Play language

From FrathWiki
(Redirected from Babakiam)
Jump to: navigation, search

Play is a fusional and polysynthetic language that reached its peak around the year 4200 in Memnumu and points nearby, when it was the language of more than one fourth of the human population. It was known for its simple phonology and extremely difficult grammar. Players often used long compound words that seemed to hardly resemble their parts. For example, from tatabūpu "coconut palm" and peep "to shake", one could say

Why are you shaking the coconut tree?

Such words corresponded to whole sentences in other languages, and were commonplace in everyday Play speech. This, among other features, made the Play language so impenetrable to outsiders that, during wars, Players were able to simply carry on their daily routines without fear of foreign spies. The history of the Play language relied largely on its extreme difficulty.




23:17, 24 January 2024 (PST)

All verbs have two arguments, without exception. Intransitives do not exist. And these two arguments must match the four Lava Bed roles: agent, patient, identity, and observer. (That is, there probably cannot be agent:observer, since an agent implies a patient.)


06:43, 1 July 2023 (PDT)

Consider extending the bracket notation below to encompass all three consonants and all three vowels, so e.g. [M] means -ŋu, |S| means -ši, and {P} means -ka. Angle brackets could be used in a spreadsheet for the a-forms but here they would render as HTML tags. Remember that these are historically suffixes, not infixes, so the vowel comes AFTER the root.

The notation above is probably wrong. I think below [M] was the /a/ form, so perhaps (M) could be used for /u/. But I may have used the brackets for both because at the time I didnt think Id need all possible forms. There need to be four symbols anyway because /ə/ is valid when using a suffix.

Syncope of 2P>1P and 1P>2P

07:20, 18 June 2023 (PDT)
kavufūm činupaip mis, kīmpākiaubatata
When I see your finger pointing at me, I know I'm in trouble.

Consider syncope of redundant -uf- "your" and making the final -[M] a specifically 2P>1P marker when attached to an inalienable. (But Play does not have grammaticalized inalienable possession, so this would be semantic only.)

Similarly, possibly as with Chinese , difinstuigh between

tupaa, yaap "you cast a spell on me, therefore i will obey you"
tupaām, yaap "he cast a spell on me, therefore i will obey him"

THis morpheme can only appear on the first word in the sentence.

Likewise, the forms (mostly) with -k- in the 1st person can be dropped, leaving the bare stem to function as 1P>2P. This could be called [S] by analogy to [M]. Coincidentally [S] is homophonous with the building classifier, but this should rarely cause conflicts.

The four nominal person markers could then be analogous to the four theta roles of agent (1P>2P), patient (2P>1P), identity (1P), and observer (2P). Note that for third person referents, the identity is used, not the observer, because it belongs to the thing or person just named. (Or possibly no marker is used, if the entity is seen as being its owner. This would be the same as a free noun.)

Resulting vulgar language

This can create convenient vulgar terms, such as

my penis [...] you

Where the verb is left out. But it is not clear out of context that the 2nd person is the referent. Compare čikam "I'm filthy", not "your filth is on me". The latter meaning is possible, but it would be through context just as in English.

Trivalent verbs

03:16, 12 February 2023 (PST)

This is still difficult.

pupa vavibep mipaimpiba.
I made you read the book to me.
pupa fučap vavibep mipaimpiba.
I made the teacher read the book to me. (Word order could be switched)

But there is no

I made the teacher read the book to you.
I made you read the book to the teacher.


01:54, 12 February 2023 (PST)

Play may conflate the sense of "to make, create, construct" and "to make, force to do something" as does English, but the two words would only be cognates, not the same word. This is after the 1994 Moonshine cognate set māb ~ meb, which happened to sound the same but were not originally related (because 1994 Moonshine didn't have etymology in the traditional sense at all).

New superlative idea

19:20, 8 December 2022 (PST)


This is the "Abutiaba" system. This is the more common and more typologically expected system in an SOV language such as Play, where the affix is appended to the verb instead of the comparand. The sentence below would be reworded as

Pava pabaiyap papapūapufaa.

Compressed compounds

This is the "BEHOS" system. Hebrew does something similar, at least with pronouns.

In Play, it is possible to use an AB compound to indicate a superlative, just as if it were an ordinary verb. Here, the "comparator" stands alone, then is followed by the quality being compared, then the comparand, and then the suffix -šama. Because it always follows a B-stem, it never surfaces in this form, but only as either -ma or -sa.

The comparand in the middle is squeezed by the two stems on either side and is typically not a long word or a proper noun. Often the first word is written separately and pronounced with independent stress, particularly if it is perceived as a verb. For example, one may say

Pava papapūapu pabaiyasa.
The king is older than the soldier.

The part that means "-er" is often -sa, though it will depend on the shape of the preceding morpheme. Thus, it can be said that pabaiyasa is an inflected form of the word for soldier, pabaiya, and means "-er than the soldier" all at once, while papapūapu does not mean "is older than" but rather just "(is) old".

This is an effectively SVO morpheme order, against the usual order in Play. However another analysis is possible, where an SV sentence "the king is old" calls on a predicate, "more so than the soldier", which is another verb even though it is built from a noun that is functioning as a definite argument.

It is important to note that this method cannot be used when the comparand is 1st or 2nd person because there is nothing to attach to.

The two superlative morphemes are not cognate to each other.

One-word style

The VO clause can even be written as one word, such that the above would become papapūapupabaiyasa, with just a single stressed syllable at the beginning of that word. This is rarely seen, and owes its existence to influence by contemporary Moonshine and Leaper, which few Players spoke.

Nonetheless the construction is grammatical even in Play because of shared morphology from Gold retained by both Play and the Moonshine/Leaper dialect continuum. It is very similar to the AB compounds spoken of below except that it ends in the -sa ~ -ma morpheme instead of the otherwise common -a agentive.

NOTE: It is possible that the pūapu morpheme could drop out in some expressions, especially when the VO clause is squeezed into a single word as with Moonshine. It means "rich in", with no comparative meaning.

To make more X

One or both of these methods must be the feeder for the Play construction that means "-en; to make more X". The more likely choice would be -faa. It is possible that this is often paired with an aspect marker cognate to MRCA gàha, in fact perhaps derived from MRCA gàha tʷo. In its B-stem form, this would compress into just va.

Clausal genitives

05:27, 21 November 2022 (PST)

Clausal genitives are usually formed by what appears to be a double genitive on the first word. For example:

tiukāa čīubešes tamžabas
the night of music and games

Although in fact the two /s/ morphemes have a separate origin. This is in fact identical to the construction for a serial verb, as if the phrase were "the night, that is of music, (which) is of games".

Less commonly, the final -s is left off, leaving the B-stem alone, and in some cases the two words are joined together. This is identical in structure to a B-B compound, although because of the great difficulty in parsing such a construction in rapid speech, it is typically used only in set phrases. In this case, it would be no different, however, because an initial /t/ will not contract.

Diminutives, pet names, and sound words

Pet names

05:27, 21 November 2022 (PST)

There are no diminutives in Play or Late Andanese. Both languages share a process of changing initial p t k to m n ŋ, but this operates only on people's names, not words for people (e.g. "boy") or for objects. It also has no relation to the physical size or age of the person being referred to.

One of the few differences in speech register between children and adults in Play is that adults will often use the suffix -(t)ā and the standalone word taā to refer to children, whereas children are more likely to use -(t)a and respectively. Here, -(t)a is simply the ordinary agent suffix, and -(t)ā is an agent suffix specifically denoting a young child. This distinction is inherited from the proto-Lava Bed language, and was grammaticalized already at that time. The distinction in the standalone nouns is of a separate origin but came to be seen as if it were tied to the grammaticalized forms.

Attempts at cultural explanations from outside

Outside cultures noticing the lack of diminutives attribute it to the Players' seeing the world through children's eyes even as adults, such that children don't seem small, or foreign, or removed from the adult speakers' perspective. The Andanese historically were not like this, but assimilated to Play culture over time. However, both cultures' people are smaller in stature than the people around them, and the outside cultures believed that this may have shaped their overall worldview such that their adults could not take pride in their height, and came to identify with smallness even as adults. Others, particularly the Leapers, believed that it was the Play speakers' government, which for 1,600 years had tied food distribution to family size, and thus encouraged early marriage and large numbers of children, such that the Play nation was repeatedly subject to famines, which encouraged surviving families to have even more children.

The Play speakers had little interest in others' perspectives on their language, telling themselves as always that the Play language was superior in many ways, and that outsiders had a right to express their jealousy by looking for ways to point out cultural differences.

Onomatopoeia and sound words

07:09, 11 September 2022 (PDT)

Onomatopoeia is rare in Play because the fusional grammar means that any word consisting of a sound effect would be ruined by many of its inflected forms. Indeed, Play scholars do not recognize the existence of onomatopoeia at all, What comes close is formations using the morpheme ka, used for animal sounds, but with the intent that it means "sounds like" and what precedes is a valid Play word. For example, the verb for a cat's meow is not ŋīu but ŋīuka, "to make a sound like the word /ŋīu/", where that word happens to be a valid Play word meaning to spread a large array of objects. All the inflections then go into the /ka/ morpheme. Thus the Players deny the existence of onomatopoeia.

Lack of reduplication

05:21, 10 December 2022 (PST)

Likewise, the Play language was entirely without reduplication, even in words imitating sounds, unless there happened to exist an ordinary Play word whose syllables matched those of a repeating sound effect.

Time and distance metaphors

07:43, 26 August 2022 (PDT)

Play makes little use of locative metaphors to place events in time. Simultaneous events are described with serial verb constructions, and there is no equivalent to phrases such as "in May" or "on Monday" in English.

Therefore it may be that the word for tomorrow is not derived from sappi "next (in line)", which explicitly means to place one's hands on the shoulders of someone in front, but from some entirely unrelated word, which might have no locative metaphor at all, or might have an opposite one. With sappi it is the person standing behind who represents the future, whereas Play speakers might prefer to see tomorrow as a day that remains well in front of them.

If pippāa can mean "day", pippāupua could mean "day that is being approached; tomorrow". This uses the archaic classifier suffix /-(t)a/ where /-fa/ might be expected, but this could be explained easily enough if Play speakers did not visualize days as belonging to the sky or the sun. There is a variant, pipaata, whose morphology is obscure even to scholars, but which means "24-hour period; lasting one day" and pairs with the word above. This word could also have a "tomorrow" variant, pipaakupua, denoting a 24-hour period beginning at the present time.

These words are AA compounds, whereas the verbal embedding writeup below suggests an AB compound would be required. It may be that two sets of rules exist depending on how a compound is parsed, since using an AB compound here would make the words both head-initial and transitive (in the sense of having an agent and patient), whereas an AA compound is head-final and intransitive.

Past, present, and future

It may also be that the three canonical vowels /i a u/ are respectively associated with yesterday, today, and tomorrow, even to the point of using a semantically inappropriate verb to generate the compounds. /a i u/ is much less likely because -i- is already the past tense morpheme and association of past with /i/ is unavoidable. Perhaps ŋi "orbit, walk around" could be the marker for past.

If the "today" morpheme does not begin with a strong consonant, it will lead to forms with four consective /a/'s, as either pippāaata or pipaaaata would be the most likely word for "today".

It is also possible that the word for today will need to be more distinct.

Noun classes

18:41, 16 August 2022 (PDT)

Play has relatively few noun classes for a Lava Bed language. Many are based on the location of an object, and others are based on purpose. All of them refer to inanimate objects only; animates are outside the noun class system. They are:

Traditional classifier suffixes

Like Gold, Play uses classifier suffixes and has lost the ancient classifier prefixes found in most other Lava Bed languages.


  1. -pu for objects found in forests. Many words occur with both suffixes on and so this is considered a single noun class. This same /-pu/ is also the reflex of a word meaning "high place" and therefore can sometimes to refer to birds or other things high up in the sky, but most of these words have transitioned to /-fa/, as below. It also originally referred to small fruits, but this meaning got lost within the tree meaning and therefore it is also used for large fruits.
  2. -pi, for objects found on trees. The /-pi/ suffix indicates something more tightly bound to a tree while the /-pu/ suffix is broader in scope, and sometimes doublets exist; for example the word for a particular fruit may end in -pi while it grows on its tree, but in -pu when it falls (and also a general purpose term encompassing the growth stage) and in -ba while it is being eaten.
  3. -pa, for objects found in the sea. Many words that appear to end in this suffix in fact have -p-stems followed by a suffix whose initial consonant regularly disappears after /p/. If the suffix -pa is added to a -p-stem, the result is -ppa. This class is very broad, and includes things such as sea birds which one might expect to in the sky class.
  4. -fa, for objects found in the sky. In a few archaic words, remnants of a /-ta/ suffix are found, which has fallen out of use in classical Play but survives in fossils.
  5. -ya, for objects found in fields or open places in nature, and not covered by any other noun class. In a few archaic words, -pa is used even here, because there was once a standalone word /pa/ meaning grass, unrelated to the word for water that came to be homophonous with it.

Human structures

  1. -še, for objects found in buildings. This is typically realized as a contraction and does not add a syllable.
  2. -a, for objects found on the road. This is also realized as a contraction.
  3. -na, for furniture. This classifier is little used, and mostly appears where a word with a different meaning already occupies the -še noun class or where the expected form of a word with that class would be too short; an example of this is mana "bed", not *mās.

