Kisimbi

Description

In-World

Kisimbi /ki.’sim.bi/ is the official and most widespread language of the Incorporated States of Usimbi (Usimbi buamaPaoto maBambile), the “Shining Star of the Tropics” and the leader of the Jungle Federation on the planet Linnasia. Part of the Badume (*Bantu) language family, Kisimbi is surprisingly conservative, maintaining all nineteen of the original Proto-Badume noun classes as well as the traditional method of forming genitive constructions. It is not untouched, however; the Basimbi (singular Musimbi) have borrowed greatly from other languages over the years, including the Sabaki (*Swahili) languages, Wasiketian (*Egyptian), Konoko Dian (*Arawak), and even far-off Vittaurian (*English) and Nandiguese (*Mandarin).

Out-of-World

Kisimbi is an a posteriori constructed language based on Proto-Bantu, with the occasional smattering of Egyptian, Arawak, Arabic, and Swahili. It was created for the NationStates nation of Usimbi, found in the region of Linnasia, back in 2017 or so, and I’ve been working on it on-and-off since then.

Phonology

  • Consonants: m p b f n t d s z l r /r/ ny /ɲ/ j /dʒ-ʒ/ y /j/ (ŋ) k g w
  • Vowels: a /ɐ/ e /ɛ/ i /i/ o /ɔ/ u /u/
  • Diphthongs: ai /ɐɪ/ ao /ɐʊ/

Phonotactics

  • Treat all vowel combinations aside from <ai> and <ao> as individual syllables. Thus, ajuamuzele “he/she recently stopped being attractive” is pronounced /ɐ.ʒ.w‘ɐ.mu.zɛ.lɛ/, not /ɐ.‘ʒwɐ.mu.zɛ.lɛ/.
  • <j> is /dʒ/ word-initially and /ʒ/ everywhere else.
  • It was at various points in history the custom to heavily aspirate word-initial vowels to separate out the sounds; this habit has persisted ironically among the lower classes, while the upper classes do their best to ignore this.
  • Speakers from the Subuki River Basin often use schwas in their daily speech, for example ajuamuzele as /ə.ʒu.‘ɐ.nzə.lɛ/.
  • Syllables are unfailingly (N)(C)V, where N is a nasal that undergoes sandhi with the following consonant.

Stress

Proto-Badume had pitch markings; remnants of this can be found in modern-day stress. The rules are as follows:

  1. The (first) syllable in the proto-word containing a high pitch is the stressed syllable in the new word. (E.g. *dòòdí “dream”>daolí)
  2. All other syllables in the foot are considered unstressed.
  3. If there is no high pitch in the initial word, then the first syllable which is not low-pitched is used. (E.g. *tùnd-a “to trade”>tundá)
  4. If there are no associated high or low pitches, or only low pitches, the penultimate syllable is stressed and one works backwards from there. (E.g. *jùgà>júga “profession”)

(A further note: words are normally not written with stress in Kisimbi; the syllabary doesn’t allow for it. I will mark down the stress on words when they first appear and leave them blank from then on.)

Sound Changes

The history of the Kisimbi language goes back some three thousand years, to Proto-Badume (*Proto-Bantu); since that time, surrounded first by the savanna and then by jungle cities, it has slowly but surely undergone a number of changes. These are the changes that occurred in the dialect spoken in Umuongo (note: Kibungo=‘language of the shore’, where Umuongo is *u-mu-bungo ‘place on the coast’>*umuungo), by far the largest settlement of the modern day and the one from which the primary dialect was derived. (Naturally there are borrowings from other dialects, but those will be discussed in due time.)

  1. */ʊ, u, o/ become semivowel /w/ before another vowel (except another /ʊ, u, o/)
    [+back]>w/C_V
  2. *Lax vowels /ɪ, ʊ/ become tensed vowels /i, u/
    [-tense]>[+tense]/_
  3. Meta-note: large influx of Wasiketian (*Ancient Egyptian) words, assigned specific noun classes based on function
  4. *Vowel dissonance between long and short vowels
    aa>oo/_Ca
    ee>aa/_Ce
    ii>ee/_Ci
    oo>uu/_Co
    uu>ii/_Cu
  5. *Loss of separate numeral prefixes (fusion with prepositional prefixes)

This is Fourth Millennium Kibungo.

