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Sikkaonia ('si:k.kao̯,ni̯a)

Ania's Complexity Without the Pretty Sounds

''Siy qtabream mokot añakse tashkerentel''.  
''The books keep Old Ania's words''.
Also known as Old Ania, Añak or Ayre (literally ''Speech''), this long dead language is the ancestor of Ania and all its related dialects. Despite that, however, very few people bother learning it these days, its tomes gathering dust in the few shelves that still host them.

History


Natelkir

The Lineage of Natais
''Then one day
Among the gold grass fields
A stone was on the soft ground planted
By whom is unknown
Or why
-
The rock though laid
Unseen and unnoticed
For sixteen hundred years
And eighteen hundred nights
Til Livou came
-
Upon eyes setting
On that old and weathered pillar
The Bear on it the symbols carved
And the spells of creation sung
Thus birthing Natais''
-(summarized) first verses of the Nataeccis
Whether the ancestors of the Ania came from a rock or not, it is known that their tongue developed from an even older ancestor, Ainék. While information on it and its speakers is sparse at best, largely coming from a series of epic poems, what is known paints a pretty peculiar picture...   Far from the city loving, seafaring Ania of later centuries, these Children of Natais were nomadic pastoralists. Grazing their flocks on the Hiriso's arid slopes, they traded with and often raided the rich cities to their south, Dagan chief amongst them.   Despite their... troubled relationship, these early people had a huge impact on the Ainék, lending them many words and customs. A few examples include the words for country (rys), mummy (ner) as well as their writing system, the so-called Ainék Glyphs.
 

Marytut

On the Run
''And then lord Hevn, divine embodiment of virtue, slaughtered 5 million barbarians and brought peace to the north. Neither the Eng nor their partners in evil kept life or cattle after He marched against them!''  
-Inscription found among the ruins of Dagan
 
It would seem, however, that the Daganese eventually grew tired of the raids, and thus a series of wars started. Although at first the nomads wiped the floor with the city dwellers, plundering several major cities and even holding Dagan itself for a few years, that didn't last long. After some poorly recorded twist of fate, the Ainék king was ritualistically sacrificed and his people were scattered.   That, however, didn't mark the end of the Children of Natais, as instead they started a long trek west. Still nomads, and still fond of loot, they however failed to find a niche for themselves in the dry plains. Instead, they were, for lack of a better word, ping-ponged around by the larger powers, often hired as mercenaries or caravan keepers.   Over a third of Añak's vocabulary can be traced to words borrowed during this period. Words such as iron (fur), book (qtab) and, rather peculiarly, even their word for person/man (ymu).
 

Ekainiram Erleba

Masters of the Land
''-And then, class, we Ania were born. Through the union of the Sikkaonia's martial virtues and the Hanevari's philosophical and religious excellence we became, doubtlessly, the foremost of all the peoples! Destined to expand across the world and bring forth an era of enlightened rule...''  
-Just another day in school
After several centuries of drifting around, though, they ended up on the other side of the continent, by the sea. There, they became pretty successful mercenaries, as all the land's polities were eager to hire these exotic horsemen. More importantly, though, the Añak managed to establish a state of their own, settling the (aptly named) Ania Hills.   And it was there that they started becoming more recognizably Ania, abandoning most of their old customs. They converted to the local religion, persecuted the ''pagans'', became sedentary and generally assimilated into their new neighbours' culture.   And it was also there that the language we know as Sikkaonia was finally codified, aided by a new class of secular writers and a new, much easier to use, script. It should be said, though, that despite the many foreign practices the Ania were adopting at this time, the tongue in which they wrote was still fairly ''unaffected''.   Thus, even if we see several words borrowed from the local languages (mostly related to agriculture and the ocean) the additions are rather minimal. This is especially noticeable once Ayre is compared to its main daughter, Tias Ania, as two thirds of its vocabulary is made up of such additions.
 

Kotluk

Forgotten
''Molak toqtshabot nqik uru''.  
''After triumph comes defeat''
That stage would, however, prove rather brief. As Añak became Ania and a new empire rose, the Children of Natais embraced their new subjects' culture wholesale. And thus new Ania dialects emerged, more melodic and poorer in consonants. Over time, even Sikkaonia's literary tradition fell out of fashion, as Tias Ania became the new standard.   That last thing removed the last incentive the average scholar had to learn this speech, which meant people gradually began to see Ayre as a rather awkward relic from the past. Thus linguists (and the occasional nerd) are the only ones who study it. Either to better understand Ania's history or to flex on their equally scholarly pals.
 