Purpose-based classifiers

  1. -ba, for handheld objects. A few words in this class retain the archaic /-ya/ inherited from Gold, in most cases because they belonged to words which could also be interpreted as belonging to the field class. The two behave identically in grammar, since Play does not have a special class of verbs specifically devoted to handheld objects, as some related languages do.
  2. -ŋu, for clothes. This is realized as a contraction, but replaced with the non-contracting suppletive stem /-me/ when inflected.

Other noun classes

  1. -be, for written or spoken words. This is etymologically a monosyllabic noun that was repurposed as a classifier after the sound change /ʕ/ > /Ø/ made such words indistinguishable from each other. It is fairly common, but does not fully encompass its hypothetical semantic range, since, for example, even the word for book is in the handheld object class instead of this class.

Second-order classifiers

With influence from Late Andanese, Play scholars sometimes talked about second-order classifiers, monosyllabic morphemes which followed the stem of a noun and preceded the classifier suffix. In fact, these are simply ordinary Play words which happen to be very short, and are sometimes of irregular derivation. For example, the new word vi "large fruit" arose from the reanalysis of the originally atomic root vipu, with the same meaning, into /vi/ and the -pu classifier suffix already used for most large fruits. Since vi was a new coinage and occurred in this specific context, teachers considered it a classifier rather than a standalone root.

The archaic handheld object suffix -ya could be considered a true second-order classifier, since in Play it became very rare and was nearly always padded with -ba, which had the same meaning. (Much later, in Poswa and Pabappa, -ba became obsolete and /-ya/ became once again the handheld object classifier.)


Most Lava Bed languages have noun classifiers for humans as well, indicating their gender, their number, and sometimes even their age. Play lost the Lava Bed classifier system, however, and never reacquired animate classifiers at all. Play indicates a human actor with the suffix -a, the same as the road classifier up above, but the human actor suffix goes in a different noun slot (even though both are often word-final) and does not contract with the preceding vowel.

Since humans are outside the noun class system, and since Play also has no gender, the only way to indicate the gender of a referent is with separate words. These words are typically compounded rather than standing alone, but there is little fusion; a separate agentive suffix exists to specifically denote children, but this distinction is very rarely used unless the person's young age is especially relevant to the topic at hand, such as distinguishing young students (ŋataā) from older students (ŋataa); even here, the second word can also be applied to all ages.

If a classifier suffix is added to a word that ordinarily refers to a human, the new word means an object related to that human, often with a vague meaning because such words are not commonly used. For example, a tamnaba ("vintner-handheld") can be a grape, a jug of wine, a wine press, and so on.

The four types of compounds

19:21, 12 August 2022 (PDT)

Unlike many polysynthetic languages, Play has noun-noun compounds. In fact, Play has not one but four ways to form noun-noun compounds, since either element can appear in its A-stem or B-stem form. If the two elements are both in the same stem form, the compound is head-final, and this is the most common type of compound. If they are different, that is, either AB or BA, then the compound is head-initial.

The four arrangements correspond to the four roles of the initial element, not to two roles for each element.

AA compounds

AA compounds are head-final. The initial element is in an observer role, since it is not typically the patient of the head of the compound. Thus, the second element's role is directed towards an external argument, not towards the first element. A more description patterned after languages like Leaper would call this a genitive, but Play spreads the semantic genitive across several syntactic roles, including in this case the observer role. Since the A stem is more common than the B stem in both positions, it is considered the unmarked stem, and therefore AA is the unmarked compound.

AA compounds are the most common type. Because they are head-final, their inflections affect the root to which their semantic meaning applies, and do not require classifier suffixes unless their second element also does.

An AA compound is grammatically equivalent to a single A stem. Therefore, nested compounds exist. Context is required to determine whether to parse AAA as [AA]A or A[AA], and likewise with longer forms.

AB compounds

AB compounds are head-initial, with the first argument in an agent role, and the first argument can also interact with an external argument as in AA. These can be animate or inanimate, but there must be a suffix of some type after the B element, which describes the A element and therefore mimics a head-final compound. If the noun is animate, this closing element is likely to be the human agent suffix -(t)a, which would almost always manifest in this position as -a.

Many AB compounds are occupational words where the first morpheme describes what the person does and the second morpheme describes what they work with. An example is žammiŋua "carpenter", meaning one who loves (žam) wood (mem).

In many cases, an AB compound can be hollowed out by removing the middle morpheme, the result being a single A-stem word (since AA is equivalent to A). For example, the word kiaa (kias + ta) means a president or elected leader, while kiapunua, with an infix of /punu/, means more narrowly an elected president of a nation. This word /punu/ is one whose A and B stems are the same, and so does not change. This shorter word is an AA compound, not just a lone A morpheme, because the agentive suffix -a is not a bound morpheme.

However, this closing element may also be a mere classifier suffix if the meaning of the word is inanimate, and the word with the middle element removed would be considered an ordinary word, not a compound.

It is possible that these words can be used to derive terms for colored objects, unless a BB or BA compound would be more appropriate. This would be a late-arising compound, not used in classical Play.

BA compounds

BA compounds are head-initial, with the first argument in a patient role, used in verbal embedding. BA compounds always describe inanimate objects and always require a classifier suffix. Because this classifier suffix refers back to the initial element (the head), BA compounds can be in a sense thought of as head-final after all, and the inflections apply to the classifier suffix rather than to either of the elements of the compound.

Play scholars will teach that removing the A element from a BA compound will cause the B morpheme to revert to its A stem, and that therefore the result would be the same as removing the element from an AB compound. Stated another way, B stems cannot stand on their own.

Note that Play's semantic scope of inanimate objects includes many living things.

The BA compounds expanded greatly between Gold and classical Play and is responsible for why so many inherited Gold words continued to be productive into Play despite the many sound changes. Words were simply lengthened rather than discarded; for example nunuaamaba "screw" continuing Gold nŭnʷaya, embedding the verb -(t)ama "turn, twist" which became necessary for disambiguation after tone loss and other simplifications of the phoneme inventory.

NOTE: It needs to be firmly decided whether the infixes take double vowels or not. Passive verbs as a rule take double vowels, but it is not clear here whether the B-stem in the head means that it is a "reciprocal of itself" and is already passive. If it is not automatically passive, it seems that the verbal infix which appears as an A stem might in fact be able to be an active verb even though the B is a patient.
One possible solution is that in Play, it is possible to be a patient but also an "actor" so long as the action is involuntary.
Remember however that the A element, though seen as a verbal infix, is really functioning in a nounlike role just like the B element in the AB compounds above.
NOTE: Verbal embedding also seems different from BA compounds, and could be an extension of it. Verbal embedding seems to require an additional affix of /ʕ/ (silent but affects consonants) after the B-stem that is the head.

The Pabappa writeup assumes that the infixed verbs were single.

BB compounds

BB compounds are classified as head-final, but because this corresponds to the fourth role, the identity, the first element in the compound denotes the same object as the second and their semantic roles are the same. This compound formation is rare and most commonly used with set phrases rather than two dynamic elements; it is commonly found when a short word is compounded with a synonym to keep it distinct in speech from other words that have come to sound the same or similar. Quite often, both morphemes are rare or extinct in bare form and only occur in compounds.

BB compounds can be made of two synonyms, or one word (usually the first) can be more specific than the other. A third option is where both elements come together to describe an object that neither element describes fully on its own. For example the word for strawberry is tuaniapu, a compound of + nia with a classifier suffix. The first morpheme originally meant strawberry on its own but became generalized and came to describe heart shapes; the second morpheme describes objects that are found many at a time but not bunched together, essentially the same as the English etymology of the word. Therefore a strawberry is a that is a nia, the logical intersection of the two concepts. Some words of this type are AA compounds instead, because the AA type is the unmarked and the easiest for the listener to understand, but long-established words are more likely to be BB.

BB compounds often lack a transparent morpheme boundary because the final syllable of the first element fuses with the initial syllable of the second. For example, taššaya "rose" comes from te "rose" + šas "flower", followed by a classifier suffix. This happens only with certain consonants, however, and words with these consonants are overrepresented in BB compounds. In other cases, the words do not fuse, and BB compounds consist entirely of (C)V syllables except for sometimes the classifier suffix.

Because there is often no morpheme boundary, BB compounds can be described as grammaticalized portmanteau words. But unlike portmanteau words in English and other languages, the rules for generating BB compounds are rigidly structured, leaving no room for expression, and moreover it simply happens sometimes that the rules for generating the compound in fact leave the original morpheme boundary intact.

Words for emotions are sometimes formed from BB compounds, but the two morphemes must agree in the role of the participant; there can never be a B-B compound with a meaning like "to cry while being hurt". A few words like this are formed from AA compounds, since the syntax is much looser with that type, but typically such compounds are either fossil words or novel coinages found in poetry.

Teachers' views of BB compounds

Because a B element cannot stand on its own, some teachers have explained the existence of BB compounds by saying that while a single B-stem cannot be a word, two B stems can support each other and therefore there is no contradiction. Another explanation is that two B-stems are equivalent to a single A-stem because of the historical accent shift in BB compounds that is identical to that which generated the A-stems in the first place. If this view is held, all four compound types can be analyzed as equivalent to single A-stems.

Verbal embedding

Verbal embedding (see below) superficially looks like a BB construction, but it may be better analyzed as AB because the /ʕ/ suffix on the first B-stem is historically an inflection, and this can be thought of as "restoring the A-stem identity" o that word.

General information

Head-initial compounds require a suffix, in essence turning them back into head-final compounds, since inflections are suffixes and Play considers it semantically improper for one morpheme to carry an inflection that actually pertains to another element in the word.

Because Play has word-initial stress, it is rare for a head-final compound to end in a monosyllable apart from semi-grammaticalized extensions such as -(t)a.

Lost terminology

06:52, 4 August 2022 (PDT)

The Players came to power with a society much more technologically primitive than that of their ancestors from 2,000 years ago, and because of their unending dedication to educating their children, they were well aware of this. With such a small worldwide human population and such dire living conditions, it simply did not occur to people of the time that there should be a gradual forward progression of human living standards throughout time. Rather, people felt that human societies would rise and fall with no gradual upward trend, and in stressful times, that the rugged žaipa lifestyle was the only way to ensure a better future for their descendants.

The combination of often-declining living standards and preservation of ancient scholarly knowledge meant that Players had many words for technology that had been available to their forebearers, but which they no longer could make use of, and in most cases, felt that they no longer needed.

These words are often extremely short by Play standards because they were inherited from the Players' and Leapers' shared Gold parent language, but the Players carried such words through ordinary Play sound changes even after they fell out of use because they were preserved in record books through each stage in which the Play language went through those sound changes. Because nobody used the words, there was no need to pad them with precising morphemes.

  • ti, a clock tower, typically placed near the seacoast. Invented by the seagoing Leapers and introduced to the ancestors of the Players early on, only to be discarded once the Leapers left their shores. The Players never developed a daily clock of their own, although they strictly adhered to a monthly calendar.
  • kiaba, a lamp. Contains the -ba handheld object suffix; the root was just kia.
  • puse, a lottery game in which the odds of winning were assured to be fair, because there was no outside entity to collect profits.
  • peti, lymph nodes. This was one of many words whose meaning became mysterious when the ancestors of the Players lost their inherited medical knowledge, which the Andanese doctors still preserved.
  • tu, an arrow. Lost during a long period of pacifism, in which not just the Play speakers but also their enemies lost their earlier weapons technology.
  • ŋi, an arrow. Lost as above.
  • tes, curtain or drape.
  • bana, volcano. The Play speakers never lived in an area with volcanoes, but some early settlers remembered them from their previous homelands.
  • baya, a type of soup with mushrooms. The Players lost most of their cuisine after an environmentally disruptive war in 2668. The food that they ate afterwards was actually more nutritious, but also notoriously unappetizing, and there was very little variety.

See also below, particularly for ephemeral disruptions in vocabulary caused by political achievements in the classical Play era.

Culturebound obscenities and vulgar language

09:28, 2 August 2022 (PDT)
See also User:Soap/scratchpad#Obscene_and_vulgar_language.

Speakers of Play in particular, and to a lesser extent Lava Bed languages in general, find the very existence of obscene words and idioms in a language to be evidence of cultural degeneracy, and assert that Play does not have such words. Speakers of other languages also agree that Play has no obscene words, and therefore there is little argument to be had. While synonyms do exist in Play, there is little difference in social register between them. Children learn the same words their parents use, and their parents use those same words regardless of whether they are in a formal situation or a casual one.

Influence of grammar

One reason for this is that Play's grammar lacks pronouns, person markers, and most other non-content words. These are instead all marked by fusional inflections and gradations of the phonemes within the word. Moreover, the combination of a 1st person agent and a 2nd person patient is assigned a zero morph, unlike most other Lava Bed languages, where this construction uses a morpheme containing l or the reflex of /l/.

Semantic gaps

There is no root word for "hate" in Play. Instead, there is a verbal affix, usually appearing as -(b)uni, meaning to do something hatefully or injuriously. Thus the word best translated as "hate" is tavauni, meaning to think about someone wishing to commit harm. By contrast, there is an atomic root word for love, ža, and other words exist that could be translated as love as well.

Note that one could likewise say that Play has no word for toy, because an infix often appearing as -bata- means "__ that (I) play with" and requires person marking. The comparison is not fair, however, because batamba in fact means toy by itself; this type of word formation is possible only with passive participles that also take classifier suffixes. There cannot be a word for hate using this formation, and to say bunimba to mean "hated object" would sound humorous, as it would imply trying to hurt an inanimate object.