  1. */d/ Shift except word-initially
    d>Ø/V_[+low]/(#)V_V{V,#}
    d>r/V_[+back]/(#)V_VV
    d>l/V_[-back]/(#)V_VV
    d>z/_V#
  2. Meta-note: small influx of Proto-Polynesian words, largely ocean-related, assigned specific noun classes based on function
  3. */b/ Shift except word-initially
    b>Ø/{#,V}_[+back]/(#)V_VV
    b>w/{#,V}_[-back]/(#)V_VV
    w>Ø/_u
  4. Noun class reassignment
  5. /c/ becomes /s/ in all environments
    c>s/_
  6. Meta-note: small influx of *Arabic words, largely assigned to Class 12/13
  7. *Proto-Badume pitch marking is lost
    [+tone]>[-tone]/_
  8. Meta-note: Kisimbi now written with a syllabary derived from Wasiketian glyphs1
  9. Meta-note: large influx of *Arawak words, largely assigned to class 9/10
  10. Diphthong collapse
    i>y/_[aeou]/i_[aeou]
    e>y/_[aou]/e_[aou]
    V2>V/V_
    V2>V/_V
    [aeo]i>ai/_
    [aeo]u>ao/_

This is Fifth Millennium Kibungo.

  1. */ny/ Shift
    ny>n/_C
    ny>j/_
  2. Meta-note: Kibungo becomes the official dialect of the Incorporated States of Usimbi, and is renamed Kisimbi to promote unity
  3. *Vowel Shift
    aa>ao/_
    ee>we/_{V,N}[-son -cont]_
    ii>wo/_/{V,N}[-son -cont]_
    oo>ao/_
    uu>wo/_/{V,N}[-son -cont]_
    [αvowel]>Ø/_[αvowel]
  4. Meta-note: influx of Vittaurian (*English), Nandiguese (*Mandarin), and Intisuyan (*Quechua) words, largely assigned to class 9/10
  5. Meta-note: perhaps partly out of frustration of not being able to properly spell the new words correctly, the kwa orders a spelling reform
  6. *Stop Lenition before /i,j/
    • b[i,y]>w/_V
    • p[i,y]>f/_V
    • d[i,y]>j/_V
    • k[i,y]>s/_V

This is Modern Kisimbi.
1It should be noted that Wasiketian glyphs more closely resemble those of the Maya than the Egyptians.

Noun Classes

Like most if not all *Bantu languages, Kisimbi has a number of noun classes; in holding with its generally conservative nature, it has preserved all nineteen accepted noun classes from *Proto-Bantu. This functions not only as a means of classifying nouns, but also as a derivational process; for example, from the word gánga ‘malaria’ comes the word mugánga, bagánga ‘healer, doctor’.
There are four possible affixes per noun class: the nominal prefix is added (but not always) to the component noun to demonstrate its class. The pronominal prefix covers possessives, connectives, demonstratives, determinatives, and (in an older version of the language) a numeral prefix as well. The verbal prefix is used for the subjects of verbs, and the verbal infix for objects–in the slang of the southern cities, the young and rebellious use the verbal infixes as passive markers, instead of using the appropriate verbal derivation.
The noun classes are as follows:

#NPPPVPVIUsage
1Mu-Ju-A--mu-humans
2Ba-Ba-Ba--ba-plural of Class 1
3Mu-
M-
Gu-Gu--gu-plants, body parts, periods of
time, locales
4Mu-Gi-Gi--gi-plural of Class 3
5Di-
J-
Di-
J-
Di-
J-
-di-
(-j-)
sharp objects, body parts,
warmth-givers, liquids, mass
nouns, augmentatives (of
7/8, 9/10, 11/10, 12/13), others
6Ma-Ma-Ga--ga-plural of Class 5, 14, 15
7Ki-Ki-Ki--ki-manners, ways, languages, others
8Bi-
W-
Bi-
W-
Bi-
W-
-bi-
-w-
plural of Class 7
9(N-)Ji-Ji--ji-animals, inanimates
10I-
Y-
Ji-Ji--ji-plural of Class 9, 11
11Du-Du-Du--du-abstract nouns, mass nouns
12Ka-Ka-Ka--ka-diminutive (of count nouns),
body parts3, others
13Tu-Tu-Tu--tu-Plural of Class 12, 19
14U-
W-
Bu-U--u-2Abstract nouns, long thin objects
15Ku-Ku-Ku-N/AInfinitives
16Pa-Pa-N/AN/ALocatives (on, at, in)4
17Ku-Ku-N/AN/ALocatives (from)4
18Mu-Mu-N/AN/ALocatives (to, within)4
19Pi-
F-
Pi-
F-
Pi-Pi-Diminutives (of mass nouns)

2 Sound changes that occurred about three hundred years ago have caused this sound to fuse with other vowels; see Sound Changes for more.

