Proto-Moonshine language

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NOTE, this page is outdaed and I will probably just start from scratch when I get around to updating it. In the meantime see Icecap Moonshine language for the language that PMS (yes I am keeping that name) evolves into.

The Proto-Moonshine language (PMS) was spoken in various territories between the period from 3948 AD, the birth of the Proto-Moonshine people, until about 4700 AD, when texts in the original language were no longer possible to understand.

The first Moonshines were a Leaper-speaking tribe who abandoned their possessions and entered the wilderness in August 3948 in order to live only among their own kind. They had their own religion, which they felt made life in their original homeland, Lobexon, unsafe for them.


See Proto-Moonshine culture.

The Moonshines were a strongly feministic society from their very beginnings. They taught their children about the Great Conspiracy, an event in their history in which the women in their society had conspired together and stolen power from the ruling class of males, and promised to never give it back. Thus the Moonshine nation was ruled entirely by women, and men had very few rights. Boys and girls were taught from an early age that females deserved to have all of the power in society and that boys were made to be slaves for girls. They promised that even the richest and most powerful man in their society would be forever inferior in social status to the most lowly and criminal among their nation's women.

They triggered similar revolutions in other nations, such as the Sakhi people, whose women physically blocked the army from fighting what would have been a very decisive battle against a weaker nation, thus depriving them of the victory and the spoils of the war. Then, the Sakhi female rebels collaborated with the enemy nation and allowed the enemies to invade and conquer Sakhilat.

However, Moonshine considered itself a pacifistic nation, and they taught their soldiers that the smartest military strategy in any conflict was to run away from their enemies and seek a safe place to hide. The early Moonshine nation went even further than this, however; they set up a new kingdom, Fīkola,[1] within their territory, and invited all of their political and military adversaries to move there so that the Moonshines could care for them and try to win them over. Many Moonshine soldiers were killed by the people they were trying to pamper, but the Moonshines refused to fight back and considered these casualties to be war heroes.


Proto-Moonshine's phonology was similar to that of standard Khulls, but simpler and softer. Khulls' ejective stops had merged with the voiceless aspirates, meaning that there was only one series of voiceless stops in the language. All of the pharyngeal sounds were gone as well; the rough, throaty ʕʷ sound so common in mainline Khulls was replaced with a simple /w/, and all of the pharyngealized vowels had become plain.

Pharyngealization disappeared early; the two possible sandhi patterns of the Khulls pharyngealized tone were merged together as well, meaning that there was a three-way merger between the plain low tone ă and the two pharyngealized tones. Likewise, Moonshine also merged the ā and á tones, which in Khulls had come to differ only in sandhi effects on surrounding syllables. Thus, proto-Moonshine had a simple three-tone system, ă à ā, in stressed syllables.


The consonant inventory is smaller than that of Khulls, having lost all of the ejectives, and never having gained phonemic status for the voiced stops /d ġ/. Also, there is no distinction between velars and glottals.

Rounded bilabials:      pʷ  mʷ          w
Plain bilabials:        p   m   f            
Alveolars:              t   n   s       l   r
Palataloids:            č   ň   š   ž   y   ǯ
Velars:                 k   ŋ   h   g
Labiovelars:            kʷ  ŋʷ  hʷ  gʷ
NOTE, the /ǯ/ might need to be removed, as it comes from /dy/, which should perhaps end up as /ž/ instead. Icecap_Moonshine_language currently shows PMS without it.

The palatal glide /y/

Proto-Moonshine preserves the palatal glide /y/ (IPA /j/) in places where it has disappeared in mainline Khulls. In fact, PMS syllable structure can be described as allowing the palatal glide /y/ to appear before any vowel, regardless of which consonant or consonant cluster precedes it at the onset of the syllable. However, this /y/ is generally analyzed as a free phoneme rather than as palatalization of the preceding consonant. This stands in contrast to the treatment of labialization, which is treated as belonging to the preceding consonant and therefore being a simultaneous articulation.