I Natan Qhalkiy

A Farewell Gift
''WHY ON EARTH DOES /NG/ MAKE THE /H/ SOUND?!''  
-a fairly understandable question
Outside of those circles, the only tangible way in which Añak impacts the everyday person is through its orthography. This is because, by and large, Tias Ania bases its spelling on that of Sikkaonia, which leads to quite a lot of odd/historical spelling.

Phonology


Consonants

Old Ania's consonant inventory (marginal/borrowed sounds in brackets)
Bilabial Alveolar Post-alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ ɴ
Stop (p) b t c k q
Fric. ɸ s ʃ ç x χ
Aff. t͡s t͡ʃ ʈ͡ʂ
Lat. l (ɬ) ʎ
App. ʋ
Rhotic r ɾ
Featuring several phonemes which aren't found in Ania (and most known languages for that matter), Añak's consonants have often been described as either:
''A most rewarding challenge''
or, as most learners and non-intellectuals put it:
''Complete gibberish''
And not only are they rare on their own, for Old Ania also has some... unique contrasts. For instance, it is the only tongue whose speakers need to distinguish between palatal, velar and uvular nasals (ñ, ng and nq respectively). Otherwise, they'd end up confusing the words for ''Ania'', ''accident'' and ''pear'' (Añak, angak and anqak respectively).
 

Vowels

Old Ania's vowel inventory (marginal/borrowed sounds in brackets)
Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Mid e (ə) o
Open a
By comparison, the vowels are significantly more straight forward, only having 6 basic sounds (plus /ə/, which only appears in a few prestige loanwords). Furthermore, all of them appear in Tias Ania in one way or another, even if ä only happens as an allophone of y at the end of words.
''Don't speak with your nose goddamnit!''  
-teacher chastising student
Despite that, however, students whose native tongue is Ania sometimes struggle to pronounce them properly. This is especially true when they encounter any of them next to either m, n, ñ, ng or nq (the nasal consonants) and another consonant/the end of a word, as, much to the purists' dismay, they nasalize them.
 

Phonotactics

''Teacher (stern): Repeat after me: Qtabma mnaryc okmnomtshiq kvekbekfent...   Milo (whispering worriedly): Should we call someone? It seems like he's having a seizure again!   Vela (equally whispering): One can never be too sure but I think he's just speaking Sikkaonia. Though admittedly mister does look rather bad... Eh, no way to know 'til he stops speaking or something.   Milo (somewhat relieved): Oki''  
-excerpt from theatre play
 
On the surface, Ayre's syllable structure doesn't seem that complex, not allowing anything denser than (C)(C)V(U/I)(C). However, this is rather misleading, as Añak has barely any rules regarding which sounds can go together, leading to clusters like qta, tshme or oktsnqa (split in syllables like ok-tsnqa).   This stands in stark contrast with its daughter languages, which have gotten rid of the vast majority of those consonants and, more often than not, don't allow any to be at the end of syllables/words.

Grammar


Verbs

''Wait, where's the catch?''  
-wary student
Irregularities aside, verbs in this language are quite simple, especially when compared with Tias Ania's. For example, they entirely lack any way to mark time (barring the gerund, which is formed by adding the suffix -t/ut) or express most hypothetical situations. In fact, Sikkaonia's verbs only have 5 forms:  
  • Conditional: Used to express actions that would be done, some (long extinct) dialects seemingly also used it to refer to any hypothetical actions/situations, but that was never accepted in the official form.
  • Gerund: Lost in later versions of the language, Añak uses the gerund to express both actions that are being done as well as anything that happens regularly/repeatedly (so, for example, they would say ''the Sun is rising every morning'' instead of ''the Sun rises every morning'').
  • Imperative: Used to give orders.
  • Indicative: By far the most commonly used tense, Ayre's indicative was used to refer to any actions that the subject does at a single point in time, as well as (at least in the official variety) any hypothetical situations that aren't followed by an ''if''.
  • Passive: Used to refer to things that happen to the subject. An additional ''gerund passive'' form is known to have existed in some non-standard varieties.
 

