Ezenii: a linguistic overview

Ezenii is a contemporary language from the planet Tekuo. Its speakers are a race of Ike, who live in Ezekaa, a small nation-state on the continent of Umãga, to the north of Aheku. Like the people of Mohai and most of the rest of Aheku, they belong to the Utai race (or, Copperfolk).

They call both themselves and their language Ezenii. For much of the modern era, Ezekaa was part of the Öklane Empire. Ezenii has therefore been strongly influenced by Öklane.

Most Ezenii speakers live in Ezekaa though a few live in border regions of neighbouring countries. Five percent of the population of Ezekaa is first language Öklane and nowadays, the two language enjoy co-offical status. Historically though, Öklane was the prestige language and Ezenii seen as somewhat lower class and rustic.

For a long time, Ezenii lacked sophisticated cultural and scientific vocabularies. The National Revival that led ultimately to independence involved a new appreciation of Ezenii and gave rise to efforts to fit the language to the modern world. As a result, Ezenii is now a thriving language that can express the full range of Ike experience.

Ezenii is a member of the Cape branch of the Bight-Cape language family, the largest language family on Umãka. This makes it a distant relation of Öklane which is a Bight language. Bight-Cape languages are not related to any of the languages of Aheku, though a few Ezenii words have been borrowed into the Maritime languages, including Lemohai.

Ezenii borrows many words from Öklane. It has also borrowed words from other languages including a few from Lemohai. During and immediately after the National Revival, speakers preferred to coin new terms from the language’s own resources. These new coinages were often loan-translations.

The upper class historically preferred Öklane. This meant that little effort was put into standardising Ezenii. The language therefore has a surprising number of local dialects. The country contains two large islands and their speech is particularly divergent. Standard Ezenii is not based on the speech of the capital Üskili. It is based instead on the speech of Brehaza, the former capital and the seat of a prestigious university.

The morphosyntactic alignment of Ezenii is nominative-accusative. Word order in the unmarked clause is Subject-Object-Verb. Phrases are mostly head-final. The language is mildly agglutinative, expressing much grammar by means of suffixes. Counting is in base sixteen. The language is written from left to right in a unicase alphabet.

Ezenii phonology is characterised by front rounded vowels and a distinction between long and short vowels. Syllables are maximally CCVV.

Nouns and pronouns may be singular, paucal or plural. They take one of three cases: nominative, accusative and postpositional. There is no grammatical gender. Demonstratives and numbers precede the noun. Adjectives, genitives and relative clauses normally precede the noun but may follow it to avoid unwieldy constructions. Genitives are marked with adjectival subordinators.

The verb is marked for tense and telicity. It also has positive and negative forms. There are no personal verb forms. Manner adverbs precede the main verb and the auxiliary verb follows. Verbal particles come last of all.

Adjectives and manner adverbs are distinguished from verbs but not from each other. They form their own word class. Direct adjectives/adverbs (those modifying a noun or verb) are distinguished from indirect ones (those modifying another adjective or adverb). This distinction partially captures the English distinction between adjectives and adverbs.

Sentence word order takes a topic-comment structure and subject pronouns may be dropped where the subject is clearly understood.

By David Johnson

Conlanger, writer and activist.

2 comments

  1. Once I’d decided that Öklane was a member of the Bight branch of the Bight-Cape language family, that begged the question, “What does a Cape language look like?” Ezenii is my answer to that question. It came together quite recently and fairly quickly.

    I think of Öklane and Ezenii as companion ornaments sitting in reflective symmetry to each other at opposite ends of a bookshelf.

    Happy 🙂

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