Proto-Moonshine has a four-vowel system, the same as the Gold language:

/a i u ɤ/

Note that the /ɤ/ vowel is Romanized as o because it is cognate to the /o/ vowel of Khulls, and because its allophone after a labialized consonant is the cardinal IPA [o].

Unlike Khulls, there is no separate /e/ phoneme; Khulls e often corresponds to proto-Moonshine /ai/. Nevertheless, for the sake of correspondence with Khulls, Moonshine /ai/ is Romanized as e.

If /e/ is considered as a vowel, it is the rarest of the five by far, and in native words never occurs with the è tone (a high but short vowel, glottalized in isolation and before certain consonants). The same is true of other diphthongs. However, tonal sandhi patterns make the ē vowel in closed syllables resemble what è sounds like in open syllables.

Leaper /e/ corresponds to PMS /ya yə ai əi yai yəi/; that is, either of /a ə/ in contact with a /y/ in either direction. PMS also allowed coda /w/, spelled as u, but this was not a retention of Gold's glide, but rather a smoothing of Leaper's /ʕʷ/ phoneme, and therefore was very rare. It may also have interplayed grammatically with the more common /gʷ/.


The tone setup is mostly simpler than that of Khulls. The two pharyngealized tones have become short and lost their pharyngealization, and thus have merged into the plain low tone. The two clear long tones ā and á have merged completely, including in the sandhi processes they effect on surrounding syllables.

Tonal sandhi

Tonal sandhi has entirely disappeared in PMS. All unstressed syllables are pronounced with a neutral tone, and therefore there can never be a contrast in two words based on the pitch of an unstressed syllable. When two stressed syllables come together in a word, there is still no true sandhi, because although the pitch of one syllable may affect that of the other, in no case does one tone come to sound indistinguishable from another.

Contrast with Khulls

Retention of distinctions dropped in central Khulls

Moonshine was an early branch of Khulls that missed the last few sound changes that had occurred in the mainline dialects while still remaining intelligible with them. THus Proto-Moonshine still had only a few words with /b/ and none with a bare /d/ or /ġ/; contact with Babakiam greatly increased the presence of /b/, but did not add any other voiced stops. Also the other labial consonants /p m f w/ were greatly increased (Babakiam's /f/ was seen as identical to paleo-Moonshine /hʷ/, although /xʷ/ remained distinct). A few examples of Moonshine dialectal traits are such as blyêl rather than standard bêl "of a beaver"; and myê for standard "in a bottle". Labialization was considered a property of the consonants, but the palatal /j/ was an independent consonant, even though it could only occur before a vowel. The number of words with labialized consonants followefd by /j/ was very small, consisting msotly of /hʷj/ in Bābā loans such as hʷyăhʷa "powder" and a few native words like kʷyàma "insect exoskeleton". Note that unlike mainstream Khulls, /j/ can occur before all vowels, not just /i/ and /u/. Note that, despite the spelling, the cluster /kʷy/ is pronounced /čʷy/, so the word for exoskeleton could be seen as čʷàma or čʷyàma (y is redundant after č).

Moonshine retained the labialized nasals /mʷ nʷ ŋʷ/. (NOTE: nʷ GOES TO ŋʷ IN KHULLS, BUT IS IT BEFORE OR AFTER THE SPLIT?)

Labial-velar coarticulated stops

At the time the two languages split, there were three phonemic labial-velar coarticulated stops in the language: /k͡p ḳ͡ṗ g͡b/. The ejective stop was distinguished primarily by its lack of aspiration as contrasted with the true aspirate k͡p. Both standard Khulls and Moonshine simplified these coarticulated consonants into pure bilabials independently.

Since Moonshine soon also merged its ejective series with its voiceless aspirated series, Moonshine had early on performed a four-way merger of /k͡p ḳ͡ṗ ṗ p/ as /p/. Since most early Moonshines were not literate, those who were used an unnecessarily complex orthography, and held on to the 4 symbols for /p/ even after they had merged together.

The two formerly labial-velar phonemes were both usable as independent words; k͡p meant "teacher" and ḳ͡ṗ meant "eye". Moonshine merged these both as a new word p and retained both meanings.

