Introduction to Rhaetian - Orthography and Pronunciation - Nouns - Adjectives and Adverbs - Pronouns - Numerals - Verbs - Prepositions and Conjunctions - Syntax - Wordlist Rhaetian-English - Date and Time - Texts in Rhaetian - Mini-Phrasebook for Travellers - Grand Master Plan




Pretty much ever since I came across Jan van Steenbergen's language Wenedyk (or Venedic in English), I wanted to create a language based on Greek.

Wenedyk is, roughly, Latin spoken by Poles; that is, rather than following the sound changes that resulted in French, Portuguese, Italian, and so on, it followed sound changes of its own, which were based on the sound changes that turned Common Slavic into Polish. That way, it's an obviously Romance language which sounds Polish.

I initially thought I would like to make a Polish-like language, too; I remember that at some point, many years, ago, Jan even told me that if I could figure out how to turn Greek into something similar to Common Slavic, I was welcome to use part of his Grand Master Plan (the set of sound changes he used).

However, nothing much happened for several years.

A little while ago, I picked up the project again. However, in the mean time I had changed my mind, and decided to make Ancient Greek look like German, rather than like Polish.

This had several reasons, two of which were that I'm more familiar with German than with Polish (so I could more easily fill in gaps or consider what to tweak to bring it closer to my goal) and that it was easier to find information on sound changes leading from Proto-Germanic to Modern High German on Wikipedia than information on Polish (though I could have used Jan's GMP, I suppose).


One of the first orders of business was to think of a name for the language.

The very first working name was Markish, that is, the language spoken at the marks or boundaries of the empire.

Then I had a look for inspirations for classical names that could fit, starting with a map of Roman provinces around the time 100 BC. The Romans never took hold of all of what's now Germany, but they did control part of southern Germany.

One of the provinces was called Raetia or Rhaetia, and I liked that name. Also, since it wasn't a Roman word, but was derived from the name of a tribe living there, I thought I could well use it for my purposes. Based on something like "the Romans, at least the educated ones, spoke Greek", I could, perhaps, conceive of some conhistory that would place Greek-speaking people in a province named Rhaetia (or some sound-changed variety thereof), whose language would develop into Rhaetian.

After a bit more work on the language, it turned out that choice was particularly felicitous (in my opinion) for another reason.

I wanted to have my language participate more fully in the High German Consonant Shift than High German itself -- specifically, to have -kk- affricate to -kch- just like -pp- and -tt- went to -pf- and -tz-, respectively. Since this is a feature of dialects spoken in southern Germany and Switzerland (Alemannic dialects), among others, I thought I would situate the language in Southern Germany or Switzerland. As I looked for places in Raetia with Latin names, trying to pick a nice place, I thought I'd center it around Curia (modern-day Chur in the canton of Grisons).

And after a bit more thinking, I thought that Rhaetian could play a similar role in its conworld to Rhaeto-Romance in ours! A Romance (Greek) language in an area otherwise dominated by German, that retains several archaic forms and was preserved due to the relative isolation of the various valleys of eastern and south-east Switzerland. And that name had "Rhaet-" in it, too! What a happy discovery.


A subsequent idea was what orthography to use. My first thought was to use the Latin alphabet -- after all, that would look even more German. Also, Wenedyk uses the Latin alphabet, too. (But then, so did Latin, the precursor of that language, whereas Ancient Greek didn't.)

However, in the early stages of working on the language, I read early drafts of Ray Brown's documents on TAKE, or Greek without inflections: a fictional flectionless auxiliary language based on Ancient Greek.

He situated TAKE in an alternate universe he called WHAT, or the Western Hellenism Alternate Timeline. He outlined a scenario in which Greek and its descendants ended up being spoken in most of western Europe, rather than Latin and its descendants the way it happened *here*. This scenario implied that Latin would have mostly died out and, with it, the Latin alphabet -- instead, the Greek alphabet would have become the most widely-used alphabet in the world.

At first, I wasn't sure whether I could render a German-like phonology in the Greek alphabet, but after thinking about it a little, I thought that I could.

So I thought I'd situate Rhaetian in WHAT, rather than make up a conworld completely from scratch, and give it a Greek orthography. (Though for personal use, I'll likely still have a Latin orthography in addition, just to see how Greek-masquerading-as-German looks like.)

Assumptions made about Ancient Greek

Ray made a number of assumptions about the pronunciation of Ancient Greek in connection with his work on TAKE. I, also, made some assumptions, some of which correspond to his and some of which don't. I'm not sure right now how best to deal with this, so I'll just gloss over this for now.

Here are some of the assumptions I made as to pronunciation.

I'm not sure what assumptions to make about the morphology. However, that may not be that important since differences between Classical Greek and Rhaetian (especially, simplifications of the verbal inflectional system) had a couple of thousand years to take place, so they needn't have been part of Vulgar Greek already.

However, I do assume that the dual number and the dative and vocative cases survived. The former is rather unlikely given what happened to the dual *here* (it was pretty much dead as a dodo even in Classical times, it seems), but I've had a dream for years that I'd make a conlang some day which would have a vocative case and a dual number, simply because I find those nifty. So I decided that both would make it into Rhaetian.

Sound changes

I decided that my sound changes would start with Grimm's Law -- something that, according to some, marks the start of Proto-Germanic as a distinct branch of Proto-Indo-European.

This may be a bit marginal, since my starting point for sound changes is the Greek of roughly 100 BC, while Grimm's Law is often dated earlier than that, but I decided to keep it anyway.

Since Greek had no voiced aspirated plosives, I decided to have the voiceless aspirated plosives follow their "fate" (viz., to turn into voiced unaspirated plosives). (This is the reason I wanted to keep them separate from the voiceless plosives and from the voiceless fricatives which resulted from them as part of Grimm's Law.)

I was rather chuffed to find that the word for "father", by the process of sound change, would end up being Φατερ "Fater". Very German indeed! (Probably with a vocative of Φαδερ "Fader", thanks to Verner's Law.) I wonder whether it would be possible to construct a Rhaetian-German sentence à la "Bread, butter and green cheese is good English and good Fries"....

Also, "daughter" would be something along the lines of Τοιχχατερ "Töchater" (recognisable, though not the same) and "over" would be υίβερ "hüber". "Heart" was nearly Έρτθ "Herz"; alas, κῆρ(δ-) did not survive long in Greek and I decided not to take it. But even καρδίᾱ makes a similar Αίρτθο "Härzo".

Introduction to Rhaetian - Orthography and Pronunciation - Nouns - Adjectives and Adverbs - Pronouns - Numerals - Verbs - Prepositions and Conjunctions - Syntax - Wordlist Rhaetian-English - Date and Time - Texts in Rhaetian - Mini-Phrasebook for Travellers - Grand Master Plan

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