Note that the toy word is not *bataaba, because Play distinguishes between passive participles and passive verbs.

Zero morphs in verbs

An obscene expression in a language like proto-Dreamlandic will often center around a single word, flanked by particles and pronouns. In Play, the most semantically appropriate translation of this expression will quite often be the word by itself. This is because as above the 1st person agent marker, the 2nd person patient marker, the present tense marker, and the indicative mood marker are all zero morphs in Play.

This applies even to words for simple bodily functions that in other languages are typically intransitive by default. Thus the word pati, meaning urine, also stands alone as a verb form meaning "I piss on you". The verb and noun are not always the same, because each word has two stems, but these two stems are quite often the same. Because it is uncommon for a speaker to intend the meaning "Urine!" when using such a word in an angry voice, the listener understands what the speaker intends.

Similarly, it is difficult in Play to create euphemistic phrases for single words, and therefore even when synonyms exist, they tend to give similar impressions to listeners.

Second person aggressives

To indicate a 2nd person agent and a 1st person patient, in many verbs this is formed by doubling the final vowel of the root, and therefore these phrases are convenient and also in widespread use and bundled. Because of Play's grammar, this is what would from an external perspective be analyzed as a 1st person passive verb with no agent.

An angry Player might yell nothing more than "you hurt me!" in their angriest attainable voice, with no accompanying threat against the other person to get even. They were not mocked for this submissive behavior because the indigenous minority languages such as Late Andanese were also mostly the same way. Play also has BB compounds with highly specific meanings, and can say things such as

You hurt me while apologizing to me!

In just a single word.

Note that even adjectives are transitive by default, and also active by default. Therefore, where other cultures have a list of insulting phrases with meanings such as "you're stupid", "you're ugly", and so on, the Players are more likely to use a phrase such as

I'm smarter than you!

Even in their angriest possible voice.[1]

Lack of speech registers

Lacking obscenities, there were no words Play adults could yell at their children that the children could not turn back on them.

Terms of abuse related to žaipa culture

The strict attitude of the many successive Play-speaking governments and the clockwork grammar of the language still did not completely prevent Play speakers from creating terms of abuse, but they were few.

People without talents

From a word for urine, pati, comes patim, "pissie", a term of abuse for someone with no talents. This was part of the žaipa vocabulary, and was applied to both men and women who were neither intelligent nor physically strong; these were the talents that žaipa culture recognized. Physical attractiveness was irrelevant, so a woman with an ideal body type could still be a patim .

The literal meaning of this was someone who is acceptable to urinate on; the Play speakers did not invent this metaphor, but merely absorbed it from Andanese. The Late Andanese word for urine was tuluti, etymologically "blood urine", because Andanese doctors understood that urine was filtered from blood, standing them apart from the much less educated peoples around them. The luti part of the morpheme is the same word as Play pati.

Despite their nation's strongly negative stereotype against people with blonde hair, and despite other cultures sometimes using terms related to urine to describe blonde hair, the Play speakers did not make this connection, and had their own set of terms for blonde hair that were considered derogatory in and of themselves.

Weak people

The term žayuŋau meant "delicate; requiring a luxurious lifestyle" and was a synonym of , which literally meant palm tree but when used without a classifier suffix could also be used to describe weak, flexible humans. People described with this term could nonetheless be very intelligent, unlike the "pissies" above. This term was applied to both men and women, and even to children, because unlike male-dominated societies such as the Dreamers, the Players expected hardiness from both sexes.

Play-speaking cultures apart from those few whose speakers were largely blonde themselves strongly associated blonde hair with being a žayuŋau, and therefore blonde hair was looked down upon for both men and for women. This is one reason why there was no need for a set of derogatory terms describing the person's hair color directly.

Other culturebound terms

An atomic root word or short phrase meaning "undeserving of compassion" exists in nearly every language on the planet, and it has no obscene connotations. The word was not simply carried down through the individual languages, but rather was continually replaced; one word derives from MRCA tè pagĭnam but the phrase was not used that way in the MRCA.

This concept was connected to žaipa but not identical to it. For example, Play's word for "to deserve, by merit of žaipa" was žaīyais,[2] not just /žaipa/ or some such thing.

The word taisa (as in žayaisa) was not a term of abuse, but a political position believing that hardiness is inborn; see Memnumu.

Other terms of abuse

Play speakers were mostly members of shorter tribes, and so a set of derisive terms for tall people existed, such as tatibumna, for someone who had grown out of control. Similar metaphors involving spreading out and taking up space produced other words.

At times, children used tatibumna in particular as a derisive term for adults, but this was a fad that tended to appear and disappear over time, rather than a longstanding second meaning of the word. The second meaning was dependent on children hearing their parents use the first meaning, and on children being mostly independent from their parents at a young age, such that they relied on each other more than they relied on adults. At other times, young children and adults alike would simply refer to their elders as papanaemna or papapūapua, which simply both meant "old".

Influence of biology

Among most Play-speaking tribes, women were taller than men, but they were not so uniformly patterned as were the Moonshine people. This meant that men, even if shorter on average than women, were slightly stronger because they were more muscular and because women could not develop athletic abilities during pregnancy or even after childbirth. Thus the best female athletes were teenagers but men tended to peak in early adulthood. This meant that derogatory terms for people with poor athletic skill were aimed at both men and women, but they tended not to share terms.

Outward-looking attitudes

Because Play scholars had little interest in languages spoken outside their territory, they did not bother to learn Dreamlandic to see if it had vulgar words that they could add to their list of reasons to despise Dreamer culture. They only made such statements about locally bound languages such as Late Andanese and its relatives.

Comparison with Late Andanese

As fellow Lava Bed people, the Andanese speakers in early years felt little need to create specifically obscene words, and had little capacity to do so. But the Central Andanese people, the ones who lived near the Play capital city and later evolved into speaking Late Andanese, adopted a different lifestyle than the other Andanese groups, as they soon came to be a minority who lived only where Play speakers lived, and adopted a lifestyle in which they were in some ways beneath the Play speakers and in other ways above them.

There was a period of time when the strong central government made it illegal for Play speakers to so much as pronounce the consonant /l/, considering it obscene, and forced them to substitute a /w/ sound (later to become b). This was a very common sound in the Late Andanese language and therefore the government not only tolerated but promoted this supposedly obscene sound among the Andanese speakers. Players could not pronounce this sound even when they spoke Andanese; they still had to substitute /b/. Therefore, Play speakers came to think of the Andanese language as obscene by nature, and some were jealous and wondered why the Andanese were allowed to be vulgar while the Play speakers were not. Yet the special relationship between the two groups kept the Play speakers from developing a strong hatred for the Andanese and they did not consider them to be like the Dreamers.

The Andanese themselves did not consider their language to be vulgar or obscene, but simply normal, and did not pick out individual words in their language as being particularly offensive as compared to other words with similar meaning. The Andanese often resented the Play language laws even though they discriminated against Play speakers and not so much the Andanese.

Terms for careers and related familiar objects

04:39, 1 August 2022 (PDT)

As with the section below, terms for occupations unfamiliar to the Players and their linguistic kin will be quite long even by Play standards, but terms for well-known occupations will be a mix between short words (kiaa "president") and long words that arose mostly due to sound change collisions with even more familiar words.

These words for the agent of a career all end in the morpheme -ta ~ -a and describe things that one may do for a period of months or years. This is the same morpheme used for the active participle, so the word for teacher can also mean a person who is teaching someone for just one moment about some small thing. Titles inherited by birth such as king are not considered occupations and do not have this morpheme.


  • kiaa a president.
  • The name of the territory ruled over can be infixed into this word, using the oblique stem and usually with a short name instead of the nation's full proper name. The resulting word is then treated as a title even though morphologically it still contains the agentive suffix /-a/. For example, kiefumaa was the president of Šayamuufuma, since Šayamuufuma was a transparent compound of two elements, the last being /fuma/, and no other nations ended with this morpheme. The /e/ is because the original word is actually /kie/ + /a/. The word without the agentive suffix is called an AB compound because the first element is in the more common A stem while the second element is in the less common B stem. This type of compound is rare, and marks the first element as both the agent and the head of the compound. Play compounds are more commonly head-final.

Working with money

  • natafiva, a cashier, bank teller, or money counter. Although Play speakers distinguished between stores and banks, they had no reason to distinguish between the different jobs that involved handling customers' money.


Even in the most destitute periods of their existence, the Play speakers never closed their schools. Thus the words relating to education are often quite short and opaque, as they have become atomic roots. School was however not attended by all children and graduation was at a young age; therefore words for students tend to assume the students are very young, and if a student is an adolescent, they may require a different word.

  • fuča, a teacher. This word is so old that its agentive suffix is preceded by a consonant. This word is cognate with Late Andanese huki "to teach, lead".
  • taanaaa, a bookbinder.

Manual labor

  • žamminaa, a carpenter.
  • memfunaa, a carpenter, particularly one who specializes in building furniture. The STW corporation coined this word to distinguish their employees from carpenters who acquired their skills outside of school.

Medicine and pharmacology

  • sapeunaes, a hospital. Derived from the word for fear, not for sickness; thus, it means a building with many frightened people.
  • The unifying factor between fear and sickness is that for an afflicted person, nature is dangerous. Nonetheless, fear is the basic concept in this word, not a meaning that covers both fear and sickness.
  • To specifically point out that a person is afraid of dying because of medical problems, the word pīusapeu must be used. This is still the active form, however, so it means "to terrify someone by disease"; the passive form, meaning a medical patient, would be pīusapevepta with the agentive suffix on. Play's grammar uses uninflected forms when creating compounds (ignoring B-stem compounds), even when the meaning is semantically passive, and so this much longer word is not used to create the word for hospital.
  • pīusapevepta, a medical patient. See above for derivation.
  • šafaputaba, medicine stored in food or in a pill form. Literally means an angel's egg.

Farming and food production

Restaurants, cooking, and food preparation

  • taussūmna, a cupbearer. The literal translation is "party tray-er".

Alcohol and other stimulants

The volatile political situation of the Play Empire at its peak, and the very short generation times, meant that people living in what had been the world's richest vineyards lost all knowledge of wine cultivation and even those who sought to revive it did not know what to do. The word for wine itself disappeared from general knowledge and had to be re-created several times by different Play-speaking nations that had branched from the original Players. In the post-classical era, nonetheless, the original word for grape wine, tamšība, was recovered.

The only two widely used recreational drugs were both soporifics: alcohol and opium. Alcohol in Play-speaking cultures was traditionally produced only from grapes, but Play cultures expanded into areas where palm trees were also used to make wine. Cultivation was difficult and at times alcohol was outlawed because it decreased the nation's food supply. Opium was harvested directly from the plant known as the sleep flower,[3] which grew in dry climates where few people lived. Thus, sleep flower harvests did not decrease the food supply. However, because the plant was not native to Play-speaking lands, and indeed not native to any lands where large human populations could live, it was difficult and sometimes dangerous to collect the flowers. Therefore the Players and other Play-speaking populations had little interest in opium, and it was never specifically outlawed or controlled the way alcohol was.

Inherited Play terms

  • tamšība, grape wine. Earlier, šība by itself had meant wine because the Play speakers knew no other forms of alcohol, but it was padded with the word for grape even then because short words in Play tended to have difficult inflection paradigms.
  • tamna, one who grows grapes. Since almost all grapes were directed to the production of wine, these people were "wine-growers" as well, but those who worked in the fields were not the ones who fermented the product into wine except on very small farms.
  • vaba, a potion; but later used to mean any alcoholic drink other than grape wine, including wine made from other sources.
  • šamtuasa, a potion,[4] particularly one used to put people to sleep. This word was not used for alcohol specifically but could be understood in context. Here, the most salient part of the word is šam, but šamba without the middle morpheme could not be used to mean a potion or a pill, even in context, as the word /šamba/ simply denoted a circular object.
  • meviya, the sleep flower. The English name here is a direct translation of the Play. This is etymologically /me/ "sleep" + /vi/ "flower" + the "open place" classifier suffix /-ya/, and therefore equivalent to /me/ "sleep" + /(t)uiya/ "flower". Once the flower is picked, it becomes a meviba, changing out the /-ya/ suffix for the handheld object suffix /-ba/. The flower grows primarily in areas of low human population densities, and therefore at many times unknown to various human cultures; nonetheless, trade with AlphaLeap kept its existence well known even to people who did not share the flower's habitat.

Later creations

  • pūmačuaba, palm wine. Here, means palm tree and mačuaba is a new creation for any alcoholic drink, meaning literally a handheld object that makes one act like an animal (mači). This word was used in the far west of the Play-speaking area, where alcohol actually was legal for some citizens (determined by party affiliation), but because the Play language had been introduced by groups who had gone several generations without access to wine or other alcohol, they had no word for it and created a new one. This word ends in the same -vaba as above, and the connection with alcohol had been lost here as well, but it had briefly come to mean any drink used for celebration, and therefore the morpheme survived.
  • tammutatuasa, grape wine. When grape wine production resumed, it was in the original Play vineyards, and although the Players had learned the original shorter word from their books, the wider population was already unfamiliar with the drink, and so the Players coined another new word, with a similar meaning to the above but with different morphemes. Here, muta means prey and the implication is that consuming grape wine would make the one who drinks it easy prey for both animals and for human criminals. The Players were producing wine for export, not for domestic consumption, and therefore did not feel guilty about this. They still did not produce unfermented grape juice, but any listener would have understood the word tambaiba just like the other words for fruit juice.

