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Thread: Rugian: the Chillest Germanic Language

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    Rugian: the Chillest Germanic Language

    After working for a little long while on Ealsch, my Old English-based conlang with the usual Germanic stuff of crazy vowel inventories and ridiculously convoluted remnants of remnants of inflection, I got fed up and wanted to write a plausible Germanic language with a much more relaxing phonology and a nice, predictable, Romance-like morphology. To that end I've come up with Rugian, a language of an alternate history beginning around the Great Migration in which the East Germanic-speaking Rugii settled in the lands we know today as Bavaria, Austria, Slovenia and Istria - altogether known (political finangling aside) in this timeland as "Rugia / Rugiland".

    The basic premise of Rugian is that it evolved from an unwritten "Old Rugian" almost identical to our timeline's Biblical Gothic (known in this timeline as "Classical Gothic", since as I imagine it far more of its literature survived into the modern period), but underwent rapid and comprehensive phonological simplification and analogical leveling in the late medieval period. It's still very much a natural language - nothing like an auxlang - with grammatical gender and strong verbs and so on, but it just tastes a little more Romance-like, with a lot less of the Germanic craziness that we know, occasionally love, and in any case speak today. Like most southern European languages it's moderately fusional, with an SVO word order.

    That said, this is what I've got so far. I'm not putting too much effort into the historical stuff that happened in the transition between Middle, Early Modern, and Modern Rugian on the premise that the language was actually quite conservative on most non-grammatical points, but I might start doing so if I write up a literature on it. So instead I've been tracing its development straight from Biblical/Classical Gothic, and rushing as quickly as possible to a modern language I can possibly start speaking and writing in.


    First thing I'll say is that, because Rugian is spoken across a very diverse region topologically, there's a lot of dialectal variation such that mutual intelligibility between the standard dialect (that of the larger cities of the western Danube) and Alpine varieties is often strained. I'm thinking that Alpine varieties are generally more innovative, with substantial West Germanic influence, and have more complex phonologies. But I haven't even started to think about them yet otherwise; everything that exists on Modern Rugian, online or in my head, deals only with the standard dialect.

    Modern Rugian has the following inventory of 15 consonants:

    Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar
    Stop p b t d k g
    Fricative f s
    Nasal m n ŋ
    Approximant ʋ l j
    Tap or trill r

    Looks pretty generically European, right? That's exactly what I was going for. In fact, if you compare it with our timeline's European languages, Rugian's consonant inventory is very much on the small side; it's a little bigger than Finnish, a little smaller than Spanish, and way smaller than Slavic languages or the other Germanic ones.

    Here's the vowel inventory (left allophone in open syllables, right allophone in closed syllables):

    Front Central Back
    High i~ɪ u~ʊ
    Mid e~ɛ o~ɔ
    Low a
    Yep, you read that right, and yep, this is still a Germanic language. Classical Gothic, 13 vowels? Those are rookie numbers, you gotta get those numbers down. It might look like I Romanised or Slavicised the hell out of Rugian's vowel system, but actually this reduction is supposed to be an entirely native development; like other languages of the Great Migration, which either did what they wanted or faded out entirely in favour of local Romance languages, Rugian didn't undergo much influence from Romance at its formative phase. From what I can find out, the Danubian hinterlands weren't heavily Romanised or really settled very much at all in the first place. So this basic as hell 5-vowel system is all natural.

    Rugian makes up for this by having fairly complex onset consonant clusters, but none that a speaker of any of the languages of the region would find difficult to pronounce. Syllable structures are always so annoying to write out and all of them come straight from Gothic anyway, so you can just trust me that I have some idea of how to construct them in my head. They're almost identical to those of English, too. Examples: trud "to walk", sne "snow", strik "line". Unlike Gothic, however, Rugian has very few coda clusters; I've still have figure out exactly how many and what types, though.

    Due to the dramatic loss of inflection during the transition to Modern Rugian, lexical words might sometimes be difficult to distinguish. To avoid this problem in speaking, I've decided that lexical words are necessarily bimoraic - i.e. those with light stems, like tei "to lead", are geminated /ti:/. They're also heavily stressed. This would probably give a "sing-song" intonation to Modern Rugian, and hopefully make the language a bit easier to listen to. Orthographically, this is indicated by something similar to the "three-letter" rule in English: /i:/ becomes <ei>, /o:/ becomes <ou>, and /a: e: u:/ become <ah eh uh> respectively.

    Verb morphology

    As with its phonology, Modern Rugian displays a fairly simple verbal morphology in comparison to Classical Gothic. Verbs are still conjugated for person, number and tense, but no longer for mood or voice. All verbs are either "thematic" or "athematic", not according to the old Indo-European distinction but according to whether their stem ends with a consonant or a vowel in the modern language. Modern Rugian is also distinctive for lacking an infinitive - infinitives are handled in the same way as our timeline's Balkan languages. The incredible variety of verb classes has been reduced, but not eliminated; Modern Rugian, like English, still contrasts tense-ablauting strong verbs with tense-suffixing weak verbs. As of now I've only written out the strong verbs, which fall into the following five classes:

    Class I, /ai, a, e, o > e/: this class corresponds to Classes I and most of VII (i.e. the reduplicative stems) in Classical Gothic. The shift of reduplicative stems into this class was a fairly unusual process (for which read "deus ex machina"); at some point in the early period of Middle Rugian, the vowel -e- of the reduplicated prefix was transposed to the main stem and the prefix was lost. Examples include fah "to have", feh "had" and bait "to bite", bet- "bit".

