Classic Talossan

From the earliest days of the study of the language, efforts had frequently been made to regularise and reform Talossan orthography, and statements were often issued that recommended modifications and deprecation of various confusing features of the orthography of the language. In 2007, a long study of the phonology and orthography of Talossan was completed, and reforms were recommended; the Talossan generally described on this Website is what is now known as “Modern Orthography”, distinguished from the pre-reform spelling now referred to as “Classic Orthography”.

In addition to the not-uncommon practice of retaining Classic Orthography in given personal names, many Talossan writers employ Classic Orthography in their everyday use of the language. Users of both Classic and Modern Orthography no difficulty in reading text written in either system, as Classic Orthography represents only additional marks (not seen in “Modern Orthography”) on Talossan words.

As the following brief overview of the differences between Classic and Modern Talossan shows, the differences are few and well-defined.

From the time of its initial development, and for decades thereafter, the Talossan language was termed (even by its creator) a difficult language to learn, in part due to its confusing assortment of diacritical marks. For example, in Classic Orthography, sometimes the same marked vowel indicates one or the other (or both) of a change in emphasis or pronunciation, or even, in some cases, indicates nothing at all. This was all regularised, however, and while many people choose to retain the conventions discussed below, they are considered “formal” or are otherwise not mandated.

Orthographic Differences between Classic and Modern Talossan

Vowel Differences


Decorative (“Formal”) Vowel Marks


Classic Vowel Modern Equivalent Comments
â a The very common vowel mark â indicates an unstressed a pronounced as a schwa (as at the end of English “sofa”) in Classic Orthography. It is almost ubiquitous at the end of a word in Classic Orthography, and rarely seen otherwise. In the study concluded in 2007, it was recognised as an allophone of a, with the degradation to a schwa being related to the unstressed nature and position of the vowel, so uses of the vowel were respelled using a. For example, casâ (= house) became casa in Modern Orthography.
ê é Classic Orthography uses a circumflex to indicate a stressed vowel ë (see below; this has been recognised an allophone of e, having the pronunciation as in English “pen” or “set”). The marked vowel ê is therefore equivalent to é (or è).
ô ó In Classic Orthography, ô indicates the stress marked vowel o. Modern Orthography uses the acute (or grave) accent for this purpose, making ô and ó and ò all equivalent.
û u The marked vowel û is rare in Classic Talossan, apart from its use in the prefix ûn- and in the monophthong , which is pronounced as simply u. Alone, û indicates in Classic Orthography the pronunciation of the vowel in English “but” (IPA /?/). This was recognised as an allophone of u in the 2007 reforms — for example, slûts (= key on a keyboard) became sluts — and the circumflex was also was removed from the monophthong . Essentially, the circumflex on the letter u may be considered decorative, and if removed, equates directly to “Modern Talossan”.

Other Vowel Differences


Classic Vowel Modern Equivalent Comments
å a The little-used vowel å was recognised as an allophone of a and is not seen in Modern Orthography, in which it was replaced by a. In Classic Orthography, it represents the vowel sound in English ‘law’ (IPA /?/). It appears in a very small number of words in Classic Orthography, including år (= year) and (= upon), which became ar and pa in Modern Orthography.
ë e (and é) This vowel has two distinct uses in Classic Orthography, though it has mostly been abandoned in its first (allophonic) use, in preference to (as in Modern Orthography) unadorned e.

  1. In words like për (= for), it is pronounced as a schwa, or like the e in English “egg”. This was recognised as an allophone of e in the 2007 reforms, and thus për became per in Modern Orthography.
  2. The second use of ë in Classic Orthography is as a silent indicator that an infinitive verb is one that would conjugate irregularly. This is discussed later on this page.

(In Modern Orthography, ë is the vowel e, marked with diæresis.)

