Minza

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Introduction

Minza, created in December, 2004, is a language intended for multiple purposes. One of the original goals of the Minza project was to build an organized vocabulary that can be used in the definitions of words for other languages. The name of the language is from the Tirelat word minża, meaning "bridge". The Minza vocabulary includes words borrowed from many other languages, representing concepts from both the real world and the fictional Azirian world. Much of the original vocabulary and grammar for Minza was inherited from Lindiga, but later words have been borrowed from other languages, and some of these have replaced the original Lindiga words. Another goal is to keep the language relatively simple, without some of the unnecessary complications of other languages. As one example, the plurals of the Lindiga nouns laṇ (head), muoṅ (nose), and fien (eye) are laṇi, muoṅa, and föyn; these must be individually learned. In Minza, all nouns ending in a consonant add -i: the plural of laň is laňi, of muøŋ is muøŋi, and of fien is fieni.

Consonants

bilabial dental alveolar retroflex velar
stops p, b t, d k, g [ɡ]
nasals m n ň [ɳ] ŋ
trill r
fricatives f [ɸ], v [β] s, z š [ʂ], ž [ʐ] x, ð [ɣ]
laterals ł [ɬ], l ľ [ɭ]

When adjacent to a front vowel in the same syllable, bilabial fricatives have labiodental allophones [f v], retroflex fricatives have postalveolar allophones [ʃ ʒ], and velar fricatives have palatal allophones [ç ʝ].

Vowels

front central back
high i y [ɨ] u
mid e [ɛ] ø [ə] o [ɔ]
low æ a [ɑ]

The sounds represented by the letters "y" and "ø" are both somewhat rounded, but not as much as the back vowels "u" and "o".

A syllable may begin with a vowel, a single consonant, or certain combinations of two consonants. Any initial stop, nasal, or fricative may be immediately followed by l or r, e.g.: glek (stick, twig), mrala (chameleon), žroga (color). Additionally, voiceless sibilants (s and š) may be preceded or followed by a voiceless stop (skøvix "to mix", pširi "spicy, hot"), and voiced sibilants (z and ž) may be followed by a nasal (zmi "can, is able to"). At syllable boundaries, Minza words can have no more than two consonants (both voiced or both voiceless), although borrowed names may have more. Syllables are divided before the last consonant of the cluster, so for instance the name Šeikspir is divided /šeiks.pir/. A copy of the preceding vowel can be added in cases like this to break up the cluster, resulting in the pronunciation [ˈʃɛi.kis.pir]). This inserted vowel is indicated in writing by by putting a dot below the vowel letter: Šeikịspir.

Words in Minza typically have a stress on the first vowel of the main root of the word: teris [ˈtɛ.ris] (forehead), niek [ˈniɛk] (mouse), kitari [ˈki.tɑ.ri] (chipmunk). In other positions, stress is marked with an acute accent: falán [ɸɑ.ˈlɑn] (banana), vyzáðra [βɨ.ˈzɑɣ.rɑ] (hippopotamus). The stressed vowel may be long or short, depending on position. Diphthongs are always long; single vowels in closed syllables are always short. An acute accent on the initial syllable of a word marks a long vowel: víla [ˈviːlɑ] (reed organ). A stressed vowel at the end of a word is typically long: pasirá [pɑ.si.ˈrɑː] (cucumber). Stressed vowels on the next to last syllable may be short, as in kelúpi [kɛˈlupi] (mythical flying dolphin), or long, as in ketána [kɛˈtɑːnɑ] (marimba). The distinction may be marked if necessary by using a grave accent for short vowels (kelùpi) and a circumflex accent for long vowels (ketâna), but there are few enough words of this pattern that each one can be treated as a special case. Unstressed vowels are usually short, but are typically long in an open syllable two syllables after the main stress, e.g.: mevivæ [ˈmɛvivæː] (height).

Note that prefixes are always unstressed, and not counted as part of the main word for accent placement and vowel length. Additionally, compound words such as xyrvaryl (leech) or padnašix (to stand up) have a stress on each element of the compound, with the primary stress on the final element: [ˌxɨrβɑˈrɨl], [ˌpɑdˈnɑʃiç].

In situations where non-ASCII symbols are unavailable, the letters ð, ł, ľ, ň, ŋ, š, and ž may be written as gh, hl, lh, nh, ng, sh, zh; the accent marks on vowels are typically omitted.

Nouns

Minza has two declensions of nouns: consonant stems and vowel stems. In Minza these are referred to as the "mouse-nouns" (consonant stems) and the "fox-nouns" (vowel stems). All plurals end in -(r)i and take the vowel-stem inflections.

consonant stems (plural) vowel stems (plural)
Absolutive niek (mouse) nieki niška (fox) niškari
Genitive nieka niekit niškat niškarit
Ergative nieke niekiðe niškaðe niškariðe
Dative niekon niekin niškan niškarin
Locative nieku niekivu niškavu niškarivu
Instrumental nieken niekimen niškamen niškarimen

The absolutive case marks the subject of an intransitive verb. Usually in Minza this comes after the verb, not before it as in English. Example: łuža niek "the mouse is sleeping". The absolutive case is also used to mark the direct object of transitive verbs; the subject of a transitive verb takes the ergative case. Example: iðæsku sereŋ nieke "the mouse ate some cheese".

Nouns in the genitive case typically follow a preposition or modify a preceding word. The exact nature of the relationship depends on the word being modified; words can be categorized according to the meaning of a following genitive noun. Shape classifiers, for instance, such as łaži (a flat piece of something) and fena (a round piece of something) describe objects of a certain shape: łaži ræxat "a sheet of paper", łaži kytšæt "a stick of gum", fena kytšæt "a gumball". In many cases the genitive case can be translated as "of" in English: tevu pøľut "a kind of tree", or with the possessive "-'s" ending: łix rilana "a dragon's lair". In other cases, the genitive case is used where English would use a different preposition: nevek seriłæt "the reason for the resemblance", kyryk xøryka "a brush with death".

Nouns in the locative case can represent location or possession. Examples: kyľu nieku "the mouse's tail" (literally "the tail at the mouse").

Adjectives

Adjectives in Minza follow the noun they modify.

Absolutive niška (fox) marvi
Genitive niškat marva
Ergative niškaðe marvu
Dative niškan marvin
Locative niškavu marvei
Instrumental niškamen marvan

Questions

The particle nu is used to introduce a question. Example: nu łuža niek? "is the mouse sleeping?" If you are asking a question about something that has just been mentioned, the topic of the question may be moved to the start of the sentence, before nu: niek nu łuža?.

Syntax

The basic word order of Minza is verb-object-subject. Words and phrases that modify other words, such as adjectives and prepositional phrases, follow the modified word. A good general rule of thumb, although there are exceptions, is that the order of words within a clause is the reverse of the equivalent in Japanese.

Vocabulary

Texts