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Bābākiam, commonly referred to as Play, is the name of the parent language of Poswa and Pabappa, spoken around the year 4200 in Paba. The name means simply "language of Bābā", where Bābā is the old name of Paba.



Remember the -V-š-V reflexive past, which might be effectively a past participle. e.g. "he scratched me" etc. It corresponds etymologically to a merger of the past tense forms of /p/ and /s/, so it might come to mark tense alone.

The verb person markers are -p -s -Ø for first, second, and third person, despite the fact that these same markers also mean reflexive/reciprocal/direct.

This system cannot cleanly evolve into that of Poswa. Poswa gets its person markers from Play's evidentials, but the tense markers go inside the evidentials instead of the original suffixes. Strictly speaking this is bad syntax, but the speakers must have gradually lost their knowledge of the original meaning of the morphemes. (But perhaps it is not so bad, since Poswa ends up doing the same thing with its remaining evidentials: they always stack onto present tense verbs, regardless of when the action occurred.)



Although the Swamp Kids ruled from Săla instead of Paba, it's likely that the dialects were interchangeable, since the entire Empire underwent massive internal migrations. Therefore, Bābākiam is also the parent language of the Swamp Kids' outposts in Amade and Pipatia.

Gold (1900) to Play (4100)

The Play language evolved from the Soft Hands dialect of Gold, also known as Wolf in Wool, Broken Shields, and perhaps at least one other name. It drove out the Lazy Palms language and took relatively few loanwords. There were also several other languages spoken in this territory, including one language spoken by Star immigrants, probably a branch of Amade.

Wolf in Wool had not yet evolved its characteristic sound, so the relative scarcity of loanwords was not due to the acoustics of the language, but rather a cultural identification with the new language being imported from overseas. Any loans that were taken in had /e o/ shifting to /ə/ for the entire time period of this language, though /ē ō/ may have been borrowed as /əi əu/ or /ai au/ or either.

