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LotM - Jan 17: Kolyma Ainu
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Happy 2017! For January's Language of the Month, we'll visit the frosty Russian Far East to take a look at protondonor's Kolyma Ainu, a language derived from Ainu but with substantial influence from Siberian languages such as Sakha, Yukaghir, and Evenki.
This public article was written by Admin Sheep on 1 Jan 2017, 00:32.

[comments] Menu
1. Kolyma Ainu
2. Phonology
3. Orthography
4. Morphology and syntax
5. Lexicon
6. More on Kolyma Ainu
7. A Note on LotM

[top]Kolyma Ainu

As winter begins in the Northern hemisphere, we'll visit the frosty Russian Far East to take a look at @protondonor's  Kolyma Ainu, a language derived from Ainu but with substantial influence from Siberian languages such as Sakha, Yukaghir, and Evenki.

[top]Phonology

The sounds of Kolyma Ainu are derived from Proto-Ainu, but have changed a lot due to contact with neighboring Siberian languages. You can read about the sound changes in this article.

Kolyma Ainu has all the standard stops: /p b t d k g/, with /q ʔ/ added for good measure. There are alveolar and postalveolar fricatives, both voiced and unvoiced, and postalveolar affricates as well. There are also a pair of uvular fricatives, /χ ʁ/. There is only one liquid, /ɾ/, and two glides /j w/. Like many Siberian languages, there are nasals at four different places of articulation, bilabial, coronal, palatal, and velar. The velar nasal can appear at the beginning of a word or syllable, such as in the word ӈэн "bad".

There are a large number of vowel qualities, with both front rounded and back unrounded vowels represented. These participate in a system of vowel harmony, which affects both native Ainu words and the numerous Turkic borrowings. Vowels can be both short and long. Syllable structure is the relatively simple, (C)(j,w)V(C). Finally, because syllables can begin with /j/ or /w/ after a consonant, there are a series of opening diphthongs such as /je/ and /we/.

[top]Orthography

Kolyma Ainu uses an extended Cyrillic orthography. In addition to the basic Cyrillic characters used by Slavic languages, there are some additional characters that are common among Siberian languages, including <ғ> /ʁ/, <ӄ> /q/, and <ү> /y/. There is also a special caseless letter ʼ used to denote a glottal stop. The Cyrillic orthography does not mark vowel length.

[top]Morphology and syntax

Kolyma Ainu has a rich agglutinative morphology, with a variety of aspect and mood suffixes derived from Ainu auxiliary verbs. These suffixes, as well as the person and number prefixes, participate in vowel harmony. There are also a number of morphologically marked voices, derived from Ainu prefixes and suffixes, which allow the formation of causative, passive, reciprocal, and reflexive forms. Taken together, this leads to a dizzying verbal complexity, with over 400 possible forms for each verb.

Kolyma Ainu has very few adjectives, and the majority of predicate adjectives behave like verbs. Attributive adjectives are created using the verb participle forms. Since aspect is marked on verb participles, this allows a nuanced gradation of meaning between different attributive adjective forms.

Compared to the verbs, the 12 noun cases, including prolative, equative, and translative, are a breath of fresh air. Nouns also have singular and plural forms and a variety of possessive affixes.

Syntax is also relatively simple: SOV, strictly head-final, and pro-drop. Relative clauses are formed using participles and precede the noun.

[top]Lexicon

As you might guess from the name, Kolyma Ainu takes a lot of its words from Ainu. But it also has a lot of loanwords from other Siberian languages. Yukaghir has contributed a number of words relating to hunting, fishing and the Siberian wilderness. Similarly, specialized reindeer breeding vocabulary comes from Evenki, and words about horses come from Sakha. Like many Siberian languages, words relating to the modern world, the law, and technology come from Russian. Each of the above languages has also contributed a wide variety of day-to-day vocabulary as well, including such colorful loans as көйбуну "to boast", from Yukaghir, мэрэку "toothless", from Evenki, and шүпшүргэн "anxiety", from Sakha.

[top]More on Kolyma Ainu

Want to read more? Check out this article on the history and anthropology of Kolyma Ainu speakers. Or you can read some of the Kolyma Ainu translations, grammar tables, and LexiBuild sets.

[top]A Note on LotM

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Kolyma Ainu that wasn't covered and you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot us (phi2dao, argyle, protondonor, or Avlönskt) a PM with your thoughts, suggestions, and hate mail. Also feel free to drop by the LotM clan if you have other feedback, want to join in the voting process, or nominate a language!
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