Innovations not shared by central Khulls

Moonshine also dropped some phonemic distinctions that were retained in mainline Khulls. The distinction between ejectives and aspirated voiceless stops was removed in favor of making all such stops aspirated (though they soon began to weaken). Voiced stops were retained as such, even though they were even more rare in Moonshine than in central Khulls, except for /b/ in loans from Babakiam.

Moonshine also got rid of the distinction between velar and glottal fricatives: /x g xʷ gʷ/ merged with /h ʕ hʷ ʕʷ/ and their pronunciation became variable depending on stress and position with in a word. The new merged phonemes were generally considered continuations of the velars, as they had been more common in the parent language. However, in Romanization, h is used for the velar.

Thus proto-Moonshine had lost nine consonant phonemes retained in Khulls: /ṗ ṗʷ ṭ ḳ ḳʷ h ʕ hʷ ʕʷ/, and the voiced stops /b bʷ d ġ ġʷ/ were very rare apart from /b/ in loanwords.

Moonshine also early on lost its pharyngeal tone (â), merging it with the plain low tone ă (not , even though the pharyngeal tone had been long).

Conditional split between plain and labialized consonants

Proto-Moonshine delabialized all consonants when not before a vowel. This included single-consonant words that mostly occurred as classifier suffixes on other roots. Thus Khulls "human, soldier" corresponds to proto-Moonshine h "human". However, single-consonant words retained their labialization when they occurred in isolation. Thus, importantly, Khulls ḳʷ "God" became proto-Moonshine , but Khulls "insect", which occurred primarily at the end of a syllable as a classifier, became proto-Moonshine k.

The labialized approximant ʕʷ changed to w in Moonshine, and its rounded articulation was preserved even at the end of a syllable, where it is Romanized as u: fău "as ordered by, according to".

Development of phonemic /j/

In standard Khulls, /j/ (spelled y) had a very limited distribution: it could only occur after /p ṗ l 0/ and before /i/ or /u/, and could thus be argued to not be truly phonemic. In Moonshine, /j/ could occur before all five vowels. Like standard Khulls, Moonshine had flattened out all diphthongs inherited from the Gold language into monophthongs. However, loanwords from Babakiam reintroduced a contrast between the full vowel /i/ and the palatal glide /j/ after a vowel. /j/ could also occur between vowels; e.g. čăya "certification school". Thus /j/ was independently phonemic in proto-Moonshine, having a distribution similar to /w/ (which varies between [w] and [gʷ]).


The Proto-Moonshine people originated in the Khulls-speaking empire of Lobexon, but after their secession they moved into Nama, finding shelter among the Bābā people (known as Pabaps in later years). The Pabaps were not actually their allies, but they were militarily weak and could not stop the Moonshines from colonizing their empire. On the other hand, the Pabaps had traditionally admired feminism and female empowerment because they felt that a society run by women would be less physically intimidating than one run by men.

After living amongst the Pabaps, the Moonshines also came into close contact with the Sakhi people to the east of Bābā. The Sakhi people also admired feminism but were much more militaristic than the Pabaps and refused to allow the Moonshines to settle in their nation (called Sakhilat or Saklo). Nevertheless, cultural exchange occurred, and some Sakhi loanwords entered the Proto-Moonshine language. Of these, some also entered mainline Khulls, which perceived them in most cases as PMS loanwords because PMS had already diverged enough to make the etymology of some words unclear. Since PMS had only one voiced stop, Sakhi words containing voiced stops were borrowed in sometimes with fricatives and sometimes with voiceless stops.

