Tallfellow (Mambéhoblind) is a diachronic, a priori artlang by Enrique Gamez. The language is intended to sound and feel familiar to speakers of American English, while still being significantly different from English in terms of grammar and vocabulary. It is spoken by tallfellow halflings inhabiting the Patchwork (Elmbúmbi) and surrounding areas in the conworld of Dombellus, a homebrew Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting. So far, only the Babandelglib dialect as spoken in the Age of Twilight is documented.
The following is a brief overview of some of Tallfellow's major features. For more details, you can teach yourself some Tallfellow on the Tallfellow Lessons page (still under construction). See Hobind Cultural Overview for information on the speakers of Tallfellow.
Tallfellow uses no sounds not found in English, except for prenasalized consonants /ᵐb/, /ⁿd/, /ᵑg/. However, while historically these could occur at the beginning of a word (and still can in related languages such as Overhill and Rootbarrel), this is no longer allowed in Tallfellow, so from the point of view of a speaker there is little difference between these and sequences /mb/, /nd/, /ŋg/. Tallfellow does not use a voiced-unvoiced contrast as English does, instead employing a three-way contrast between voiced, prenasalized, and voiceless aspirate stops.
Tallfellow's phonemes are listed below. (Parentheses indicate the typical romanization.)
|Nasal||m (m)||n (n)|
|Plosive||b (b) ᵐb (mb) pʰ (p)||d (d) ⁿd (nd) tʰ (t)||g (g) ᵑg (ng)|
|Fricative||f (f)||s (s)||h (h)|
|Approximant||ɫ (l)||ɻ (r)||w (w)|
|Close||i ~ ɪ (i)|
|Close-mid||oʊ ~ əʊ (o)|
|Open-mid||ɛ (e)||ʌ (u)|
The phonotactics of Tallfellow are still being studied. In general, however, consonant clusters are restricted to those that include at most one stop or fricative (or occasionally two fricatives, when not beginning or ending a word). The remainder of the cluster is required to be liquids, nasals, and/or semivowels, generally no more than one (on the inner side) at the beginning or end of a word, or two (one on either side) in the middle of one. Also, a cluster cannot contain both a voiceless fricative (which includes all of Tallfellow's fricatives) and a stop. These restrictions are not always obeyed in loanwords or in the names of foreign places, e.g. lirásgond /ɫiɻ'ɑsgoʊⁿd/ "please", from Darkfoot /li'jaʃkud/.
It should be reiterated that prenasalized consonants count as a single consonant for this purpose, so that constructions such as bólngem /boʊɫᵑgɫɛm/ "of/by means of the book" are permitted. Also, some consonants have more stringent restrictions. Nasals /m/ and /n/ may not be followed by /ɫ/, and neither may aspirated stops /tʰ/ and /pʰ/; however, semivowels /ɻ/, /w/ may follow any of these. /h/ and the aspirates may not end syllables, and /h/ also may not be followed by /ɫ/ or by semivowels.
A stop or nasal followed by /h/ is typically pronounced as an aspirate at the same place of articulation, when possible, and is rewritten that way in the script for compounds; e.g. róm /ɻoʊm/ "good", -har /hɑɻ/ "adverbial suffix", rópar /'ɻoʊpʰɑɻ/ "well". Nasals may not follow stops, and may not precede /h/ or aspirated stops. The sequence /ʌɻ/ is typically realized as /ɚ/ (similar to American English), but the sequence /ɛɻ/ never is.
Vowel sequences of any type are forbidden in Tallfellow (with /oʊ/ being treated as a single vowel rather than a diphthong). Common repair strategies involve inserting /ɻ/ between two vowels that would otherwise follow each other directly, converting initial /oʊ/ to /w/, replacing a sequence /ɑi/ with /ɛ/ or just /ɑ/, etc.
Despite its strong resemblance to English, in addition to lacking many sounds that English possesses, Tallfellow allows several combinations not found in English. For instance, clusters such as /dɫ/, /mɻ/, /nɻ/ may begin words, and prenasalized consonants /ᵐb/ and /ᵑg/ may (and frequently do) end them.
Stress is phonemic in Tallfellow, having fossilized from a stress rule involving double vowels that it has now lost. Most notably, the allative and ablative cases are distinguished only by stress: blúno /'bɫʌnoʊ/ "from the river", blunó /bɫʌ'noʊ/ "to the river". Originally, the distinction involved a long /oʊ/ in the allative and a short one in the ablative, but this has now become a distinction in stress alone.
Tallfellow is a nominative-accusative, mostly head-initial, dependent-marking language, using SVO word order. Adjectives (nearly indistinguishable from nouns, grammatically speaking) follow the noun they modify, while adverbs fall at the very end of the sentence or, in the case of complex constructions, at the end of the scope of a particular verb (e.g. Emb nopa pin srasar ingung pin mondel rari, "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry").
