The Ölanek language

Ölanek is a contemporary language from the planet Tekuo. Its speakers are a race of Ike, who call themselves and their language Ölanek. Like the people of Mohai and most of Aheku, they belong to the Utai race (or copperfolk).

The language originated in Ölan, the largest nation-state on the continent of Umãka, to the north-west of Aheku. Ölan built an Empire in the early modern era, conquering much of South-East Umãka and North-East Aheku, but not Mohai.

Most Ölanek speakers live in Ölan though there are sizeable minorities scattered across Ölan’s former empire. In Ezen for example, 5% of the population speaks Ölanek and the language enjoys co-offical status with the local language Ezenik. Ölanek is studied as a second language in many countries.

Ölanek is a member of the Bight branch of the Bight-Cape language family, the largest language family on Umãka. This makes it a distant relation of Ezenik, a Cape language. The Bight-Cape languages are unrelated to the languages of Aheku, though a number of Ölanek words have been borrowed into the Maritime languages, including Lemohai.

In contrast, Ölanek borrows few words from other languages. Speakers prefer to coin new terms from the language’s own resources, though these terms are often loan-translations.

Ölanek has three regional dialects. The main dialects are Eastern and Western. A third dialect, known as Metropolitan, is only spoken in and around the capital Kuonavari and the nearby second city Bilkuha. Metropolitan Ölanek is essentially a transitional dialect between the Eastern and Western varieties, though it has some distinctive features of its own.

As the Kuonavari region grew during the industrial era, it pulled in migrants from Eastern and Western dialect zones in equal numbers. This reinforced the local dialect’s transitional quality. The largest settlement in the Eastern dialect zone is the third city of Korvena. The largest in the Western zone is the fourth city, Imekü.

The Ölanek spoken abroad tends to be based on the Western dialect. Western Ölan was traditionally poorer than the East, so the area provided more migrants.

The morphosyntactic alignment of Ölanek 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.

Ölanek phonology is characterised by front rounded vowels and a form of vowel harmony. The presence of a pair of bilabial fricatives is also notable. Syllables are maximally CVVC.

Nouns and pronouns take one of four numbers: singular, partitive singular, plural or partitive plural. They also take one of four cases: nominative, accusative, emphatic and postpositional. 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 long or unwieldy constructions. Adjectives agree with their noun in number and case.

The verb is marked for tense and telicity. It also has positive, negative and interrogative 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 not be dropped except in certain limited circumstances.

By David Johnson

Conlanger, writer and activist.

One comment

  1. Every story needs an antagonist and during the Early Modern era the empire of Ölan was the antagonist to the Maritime-speaking nations of Kuna, Tepi and Mohai. Ölan of course needed a language so I’ve worked quietly on Ölanek in the background until I was happy to go public with it. It will be little documented here, I mostly need if for naming purposes. That said, it’s been fun to work on, so you never know. I may end up saying more about it than I originally intended!

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