Eastern Dahu : a linguistic overview

The modern Lemohai language is descended from Eastern Dahu, a language spoken on the island of Mohai and in Etsuri and Pekau, the nearest parts of mainland Aheku. ED was in turn descended from Dahu and ultimately Proto-Dahu-Kemba.

The Proto-Dahu-Kemba were a race of Ikhe, living in the north-east of Aheku. They then began a westward trek along the north coast. Archaeological evidence suggests the trek began around OH -186X (-1500 BC in our calendar).

Some PDK tribes reached what is now Pekau, others only went as far as modern Heiko. From this point on the speech of the two communities diverged, becoming separate Dahu and Kemba languages.

As the Dahu spread out, they became divided into separate queendoms. These groups absorbed scattered bands of hunter-gatherers, the speakers of Macro-Senduri languages. Place name evidence suggests the Macro-Senduri languages were once spread across northwest Aheku. Archaeology confirms that their speakers possessed a Natural Age technology. They would have been no match for the Dahu with their Metal Age weapons.

Of these languages only Senduri survives, a minority language of Mohai. Nonetheless, Senduri and its sister tongues had a sub-stratum influence on the Dahu tongues.

A Dahu Empire later emerged reaching its fullest extent in OH -954 (186 BC). The ruling elites of the Empire spoke Imperial Dahu, but popular speech patterns again diverged. The Ponthau marshlands proved a barrier to communication and so separate Eastern and Western Dahu languages grew up either side of the marshes.  These dates are confirmed and explained in the timeline.

Throughout the Dahu period the popular registers of the language show a marked influence from the Macro-Senduri languages. Later, the Dahu were conquered in turn by the Kemba Empire. The Kemba began to expand from OH -9X8. Their language provided another great source of influence on Dahu, particularly Eastern Dahu.

Eastern Dahu was never very unified. Written evidence tells us it was a continuum of nine dialects. Four were spoken on Mohai. These were: Eyola, Bailara, Imbeku and Ontari.

Like all Dahu-Kemba languages, Eastern Dahu had accusative-secundative alignment. Though unlike most modern Dahu languages, it had one genitive case, not two. The split genitive is a later borrowing from Kemba.

The unmarked clause order in ED was Subject-Verb-Object. Phrases were consistently head-initial. Word order was more rigid than in most modern Dahu languages as focus was often indicated by particles instead of movement.

ED was mostly analytic, there was little in the way of inflectional morphology. However, like modern Dahu languages, it possessed a wealth of derivational morphology.

Like its four descendants, ED lacked case and number on nouns, but marked singular, dual and plural on pronouns. Pronouns still showed three levels of formality, though in modern Eastern Dahu languages, they show only two.

ED lacked the nasal vowels and aspirate stops that are so distinctive of modern Dahu languages. Syllables were more complex than in the daughter languages, as some CVC syllables were still permitted.

For a long time, Eastern Dahu was not written down, but the Kemba writing system was adopted in the Eastern Dahu lands before the Kemba invasion. Even then, Kelmba was exerting a strong cultural influence on its neighbours. This was a left to right script designed to be written by quill pens on papyrus.

Author: David Johnson

Language constructor, writer, music fan and activist.

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