Loans from Babakiam

Babakiam words usually ended with vowels, but could end in the consonants /p m s/, which coincidentally were among the ten consonants that Khulls (and early Moonshine) words could also end with. (It is a coincidence because of the three, only /s/ has the same origin in both languages. Cognates of Bābākiam /p/-final words usually end in vowels in Khulls, and those of /m/-final words usually end in /n/.) Thus Babakiam words did not need to be modified to fit Moonshine phonotactics or inflection requirements. Babakiam had no tones, but it did have vowel sequences which were borrowed as tones. The simple vowels /a i u ə/ were borrowed as simple low tones, already the commonest in Moonshine. (Note that Babakiam /ə/ is generally Romanized as "e".) Long vowels were borrowed as the "ā" tone, with which they were usually historically cognate. /ā/ was traditionally a falling tone but had come to be a simple long high tone both in Moonshine and the other Khulls dialects by this time. Babakiam had the unusual trait of distinguishing a long vowel from a sequence of two short vowels, and these sequences (when not diphthongs) were borrowed in as the "á" tone, which was pronounced identically to the "ā" tone but had different sandhi effects on surrounding syllables. However, in monosyllabic words, there was no distinction at all, since the sandhi would not spread across word boundaries.

The "à" (short, high) and "â" (long, low, pharyngealized) tones were generally not used. In early Moonshine, the /â/ tone disappeared even from native words, merging with the plain low tone. "à" was used sometimes to represent a Babakiam syllable ending in /p/ before another consonant, where borrowing it as a true /p/ would result in a word shape foreign to the Moonshines. For example Babakiam pepbaim (/pəpbaim/) "translucent, see-through" was borrowed as pòbēm. Likewise, a sequence of a long vowel plus a /p/ and another consonant could be taken as a high tone: Babakiam kūpka "hammer" became Proto-Moonshine kúka, modern Moonshine čūč. Note that the á tone disappeared from Moonshine, only to be revived again later from various sequences.

The only sound Babakiam had that Moonshine did not was the schwa vowel /ə/. It is usually cognate to Moonshine labialized consonants, and coincidentally the same shift happened a few thousand years later in Poswa and Pabappa. But Moonshine did not borrow it as labialization, but as /o/ (the closest native sound). Babakiam always had word-initial stress, and Moonshine copied this. Thus Bābā napane "pumpkin" became Old Moonshine năpano.

Loans from Sakhi

As above, loanwords from Sakhi seemed less foreign in PMS than they did in Khulls, because PMS had lost many of its marginal sounds and therefore borrowed Sakhi voiced stops with phonemes that were already common in PMS. However, many loans still stood out: for example, early Sakhi contributed the word kāla "seashell". All four of the phonemes in this word were very common ones in Proto-Moonshine, but not in this order; long vowels in native PMS words occurred mostly in closed syllables (where they became short, but remained high, due to sandhi) or in word-final position. A mainline Khulls speaker unfamiliar with this word might at first try to parse it as a Moonshine dialectal pronunciation of a compound of two short words, perhaps ḳā lâ, "building in wood".

Other influences on vocabulary

The Moonshine people quickly moved north. They believed that in order to survive, they needed to settle the coldest and most sparsely populated land in the world and grow slowly but surely into a major military power. In this cold land, they found no people and therefore no languages to borrow words from. However, some words took on new meanings in the new natural environment. The Moonshines shared their living quarters with penguins, whom they found very friendly and easy to cooperate with while hunting. Since few Moonshine people were willing to swim in an icebound climate, the word for penguin changed from pitŏri in standard Khulls to ĕ in Proto-Moonshine, taken from a word that had previously meant "swimmer; animal that swims". (This word had been sometimes used for "fish" in mainline Khulls, but this was mostly confined to compounds because most words for fish and other seabound wildlife belonged to a different gender.)



Proto-Moonshine inherited the case system of Khulls without any changes. However, some of the cases began to fall into disuse early on due in part to their irregular morphology and in part to case syncretism caused by the coalescence of homologous suffixes in different declensions. Soon after the proto-Moonshine language became completely unintelligible with mainline Khulls, the number of noun cases in common use had declined to just four: Nominative, Accusative, Essive, and Instrumental. The Locative case continued to be used in placenames, however.

All epicenes are syntactically plural, therefore cannot take plural suffixes. Some are noncount nouns like "water".

Nominative case

The nominative case was usually derived from the bare stem of a noun, but some nouns became coupled with short, usually subsyllabic suffixes that helped distinguish the noun from similar-sounding words but were not needed in the other noun cases. These suffixes were mostly found in animate genders, and most of the suffixes themselves carried gender information. Thus, early Moonshine had redeveloped the ancient Gold language noun classifier system, but now it appeared at the end of the word instead of the beginning.

