Saturday, March 21, 2020

Teens and Prosody in Early Modern Valthungian

Aside from sone regularizing of the orthography, one of the key features that distinguishes Middle Valthungian from Modern is a series of changes made to the vowels. All of the “weak” vowels present in Middle Valthungian – the schwas, the lax vowels, and the syllabic sonorants – were either elided completely or strengthened / fortified / tensed. This is a secondary process to the Old Valthungian “Vowel Tensing” that was experienced some thousand years previously after the language’s initial sustained contact with Latin.

The most immediately noticeable result of this is in infinitives, gerunds, and 3pl. present verbs which suddenly end in –na(þ)(s) after the syllabic /n̩/ in the ending was forced back into a sonorant-vowel sequence. (At some point I’ll put together another post about the complexities of how to figure out whether an infinitive should have –na or –an, but that’s for another day.)

A slightly less immediately apparent consequence of this fortition is a type of epenthesis which has often been attributed to the language’s proximity to certain types of poetry, but the result is that unstressed mystery syllables occasionally spring up unbidden to maintain the language’s iambic nature, especially in words containing more than one stressed vowel. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, it was almost impossible to find any word with two consecutive stressed syllables.

Epenthesis of this kind didn’t usually alter the words themselves much aside from having an extra vowel to play with (usually /a/), but in some particularly changeable classes of words, the changes were more extensive. The best example of this is the series of “teen” numbers (13‒19).

13 — Thirteen itself is kind of an anomaly in Valthungian. Historically it seems to have had two forms as far back as the Gothic era, where Griutungi *þrītehun and *þrijatehun are assumed to have been used in free variation, and indeed both þrītǣn and þrižjetǣn were found in Middle Valthungian. However, þrītǣn fell out of use in Middle Valthungian, after which exclusively þrižatǣn is found in the language. This is notable here only because it demonstrates that this number did not undergo epenthesis like the others, settling instead on an alternate form. Had the þrižjetǣn form disappeared earlier, we would expect epenthesis in this number to look more like **þrījatǣn. One more mystery to add to this number is that from þrīžjetǣn we would normally expect **þrīžitǣn in the modern language – with an /i/ – rather than þrižatǣn. Theories abound, but the generally accepted explanation is that /a/ was assimilated by analogy with the following teen numbers. 

14 — Fourteen is a little less interesting. The only change there is that the “emphasis form,” fiður, was replaced in most compounds by the more lax form, resulting in fiðratǣn replacing all previous instances of fiðurtǣn

15 — Fifteen is the first to really undergo true epenthesis, initially by analogy with fiðratǣn before it. At this time, fim ‘five’ had already lost its final –f, but it was retained in the compound fimf-tǣn, and /a/ was added unceremoniously after it. This sequence of /mfat/, awkward at best, initially seems to have caused a reduplication of the /t/, likely by analogy with the ordinal fimfta, but the form fimftatǣn disappeared as quickly as it had appeared sometime in the mid eighteenth century.

16 — Sixteen built on fifteen’s weirdness, but kept the reduplicated /t/, and sǣstǣn quickly became and remained sǣstatǣn.

17 — Seventeen followed in the manner of fourteen, with a lax form sivnatǣn replacing earlier sivuntǣn, though sivuntǣn is still occasionally found as an alternative (whereas fiðurtǣn has vanished completely).

18 — Eighteen is the only “regular” teen, āta already having a handy unstressed syllable built in: ātatǣn.

19 — Nineteen faces the same awkwardness as fifteen, and while the “proper, correct, and official” rendering is njunatǣn, the occasional njundatǣn still occurs in the wild, which is even more problematic than fimftatǣn, because /d/ is not something that should ever occur in that position, the ordinal of nine being njunþa, rather than the more Gothic-flavoured **njunda.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Style Crumbs: Avoid Repetition in “ǭk ǭk”

Minor grammar note: Well, really more of a style note, I guess, since it’s not really “wrong,” per se… In Valthungian, one of the various words for “and” is ǭk (cognate with German auch, Swedish och, Old Norse ok, &c.) This ultimately comes from the class 7 strong verb *aukaną ‘to increase; to augment’. In Valthungian, *aukaną becomes ǭkna ‘to add.’