  1. At the end of a syllable, the pharyngeal fricative ʕ disappeared and changed the previous vowel to a high tone. It also voiced the following consonant.
  2. Syllable-final k ḳ ŋ changed to kʷ ḳʷ ŋʷ. A few compound words in which the second element began with a vowel or a suppressed consonant split into doublets depending on whether the free (labiovelar) or bound (plain velar) version of the morpheme was generalized in the compound.
  3. In initial position, the labialized coronals tʷ dʷ nʷ shifted to t d n. Elsewhere, they decoupled to the sequences tu du nu.
  4. The bilabial approximant w changed to v (in internal reconstructions, also spelled "β") before a vowel.
  5. Then l lʷ both became w (not */v/) in all positions although it retained a rhotic allophone.
    NOTE ON POLITICS: Proto-Highland Poswa breaks off here.
  6. The labiovelar consonants kʷ ḳʷ hʷ gʷ became p ṗ f v unconditionally.
  7. Sequences of two vowels in which the first vowel was i or u became rising diphthongs. Then all clusters of a consonant followed by a semivowel came to be pronounced as coarticulated single consonants. Thus pua became pʷa, pia became pʲa, and so on. ñ was assimilated as .
  8. Stressed syllabic nasals were opened to sequences containing a schwa.
  9. The voiced fricative g assimilated to a neighboring glide /j/ or /w/, thus creating sequences of /jj/ and /ww/. The shift thus was gj jg gw wg > jj jj ww ww. This includes g after /ī/ and /ū/.
  10. The cluster dh shifted to ð.
  11. The voiced fricatives ð z g became silent between vowels and occasionally in initial position (due to compounding).
    NOTE ON POLITICS: This time period is around 3100 AD, near the beginning of the "Era of Happiness" (Yeisu Kasu: 3138 - 3302 AD). The branches of the language that fork off from mainline Bābākiam in 3138 all die out, and therefore all of their names in the history are written in Babakiam, but they could be revived as minor local languages, and there would be quite a lot of them.
  12. A voiced consonant in a cluster after a voiceless consonant (nearly always /p/ or /s/) changed briefly to ʕ and then disappeared.
    This shift is responsible for important consequences in verb morphology in Poswa more than 5000 years later. Note that the inherited clusters gh hg had been merged as h already in Gold; /hg/ was morphologically equivalent to /sg/, which explains why /sg/ shows up in Play as š instead of s like the others. Lastly, this shift explains why the Play toponym Fanašasa corresponds to Leaper Xʷanaxanta.
  13. The voiced fricatives v z ž g changed to b d ǯ ġ before a high tone.
  14. The post-velar fricative consonants ħ ʕ, which had been developing labial compression, changed unconditionally to f v.
  15. The velar fricatives h g were fronted to š ž unconditionally. šʲ žʲ became š ž.
  16. The labialized voiced stops bʷ dʷ ǯʷ ġʷ changed to b.
  17. The palatalized voiced stops bʲ dʲ ǯʲ ġʲ changed to ǯ.
  18. Any remaining voiced stops b d ǯ ġ changed unconditionally to p t č k (except when in clusters).
  19. The voiced fricative žʷ changed to v.
  20. Tones were eliminated. However the stress accent (nouns on the penultimate syllable, verbs on the ultimate) remained and became regularized.
  21. The voiced stops d ǯ ġ (now found only in clusters) changed to n nʲ ŋ unconditionally.
  22. Remaining v changed to b.
  23. Remaining z changed to s.
  24. Newly created vowel sequences beginning with i or u collapsed into rising diphthongs, thus creating a new series of palatalized and labialized consonants.
    Note, however, that the reflex of /buya/ is still /buya/; it did not become /bʷia/ and then /bia/.
  25. The labialized consonants bʷ žʷ changed to b unconditionally. (Despite the fact that a nearly identical sound change had occurred only shortly before this one, this rule was very common in verb forms that were created by the shift of /bua/ > /bʷa/ > /ba/, and likewise for other vowels.)
  26. The palatalized consonants bʲ žʲ changed to ž unconditionally. (The above shift also applies here; many verbs underwent a shift of /bia/ > /bʲa/ > /ža/.)
  27. A schwa ə in a word in which the following syllable had /a/ changed also to a. Note that this is the only vowel change in the entire history of the language going back 3500 years, even before the Gold language, except for a few diphthongizations such as /ua/ > /wa/. However, the vowel system became very unstable in the succeeding period as the language developed into Poswa and Pabappa.
  28. The stress was shifted to the first syllable in all words.


Babakiam is the parent language of Poswa and Pabappa and thus shares with these languages many characteristics.


There are four vowels, /a i u ə/, spelled a i u e. The first three vowels can also be long. The schwa is the rarest of the four vowels, and words with schwa are usually cognate to words with clusters or syllable-final consonants in closely related languages such as Khulls and Proto-Moonshine, which are separated from Babakiam by about 2700 years of divergence.

In its classical stage, Babakiam was notable for allowing unrestricted vowel sequences, particularly of /a/, for example bāaaau "(park) bench", which is syllabified as bā-a-a-au (four syllables), and paaapa "dark-haired". Such words were rare, however, and almost always transparent compounds (as in the case of bāaaau) or loanwords (as in the case of paaapa). Compounds were especially prone to triple vowels because they often preserved older sound changes in which a medial voiced consonant dropped out. The name of the most famous speakers of the Bābā language is Nuaaā, literally meaning "Swamp Boys", because they were a male-dominated society but their men saw themselves as mere boys in the face of the many great dangers amongst them. (The name used in this encyclopedia is Swamp Kids, however.) They lived in an era in which most people identified not with their ethnicity but with their political party. Thus, one could be a Nuaaā one day and a Mabimbižip the next.

Nevertheless, Bābākiam does maintain the unusual distinction between long vowels and a sequence of two short vowels, and minimal pairs of this type are very common. Vowel sequences often result from the deletion of voiced fricatives between vowels (/ž/ is the only voiced fricative remaining in the language), whereas long vowels generally were long in the parent language and result from a series of much earlier sound shifts. Other words, such as taīū "maple leaf", exhibit both types of changes.

The vowels /i/ and /u/ become /j/ (spelled "y") and /w/ (spelled "v") before other vowels and in some positions also after vowels. Thus a word like patiyiyibis "bladder" is phonemically /patiiiiibis/, with five /i/'s in a row.

