vowel homophonous in rounding and height with the last or predominant vowel in the stem, has gradually simplified to the near-clitic case marker -ti widespread today (ignoring subsequent phonological processes that change the ending further).

Ablative case

The ablative case has survived in its original form (-igo or -ego depending on the height of the stem's dominant or last vowel) due to the analogy with the ablative case in the pronouns, although the general tendency is, now, to standardise both to -ego. Besides being used for expressing movement away from and relation to (like the english words "concerning" or "about"), the ablative is also used to mark the standard of comparison with comparative adjectives: "him" in taller than him is marked ablatively (see also #Comparative adjectives below).


Personal pronouns

As in English, gender in pronouns is only marked with the third-person, but unlike it Parseltongue marks the third-person plural as well, and compounds the gender endings to indicate that a group consists of more than one gender.

(pronoun paradigm here)

Demonstrative and relative pronouns

The demonstrative and relative pronouns in Parseltongue are relatively simply constructed, inflecting for only 2 cases each, possibly due to the fact that the demonstratives are omitted in most cases where they are concomitant with the noun to which they refer, and the relatives (a relatively modern invention through contact with English, an SVO language) can be omitted as well by placing the modifying verbs before them (e.g. shēsin takím arsiæ hinneis "that-one whom my-sister liked" is usually said as arsiæ hinneis shēsin in the mould of other SOV languages.

Demonstrative Pronouns
English Parseltongue
This com.1 style="text-align: center;"| Tasin
abl.2 style="text-align: center;"| Tadego
That com. Shēsin
abl. Shedego

Relative Pronouns3
English Parseltongue
Who nom.4 style="text-align: center;"| Takēm
acc.5 style="text-align: center;"| Takím
Which nom. Nadēm
acc. Nadím
When nom. Hásēm
acc. Hásim
Where nom. Húdēm
acc. Húdim
Whose nom. Hidēm
acc. Hidím
How nom. Horēm
acc. Hórim


Common case


Ablative case


Relative pronouns, with the exceptions of who and which, are formed directly from the corresponding interrogatives.


Nominative case


Accusative case

Interrogative pronouns

The interrogative pronouns are distinct from the relative pronouns, unlike in English, and, because of their nature as being only interrogative, are invariable. All Parseltongue interrogatives begin with a h (which in certain dialects has undergone regular fortition to [s]).

Parseltongue English
Hás When
Hán Why
Hút Where
Hití Whose
Hór How

Adjectives & adverbs

Adjectives in Parseltongue are not distinctly marked, but a large number end in -t- plus a vowel, being descended from earlier genitive constructions. E.g. "a green apple" would literally be translated as "an apple of green", or epsa marhata ['e:psa: ma'r̥a:ta]. Adjectives can be placed either before or after the noun they modify without changing the meaning of the phrase.

Similarly, there is no distinctive marking for adverbs, and no restriction on their syntax. Adverbs formed from adjectives generally are identical to the original adjective.


Parseltongue verbs are marked for the imperative mood, present and past tenses and a progressive aspect. The future tense, conditional mood and perfect aspect are expressed through periphrasis. All tenses, aspects and moods (TAM) are marked independently, i.e. if a verb is marked for progressive aspect it will not take tense markers, and vice versa. Context will generally provide clues as to which is meant.

For each aspect, mood and tense, Parseltongue distinguishes morphologically the 1st person singular and plural, 2nd person singular and plural, as well as 3rd person masculine singular, 3rd person feminine singular and 3rd person plural. These person-markers are appended after the appropriate TAM markers in an agglutinative fashion.

The verb psas "to stop" is conjugated below as an example.

  • Present tense: psæ, psaú, psas, psais; psātha, psāhe, psāna
    for I stop, thou stoppest, he stops, she stops; we stop, you stop, they stop"
  • Past tense: psanæ, psanú, psanas, psanais; psanātha, psanāhe, psanāna
  • Progressive aspect: psāræ, psārú, psāras, psārais; psārātha, psārāhe, psārāna
  • Imperative: psā!
  • Future tense: am psæ, etc.
  • Conditional mood: lehau psæ [l̥eo: psa:i], etc.
  • Perfect aspect: psalos hetæ, etc.