I was just writing up a recipe, and it turns out there are a lot of instances of “…and add…” which readily translates to “…ǭk ǭk…” which sounds dumb.

So new rule from the Valthungian Manual of Style’s guide to prescriptivist journalism: Use the suffix form in cases like this! Hence, “ǭku” (cf. Gothic auk-uh), which sounds much nicer!

WotM Valthungian: agiþǣša

I’d like to start posting a regular “Word-of-the-Day,” but I’m still getting settled on a decent format to use. Actually, it will be more of a “Word-of-the-Moment,” because I know I’m not disciplined enough to put something up consistently every day.

Please bear with me while I get some of the technical stuff sorted out and figure out the best way to post and keep this updated! In the meantime, here’s the first take:

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Aesop's Fables: The Goatherd and the Goat

I haven’t posted about Maltcégj in a while, so here’s a little translation I did today:

aknatcéi ulaðrói’l ei natcéi’l

dydgiksá’m natcéi mrástanaho nétcni, rakfák pul zatcínt uğmína. dydbjýn badtcǫ́c nem aknatcéi ulaðrói’l pʌ́a, mal márdjal wirb. bleg dydnagɮatnúc pʌ. dydbrán nos pul éþryla, ei dydẏakt pul pája, ei dydnaxád paj ubícta natcéi’l. dydék cax aknatcéi ulaðrói’lok.

“vreiblegðák laðvéiǧulað,” dyðbrám pul natcéi’la.

“blei,” dydðák natcéi’l, “patáx ðak mes bict raknaxáduli péibji.”

blegnagkanrakstafád akólks.

The Goatherd & the Goat

A Goat strayed away from the flock, tempted by a patch of clover. The Goatherd tried to call it back, but in vain. It would not obey him. Then he picked up a stone and threw it, breaking the Goat’s horn.
The Goatherd was frightened.

“Do not tell the master,” he begged the Goat.

“No,” said the Goat, “that broken horn can speak for itself!”

Wicked deeds will not stay hid.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Valthungian Calendar & The Measurement of Time

The Valthungian Calendar is fairly complex, compared to most, and that is largely due to trying to cram three different competing calendar systems into one. It didn’t work, and at a certain point they just cut their losses and kept using the monstrous system they had.

Ultimately, the calendar is a fairly standard solar calendar, beginning each new year on the Winter Solstice. The coming year, 2020, will be 1610 in the Valthungian Calendar. Years are numbered starting from the Sacking of Rome in 410ad; to calculate the Valthungian year, simply subtract 410 from the current Gregorian year unless you happen to be in the period between the Winter Solstice and January 1st, in which case you should probably find something more productive to do.

The year consists of twenty-eight overlapping months: the standard Gregorian twelve (because it remains important to keep in sync with the rest of the world) and sixteen traditional months: eight standard and eight “short months.” The months are based on the same astronomical calculations that make up the twenty-four Solar Terms of the Chinese calendar, though not every Solar Term is a month. A new months starts at the beginning of each zodiac sign and at each of the four “cross-quarters,” i.e. the points between the solstices and equinoxes.

Most long months last from 29 to 31 days, while short months are between 14 and 16 days long. Short and long months are always paired, so two long months will always be followed by two short months, and vice versa.

The sixteen traditional Valthungian months:

The traditional months are mostly named for traditional Germanic months, and have many counterparts in Old English, Old High German, and others.

