Vilani language

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Spoken in: The Imperium (Vilani settlements)
Timeline/Universe: Traveller RPG (non-canon)
Total speakers: Quadrillions
Genealogical classification: Dirmani
Basic word order: VSO
Morphological type: agglutinating
Morphosyntactic alignment: ergative
Created by:
John Harshman, Robert Eaglestone, Maksim-Smelchak, and others c.1980-

Vilani language is a language that is primarily used by the Vilani humans.

  • It is a [category] language.

Description (Specifications)

The Vilani language is the language of the Vilani, one of the major spacefaring civilizations of the Traveller RPG universe. The Vilani are humans; they descend from human beings who were transported to another planet by aliens in prehistoric times.

The Traveller RPG handbooks contain some material on the language: initially a random word/name generator using dice, later a small amount of vocabulary. The phonology of Vilani was created by RPG author John Harshman in the early 1980s, drawing on his interest in ancient Mesopotamian languages. Between c. 1998-2001, participants on the "TravLang" mailing list built the language described here. Following the demise of TravLang, Robert Eaglestone has preserved those materials and further developed the (intrafictional) linguistic history of the Vilani language(s).

Vilani is the only surviving language of the Dirmani language family, but contains loanwords from other, extinct languages of that group.

In the following text, many things remain unclear, as the wording in the source is often ambiguous, and the examples given are in many cases unhelpful as they show forms that are different from those described in the grammar. I hereby apologize for any lack of understanding.


No information yet available.


Morphology is the study of the internal structure of words.

  • Morpheme, inflection, paradigm, declension, derivation, compound, etc.


Phonology, the study of the sound systems of a language.

  • Phoneme, allophone, segment, mora, syllable, foot, stress, tone, etc.


The Vilani consonant inventory is quite small with only 13 phonemes; its most unusual trait is certainly the lack of the otherwise very common phoneme /t/.

  Labial Alveolar Retroflex Velar
Stops Voiceless p     k
Voiced b d   g
Fricatives Voiceless   s ʂ <sh> x <kh>
Voiced   z    
Nasals m n    
Flap   ɾ <r>    
Lateral   l    


Vilani has four short vowels and three long vowels (spelled with double letters).

  Front Central Back
Close i, i:   u, u:
Mid e    
Open   a, a:  



Vilani nouns take various prefixes and suffixes and can be quite complex. The template of the noun is:

Prefixes Stem Suffixes
(applicational case) & {(possessive pronoun); (number)} (bound adjective) ROOT (affective) {(unpossessed marker); (possessed number)} primary case & (genitive case)

There are three classes of nouns with regard to possession:

  • Inherently possessed: These must carry either a possessive prefix or the "unpossessed" marker. They include body parts, kinship terms, emotions and a few other concepts such as "home town" which are defined in relation to a particular person.
  • Unpossessable: These never carry a possessive prefix. Examples are large natural features such as stars, planets, landscape features and concepts such as "truth" or "justice".
  • Freely possessable: These may occur with or without a possessive prefix. This is the largest class.

The possessive prefixes are:

  Proximal/definite Distal/indefinite
Discourse center se-
Discourse periphery me-
Human/sophont a- le-
Human (honorific) di- zi-
Human (obviative) maa+ maa+
Non-human e- ki-

"Discourse center" refers to 2nd person in upwards/downwards register, and 1st person in intimate register. "Discourse periphery" refers to 1st person in upwards/downwards register, and 2nd person in intimate register.

The unpossessed marker is -en.


Number marking is optional in Vilani. Possessed nouns take suffixes, unpossessed nouns take prefixes.

  Independent Possessed
Intimate/Equal Upwards/Downwards
Specific sa(k)- sak(u)- -ku
Countable e(d)- ed(u)- -du
Distributed na- (redupl.) -VV(C)

Reduplication is CV > CVCV or VC > VCVC, e.g. argu > arargu, deshi > dedeshi. -VV(C) refers to tensing (lengthening) the last stem vowel.


Vilani verbs are very complex and can be very long. The template of the verb is:

Prefixes Stem Suffixes
[Modal proclitic] & Object/Subject (Agent) [Negative] (Phase; Trajectory) (Aspect) ROOT Tense/Voice (Applicatives) (Subordinator) & [Pluralizer] & [Modal enclitic]


  • Sheshmanenemnuriini kakarik kameliliish. 'I hope I’m going to stop keeping on finding you in the garden by [listening to] your screaming.'
Modal proclitics

There are many moods in Vilani, which are expressed by proclitics. The indicative mood is unmarked.

Desiderative kha
Precative khe
Counterfactual zu
Potential em
Conditional ga
Interrogative aab
Mirative mu
Improbable lad
Discourse boundary arrik

There are also modal enclitics which are attached to the end of the verbs.