3 Class 12 took over this function from Class 15.

4 The locative classes have their own particular rules, to be discussed later.

It should be noted that not all nouns take their class prefix in the singular, especially if the meaning is considered obvious. The prefix can, however, be added for emphasis. For example, while the word kali ‘woman’ takes no prefix in the singular (in the plural it is bakali ‘the women’, the cognomen (kúmbu–more on these later) of Kosi du Banja na Pungu, the previous Occupant of Usimbi, was Mukali ‘The Woman’, on account of her rather pressing personality. (Note that this has no negative implications in Kisimbi culture.)

Derivational Morphology

Verbs-from-Nouns/Adjectives (Suffixes)

There were a number of suffixes in Proto-Badume, and also in Old Kibungo, for deriving new verbs from non-verbs. None of these are now functional in modern Kisimbi, but it’s worth knowing about them anyway.

  • -ad-: expansion of the core definition (e.g. béju<*béju ‘seed’, thus béjao<*béj-ad-a ‘to plant’) (*-ad-)
  • -d-: transitive affix; ‘make someone/something do X’
  • -k-: intransitive affix; ‘become X’
  • -p-: essive affix; ‘be X’ (*-p-)

Verbs-from-Verbs (Suffixes)

All of these are still fairly active in Kisimbi today. Technically mood/voice affixes, they are placed between the root and the tense suffix.

  • -am-: stative; ‘be X-ing’
  • -an-: reciprocal; ‘X one another’
  • -at-: contactive; ‘touch X’
  • -i-: causative5
  • -id-: applicative; ‘do X for Y’5
  • -ik-: neutral/experienced (undergo X-ing)
  • -u-: passive5
  • -ud-: transitive reversive (stop X-ing)5
  • -uk-: intransitive reversive (be made to stop X-ing)5

5 Subject to sound changes.

Nouns-from-Verbs (Suffixes)

  • i/-a: agent nouns (the -a is used when the verb is not in its base form)
  • -ile: way of doing X (usually Class 3/4) (*-íde)
  • -iro: place, location (*-íd-o)
  • -o: action/result/instrument nouns (may replace last vowel)

Nouns-from-Nouns (Prefixes)

Placed in front of a noun, class prefix and all, and another class prefix was added. These basically dropped out of fashion halfway through the fifth millennium for new coinages (the preference now is to use noun incorporation in verbs).

  • -ja-: owner of, one who indefinitely has (*-ɲa-)
  • -sa-: owner of, one who currently has (*-ca-)
  • -si-: X that belongs to (Y) (*-ci-)

Nouns-from-Nouns/Verbs (Compound Stems)

Compounds in Kisimbi come to no more than two roots, although a different prefix than either may be added.

The traditional structure is [PREFIX3]-[ROOT2][PREFIX1][ROOT1], for example puá (5/6) ‘wax’+ti (12/13) ‘stick’>dipuákati (5/6) ‘candle (stick that is of wax)’ (note the 5/6 class is used for ‘warmth-givers’ as well as mass nouns).

Modern Kisimbi, on the other hand, keeps the order but loses the medial prefix, thus súngi (9/10) ‘moon, month’+buá (9/10) ‘dog’>disúngibua (5/6) ‘werewolf, were-hyena, chupacabra’ (the augmentative’s there for a very obvious reason, folks).

For more formal compounds, the Kisimbi dialect continuum as a whole has preferred genitive constructs. More on these later.

Conjugation

Suffix-Based Verb Conjugation

In addition to the suffixing morphology above, Kisimbi also has five verb endings representing different tenses and moods.