Ǧulis (long) ‘Yule’
Langistmēnaþs (short) ‘Longest Month’
Halbwastra (short) ‘Half Spring’
Maltimēnaþs (long) ‘Melting Month’
Wyniamēnaþs (long) ‘Joyous Month’
Milukmēnaþs (short) ‘Milk Month’
Halbsumbra (short) ‘Half Summer’
Sutnamēnaþs (long) ‘Sun Month’
Linþis (long) ‘Lithe’
Haugimēnaþs (short) ‘Hay Month’
Halbharvist (short) ‘Half Harvest’
Wiðumēnaþs (long) ‘Wood Month’
Wīnmēnaþs (long) ‘Wine Month’
Blōtmēnaþs (short) ‘Sacrifice Month’
Halbwintrus (short) ‘Half Winter’
Wintrumēnaþs (long) ‘Winter Month’

The twelve Gregorian Months:

The Gregorian months are fairly unambiguously ported over from the Roman calendar, though some confusion did arise between the traditional month of Ǧulis and the Gregorian month of Ǧulismēnaþs, leading to some outrageous conspiracy theories (see here, for example).

Ǧanismēnaþs ‘John's Month’
Fǣvrismēnaþs ‘Fevria's Month’
Merčismēnaþs ‘Mars' Month’
Ǣprilismēnaþs ‘April's Month’
Mǣǧismēnaþs ‘May's Month’
Ǧunismēnaþs ‘Junius' Month’
Ǧulismēnaþs ‘Julius' Month’
Augustismēnaþs ‘August's Month’
Sivunþamēnaþs ‘Seventh Month’
Ātuðamēnaþs ‘Eighth Month’
Njunþamēnaþs ‘Ninth Month’
Tǣjunþamēnaþs ‘Tenth Month’

A typical Valthungian calendar combines these two systems generally with the traditional dates at the top of each cell and the Gregorian at the bottom. See, for example, the first few weeks of the coming year:

(You can also see from the example that the words mēnaþs ‘month’ and daǧ ‘day’ are left off most calendars as unnecessary.)

The days of the week:

Also fairly obviously Germanic are the days of the week:

Sōgilisdaǧ ‘Sunday’ “Sun’s Day”
Mēninsdaǧ ‘Monday’ “Moon’s Day”
Tījugisdaǧ ‘Tuesday’ “Tīwaz’ Day”
Wōðnisdaǧ ‘Wednesday’ “Wōdanaz’ Day”
Þīfunsdaǧ ‘Thursday’ “Thunder’s Day”
Frižisdaǧ ‘Friday’ “Love’s Day”
Lǭgisdaǧ  ‘Saturday’ “Laundry Day”

Friday, November 1, 2019

Grammar Crumbs: Preposition 𝑢𝑓 for ‘in’ re: Languages

When talking about speaking or writing or understanding something in a language, use the preposition uf.  E.g.:
Hit ist uf angliškan skrivnas.‘This is written in English.’
The name of the language is always in the dative, almost always –an, because most languages are really just a weak feminine adjective omitting the word “language,” though you may find it written out in full as well, e.g. uftiža rasta grējutungiškan ‘in the Valthungian language’.

Though it wasn’t intentional, this is funny to me, because it looks and sounds reminiscent of German auf, which is used for language in the same context (“auf Deutsch”) but has exactly the opposite underlying meaning. So in each of these Germanic languages, a different preposition is used:
English ‘in’ – In French
German ‘on’ – Auf Französisch*
Valthungian ‘under’ – Uf Frankiškan
*One could also say im Französischen, but that’s another grammar crumb for someone else’s blog.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Grammar Crumbs: Articles and Body Parts

Grammar quirk: Valthungian has two definite articles – his and – which are inherited from the Germanic proximal and medial demonstratives, *hiz and *sa, respectively. is usually the default (as became the case in most Germanic languages), but you can use his if your “the” feels more “this-y” than “that-y.”

However, when referring to personal body parts, always use his for your own and for others’.

E.g. ‘my heart’ is always hit herta mīna – never þat herta mīna; conversely, you would never say hit herta þīna – always þat.