Terms with wider scope

  • pamāša, a boss or manager who also does the job of the people they control.
  • pašaa, a boss or manager who controls people from outside the group and does not also do the lower-level job. This morpheme (like the one above) does not contain the agentive suffix, but just happens to end in /-aa/.
  • supa, child labor. Acquired this meaning after a long period of time where the fertility rate was high, the infant mortality rate was very low, but adult mortality (due to war and other causes) remained high. Therefore children outnumbered adults for several generations in a row.

Play in the Lava

14:15, 22 March 2022 (PDT)

Play can be analyzed as a divergent Lava Bed language in which the 1P and 2P verb slots have evolved into topic and comment (or just arg1 and arg2), except that when each is omitted they revert to 1P and 2P. Thus Play needs neither pronouns nor person markers.

This also means that 1P can never be arg2 and 2P can never be arg1. And that if a 3rd party acts on the speaker, it cannot be the topic, since it will need to go into the arg2 slot so that 1P can still be arg1. This is very different from the system that later evolves in Poswa.

Unlike traditional Lava Bed languages, OBS:OBS was illegal. In Galà, etc, OBS:OBS in the middle of a verb applies to the 1P and 2P arguments, but in Play, they apply to "arg1" and "arg2", and since a verb cannot have no participants, OBS:OBS is illegal.

The labels arg1 and arg2 should not be confused with A-stems and B-stems as above, which refer to an entirely different category of grammar.

Ø tunuapam žapiibi.
arg1=1P arg2=tadpole bite-ʕ-PAST

The tadpole bit me.

Note that this means that all verbs with 1st person patients have a structure that in most languages would be classified as a passive verb. In Play, this is not a true passive, although it is a marked form, because the vowel is doubled; without the doubling the sentence would need to be something like

Ø tunuapap žapibi.
arg1=1P arg2=tadpole bite-Ø-PAST

I bit the tadpole.

It appears that the final -m on the word for tadpole has changed to /p/, but in fact, the two morphemes belong to different categories altogether.

Verbal embedding

Play uses verbal embedding in its content words to say things such as "the pillow you bought for me" and things even more complicated than that. The Play system is:

NOUN + [Ø|ʕ] + VERB[X,Y] + [Ø|s|p] + CLASSIFIER + [P].

The capital letters represent morphemes (X = topic, Y = comment, P = patient) while the lowercase letters represent Play phonemes; this is the fourth person marker, which can be called the possessor marker, although its semantic scope is much broader in this position than when it occurs alone. The letters X and Y are used here because in Lava Bed languages generally they can be untethered from traditional terms entirely and simply thought of as two arguments to each verb. These letters are used here to prevent confusion with the unrelated A/B notation for the two forms of each word root.

The person values of the innermost morpheme (here labeled X,Y) depend on what arguments precede it externally in the sentence, and not on the meaning of the noun (which is third person by definition). The noun itself is automatically assumed to be the patient of the embedded verb, even if the word-final patient marker [P] is also present; this final morpheme refers to an unrelated external patient and is rarely used.

As in the basic Lava Bed system, if no arguments precede the noun, the omitted topic argument automatically becomes the speaker (that is, 1st person), and the omitted comment argument automatically becomes the listener (2nd person). If only one argument is present, the listener will know which one has been omitted because Play uses inflections to distinguish these arguments from each other (and therefore word order is flexible).

NOTE: The infixed verb is almost certainly a bare B stem, not a double vowel stem, even though the meaning is semantically passive. It is grammatically "book I see", etc, not "book seen by me".

Pabappa retains some aspects of this but Poswa has lost it.

Retentions of Lava Bed morphology into early Gold

14:13, 8 July 2022 (PDT)

For sure Play did not retain the Gold grammar exactly intact for 2,200 years with no changes at all. Ideas like gās "to act disrespectfully" could have appeared in Gold, although it would likely need to be explained through wave diffusion since this was never in Lava Bed itself.

Dirty feet on nouns

20:45, 3 July 2022 (PDT)

Note that dirty feet morphemes can only occur on words that are morphologically third person nouns, and cannot be used to create quadrivalent verbs. And yet, they point towards verbs, including unstated ones. The p/s/Ø morpheme is the outermost person marker on a noun that relates to that noun.

Dirty feet

It is likely that Play and Pabappa both lack pronouns just as Poswa does. Instead, 1P and 2P patient is marked on the agent of the sentence, using captured prefixes from the Gold/Trout era. The Gold 1P patient morpheme was -ŋa and the 2P patient morpheme was -hə. The "feet" of the nouns thus get "dirty" with the otherwise lost prefix of what had once been the following word. (Although the metaphor could just as easily be soap, so long as it's something that's sticky and has weight.)

Thus the dirty forms of the nouns are, for 1st person, -a -i -u -e > -am -īm -ūm -am, and for 2nd person, -a -i -u -e > -ās -īs -ūs -ās. Note the asymmetry and that the final -s can be lost in all four examples.

Possible expanstion

There is also potentially a -ŋu when the patient is 3rd person but a child, and -a ~ -e if the patient is 3rd person masculine singular. Lastly, the feminine would be -i. These are etymologically sound, but it may be that the 3rd person patients were never marked, since nearly all such sentences would have the word for the patient explicitly present anyway. But consider that if gender were retained for patients (even if not for agents), these could be used to allow the speaker to avoid repeating words. This system is most likely to be retained if Play had a means of marking the gender of the agent on the verb.

It may be that there is only one such marker instead, effectively a transitivity marker, even though transitivity is also marked on the verb; this could have the effect of changing the patient into a beneficiary, and would only occur when this argument is not named. However, this system still sounds as though it would be better if it applied only to 1P and 2P patients, turning them INTO patients INSTEAD of assuming they are beneficiaries.

Other thoughts

NOTE, the ideas below may not be plausible because there are no pronouns, and so the morphemes intended to mark a 3rd person AGENT are dependent on the existence of a 3rd person PATIENT. This section is copy-pasted from an earlier writeup.

Accusatives could also be padded .... e.g. -p changing to -pu when the agent is plural (and also perhaps -ptu for /du/, which could indicate a single boy). -pi would be a 3rd person singular female agent (possibly also plural all-feminine) and either -pa or -pte for a 3rd person singular male. In theory the 1st and 2nd person agent could also be marked here, probably with -a and -e respectively (that is, the same vowels as are used for the patient forms), but since person is already marked on the verb, these markers would either be redundant or would be confined to peculiar verbless constructions. (Poswa does not have this problem because the verbal person markers are identical to the padding on objects in verbless sentences.)

These endings are similar to what later evolved in Poswa .... where inanimate (and 3rd person) agents are padded by person markers for the patient, and must take passive verbs, and in which accusatives are also padded in some constructions with the person markers for the agent (because there are no pronouns). It could be that Poswa's system arose as the Play system began to break down through sound change. Unlike Poswa, however, there is no tense marking.

Note that this is SLIGHTLY similar to proto-Semitic, but not quite the same.

Runaway vowel sequences

16:35, 3 July 2022 (PDT)

Play is known for its long vowel sequences, just like the endemic[5] Late Andanese. Those involving /i/ and /u/ are not in this category because these vowels couple with surrounding vowels to form glides; however the schwa vowel /ə/ (spelled e) behaves just like /a/. This is not a problem, and /aaa/ occurs in words for occupations whenever the verbal stem ends in /-aa/ since the agentive will be a bare /-a/. For example, šaušaaa "bricklayer, mason", and occasionally longer forms like paaaa "one who tills soil" (though the more common word is /paava/).

Agentives are not the only words with this sequence. Play's verbal embedding paradigm leads to frequent sequences of /a/ and sometimes /e/ even longer than those listed above.

A type of turtle exists called the kapaaa. In an early stage of the Play language, the word was /kapadăga/. With the infixed verb ba "to nurse; to love actively", the field classifier suffix -a, and the required morphological mutations, the word for "the turtle (he) loves" is not */kapaaabaa/ but in fact kapaaaaaa. With the same morphological alternation, and the word for "borrow", one can construct kapaaaaaaa "the turtle (he) is borrowing", although this word for borrow is not typically used in verbal embedding because of the potential confusion between it and words with just one less /a/.

Though fond of their language, the Players typically did not use words like the above in ordinary speech. Nonetheless, most kinship terms using the ba word still have sequences of four /a/'s. For example, from the primordial root /na/ "son" comes Play naaaa, which despite still means "son", although transparently incorporating the word for love.

Vowel sequences could also involve the high vowels; for example žaīyais "having earned by harsh experience" contains a phonetically overlong vowel, representable as /ijj/ but pronounced rather like [i::].

Survival of long vowel sequences

One reason for the long survival of such words is that Play kept its tones longer than it kept the disappearing consonants, and therefore words like /kapaăa/ still had their original tone pattern with a clear break between the three /a/'s and stress on the middle vowel more often than not. Then, even after tones disappeared, stress remained, only moving to the initial syllable at the time of the maturation of classical Play, so late that some dialects in outlying areas such as the Tadpoles did not complete the change and later reverted to variable stress under the influence of Andanese.

Another reason is that Late Andanese also tolerated long vowel sequences, and the speakers of both languages were in intimate contact for 1,500 years during which time they both increasingly drew towards each other and away from the influence of the other languages around them.

A third reason is that the clockwork regularity of the verbal paradigm discouraged change. In any space where two vowels came together, a consonant or CV sequence could be inserted, changing the meaning of the entire word. For example, just as naaaa means "son", naaapta means "my son", namiaata means "your sons", and so on. The unmarked form of the word is the one in which all three slots are empty.

Alternatives to long vowel sequences

Although the forms with the long vowel sequences were canonical, near-synonyms could be created by changing the verbal morpheme in the middle of the word. By swapping out ba "to nurse, to love" for ži "to feel; to marry, be close to" the word for son changes from naaaa to naiya, which by the mechanics of the language still has four vowels and three slots but is much more convenient to pronounce. However, the forms with /a/ are more regular; using the /ži/ verb, the word for my son is not */nayipta/ but naiyeča, with a paradigm unique to embedded verbs that end in /-i/.

Semantic emphasis

15:02, 2 May 2022 (PDT)

Classifiers are never phonetically stressed, and so cannot be used for semantically prominent information. Thus a phrase such as "all life in the sea" would not be translated by simply "all" (usually /nafata/) with the sea life classifier suffix /-pa/. Play has a separate word for the whole ocean, vaŋapa, which is like the titular words of Andanese in that the classifier suffix is redundant since the word does not occur outside this class. This can be seen as saying something like "the sea in the sea". Therefore, its own locative form requires an additional -m, and this occurs after the /-pa/, not before.

Paisi nafatam vaŋapam fayaaušeppa.
All life in the sea is frightened.

Note that the verb for fear here is reflexive.[6] And note that it takes a /-pa/ suffix to indicate where it takes place, one of a few verbs to require this.

Tense and aspect

04:48, 28 April 2022 (PDT)


The Play past tense marker is -ib-, which could combine with the plural marker /-ub-/ to form -uy-. The present tense was unmarked, and the future tense was indicated through mood markers, so the past tense /-ib-/ is the only tense marker in the entire language.

The /b/ would be expected to disappear, reshaping this affix to /i/ and then in some cases to palatalization of the preceding consonant. Moreover, primitively it would have also invaded coarticulates like /tʷ/, creating /tiw/ > /tib/ > /tip/ instead of retaining its own /b/. But this might not happen; even though Play is extremely complex, the fusional aspects of Play are mostly between morphemes of the same word class, e.g. BB compounds of two content words, rather than between a word and an inflection that is the only member of its class. Gold probably did have some fusion, but this was lost in Play and probably also in the other descendants of Gold.


In most languages of the family, aspect is marked through a construction resembling serial verbs ("to start while reading", "to read while starting", etc), with different solutions as to which is the so-called head verb. In Play, this was also the most common method, but BB compounds were used with certain verbs to create set phrases with inherent aspectual meaning. This semantic oddity was the result of generalization from the serial verbs.

Stative aspect

There is a morpheme tama, marking stative aspect. The MRCA morpheme was tʷòmo, and at that time, it was probably a true grammatical morpheme, but in early Play it would have often appeared to be just the second of two serial verbs, since /st/ > /t/, and therefore it was degrammaticalized.

This is perhaps a weak definition however, as it covers things such as "know" from "learn". That is, the Play morpheme could be said to combine perfective, resultative (in the sense of "changedness"), and "success" all at once, but without the valency-raising causative aspect, so that the action is complete and the compound word refers not to the action but to the state resulting from it, and the agent is the same.

An example of use is with the verb čua "to belong to (a team); to play on (a team)", which when suffixed becomes čuatama "to win as part of (a team)" where the object of the verb is not that team but rather the opponents. Instead, the players' team would be marked either with the genitive case or embedded in the verb as part of an AB compound.

NOTE: It is possible that this should remain as tuama, not losing the -u-, if it was not perceived as being related to the group of grammatical affixes that began in /t/.

Cessative aspect

02:37, 21 March 2023 (PDT)

Possibly ŋaŋe, a coincidental homophone of the word for tribe. This would appear in BB compounds as -amme ~ īmme ~ ūmme ~ amme depending on the last vowel in the preceding morpheme.[7] The cessative aspect is often paired with the imperative mood.

Importantly, the polarity of this aspect is positive, so it could perhaps be better described as an emphatic perfect aspect rather than a cessative. That is, Play žapiyimmem does not mean "stop biting me!" but rather "bite me (and finish the job)!"

