Tirĕhlat

Join the Blue Ribbon Anti-Censorship Campaign!

This document requires a Unicode-compatible browser. If you don't see the IPA characters, download the Thryomanes font and set it as the default font for Unicode documents, or as a user-defined font. Some versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer may assume that you have the Lucida Sans Unicode font on your system and display the IPA characters improperly if you don't have that font.

Download the Vĕlika font to see the examples in the Tirĕhlat alphabet.


Begun in the spring of 1999, Tirĕhlat is the latest in a series of personal languages that includes Gjarrda and a number of less successful language experiments. Since Gjarrda was redefined as a language of the Gjanarr raccoon people, many Gjarrda words referring to animals and plants of Earth have been out of place and needed a new home. Tirĕhlat absorbed most of these words, and the rest were redefined to fit the needs of an alien language. The Animal Names Project is also in the process of being translated into Tirĕhlat. Note that Tirĕhlat is still an evolving language, and everything from phonology to syntax to vocabulary is likely to change at any time! I've had a harder time settling on a design for Tirĕhlat than any of my other langs, but I'm convinced that allowing it to be flexible in the early stages will result in a better language in the long run. Or rather, at least I'm willing to try the experiment and see what comes out of it. This current version of Tirĕhlat borrows numerous words and other features from Czirehlat, which separated from the main Tirĕhlat "branch" in December 2000. An older version of the Tirĕhlat page is available for comparison.

Spelling and phonology

The Tirĕhlat alphabet:

a i u r l n k m e o t v I d y g Z s w D T z c S E b p U L x f C R j J
a i u r l n k m e o t v ĭ d y g j s gh dh th z cz sz ĕ b p ŭ hl x f tz hr cg dz

Tirĕhlat has a 35-letter alphabet of its own (Vĕlika) and a Romanized version which omits the letters "q", "x", and "w". The letters "c" and "h" don't appear as independent letters, but only as the initial component of digraphs. Each phoneme of the language has a unique spelling. Pronunciation is as follows:

spelling Romanized phonemic phonetic
a a /a/ [a] when stressed; [ɐ] when unstressed.
b b /b/ [b]
j cg /ǰ/ [ʤ]
x ch /x/ [x]
c cz /č/ [ʧ]
d d /d/ [d̪]
D dh /ð/ [ð]
J dz /ʣ/ [ʣ]
e e /e/ [ɛ] when stressed; [e] when unstressed.
E ĕ /ə/ [ə]
f f /f/ [f]
g g /ɡ/ [ɡ]
w gh /ɣ/ [ɣ]
L hl /L/ [ɬ]
R hr /R/ [r̥]
i i /i/ [i] when stressed; [ɪ] when unstressed.
I ĭ /j/ [j]
Z j /ʒ/ [ʒ]
k k /k/ [k]
l l /l/ [l] between vowels; [ɮ] elsewhere.
m m /m/ [m]
n n /n/ [ŋ] before velars; [n] elsewhere.
o o /o/ [ɔ] when stressed; [o] when unstressed.
p p /p/ [p]
r r /r/ [ɾ] between vowels; [r] elsewhere.
s s /s/ [s]
S sz /ʃ/ [ʃ]
t t /t/ [t̪]
T th /θ/ [θ]
C tz /ʦ/ [ʦ]
u u /u/ [u] when stressed; [ɯ] when unstressed.
U ŭ /w/ [w]
v v /v/ [v]
y y /y/ [y]
z z /z/ [z]

In the Romanized spelling, the letter "h" which indicates a voiceless consonant is omitted when it follows another consonant (which is always voiceless). This convention makes more efficient use of the Roman letters, as well as avoiding potential confusion with spellings such as "sh" and "ph" in other languages. Accent marks may be omitted or substituted in environments such as e-mail, where the standard accent marks are unavailable.

Stress in Tirĕhlat, which is marked by a circle under the vowel (or an acute accent on the vowel in the Romanized version), may be placed on any syllable of a word. Compound words may have more than one stressed syllable. In actual Tirĕhlat text, the stress is rarely marked, most frequently in names, in words that would otherwise be confused, and in a few special cases where stress marking is mandatory. Stress is always marked if it falls on the final letter of a word (as in kaZaq kajá). Stress on the first syllable of a word of two or more syllables (as in kaZa kája) is always unmarked in text. In other cases, stress is ordinarily unmarked, but may be marked for emphasis or resolving ambiguity.