Some other useful body parts:

“mine” “yours”
hair: his hast mīna sā hast þīna
head: hit hǭviþ mīna þat hǭviþ þīna
brain: hit hežne mīna þat hežne þīna
eyes: hīj·ǭgnas mīnan þ·ōgnas þīnan
nose: hīja nasa mīna sō nasa þīna
ears: hīja hǭsana mīnan þō hǭsana þīnan
mouth: his munþs mīna sā munþs þīna
tongue: hīja tunga mīna sō tunga þīna
teeth: hīs tynþis mīnans þǣ tynþis þīnans
throat: his hals mīna sā hals þīna
neck: his þnaka mīna sā þnaka þīna
arm: his arms mīna s·ārms þīna
hand: hīja handus mīna sō handus þīna
fingers: hīs fingras mīnans þǣ fingras þīnans
nail: his naglas mīna sā naglas þīna
chest: his brust mīna sā brust þīna
heart: hit herta mīna þat herta þīna
lungs: hīja lungna mīnan þō lungna þīnan
stomach: his maga mīna sā maga þīna
leg: hīj·anke mīnasō anke þīna
knee: hit knio mīna þat knio þīna
shin: hīja skina mīna sō skina þīna
calf: his waþua mīna sā waþua þīna
ankle: his anklas mīna s·ānklas þīna
feet: hīs fœučis mīnans þǣ fœučis þīnans

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Old Valthungian Alphabet (ca. 950ᴀᴅ)

Most of my posts about Valthungian have something to do with the modern Valthungian language, but I wanted to share a little bit about a stepping-stone we cross on our way from Griutungi (a dialect or close relative of Gothic) to Valthungian.

Old Valthungian, the language spoken by Goth descendants living in parts of Northern Italy between 800 and 1200ad, had a unique writing system which seems to have been largely based on Gothic, but with a few innovations possibly inspired by some of the interesting things that were happening to “Latin” at the time (before it really consciously registered for anyone that they weren’t really speaking Latin anymore). There were very often Latin characters mixed into the Old Valthungian texts as well.

Of course, spelling was very inconsistent, and what I’ve attempted to regularise here is merely academic; a more thorough list of variations and exceptions can be found at the link below. The order of the alphabet as shown is also approximate, based on Gothic and modern Valthungian alphabetic orders; no extant documents or artifacts contain the Old Valthungian alphabet in full.

For more information on Old Valthungian, please visit:

Update: Yeah, so I’ve totally rearranged and reconstructed all of this. The link above is current. The table below is out of order and missing a couple of letters. Also, just kidding about the “exact order of the alphabet is unknown” thing. Now it’s mostly known.

O.V. Rom. Gothic IPA E.g.

a 𐌰 ɑ apls ‘apple’

b 𐌱 b bagyms ‘tree’
g 𐌲 ɡ gaets ‘goat’
d 𐌳 d dagyz ‘day’
ð (𐌳) ð aeðij ‘mother’
e 𐌴 ɛ erða ‘earth’

qv 𐌵 kw qvernu ‘mill’
z 𐌶 ʐ þizae ‘to that’
h 𐌷 h~x herjis ‘army’
þ 𐌸 θ þjuþ ‘people’
i 𐌹 i~ɪ igyil ‘hedgehog’
j 𐌾 j jeir ‘year’