Verbs in Tallfellow are uninflected, with tense, aspect, mood, and the like indicated either by particles that precede the verb (such as /wɑn/ "future tense particle" or /dɛ/ "progressive particle") or by adverbs (such as /bɛɫsɑɻ/ "perhaps, hopefully"). Nouns, however, inflect for case and number, and demonstratives are realized as a suffix to a noun rather than a separate word.
Tallfellow uses verbal particles to mark past tense (rum), future tense (wan), progressive aspect (de), passive voice (mon), and imperative/jussive mood (ho), as well as to express obligation or necessity (bren; not sure which mood this is). Combining past tense with the adverb /gʌm/ "now" often indicates the perfective aspect. The particle /ɪm/ may be used to produce an infinitive form, as in Sal roblis im bope, "she wants to read".
Nouns have a fairly elaborate inflectional system. They have five cases: nominative/accusative, genitive/instrumental, locative, allative, and ablative. The nominative/accusative case is unmarked; the locative, allative and ablative are all marked by suffixes (which come with stress changes in the allative and ablative), and the genitive/instrumental is marked either by a suffix or by an infix, the details of which depend on the structure of the word. In addition, Tallfellow incorporates demonstratives into its nouns as suffixes, which may be combined with any of the five cases above. Nouns possess a very regular plural form, marked by a prefix that does not fuse with any of the other inflections and may be combined with all of them. Thus, though it is mainly suffixing, Tallfellow makes use of prefixes, suffixes and infixes in its inflections, and its noun forms are somewhat agglutinating.
These inflections are quite regular, with the form of nearly all Tallfellow nouns being completely predictable. The exceptions include many common positional nouns (which often have irregular locative, ablative, and/or allative forms) and pronouns (which have irregular plural and genitive/instrumental forms).
Tallfellow uses combinations of case inflections instead of adpositions in the vast majority of situations.
Plurals: Plurals for nouns beginning with a consonant are marked by prefixing e- to the beginning of the word, and shifting the stress of the word to that prefix (e.g. hóbind "person", éhobind "people"). For nouns beginning with a vowel, one instead prefixes er- (e.g. élmo "leaf", érelmo "leaves"). If the noun is in the allative or ablative case, the stress does not shift (i.e. bagíno "from the house", ebagíno "from the houses"). This plural form is derived from the same root as the word wére "many".
The personal pronouns pin, emb, sal and gur have irregular plurals ar, ren, els and eng. Otherwise, plurals all follow the pattern given above.
Demonstratives: Tallfellow has proximal and distal demonstrative suffixes, which are very regular. The proximal suffix is -er for a noun ending in a consonant other than r, -e for a noun ending in r, or -wer for a noun ending in a vowel, and the distal suffix is -um (consonant ending) or -rum (vowel ending). There are no separate deictic pronouns in Tallfellow; instead, one must apply the demonstrative suffixes to a third-person pronoun such as sal or, in the case of locative words, to the noun hol "place": pin wan ronir gure holumumb "I will put this there" (lit. I will set down this-it at-that-place).
Because demonstrative suffixes evolved after the genitive case, but before all Tallfellow's other cases, locative, ablative, and allative suffixes are all applied after applying a demonstrative suffix, as most commonly seen in adverbs such as welerumb "today" (lit. on this day).
Genitive Case: The genitive case is used to describe possession and relationships similar to how possessives are used in English, although in Tallfellow adjectives modifying a genitive noun must agree with it in case. It is not used to indicate the material something is made of; that is generally done with a dedicated adjective that is usually the same as the noun describing the material. Genitives follow the noun that they modify, as with ordinary adjectives. Unlike adjectives, though, a genitive need not agree with the noun it modifies in terms of case.
The genitive case can also be used as an instrumental case; in this usage it modifies a verb instead, and comes directly after it rather than at the end of the sentence like an adverb would: Pin de tabi twing wumbund, "I am fighting the human with the sword".
Compared to other cases, the genitive is more complicated in its formation and often involves infixes or even minor stem alterations. However, there are no declensions; it is formed in a regular way, albeit not a trivial way, which can be deduced from the form of the noun. The method is as follows:
Simple Genitives: The most basic way to form the genitive is to insert an /ɫ/ directly in front of the final vowel in the word. The problem is that this often breaks phonological rules, and usually something more complicated is necessary as a repair strategy. However, for nouns in which the consonant that precedes the final vowel is a voiced stop, a prenasalized stop, or a fricative other than /h/, simply inserting /ɫ/ is sufficient. For instance, bolngem "the book", bolnglem "of/with the book".