Subordinate a
Deontic asi
Exclamatory iin
Imperative polite guke
neutral ki
rude 0

The subordinator is no longer productive in Modern Vilani. The rude imperative consists of the bare stem without modal affixes but irrealis subject/object pronoun, and used only towards inferiors and imbeciles.


The negative is expressed by the proclitic du which follows the mood proclitic.

Subject/Object prefixes

The subject/object prefixes mark the subject in an intransitive clause and the object in a transitive clause.

  Definite-Proximal Indefinite-Distal
Discourse participant se- me-
Sophont Neutral a- le-
Honorific di- zi-
Obviative   maa-
Nonsophont animate 0-,e- ki-
Inanimate i- ni-
Reflexive nii-  
Abstract re-  
Agent prefixes

The agent prefix marks the transitive subject. This prefix distinguishes human agents from non-human agents, and have a direct and an inverse form. The inverse forms are used when a lower-ranked human acts on a higher-ranked human, or a non-human agent on a human.

  Direct Inverse
Human -k- -s-
Non-human -b- -n-
Equal animacy -z- (archaic)
Phase and Trajectory prefixes

A verb may have a phase prefix or a trajectory prefix, but not both. There are two phase prefixes, inchoative ga- and terminative ma-.

  • lash 'it flies'; ga-lash 'it starts flying'; ma-lash 'it stops flying'

Only one trajectory prefix is in common use in Modern Vilani: the cooperative/reciprocal prefix ne-, which expresses that two or more agents are performing the action jointly or upon each other.


Verbs in Vilani are either imperfective or perfective. There are no simple rules how aspect stems are formed; the situation is thus as in Proto-Indo-European, and aspect stems are listed in dictionaries for each verb.

Tense/Voice suffixes

There are two tenses in Vilani: future and non-future. The tenses are expressed together with the voices: active, antipassive and impersonal. The antipassive voice is an ergative mirror image of the passive: it demotes the patient and promotes the agent to an (intransitive) subject. The suffixes are tabulated below.

  Active Antipassive Impersonal
Nonfuture -0 -u -i
Future -r/-zu -ri/-zi -ur

If two forms are listed, the first is used after a vowel, the second after a consonant.


Applicative suffixes promote oblique arguments to direct objects (absolutive case). The following applicatives occur in Modern Vilani:

Dative -ka
Locative -kan
Terminative -kash
Benefactive -kak
Instrumental -kii

Grammar is the structure of a language.

  • Tense, aspect, mood and modality, grammatical number, grammatical gender, case, etc.

Syntax is the study of how words combine to form grammatical sentences.

  • Phrase, clause, grammatical function, grammatical voice, etc.

Vilani is a head-initial language. The unmarked word order in the clause is Verb-Subject-Object; however, noun phrases can be fronted for topicalization. Examples:

  • Leskhugash liraamgim Eneri. 'An air raft hit Eneri.'


  • Liraamgim leskhugash Eneri. ' An air raft hit Eneri.'
  • Eneri leskhugash liraamgim. ' An air raft hit Eneri.'

In the noun phrase, adjectives follow the noun, then come possessors and relative clauses.

Vilani has an absolutive pivot. Unlike in English, where a sentence like The boy kissed the girl and laughed would mean The boy kissed the girl and the boy laughed, in Vilani such a sentence would mean The boy kissed the girl and the girl laughed. The sentence

  • Akag Eneri in akgirma.

means 'Eneri arrived and s/he (other than Eneri) saw him (Eneri)'.

Vilani has four copulas. The equational copula is used in the sense 'X is a Y'; the existential copula is used in the sense 'X exists'. Both copula have positive and negative ('X is not a Y', 'X does not exist') forms:

  Positive Negative
Equational iru men
Existential khii gig


No information yet available.


A lexicon is the word supply of a language.

  • Word, lexeme, lemma, lexicon, vocabulary, terminology, etc.


Semantics is the study of the meaning of words (lexical semantics), and how these combine to form the meanings of sentences.

  • Meaning, sense, entailment, truth condition, compositionality, etc.


Pragmatics is the study of how language is used by its speakers.

  • Presupposition, implicature, deixis

History & Background (Historical Linguistics)

No information yet available.

Worlds & Sectors (Astrography)

This language is primarily in use in the following areas:
Charted Space:

  • TBD Sector
    • TBD Subsector

Homeworld: 1105

The homeworld of this language is:

  • TBD (world)

World Listing: 1105

Significant communities of speakers of this language are known to reside within the following systems and worlds:

  • TBD

References & Contributors (Sources)