î (various) This vowel has the pronunciation of the Russian letter ? (IPA /?/). This was described as “between the vowel sounds of ‘reed’ and ‘rude’, pronounced with the lips spread wide instead of rounded”. The vowel î was often decried, even by Ben Madison, creator of the language, as needing to be abolished, its pronunciation not well-defined and only properly enunciated by Madison. The vowel is common in Classic Orthography, being used in many words, like tîmp (= time), and in the present participle ending -înd (though this ending is pronounced, as in Modern Talossan, as ?ant). This vowel is not seen in Modern Orthography; all uses of it were respelled (for example, tîmp became temp, cînt, meaning “hundred”, became chint, and quîrt, meaning “quarter”, became quart).

Differences in Indication of Stress


In Classic Talossan, some regular stress is seen (unnecessarily) marked. Specifically, the word-endings -éir(s), -ál, and -án, are often seen marked as shown.

Additionally, users of Classic Orthography often retain the convention of (misleadingly) marking the word-ending -escu as -escù (though words ending in this way are stressed on the e).

Consonant Differences


Classic Consonant Modern Equivalent Comments
çh gh Before being spelled çh, this extremely rare digraph had in earlier days been written r’.
gñh gnh This trigraph appears without the decorative tilde, as gnh, in “Modern Talossan”. The letter ñ, appearing other than in gñh, had been seen in Archaic Talossan (as the sound now indicated exclusively with ng) but long ago disappeared in this standalone use.
s-ch schc Uses of the construction s-ch, which in Classic Orthography represents the sound of “sh” as in English “ship” followed immediately by the “ch” sound of English “chip”, were re-spelled using the equivalent Talossan constructions sch (for the “sh” sound) and c, or, if needed, ce (for the “ch” sound). This sequence appears in only a few dozen Talossan words.

Difference in the Infinitive Verb Ending


In Classic Orthography, the regular infinitive verb ending is -ar, while all infinitive verbs that are irregular in at least one of their non-infinitive conjugations end either in -arë or -irë. In these latter cases, the vowel ë is not pronounced at all; it is completely silent.

In all cases, the pronunciation of these infinitive verb endings is with the “sh” sound (as in English “ship”) rather than the “r” sound as written. In the reforms of 2007, the silent ë marking irregular verbs was removed and the pronunciation of the infinitive endings was made regular and visible by respelling the endings as -arh (and -irh), since the Talossan digraph rh has the English “sh” sound, and was already in use to preserve this pronunciation in the future-tense conjugations. That is, in Classic Orthography, mënxhar is “to eat”, while mënxharhéu is “I will eat”. In Modern Orthography, these two words are written menxharh and menxharhéu.

Stress in Archaic (pre-Classic) Talossan

In what is now termed “Archaic” Orthography, there is no specific rule of stress, and often the proper stress of a word must simply be learned. (The users of both “Classic” and “Modern” Orthography now adhere to the stress rule described on this Website.)

While stress marks are common in Archaic Orthography, not all words in Archaic Orthography contain a stress marked vowel; indeed, a great many words contain no vowel with any sort of mark, which (with no rule of stress) makes determination of stress rather difficult for a new learner. In fact, in Archaic Orthography, many vowels (including but not limited to those listed in the above table) do not have a stressmarked version, so spoken stress on words containing those vowels can only be learned and memorised.

Words in Archaic Orthography that do contain stress marks retain those marks even when the word is affixed. For example, xhurnál (= newspaper) takes the suffix -átsch (= bad) to become xhurnálátsch (= tabloid newspaper) in Archaic Orthography. Thus, a reader must be aware that often only the final stress mark actually indicates spoken stress. (In Classic and Modern Orthography, since default stress falls on the final syllable of both of these words by rule, they are written xhurnal and xhurnalatsch.)

Other marks in Archaic Orthography can also be misleading; for example, the word-ending -escù is stressed on the e rather than the u, and although conjugated endings do determine the stress of a verb form, stress marks on the infinitive form are retained in conjugation (for instance, the verb súrgar, meaning “to stand up”, is stressed as marked, but its conjugation súrgetz, meaning “you all stand up”, is stressed on the e rather than the marked vowel u). In Modern Orthography, the ending -escù was regularised to -escu, and stem-stressed verbs like súrgarh drop the stress mark in conjugation (thus, surgetz).