H/W/R Genitives: When there is already an /h/, /w/, or /ɻ/ directly before the final vowel, it must be deleted before adding the /ɫ/. This is done even if this is also the first consonant in the word: was "the cloud", las "of/with the cloud".
Since /ɫ/ may not follow an aspirated stop, any /tʰ/ or /pʰ/ that precedes /w/ or /ɻ/ must be replaced with its voiced equivalent before doing this: wotri "the wizard", wodli "of the wizard". Furthermore, any /m/ or /n/ preceding a /w/ or /ɻ/ must be replaced with the corresponding prenasalized stop: wimwo "the party", wimblo "of the party". If this would cause the word to begin with a prenasalized consonant, add an unstressed /ɛ/ to the beginning of the word: mwing "the fence", embling "of the fence".
M/N Genitives: /ɫ/ may not follow /m/ or /n/, and so changes to /ɻ/ after those consonants. For instance, dermend "truth", dermrend "of/with truth".
/m/ and /n/ commonly follow the fricatives /s/ and /f/, but clusters /smɻ/, /snɻ/, /fmɻ/, /fnɻ/ are forbidden. In these cases, the nasal must be dropped after adding the /ɻ/: smalng "the dragon", sralng "of the dragon".
T/P Genitives: The /ɫ/ becomes /w/ when following an aspirated consonant /tʰ/ or /pʰ/: ting "the sword", twing "with the sword".
L Genitives: Finally, if there is already an /ɫ/ directly preceding the last vowel, one gives up and adds -/ɫɪɫ/ to a noun ending in a vowel, or -/ɪɫ/ to one ending in a consonant, so as to at least put an /ɫ/ or two somewhere. Thus glib "the city", glibil "of the city". This method is also used with all foreign names and words (that haven't been loaned into Tallfellow).
Adjective Genitives: The rules above hold only for nouns. All adjectives, regardless of their form, use the L-genitive formation method to show agreement with a genitive noun. Since any noun could theoretically be used as an adjective, this often gives two different genitive forms for a single noun. Thus, eldro "the elf", eldlo "of the elf", but wotri eldro "the elf wizard", wodli eldrolil "of the elf wizard".
Locative Case: The locative case in Tallfellow is used to form adverbs that indicate location or time from noun phrases. It combines the functions of English prepositions "at", "near", "by", "with", "in", "on", etc., the specific meaning understood from context; of course, this can be clarified with a more complex construction if necessary.
When used with a pronoun or a noun indicating a living being, the locative functions as a comitative as well: pin umbur resenumb "I am by the sea", pin umbur Borbondilumb "I am with Borbondil".
The locative case is quite regular, formed by adding the suffix -umb (to nouns ending in a consonant), -rumb (to nouns ending in a vowel), -ung (to adjectives ending in a consonant), or -rung (to adjectives ending in a vowel). The only exceptions are the irregular locatives, which consist of the locative forms of 15 commonly used location words (which also have irregular ablative and allative forms) and the locative-adjective forms of the 7 possessive adjectives. The locative should be formed after adding any demonstrative suffix.
Locative adverbs are usually found at the end of the sentence, as with other adverbs. If there are multiple adverbs, the locative is usually the first out of all of them, followed by the ablative, then the allative, and then any other adverbs. However, a locative adverb may also begin a sentence in existential constructions with umbur: bwarnd umbur resenumb "the fish is in the sea", resenumb umbur bwarnd "there is a fish in the sea". This existential construction can also be used to describe physical possession (there is no equivalent to English "have"): pinumb umbur wapum "I have an apple" (lit. there is an apple with me). It is not possible to use an existential construction without specifying a location; to make more general statements of existence, speakers usually use locatives such as holerumb "here", dombelosumb "in the world", etc., or use the verb construction de wiri "exists" (lit. is happening).
Locatives may also be used as adjectives, modifying nouns directly from behind. In this use, they function like contractions of relative clauses: bagin (u umbur) resenumb "the house (which is) by the sea", eldro (nu umbur) pinumb "the elf (who is) with me".
Ablative and Allative Cases: The ablative and allative cases are used to form adverbs indicating direction away from or toward the modified noun, respectively. When used with nouns describing points in time, they also frequently indicate "since" and "until" in a similar way. The ablative can also be used to indicate the agent in cases where that is unspecified (i.e. passive sentences), and the allative can be used to indicate targets for verbs with higher valency much as a dative would (though some, like nolo "give", use the instrumental instead; thus "dative" would be quite a misleading name for this case).
Tallfellow's ablative and allative cases are extremely similar to each other in their morphology, as well as being very regular. For any noun or adjective other than one of 15 common location words (the same ones that are irregular in the locative), the ablative is formed by appending -o (after a consonant) or -ro (after a vowel) and then shifting the word's stress to the penultimate syllable: resen "sea", reséno "from the sea". The allative is formed exactly the same way, except the stress goes on the final syllable instead: resenó "to the sea".
