Ngad i zerib Language in Salan | World Anvil
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Ngad i zerib

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Geographical distribution

Ngad i zerib is the language of the Zeribians, mostly spoken on the Eastern Islands , and on the coastal regions of the Southern Continent. Standard Zeribian is the common language all over the islands, but the Zeribians also commonly know Nem (Faren language), which is the lingua franca on the continent.  


Ngad forms the Zeribian language family with many of the less well-known languages spoken around the EAstern Islands. The Zeribian languages even apart from Standar Zeribian are by far the most spoken, but the Natives of the Eastern Islands of the islands also speak many small unrelated languages. Zeribian has no known relatives on the continent, which agrees with the myths that the Zeribian people arrived from the unknown north.

Writing System

Ngad i Zerib is written with the traditional Zeribian Script, a consonant script (abjad) derived from the Nem (Faren language) alphabet. It is read in vertical columns from left to right. Zeribians traditionally write on pergament with a brush, but a separate monumental font also exists that is used on stone.

Below: a passage from the Myth of the Reborn Sun

ramku bex uten washmaq mahnginkal----------'one day a farmer went'
ym mahze i dew i unguzedeg sasyr--------------- 'to his field for picking chiles'
ungugwel washkash sasyr---------------------------'when he cut open one chile pod'
ga ukan nezen gwesh neg rimkash i ubugrish ---'suddenly a great light came out of it,and he was blinded'


Ngad i zerib is known for its rough phonemes and complex consonant clusters, that are often hard to learn for Farens.   Table of the consonants:
labial dental alveolar postalveolar velar uvular-glottal
stop p b t d k g q
nasal m n ŋ
fricative f đ s z š ž x h
affricate č
approximant / trill w l r
----a----   The latin version of Ŋad i Zerib used here is a phonological approximation, not a transcrpition of the traditional script. It is close to IPA, but some notes might be useful:   /y/ is a close-mid back-central unrounded vowel, varying between IPA [ɘ] and [ɯ].
/u/ is IPA [o].
/x/ is IPA [ x ], that is, voiceless velar fricative. It's a strong h like sound, not for example [ks] or /š/ [ʃ].
/š/ and /ž/, sometimes /sh/ and /zh/ are [ʃ] and [ʒ].
/č/ is [tʃ].
/û/ is a contraction of two /u/s. It's pronounced as /u/ with a short w-sound in the beginning.
/ŋ/ is a velar nasal, similar to English sound ng as in running

If you are unfamiliar with IPA, you can use this Wikipedia article to listen to all the sounds!  


The stress in Ngad is not lexical, so it does not distinguish words. In declarative sentences the stress is on the penultimate syllable. In imperatives the stress is on the last syllable of the verb. Questions have rising intonation.



  Ngad i zerib has a very simple case system, where the only marked noun case is the ergative (b-), that marks the subject of a transitive sentence, while the subject of an intransitive sentence and the object of a transitive sentence are unmarked (absolutive)   u-ŋ-u-griš bi-šer win
3SG.SUBJ-IMPERFECT.3SG.OBJ-see ERG-wizard bird
'The wizard sees a bird'    
Grammatical gender/ noun class

Zeribian nouns belong to one of eleven noun classes.
  Noun-class suffixes are attached to numerals and pronouns according to the noun's class:
1 man = waš-maq rek (1-CL man)
1 day = waš-ku bex (1-CL day)
all men = žep-maq rek (all-CL man)
all days = žep-ku bex (all-CL day)
this man = rim-maq rek (this-CL man)
this day = rim-ku bex (this-CL day)

Verbs do not agree to the noun class, but third person prefix refering to the noun can optionally be replaced by the the noun class marker:
seŋugriš nebin 'I see a book'
-> seŋkašgriš nebin 'I see a long thing, a book'      


The verbs don't have any tenses, but they are marked for aspect. That is, the exact time of action is unknown e.g. ŋuryd 'I am speaking' OR 'I was speaking'.
  The verbs in Zeribian have prefixes that mark the person of both the subject and object of the sentence.


The normal word order is VSO.   Questions:
The word order stays the same. The question word goes to the beginning of the sencence right before the verb. The question intonation is on the root of the verb, usually forming a rising-falling pattern. Here the intonation peaks on the root hah 'to blow'.
low high low
u-hah waš
'How are you?' (literally: Is (the wind) blowing well?)
The verb is initial as normal. Normal imperatives are fromed by reduplication of the verb root (ten-ten 'Go!' from -ten- 'to go'). The imperative verb does not inflect for person or aspect.

In formal language imperatives are considered impolite, and hortative structures should be used instead (note how the verb does inflect here):
Fin e-ten (Please you-go)
  Relative clauses:
Relative clauses are formed with i-particle. The relative clauses behave the same as main clauses:
Se-ŋ-u-ben i w-iz bipal
I-IPF-it-do that he-it-command ERG-king
‘I do what the king commands’


The traders use a high number of loan words from the languages of their trade partners, but the higher class rather use native terms. They prefer to form new terms from compond words, which are often based on metaphores that can sound obscure for foreign people.  

Word derivation

Most Zeribian roots are monosyllabic, but they are usually combined to form words that have two syllables. Compounds can be formed from every part of speech, and a single compound word can include words of the same type, or different.

Compound words

Examples of noun + noun compounds:
trelmah 'fruit' = trel 'tree' + mah 'grain, produce'
sasyr 'hot pepper, chile' from sah 'fire' + syr 'herb'

Examples of verb + verb compound verbs:
mendfyl 'dine' from mend 'eat' + fyl 'drink'
šumar 'trade' from šum 'give, sell' + mar 'take, buy'
fylkam 'start drinking' from fyl 'drink' + kam 'begin, open'

Mixed words from noun + verb:
dermit 'build' from der 'stone' + mit 'to place, set'
gamgriš 'understand' from gam 'heart' + griš 'see, know'
ultud 'to give birth' from ul 'child' + tud 'create, make'


Derivational morphology

Words can also be derived with dedicated derivational morphemes, but these are relatively rare, because the compounding strategy is so productive
lekal 'fisherman' from le 'fish' + -kal 'profession'

Some words include remnants of numeral classifiers, that have become stuck into the word root, functioning like derivation:
zydil 'honor, promise', from -dil- 'to promise', compare with: wašzy dil 'one(-abstract) promise'
gebex 'day' from bex 'sun, day', compare with: wašku bex 'one(-time) day' and wašdu bex 'one(-large) sun' and wašmaq bex 'one(-human) sun god'


59 Words.
by Tuisku
Ngad speakers

Common phrases

Waš gebex
‘Good day’
Waš bexur
‘Good morning’ (Good sunrise)
Waš bexnedet
‘Good evening' (Good sunset)
Waš sišet
‘Good night’
(Fin uxyr) iz eze
‘Goodbye!' (May the god(s) be with you)

'Thank you'
Uhah wash?
'How are you?' (Is it (the wind) blowing well?)
Aŋ ze ŋuxyr gedige?
‘Where do you live?’
Ŋesxyr ym Der Fem
‘I'm from Der Fem’

Leryd ŋadise?
'Do you speak Zeribian (=our language)?'
Hal, selryd eziŋ
'Yes, I can speak a little'
Wesluryd ŋad
'I don't speak Zeribian'

Čelžanise maw glar hešgeleŋ
'My hovercraft is full of eels'


Cover image: by Photo by Belle Llido from Pexels


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