Many classifier words originated as locative case forms of monosyllabic (and occasionally subsyllabic) nouns. Thus, Moonshine does not have a lot of classifiers with meanings such as "fish", "book", etc. but does have classifiers whose original meanings were "in the water", "in school", and so on.

The feminine suffix -m is related to the Gold prefix mi-. Its meaning has broadened; mi- was for food, but m means "food, inedible body parts, places". This last is due to babakiam influence.

Possibly use the suffix -n, due to Babakiam influence, on all 3rd person nouns when the patient is 1st or 2nd person.

Absolutive case

This is the citation form for neuter nouns. For other nouns, the absolutive case is not used in bare form, but rather takes attachments indicating various semantic roles such as ownership. Note that the absolutive case in PMS is actually a merger of Gold's absolutive and relative cases, with the neuter nouns derived from the primordial absolutive and all other nouns derived from a mix of both.

Masculine nouns merge the accusative with the absolutive; this is due to sound change only, rather than semantic exception to the roles of either of the two cases.

Accusative case

The morphology of the accusative case was much simpler than it had been in Khulls. All words ending in long vowels marked the accusative case by adding the suffix -kà. All words ending in stressed, high-tone short vowels marked the accusative by adding the suffix -k(V), where (V) is one of /a a i o o/, corresponding to the final vowels /a e i o u/. The accusatives of words with unstressed final vowels were marked by moving the stress to that vowel and changing the tone to high. This pattern also came into use for words with stressed low-tone vowels at a later date.

Note that epicene nouns take -t- rather then -p- for their accusative forms; this is due to retention of the Khulls form, -ṭ-, throughout the early stage of PMS in which the ejectives were still phonemic. That is, the epicenes are marked by -p- in the absolutive (sic; see Gold nouns rather than the Khulls page) and -t- in the accusative; the feminines (both types) were marked by -s- in the absolutive and -m- in the accusative (from earlier /f/~/m/), and the masculines were marked by -t- in both the absolutive and the accusative, meaning that the two stems coalesce and must be distinguished in other ways. In this regard, Proto-Moonshine stands alone even from Babakiam.

Historically, the greater feminine gender had actually had -m- in both cases, resulting from an unusual sound change far back in the past in which primordial changed to a plain /m/, but primordial m changed to /s/ when facing another labial in the next syllable.

The accusative of nouns ending in consonants, by contrast, retained the complex structure inherited from Khulls, and did not become simpler until a much later stage of the language.

Unique to Moonshine was the ability to end a word with just a bare gender marker, without a following vowel. This is due to the collapse of word-final labialization, such that, for example, primordial -pŭ became -pʷ in mainline Khulls but a simple -p in proto-Moonshine. Nevertheless, these case suffixes are still often padded with following vowels, especially in the accusative, as in Khulls.

Consonant-based gender system

Proto-Moonshine inherited the Khulls seven-gender system intact, with no differences at all between the two languages. Khulls had also inherited this gender system intact from the Gold language, the only branch of the Gold family to do so. This is because none of the consonants that went missing from proto-Moonshine's phonology were involved in the gender system. There were three feminine genders, one masculine gender, as well as a three-way contrast between unisex, neuter, and epicene. This bias in favor of females was not due to Moonshine's strongly feministic culture; the system in mainline Khulls was exactly the same.

Nouns usually do not have overt gender markers. However, because gender is marked on verbs, a sentence with a structure like "The student slept through class" can reveal the gender of the student through its verb.

Because gender is inflected on both nouns and verbs, it is important to learn the gender of every word, even those that do not have overt gender marking. Gender is descended from the Tapilula language's noun class system, in which every word began with a prefix indicating which noun class it was in (though many commonly used nouns had a null prefix). These prefixes survived in the branch of Tapilula that went on to produce the Gold language, from which Khulls and Moonshine are descended, but were lost by both Khulls and Moonshine early on. Thus, gender is not predictable from the shape of a word, either at its beginning or at its end.