Babakiam was still called Babakiam as late as the year 6000, because the dialects were mutually intelligible (and indeed almost identical) to the language spoken in Paba (then called Baba). No phonemes were lost going from Babakiam to Poswa other than the vowel length, which was lost early on. On the other hand, Pabappa lost many of its phonemes.

When the vowel sequence /əa/ or /əā/ (spelled ea and respectively in Romanization) occurs within a word, it does not form a diphthong; the two vowels are pronounced as separate syllables. The /ə/ in this case is pronounced a bit higher than normal, approaching IPA [ɨ]. It was not confused with /i/, even in rapid speech, because /i/ in this position was always pronounced as a non-syllabic palatal glide [j].


The consonant inventory is very simple: /p b m f t n s š ž k ŋ/, but note that /w j/ are considered allophones of the vowels. It is unusual in that it lacks liquid phonemes entirely when all the languages around it have /l/ and most also have an /r/-like sound. Thus Babakiam sounds like stereotypical toddlers' speech. /b/ is the most common consonant, and in later stages of the language, it became even more common because /b/ was inserted to break up the monstrous sequences of /a/ and /ə/ that had existed in the parent language. Thus classical Babakiam taabābā "nest" became tabababababa and bāaaau became bababababar. The name of the speakers' capital city, likewise, changed from Bābā to Babababa. (Bābā was the word for "nursery, maternity ward", and is cognate to the word for nest above.) However, words as extreme as these were generally discarded after that sound change took place. The name of the city was changed from Babababa to just Baba (later Paba).

Labial vs non-labial consonants

Bilabial consonants are by far the most common, as in Pabappa, Poswa, and the Outer Poswob languages. However, Bābākiam is not as extreme as its descendants, which are almost entirely void of dorsal consonants.


Consonant-based gender system

In the Gold language, a robust gender system based on consonant harmony existed, and this is reflected in a few modern words, such as mume "wife" and tute "husband". Bābā speakers will often say that a word with a lot of t sounds feels masculine, whereas a word with a lot of m or n sounds feels feminine. This has little importance to the language at present because new words are not normally coined merely by changing their internal consonants around. But the gender system still operates in a limited set of words which can be considered a category of their own.

Babakiam's gender system describes age as well as biological sex. Young children, usually those under about six years old, are considered to be neither male nor female; their gender is "child", marked by /t/. However, children that are so young as to be inseparable from their parents are found not here but under another gender, including both babies and pregnant women, marked by /p/. The /t/ gender could be thought of as a group encompassing preschoolers.

It could be said that Babakiam does not have a true masculine gender, but merely marks the presence or absence of femininity. A group of humans with no females would be grouped under the /t/ gender: men, boys, and children of indistinct or unknown gender. The above example word of tute "husband" works because women do not often get married to young boys or girls.

Feminine genders

A group of humans with some females and some non-females would be grouped under the /p/ gender: humans in general; babies of unknown gender; epicene (but not including neuters).

A group of humans containing exclusively females would be grouped under either the /m/ gender (adult women; married women) or the /n/ gender (girls and young women; unmarried women). If the group contains both, the /n/ gender predominates. This could be compared to the English practice of referring to a women's bathroom as a "girl's room" if young girls sometimes use it but as a "women's room" or "ladies room" if (as in an elementary school) there is a separate bathroom for younger girls.

In all of the above cases, a "group" consisting of a single individual will still be given the same gender predicted by the descriptions.

Note that Bābākiam's gender consonants describe age as well as sex. The category of "girl" (/n/) is bounded from below by "young children of indeterminate gender" and from above by "adult women; married women". For the lower boundary, children who think of themselves as girls rather than merely children are old enough to be out of the "men, boys, and preschool children" grouping; and on the upper boundary, women that are married or are old enough to be married are out of the "girls" grouping unless they choose to self-identify otherwise. Since there is no masculine gender, men do not go through this process; they remain preschoolers for their entire lives.