Examples: palaqn pa-lán [pɐˈlan] "cloud", kUerty kŭér-ty [ˈkwɛrty] "typewriter keyboard", kyzika ky-zi-ka [ˈkyzɪkɐ] "dandelion", celit czé-lit [ˈʧɛlɪt] "sparrow", teqksas: ték-sas: [ˈtɛksɐs] "Texas", Sikaqgo: szi-ká-go: [ʃɪˈkaɡo] "Chicago", oxaqIo: o-chá-ĭo: [oˈxajo] "Ohio".

Sequences of two or more vowels are considered to form separate syllables. When two identical vowels come together, either between words or in borrowed names, a glottal stop is inserted between them. This glottal stop is not a separate phoneme in Tirĕhlat, since it is automatic. A glide /j/ may be inserted between non-identical vowels for ease of pronunciation: mE omi mĕ ómi [məˈjɔmɪ] "the wheel (obj.)".

The vowel /ə/ (schwa), represented by the letter "ĕ", may be inserted between consonants to make the pronunciation easier. The schwa is never stressed, and in rapid speech can even be omitted. In Tirĕhlat spelling, this sound may be omitted or printed in reduced size ('). However, the schwa letter is typically not reduced or omitted in the possessive prefixes, or when it occurs between consonants that can be pronounced together without an epenthetic schwa. Examples: lEg'zil lĕgĕzil [ɮəɡ(ə)ˈziɮ] "my face", rEp'nav rĕpĕnav [rəp(ə)ˈnav] "your forehead", xUez'l chŭezĕl [ˈxwɛzəɮ] "day of the week", tez'n tezĕn [ˈtɛzən] "plastic ball for gerbils", t'luwIu tĕlughĭu [t(ə)ˈluɣjɯ] "quiet".

Morphology

Grammatical suffixes and classifiers are added to a stem. In most cases the stem is the same as the dictionary form of a word. If the root ends in a consonant, -E may be added to form the stem, but this unstressed /ə/ is often omitted if the resulting cluster is permissible. This , if present, is always written explicitly in the Vĕlika spelling.

liZa líja [ˈɮiʒɐ] "to see"; liZa-va-I líja-va-ĭ [ˈɮiʒɐˌvaj] "want to see"
marga márga [ˈmarɡɐ] "starling"; marga-DaI márga-dhaĭ [ˈmarɡɐˌðaj] "flock of starlings"
faz fáz [ˈfaz] "snow"; faz(-E)-reCi fáz(-ĕ)-retzi [ˈfaz(ə)ˌrɛtsɪ] "so-called 'snow'"

Compounds are formed by adding the stem of the modifying word before the main word. The main word gets the primary stress, and the stressed syllable of the modifying word is converted to a secondary stress (written with a grave accent). In ordinary text, the secondary stress is unwritten. (Secondary stresses may be used in borrowed names to mark unreduced vowels.)

dev dév [ˈdɛv] "hare"; dev-E-pIak dèv-ĕ-pĭák [ˌdɛvəˈpjak] "Leporidae"
vezi vézi [ˈvɛzɪ] "orange (color)" + rin rín [ˈrin] "fish" = vezi-rin vèzi-rín [ˌvɛzɪˈɾin] "goldfish"
Jomi dzómi [ˈdzɔmɪ] "to spin" + xaRS cháhrsz [ˈxar̥ʃ] "storm" = Jomi-xaRS dzòmi-cháhrsz [ˌdzɔmɪˈxar̥ʃ] "tornado"
SuZ szúj [ˈʃuʒ] "rain" + palaqn palán [pɐˈlan] "cloud" = SuZ-E-palaqn szùj-ĕ-palán [ˌʃuʒəpɐˈlan] "rain cloud"

Infixes are used to create new roots based on a modification of the basic concept expressed by the original word. The infix is added immediately after the stressed vowel or diphthong. If the infix itself is stressed, the preceding syllable loses its stress.

nuri núri [ˈnuɾɪ] "blue"; nu-za-ri nú-za-ri [ˈnuzaɾɪ] "azure".
taS tász [ˈtaʃ] "fly"; ta-vi-S tá-vi-sz [ˈtavɪʃ] "gnat, midge".
neka néka [ˈnɛka] "polecat"; ne-Zaq-ka nĕ-já-ka [nəˈʒaka] "domestic ferret".
liZa líja [ˈɮiʒa] "to see"; li-naqI-Za li-náĭ-ja [ɮɪˈnajʒa] "to watch".