Unnamed aspect I

This is the aspect that corresponds to "-en" in English, when used after the superlative. So it might be aligned with "to become, to make" (since it is ambivalent to transitivity). That suffix is -(ž)atua, from MRCA gàha tʷo, where gàha by itself was an aspect marker earlier in the language meaning "attempt, try".

If this is used as a B-stem, it contracts from /žatua/ into just -va due to analogy (gàha tʷo > gàtʷa; this becomes interpreted as a primitive, whose B-stem is therefore dʷà, which becomes /va/). However it is not clear that this would be grammatical.

Unnamed aspect II

16:36, 8 September 2023 (PDT)

See also vapa, which might be a career affix. It allows inanimates and goes before the -a agent marker. Whether this is considered aspect or not is a matter of contention. it is from gold /lapaG/

Serial verbs

The suffix -s might be considered an aspect, though grammatically it is identical to the possessive suffix -s. In Poswa it specifically links serial verbs, so that one can say for example "when I see you, I am happy" by adding an /-s/ onto either of the two verbs (more commonly the one perceived as coming first). If this was possible already in Play, expressions of the form

Mis, paumupu.
When I see you, I am happy.

could be commonplace as they would be convenient and compact.


It may be that Play does not have grammatical aspect at all, and just uses the two strategies above: serial verbs and BB compounds, with the BB compounds mostly indicating two simultaneous activities that could stand alone as content words.

Importantly, though, when BB compounds are used to build aspect constructions, the transitivity inflection goes on the first verb.[8]

Possible others

  • piva, a habitual aspect, formed from MRCA p`ili + nd`a(mba)
  • SaNa, from MRCA haNeN (N is eng)

Noun-verb coupling

02:28, 6 April 2022 (PDT)

One very difficult aspect of Play for outsiders was the idea that two open classes, nouns and verbs, could fuse together to create new words that seemed atomic because they did not have an audible morpheme boundary and because both often underwent stem changes in addition. For example, pupa means book and vāu means to read, but neither of these words is audible in the compound word

The book of yours that you read to me.

Which functions as a noun just like any other, since it begins with a root and ends with a classifier suffix, just like /pupa/ itself.

This is the verbal embedding written of below. Although Play did use a certain small set of a few dozen verbs much more commonly than all others, the fact that a phonetic formula existed for the embedding meant that the class of embeddable verbs was in fact the class of all verbs, and therefore was open.

In most other languages, even highly complex ones such as Pabappa, when fusion of two content words occurred, one of them belonged to a closed class.

Morpheme order

Note the difference in morpheme order between pukūavesa "the book of yours which you read to me" and pupas "I see a book". Here, /-pas/ is submerged /-ba-s/ and /-sa/ is submerged /-s-ba/; the same two morphemes but in opposite orders. The change from /b/ to /p/ is because of the word itself.

Poetic animacy

08:37, 28 March 2022 (PDT)

Play could be the originating language for spontaneous words such as fipipu "tree", literally "I see a goal", because it is personless. The /-u/ here is not the evidential but rather a submerged form of the classifier for forests and fields.

In Gold, the equivalent word hʷiməči would simply mean "that which sees a goal" if used without a classifier, and by adding a classifier a new word for tree such as hʷiməčidu could be created, but the word would not closely parallel existing word structures.

Addressing inanimates

The Play idea is part and parcel with the idea that animates can be addressed: tes "you are a pine tree" (no classifier suffix). Structurally this requires an animate listener because all listeners must be; semantically therefore this requires a verb /te/ "to be like a pine", and that it be something humans can do. Metaphorical use is, nonetheless, understandable since there will never be a tree that is a human, and therefore it is clear when an inanimate is being addressed.

The reason there is no classifier suffix is because if there were, the resulting Play word *tepu would not mean a pine tree, but rather a tree that says "you are a pine tree" (or "I see a pine tree"; compare below).

Constructions like this also serve a second meaning: Tes "you are a pine tree" also means "I see a pine tree", even with no evidential suffix on. This is similar to zero-marked constructions in English: Play

There's treasure here!

Can also just be translated as "Treasure!" given the right context.

The need to differentiate between the 2nd person and impersonal meanings of these words led to the increased use of evidentials, which eventually became mandatory in post-classical Play's "pusiba system".

Note also the subtle difference in morpheme order; here, the word ends in -ba-s, a classifier followed by the polysemic /-s/ suffix that can also mark possession. But the word about a book ends in -s-ba, surfacing as -sa, showing the same two morphemes in reverse order. This is the difference between addressing an inanimate (or mentioning it) and involving it in a wider sentence. (NOTE: I will try to explain this better later so that I dont get confused myself. It may be that it is better to analyze Play as having two /-s/'s with similar meanings but different semantic roles.)

The fibula

Despite the existence of poetic animacy, it may or may not be possible for inanimate objects to "talk" as in the Old Latin inscription manios med fhefhaked numasioi, where an item of clothing speaks and uses the pronoun "me". What matters most is whether or not this will conflict with the ability to label something. The part that means "___ made me" would be mikəči in archaic Play and mikip in classical Play. But the use of a passive verb implies that an active is possible, which inanimates cannot do.

Question particles and suffixes

11:40, 25 March 2022 (PDT)

Remember that the Play open question suffixes, tīs and tes, couple to noun classifiers and therefore most often drop their /t/ (but sometimes /t/ overwhelms the classifier instead). Thus for example, one can say

Where do you live?

When referring to an unspecified place, but

Where do you live?

When specifically asking about a building.

The mismatch in forms is because vowel-final classifiers retained their silent /ʕ/ (and /ʕt > d > Ø/) but consonant-final classifiers came to behave as though they had never had an /ʕ/.

These words were often used in just this state, but could also interplay with verbal embedding. For example,

Which of my books did you read to me?

Animate nouns' question markers

Animate nouns cannot take classifier suffixes, but nonetheless the question markers tīs and tes simply attach to them just the same, being suffixed directly to the stem instead of staying behind a classifier.

This, however, means that there can never be a Play word paradigm like that of IE, where the question words "who? what? where? when? why?" are just five different case markers attached to a single particle. Rather, Play has the opposite morpheme order, with the question particle being an invariable morpheme attached to the stem. Thus one must say

Which human?

Instead of "who". This situation mostly affects animates, because if the thing being asked about is inanimate, it is often the patient of a verb. Note that the /t/ is not dropped, because this word never had /ʕ/.

Specifics of meaning

05:51, 20 April 2022 (PDT)

The two Play suffixes tīs and tes have identical meanings, as the originally distinct /tīs/ has been reanalyzed as the essive form of /tes/. Using /tīs/ adds a slight amount of additional emphasis to the question because the syllable takes longer to say. This means that, as above, there is no division among Play question words comparable to English "who/what/when/where/why". Rather, there is only a "what". This situation is common in related languages as well, and was inherited from Gold.

Words for "why"

Assuming the question marker must be the outermost morpheme in a word, it is therefore impossible to build a construction such as *setifum "for what reason?" (Note the etymologically incorrect inflection of /tes/ > /tifu/, which had become generalized.) Instead the Players would use setes "what reason?" and then place an inflection with opposite meaning on the rest of the sentence. That is, the sentence would say something like "What made you do this?"

The existence of this construction implies that it could be done in a single word, where /se/ takes the place of the expected classifier suffix, or possibly without even using the word /se/. Remember, though, that Play's /-u-/ was still just a plural affix. If a word such as

Why are you squeezing me?

Can really stand alone, it implies that the action was voluntary on the part of the patient. This may have been a relic of earlier times, however, if /-u-/ was already shifting from a plural to an imperative (with additional meanings bundled in) in classical Play speech. In either case, this phrase could probably drop its /u/:


And break up the words:

Fūvanaap setes?

And reorder them to put the question word at the beginning:

Setes fūvanaap?

All without changing any other inflections. However, if a form without se exists, the /-tes/ suffix must be at the end of the word as it cannot stand alone.


The word fi is another morpheme for "reason, motive" that is essentially synonymous with /se/ but appears in different contexts. From tatabūpu "coconut palm" and peep "to shake", one can form

Why are you shaking the coconut palm?


06:25, 9 February 2024 (PST)

It may be that demonstratives can only appear in words that have noun classifiers, even if they don't attach to that noun classifier. There are two possible orders, but both require that the noun classifier slot be present. This is a desirable imperfection, as it "makes sense" that nouns with classifiers are the ones that people would need to point out.

Older information

11:40, 25 March 2022 (PDT)

For example, it seems logical that the demonstrative suffixes would never appear on nouns that were also tagged with the question particle tīs ~ tes (see below for derivation); if the question particle is also part of the same series of affixes as the "belief" mood markers, then it stands to reason the demonstratives can not cooccur with them either.

However, it is perhaps more likely that Play will not have demonstrative suffixes, but instead will use verbal embedding, as below, indicating "the pineapple you show me", and so on. Another alternative is to use locatives; this could be affixed to either a verb or a noun.

This would mean that Play can combine the demonstratives with the question tags after all, unlike many related languages in which the two use the same slot (or separate word).

Alternatively, a particular demonstrative is mandatory on questioned words.

Demonstratives of place

For example, taibem "children" can become

taimipippa "the children I see in the water". Note that -pi- here is specifically a marker of distant sight; the object must be visible and yet far away from the speaker (not necessarily the listener), and that /pip/ is formed through analogy (earlier Play would have had /peči/).
taibem patapa "the children playing in the water" (though this would more commonly have an evidential /-ba/ at least in later stages of Play)
taimipippa patapa "the children I see playing in the water". Note that the locative must be repeated twice because verbal embedding of the type used here demands it, even for animates.

Less common are constructions like

taibem baapippa "the children in the water I see"; usually the word with the demonstrative is pushed to the front of the clause instead, which means changing the inflections around on the other words. Note that /baa/ here means "fresh water" specifically; /pa/, the classifier for water and sea life, is almost never used as a root.

Deictic demonstratives

The locatives above cannot be used for deixis because their meanings are bound to literal location and not abstract concepts. For this, Play can only use verbal embedding yet again, with verbs such as "talk about" and the like. There is no tense marking on this. From pupa "book", one can say pukuefipa "the book I talk(ed) about", which suffices to translate both "this book" and "that book", depending on context, whenever a locative meaning is not intended.

Comparison to inanimate verbal embedding

The word taimipippa above has a morpheme structure very similar to the classical verbal embedding used above. What's different is that the noun classifier suffix has reverted to its archaic literal sense, "in the water", rather than classifying the children as sea life. This is required when using animate nouns, because animate nouns cannot have classifiers. Thus, the demonstrative must always couple with a classifier suffix indicating a place, and there is no generic classifier that just means "place". However, the bare -a, representing the word for field, is used in any case where some other classifier does not apply.

Note that this also discourages the creation of words such as *bāātaiyaappa, "the captain I obey (in the water)", as if meaning "my sea captain", because, while grammatical, it uses a circumfix yaa-...-pa "to obey in the water", which is semantically disjoint, and moreover contains just a single -p- in between. Usually with this type of construction, the classifier suffix is semantically linked to the head noun, not to the embedded verb. Even a circumfix yaa-...-a "to obey in a field" would sound odd to the Players. Rather, a two-word solution would be used.

Verbal mood and associated morphemes

True mood markers

Since there are no person markers (see #noperson below), all of the verbal modifiers like "need to", "want to", and so on behave like mood markers, and this system would need to trace back to Gold. Since they express the viewpoint of the speaker, they are mood markers in the strictest sense, indicating the speaker's emotions only.

It is possible to combine the mood markers with the transitivity markers, but note that "I want [me] to hit you" does not reverse to *"you want me to hit you", nor to *"you want [you] to hit me", but rather to "I want you to hit me".

But Players cannot use mood markers to express similar concepts where the person doing the wishing is not the speaker. Thus "You want me to row" cannot be a one-word sentence with just a mood marker in Play, even though it has one less participant than "I want you to hit me", because there is no such thing as a 2nd person mood marker.

Play inherited many of its mood markers from Gold, but because they were grammatically identical to the little-used postverbal locatives, any word indicating a location could be used metaphorically in a once-off manner just like a mood. Thus the Play mood markers formed an open class. However, they could not be stacked; every verb had only one mood.

The core mood markers in Play were:

Expressing knowledge

  1. , the indicative mood. This was not a morpheme that had gone silent, such as /ʕ/, but simply a convenient construction to form a pattern.
  2. -pa, the interrogative mood. This is etymologically the same morpheme used below in the strong desiderative mood, but without the linking [M] morpheme. It is also used as a conjunction meaning "or (else)". Note, however, this interrogative marker is never paired with the question marker -tīs, nor can one substitute for the other. Rather, /-pa/ modifies a complete sentence and /-tīs/ modifies a single word. Note also that /-pa/ marks polar questions.
  3. -ŋi ~ [M₂], the negative, expressing strong doubt.
    This cannot be compounded with the other mood markers, and thus behaves as a true mood. This means that there is no negative imperative, or any similar compound. Instead, to make a negative imperative, the part of the sentence that the speaker wishes to negate would take a negative morpheme. A compounded form exists, -[M₂]-u, but this has the same meaning as the bare form and appears only because the morpheme would otherwise reduce to just /i/ after passive verbs and would be ambiguous after verbs whose stem ends in /i/ because it would collide with the imperative. Note however that /-[M₂]-u/ is aimnu ~ imnu ~ emnu because the elided /d/ goes to /n/ instead of disappearing.

