An introduction to Cispa

Copyright © 1995 by Herman Miller. Distribute freely.
Join the Blue Ribbon Anti-Censorship Campaign!

Cispa

Cispa is the most common language of the Zaik people of Mizar (Zeta Ursae Majoris). The Zaik are best described as tail-less humanoid rodents, about 5 feet tall on the average, with thick gray or brown fur and generally squirrel-like features.
If you're using Windows, you can download and install the Cispa TrueType font. (Click with your right mouse button, and select "Save Target As..." [Microsoft] or "Save this Link as..." [Netscape]. Then go to the Control Panel to install it.) If you have a web browser that supports fonts, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer, or Netscape's Navigator 3.0 (or a more recent version), you'll be able to see the words in the Cispa-English Dictionary in the Mizarian character set.

The sounds of Cispa are pronounced roughly as follows. (See the FAQ of the Kirshenbaum phonetic system, from the USENET newsgroup sci.lang, for details of the phonetic symbols.)
' [?] glottal stop (as in "uh-oh").
a [a] similar to "a" in "aha".
c [tS] like English "ch" in "cheese".
c' [tS'] ejective c.
e [E] as in "get".
i [I] as in "pit".
ii [i] like "ee" in "see".
k [k] as in "sky".
k' [k'] ejective k.
p [p] as in "speed".
r [r.] similar to American r, but without rounded lips.
s [s] as in "seek".
sh [S] as in "ship".
t [t] as in "stop".
t' [t'] ejective t.
w [w] as in "week", but without rounded lips.
y [j] as in "year".
z [z] as in "zip".

Pronouns are not normally used in the subject of a sentence: Kiita [zaish]. "I love you." Za kiita? "Do you love me?" Skwik' ciirk? "How do you feel?" The meaning is determined from context. In isolation, a statement is assumed to have the subject taik "I", and a question (beginning with a question word) to have the subject zaish "you (sing.)" Question words include za "if", yiit "what", yiitik "who", skwik' "how", zakiri "why", and zasiish "where".

There is no verb "to be". It is simply left out of the sentence: iri kwiipcik "he is an artist"; yiiripsa Tric'ik "my name is Tritchik". The Shakespearean "to be or not to be" may be translated tra ki it cit ki. The meaning of this phrase is clear when compared with the exclamation Tra ki! "To being!" (a common Mizarian expression of the joy of being alive).

Adjectives normally follow the noun they modify: triik cirikit "dancing ritual"; kiitsa keshshi "these hands"; kriicra yiikcarit yiiptasa siicrai "teenage mutant ninja turtles". For emphasis or variety, the order may be reversed: zaishra trissa cicretra "your fur is all sandy". Often, though, what appears to be an adjective before a noun may really be an adverb: zaish cark riiktakiit crikwiipsa kaipsik "you are truly a master of the art of music".

The suffix -i, which shows the plural, is attached to the last word in an adjective-noun phrase, whether or not it is a noun. It is optional; a noun without -i can be either singular or plural.

Comparison is expressed by the words tep "more" and kip "less", in combination with the preposition ta "than": iri tep sipra ta tric'rik "she is quicker than a mouse".

There are two systems of numerals in common use: octal (based on their eight fingers) and duodecimal (for mathematical purposes). Both are used frequently.

Octal Duodecimal
1 ik 1 ik
2 ak 2 ak
3 tiirp 3 tiirp
4 ciric 4 ciric
5 kiiric 5 kiiric
6 kaish 6 kaish
7 zaric 7 zaric
8 saic 8 saic
9 ziikic (saic-ik) 9 ziikic
10 akkiiric (saic-ak) 10 akkiiric
11 saic-tiirp 11 criishta
12 akkaish (saic-ciric) 12 criish
13 saic-kiiric 13 criish-ik
14 saic-kaish . . .
15 saic-zaric 24 akcriish
16 aksaic 36 tiirpcriish
24 tiirpsaic 48 ciricriish
32 cirisaic 60 kiiricriish
40 kiirisaic 72 kaishcriish
48 kaikshaic 84 zaricriish
56 zarisaic 96 saicriish
64 saisaic 108 ziikicriish
120 akkiiricriish
132 criishtacriish
144 caric

Verbs are not inflected for tense, number, or person. Tense is marked by the particles ip (past), ki (present), and zik (future). These particles often stand next to a verb: ip cirikit "I danced", but it is also common to place them at the beginning or end of a phrase: ip tasa rasta "I saw that one"; ak critpa tiirkta ip "I tried it two times". Other particles indicate mood or other changes to the meaning: trip "can", raish "must", cit "not", za "if, whether". These particles are often used in combination: Za trip arkta? "Can you help me?" Raish ip cit sipra sit "I must not have been fast enough." Notice that in this construction, the first (or last) particle modifies the entire remainder of the phrase. There is a distinction between raish ip kwistarasca / kwistarasca ip raish "I must have been dreaming" and ip raish kwistarasca / kwistarasca raish ip "it was necessary for me to dream". A phrase like raish kwistarasca ip would be ambiguous.

Other information on Cispa

Other Languages

Back to the Mizarian Language Page