Possessives are indicated by adding the unstressed particle lE- lĕ- (my), rE- rĕ- (your) or ZE- jĕ- (his, her, its) before the possessed noun. Certain nouns (such as body parts and kinship words) can only be used with a possessive particle. For instance, my nose is lERiz lĕhríz and your nose is rERiz rĕhríz, but Riz hríz by itself doesn't mean "nose". It can be used in compounds such as Rizdaxu hrìzdáchu "nasal consonant" or Rizbiri Sobiwazaqr hrìzbíri szòbighazár "red-nosed reindeer". To talk about noses in general, it is necessary to say "someone's nose", using the generic possessive particle xE- chĕ-.

Representing names

Personal names and place names are represented as nearly as possible in Tirĕhlat pronunciation. Names are immediately followed by a bracket-like symbol : in the Vĕlika script, or a colon in the Romanized spelling. Names may be pronounced according to the native pronunciation (if known), or the pronunciation of the name in one or more other languages (especially if the alternative name is more widespread than the native name, such as Korea, Japan, and China). At the very least, I hope not to make mistakes as glaring as [sæɹəˈheivou] for Sarajevo! But there will inevitably be errors, so the Tirĕhlat names of places and people may end up being revised as I find better pronunciations.

Some names familiar in English will be given a modern American English pronunciation (or as close as Tirĕhlat can get). William Shakespeare, for instance, comes out as UiqlIEm SeqIkspir: ŭílĭĕm széĭkspir:, regardless of how Shakespeare himself may have pronounced the name. Only an expert on 16th century English pronunciation would care much about the correct pronunciation in this case; it's more useful to have a pronunciation that's recognizable to modern speakers.

Scientific (or "Latin") names of animals and plants, and names of trademarked products, are left in their original spelling in the Roman alphabet. The usual conventions for scientific names are followed. If the Roman alphabet spelling of a trademarked name ever differs from one language to another, the English spelling is used, although accent marks are not omitted unnecessarily. Trademarks in other writing systems may be left in the original form, but a Romanized version should also be provided; not everyone will recognize 「豐田」 as "Toyota" or 「任天堂」 as "Nintendo", for instance.

Here are some names of states in the United States, to illustrate some of the issues associated with Tirĕhlat name borrowing. Some state names translate fairly easily into Tirĕhlat phonology. Michigan and Texas come out as miqSigEn: míszigĕn: and teqksEs: téksĕs:. New Mexico is simply nu-meqksiko: nu-méksiko:; the meanings of names aren't translated. Connecticut is kEneqrikEt: kĕnérikĕt:, which (though it looks strange) is pronounced [kəˈnɛɾɪkət], just as in American English. But there are various issues with other names.

Adjacent vowels are very rare in Tirĕhlat; a consonant such as /w/, /ɣ/, /j/ is inserted between them, as in the names for Iowa aqIoUa: (áĭoŭa:) and Ohio oUxaqIoU: (oŭcháĭoŭ:), although the name for Louisiana luiziaqna: (luiziána:) is spelled with adjacent vowels.

Syntax

The basic unmarked word order is subject-verb-object, but the object may be moved before the subject for emphasis.
le kaZasar mE Lav le kajasar mĕ hlav
lé    kája-sar mĕ  hláv
I-SUB eat -can OBJ glass
"I can eat glass."

mE Lav le kaZasar mĕ hlav le kajasar
mĕ  hláv  lé    kája-sar
OBJ glass I-SUB eat -can
"Glass I can eat."

sE Zil Rastavez mE lak sĕ jil hrastavez mĕ lak
sĕ  jíl     hrásta-ve -z   mĕ  lák
SUB red:fox jump  -OBS-IPF OBJ area:above
"The red fox jumps over something."
Adjectives and adverbs typically come before the words they modify, and prepositional phrases follow.
sE tiski marvi Zil Rastavez mE lak u Livi Zeg sĕ tiski marvi jil hrastavez mĕ lak u hlivi jeg
sĕ  tíski márvi jíl hrásta-ve -z   mĕ  lák  u   hlívi jég
SUB quick brown fox jump  -OBS-IPF OBJ over GEN lazy  dog
"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

Vocabulary

See the Tirĕhlat-English Dictionary.