Friday, December 1, 2023

Lexember, Day 01: vaqua

I didn’t even think about Lexember this year until today, so I haven’t really thought out my plan. My “main” language for a few years now has been Valthungian, but I’d like to focus on something else for this month. For a few years now, I’ve been playing around with another a posteriori language, Gothic Romance, which is kind of what I wanted Valthungian to be before it became what it is. I haven’t spent much time on it, though, partly because there are some very complex sound changes operating on both Romance and Germanic languages in tandem, so please take all of this month’s words with a large grain of diachronically-fortified salt.

For Lexember this month, I’m mostly just going to work my way through the Swadesh and other word lists to try to build up a good “base” vocabulary where I can ponder the diachronics for another year or so… Maybe next year I’ll do a reprisal!

Just to give a little background before I start: Valthungian was originally supposed to be, “What if the Goths who sacked Rome in 410ᴀᴅ kept speaking Gothic instead of switching to Latin?” Valthungian isn’t really that, though, and became something much more Germanic and less Romancey than I intended. I love where it’s gone, though; I have no intention of trying to undo any of that. 

Gothic Romance tries to answer the same question, but in a very specific way in a very specific setting: Picture a small town somewhere in northern Italy where two 13th-century descendants of Gothic (or, rather, Griutungi) and Vulgar Latin (whatever that means) coexisted among a bilingual population for a few hundred years. The two languages (Italian Gothic and Bad Romance, respectively) develop a sort of common, synchronized phonology, and word games pop up spawning slang terms by applying affixes or inflections of one language to roots of the other, and after another five centuries or so, Gothic Romance is the result. I wouldn’t quite call it a creole, but perhaps a mixed language of sorts. A spicy mélange.

For illustrative purposes, here are a couple of examples from the vocabulary I’ve already established:

Latin decem /dekem/ → VL dece deh → BR dê   

Gothic taíhun /tɛhun/ → OV tehun → IG têju    →     GR têio /teːjo/

(For a while, têio probably coexisted with a Latinate dêio, but eventually the Germanic unvoiced version prevailed. The same kind of thing happens with a number of words with similar structures.)

Other words were merged or altered by word games that eventually became permanent, e.g.:

Latin aqua → BR aqua

Gothic watō ~ Griutungi watōr → OV watour → IG vatur

…but from aqua and vatur came vaqua and vaqur and aquor and vatua and atuor, and eventually vaqua becomes the accepted term, while vatuor remains as a term of art in plumbing and aqua- continues to be found in many derivations. (This may sound silly to some, but take a long look at variants in Middle English and tell me with a straight face that this is unreasonable!

So for Lexember Day 1, I’m going to start with the example above, most of which I invented as I was drafting this post:

[Lexember 2023, Day 01 - Gothic Romance


n.neu. - /ˈva.kwa/


In Bad Romance and Italian Gothic, there were any number of commonly accepted terms for ‘water’, including aqua, aquor, atuor, vaqua, vatua, vatuor, and vatur. They ultimately derive from Latin aqua and Gothic watō (or, more likely, Griutungi watōr).

‘I would like some water with ice, please.’ 
Ulirèu vaqua ambith glîs, mercjes.

A language by Jamin -]

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