Persons

''Oooohh, there it is!''  
-that same student after flipping the page
Despite the general lack of tenses and such bothersome grammar, students have to keep in mind that Old Ania verbs can be conjugated for up to 9 different persons. This is because Añak goes beyond a simple distinction between singular and plural, having a dual form as well.   Thus, speakers must distinguish between ''us/y'all/they'' and ''us/you/them two'', something most beginners find rather challenging, especially when they aren't given much time to think their sentences. Though admittedly the last person to use this language in any real life situation passed away 1600 years ago, so people tend to have plenty of time to think about their words...   All 9 cases are only used for the conditional, indicative and passive, however, as the imperative uses 8 (all but the first person singular) and the gerund none.
 

Nouns

''Like, don't get me wrong, I appreciate the simplicity, but I really would have thought our noble ancestors would have had a more... sophisticated speech''.  
-another student complaining
The same cannot be said about nouns, however. Even if they are technically simpler than in Tias Ania, that's not saying much, as that language has, among other things, 15 grammatical cases.   Nouns have 3 genders (masculine feminine and neuter), 3 numbers (singular, dual and plural) and 13 cases, which are:  
  • Ablative: Meaning ''out of X place''.
  • Absolutive: Used to indicate that the noun is either the direct object in a sentence with a transitive verb or the subject in a sentence with an intransitive one.
  • Causal: Meaning ''because of X''.
  • Comitative: Meaning ''with X''.
  • Dative: Used to indicate that the noun is the indirect object in a sentence.
  • Ergative: Used to indicate that the noun is the subject in a sentence with a transitive verb.
  • Final: Meaning ''in order to X''.
  • Genitive: Meaning ''of X''.
  • Illative: Meaning ''into X place''.
  • Instrumental: Meaning ''by means of X/using X''.
  • Locative: Meaning ''in X place''.
  • Possessive: Meaning ''X's/belonging to X''.
  • Terminative: Meaning ''up to X place/time/circumstance''.
 

Ergativity

''Nataelre ta iro ik set tolotsit''.  
''Natael patched the shirt''.
Rather strangely among the world's languages, both Ayre and its daughter languages are ergative. In simple terms, this means that they don't have the same distinction between the subject and direct object as us.   Instead, the subject will be given the same marker as the direct object if it's found in a sentence whose verb doesn't allow a direct object (think of verbs like ''to go'' or ''to cry''), the so-called absolutive case. It should be said, though, that the absolutive marker is silent so to speak, as there is no suffix for it (instead it could be said that unmarked nouns are in their absolutive form).   On the other hand, the subject in a sentence that has or can have a direct object is given its own special marker, the so called ergative case. However, Añak pronouns cannot take any case endings, so the specific suffix is mostly seen in third person sentences.
 

Other Parts of Speech

Adjectives and Adverbs

''Arlie, arlio, arliy, arlies, arlios, arlis, arleam, arloam...''  
-student reciting the forms of 'arlie' (bright)
Sikkaonia doesn't have a distinction between adjectives and adverbs. This means that both behave the same way, taking the gender and number of whatever they're accompanying, and there is no ''-ly'' particle. When accompanying things that aren't really conjugated for gender (like verbs), the adjectives are conjugated in the singular number and neuter gender, which is seen as ''the default form'' in Añak.
 

Articles, Determiners and Pronouns

''Qa, om, mat, nik, tshek, qaqy, omong, matmat, niknik, tshektshek, na, mun, lir...''  
-student reciting the personal pronouns
In this tongue, articles, determiners and pronouns behave fairly similarly. They all have different forms based on gender and number, cannot take case endings and can't be fused to other words (so, for example, Añak lacks any contractions like English ''it's'').   Besides that, Ayre distinguishes between definite and indefinite articles. Though, unlike in other languages, this doesn't only extend to what could be translated as ''the/an'', as the distinction also applies to ''this/that''. Thus, a speaker must keep in mind whether they are talking about ''that thing in particular'' or ''that non-specific thing''.
 

