Sasrâl (Núln)

The people of Nusrawá, the region of the continent of Yosrail closest to Gnial; it includes Scandinavia and northern Russia as far east as the Ural mountains. The territory was settled in 1373 after extensive warfare between the Sasrâl and the Iómr Mnór. The term “Sasrâl”, which is Gnin El for “help”, is considered somewhat derogatory; their own name for themselves is Núlnpé (the United People).

Nusrawá and Gnial

Around 1000 AA, the Iómr Mnór society, which had always been somewhat stratified by wealth and class, began to truly break apart. Social mobility collapsed, and the lower classes were grievously oppressed. Civil strife erupted, in the form of the Sasrâl Wars of the 1200’s, culminating in the Sasrâl Exodus of 1373. Thousands of Sasrâl moved to Nusrawá between 1400 and 1450, and the Ascsismésal (Six Chiefdoms) of Nusrawá were established in 1469.

Since that time, relations between the Sasrâl and the Iómr Mnór have often been strained, but there has not been outright warfare. In any case, armed conflict would be difficult, because the voyage crossing between Nusrawá and Gnial is long and dangerous, not least because of the frequent storms, tsunamis, and nuthsir (sea monsters, or in Núlnasdhé, nartsé). Both sides have been subject to piracy as well.

The economic base of the Sasrâl is diverse, including fishing, extensive farming, lumber, and (in the southern, less mountainous regions of Nusrawá) even some ranching; but they are best known for their mining, jewelry, and craftwork (not least because those are the easiest goods to transport across the ocean to Gnial).

While they retain memory of their fight for freedom against the Iómr Mnór (and indeed another name for their homeland is Ghatśs, “Exodus”), a parallel or additional myth of their origin has developed, in which they were grown from the ground by the Earth goddess Bitht, who defied the Iómr Mnór father-god (Gartha) in order to make people of her own. Other characters in the folk-pantheon include Bitht’s mother Mr, her precocious brother Antsédh, and the warrior-saint Pâtc.

There are two parallel power structures in Sasrâl society: the nobility (heading the Chiefdoms, the Go Smésal) and the Sars (church), headed by the Aghtthánla. Traditionally, the chieftains are patriarchal and the church is more matriarchal, each with different powers in the social life of the people, in a power structure apparently derived from the family / clan structure of the Iómr Mnór. However, the division is different: the chieftains control things such as children, education, and marriage, while the church controls possessions, professional and social work, and the spiritual life.

Sars

The church is a matriarchal organization headed by the Aghtthánla. She is mostly a figurehead; affairs of the church are organized by the Caranha Go Nlaxo, the Congress of Nuns, which has over a thousand representatives (one from each holding) and an intricate structure with multiple powerful ministers.

Each croft (cftho) is a complex of economic activity, including arts, crafts, medicine, agriculture, forestry, husbandry, ranching, birding, and mining, depending on the landscape and local resources. Most of its population are children, unmarried adults, and elders who are too old to travel.

Children are generally raised by grandparents in the croft, and they assist with the croft-work as they are able. Approximately a third of children never marry, and remain with the croft their whole lives. The remainder must find a spouse from outside the croft, so they join a astthé (see below). When they are too old to travel, they return either to their birth-croft or to the croft of their spouse.

Go Smésal

Though they call themselves the “United People”, in truth politically the Sasrâl are quite fractured. There are six primary Chiefdoms and a dozen smaller, semi-independent ones. Each Chiefdom controls and defends a portion of the continent of Nusrawá, and is headed by a male Chief () who holds court (astthé, “seat”) in various crofts throughout the chiefdom at different times of the year.

Members of the astthé assist the Sé, fighting alongside him as needed, but also engage in hunting, teaching, sports, theater, and other activities as they travel from croft to croft.

The closest thing the Sasrâl have to a king is the Cla, a male chosen every five years by election from among the Sé. The Cla has broad powers for international relations and negotiations, but has no military power of his own; he must appeal to the individual chiefdoms for money and armaments.

