Fèdzéyí, the language of too many verbs

Introduction

Fèdzéyí is one of my older conlangs. It was created in 2015, and the original ideas for the conlang are very different than how it turned out.

The then-unnamed conlang was one of three languages in a language family, all three of which were spoken by a fictional people who lived in and around a canyon. At that point, there were some influences from Romanian, of all languages. I’d already decided that the language strucure would resemble Japanese (CVN syllables), but with tones.

At this point, I decided that the original idea for the conlang needed to be scrapped. I scrapped the language family idea entirely and decided to take inspiration from Mandarin & Navajo, two languages I was looking into at the time. I had a very poor understanding of both of those languages, and it showed.

Eventually, Fèdzéyí moved away from those incluences and became something of its own. Fèdzéyí means “circle language”. When I named it, I still had the idea of making it be spoken by a fictional group of people. After some time, I abandoned that entirely and kept the name.

Fèdzéyí is primarily based on verbs. All verbs have a “base” form that is monosyllabic, with grammatical particles attching to them. Most nouns are derived from verbs with an accompanying class suffix. There are very few “true” adjectives; most of the time, verbs are used in their place as descriptors.

Phonology

Fèdzéyí has a syllable structure of CVN, where:

  • C = any consonant or /kw/
  • V = any vowel
  • N = /n/ or /ŋ/

/m/ was originally included as a final, but I dropped that when I realized that would create too many base words.

Consonant inventory:

  • Nasals: /m/, /n/, /ŋ/
  • Stops: /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/
  • Fricatives: /f/, /v/, /s/, /z/, /ɕ/, /ʑ/, /h/
  • Affricates: /tɕ/, /dʑ/
  • Approximants: /l/, /j/, /w/
  • Trills: /r/

I spent some time deliberating on whether I wanted a voicing or aspiration distinction on the stops, and also whether or not I wanted to include /f/ and /v/, and whether I wanted to delete /r/ entirely and only have /l/.

Vowel inventory:

  • Front: /i/, /u/
  • Central: /ə/, /a/
  • Back: /u/, /o/

There was originally a distinction between long and short vowels, but again, it created too many base words.

Fèdzéyí has three tones: level, rising, and falling. The rising tone is indicated with an acute accent, and the falling tone is indicated with a grave accent.

Verb Construction

A verb is constructed in the form Modifier-Adverb-Stem-Mood-Tense.

“Modifiers” are particles that indicate positivity (vùn) or negativity/negation (éng). You can use verb with vùn prefixed to indicate that you completed an action (such as if you were asked if you already took out the trash). Éng is used in largely the same way.

Adverbs are just verb stems that are used to modify the main verb. There’s nothing particularly unique about them.

Fèdzéyí has four moods: indicative (keun), subjunctive (dzo), conditional (), and imperative (). The three tenses are past (heu), present (da), and future (dzí).

I once considered marking person and number on the verbs since the conlang is so verb-heavy to begin with, but decided against it as it would make the words too long for my own liking.

Noun Construction

This is where things get fun.

The vast majority of nouns are based on verb stems. They’re constructed in the form Determiner-Verb Stem-Class-Number/Numeral-Case-Adjective.

There are proximal, medial, and distal determiners. They’re either singuar or plural, and this is a bit redundant with the numeral being marked elsewhere, but you know what? Redundancy is a part of most (all?) natural languages, so I have no problem putting it into this conlang.

  • Proximal: dà, dàho
  • Medial: tú, túho
  • Distal: néng, néngho

There are ten noun classes, and they’re used to create nouns out of verb stems:

  • People: wu
  • Animals: lu
  • Plants: ò
  • Heavenly objects, weather: é
  • Body parts: neu
  • Human-made objects (tools): mùng
  • Vehicles, methods of transport: ngèù
  • Human-made inanimate objects: kwí
  • Naturally-occurring inanimate objects: ye
  • Abstract inanimate concepts: dzé

Let’s look at the name of the language, Fèdzéyí:

  • = verb, to enclose/encircle
  • dzé = noun class, an abstract inanimate concept
  • = noun, a language

+dzé creates the noun “circle”. is one of the few nouns that isn’t based on a verb, and means “language”.

(Since there’s a word for “encircle”, I decided to create verbs for other shapes – en-rectangle, en-triangle (èn), en-square, en-parallelogram – because why not?)

Let’s look at a couple more nouns I’ve created:

  • do “to gift ” + kwí “human-made inanimate object” = dokwí “a gift”
  • fo “to swim”+ vàng “to be scaly”  + lu “animal” = fovànglu “fish”
  • mi “to meow + lu “animal” = milu “cat”
  • “to count” + dzé “abstract concept” = nèdzé “number”
  • ngí  to fly” + ngèù “vehicle” = ngíngèù “airplane”
  • shé “to flow” + é “heavenly object” = shéé “water”
  • tsà “to know” + dzé “abstract concept” = tsàdzé “knowledge”

There are a couple of numbers: singular (not marked), “some” (meun), a general plural (ho), and a mass plural (kún). If an exact number is needed, you can just put a numeral in that slot instead.

There aren’t as many cases in Fèdzéyí as in some of my other conlangs, primarily because…I didn’t want to deal with very many. That’s the whole reason.

Fèdzéyí cases:

  • Nominative: unmarked
  • Genitive: ú
  • Accusative: shí
  • Dative:
  • Instrumental: yún
  • Locative: vi
  • Adessive: ní
  • Inessive: dzu

Like adverbs, adjectives are verb stems that are used to modify the noun.

Sentence Structure

Naturally, word order is Verb-Subject-Object. Due to the number of cases, it can actually be more flexible than that, but there’s really no reason to use anything other than VSO.

If the sentence is a question, then the question word comes at the beginning of the sentence. Question words are:

  • dèn – when, at what time
  • eng – who, what person
  • – what
  • gè nèdzé – how many
  • – why
  • úng – where, at what place
  • yu – a generic question word that’s used when none of the others apply

Following are examples of each question word:

Dèn lódzodzí waho?

  • When do we leave?

Eng tú?

  • Who is that?

Eng ténkeunda milushí?

  • Who owns the cat?

Gè tú?

  • What is that?

Gè nèdzé zhekeunda ingho wínkwídzu?

  • How many people are in the house?

Kí éngdzekeunda ngóho?

  • Why aren’t you sleeping?

Úng zhekeunda ngó?

  • Where are you?

Yu túlu milushí?

  • Is that (animal) a cat?