  • The simple tense, -a, is the infinitive form of most verbs. There are some very few exceptions where the simple tense is in -i, but these have been mostly filtered out of the modern language. It is also used to describe present activities (in the imperfect or simple aspect), for example tujifá ipímbo ‘we burn (the) sticks’, or for a heavy, indirect object-less imperative, for example jóta ‘warm yourself’.
  • The perfective, -le or -ile after consonants, is used to describe events in the past that have no continuation in or up to the present, for example babúrule kazái ‘they were killed long ago’.
  • The present perfective, -wole or -ele, is used to describe events that happened in the past but that led to conditions in the present, for example nupútele ‘I was running [and came here], I ran here’.
  • The subjunctive, -e, is used to indicate irrealis events, things like the optative (Gáiga úkuboné ‘may wealth find you’, a traditional phrase of best wishes for one starting a new enterprise), potential (túkijondé kipái ‘we could weave a new one’), and jussive (músalé‘may she be clever’). Note the shift in stress to the beginning and end of the verb; this corresponds with pitch shift in Proto-Badume.

Circumfix-Based Verb Conjugation
There are a few other conjugations with both prefixes (after the associated noun class prefixes) and a vowel suffix. In Classical Kibungo there were a great many of these; the modern-day language has preserved only two, although they have nevertheless expanded somewhat to fit new grammatical functions.
The future, -ka-ROOT[/i]-a[/i], is used for events that have not yet occurred, for example nukapúta ‘I will run’. Also derived from this construction is the future perfective (actually using the present perfective suffix), -ka-ROOT-ele, which is used to convey that an event will happen in the future because of actions that happen now (or recently happened), for example didungú dipái kawóka ‘a new empire will rise’.
The conditional-nga-ROOT-a, is used for situations that require certain conditions to be fulfilled, for example tumungabóna nga tupúta ‘you will find him if you run’. This, instead, has a conditional perfective variant, -nga-ROOT-ale, for example tumungabónale nga tupútile ‘you would have found him had you run (but you did not)’.

Negative Constructions
The complex negative forms of Proto-Badume and Old Kibungo have been simplified as well, down to the circumfix ká-ROOT-i in most forms, the tense suffixes being attached after the final -i (although the negative perfective is ka-ROOT-íle or ka-ROOT-yéle, with appropriate lenition). All forms have a negative derived this way, for example kátukaputíle ‘thou will’st not run’.

Pronouns

Basic Pronouns

There are independent as well as dependent pronominal forms for all persons. There used to be further forms for all the noun classes (not just the human ones), but these have been largely replaced by the noun class prefixes in constructions.


IndependentDependentVerb PrefixVerb Infix
1st SingularMía-miNu--nu-
2nd SingularWa-weU--ku-
3rd SingularYa-yeA--ma-
1st PluralSía-siTu--tu-
2nd PluralJía-jiMi--mi-
3rd PluralWao-woBa--ba-

Demonstratives

Kisimbi has four separate demonstrative constructions; the proximal (for items near to both parties, loosely translated as “this”), the egocentric (for items closer to the speaker than the listener, also translated as “this”), the alterocentric (for items farther from the speaker and possibly closer to the listener, loosely translated as “that”), and the distal (some distance from both parties or from the last object, translated as “that,” “yon,” or “that other”).

Base ClassProximalEgocentricAlterocentricDistal
1 “Mu-“UjuJunáoUjuóJulí
2 “Ba-“AbaBanáoAbáoBalí
3 “Mu-/M-“UguGunáoUmuóGulí
4 “Mu-/M-“IgiGináoIgióGilí
5 “Di-/J-“IliDináoIlióDilí
6 “Ma-“AmaManáoAmáoMalí
7 “Ki-/S-“IkiKináoIsóKilí
8 “Bi-/W-“IwiBináoIwóBilí
9 “N-“IjiJináoIjóJilí
10 “I-/Y-“IjiJináoIjóJilí
11 “Du-“UruDunáoUróDulí
12 “Ka-“AkaKanáoAkáoKalí
13 “Tu-“UtuTunáoUtuóTulí
14 “U-/W-“WoUnáoWoUlí
19 “Pi-/F-“IpiPináoIfóPilí

Curiously, the same has applied in the past to the four personal pronouns; yogis have often spoken of needing to find balance muimí/muiwé ‘within myself/yourself’.
These can be used to shorten sentences exponentially. For example, here are nine versions of the same sentence, with words lopped off as context becomes clearer:
Babákile jao pabungo “they built a bridge on the beach”
Bajibakile pabungo or babakile iji pabungo “they built it on the beach”
Bapabakile jao or babakile jao dilí “they built the bridge somewhere”
Bapajibakile or bapabakile iji or bajibakile dilí or babakile iji dilí “they built it somewhere”

Basic Syntax

In this section, the following abbreviations will be used: S for noun, L for locative, A for adjective, N for numeral, C for connective, D for demonstrative, P for possessive, V for verb, I for infinitive, R for relative clause, E for general clause, and F for a miscellaneous form.