Núlnasdhé

Núlnasdhé (/nul.ns̩.ði/) means roughly “union speech” and is the name of the language of the Sasrâl. Historically it split off from Gnin El around 1000 AA, and thus has been developing separately for approximately 1500 years. However, as is sometimes the case, Núlnasdhé has preserved many features of ancient Gnin El more faithfully than has Gnin El itself. In part this is intentional; the Six Chiefdoms jointly maintain a college of language, the Asdhéca, for the preservation and adjudication of matters of linguistic usage and standards.

Núlnasdhé underwent a rigorous process of creolization due to the oppressive socioeconomic conditions and linguistic mixing of the period surrounding its initial development. During this time, as Gnin El moved towards a more synthetic architecture, Núlnasdhé developed in the opposite direction, losing many grammatical distinctions and dropping a great deal of vocabulary. After the Sasrâl settled in Nusrawá, they took pains to codify their speech as separate and distinct from Gnin El, and the dictionaries and grammars established by the Asdhéca of this time (approx. 1500) have remained as the “official” form of the language, even as the spoken form has continued to evolve and diversify.

Word order is quite strictly SVO and prepositional, with adjectives following the noun (much like French or Spanish). Phonologically the language has a somewhat simpler vowel inventory than English (eleven vowels, one diphthong) and about the same number of consonants, with a larger number of permitted consonant clusters.

Phonology

Consonants

Núlnasdhé’s consonant inventory is generally unremarkable:

LabialDentalAlveolarPalatalVelar
Stopb, pd,tg, k
Fricative / Affricatef,vð,θs, tʃ,ʃh, ɣ, x
Nasalmn
Glide,
Liquid
wr,l

More remarkably, Núlnasdhé also has a number of syllabic consonants that can be syllable nuclei: m̩, n̩, l̩, s̩, h̩, tʃ̩, and ɣ̩. They appear in words such as aghtthá /ɣ̩t.ˈθeɪ/ “great”, astt /s̩tː/ “set”, and ashttha /ʃ̩t.ˈθɑ/ “hot”. Orthographically they are usually represented with an a- prefixed to the consonant.

Núlnasdhé permits many onset consonant clusters not allowed in English, including ddh, dl, gm, pd, sh (usually spelled śh to distinguish it from ʃ), lr, ml, mr, etc. In addition, rather remarkably, geminate voiceless stops may appear word-finally, as in altt /l̩tː/, “let”. In practice this geminate is realized in a variety of ways depending on context and dialect; perhaps most frequently it is pronounced as an unreleased stop followed by an aspirated stop. Historically this gemination seems to have occurred to maintain phonemic distinctions when voiced stops became word-finally devoiced (compare “let” > altt, “led” > alt).

Vowels

Front
Lax
Front
Tense
CentralBack
Lax
Back
Tense
Highɪiu
High-mideʊ
Low-midə,ɚʌɔ
Lowæɑ
Dipthongs

Morphology

Núlnasdhé began as an isolating language but has developed a number of productive morphological processes.

  • Compounding.
    • Noun compounding is extremely productive. Compounds may be head-final (ashthaprâ, hunting party) or head-initial (prâashtha, “party-hunt”). If there is any difference in meaning between the two, it is only a matter of emphasis. Noun-adjective compounds are also permitted (farthúbarhi, “food-big”, a lot of food) and adjective-adjective compounds (astthépi, “sweet-pretty”) can also occur. All of these processes create new nouns, as is evident because they show case marking (see below): g ashthâ séaghth da astthépiat, 1st-sing-PRO PAST see-PAST DEF sweet-pretty-ACC “I saw the sweet pretty (thing).”
    • Verb compounding is rarer but does occur with prepositions, e.g. gaalchu “up-look”, i.e. to look (something) up.
  • Compounded Clauses. Núlnasdhé can combine a verb, its grounding predication (optional), and one or two of its arguments in a single prosodic word, creating a word that has all the elements of a clause. The order of the elements in these compounds is generally VSO, as in cr-mrlâ-aspri, carry-man-spear, “man carrying spear”. These are often used in place of subordinate clauses, e.g. g ashthâ séaghth crmrlâaspri, “I saw a man carrying a spear”. More examples:
    • G anttha nó séaghthnúgočú
      • g anttha nó sé-aghthnú-gočú : I know not see-PERF-you-who-ACC : I don’t know whom you saw
    • G thanćha wirrá
      • g thanćha wi-rrá : I think FUT-rain: I think it will rain
    • G útha wnúashlótu
      • g útha w-nú-ashló-tu : I want was-you-home-PREP : I wanted you to be at home
    • G anthé wibrrranúgalnat fla da satu
      • g anthé wi-brrra-nú-galn-at fla da sa-tu : I need will-get-you-onion-ACC shop-at-PREP : I need you to get onion from the shop
  • Noun Classes. There are two noun classes, called “masculine” and “feminine” by Sasrâl grammars. (Sasrâl society is considerably more gendered than that of the Iómr Mnór, perhaps because of schismogenesis.) The final syllable of the masculine class contains labial consonants and/or rounded vowels; the feminine class are the remainder. The noun classes have distinctive case markings and adjective agreement. See the case marking chart below.
    • Adjective agreement. Adjectives agreeing with masculine nouns take an -ic suffix; those agreeing with feminine nouns take an -l or –al suffix.
  • Plural Marking. There is no plural marking per se. The determiner go can be used to indicate a plurality of a noun; it is perhaps better translated as “some”, although it is derived from English “all”. It is in complementary distribution with numerals and other quantifiers: thus one can say go úśhó “all tree” or fro úśhó “four tree” but not *go fro úśhó “all four tree”.
  • Definite and indefinite articles are da and úra respectively, and are generally obligatory.
  • Verbal inflection is sparse but includes:
    • Perfective is marked by the auxiliary ashthâ and the suffix -aghth, as in the example above, ashthâ séaghth, “saw”. This same morphology can be used to indicate irrealis, as in “if I see her”, wi g ashthâ séaghth ča. The suffix by itself can be used as part of a compound clause, sé-aghth-g-ča see-PAST-1sgnom-3sgaccfem.
    • Future is often indicated by the preverbal particle wi, which is derived from both “will” (will > wir > wi) and “if” (if > hié > wié > wi).
    • Progressive habitual is marked by the auxiliary bré; the perfective habitual form is brl.
    • Passive is similar to past but uses the copula plus the -aghth suffix (see “Copula” below), e.g. it is eaten -> úththi with úththéaghth.

Case Marking

CaseMasc.Fem., cons.Fem., vowel
Nominativepáb (paper)flr (bird)srré (self)
Accusative-am pábam-at flrat-t srrét
Prepositional-mu pábmu-tu flrtu-tu srrétu
Genitive-vo pábvo-xo flrxo-xo srréxo

Pronoun Forms

CaseNumber1st2nd3rd
NomSinggčé / sé / úththi
NomPlgonú
AccSingmréčli / ča / úththi
AccPlnúdhargonúdmú
PrepSingmrétunúmučlimu / čatu / úththu
PrepPlnúdhrugonúmudmmu
Poss/GenSingmrarnnučith / ča / úthsi
Poss/GenPlganudra

Copula Forms

FormTermExample
InfinitivebréDá mrart bré go so (They might be dinosaurs)
1st Person Sg ProggárrG gárr sé (I am she)
2nd Person Sg ProggaNú ga sé (You are she)
3rd Person Sg ProgwithSé with sé (She is she)
All PluralgaDá ga go so (They are dinosaurs)
All PerfectivewDá w go srald (They were children)

Syntax

The word order of Núlnasdhé is relatively rigid, with a subject-verb-object clause structure. The language uses prepositions. Rather like Spanish and French, most adjectives appear after the noun, but articles, numbers, and adjectives that are more loosely connected to the meaning of the noun itself come before the noun. Thus g ashthâ séaghth da tha ashthaarmâd blú barhi , “I [perf] see+perf the three hunt-raptor blue big”: “I saw the three big blue hunting raptors.”