Both the ablative and the allative should be formed after adding any demonstrative suffix, and for plural nouns, after forming the plural as well. That is, when the plural and the ablative or allative both attempt to move the stress of the word to a fixed location, the ablative or allative wins out - unsurprisingly, as stress is often the only way to distinguish them!
Tallfellow has an extensive system of metaphor based largely around meals, food, and cooking, since these are culturally important activities. Of course, other systems of metaphor exist, but food-based metaphors are among the most pervasive in the language. I'll try to outline the basics of how these work in this section.
The most commonly employed food metaphor in Tallfellow is A PERIOD OF TIME IS A MEAL. This makes sense, since eating a meal can only occur over a period of time; a version of this exists in English as well, where we talk about something "eating up too much time". And in hobind culture, most of a village's time and effort is put toward gathering ingredients for meals, cooking and preparing them, or eating them, as enjoying meals in comfort is seen as one of the primary goals for a good life by Tallfellow speakers; so, culturally speaking, the metaphor seems yet more apt.
The result is that móme "meal" and máwu "eat" have many metaphorical uses, some of which are so widespread that speakers no longer consider them metaphors. A common use for mawu is "spend time, experience":
Ar rum mawu wel engombon awe. "We spent (lit. ate) the entire day together."
Pin wan mawu mobagwend bendlenirumb belsar. "Hopefully, I will experience (lit. eat) settled adult life in the future."
In fact, in the word mobágwend "settled adult life" in the second sentence, the mo- is itself a reduced form of mawu, with bágwend meaning "family, group of housemates"; so, it's the "eating" (i.e. experiencing) of a family.
Similarly, mome can be used to mean "period of time" as well as "experience, situation":
Mome nung ar de fangi awe rum umbur rondle flimbor etaro. "The time (lit. meal) when we were traveling together was the most pleasant (lit. delicious) of all."
Emome browi mon delmbo dermetar. "New experiences (lit. meals) surely broaden one's horizons (lit. taste good in a new and challenging way)."
Momewer umbur geldin. "Things are a lot right now." (lit. this meal is sour)
The above of course demonstrates that it makes sense for words describing flavor to have metaphorical meanings when applied to periods of time or experiences as well, and indeed, essentially all such words can be used that way. géldin "sour" metaphorically means "intense", for instance, while sámo "salty" means "busy", léto "bitter" means "difficult", etc.
One can even encounter situations where a person, object, etc. can metonymically stand in for the period of time spent with, using, etc. that person or thing. This can lead to... interesting results:
Pin de borbon im mawu sal bendirumb. "I'm planning to spend time with him tonight." (lit. I'm baking to eat him in the evening)
Such expressions generally are unambiguous, after all, since ehobind don't practice cannibalism.
Because of the pervasiveness of this sort of construction, mawu has turned into a derivational suffix for adjectives and is very productive. The suffix -mo turns an adjective into a verb that means "to go about being ADJECTIVE; to spend time ADJECTIVELY; to eat food that is ADJECTIVE", depending on the adjective or the context.
Pin de sildomo alpar pin rum ungise sal. "I feel bad (lit. am eating sadly) because I injured her."
Pin wan rondlemo mome taro embumb. "I will enjoy all the time I spend with you." (lit. I will eat, and find delicious, each meal with you)
It's important to note that, because all these verbs are based on mawu, they work just like mawu does in terms of which objects they can take. This means the object of a -mo verb is the period of time being experienced (or the food being eaten). This is sometimes unintuitive:
Pin ismendo utengumb. "I am afraid of spiders." (lit. I eat fearfully near a spider)
Why can't you just say Pin ismendo uteng? Well, you can, really, if you're referring to a period of time spent with a spider. But this implies a SPECIFIC spider, because you're eating a specific period of time:
Pin de rum ismendo uteng. "I had a frightful experience with the spider." (lit. I was eating the spider fearfully)
If you're speaking in general - whenever spiders are near, you get scared - it's just wrong to treat úteng as the object of ísmendo. Using the locative case, however, is appropriate in both situations, and is the most common way to structure such a sentence.
Anyway, there are other ways this metaphor can appear in Tallfellow, such as the use of ri de mawu to mean "during", and idioms like Ho mawu rondle! "Have a good time!" (lit. eat a delicious one) but at this point you probably get the idea; this metaphor is quite widespread and has a significant influence on the language.
There is a series of lessons (under construction) you can use to teach yourself Tallfellow, or to examine the grammar of Tallfellow in more detail: Tallfellow Lessons.
For more information on the ehobind who speak Tallfellow, see Hobind Cultural Overview.