In search of Proto-Tekuo

What can we know about the planet’s first language?

In our world, those who think there was once a Proto-Human language have a tough time of it. They are told there is no reason to assume such a language ever existed. They are told they cannot say where or when it existed.

Supporters of the theory are also said to read what they want into the data when deriving words for the purported language. Some world-wide similarities, it is said, might be better explained as onomatopeia or sound symbolism.

Proponents of the concept of Proto-Tekuo, by contrast, have a much easier task. There are several reasons why this is so. Linguistics on Tekuo is more advanced and better integrated with other relevant disciplines such as genetics and archaeology.

Contemporary academics on Tekuo can state confidently that behavioural modernity set in around 30,000 years ago. The best-researched language families can be traced back seven to ten thousand years.

On Earth, by contrast, behavioural modernity set in some 40-50,000 years ago and the best-researched language families can only be traced back six to nine thousand years. There is, therefore, less of a gap on Tekuo between the reconstructed language families and the purported original language.

As already noted, there is less land on Tekuo and the continents are closer together. Because of this, innovation has always spread quickly.

At the start of the modern era, for example, there were no undiscovered tribes to contact and everyone was at a similar level of economic development. It is, therefore, safe to assume that if one people developed language, the rest would soon adopt it.

An earlier post observed that most modern Tekuan languages have SVO word order and nominative alignment. Similarities at such a basic level suggest a common origin.

Another previous post noted that the Ike evolved in the north-west of Aheku and stayed longer in the region’s tropical forests than our human ancestors stayed in East Africa.

The oldest Ike remains come from North-West Aheku. The gene pool is most varied there and the local languages have the largest phoneme inventories. The area is also known as the site of the planet’s oldest civilisations.

It is, therefore, safe to infer that they had not spread much beyond North-West Aheku when language was invented.

This is perhaps the key point as it suggests that the languages of Tekuo are more likely to have had a common origin than to have evolved separately. It places the burden of proof firmly on those who would argue for multiple points of origin. Some have tried to do so, but their efforts are generally dismissed.


Characteristics of Proto-Tekuo

The words that appear to descend from Proto-Tekuo can be reconstructed using a mere ten phonemes. It was characterised by three points of vowel articulation, a preponderance of stops and simple syllables.

Vowels

Speakers of PT seem to have managed with just three vowels.

FrontCentralBack
Closei
/i/
u
/u/
Opena
/a/
Proto-Tekuo vowels

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is used here to indicate typical values. No doubt the sound of each vowel varied in practice, but at this stage, it is quite impossible to say how. It has been conjectured that i and u might have the allophones of /j, w/. This is a reasonable hypothesis, but no likely examples have yet appeared.

The corpus of reconstructed words contains no instances of vowels combining to form diphthongs.

Consonants

To date, only seven consonants have been definitively identified as occurring in PT. Four were plain stops. There were also single examples from three other consonants categories.

LabAlvVelGlt
Nasng
/ŋ~m~n/
Stopp
/p/
t
/t/
k
/k/

/ʔ/
Frics
/s /
Liql
/l/
Proto-Tekuo consonants

Again, we cannot say what allophones there were. It is reasonable to suppose that nasals were homorganic with the following consonant. They are, therefore, sometimes written as m or n in this transcription. The trigraph ngg represents the geminate /ŋŋ/. This is the only sound in the language that can be doubled.

Syllables

Only the following syllable types were permitted in Proto-Tekuo:

CV(N)

A consonantal onset seems to have been required, but any consonant could appear in this position. To date, only the nasal ng and its allophones have been discovered in coda position.

It is impossible to say where stress normally fell in PT. It has been suggested that it fell invariably on the penultimate syllable. This is a reasonable guess, but a guess all the same.

Grammar

We can be fairly sure that the language had Subject-Verb-Object word order. We should therefore expect it have some of the features associated with SVO languages such as prepositions, nominative alignment and little inflection.


Ah, but …

We must close by considering some of the difficulties presented by the concept of Proto-Tekuo.

We cannot specify what sound changes occurred between PT and the oldest reconstructed languages.

We cannot recover the original meanings of PT words. We have only the range of meanings presented by its oldest descendants.

Finally, we cannot say much about PT word order other than what appears above and can say nothing at all about PT morphology.

Despite these caveats, we can still reconstruct over a hundred PT words and can learn more about the language in general than we can currently claim to know about Proto-Human.

Author: David Johnson

Conlanger, writer and activist.

One thought on “In search of Proto-Tekuo”

  1. I thought a Proto-World language might make an interesting addition to a conlang website. I don’t recall seeing it done before elsewhere. I thought I’d best outline it now before I start on conlang vocabulary then I can make sure its words appear in my later languages. They will not be properly derived though, but resemblances will be suggested. This reflects the state of knowledge of Proto-Tekuo in Tekuan linguistics.

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