There were some sound changes early on that reshaped the classifier prefixes, particularly before words whose stem began with a vowel. Often, the unrecognizable prefix survived the deletion of classifier prefixes and became part of the root of the word. However, this is of little help in predicting genders, since it is precisely those words in which the classifier prefix was most changed that were likeliest to survive the later deletions. For example, the classifier prefix pi- was integrated into the word for milk, then piuyu, but the descendant of that word in proto-Moonshine is .

Orthographic gender markers

Artistic Moonshine speakers created new glyphs in their alphabet to mark the gender of words, even when it was already obvious from the word's phonetic shape. This would be analogous to English speakers writing "teacher" and "teacher". However, Moonshine marked all of its genders, not just the standard male and female. The gender glyphs were placed at the end of each word and were considered silent consonants. They also replaced any consonant in any position that served to mark the gender of a noun or verb. For example, ŋatàmī "she turned" was written with a female glyph in place of the -m-.

Affixes and bound morphemes

There are no true prefixes in Moonshine; loanwords containing prefixes, however, often carry the stress pattern of the source language, meaning that PMS speakers are aware that prefixes exist in certain loanwords.


Early Moonshine had a constantly changing script, with no standard body to govern it. It was a fork of the Khulls script which had branched off in the midst of a series of sound changes that nearly eliminated the palatal glide /y/ (IPA [j]). Moonshine shared the first of these shifts, but not the rest. Moonshine also allowed palatalization to bleed through labialization, so that, for example, the sequence /kʷy/ was pronounced /čʷ/.

Initial consonant inventory

The letter order of the consonants of the alphabet at the time Moonshine branched off was

k͡p ḳ͡ṗ gb h ʔ ʕ ḷ ṡ ṣ̣̌ z ŋ̇ ṁ ṅ l j x ḳ k ġ ŋ p m t ṭ d ʕʷ n xʷ g s r š ž č ǯ ň ḳʷ kʷ ġʷ ŋʷ pʷ ṗʷ mʷ gʷ hʷ  

The three letters at the beginning were pronounced [p ṗ b] by almost all speakers, but had not yet merged in the script.

Early consonant changes

However, they soon merged completely, as Khulls did independently. Several other changes that affected only Moonshine followed, which reduced the consonant inventory quickly:[2]

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

In this alphabet, syllabic consonants were spelled by prefixing either ʕ or h to the consonant, depending on its voicing. Note that the r in this alphabet corresponds to later Moonshine ř, whereas the w in this alphabet is the primary source of later Moonshine r.

The early Moonshine alphabet thus showed very little evidence of its having derived from the Gold alphabet, even though the two were separated by only 3000 years of evolution. Nowhere in the two alphabets was there a streak of more than two letters in a row that were the same, although the pair j h k vs j h ḳ k comes close.

Because of its position in the alphabet and its historical use as a marker of the feminine gender, the palatal approximant j was considered a nasal by the Moonshine speakers, and some teachers moved the other nasals, ň and ŋʷ, frontwards to the position immediately after j. However this practice was never standardized and it fell out of use when later sound changes caused Moonshine's alphabet to swell again.

Vowel letter order

The Proto-Moonshine vowels were presented as a square, with four rows of vowels and four columns of tones. The order for vowels was a i ə u and the order of tones was a ă à ā. Of these, the first tone indicates an unstressed vowel and the others indicate the three possible tones that can occur in stressed syllables. This is a reduction from the six tones of mainline Khulls (though classical Khulls wrote as if there were only five early on, and later reduced it to four even though the tone setup had not changed).

Moonshine speakers retained knowledge of the letters for the Khulls á tone, and used them to write sequences of two of the same vowel, which was common in loanwords. Over time, this led to the reappearance of the á tone in Moonshine, which made it falsely appear to be the only Khulls daughter language which had preserved it.


  1. This could also be called "Zmasā".
  2. Not sure about phonemic /bʷ/ and /ġʷ/; if present, they would probably be before ŋw and mʷ respectively.