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Archive for October, 2008

Nominative and accusative in Romansh and Engadinese

October 20th, 2008 Comments off

I recently came across an interesting article (in Romansh) about some Romansh words deriving from a Latin nominative.

As with most modern Romance languages, Romansh words generally derive from old Latin accusative forms (this also explains, for example, the plural ending -s in languages such as Spanish, French, and Romansh).

However, Romansh kept at least some case distinctions for a while, and there are now a couple of doublets that derive from nominative/accusative of the same word.

The article cites the following pairs: Dieus/Deus/Dius/Dös/Deis/Des < DÉUS vs. Diu/Deu/Dieu/Dia/Di < DÉUM; Segner/Signer (now predominantly in reference to God) < SÉNIOR vs. Signur/Signour (now the general word) < SENIÓREM; paster/pester < PÁSTOR vs. pastur/pastour < PASTÓREM (typically with slight differences in meaning; details depend on the region).

I also remember reading that Romansh must have had at least two cases at the time many town names were borrowed into German — leading to the interesting situation that the borrowed name preserves an older form of the language. Specifically, there are a number of German names of towns that end in -s (which used to mark the nominative case for those words) while the modern Romansh name no longer has that ending.

I don’t remember which towns they referred to, but looking at a list of towns in Graubünden in the German Wikipedia, it may have included some or all of Flims/Flem, Rhäzüns/Razén, Rodels/Roten, Schiers/Aschera, Sils im Engadin/Segl, and Tomils/Tumegl.

All that made me wonder whether to include something similar in Engadinese — that is, to have most modern words derive from the Greek accusative case but to have some vestiges of the nominative case, either in specific doublets (perhaps related to religion, since that may preserve archaicising language?) or in town names borrowed into, say, Rhaetian.

Borrowing the accusative in order to get a plural in -s seems not so necessary if you start from Greek rather than Latin, since Greek has both nominative and accusative in -s in the third declension, but then, it’s similar in Latin with III, IV, V. And in first and second declension nouns, you only have -s in the accusative plural. So accusative seems a good way to go if you want something similar to what happened in the Romance world.

Categories: Engadinese Tags:

Reverse-order dictionary

October 11th, 2008 Comments off

When I visted the public library in Chur, I saw in the small Romansh-and-Italian section a dictionary listing Surselvan words alphabetically from the end.

That could be used as a simple rhyming dictionary, but IIRC one of the motivations for compiling the book was to enable some study of the derivational and inflectional morphology of the language.

That might come in handy for my Engadinese project, if I could only remember what the book was called.

WHAT is now WHATL

October 11th, 2008 Comments off

I decided to rename “WHAT”, the Western Hellenic Alternate Timeline, to “WHATL”, the Western Hellenic Alternate TimeLine, on my blog, following a suggestion on the CONLANG mailing list.

The basic problem is that “WHAT” is nearly impossible to Google for, since it’s such a common English word. Hopefully, this renaming will ameliorate the situation.

Categories: meta, WHATL Tags:

New conlang Engadinese: Greek with Romansh sound changes

October 10th, 2008 Comments off

I’ve been thinking about another WHATL-based conlang, though I haven’t put pen to paper cursor to editor yet. It’s not even got a name, though one working title is “Engadinese”. (

The premise is that it’s Greek with Romansh-based sound changes — essentially, what Romansh would be if the Romans had spoken Greek instead of Latin.

The vague idea is to bias the sound shifts in favour of the “Ladin” varieties of Romansh (Putèr, Vallader, and — if I can get my hands on information, since it’s a spoken but not a written dialect — Jauer), essentially because front rounded vowels are cool. (The Ladin varieties have “ü” and “ö”, which have unrounded or split to  “i” and “e”/”eu/”ieu” in the Rhine varieties of Romansh as well as the compromise standard Rumantsch Grischun.)

Though on the other hand, that throws a spanner into the works of the idea I had to have certain additional orthographies for the language.

You see, I had intended to have not only a Greek-based orthography (naturally, since the Roman alphabet is non-existent in WHATL and Europe uses Greek letters) and a Latin-based orthography (based on real orthographies for Romansh idioms), but also a Latin and a Cyrillic one based on Croatian/Serbian, since I had read once that the phonology of Romansh and BCS is very similar (for example, differentiating between ć and č, spelled ch/tg and tsch respectively in Romansh).

But that probably applied specifically to Rumantsch Grischun; certainly, BCS doesn’t have /ø/ or /y/.

But that’s only a small deal. I expect that the “Croatian” orthography will use “ö” and “ü” (like the standard Latin one) and that the “Serbian” one will use ө and ү, which I think is pretty much the standard representation for those sounds in the languages which have them and which use the Cyrillic alphabet. (I briefly considered getting sounds for /œ/ and /ʏ/, too — perhaps ӫ and ұ — but probably won’t go that route since the Latin orthographies underspecify that difference [not to mention several other vowel phoneme distinctions], too.)

Ideally, I’d have a big old list of Romansh words — in as many different idioms as possible — along with their Latin ancestors and their cognates in Modern and Old French (since as I understand it, Romansh is more closely related to French than to Italian, from amongst the “big” Romance languages, and more specifically, the ones I’m familiar with), to help me derive sound changes (and to see what words in Ladin look like).

There’s a set of books that looks as if it could be useful, but it costs CHF 90, so that will have to wait a while. (Assuming it’s still available by the time I get around to buying it… books in or about Romansh tend to have a low print run.)

I’m also undecided quite where the language is going to be spoken, though I’m currently leaning to “those areas currently in Graubünden east of the Albula Range”, i.e., Engadine, Münstertal, and Valposchiavo.

Categories: Engadinese, WHATL Tags: