Gnin El (lit. “Greenese”) is the primary language spoken in Gnial in Cretaceous times by the Iómr Mnór culture (“the People of the Book”). Like the other languages of the time, it developed from the English spoken by the scientists stranded in the Cretaceous period a few thousand years before the extinction impact at the K/T boundary. This article covers the primary characteristics of Gnin El around the period of 2500 AA, known at the time as “Modern Gnin El” (Gnin El Mladnarl).
Due to the wealth and power of the Iómr Mnór, Gnin El enjoys some status as a lingua franca. For the first thousand years or so of human settlement in Cnitnánsi, a simplified version English itself was generally used; but as the various dialects of English diverged and the status of the Iómr Mnór variety increased, it eventually eclipsed English as the standard against which other speech was judged.
Gnin El is a strongly isolating language, with almost no inflectional or derivational morphemes. (English, by contrast, has few inflectional morphemes, but a wealth of derivational morphemes.) Word order is relatively strict, especially between head nouns and their modifiers, although verbal modifiers are freer, particularly in poetic forms. Phonologically Gnin El is similar to English, although some phonemes (such as b and oi) have almost disappeared, and many different kinds of consonant clusters are permitted.
Gnin El’s consonant inventory is generally unremarkable, other than the lack of labial obstruents, and the presence of dental fricatives.
Gnin El permits a great variety of onset consonant clusters not allowed in English, including kn, dl, dn, gn, lr, ml, mr, sr, sth, thl, tl, tn, and wr.
In addition to the set of vowels above, Gnin El makes extensive use of syllabic r, l, m, and n, especially at word boundaries, as in Iómr Mnór.
As a severely isolating language with almost no inflectional or derivational morphemes, Gnin El uses particles, articles, and adpositions in profusion.
- Plurals are generally irregular, although they can be guessed if the etymology of the word is known. For example, words such as drog, mrac, and lod all have similar plurals (dlugrur, mlurur, udrur) because they had similar plurals in English (dogs, bogs, logs), but that relationship is obscured by 2500 years of sound change. In general, if the English plural ended with an -s sound, the Gnin El plural will end with -ath; while the -z sound corresponds to -ur. However, there are many exceptions.
- Definite article dnór is sometimes used for emphasis, as are dlâ “that” and dni “this”, but they are not required.
- Verbal particles, which generally appear prior to the verb, include â for perfective aspect, ac for progressive, insa for passive, wur for irrealis (future and subjunctive), nâ for negation, and dnór for imperative.
- Postpositions, Adjectives, and Adverbs. Adjectives and genitive forms appear after the noun. There is a comparative particle i (e.g. mnic i, “bigger”) and a superlative particle ârtha (mnic ârtha, “biggest”). Derivational particles, which can change the effective part of speech of a word, include ir, which changes adjectives into adverbs (iaml “fast”, iaml ir “quickly”), nenath, which changes adjectives into nouns (mnic nenath, “importance; large size”); and ensa, which changes adjectives into verbs (dluna “dark”, dluna ensa “darken”).
Pronouns. Gnin El distinguishes pronouns on person (but not plurality or gender), and has three levels of formality: Formal (Iómm Ar), Informal (Nâ Iómm Ar), and Alien (Ásri). The formal pronouns are used for adult Iómr Mnór; informal is used for children and servants of the Iómr Mnór; and the alien form is used for all non-Iómr Mnór. The formal forms are derived from the English plural pronouns we, you, and they; the informal forms come from us, ye, and boy; and the alien forms from he and some.
|1st Person||2nd Person||3rd Person|
Gnin El’s word order is relatively rigid, with a subject-object-verb structure and adjectives and postpositions that come after the noun. Rather like Spanish and French, articles, numbers, and adjectives that are more loosely connected to the meaning of the noun itself come before the noun; thus wi thlór âth iemé saémtnsur ac srena mnór mnic â nsir, “I three [adj] fright raptors [prog] hunt blue big [perf] see”: “I saw the three frightening big blue hunting raptors.”
Complementizers often stack. There are three potential morphemes: one indicating definiteness (something that English doesn’t really capture: whether the clause is already in the conversation’s context), one for aspect (irrealis / perfect / progressive), and one for the case of the clause (locative, genitive, etc.) These are derived from English prepositions, and they can bring their arguments with them to the front of the clause. The three types of complementizer are always stacked in this order: definiteness, aspect, and case.
- Irrealis is marked with ii (“if”), perfect is âth (“en”), progressive is unmarked
- Nominative is súi or sre (“who”, “what”), accusative is unmarked, genitive is ó (“of”), locative is a or el (“at”, “in”) (depending on the verb), and lative (target of motion) is tnór (“to”).
- Definite is dlâ (“that”), indefinite is unmarked. This isn’t something that English really captures: it indicates whether the clause is already in the conversational context.
- Wi nâ nor ii súi yúi nsur: I don’t know (if + who) you saw: I don’t know who you saw, if anyone
- Wi thrâna dlâ ii nsóm sáth: I think (that + if) it rains: I agree that it will rain
- Wi wana dlâ âth a sróm yúi mni: I want (that + perf + at-home) you be: I wanted you to be at home
- Wi ninath ii uánsa yúi nsail a gnel: I need (if + onions) you shop at get: I need you to get onions at the shop
Iómr Mnór value written language (annudnur) as sacred, while the spoken form (tung) is often considered corrupted or degraded. Therefore the written form of Gnin El is tightly controlled. Derived from the Roman alphabet, the orthography uses 31 letters. The forms and values are presented in the table below.
|a||ɑ, ə||í||ɪ: or ɑɪ||s||s|
|á||ɑ: or eɪ||j*||dʒ||t||t|
|b*||b||k*||k||u||ə, ʌ, ʊ|
|c||k||l||l or l̥||ú||ʌ:, ʊ:, u|
|d||d||m||m or m̥||v*||v|
|e||ɛ||n||n or n̥||w||w|
|é||ɛ: or i||o||ɑ or ɔ||y||j|
|f*||f||ó||ɑ:, ɔ:, oʊ||z*||z|
|i||ɪ||r||ɾ, ɹ, ɹ̥|
Letters marked with an asterisk indicate sounds not generally used in Iómr Mnór, but are often used in borrowings or names from other languages.
In addition to these, the digraphs th, dh are consistently used for θ, ð; while č, š are often used to represent tʃ, ʃ in other languages, but are not part of the official letter count. (Ch and sh are frequently used instead.) For example, the native name of the primary church of the neighboring country Nuraswá is NâmaČâtsadh or NâmaChâtsadh.
Each letter of the Gnin El language is assigned to one of the 31 wismne (periods of twelve days) in the calendar of the Iómr Mnór, and the name of the letter is used as the name of the wismne. The chart below shows the names and dates of important holidays, including solstices and equinoxes.
|1: New Year’s Day; Nsen Wutr|
|7: Iml Iumnsur Ó (feast of flowers)||Sâna|
|3: Nsen Ótnom (autumn equinox)|
|10: Iml Cladnanrur Ó (feast of candles)||Lâe|
|6: Nsen Nsómnar (summer solstice)||Vál|
|1: Iml Dnenath Ó (feast of the dead)|
|9: Nsen Sâna (spring equinox)||Dnór|
|4: Iml Glárur Ó (feast of grains)||Âtrath|
The development of Gnin El from English progressed through five main stages.
From the initial arrival of the researchers until about 500, the population lived first in Scotland and then (when it became clear that Scotland was uncomfortably hot) moved north to Greenland and northern Canada, clustering around the Oth Sea (modern-day Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay). The size of the community grew from a few hundred to a few tens of thousands.
While twenty-first century English remained the standard (especially in writing), the spoken form of the language began to drift. Many of English’s more marked sounds were shifted (these > désar, ship > siéth, judge > yudar, church > sars, treasure > trezar), ‘z’ and ‘v’ became ‘s’ at the ends of words (blaze > blásar, rave > rásar), and many words were truncated (explorer > icsplor). Shorter words beginning with a vowel gained an ‘h’ onset (eat > hét) while words already beginning with ‘h’ changed to ‘ch’ (heat > čét). Other words ending with vowels gained an ‘r’ coda through hypercorrection (see > sér). Finally, the first of a number of rounds of labial elimination occurred, seeing ‘p’, ‘f’, ‘b’, and ‘v’ disappear at the ends of words, replaced by changed vowel quality and postfixed dentals (ship > siéth, cliff > clié, club > cluédh, love > lusar).
Syntactically and morphologically much remained the same as modern English, except that in many cases grounding predications became attached to the subject, as in I’ve or he’s. As noted above, standard English spelling was still used; so in the example below, the sample of Early Cnitnánsian on the right is written as a writer of modern Gnin El might have transcribed the sounds.
What's past is prologue.
Čwut'hisa pâst'hisa prólag.
