Poswa

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Poswa is a language spoken in the center of Rilola. It is spread over more territory than any other language. Poswa is in many ways similar to its closest relative Pabappa, but much more complex.


Phonology

See Poswa phonology.

Phonologically, Poswa sounds like baby talk with most of its consonants being labial or labialized, but with a larger phonology than Pabappa. It is fairly conservative in phonology, e.g. Diʕì məstăləka "seaweed" becomes psōlč in Moonshine, with four syllables compressed into one, but Poswa still has mystaruwa, preserving the four syllables of the original (though usually the form in Poswa is just mystar). Nevertheless, due to the strong word-initial stress for 5000 years, examples of severe sound change compression do exist, such as "the sound change champions" below.

Consonants

There are 33 consonants, all in pairs of plain vs labialized, except /w/, which is considered a labialized version of silence. The others are /p b m f v t n s l tš dž š ž k g r/ and their labialized counterparts. Sometimes /tš/ and /dž/ are not considered proper consonants, instead being analyzed as clusters, which would reduce the number of consonants to 29. This is because they cannot occur in word-final position. Nevertheless, word-initial /tš/ and /dž/ have survived, whereas the other clusters /ps/ and /pš/ have been reduced to /p/ in word-initial and often also medial positions.

The consonants /f v/ are labiodental, but /fʷ vʷ/ are rounded and bilabial. /fʷ/ is very rare at the beginning of a word, except in loans, because the primeval /fʷ/ changed to a simple /w/. Likewise /g/ is rare in all positions because it changed to /dž/ in most environments and this change happened very recently. Presently most plain /g/ is either from /gʷ/ before a front vowel or is a loanword.

Labialization is robust and can be contrastive everywhere: rulpu "face" /rulpu/ and rulpu "bandage, napkin" /rulʷpu/ are not homophones and not even considered a rhyme.

Sound changes and vocabulary retention

Poswa does much better than Pabappa at retaining old monosyllabic vocabulary from the Babakiam language due to its larger phonology and slower rate of sound change. However, such words tend to be found mostly in compounds rather than as standalone morphemes.

With the Poswobs' strong knowledge of their written history, some words which would not be used in normal speech, such as i "bubble" and ti "dream" are nevertheless widely understood and can be used in abbreviations and poetic compounds. For example, mabem means soap, and mabemi is widely understood as meaning "soap bubbles, lather" without having to use the longer form mabempwar. Note also that i as a standalone word is still widely understood to mean "buoy", as it has for the last 4000 years.

Nevertheless, the ability to create all-vowel sentences is long gone, and most words in Poswa have at least two syllables.

The sound change champions

  • pobbas "war", from pau babibup mibeas. Note that this was originally a euphemism meaning "to destroy unarmed people", replacing many other words for war which, however, still survive in compounds.
  • pwubo "salary, rate of pay", from pepibu miaau "career value".
  • polfwatos "vegetarian", from pauyau pabaa kataus, "able to eat fresh fruit".
  • peffofapwa "red rose", from pipta babupte apusa
  • povbia "to want to become pregnant", from pusmabaupubiba

Most of the extreme examples involve deletion of /b/ in unstressed syllables, resulting in vowel sequences which then contracted into single vowels. Some words in modern Poswa descend from forms that would have been rarely, if ever, used in Bābākiam but came to be selected over time because of the convenience of the results of the sound changes:

  • pippem "wine, fermented juice", from pipu suibibim. Suibibim here is an inflected form of suei, but would not have been used by the speakers at the Babakiam stage.


Other grammar info

Nouns have tenses, e.g. purfupo "lobster" and purfubbi "cooked lobster" (served as food).

NOTE, THIS IS FALSE. THEY USE CAUSATIVES ETC

Length of words

Although I originally had intended Poswa's dictionary to consist mostly of two-syllable roots, leading most words to be two or three syllables long, as I've worked more on the language I've realized that the inflection system "damages" and "infects" roots so much that they will need to be much longer in order to not collide with each other. Thus, many noun stems are now compounds that are three or four syllables long, and many verb endings are two syllables long, leading the verbs themselves to average around four syllables but potentially reach five or six.

However, the tradeoff for this is that it takes fewer words to make a sentence than it does in English. For example, it might take four syllables to say

Polaputa.
(House) cat.

But the clause

Polapufem.
Because of your (house) cat.

Is also four syllables despite its much more complex meaning.

The situation with verbs is similar. Poswa speakers say

Wovbo.
I'm depressed.

But the Pabappa translation built from the same word roots is

Pom wadarmaba.

Spelling

Poswa is written with a very complicated syllabary, Pompatopie,[1] in which some letters are drawn inside other letters. Not all possible syllables are represented, but all of the syllables that require two letters to spell are phonological reflexes of previously existing two-syllable sequences. For example, diphthongs are pronounced by most speakers as monosyllabic, but the alphabet treats diphthongs other than /ae/ (the oldest diphthong) as if they were bisyllabic vowel sequences.

Labialization, though not represented in the Romanized form of the alphabet, is distinguished in Pompatopie. For instance the word pappa "medicine" contrasts with pappa "field" in that the second p in the second word is labialized. The first is spelled in Pompatopie as pap-pa, the second as pabʷ-pa (because /bʷp/ is not a valid consonant cluster in the language, it is automatically read as /pʷp/). All in all there are about 1500 letters in Pompatopie, including a supplemental set expressing certain common diphthongs.