k 𐌺 k⁽ʰ⁾ korts ‘short’
l 𐌻 l~ɫ langz ‘long’
m 𐌼 m maeðms ‘gift’
n 𐌽 n naoþs ‘need’
o 𐍉 ɔ ortigardz ‘garden’
p 𐍀 p⁽ʰ⁾ paeða ‘shirt’
  r 𐍂 r riqvus ‘darkness’
s 𐍃 s sougila ‘sun’
t 𐍄 t⁽ʰ⁾ tungl ‘star’
u 𐌿 u~ʊ ulbvandus ‘camel’
f 𐍆 f~ɸ fimf ‘five’
v 𐍅 w vilðijs ‘wild’
y (𐍅) y~ʏ hyhsopus ‘hyssop’
k 𐍇 korts ‘short’
hv 𐍈 xw hvilftri ‘curve’
aa 𐌰 ɑː haah  ‘curtain’
ae 𐌰𐌹 ɛː aens ‘one’
ao 𐌰𐌿 ɔː kaupoun ‘buy’
bv (𐌱) β gibvan ‘give’
eao 𐌰 œː leaosjan ‘liberate’
ei 𐌴 eː meina ‘moon’
eo (𐌰𐌿) œ andweordjan ‘answer’
eou (𐍉) øː afmeouðij ‘disagreement’
eu (𐌿) y feutlijns ‘fulfillment’
euv (𐌿) yː heuvhjan ‘hoard’
gy (𐌲) ɣ aogyou ‘eye’
ij 𐌴𐌹 iː ijs ‘ice’
ju 𐌹𐌿 ju jup ‘up’
ng 𐌲𐌲 ŋɡ singan ‘sing’
nk 𐌲𐌺 ŋk drinkan ‘drink’
nqv 𐌲𐌵 ŋkw inqvar ‘your’
ou 𐍉 oː ous ‘river-mouth’
uv 𐌿 uː uvhtvou ‘pre-dawn’

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Grammar Crumbs: Genitive-Dative Alignment

While the Grey Tongue uses the standard plain-old, boring-old Germanic cases (Nominative, Genitive, Dative, and Accusative, yes in that order), I’ve been gradually giving a little more responsibility to the Genitive, such as taking over certain rôles like the standard Germanic “accusative of time.” (E.g. ‘today’ – in Gothic hina dag or himma daga – is hisdagis, or sometimes hindag in specific circumstances.)

I’ve recently noticed that this has created an interesting dichotomy between the Genitive and the Dative, where they’ve started to grow into rôles of opposites: Dative being generally analogous to “to/for/towards” and Genitive to “from/of/away from.” This is particularly notable among the pronouns, which occur frequently in the genitive as well (rather uncommon in Germanic languages except for Icelandic, but there it’s actually replacing or mirroring the dative rather than contrasting with it.)

E.g. His ist mīn skenča ‘This is a gift from me’, which contrasts with His ist skenča mīns ‘This is my gift’ or ‘This is a gift of mine.’

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Shameless Pilfering of Morphology

Just a little grammar snippet for you.

Looking at the history of Valthungian, the period between Griutungi (the dialect of Gothic that was likely the main parent of Valthungian) and Middle Valthungian occurred mainly in northern Italy and some other areas of southern Europe, and borrowing from Vulgar Latin and its subsequent descendants was fairly rampant. One such borrowing that occurred around the time of Old Valthungian was the borrowing of the Latin genitive plural ending –ōrum to replace Valthungian’s earlier –ē and –ō, which had by that time were starting to undergo some final unstressed vowel degradation and were in danger of vanishing from the language completely, leaving a bare root.

Classical Latin –ōrum was borrowed from Vulgar Latin –ōrũ into Old Valthungian –ōru, which eventually became Middle Valthungian –oru and Modern Valthungian –aro.

Some examples:

Gothic NS: bagms ‘tree’, andeis ‘end’, handus ‘hand’, wata ‘water’ → GP: bagmē, andjē, handiwē, watanē
Griutungi: bagms, andīs, handus, watar bagmē, andjē, handiwē, watanē
(early) Old Valthungian: bagms, endīs, handus, watar bagmē, endjē, hendjugē, watanē
(later) Old Valthungian: bagms, endīs, handus, watar bagmōru, endjōru, hendjugōru, watanōru
Middle Valthungian: bagms, endīs, handus, watr bagmoru, endžjoru, hendžjugoru, watanoru
Modern Valthungian: bagmas, endis, handus, watra bagmaro, enǧiro, henǧigaro, watanaro

Grammar sub-snippet: Why does watanaro still have so many vowels? Shouldn’t it be watnaro?