Expressing masculine gender

Because the masculine gender is indifferent to age, additional words are sometimes needed to clarify difference. For example, mavama means "women's clothing", and navana indicates young girls' clothing, but tavata could equally well mean men's clothing or clothing for young boys. To specifically indicate that a set of clothes is intended for an adult male, one must call it either tavata tatus, using the disambiguator morpheme tatu "adult male" in the genitive case, or tavataatus, a single-word fusion of the same morphemes, with the first -t- of tatu dropping out due to an old sound rule. Likewise, for young boys' clothing, one could say either tavata taās or tavataaās.

Often, however, disambiguation is unnecessary. Šepta means "teacher", and to indicate the gender of a teacher one can change the initial consonant of the word to match the thematic consonant of each gender. Thus one says mepta for an adult female teacher, nepta for a younger female teacher, pepta for a pregnant teacher, and tepta for a male teacher of any age. While one might think tepta is ambiguous, the meaning is generally understood because young children and preschoolers generally do not teach classes in school.

Other genders

The same /t/ that has historically marked masculinity now also refers to young boys and to children of indistinct gender (i.e. "the crowd of children stood and stared). An adult woman will go with the /m/ sound, and a young girl (or unmarried woman) will go with the /n/ sound. For a group of people containing both females and either men or children of indistinct gender, the default human gender is used, which is /p/. This, in turn, is distinct from the epicene gender, which includes pairings of humans (of any gender) with neuter nouns such as nonliving things and some animals.

Metaphor and non-literal usage

Gender is confined to literal usages only, and any nonliteral use will be either misunderstood or understood as sarcasm.

Summary of the gender system

Conso	Applies to
-----	----
 p	Humans in general; epicene (but not including neuters)
 t	Men, boys, and children of indistinct gender
 m	Adult women, married women 
 n	Girls and young women; unmarried women
 b	Neuter (nonliving things and animals of indistinct gender)
 s	Epicene (all genders taken as one, including neuters)

The consonants /f š ž k ŋ/ are not part of the gender system. In some narrow contexts, such as people's names, some speakers have borrowed the /k/ gender from Andanese to give male names more variety. However, this still does not distinguish between boys and men, and the use of this borrowed gender is not widespread in the language as a whole.

Sticky sibilants

Babakiam has three sibilants, /s š ž/. However, the native syllabary includes a row for a sound that can be Romanized /č/. This arose originally from /k/ before a high vowel, and was for a long time pronounced /č/, but today this sound is actually pronounced identically to /š/, and is thus usually Romanized as /š/. However, the native alphabet indicates it with a separate letter because it behaves differently in some grammatical processes.

The voiceless postalveolar fricative /š/

The main difference between the two is that /š/ is a sticky consonant, meaning that it will change to accommodate the thematic consonant of any word it occurs in, or that of any word modifying the word it occurs in. Thus, the surface /š/ is not a very common consonant. Much of the [š] heard in speech is actually the phoneme that was historically pronounced /č/.

Thus, for example, šamša means "rabbit", but one says

Paupim pampa.
Forest rabbit.

Because both š sounds in the word for rabbit change to p when modified by paupim "(in the) forest".

/š/ is found in the inflected forms of words that end in -s, and this š also changes to reflect the thematic consonant. Thus, for example, the genitive form of tapis "paper" is not *tapišis, but rather tapitis.

Relatively few Bābā words begin with vowels. Those that do, however, obey the sticky process dutifully, meaning that an š in the proper place is replaced with silence, often leaving a vowel hiatus. For example, šimu means "texture", but one can say:

Ūa imu.
Thumb texture.

Taken as a single compound ūaimu, this provides Babakiam its word for fingerprints. This process of consonant deletion can lead to large vowel sequences; a dentist living in Pipapi may use words such as ūaaa "to stick the thumb into (something)" and yaaau "to push with the tongue".

The replacement of š with silence can trigger other sound rules. For example, šamša "rabbit", used above, contains two š sounds, one of which occurs after a closed syllable. When compounded with iši "cave", one hears

Iši aŋaa.
Cave rabbit.

Because the deletion of the second š causes the previous syllable-final -m to return to its older pronunciation of /ŋa/.

Note that the sounds /j/ and /w/ (spelled y and v in Romanization) are treated as allophones of the vowels by this sound rule, and therefore they also cause vowel sequences to erupt:

Vape aŋaa.
Carrot rabbit.

