The Dahu-Kemba language family

The Dahu-Kemba languages are spoken today across much of North-West Aheku, including on Mohai, though they originated further east. There are, or have been, twenty-four Dahu-Kemba languages of which fourteen are extant.

History

Proto-Dahu-Kemba was spoken by the Proto-Dahu-Kemba people who lived in North-East Aheku until Omun Hemwan-186X (what we would call 1500 BC). In OH -186X the PDK people began to migrate west. They established two new colonies, one in what is now Heiko and one in modern Pekau. The dialects of the two colonies  became separate Dahu and Kemba languages from around OH -1722 (i.e. 1300 BC).

The Dahu language had a strong sub-stratum influence from local languages in the Macro-Senduri family. For reasons which are not clear, Kemba had no influence from pre-existing local languages. It is therefore considered closer to PDK.

A Dahu Empire emerged, reaching its fullest extent in OH -954 (186 BC). Separate Eastern and Western Dahu languages arose, separated by the Ponthau marshlands. The rise of the Kemba Empire came later. By OH -350 (662 AD) all the eastern Dahu lands were in Kemba hands.

Four modern languages, including Lemohai, Lepekau and Letsuri, are descended from Eastern Dahu. They all display a strong Kemba influence and a smaller Macro-Senduri influence. A separate Lemohai language can be dated to around OH -204 (ca. 850 AD). It has been moderately influenced by Senduri.

The four descendants of Western Dahu include Lezedun. The homelands of the Western Dahu were never conquered by the Kemba, so their languages have a much smaller Kemba influence than their Eastern cousins. The Macro-Senduri influence, however, remains small.

The Kemba Empire collapsed later, in Omun Zeikan 91 (1263 AD). Hence, the Kemba languages are less diverse than the Dahu ones. There are six extant descendants of Kemba. Of these, Leheiko is the most widely spoken.

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Characteristics

All the Dahu-Kemba languages share a number of characteristics. They have an accusative-secundative alignment. The Dahu languages have two genitive cases, a trait acquired from Macro-Senduri. The Kemba languages each have a single genitive, as did Proto-Dahu-Kemba.

The SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) word order is commonest across the group. Dahu languages permit a range of VSO constructions. VSO was another feature of Macro-Senduri. The Kemba languages do not permit VSO, but do allow some OSV constructions.

The Kemba sub-family has developed a specifier word class. Its noun phrases take the order: Specifier-Noun-Modifier. This feature did not spread to the Dahu languages, which do not distinguish specifiers. They retain the Noun-Modifier order of PDK and Macro-Senduri.

Today’s Dahu-Kemba languages are all fairly isolating. Historically though, more agglutination and inflection have been used, chiefly  on the verb. In affixation the group has always favoured prefixes, though suffixes are still very common.

Syllable types have always been simple to moderately complex. The group has a long record of using aspirate stops, nasal vowels and long vowels, though PDK used none of these. Stress is generally on the penultimate syllable of a word, though final syllable stress is often permitted.

The word stock is mostly of native origin. Dahu languages have a small vocabulary of Macro-Senduri origin and large vocabulary of Kemba origin. Later loan words came from languages south of the mountains. In the modern era, words came from other continents, from tongues as diverse as Öklane and Loa Bateng.

The ancient Kemba tongue is the basis for most modern scientific and technlogical terms in today’s Kemba and Eastern Dahu languages. the everyday vocabulary of Eastern Dahu also includes a number of Kemba borrowings. Western Dahu languages are more likely to favour native Dahu roots, particularly for everyday speech.

Kemba has been the main influence on writing systems used across the language family. Scholars at the Kemba imperial court designed the base 12 counting system, now widely used across much of Aheku. Prior to that the Dahu-Kemba counted in base 5.

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A New Theory

The broader affiliations of the Dahu-Kemba languages remain unknown. A Pre-Proto-Dahu-Kemba ancestor has been posited, uniting a wider range of languages, including the Macro-Senduri family.

The homeland of PPDK is thought to have been even further east, on the neighbouring continent of Mangun. Like Modern Senduri, PPDK was thought to have had VSO word order and a trigger alignment system. At this stage though, PPDK remains an interesting but highly conjectural hypothesis.

Author: David Johnson

Language constructor, writer, music fan and activist.

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