Play language

From FrathWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

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


The four gluons

08:18, 23 January 2022

Gold was able to indicate the person of both the agent and patient with just one morpheme, and that one morpheme took only four values: -k -Ø -s -ʕ for 1:1 1:2 2:2 2:1.

Play then changed /ʕ/ to /m/ by analogy since it had also changed a noun case ending in -ʕ to -m. Thus, these markers have nothing to do with the "odrty feet" markers that came from swallowed noun classifier prefixes, although by happenstance there is an /s/ in 2nd person in both and the /ʕ/ that gets replaced by /m/ is a passive just like /m/.

This setup still leaves -l -n -ḳ free to mark other things on verbs in Gold, so it could be that while Gold could indeed get by with just four person markers (including null), they used more even so.

The 1:1 1:2 2:2 2:1 probably correspond to 3:1 1:3 3:2 2:3 since the ohlny difference is the presence of an additional argument in the sentence. Then, there would be 3:4 and 4:3 for /Ø ʕ/ and reflexive and distributive for /k s/.

Evolution into Play

Even in Gold, the /ʕ/ phoneme had already mostly merged with silence. It may have hung on as a verbal marker indirectly by affecting tone. But Play lost its tones too, and therefore it was no longer possible to distinguish /ʕ/ from silence. Thus, Play retained the Gold verbal markers but they wre no longe sufficient to stand on the ir own. This is why Play ended up sticking evidential morphemes on, which were unrelated to the Gold verbal markjers. They were all third person verbs, maninfg that their marker was silence all along. Thus, there was no need to "inflect the inflections" in Play.

This means Play loses the irregular tense markers as well. Also, it means that Play starts out by using the reflexive verb markers for 1st and 2nd person, but the transitive verb marker for 3rd person. It may be that Play has a confusing system in which old, new, and ephemeral features are all mixed together. Try to avoid using evidentials as object person markers, however, since they need to evolve into subject person markers in Poswa and Pabappa.

Possibility of verbal embedding

If these verbs, which are both tenseless and seen as personless, are embedded within noun phrases, monstrously complex inflection paradigms could appear, mostly ending with /s/ plus a vowel. Essentially, rather than behaving as content morphemes, these incorporated verbs behave as inflections. Though very difficult, the system is maintained because Play's small syllable inventory ensures that there can only be so many different inflectional paradigms to memorize. Thus simplicity preserves complexity.

For example, from fausa "door", one could derive faufuufupusa "the door you opened for me", all without any markers for person, number, or tense. If such words were commonplace, it would help explain why Play was so notoriously difficult to learn. The internal meanings of these morphemes might take a few steps in their own direction, for example /s/ could be a reciprocal/distributive instead of being tied to just the 2:2.

Moreover, this would mean that Play has a feature which Poswa does not, and therefore that the evolution of Play into Poswa was not simply a linear progression in which more and more features were gained while none were lost.

Further examples:

  1. pupumuba "toy blocks" + pata "play" =
    pupumuatasa "the toy blocks that I play with". The elision of /p/ is optional here because etymologically it was dropped when it came from /p/ but retained when it came from /kʷ/.
    pupumuataasa "the toy blocks that you play with"
    pupumuatašasa "the toy blocks we're playing with together"
    pupumuatakasa "the toy blocks we're playing with individually"

And so on. Note however that there is no way to distinguish "we" from "I" in the fourth example, because it is a true reflexive, whereas in the third example, it is a reciprocal and therefore must be plural.

Private verbs

Some constructions can be made with private verbs, which are monosyllables inherited from the ancient Tapilula language, mostly obsolete already in Gold. Play preserves the system, but sound change has worn down most of the consonants so that the private verbs today are mostly just single vowels. This means that their meanings are extremely broad and must be understood from context. For example, a has over a dozen meanings, including the bare possessive "to have" (although it is possible that Play had a zero-marked possessive construction, as if there were a silent private verb, that was replaced in Poswa and Pabappa by /a/).

Nonetheless, just as English has verbs such as "get", "do", "run", and so on, so too does Play have formations such as these:

  1. sapūaapa "the fish you bought for me", showing that they do not always end in /s/ + vowel.
  2. namaŋašasa "the chair you're sitting on".

The private verb va typically means "buy" when used with the handheld object classifier -ba, even though this /b/ is always swallowed by the infix /s/, and therefore not transparent. Even here, though, it can also mean "throw" or "clean".