By tradition, in older forms of Babakiam the sticky consonant /š/ always remains voiceless when reflecting the voiced sounds /b/ and /ž/. At this stage of the language, the voiced counterpart of /b/ was /f/. Thus, given the word šapu "flower; bloom, blossom", one would have said beunus fapu "national flower", where /f/ reflects the previous word's initial b-. Many words of this type became incorporated into the lexicon, and indeed, have made /f/ a more common consonant than one would expect given its scarcity in the parent language. However, this rule has been voided in the modern language, so words such as this are no longer being produced, and the consonants now reflect the thematic consonant exactly. Thus one would say today

Beunus bapu.
National flower.

Other sticky consonants

There are a few words in the language in which other consonants seem to have become sticky as well; these are due to older grammatical processes related to the consonant-based gender system, however, which at the time was a distinct grammatical process. The "silence" phoneme /0/ has, in a few words, been mistaken for an alternation of /š/ and therefore had a new consonant, usually /p/, inserted in its place. This is due to influence from Andanese.

Phonotactics and sandhi

Most words end in vowels, but can also end in the grammatically feminine consonants /p m s/.

Sound changes

Babakiam stands apart from other descendants of the Gold language by its labial-friendly phonology. But it also stands apart by being extremely conservative with sound changes applying to vowels, having only one change in 2200 years, and that a rarely seen polyconditional one that shifted accented ə to /a/ when followed by another /a/ in the next syllable. Thus Nəma, the name of a large empire, became Nama in Babakiam. (This schwa vowel is normally written e in Romanized Babakiam, so the old name would have been Romanized Nema.)

Comparison of words

4200 Babakiam peskavu sabayiuŋaus
6000 Babakiam pyskary šalergos
8700 Poswa pwaršalios
8700 Pabappa pospalerba "soap bubble wand"


person marking

Still preserves -p/-s/-Ø, not yet followed by evidentials bu/bi/ba.

Noun cases

Babakiam preserves the noun case system of the parent language, Gold language, including chirality and the oblique case.


Each noun case has three forms: left, central, and right. Below is inflection of the regular inanimate noun pafa "reed":

Left Central Right
Nominative pafī pafa pafū
Oblique pafiba pafa pafuba
Accusative pafibap pafap pafubap
Locative pafibam pafam pafubam
Possessive pafibas pafas pafubas

Many irregular nouns exist. The most common irregularities are found in the chiral forms, where instead of the analgoically regular infixes -ib- and -ub-, one finds fused forms of the infixes, creating sound changes such as bi > ž and its opposite, žu > b.

Differences between the chiral forms of noun cases

Approximate meanings of the cases and their chiral forms are as follows:

Left Central Right Notes
Nominative Essive Nominative Instrumental
Absolutive Possessed The absolutive forms of a noun cannot be used alone; they are used with possessor morphemes that reform the noun into a nominative. It also serves as the accusative for inanimates.
Accusative Partitive Accusative Causative
Locative Becausative Locative ("in")
Possessive Membership(?) Possessive

However, nouns must agree in chirality. with other nouns in the same phrase

Expressing the agentive

The agentive suffix -a mutates to depict the gender of the participant. Since vowel hiatus corresponds to the neuter gender, this suffix is almost never seen in bare form. Instead, the gendered forms -pa -ma -na -ta -sa are heard. However, the neuter form has been repurposed as an "experiencer" affix, which is not specific to whether the noun being attached is the agent or the patient of the action. For example, from mas "to give birth" is formed, with normal mutation of š to the feminine form m, mamā "mother, one who has given birth"; but from mei "sword" is formed mebī "sword stabbing victim".

Note that the long vowels in the words above are not etymologically justified; the forms "should" be *mamaa and *meya, with the final -a remaining separate. But a process of vowel mutation that actually took place more than 3000 years before the age of classical Babakiam was generalized to this circumstance and therefore came to be seen as a separate derivation rather than merely the neuter form of the agentive affix.