Irregular verbs

There are very few irregular verbs in Parseltongue, the most commonly used of which are fāna "to be" and kāna "to live". Their conjugations are as follows:


  • Present tense: fi, , fia, fais; fitha, fahe, fāna
    for I am, thou art, he is, she is; we are, you are, they are"
  • Past tense: fani, fanú, fania, fanais; fanātha, fanāhe, fanāna
  • Progressive aspect: fiæ, fiú, fias, fiais; fiātha, fiāhe, fiāna
  • Imperative: fē!
  • Future tense: am fi, etc.
  • Conditional mood: lehau fi [l̥eo: fi:], etc.
  • Perfect aspect: falos hetæ, etc.


  • Present tense: , , kæs, kais; kātha, kāhe, kānæ
    for I stop, thou stoppest, he stops, she stops; we stop, you stop, they stop"
  • Past tense: kanæ, kanú, kanæs, kanais; kanātha, kanāhe, ksanānæ
  • Progressive aspect: kiæ, kiú, kiæs, kiais; kiātha, kiāhe, kiānæ
  • Imperative: kā!
  • Future tense: am kæ, etc.
  • Conditional mood: lehau kæ [l̥eo: ka:i], etc.
  • Perfect aspect: kalos hetæ, etc.

Example passage

The following example passage of Parseltongue is a translation of the Parseltongue dialogue between Tom Marvolo Riddle and Morfin, recorded in English in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, pp.341-2:

English Parseltongue Phonetic transcription

“You speak it?”

“Yes, I speak it. Where is Marvolo?”

“Dead. Died years ago, didn’t he?”

“Who are you, then?”

“I’m Morfin, ain’t I?”

“Marvolo’s son?”

“’Course I am, then… I thought you was that Muggle. You look mighty like that Muggle.”

“What Muggle?”

“That Muggle what my sister took a fancy to, that Muggle what lives in the big house over the way. You look right like him. Riddle. But he’s older now, i’n ’e? He’s older’n you, now I think on it… He come back, see.”

“Riddle came back?”

“Ar, he left her, and serve her right, marrying filth! Robbed us, mind, before she ran off! Where’s the locket, eh, where’s Slytherin’s locket? Dishonoured us, she did, that little slut! And who’re you, coming here and asking questions about all that? It’s over, innit… it’s over…”


“Efe iska?”

“Sā, skæ. Hút fis Marvolo?”

“Tæn. Suōs tænas, au?”

“Simī hí fú?”

“Dē Morfin, au?”

“Tuva Marvolī ?”

“Sasōl, ebei? Shēsin Muggle saum hwinæ. Tōr shēsin Muggle harisa.”

“Hē Muggle?”

“Shēsin takím arsiæ hinneis, shēsin Muggle takēm zi aotī heis pi kæs. Me fua harisa. Riddle. E na kalpa fis, au? Kalpava dēgo, na orilæ. Attas, o.”

“Riddle attanas?”

“Ar, ī stanas, chāsa, spak kastú! Orrē eisnais, ēhī, pabr ītnais! Hút for hívulo, i? Hút for Slǐstrikti hívulo? Orrē aswafanais, paifā! Dy hí fú, bes lālú, mespārú tso hāsla? Pēlos, au, pēlos...”



ˈsa:ska:i. ˈhu:ffis marˈvo:lo?

ˈta:in. swo:s ˈta:inaza:u?


de: ˈmo:rvina:u?

ˈtu:va marˈvo:li:?

sa:ˈso: leˈbe:? ˈʃe:sim ˈmʌgl̥ ˈsɔmʍina:i. to:r ˌʃe:siˌmʌgl̥aˈri:sa.


ˈʃe:sin ˌtakimarsiˈa:hine:s, ˌʃe:siˈmʌgl̥ takɛmziˈauti: ˈhe:spika:is. mefua:::ˈri:sa. ˈɹɪdl. enaˈka:lpafizza:u? kalˌpa:vaˈde:go:, ˈnaurila:i. ˈattazo:.

ˈɹɪdl ˈa:ttana:s?

ˈa:r i:staˈna:s, ˈtʃa:sa, spaˈka:stu! oˈre::sna:is, e:i:, pa:ˈbri:tna:is! ˈhu:ffo ˈr̥i:vuli:? ˈhu:ffor slistrikˈtʰi:vulo:? oˈre: asˈwa:fna:is, ˈpʰa:ifa:! ˈdʰi:fu:, bɛsˈla:lu, mɛsˈpa:rutso: ˈha:sla:? ˈpe:loza:u, ˈpe:los...