There is no Play mood corresponding to subjunctive, but the subjunctive grammatical category overlaps with some of the proper moods and also with the Play suffixes -p -s, which show relations between two verbs or verb-final clauses.

Likewise, Play has no clear match to the IE conditional mood.

Expressing desire

  1. -m, the imperative mood. This is inherited from Gold's -ṅ.
    The imperative mood is also the form used after a particle like "if", meaning it can function as the "IF" mood.[9] (This could be called conditional or subjunctive, but different languages use this mood differently.) NOTE THAT THIS PROVES THE IMPERATIVE CAN BE PAST TENSE.
    This can therefore be used as -k[V]m to mean "give me a ___", and so on, similar to a construction that evolved in Poswa. Since there are transitive person markers, this can even produce "give me your ___". The same is true of the milder affixes below.
  2. -[M]-na, the common desiderative mood. Expresses the speakers' desire for the situation to come true; often used as a gentle imperative. This is formed by affixing /-na/ to the 1st person "dirty feet" morpheme below, meaning it appears variably as -amna ~ īmna ~ ūmna depending on the final vowel in the stem of the verb, and appears as -ana when the verb ends in one of /p s/, as in the case of reflexive and reciprocal verbs.
    vāuvifukūmna — "can I have a car?" This is a declarative sentence but corresponds to a polite English interrogative. Another possibility for this is to attach the -na suffix directly to the possession marker, but to retain the /a/ (thus vāuvifupana), even though this simply duplicates the verb form.
    vāuvifūmna — "can I have your car?" Only if following an analogy from above, as this sentence would narrowly mean "Can your car please get me?" as the possession marker is no longer present. See the "Syncope of 2P>1P and 1P>2P" section above.
  3. -[M]-pa, the strong desiderative mood. Expresses the speakers' immediate needs.

Note that these desideratives did not originally retain to possession; that meaning was taken in because of the loss of the possession markers. They were originally ordinary desideratives, so vāuvifukūmna is really just vāuvifukūm + na.

Note that the desideratives and the imperative can be marked for all three persons. The common desiderative often corresponds to an English word like "should" when used with the 2nd or 3rd person.

In theory there could be constructions with the "[S]" morpheme that corresponds to the 2nd person version of [M], but the suffixes would surface as -sa -pa, not *-sna -spa. And so would be difficult to understand without an agreement morpheme.

Unlike in some related languages, Play's imperatives however cannot be marked for tense. (An extreme example of imperative marking in some lesser-spoken Lava Bed languages can be shown by translating a 1st person past tense negative passive imperative: Oh, I'd better not have been bitten!)

NOTE: the paragraph above may be a mistake, as it is contradicted below. If it is true that there is no past tense imperative, it is because of the speakers' mindset, not because of a gap in the grammar. Therefore it is likely that it DOES exist.

Expressing belief

Morphemes in this category may team up with, absorb, or lose out to the evidentials /bu bi ba/ that came to dominate in early Poswa. (The rise of /bu bi ba/ in Poswa was due to the convenience of beginning with /b/, and therefore, they could have been common in pre-Play, lost ground by the time of classical Play, and then gained it all back when they triggered an important sound change.)

  1. -tau, the potential mood; this is a catch-all for statements where the speaker does not know how likely the statement is to be true, is not requesting an answer, and shows no emotional investment in the situation. It is similar to Play's habilitative and permissive verb markers ("the cat can run away"; "the boy is allowed to speak"), but applies also to inanimates ("the leaf might fall") and even to sentences without a verb (kapafatau "it might rain"). Thus it does not require volition, and can be used in combination with volition ("The boy might be able to run away").
    This is from /tə̀la/, not */tə̀ndu/. It is very distantly cognate to the question marker tīs, but not even scholars would see the connection because /tīs/ lost the forms in which its presemblance was most evident. Nonetheless, note the morphemes expressing categories of belief below.
    The MRCA root /tə̀la/ also meant "to plan, make a strategy", and it is not clear if this is cognate or not. Even if so, the mood marker came before the content word.
  2. -tata, expressing strong belief.
  3. -tiu, part of a pair of morphemes that together means "hopefully", and on its own still carries a broader meaning of weak belief.
  4. -tetu, the dubitative, expressing doubt.

Despite the different vowels above, the first morpheme in all of them is /tə-/. Play also has a habilitative morpheme taus; this is not a mood, but rather a verb morpheme that patterns like the aspects of IE languages. This is not cognate to the mood markers (remember, /tau/ is from earlier /tə̀la/).

post-Play developments

In post-classical Play, the happenstance resemblance between the modal tau and the content word taus takes over, and the other mood markers turn into habilitative/permissive markers as well. That is, sama-tetus comes to mean "unlikely to be healthy", and so on, whereas in classical Play these markers could only appear at the end of a word and could not modify just a part of that word.


These are referenced in the #Pusiba_system section below, which is a later stage of the language when the transitivity markers -p -s -Ø had combined with evidentials to form new person markers. The combined forms already existed in classical Play, but were fluid and each evidential could combine with any of the three transitivity markers. This could be called color-flavor locking, using a physics analogy just as the 2x2 Play system is likened to gluons.

Pusiba system (post-classical Play)

  • bu to feel; to know intuitively; unshareable knowledge (later, a 1st person marker)
  • bi to see; shareable knowledge (later, a 2nd person marker)
  • ba to know; to have seen; presently unseen knowledge (later, a 3rd person marker)

Hypothetical earlier system

If the evidentials pattern like the "belief" morphemes above, then -bu is the atomic morpheme and the other two come from this morpheme followed by /Ci Ca/ where C is a consonant that dropped out during the evolution of the language.

An alternative is that the three were independent morphemes all along, and originally began with different consonants, but were analogized to /b/ due to sound rules like /pn pb/ > /p p/ where any disappearing consonant could be later assumed to have been a /b/. This could only have happened in the post-classical Play period, however, because in classical Play the morphemes were not yet tied to the person markers. In this setup, the morpheme ba must truly be /ba/ and not with some other consonant because in both classical Play and the later maturation period it was used after a vowel and therefore no analogical substitution was possible.


The meanings given here are NOT the meanings of the morphemes in the Play language, but rather for various hypothetical stages going back thousands of years. The morphemes did not all become evidentials at the same time, so this is not a list of MRCA evidentials either, but can be used to better understand the primordial system.

  • ta, from Tapilula /tà/.
  • This is the second /ta/ in -tata above, and indicates strong belief.
  • te, from Tapilula /tə̀/, but most likely appearing as /ta/ most often. /tə/ + /ta/ is /tata/ and is a legal compound. The question particle tīs has a variant form tes, both of which appear to be related to /te/, since a simple infix could create both forms of the question particle. Indeed, they are ultimately related to each other, but at a much older layer of the language.
  • This morpheme may have been an interrogative marker even in the MRCA, or perhaps an irrealis mood marker (since it also appears in the evidentials). It did not mean "ask"; that was /ti/.
  • u, from Tapilula /ndù/. There may be a second use of /u/, originally not a separate morpheme, that is seen in such as /tau/ above. This is just from Gold /təl/, with /a/ instead of /ə/ for reasons given above.
  • No meaning assigned in dictionary.
  • va, the /la/ needed to create the above. Likely not used in Play even as a fossil.
  • No meaning assigned in dictionary.
  • ŋi, used in at least one morpheme.
  • Seems to be a negative morpheme, or indicating a lack of something. It is not related to pre-MRCA man "no".
  • vi, used in at least one morpheme.
  • This is the "weak belief" word (tə + li ---> til ---> tiu), and was probably a verb rather than a mood marker until very close to the maturation date of Play. The MRCA has several candidate words to serve as the source of this.
  • tu, used in at least one morpheme.
  • This morpheme seems to express doubt, and serves as essentially the opposite of /ta/.
  • na, the desiderative, from MRCA .
  • na, a second /na/ that is not related to the first and comes from pre-Tapilula /nat/.
  • Meaning unclear, unless this is part of the desiderative after all and there is only one /na/. (Note that this morpheme seems not to appear above and I may have eliminated it without realizing.)
  • [M], which is from Tapilula /ŋà/ rather than the 1st person dirty feet suffix.
  • Most likely a desiderative even in the MRCA, given its behavior in Play (only appearing when padded by another morpheme). It may be the same morpheme that indicates a goal-seeking verb in Dreamlandic, that is "know-[M]" = "ask".

There was once a compound, -paim (for expected [M]-paim), a negative desiderative, but it fell out of use as the rule against compound moods became solid. The ones with /-t-/ are not seen as compounds and the dubitative is not seen as a negative mood, but only a weakly positive one. Similar constructions nonetheless existed to cast doubt on just a single part of a sentence ("the team's unlikely success") without using a mood marker. These could be described as irrealis NOUNS.

Future tense constructions

Like its descendants, Play has no proper future tense. However, the setup is very different: Poswa's grammaticalized -u- inflection, which marks the imperative, is actually the Play plural marker, having semantically shifted through the meanings of voluntary and then involuntary cooperation. This morpheme fills the same slot as the past tense marker -i-, and therefore the three-way Poswa setup of i/Ø/u (past/present/imperative) is naturally intuitive and convenient. In Play, the morphemes could still be stacked, so plural past tense was expressed easily enough, as -uy- right alongside -ub- for plural and -ib- for past. (The /b/ insertions are normal and are not duplicated when the morphemes are stacked; thus /-ubib-/ was wrong. The expected analogical -e-, which could have arisen from the /ui/ > /ə/ sound rule, did not occur either.)

This however meant that Play had the ability to create a past tense imperative.

Use with nouns

At least some of the evidentials could be attached to nouns as well as to verbs; the question at the top of the page (04:32, 28 April 2022 (PDT)~), Tatapaeikupupites?, is an example of this, since tatapaeikupu is actually a noun, not a verb. That said, the linking morpheme -p- is important in this constriction, and so it could be considered that it is a verb after all even though it is not etymologically the same /p/ that marks "self".

better words for cardinal directions

13:44, 17 July 2022 (PDT)
  • paata "easternmost of two or more; the eastern one" is from /pe/ + /sata/. The coordinate terms therefore would be paavafa "northern(most)", paatua "southern(most)", and paasuša "western(most)". It is possible that only Play uses this specific formula.

cardinal directions

These words will all be inherited from Gold, but some may be padded or replaced. Gold in turn inherited the words from Tapilula, which was a maritime society, and therefore needed words for navigation. Gold is less likely to have replaced the inherited words, but may have used padding.

Play words here are nouns, meaning "northern area" etc and not verbs or abstract nouns such as "northern-ness" etc.

If pi "boat" survives, it could mean "south across a sea", etc.

the basic cardinal roots for the four directions are very repetitive: šavafa "north", šatua "south", sata "east", and šasuša "west"; these are mingling with the more specific terms that mean "north across the water" and the like.

In Play, initial s- š- p- can all shift to Ø after a preceding word in the (primitive) locative case; Leaper cannot do this. Thus Play can create words such as Pubumafuata "east of Pubumaus", Pubumafuaašatua "south of Pubumaus by sea", and so on, even using proper nouns. These words cannot be used for "eastern Pubumaus" and so on; they always indicate a place outside the root word placename. Another formula uses separate words and assumes a preexisting genitive case instead of the locative, in which case the consonants are not deleted. Yet another formula uses freestanding words such as piaipsata "east of the river by boat", with three morphemes (pi / paip / sata) stacked together, following the name of a river, and so on. The word pi "river" is ultimately not a duplicate of the p- "boat" morpheme, and did not gain its /p/ for thousands of years after the formula was created, and so would not seem redundant.

other directional words

the word piša can still mean "across the water" without specifying a particular direction. it would just be /pi/ "boat" + /ša~fa/ "directional location", with the middle morpheme removed. It may be better to make the word paipa, however, using the inherited /paip/ morpheme from Gold /paiḳ/.

new locative case

Play's locative case is marked by -m; inherited constructions survive, but tend to be bound to their morphemes. After this /-m/, any š shifts to f, but other consonants remain intact. New coinages do not always follow this rule because it did not occur when the /-m/ was originally syllabic.

/si/ > /s/

05:06, 8 March 2022 (PST)

Note that the sound change of si to s before a vowel is usually incorrect. This is seen with, for example, the final suffix /sa/ replacing /-s ya/ in words like tasa "drink" that make use of classifier suffixes. It is still legal when the suffix is /-ba/ since /sb/ > /s/ in all Play words, but words like *vapasas "war" are incorrect and could at best have been created through analogy. The correct form would be vapasias, and in fact vapias was the most common word, without the middle morpheme.

The sound change IS legitimate when the /s/ derives from Trout's /f/ phoneme, since Gold did /fj/ > /f/, and then shifted all /f/ to /s/. (It may actually have been [f fj] > [fʲ] > [s].)

Also note that Play can use š here, since it can also generalize the pre-shifted Gold forms with /h/, and /hi/ > /š/ in all Play words before a vowel. But Play did not usually use these pre-shifted forms.


01:59, 18 September 2022 (PDT)

Poswa is analyzed as being entirely without particles, since the particles and conjunctions can all be analyzed as fronted verbs. By contrast, Play's rigid word order precludes analyzing fronted particles as verbs.