Orthography

Among the people of Ghatss there are three recognized kinds of language, oral and written:

  • Black. (balćhâasdhé) This is language that is carved into rock, and is considered to be true, with the weight of law. These words cannot be altered without changing the world itself. Words are carved into rock ritualistically with runes that were designed especially for that purpose. These runes deliberately obfuscate the words written with them using reversals and encodings in part to protect their meaning and in part in order to allow some flexibility in their interpretation, when needed.
  • White. (Prráasdhé) This is language written on paper, and it is also considered to be true, but with less force. In the same way that paper is impermanent and fragile, words written on paper are more likely to represent opinion or things that are true-for-now. Words written on paper use the alphabet of the Iómr Mnór.
  • Red. (Arthasdhé) Oral language. Assumed to be fiction, false or misleading unless there is evidence otherwise.

History

Núlnasdhé began to separate from Early Cnitnánsian (EC, the language of Gnin El) about 1000 AA, during the social upheaval surrounding the Sasrâl Wars. 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.

Old Núlnasdhé

The upheaval caused intense creolization. EC was already relatively analytic, and Old Núlnasdhé became more so. It developed rigid SVO order (including for imperatives and questions), lost plural marking (using “all” as a prefixed number marker), and lost all comparative and verbal marking except for the copula.

Phonological simplification also occurred in the vowel space. A number of diphthongs monophthongized, or in some cases became rhotic (e.g. haut “out” > hat > gatt; coil “coil” > clorl). Syllabic consonants often broke into schwas plus consonants.

On the other hand, among the consonants, shifts occurred that created novel combinations. Word-initial consonants underwent sonority filling, with an epenthetic /r/ inserted after coronals and /l/ otherwise. Later, a broad-ranging consonant shift moved sounds up and down the sonority hierarchy. There are two basic shifts: one of increasing sonority between vowels, and one of decreasing sonority at the edges of words.

Word-Edge Consonant Shift

Examples: wid > múit (“with”), huéth > guéd (“up”), sret > srett.

  • dʒ > tʃ > tʃː
  • h > g > k > kː
  • ʒ > ʃ > d > t > tː
  • z > s > d > t > tː
  • ð > θ > d > t > tː
  • v > f > b > p > pː
  • ɢ > x > g > k > kː
  • n > nj
  • w > mu

Intervocalic Consonant Shift

Examples: cluvar > cluvvar (“cover”), čwedar > čwesar (“whether”), hâftar > gâvdar (“after”)

  • k > g > x > ɢ > ɢː
  • p > b > f > v > vː
  • t > d > s > z > zː
  • tʃ > dʒ > dj
  • ʃ > ʒ > ʒː
  • θ > ð > ðː
  • h > ɢ > ɢː
  • v > vː

Modern Núlnasdhé

Although the standard form of the language is taught to children and encoded in writing, Núlnasdhé has continued to develop and diversify among the Six Chiefdoms and their associated cities and villages. The College of Speech maintains the Stones of Grammar (Black Speech) in its library as the eternal perfect description of the language, but publishes regular updates and lists of official vocabulary and spelling in the Books of Grammar (White Speech).

Most researchers believe that the case system and the noun classification system are relatively late developments (i.e., in the last 500 years), but the official position of the College of Speech is that these features have been part of the language from its inception.

While there’s a great deal of regional variation, overall one can pick out several changes that have been consistent across Nusrawá during this period.

  1. Compounded clauses developed. For example, instead of saying Nú anthé nú úththé nu úśhó-carćhá-at (you need you eat your oak-cake-ACC) “You need to eat your oak-cake”, one may say Nú anthé úththé-nú-úśhó-carćhá (you need eat-you-oak-cake).
  2. General reduction of vowels and syllable complexity.
  3. An unusual process of reduplication and loss, in which syllable codas were reduplicated and then clipped, resulting in apparent metathesis. For example, Old N blrâcc “black” became blâccâ and then clipped to balccâ, with corresponding syllabification of /l/. After another round of reduction it reached the modern form, balćhâ. Another example is Old N wócc “oak” which became wósc, reduplicated to wóscó, and then clipped to úscó and reduced to úśhó.