    Class II, /a > o/: this class corresponds simply to Class VI in CG. Example: far "to go", for- "went".

    Class III, /e, i > a/: this class corresponds to classes III, IV, and V in CG. Examples: werd "to become", ward- "became"; bid "to ask", bad- "asked".

    Class IV, /i > o/: this class corresponds to those Class II verbs in CG that had <iu> (probably /y/) in the present grade, which later became /i/ in Rugian. Example: tei "to lead", tou "led" (CG tiuhan).

    Class V, /u, o > e/: this class, the smallest, corresponds to the Class IV and Class VII verbs with back vowels. Examples: trud "to walk", tred- "walked"; blot "to like, admire", blet "liked".

    And that's it. Sooner or later I'll need to write up a comprehensive list of the strong verbs, but that will be a bit complicated since, as in English, their number declined in the Middle/Early Modern period but grew in the Modern period. For now I'll just keep the same list as in Classical Gothic.

    All strong verbs conjugate the same way within their thematic/athematic class. Here's an example of a thematic verb, far "to go" (from CG. faran):

    Present Past Imperative
    1SG ik fara ik fora
    2SG du fari du fori far
    3SG da/so/ita fari da/so/ita fori fara
    1PL ais farum ais forum faram
    2PL jus fari jus fori fare
    3PL dai farun dai forun farena
    Participle farans

    Here's the same with an athematic verb, fa "to have" (CG. fahan):

    Present Past Imperative
    1SG ik fah ik feh
    2SG du fais du fet fah
    3SG da/so/ita fah da/so/ita fe fah
    1PL ais fam ais fem fam
    2PL jus fah jus feh fahe /fa.e/
    3PL dai fan dai fen fana
    Participle fans

    And here, finally, is a generalisable list of suffixes (thematic, then athematic):

    Present Past Imperative
    1SG -a, -Ø -a, -Ø
    2SG -i, -is, -s (if preceded by i-) -i, -t -Ø, -Ø
    3SG -i, -Ø -i, -Ø -a, -a, -Ø (if preceded by a-)
    1PL -um, -m -um, -m -am, -m
    2PL -i, -Ø -i, -Ø -e, -e, -Ø (if preceded by e-)
    3PL -un, -n -un, -n -ena, -na
    Participle -ans, -ns

    The only interesting thing I can say about these suffixes for the moment (since a lot of their simplicity is due to analogical levelling, which I came up with last night when I hadn't got a lot of sleep and didn't write many notes) is that the singular and first-person plural imperative suffixes descend directly from their Gothic equivalents, while the second- and third-person plural ones descend from the Gothic optative. That's the only remnant of the voice distinction of Classical Gothic.

    Other Bits and Bobs That I've Thought Of

    Despite its moderately complex verb conjugation Rugian, like Russian, is not pro-drop in most circumstances, so surprise! You've learnt all those endings for no reason except that you'd sound stupid if you didn't.

    Unlike Classical Gothic, Modern Rugian has articles, and they're very, very important to distinguish verbs and nouns (due to the massive phonological simplification, there are a lot of homophones). I haven't decided on the exact form of these articles, but what I do know is that they're definite/indefinite, with a case, number, and gender distinction fairly similar to that of Classical Gothic, and /þ/ becomes /d/. Other than that, up in the air.

    I haven't given much thought to noun declensions. Again, simplification will apply here, but I'm probably going to keep a case system worth looking at (as opposed to German. Screw you, Germans, for letting me learn your stupid language).

    Latin and Slavic influence is going to be pretty important in the development of Rugian - I'm gonna slip a Romance loanword in every now and then, and just like in our timeline there will be badlinguists who babble "English Rugian is one-third Germanic, one-third Romance, and one-third Slavic". But I'm not settled on exactly how much influence that will be. I'm thinking Romance to a similar extent as in, say, Dutch, and then Slavic to a similar extent as Norse in English. But I haven't worked it out yet at all.

    Rugian, like many modern Romance languages, has negative concord - you don't say "ik ne fah en hund", you say "ik ne fah ne hund" (the article being from ne+ain). I think. Still need to work on that.

    Anyway, that's all I've got.


    I don't go in much for macro-anything, but I've got to say, the Nostraticists have a banging poem. It's simple, clean, clear, and nicely stirring. Here's my attempt to translate said poem into Rugian:

    Da idioma is en ford der dan floma taimis,

    ita tei uns at stadim dise da forun for;

    Ak da ne kan atfar dar,

    de fah agi in dipa atna.

    And, in case you don't know the poem, the literal translation back from Rugian:

    "Language is a ford through the river of time,

    It leads us to the dwelling-places of those who went before;

    But he cannot arrive there,

    Who has fear in deep water".

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