Independent function words

  • pipa, the inclusive OR word, corresponding to the word or in general usage. Despite the etymology, this is not an exclusive XOR. The etymology is a compound of inherited pi "but" and pa "or; (polar question particle)". Another possibility for this word is pibu, the same word meaning to pick fruit.
  • ču, meaning "and; with; accompanying". See below for why *ka did not survive. This word can also be paired so as to mean "both .... and" because it is not a verb. The paired construction is used for things such as "night of music and games".
  • Etymologically, this is from Gold gil, using an archaic /l/ on the word for "feel". Without the /l/, this word would have just ended up merging with pi "but".

Other words

These words might not occur independently.

  • na, from MRCA nə̀, meaning "then; therefore" as in an if-then clause.
  • ma, from MRCA man, meaning "not". Probably not found in Play even as a fossil.
  • pu. The etymology for /pupi/ and /puppi/ suggest derivation from an inflection of /pu/, not from an atomic /pup/. If /pa/ and /pi/ are valid, a new function word /pu/ could come from almost any arbitrary word so long as its meaning was at least not the opposite of what is needed.

Andanese perspective

This section might be removed later.

It is almost certain that the words with /k/ will not survive as such, because they were always unstressed and therefore the /k/ would shift to /p/ after any word ending in a labial.


There might be ka .... ka for "both ___ and ____" with the first /ka/ optional. The /uk/ > /p/ sound change would almost certainly change this into pa, however, and at a time well before the maturation date of classical Play. Play also had a second "and" word, ču, which survived into Poswa. The two may have coexisted even in Play.


This would appear as /či/ in Play, and is not related to the later morpheme /pis/ that appears in Poswa, which comes from Play pes and tīs, the latter being a question marker (distinct from /pa/ below). However, pes might have meant "if" in Play. Note that these were CONJUGATED like ordinary verbs at least in pre-Play, and that therefore any word could add an /s/ or /p/.

Like /ka/ above, this could appear as pi in some contexts, because /č/ would also become /p/ in the alternation mentioned above. (č > ǯʷ > b > p) This still is not the ancestor of Poswa/Pabappa /pis/ but could have helped influence it, especially in Pabappa where i > i is possible.


Preservation of pa as the question particle is likely. Poswa reflects it as /pu/, which is regular, but from Play /pū/ rather than /pa/. (The artificial /ču aa/ etymology is to protect /p/ from gradation in later stages of Poswa.) Play would not have used this, and therefore the Play question particle should be /pa/. Then Play could use pipa (/pi/ + /pa/) as its word for "or; but alternatively". This is a compound of the two words above and implies that /pi/ was probably not used alone but carried a meaning similar to "but".

The Spanish-like structure pa .... , pa ..... for "either, or" is likely to be valid in Play, however, and particles may in general be more protected from compounding when occurring in absolute initial position since they would not be mistaken for final unstressed syllables. It might be pa ... pipa instead, or both forms could be valid.


This word means "but". It likely disappears in Poswa, and it may be that even in Play, it only occurred as the first element of a compound. Since Play already has pupi "polar opposite", it may be that this was the second element of that, and that further compounding was possible. This word is listed in the dictionary as representing pup ži, however.

Other particles

It's not clear if Play would have atomic negative particles corresponding to "not", "neither", "nor", etc or if they are all just compounds of other particles with a prefixed (or perhaps suffixed) element carrying the negative meaning. Pu could be the catch-all negative morpheme here, but note that pi already means "avoid".

Better numerals (NUMERICS)

06:21, 6 February 2022 (PST)

Play society inherited long words for numerals just as the societies around them did. The Andanese had long numerals too; the tradition of monosyllables comes from using their syllabary, whose first ten members were a la i ha ka u ma ga na li and thus represented the digits 0 to 9. Play simply borrowed these rather than using the first ten members of their own syllabary, because the digits in the script were also borrowed. The Play speakers (at the time, usually known as the Pubu people) did not achieve Andanese-like numeracy even when they developed a strong school system, because they typically did not work in trades requiring strong math skills. Only after they absorbed the Andanese and took over commercial trades did they begin to use mathematics in daily life. Therefore the numeral system contained only a few basic roots, with even some low numbers being visibly derived from compounds of other numbers, or of transparent word roots.

Other important ideas

Play also had a different word for ten that was used in certain contexts and could have provided the basis for inflected forms like "tenth", "set of ten", and so on.

The correlation between pās "four" and fuppās "eight" is partly a coincidence, as the extra morpheme in the latter was originally an infix, not a prefix. There is no standalone numeral fup.

In the original scheme, the words for numbers were always expressed in the essive case, meaning that they did not become the heads of their noun phrases.

Ordinals, both the fractional type and the "place in line" type, were expressed using the locative case. The analogy here is that a half of something is the second part of it, and a third of something is its third part, and so on.

Thus the bare roots did not appear in daily usage. This cannot be preserved in the current setup, although something superficially similar will be in Play because most of the inherited numeral words end in -s, which although not historically a genitive, could be analyzed as one. Both Play and Leaper will have opportunities to lose this final /-s/, separately in each language, leading to the final forms being more divergent than one might expect.

In the Gold language, numerals were also long, since this is the ancestor of Play and Play mostly kept the syllable counts of inherited Gold words intact. In Leaper they became shorter, largely through analogy but also through ordinary sound change. The Gold numerals have a distinct Indo-European look about them since they mostly end in /-s/.


Play Late
Gold Leaper proto-Dreamlandic
1 (pi-)huanči
2 nūs nuka nūs LEAPER anupia
3 pama hama gʷàma LEAPER amia
4 pās hika gʷās LEAPER ipia
5 putas hia gʷutas LEAPER alupia
6 putamas alukimaka gʷutamas LEAPER arumia
7 batanās apunuka gʷatanās LEAPER kuana
8 fuppās kulika hʷukpas LEAPER ihu
9 butapās kukuluka gʷutapās LEAPER kuhuapa
10 mabumās mukuka magʷumās LEAPER muahu

The Gold words above are those chosen to best match the Play descendants, and were not the only forms in use. For example, the initial /gʷ/ in some words could revert to its original /h/, matching Andanese, in some constructions, and this was part of an alternation still alive at the time. Essentially it distinguishes whether the words were seen as extended plural markers or as nouns in their own right. Thus Play appears more conservative than it is.

The Leaper words will be almost identical to those in Gold, but as above, may descend from different forms because they were variable at the time.

Dreamlandic diverged earlier than the others, but because the numbers are old, it can be considered to have branched off at the exact same time. The only way in which it appears as an outlier is that the numbers are treated differently in the grammar. For example, only the numbers 4 and 5 attained the -pia postclitic that evolved to -s in Play and to -ka in Andanese (in the number for 2 it was part of the root even primordially). They may also be the heads of their noun phrase, whereas in Gold they were not and in Andanese the distinction wasn't meaningful. All numbers from 2 on upward are prefixed with u- ~ w-, which is why the bare vowels did not fall off. This changes for classifiers. The numeral for 1 also takes classifiers.

Possible extensions

These are mostly etymologically unsound, though some are based on cognates.

  • buta(s)- "plus five", by analogy between the numerals for 9 and 4. This is helped by the similarity to the numeral for five and by Players' familiarity with opaque alternations of initial consonants between related words. But Play does not use prefixes of any form, so the speakers would need to also assume that numeral words belong to a special class. Note that the insertion of /s/ here is because /sp/ > /p/ in all Play words.
  • fup- "double", by analogy between the numerals for 8 and 4. See above about the lack of prefixes in Play, and note that a dual suffix -bup already exists. It would thus have to be that again numerals are a special class that go even after suffixes and yet can stand alone. See also below for a reason why fup may fit well up front after all.
  • -ma(s) "plus one", the only etymologically sound derivation, though one that would be more likely if there were at least some lingering use of /pa/ to mean a pair of something. Moreover, since /sm/ > /s/ in all Play words, it would have to be that the final /s/ in /putas/ was already being analogized as a genitive even though other /s/'s were not.
  • Pabappa uses the word tam to mean "cardinal numbers", but it was probably a noun, and not a morpheme that actually appeared on the number words. This word was added at a time when the words for the numbers were much shorter.

Other assorted number words

Core Play words associated with numbers

  • -(t)eu "to agree"; used to form expressions like "both", "all three", and so on. It is possible that this is actually a prefix. Note that this might be redundant with the "all" below, but also that the form below is construed as an ordinal. If /teu/ is a prefix, the redundancy might be tolerated. This word originates from a merger of the MRCA words tìlu "agree" and dìlu "chance, probability" and therefore absorbs meanings of both.
  • -šafu- forms fractions; attaches to locative, which can by itself also signify fractions. Play uses the same word for "fifth (part)" and "fifth (in line)", but can disambiguate when needed. /šafu/ is really šaus and may appear as such if it is not itself padded with a second locative suffix.
  • tap "to clap the hands"; used for multiplication by ten. Possible replacement for inherited mabu ~ mapup, which is transparently derived from the numeral for ten.
  • fa~ma, another word for ten. This is simply a doublet of /mabu/, deriving from a variant form of the word 4,000 years earlier in which the analogical medial /g/ ("to keep the rhythm") was not retained. That is, mʷŏgu ---> /mabu/ and mʷŏu ---> /fa/.
  • This is the same /fa/ that means "cloud", "to hide", etc. and thus also appears in the words for zero and for "each, every".
  • It is possible that fap- means "times ten" and fup- means "double; times two"; see below. Play uses the reverse order of IE for coining these words.
  • -bup, the dual ending. Appears irregular but is actually regular (c.f. /bip ~ pip/ "sun" for a similar alternation). The MRCA morpheme was /ə̀ku/.
  • -bu, the "separate" plural ending. Originally a doublet of -bup (hence the comment above about it appearing irregular), but evolves to an independent morpheme by the time of Play. The oblique stem of both is pu-. The meaning of "separate" plural may have evolved from a construction like -bem-bu. A second source of /bu/ exists, from MRCA /àhu/.
  • -bem, the "working together" plural ending. May be also a collective. The oblique stem is mi- and survives as such into Poswa and likely Pabappa.
  • -nem, meaning one, and may behave differently than other numerals.
  • nasu ~ nafa, meaning "all, whole, entire". At least in its /nasu/ form, it changes meaning to "expand, make larger" in Poswa. May have a variant form /namu/. Note that Poswa gets its word for "each, every" from /fau vis/, where the /fau/ is yet another variant of /mabu/ (and probably should be replaced in the lexicon by either /mabu/ or /fa/). See below, as it is possible that the /fa/ may be separable.
  • ta, used in the words for zero (pume fata) and "each, every" (nafata). At least in the case of /nafata/, it is construed as an ordinal ("the all'th place; all of them") rather than a cardinal.
  • pume, a Play-specific word for zero, but cannot be used alone. Cognate to pupi "polar opposite" and therefore likely found only inside Play.
  • na, the palm of the hand. Used to plump up the word /fata/ to mean "each, every". Thus /nafata/ is a very succinct way of saying "that which is hidden in the palm of the hand, (now) shown". It can only be formed inside Gold because of the monosyllabic word for palm. It is possible that this is perceived as standing in for a numeral, and that when speakers say "all seven" and so on, the /na/ is dropped so that the ordinary number word can stand in. See also the /teu/ prefix above.
  • patu, meaning "only; just; no more than". Possibly used outside the number system (e.g. "just a boat"), though it is likely that this will need some sort of additional morpheme and that that will not be a number. The /p/ in this word is strong and will never be elided.
  • , meaning many of one object. Used with whole numbers of countable nouns.
  • pūapu, meaning "rich in ___". It is little different from above but carries greater emphasis and reaches a wider semantic scope of nouns.
  • mašas, meaning of an equal number with some referent. This looks like it has a numeric etymology, and did so even in Gold (mahigas), but it is actually a compound of two roots that had no relation to the numeric system originally.

Words often used with numbers

  • pa could be retained from the MRCA, which had it as /ka/, and which meant "on ___ sides". But it's not clear if the word was able to combine with any arbitrary number. This is probably a verb. It may need to be padded with a word such as pi or na "palm" for clarity. Also, there should be a word with opposite sense that means "between, among", unless it is simply the passive form of the above (which would mean its only distinction would be a doubled vowel).
  • There was already nà-n- "on both sides of" in the MRCA.
  • pi, thumb. Comes from MRCA , which was a rare sequence, and explains the unusual survival of such a short morpheme. In Play, it nonetheless occurs only as a bound morpheme, often not recognized for what it once was, such as perhaps in the word above where the semantically vacuous "thumb side" stands in for "side".
  • beu, very similar in meaning to teu above, used in contexts where /teu/ would seem too numeric. For example, baupapi means "cohort; rank; grade in school".

Comparison to other languages

The very old Play morpheme /fa/ appears in proto-Dreamlandic as mua. The expected variant reflex /mpua/ does not appear at least in the numerals up to 10, but may appear elsewhere as the morpheme was flexible even in the MRCA.

  • duʕ is the Gold word for zero. It means "in the /dù/" where dù is a word for something sacrificed or cut off, and also functions as a negative in some other constructions. Gold innovated this word, but Play discarded it, so it appears in neither the parent nor the child languages of Gold.

Morpheme order in higher numbers

In Play, the word for "times ten" would almost certainly be placed in initial position, unlike IE. Rather than having two roots for ten, Play had a root word meaning ten and a root word meaning "a group of ten", rather as English has "twelve" and "dozen". Put another way, Players would see 60 as six tens, not ten sixes, and thus the word for 60 would not be analyzable as "six [times ten]" as in English. Rather, it would be something like fa(p) or tap followed by the ordinary word for six. It may or may not have a mandatory classifier suffix. ša(p) is also possible, but less likely.

