Ezenik: a linguistic overview

Ezenik is a contemporary language from the planet Tekuo. Its speakers are a race of Ike, who live in Ezen, 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 Ezenik. For much of the modern era, Ezen was part of the Ölanek Empire. Ezenik has therefore been strongly influenced by Ölanek.

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

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

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

Ezenik borrows many words from Ölanek. 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 Ölanek. This meant that little effort was put into standardising Ezenik. The language therefore has a surprising number of local dialects. The country contains two large islands and their speech is particularly divergent. Standard Ezenik is not based on the speech of the capital Ëskulu. It is based instead on the speech of Beharaz, the former capital and the seat of a prestigious university.

The morphosyntactic alignment of Ezenik is nominative-accusative. Word order in the unmarked clause is Subject-Verb-Object. 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.

Ezenik phonology is characterised by front rounded vowels and a form of vowel harmony. Syllables are maximally CVVC.

Nouns and pronouns take one of four numbers: singular, partitive singular, plural or partitive plural. They also take one of two cases: nominative or accusative. The accusative is also used after prepositions. There is no grammatical gender, though nouns may take personal possessive affixes.

Demonstratives and numbers precede the noun. Adjectives, genitives and relative clauses normally precede the noun but may follow it to avoid unwieldy constructions. They do not agree with their noun. 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 and auxiliary verbs precede the main verb.

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.

One comment

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

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

    Happy 🙂

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