Languages of Tekuo : a typological overview

It is estimated that there are some 6,000 to 7,000 languages here on Earth. Tekuo is only 90% the size of Earth and only 24% of it is land (compared with 29% of Earth). This land is less densely populated than Earth. Not surprisingly then, Tekuo harbours fewer languages than our world. The effects of modern communications and education lower the total further still.

Tekuan linguistics is more advanced than ours. All languages there have at least adequate documentation. There is also more agreement about what constitutes a language. Tekuo is thought to harbour just 1800 natural languages. The planet’s three continents are all fairly close together, so the languages of Tekuo exhibit much less variation than those our world.

A famous paper* has examined the language families of Earth and concluded that the first human language, dubbed Proto-World, must have had Subject-Object-Verb word order. A similar study on Tekuo has concluded that Proto-Tekuan must have been Subject-Verb-Object. This explains a lot of the features of Tekuan languages.

There are six possible ways to arrange Subject (S), Verb (V) and Object (O). Most languages favour one of these patterns. All six are used on Earth, though 45% of languages are SOV and 42% SVO. On present-day Tekuo, SVO dominates:

  • Mostly SVO= 62%
  • Mostly VSO=18%
  • Mostly SOV=9%
  • Mixed=11%

None of the other three possible orders (VOS, OVS, OSV) are dominant in any Tekuan language, though all are used somewhere as occasional variants.

The dominance of SVO as a sentence order has consequences for phrase order. Tekuan languages are predominantly head initial:

  • Mostly head initial phrases=58%
  • Mostly dependent initial phrases=32%
  • Mixed=10%

Here on Earth a plurality of languages favour suffixing, but on Tekuo a plurality favour prefexing:

  • Mostly prefixing=33%
  • Mostly suffixing=26%
  • Little or no affixation=23%
  • Mixed/other=18%

The predominance of SVO on Tekuo means that transitive alignment is overwhelmingly nominative (if we include languages showing alignment by word order with those marking alignment explicitly). Where ergativity exists, it is more consistent. No Tekuan languages are only ergative in certain tenses or with certain persons. Active and trigger alignments are a little more common than here. No other alignment types are found:

  • Nominative=85%
  • Ergative=6%
  • Active-Stative=5%
  • Trigger=4%

As on Earth, most languages are indirective in their ditransitive alignment, but large minorities use secundative or double object alignments for some or all of the time.

  • Indirective=55%
  • Secundative=20%
  • Double Object=17%
  • Mixed=8%

Marking strategies on Tekuo also reflect the predominance of SVO. Zero marking is far more common than on Earth and double marking comparatively rare.

  • Mostly head marking=34%
  • Mostly dependent marking=32%
  • Mostly zero marking=26%
  • Mostly double marking=9%

Tekuo’s sentient hominids, the Ike, appear to have evolved in North West Aheku. This is the area with the greatest genetic diversity and the oldest archaeological sites. It also has the largest phoneme inventories. All this can also be said of East Africa, the cradle of humanity in our world.

Finally, we should note that constructed languages are more important on Tekuo than on Earth. Global auxiliary languages are only slightly more popular, but regional auxiliary languages are widely used. On Earth we often see languages used in fiction, film and TV become popular, but on Tekuo several personal languages have also developed sizeable fan and speaker communities.

Author: David Johnson

Conlanger, writer and activist.

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