The only consonants permitted in the private verbs are /m n ŋ p/ and the semivowels /v y/, which Play teachers consider to be allophones of the vowels. The /p/ comes only from /gʷ/ and not from primordial /p/, though some conflation of meaning has taken place since there are freestanding words /pa pi pu/ that can serve as verb stems.

Possible null construction

05:23, 25 January 2022 (PST)

There may be a null construction as well, for example, from fabu "to share one's war strategy" there can come fapupuse "the war strategy you shared with me". Note that it uses /pu/ instead of */u/; the "cards" here are /a i pu/, not /a i u/. The final -e represents the classifier suffix /-be/ "speech, song".

It could be said that the null construction above does not have a null verb, but rather a null stem. That is, the construction is Ø + PRIVATE VERB rather than NOUN + Ø.


  1. vumaaba "the handheld object you took from me" (/vuma/ "to take away" with /-aa-/ replacing /a/, thus as if representing a single "card" infix /-a-/).
  2. tamavumaaba "the leash you took from me", as above, assuming that the null construction can be analyzed as Ø + PRIVATE VERB and therefore take an additional morpheme to fill in the gap.

Comparison with Leaper and Gold

Play inherited the gluon system from Gold. In Gold, there was an alternation of classifier suffixes with -ga/-gi/-gu for the free forms, -ka/-ki/-ku for the 1st person forms, and -ha/-hi/-hu for the 2nd person forms. In Leaper and Moonshine, because of the accent, the /h/'s would all shift to /k/ as well, breaking the system. Note that most of the classifiers with /g/ correspond to those with /p/ in Play. NOTE, these are probably not person forms at all, but rather internal case markers as is Play -s-. They would be person forms if Leaper omits the Play -s-, however.

Because Leaper did not delete intervocalic /g/, the direct cognates of the Play gluon forms would be exceptionally long, and unlike the characteristic Leaper language. On the other hand, some are not.

For example, the Leaper cognate of Play sapupa "fish" is săhoga, so the Leaper cognate of Play sapūaapa would be something like saholâka with /sg/ > /k/ because of the accent rule. Thus the word only gains one syllable to go from "fish" to "fish you bought me". Thus, Leaper beats Play by one syllable (remember that /aa/ in Play is two syllables, not a long vowel). But an intransitive form like saholakăka adds two syllables instead of one, whereas the Play cognate, sapūakapa, is the same length.

Since Leaper is typically much more efficient than Play, the existence of a "tie" would somewhat embarrass the Leapers, and it is unlikely a structure such as this could have survived in the language for thousands of years. However, there must be some answer to the Play setup, since it is needed for everyday speech in Moonshine and for polite speech in Leaper.

Possible olsution

One possible solution for Leaper is to reduce the first vowel in every pair of identical vowels, as Leaper had done this elsewhere in its word stock. For example, the sequence -akă- above contains only one meaningful vowel, and the other is an echo vowel. This "wasted vowel" paradigm was common in Play, and even survived into Poswa and Pabappa, but was discarded by Leaper early on in most (but not all) cases. The reason it could not be discarded entirely is because doing so would create illegal consonant clusters.

Leaper would be replacing the first vowel in each VCV pair with /ə/, which in this case was etymologically true. Play analogized it, though this had likely happened at the Gold stage and was then undone in Leaper rather than Leaper being conservative. Thus Play "wins" again. And because the schwa collapses into labialization, Leaper gets consonant clusters, which in almost all cases reduce into single consonants, meaning that the various private verbs fall together, creating a complex system, delivering yet another win to Play.

Another problem with the Leaper solution is that it leads to a backwards internal morpheme order. For example, saholakăka above would become sahokʷăka (lak > lək > lʷk > lʷkʷ > kʷ). The surface structure of this is /kʷ/ "1st person intransitive" + /a/ "private verb" + /k/ "dummy morpheme". It is possible that the Leaper morphemes are separable, and end up being primarily used as a freestanding suffix, but there must be a stage in which the infix form was dominant if the alternations like /g/ > /k/ are to remain. Furthermore the infix has the advantage of meaning that the case marker is still the outermost morpheme, whereas if the gluons are external, they come after the case marker and do not have case markers of their own.