Yes and no. Watnaro is common enough in usage, but the retention of the unstressed /a/ here has to do with the development of Valthungian prosody, particularly throughout the Middle Valthungian period when a lot of vowels were jumping ship en masse, when the language came to have a much stricter iambic meter, so many unstressed vowels were retained and some were even added between two stressed syllables.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Grammar Crumbs: Swējuga X, īðanǭðan Y: The X-er the Y-er

In Valthungian there is a handy formula: Swējuga ___, īðanǭðan ___. 
This is roughly equivalent to the English formula “the ___-er the ___-er.”
Literally it translates to “So much ___, that then still then ___.” (Gothic gets weird with its conjunctions, and Valthungian just doubles down on them.) The comparative form of the adjective should be in its uninflected adverbial form (usually –is if its inflected form takes –iža).
Swējuga mikilis, īðanǭðan batis. ‘The bigger the better.’
Swējuga langis lečiðit, īðanǭðan wersis gengiðit wisna. ‘The longer it takes, the worse it will be.’
You can also use the same construction with mǣs / mǣža or mitnis / mitniža and noun phrases, e.g.
Swējuga mat mǣžna ǣgums, īðanǭðan grēðo mitnižna (ǣgums). ‘The more food we have, the less hungry we’ll be.’
Swējuga birœ́uǧistu mǣs, īðanǭðan tīman langižna þik lētiþ þat guþ þīna ta livna. ‘The more you complain, the longer your God lets you live.’

Saturday, April 6, 2019

In the meantime...

I recently posted this in the Valthungian Facebook group, and thought I might as well add it here to the bloggosphere too.

Gǣl Ǭstra! (‘Happy Spring!’) – It just occurred to me that I should write something up about the various uses of “Happy” in Valthungian.

There are easily half a dozen words that could translate directly to ‘happy’ in English, but they are not all equivalent. When describing a person who is happy – i.e. a person who feels happiness – the most common words to describe them are fās, glaþs, or frǭs. Swēgnas is particularly celebratory – ‘jubilant,’ perhaps – and wižniǧ is more of a generally happy demeanor.

When wishing someone happiness on a holiday – i.e. an event which causes or evokes happiness – the options are greatly reduced. A day cannot be glaþs or wižniǧ or frǭs – these only apply to people.* The most common, used for most holidays, is fās; however, Christmas is always blīþ.** Of course, this is further complicated by the gender of the holiday in question, because irregular adjectives like fās and frǭs can have very different forms, e.g. neuter, fagun masculine, and fagua feminine… at least in the accusative, which is all we’re concerned with when wishing people happy things.

For holidays which begin with a vowel, rather than have an awkward pause in “fā … ǭstra!” use gǣl instead. Like the complement of glaþs, gǣls always refers to a happy event or occasion, and is never used to describe a person.***

Here are some Valthungian holiday wishes for reference:
  • Merry Christmas, Happy Yule – Blīþ Ǧul, Blīðna Ǧultin
  • Happy New Year – Blīþ/Fā Njuge Jēr
  • Happy Imbolc/Candlemas – Fā Halbwastra
  • Happy Spring/Vernal Equinox/Ostara – Gǣl Ǭstra
  • Happy Mayday/Beltane – Fagun Halbsumbra
  • Happy Mid-Summer/Litha – Fā Linþ
  • Happy Lughnassadh/Lammas – Fagun Halbharvist
  • Happy Fall/Autumnal Equinox/Mabon – Gǣl Harve
  • Happy Halloween/Samhain – Fagun Halbwintro
  • Happy Birthday – Fagun Gabórþisdag
  • Happy ____ Day – Fagun ____(+genitive) Dag

* Think of the word glad in English, discounting the particularly old-timey usage of things like “glad tidings.”
** Just like it’s always merry for Usanians instead of happy.
*** Well, it can be, but it doesn’t mean ‘happy’. German speakers, you know what I’m talking about!