Building a Sentence

''How on Earth could anyone communicate with this system? Did they not feel the need to mark emphasis? Taking this course has really made me see our ancestors in a worse light... They were such simpletons!''  
-Ania speaker frustrated about the lack of overly complex grammar
Even if the average sentence in Sikkaonia follows an SOV/SVO, there's more to it than that, as seems to be the case with every other feature of this language. Ignoring poetry and the creative licences poets take to fit the rhyme, the words in the average sentence must be arranged based on their ''animacy''. This means that every noun is classified into one of 7 categories based on how alive/human-like it's thought to be. These are:  
  • Irrealis: The lowest tier, it's reserved for emotions/abstractions.
  • Mineral: The second lowest rank, it includes not only rocks and such, but also things like ponds, books and (non-sacred) statues.
  • Vegetal: In recognition of plants as living things, they are deemed to be above the landscape around them.
  • Tool: Despite being technically inanimate and ''dead'', tools are ''given life'' when someone uses them, which puts them above the aforementioned groups.
  • Fluid: Reserved for clouds, fire, weather phenomena and most bodies or water, they are seen as just below animals and humans because they seem to have a will of their own (as they move unprompted), even if they lack the complexity of the things above them.
  • Animal: The second highest tier, here is where all animals fall into, all except creatures like coral and sea sponges, which are seen as plants.
  • Human: The highest possible classification, this includes humans, the Divine and anything deemed holy (like the Sun, Moon and stars).
The higher something is on the hierarchy, the closer to the beginning of the sentence it will be. This leads to many sentences which speakers of other languages may find... odd, as something like:
''Se vasar ik set kysit o qanisit ta hymute''.
''The apple fell and hit the man''.
would be rephrased as:
''Ta hymu ik set qanituk vasarmek kytut''.
''The man was hit by the falling apple''.
Though admittedly most people who study this language are native speakers of Tias Ania, which uses that same hierarchy in its ''default'' sentences, so most learners don't find this quirk strange at all.

Sample Text


The Healer and the Monk

''Ik set tsi Ilhareho-rysnek! A hymu tsi qario o ohat benek, trem e forim hamuk mase kirmet ahemanmalii tsaveho. Arra kri tsngo mase, kohe a hirio ik set hamen na...   -Komañ! - Ik set hamaa tek ai morlit, e vano linmarut na - Ma hymu, qhi hymu, talot, tshnavalit ma mniro, ma tekbok iba! Trem om naman qainte ai kfavolteket... T·ria qainte telektit''.
''It was at the village of Iliaréo! There a man was sick and dying, so his family called a shaman, as they were pagans. All but his daughter, who thus called a monk...   -Stop! - Said he after arriving, scaring the warlock - This man, no man, in fact, deserves such a punishment, such a contamination of the soul! So let me act... God protects me''.
Trivia:
  • Añak epic poetry is often full of seemingly nonsensical phrases, and thus scholars bitterly fight over those passages' true meanings.
 
  • Besides Livou and Lavou, Old Ania religion had (at least) one other bear spirit, Kuos.
 
  • Despite technically being from the Ania's pagan past, Natais is still revered as a national hero of sorts.
 
  • Despite the victory, Dagan became a ruin a mere 150 years after the war.
 
  • During their journey, the Añak gained quite the reputation for being rather weird, with all the human sacrifice/mummified ancestors, strange glyphs and unique language.
 
  • Even though the name ''Ania'' comes directly from ''Añak/Ainék'', the Ania Hills already had that name by the time they got there.
 
  • Knowledge of the Ainék Glyphs was an exclusive domain of the shamans, and thus with their eradication came the loss of the script (which was replaced by a modified version of the local alphabet).
 
  • Only around 20% of Tias Ania's vocabulary comes from Añak.
 
  • ''Ng'' making the /h/ sound actually makes some sense I swear.
 
  • The massive simplification of Añak's consonants likely happened due to the impact of the local languages it was so thoroughly influenced by, as those too were much more vowel heavy. For instance, they had words like ''aoau'' (which in Ania means a kind of antique closet).
 
  • Verbs in Tias Ania have hundreds of possible conjugations.
 
  • Even if the verb itself doesn't give information about time, it is common to use the phrases ''ik set'' and ''molak'' to talk about the past and future respectively.
 
  • Much of Añak's dual form has been lost in Tias Ania, although not entirely (as nouns verbs and articles still have a dual plural).
 
  • A common workaround Añak/Ania's prohibition on pronouns receiving case markers is to turn said words into nouns. So, for example, instead of saying ''I love you'' one should say ''I love yourself''.
 
  • Añak's gender system used to be tied to animacy as well, but over time their 9 gender system collapsed and became much more ''random''.
 
  • T·r is used to represent a t+r consonant cluster, while tr stands for the voiceless retroflex affricate /ʈ͡ʂ/.

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Cover image: Harvest Fields in Westerham, Kent by Helen Allingham (imaged cropped by Ynarkael)

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