At any rate, Leaper at least at one stage has an infix -ʕʷâk- "that which you show to me", corresponding to Play -paas-, which may outlast the system even if the gluons end up becoming otherwise freestanding words. This is used as a politeness morpheme. It may have an alternate form -gâk- used after labials, and perhaps likewise also with /gʷ/ and with plain /ʕ/, which would behave as /Ø/ after /i/.

Notes on etymologies

Remember that while /st/ appears frequently in the etymologies of words given in Play, this cluster did not occur in Play itself. Rather, it appeared in Poswa and Pabappa after those languages independently underwent vowel syncope, creating the opportunity for new compound words to be coined from Play words containing the cluster /st/, which previously would have been automatically reduced to /t/. This also applies to various other clusters, such as /pf sf sp ss/ and perhaps any cluster with a fricative in either position. note that /pp pt/ are etymologically sound, but that /pk/ might not be, which would mean that /pk/ would only appeal in late coinages and therefore can be replaced by /pp/ arbitrarily. (The intent here is that /pk/ would only ever arise from the sequence /kʷk/, which would have become /kʷ:/ and thus /pp/.)


See Pabappa/scratchpad#Scratchpad_ordered_by_date.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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/).[1]

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.

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.



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

Gold (1900) to Play (4100)

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

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

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


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


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

Play is notable for allowing unrestricted vowel sequences, particularly of /a/, for example bāaaau "(park) bench", which is syllabified as bā-a-a-au (four syllables), and paaapa "dark-haired". Words with three or more vowels in a row are usually transparent compounds (as in the case of bāaaau) or loanwords (as in the case of paaapa). Compounds are especially prone to triple vowels because they often preserve older sound changes in which a medial voiced consonant has dropped out. Play also distinguishes between long vowels and a sequence of two short vowels, and minimal pairs of this type are very common. Vowel sequences often result from the deletion of voiced fricatives between vowels (/ž/ is the only voiced fricative remaining in the language), whereas long vowels generally were long in the parent language and result from a series of much earlier sound shifts. Other words, such as taīū "maple leaf", exhibit both types of changes.

The vowels /i/ and /u/ become /j/ (spelled "y") and /w/ (spelled "v") before other vowels and in some positions also after vowels. Thus a word like patiyiyibis "bladder" is phonemically /patiiiiibis/, with five /i/'s in a row. When the vowel sequence /əa/ or /əā/ (spelled ea and respectively in Romanization) occurs within a word, it does not form a diphthong; the two vowels are pronounced as separate syllables. The /ə/ in this case is pronounced a bit higher than normal, approaching IPA [ɨ]. It was not confused with /i/, even in rapid speech, because /i/ in this position was always pronounced as a non-syllabic palatal glide [j].


The consonant inventory is very simple: /p b m f t n s š ž k ŋ/, but note that /w j/ are considered allophones of the vowels. It is unusual in that it lacks liquid phonemes entirely when all the languages around it have /l/ and most also have an /r/-like sound. Thus Babakiam sounds like stereotypical toddlers' speech. 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.


Consonant-based gender system

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

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

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

Feminine genders

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

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

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

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

Expressing masculine gender

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

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

Other genders

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

Metaphor and non-literal usage

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

Summary of the gender system

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

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

Sticky sibilants

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

The voiceless postalveolar fricative /š/

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

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

Paupim pampa.
Forest rabbit.

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

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

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

Ūa imu.
Thumb texture.

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

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

Iši aŋaa.
Cave rabbit.

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

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

Vape aŋaa.
Carrot rabbit.

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

Beunus bapu.
National flower.

Other sticky consonants

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

Phonotactics and sandhi

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

Sound changes

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

Comparison of words

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


person marking

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

Noun cases

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


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

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

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

Differences between the chiral forms of noun cases

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

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

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

Expressing the agentive

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

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


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


see history for older informaiton


Andanese /la li lu ha hi hu/ = Play /ba bi bu ža ži žu fa fi fu ša ši šu/. The matching of the syllables may take advantage of Play's late sound shift of /bʷ žʷ bʲ žʲ/ > /b b ž ž/, such that Andanese syllables could be matched to Play consonants. For example perhaps /li lu/ could spell /ž b/, though this leaves open the question of how to read a plain /l/. Remember that Play did still have /žī bū/ etc.

since nearly all /ž/ in Play is from CVC collapse, it is overwhelmingly likely that the L glyph will "lean" to /b/.


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


  1. earlier wrote /takaapu/