Cardinal Numbers
The basic numbers in Kisimbi are ukádundu (0), móli/mo (1), báli (2), tátu (3), náji/na (4), sáono (5), tandátu (6), sambáli (7), náona (8), búja (9), dóngo (10), káma (100), kútu (1,000), sao (10,000), kasa (100,000), and kaka (1,000,000). All take on the prefix forms of their related nouns, for example jambá jináji ‘four elephants’, kúmu bakútu ‘a thousand chiefs’. Note the lack of plural forms on the main noun; this is another thing lost from Old Kibungo, where they were necessary. Also note that all numbers above a thousand were borrowings from Wasiketian (i.e. *Ancient Egyptian).

The Locative Forms
There are three locative prefixes used in Kisimbi, and each is added on to the plainest possible form of the word.* Pa- could be called an inessive of sorts, with the meaning ‘on, at, in’, for example Mia paOsimbi ‘in Usimbi’. Ku- is more of an abessive or ablative, with the meaning ‘from, away from’, for example Mia kwOsimbi ‘I’m from Usimbi’. Mu- is the illative or adessive, with the meaning ‘to, within, into’, for example Mia mwOsimbi ‘I’m going into Usimbi’. Mugéndele pawá and Mugéndele muá both mean ‘I travelled in the jungle (to get here)’, but the former means that one travelled within the confines of the jungle for much or most of the journey, while the latter means that one had to enter the jungle in order to get to wherever one is at the moment.

*For prefixes in mu-, those of classes 1, 3, and 4, the class prefix becomes a harmonized N and the mu- prefix takes precedent. The N- prefix from Class 9 is completely lost. Context is more than likely to clear out any ensuing problems.

Connectives
Connectives are the most common method, even to this day, of forming genitive constructions. The structure is [Noun1] [Prep.Prefix1]-a-[Nom.Prefix2.Noun2], for example góro jiamukumu ‘the chief’s quagga’ or gúru kaongú ‘the sheep’s leg’ (*ka-a-n-gu). Note that this can be extended to locative constructions as well, and this is often found in archaic names for places, for example Kéno muamuTítu ‘the Temple in the Forest’. (Trust me, you really want to avoid that one.)
Connectives are also used to form ordinal numbers, for example Jamba jiaNsaono ‘the Fifth Elephant’.
There is also what is terms the weaker or modern genitive, which is just the apposition of two nouns, both prefixed, for example ngoro mukumu ‘the chief’s quagga’.

Nominal Groups
Nominal groups–that is, collections of words acting in concert with a central noun–tend to follow the pattern SCAN, that is noun-connective-adjective-numeral. For example:

TypeExampleTranslation
SSeke“[the] octopus”
SCSeke jiamukwá“the Occupant’s octopus”
SASeke jisáru“the clever octopus”
SNSeke jináona“[the] eight octopodes”
SCASeke jiamukwa jisaru“the Occupant’s clever octopus”
SCNSeke jiamukwa jinaona“the Occupant’s eight octopodes”
SANSeke jisaru jinaona“the eight clever octopodes”
SCANSeke jiamukwa jisaru jinaona“the Occupant’s eight clever octopodes”

Doubtless there will be those wondering how to phrase it if three cold Occupants have eight clever octopodes. The answer is relatively simple: embed any qualities pertaining to the connective construction within the sentence in its proper place, thus: seke jiabakwa balíli batátu jisaru jinaona, ‘the three cold Occupants’ eight clever octopodes’. Locatives are placed at the end of the entire construction.

Verbal Groups
Generally syntax in Kisimbi is Subject-Verb-Object, a great saving if you’re an Anglophone by birth. There are, however, a few more constructions one can attempt with verbs, for example VS (verb-object), VL (verb-locative), VSS (verb-indirect-direct), VSL (verb-object-locative), VI (verb-infinitive–more often than not followed by a noun or a locative), and VE (verb-clause, where E may be any of the above forms).

TO BE CONTINUED…

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