Reconstructed Play etymologies in daughter languages

Consonant clusters

The allowable consonant clusters in Play were

mb mf mm mn mp ms mš mt
pp ps pš pt
ss šš

The parent language, Gold, had allowed a few other clusters, but these were all worn down to single consonants or even to hiatus by the time of classical Play. These sound changes did not cross word boundaries, even though Play had mobile stress for most of its evolution, and word boundaries therefore provided the same environments that were found medially.

Within words, these sound changes became grammaticalized and therefore new coinages did not recreate the lost consonant clusters in standard speech. Even nonstandard coinages or those intended for a single use were adapted to these rules if they became established in the language. Thus tīpfusa "solid (object)" soon became tīpusa.

NOTE: šš might actually not be valid.

Appearance of /st/ and other clusters

Nonetheless, nonstandard sequences appeared in everyday speech, and were common enough to have sound changes of their own in post-classical Play; for example, in the branch leading to Poswa and Pabappa, the clusters mk pk mŋ changed to mpt pt mn, which was possible only because by this time the inherited /mt pt mn/ had changed to /nt tt nn/. Since /mk pk mŋ/ were not valid clusters in standard classical Play, this sound change was rare, but nonetheless it occurred often enough to be regularized.

These sound change rules also became grammaticalized, and further sound changes in the later language produced the impression that Play had featured such clusters all along. This is because many words in Poswa and Pabappa come from compounds of two inherited Play words, even if they were not used as a phrase in classical Play. For example, /st/ appears frequently in Poswa and Pabappa, despite being forbidden in Play.

This is because both Poswa and Pabappa independently underwent vowel syncope, creating the opportunity for new compound words to be coined from Play phrases containing the cluster /st/ across a word boundary, which previously would have been automatically reduced to /t/.

Once vowel elision had taken place in Poswa and Pabappa, both languages went through a brief stage where all clusters of two consonants were permitted, and the old inherited rules of Play consonant cluster reduction finally perished. Then, new rules appeared as Poswa and Pabappa each went their own way in simplifying the new clusters.

Reconstructed Gold etymologies in Play

Likewise, many Play words with long vowel sequences were coined early in the evolution of the language, when the consonants had not yet been dropped. Others, however, were later coinages, once the tolerance of long vowel sequences had become established. One example of this is the word for flower, tuiya, whose Gold etymology is dŭdidida. This word did not exist in Gold, as the speakers typically did not have words with so many of the same consonant and no others, and because they did not use two-syllable classifier suffixes. In Play, all but the first consonant dropped out, and a new classifier suffix was created when it became monosyllabic.


See Pabappa/scratchpad#Scratchpad_ordered_by_date.

Possession on nouns

The means by which Poswa and Pabappa mark possession on nouns evolves from the Play oblique case, which likely no longer stood alone with any meaning even in Play. It is possible, even so, that the 1st and 2nd person possessed forms could simply be derived from the oblique followed by -p and -s respectively, if assuming that these would not be confused with case-marked free forms.

Alternatively, the OBLIQUE + -a- + verbal person marker construction (whether with /-p -s -Ø/ or with longer forms) existed even in Play. But note that this construction exists in Poswa and Pabappa primarily because it participated in a sound change which made it much shorter; it would have been rather inconvenient in Play as it could have made words two or even three syllables longer just to mark possession (e.g. /tap/ > /takaakas/).[10]

It is possible, also, that instead of /-i/ > /-ip/, it would be /-iši/, which respects the true etymology, which means that it would collide with the reflexive past.


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.)

An infix of -ay- or -[V]y- to mark passive voice is possible, assuming that all passive sentences would have third person subjects and that person would therefore no longer need to be marked. (Though hypotheticals like -k[V]y- would be understood by the speakers as ad-hoc formations.) This -y- survives into Poswa, meaning it must have been inherited from Play, and could have been the present tense counterpart of the V-š-V morpheme above, assuming there were no person markers.

In fact, an early infix of -əy- is required to have existed for Lava Bed languages to do what they do. It was originally just a simple /i/, but schwa was added at an early date. The development to -ay- in Play is because of the /ə > e > a/ chain.

Pusiba system

It is likely that the person markers -p -s -Ø belong to one conjugation, and -pu -si -ba to an extension of that conjugation, where they have been padded with evidentials. This system may not have been fully solidified at the time of the unified Play language, meaning that there could still have been -pa, -su, etc, but the context-dependent grammaticalized sound change of *pb *sb > p s had taken place long before this time and was therefore inherited rather than innovated separately in the daughters. (Poswa discards the interior person markers entirely, and adopts /-bu -bi -ba/ for its person markers, meaning that the evidentials must have persisted as independent morphemes, capable of being added to 3rd person verbs, until at least 5500 AD.)

The V-š-V morpheme above could easily be reinterpreted as simply reflecting the genitive, turning the genitive ending -s into a past passive participle marker. This would lead to endings -su -si -š-V for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person past passive participles, although these would be best suited for daughter languages where /-si/ was not also the ordinary 2nd person present tense ending. Thus, this development might happen in side branches of Pabappa but is less likely to happen in the branches that begin diverging before the split of Poswa from Pabappa.

Otherwise, past tense could be infixed into the evidentials, making the forms for the past -pe -sei -bī. This corresponds to the /-be -bei -bī/ that gave rise to the system used in Poswa.

Other information


See Babakiam/Sound_changes for a convenience link to edit the diachronics.


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.
  3. Feeding on the above change, in compounds, if the final consonant was one of /kʷ ḳʷ/ and the first consonant of the next morpheme was one of the velars k ḳ h ŋ, it also became labiovelar. Thus for example /kk/ > /kʷkʷ/ or /kʷ:/. It did not happen for other consonants. Prenasals did not shift; later, the cluster /ŋʷk/ becomes /mk/, which is pronounced as spelled but later becomes [ŋk], [mpt], etc depending on dialect.
  4. In initial position, the labialized coronals tʷ dʷ nʷ shifted to t d n. Elsewhere, even in clusters, they decoupled to the sequences tu du nu.
  5. The bilabial approximant w changed to v (in internal reconstructions, also spelled "β") before a vowel.
  6. Then l lʷ both became w (not */v/) in all positions although it retained a rhotic allophone. The distinction between this new /w/ sound and the one that had just changed to /v/ is important later on, as it keeps sequences like /ʕl/ from being corrupted to /ʕʷ~gʷ/ and then on to /v/, /b/, and /p/. Rather, /l/ stays as /w/.
    Notably, the sequence sl (which was pronounced as IPA [hl] or for some speakers [ɬ]) shifted here to sw, and did not become */hʷ/ or */f/. That is, it behaved as the sequence that it was morphologically, instead of sliding with the phonetics into a new single consonant.
    NOTE ON POLITICS: Proto-Highland Poswa breaks off here.
  7. The labiovelar consonants kʷ ḳʷ hʷ gʷ became p ṗ f v unconditionally. This includes sequences like /kʷl/, despite the precedent set by /sl/ above, because in this case, /kʷl/ was already [kʷ] at the surface level in the proto-language.
  8. 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.
  9. Stressed syllabic nasals were opened to sequences containing a schwa.
  10. 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/.
  11. The voiced fricatives d dh g became silent between vowels and occasionally in initial position (due to compounding).
    When I wrote this, there was no /ž/ in the language at this stage, and so it is possible that ž also shifts to Ø.
    NOTE ON POLITICS: This time period is around 3100 AD, near the beginning of the "Time 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 /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. Unlike other languages, Play considered the long vowels to be high tones here.
    This is how Play does /g/ > /k/ even though /g/ was a fricative. Note however that in hypothetical words like /vuau/, where a /d/ dropped out, the initial /v/ was part of a separate syllable, not stressed, and so did not shift to /b/.
  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. This includes the /čʲ/ sequence, which had long ago become [šʲ] but was maintained in spelling because of its importantly distinct grammatical behavior.
    Importantly, this shift included conditions in hiatus ("holes" in Play terminology), so that čiva became čua.
  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.
    This same shift happened twice but many words missed by the first change were captured by this change. 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/.) This shift did not apply to words such as bivu, from earlier /buivu/, because the /i/ in this word was not [ʲ] but still a true /i/.
  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 Leaper and Proto-Moonshine, which are separated from Babakiam by about 2700 years of divergence.

Play is notable for allowing unrestricted vowel sequences, dominated by /a/. All vowels can stack, but /i u/ contract into /j w/ (spelled y v) when bordering other vowels, and the schwa vowel e is rare, so the effect is most noticeable with /a/.

Because of grammatical embedding, it is trivial to create words with five vowels in a row: two for the root, two for a grammatical infix, and one more for an inflection (always the same as the preceding vowel). Additionally, a classifier suffix might also begin with a vowel, and sometimes the root word would have more than two vowels in a row, at least in its oblique form. An example with seven vowels in a row is taaeaaaa "the boy he borrowed".

Three-vowel chains were common in everyday speech, and four were occasionally heard, but substitutions were typically used when five or more vowels would appear in a row. For example, in the word above, the infix -aa-, here "borrow", is more commonly expressed by the synonymous -muna- when the root word already ends in /a/ or /e/. The result would be taaemunaaa, with two three-vowel sequences.


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

Allophony and sandhi

The Play language has relatively little allophony despite its small phonology. This puts Play in stark contrast to Late Andanese despite the two languages sharing the same territory for thousands of years and having many bilingual speakers.

One reason for this is the slow speech tempo resulting from the abundant usage of labial consonants and [a]; the time required to move the lips from open to closed again in syllables like /pap/ prolongs the pronunciation time, and the vowels [i] and [u] are also prolonged to match it. Another reason is that Play's many vowel sequences require clear pronunciations of its four vowels to be audibly distinct, and so the vowels do not move much from their cardinal positions.

Allophones of vowels

The vowel most prone to allophony is the schwa, which is canonically [ə] but raises towards [ɨ] when preceding or following an /a/. This is not confused with /i/ because /i/ is always a glide (IPA [j]) in this position. Also, in the sequences /əi əu/, the schwa moves slightly towards the position of the closing vowel, and therefore Play uses these sequences to spell ē ō in loanwords, and sometimes also e o.

The high vowels /i u/ slide down somewhat in closed syllables, but not so far as to become mid vowels.

The low vowel /a/ has no significant allophony at all.

Allophones of consonants

As above, Play's phonemes are resistant to allophony in large part because of the slow speech tempo of the language, and because the slow speech tempo allows a crowded word space, such that changing one phoneme in a word quite often produces another valid word rather than landing on a lexical gap. This includes the consonants. Therefore the stops /p t k/ are always voiceless, and are lightly aspirated at the onset of a syllable, with stronger aspiration when word-initial. The voiced /b/ is likewise always a stop, even though it patterns with the approximant /ž/.

The voiceless fricative f can be either bilabial or labiodental, with bilabial pronunciations more common near the capital district and labiodental pronunciations scattered throughout the Play speech area. A few speakers have a bilabial [ɸ] before /u/ and [f] elsewhere, but this is rare; typically the phoneme has one pronunciation or the other, with no allophony.

The other Play consonants do not have any significant allophones.

Cluster assimilation

Only /p m s/ can close a syllable, and the only clusters beginning with /s/ are /ss sš/; therefore it is fair to /s/ assimilates to a following consonant since there is only one possible change. Most Play speakers pronounce the clusters mn mt pt as [nn nt tt], but because there is no possible conflict, the conservative pronunciations [mn mt pt], essentially pronounced as spelled, are sometimes heard, particularly in outlying areas, and are not considered incorrect. There are no other consonant assimilations in clusters; ms mš are always pronounced with labials even in the most innovative speech areas.

NOTE: It is possible that even /sš/ is spurious and that /ss/ is the only cluster involving an /s/ in the coda.

Sound changes

Play is extremely conservative with sound changes applying to vowels, having only one change in 2200 years, 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 Play. (This schwa vowel is normally transcribed e in Romanized Play, so the old name would have been Romanized Nema.)


See Poswa, Pabappa, Cosmopolitan Play languages, Cupbearer Coast, and possibly more.

History and culture

See Play language/history.



  1. Fix this later. Its possible the superlative morpheme is most likely not even necessary since the verb is transitive, but on the other hand, if it is removed, the verb would seem to mean "I make you smart".
  2. The Poswa and Pabappa reflexes likely will point to /žayiyais/, as the vowel sequence became disallowed shortly after classical Play.
  3. Although I took this name directly from Secret of Mana, I consider it a valid creation of my own as well, for various reasons: the game nowhere states that the flowers are poppies; "sleep flower" is actually the name of a magic spell, not the flower; and the name "sleep flower" follows the pattern by which other flowers are named in languages such as Play. Lastly a good number of Earth languages, at least in Europe, use derivatives of the word for sleep as the name for the flower.
  4. The resemblance of /šam/ here to a similar (perhaps even identical) word in a very early draft of Play is a coincidence, as it really does come from the word that means circle, but which in earlier times had a broader meaning.
  5. I will try to find a better word for this ... a language spoken by a "national minority", defined as a minority that lives only within one nation
  6. This is tentative; it is etymologically a compound comparable to English "shrink in fear" and that is why it cannot be transitive.
  7. Earlier this had -āmme for the first one, which would be irregular. If this is correct, I must have decided to adopt a conditional sound change and make it unconditional, but this would normally not happen in a word containing a schwa. It is possible that this is ŋa + ŋe, originally two words.
  8. tentative
  9. (apparently not the same as conditional or subjunctive)
  10. earlier wrote /takaapu/