Late Iómr Mnór Cnitnánsian
During the next five hundred years, through about 1000 AA, society in Greenland began to stratify into upper and lower classes, and the speech of these classes began to diverge. Gnin El is the descendant of the speech of the upper class. During this period, the language continued to go through a process of unmarking — moving away from marked linguistic structures toward simpler, more universal ones. Dipthongs were simplified or converted to sonorants (haut > halt “out”), consonants in codas weakened and shifted up the sonority heirarchy (parhâps > parhâfs “perhaps”, cóld > córd “cold”), while ‘r’ and ‘l’ were sometimes dropped entirely (colar > coar “color”, cer > ce “care”, drásar > dásar “drive”).
There were no major developments in syntax or morphology. English spelling conventions were still used, despite the fact that the language was beginning to diverge sufficiently that literacy was becoming more and more of a barrier for the lower class.
Čwut'hisa pâst'hisa prólag.
Čunt'hisa pâlst'hisa póragh.
Old Gnin El (Génhálas)
By 1100 AA, the class tensions in Greenland had boiled over into scattered violence; and beginning in the 1200’s the Sasrâl Wars had begun in earnest. By the time the fighting died down in the late 1300’s, the great majority of the lower class had fled south and east to Scandinavia, founding what would become the Six Chiefdoms, and leaving the remaining upper class inhabitants of Greenland to make do without them.
The difficulty and social turmoil of the period led to a resurgence of literature, and more of a nationalistic focus on Iómr Mnór as opposed to other people of the Cnitnánsi. Great authors and poets such as Yath Mnesren between them established new forms of poetry and standards of language that marked a sharp distinction between “Cnitnánsian” (as a variety of English) and “Gnin El” as its own language (then called Génhálas). English spelling was dropped, and the Roman characters were adapted to a standard very similar to the chart above.
The first great sound shift of Gnin El occurred during this time. Vowels before ‘l’ were lowered (gúelth > guâlath “group”), before ‘r’ were centered (gar > gór “grow”), fronted before ‘n’ (lán > leén “line”), and moved back before ‘m’ (sém > súm “seem”). The second wave of labial loss occurred as well: ‘p’ moved to ‘w’ (pald > walad “pound”), ‘b’ to ‘m’ (bólt > malata “boat”), ‘f’ to ‘m’ (often prefixed by ‘i’: férd > émirad “field”), and ‘v’ to ‘u’ (vaar > úur “vowel”). And as can be seen from many of these examples, consonant clusters were often broken by schwa.
Gnin El also moved more toward a synthetic character at this time, with prepositions and determiners usually manifesting as prefixes on the noun.
Čunt'hisa pâlst'hisa póragh.
Čenatahisa walastahisa woragh.
Middle Gnin El (Gnén Hálras)
Although Greenland (now Gialadh, later Gnial) was now at peace, a new underclass began to develop between 1500 and 2000. This time, however, the Iómr Mnór tried to take steps to ensure that there would be no rebellion. Servants, generally recruited from families in Ómnurrir, were screened carefully, and were given excellent education, high pay, and many social freedoms. They were held to a strict moral code of obedience and pacifism. Over the next hundred years, this new servant class would develop into an extensive monastic order, the Mlílrath, with its own customs and language.
Meanwhile Gnin El continued its own development. The primary change was what was known as an “iambic onset” (athsána ar íath), in which onset consonants became clusters via the generation of higher-sonority consonants immediately after them. ‘T’ and ‘k’ became ‘tn’ and ‘kn’ (tân > tnân “town”; cica > cnicna “quick”); ‘d’ and ‘g’ became ‘dn’ and ‘gn’ (dâr > dnâr “day”; gén > gnén “green”); ‘l’ and ‘s’ became ‘lr’ and ‘ns’ (láca > lránca “like”; senatr > nsenatr “center”).
Gnin El at this point began to reverse its trend and become more isolating, with prefixes breaking off their roots and becoming prepositions and determiners again. However, they often did so in a different order; the usual word order shifted to verb final, with postpositions, and adjectives split between before and after the noun.
Čenatahisa walastahisa woragh.
Čenatna walrasta hinsa wosragh hinsa.
Modern Gnin El
Gnin El in 2500 AA presents a loss of several marked consonants, such as ‘č’ (čá > sre “why”) and ‘gh’ (mnigh > mnic “big”). Many syllabic consonants were broken into vowel-consonant sequences (though far from all), and ‘h’ was dropped (hosre > osre “only”). The language also became severely isolating, with almost no remaining bound affixes.
Čenatna walrasta hinsa wosragh hinsa.
Sre wartha insa wosac insa.