Note: see Proto-Moonshine_language#Nouns. It is not clear if Babakiam retains any of this at all. If it does, feminine is still s~m as in PMS, epicene is 0~p, masculine is 0~t. Thus, in both PMS & Babakiam, mascs &epicenes merge in accusative, but in different ways.,


Babakiam's orthography changed frequently. Far back in the past, the ancestral Tapilula language had been entirely CV except for a few syllabic consonants, so the language was written with a syllabary borrowed from the aboriginal peoples with some influence from the migrants' original alphabet that had been used on the islands of Laba. However, the language soon reverted to an alphabet so that it could be written more precisely, especially after sound changes produced a variety of allowable final consonants. By the time of the classical Gold language, all knowledge of the original syllabary had been lost.

However, the Babakiam branch of the Gold family evolved back towards a simpler phonetic setup, and increasing contact with the Andanese people led some speakers to attempt to devise syllabaries for Babakiam as well. Some of these were based on the original inherited Babakiam alphabet, some were based on the Andanese syllabary, some were based on both, and some were entirely new creations. However, because of the Andanese tradition of inventing ornate scripts for their language, the ex nihilo type of scripts were grouped with the ones derived from Andanese.

Babakiam inherited the Gold syllabary shared by its people's friends and enemies. There were seven columns for vowels (a i u e ā ī ū) and 13 rows for consonants (the 11 consonants, the null onset, and an extra row for the /š/ that was historically /č/). There were also separate glyphs for syllable-final /p m s/, giving a total of 94 glyphs. All loans containing foreign sounds were written with the letters that the loaning language had used, be they for syllables or individual phonemes.


Like its neighbors, when written in an alphabet, the vowels and the consonants belonged to separate alphabets which could be presented in either order, though consonants were usually listed first.

The inherited letter order from the parent language of Gold was, for consonants:

b v y š k ŋ p m t n f ž s č

Some teachers excluded the letters v y from the consonant alphabet because they considered them to be redundant with the i u of the vowel alphabet, since they were allophones and were usually written with the same symbols.

Other letter orders existed for the consonants. One order, borrowing features from a syllabary, used the order

p m s b y v k ŋ š ž t n f č

This letter order corresponds well to the traditional noun case endings in Babakiam, except for the retention of b near the front where it corresponds to no noun case.

The inherited letter order from the Gold language for vowels was:

a i u ə ā ī ū

Diphthongs were written with two vowel letters. This system was identical in all competing alphabets, regardless of how they differed on the content or order of the consonants.

Alternative syllabaries

However, some Pabaps were jealous of the Andanese people who lived among them and had developed a variety of artistic syllabaries for their own Andanese language, which at the time of Classical Andanese had only 30 syllables. The Andanese had taken advantage of the fact that 30 is very close to 32, the fifth power of two, and created a syllabary resembling Braille: the extra two letters were reserved for word spacing and to offset punctuation marks. They also developed more ornate systems such as one resembling the branches of a tree and another resembling a Tangram puzzle.

Purists also did not like the fact that the standard 94-glyph syllabary contained symbols for standalone /p m s/, meaning that, unlike in Andanese, it was possible to construct unpronounceable strings of characters, albeit very few. But they realized that the only possible solution to this problem would be to nearly quadruple the size of the syllabary by creating new symbols for each syllable followed by a final consonant. This idea proved unpopular even among the artist class who wanted a more eye-catching syllabary to write in and were otherwise happy to have more potential letter shapes to choose from.

The artists realized that the key to Andanese's beauty was that it happened to have a syllable inventory whose size was very close to a power of two, allowing the beauty of mathematics to appear in every form of Andanese writing. But the closest thing they could come up with to write Babakiam was a new script with 60 syllables: symbols for syllables with long vowels were removed and replaced with a long vowel marker which behaved like the symbols denoting final consonants; the /č/ row was removed, and new rows for syllable-initial /w/ and /j/ were added. This left four possible letters open to denote word spaces and punctuation marks, similar to Andanese's two.

This system displeased the language purists for several reasons: it grouped vowel length and final consonants together, even though long vowels could have final consonants too; it ignored the different behavior of the two /š/ rows in grammatical operations; it treated /w/ and /j/ as phonemes even though they were allophones of short /u/ and /i/. Thus, although the artists produced many ornate scripts with their new 64-glyph inventory, none of them were ever made official and few Pabaps learned to read them.