Grammar

Poswa is the most grammatically conservative language in the world. In part this is due to lucky sound changes that just so happened to align well with the needs of the noun and verb inflection systems; e.g. the only five final consonants permitted in the parent language happened to also be the five that underwent a particular sound change that reduced the number of syllables in words derived from them by one; and these were the same five consonants that marked the six noun cases (the nominative case had a null ending). However, later sound changes essentially removed the "value" of this shift, so this is not the only reason for Poswa's grammatical conservatism.

Nouns

See Poswa nouns.

Poswa preserves the six noun cases of the parent language with almost no changes in meaning or form, apart from regular sound changes. The possessive has weakened into a genitive when used with definite nouns, however. e.g. teppiopwas mupawabub "the length of the rope". Poswa has not added any new cases; so there is still no dative case and the various uses of the locative case are not distinguished.

  • Nominative: The default form of the word, used as the subject of a sentence and also in genitive phrases when not indicating possession or definiteness; posapa "fire"; posapa boba "fire hearth; fireplace".
  • Accusative: Always marked by -p, shows the object of a verb. Žažba posapap blabwambi "The girl put out the fire".


Possession markers can be placed on any noun, e.g. papwopwa "dog"; papwopio "my dog"; pepwep "knife" ---> pepwetšo "my knife". The stem to which the possession marker attaches is called a popu.

Verbs

See Poswa verbs.

Verbal morphology is the least conservative aspect of Poswa grammar.

Most transitive verbs have an omitted prefix wi which signifies that the preceding object is put into the accusative case. Any prefix other than wi is still omitted when the verb is used transitively, but requires that the object be not placed into the standard accusative case, but rather into a different case indicated by that prefix.

Sample sentences

Bambam bambam.
Because it was inside the baby.

History

Poswa has been a fairly conservative language for all of its history. Classical Poswa is generally considered to have begun around the year 7300, and is still readable for most Poswobs in 8733. Most of the changes in the last 1400 years involve frication and fronting of velar consonants and deletion of fricatives occurring after stops, so that for example the word for "wand, key" has changed from šalergos into šalios and the word for "world" has changed from pupsipšu to pupipu.

Loanwords

Moonshine loans words to Poswa and a few Sakhi languages. Other languages, even those in close contact with Moonshine, do not borrow much because the phonology of Moonshine is so vastly different than its neighbors. The Poswa loans merge many words into one, for example, but this is okay because Poswa's Moonshine loans are generally for specific things and contexts where it is appropriate. e.g. čāc, čap, càt all merge in Poswa as pap. Poswa generally loans c as /p/ at the edges of words (e.g. > pe "wheel") but as /ts/ in the middle of words unless an unacceptable consonant cluster would form. One might expect it to be /t/ at least word-initially, but in an earlier version of Poswa /ps/ was acceptable in word-initial position and it became /p/ in the later language. A few other very old sound changes are still obeyed, mostly because ignoring them would cause problems with noun inflection. Moosnhine pīp "icecap, large glacier" becomes pup in Poswa, because -ip never occurs at the end of native words (what is spelled -ip is actually /ipʷ/) and speakers would not agree on how to inflect it. In short-term loanwords that do use this ending, it is declined as if it were -up, so -up is what is used for long-term loanwords. As for why /ipʷ/ is not used, it is partly because -ip and -ipʷ are generally not cognate and partly because the writing system actually has -up and -ip more similar than -ipʷ and -ip (two letters versus one).

These words are not used in Poswa as everyday words. e.g. pobby is still the unchallenged word for wheel, not pe. Rather they used in Japanese-like compounds and abbreviations, such as petužu "wheel axle", mežom "soap dispenser".

Relationship to other languages

Poswa's phonology and general tendency towards shifting sounds forward in the mouth has led it to stand out roundly from its neighbors. Nobody would mistake a Poswa speaker for a Thaoa speaker or a Moonshine speaker.

In grammar, Poswa also stands out sharply from its neighbors, but in a different way: it is far more conservative than any other descendant of the Gold language. Even its close relative, Pabappa, has changed its grammar radically, whereas the only substantial changes in grammar in Poswa in the last 3200 years have been to revamp the verb system. Thus, Poswa has a huge number of irregular words, both nouns and verbs, due to the accumulation of sound changes over 3000 years and the lack of compensatory changes to make them regular again.

Culture

See Pusapom and Poswob culture.

Poswobs historically descend from the lower class of Pabap society, who left the Pabaps to settle in the snowy pine forests of the much larger north. They are less pacifistic than the Pabaps but still very pacifistic. For example, more rabbits kill humans than vice versa, and rabbit vs human conflicts are considered to be a contest of equals, with each species hunting the other.

Poswob women are often taller than their husbands and take leadership roles in society at a proportion equal to or greater than males. This however varies significantly by region; Pusapom is a large empire and some areas of it are thinly settled or consist primarily of non-Poswob people who themselves are very diverse from each other.

The trait of women being taller than men is a foreign adoption from the Moonshine empire to the north, where it is nearly universal. Thus Poswobs living in the north are more likely to be tall-femaled; those living in the south or the far west are generally of "normal" human proportions, like their ancestors, the ancient Babakiam people. However the Poswobs, being of both types, do not see males being taller than females as normal, but merely a variation along the spectrum between tall and short women.

Notes

  1. It does not contract to *Pompopie because the pomp- part of the word is itself a contraction, and therefore a wet syllable.