Halfling language

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Language: English
Halfling
RegionFroturn, Etrand and Antanath
EthnicityHalflings
Native speakers
roughly 200 000~ (800)
Norlokian
  • Halfling
High Elven alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3

The Halfling language has been traditionally the ethnic language of the Halflings. Today, it is the official language of the Community of Antanath and is a recognized minority language in Froturn, and has no official status of any kind anywhere else, despite the best efforts of revivalists and lobbysts. Out of the circa 277,240 Halflings, only 200 000~ can speak the language fluently - around 72.14% of all Halflings - the remaining 27.86% speaks the local or national languages, albeit usually with a Halfling accent.

Previously thriving as not just a traditional ethnic language, but also as a language of inland trade, the Halfling language came under fire by Etrandish and Froturnish authorities alike after around 300 AEKE, who wanted to centralize their states and wanted to spread the usage of the national language as part of their centralization efforts. While the Dwarven language remained safe in Northern Etrand - due to their autonomy that Etrandish kings swore an oath to protect - Halflings in Froturn increasingly began switching to High Elven, and to Etrandish or Dwarven in Etrand.

The decline of the language was so severe that by 650 AEKE, only one in three Froturnish Halflings could speak Halfling fluently, let alone have it as their mother tongue. To combat this decline, a number of halfling scholars began to organize the revival of the language and spread awareness about the importance of the preservation of traditional Halfling culture and the Halfling language. By 800 AEKE - they managed to increase the number of Halfling-speakers within the global Halfling population from 40% to today's 72.14%.

In Froturn, the issue of the Halfling language and its official status became an a topic to talk about in the senate. Halfling traditionalist scholars wanted Froturn to give the Halfling language official status in regions that have significant Halfling population (North-Eastern Froturn). In 810, as part of the reforms initiated by Consul Sim'vara, the Halfling language was finally given official status as a recognized minority language.

History and status

In Froturn

In the beginning - before the Kingdom of Etrand was founded -, Halflings were in absolute majority in North-Eastern Froturn, and they all spoke Halfling, with possibly only the community leaders and the clergy being bilingual in High Elven. They had a special status that historians now call "silent autonomy": they were taxed less, they were denied representation in the senate, but as a form of compensation, they had nearly complete autonomy over all matters, save for religion and foreign affairs. Aside from matters of spirit and diplomacy, the halflings were left to their own devices to deal with all of their internal matters which meant that despite a whole millennium of High Elven rule and missionary work, the Halflings have managed to keep their language. The fact that Halflings also conducted a lot of the inland trade between Etrand and Froturn also helped to preserve their language by keeping it important.

During the late 3th century AEKE and early 4th century AEKE, large number of High Elves began to migrate to parts once claimed by the Halflings, making it necessary to treat North-Eastern Froturn as an actual province of the kingdom rather than just a chunk of land populated by tributary tribes - a province taxed like every other, and a province that has representation in the senate like every other one. There was also the issue of prestige: High Elves speaking the one and only official national language of the kingdom were unwilling to learn a minority language, which meant that the Halflings were essentially forced to learn the language of their new neighbours. The days of silent autonomy were over: North-Eastern Froturn became a fully integrated part of Froturn proper.

After this came the issue of language and the senate representation they were promised. As the days of silent autonomy were over, the Halflings started facing crossroads: either stubbornly refuse to learn the national language, forfeiting the senate representation they were promised and forfeiting any possibility to represent themselves in the government, or learning High Elven for the sake of being able to represent themselves in the senate. As we know, the Halflings chose the latter: they began switching over to the High Elven language, and the Halfling language began to decline.

By 650 AEKE, only roughly 30-35% of all Halflings living in Froturn could even speak the Halfling language to begin with, let alone have it as their native language: the rest was most likely monolingual in High Elven. As this decline was noticed, several charismatic Halflings began to act immediately, ringing the alarm bells kicking off their nameless movement to revive the Halfling language. Truth be told, even before 650, there were several Halfling senators who were frustrated with the decline of their mother tongue and made a case for the Halfling language in the senate, only to get dismissed as an irrelevant issue compared to all the other allegedly more relevant matters at hand. But after 650, they began banding together, raising awareness about the decline of their beloved ethnic language, teaching their children Halfling and asking others to do the same. At the same time, they also made failed attempts at convincing the government to grant the Halfling language a status as officially recognized minority language and help them preserve the language.

Needless to say, despite the success of the language revival - raising the percentage of Halfling-speakers within the global Halfling population from the 40% of 650 to today's 72.14% by 800 - their representatives in the senate failed to gather enough support to win their beloved language official recognition... until something unexpected happened. The Froturnish Civil War of 809 ended with victory for the King's loyalists, who were led by the reform-minded and progressive Consul Sim'vara, who, after one and a half century of begging, has finally granted the Halfling language revival scholars their wish - giving the Halfling language official recognition as minority language and co-official status with High Elven in the North-Eastern province.

Halflings rejoiced, and ever the number of Halflings who speak Halfling proudly has been increasing at an even faster rate ever since.

In Etrand

Phonology

Consonants

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Dorsal
Broad Slender Broad Slender Broad Slender Broad Slender
Nasal (ŋ)
Stop Voiceless tˠ t͡sˠ tʲ t͡sʲ ʈ͡ʂˠ t͡ɕ k
Voiced dˠ d͡zˠ dʲ d͡zʲ ɖ͡ʐˠ d͡ʑ g
Fricative Voiceless ɸˠ ɸʲ sˠ (θˠ) sʲ (θʲ) ʂˠ ɕ x ç
Voiced βˠ~w βʲ (ðˠ) (zˠ) (ðʲ) (zʲ) (ʐˠ) (ʑ) (ɣ) (ʝ)
Approximant j
Rhotic ɾˠ ɾʲ ʀ
  • The consonantal system of Halfling traditionally divides consonants into two categories: Broad and Slender. The earlier can only appear before and after back and central vowels (never before or after front vowels), while the latter can appear before and after any vowel.
    • There are two exceptions to this rule: /w/ and /ʀ/, despite being classified as Broad consonants, also appear before front vowels.
  • /θˠ θʲ ðˠ ðʲ zˠ zʲ ʐˠ ʑ ɣ ʝ/ appear "natively" only in the dialects of Etrand and Antanath. In Froturn Halfling, they only appear in recent loanwords.
    • In Froturn Halfling - the variant of Halfling with the highest number of speakers - historical /ðˠ ðʲ zˠ zʲ ʐˠ ʑ ɣ ʝ/ have merged into /lˠ lʲ ɾˠ ɾʲ ɾˠ ɾʲ w j/.
    • /θˠ θʲ/ have only existed in Etrandish loanwords to begin with (and only in Etrandish Halfling), never existing in Froturn Halfling.
    • The voiced fricatives /βˠ βʲ ðˠ ðʲ zˠ zʲ ʐˠ ʑ ɣ ʝ/ originated from the postvocalic lenition of the corresponding stops /bˠ bʲ dˠ dʲ d͡zˠ d͡zʲ ɖ͡ʐˠ d͡ʑ g gʲ/, therefore do not appear word-initially or after nasal vowels in native Halfling words. They do appear word-initially and after nasal vowels in loanwords though.
  • /βˠ/ and /w/ are not distinguished anymore in any variant of Halfling. Both of them are generally pronounced as an approximant [w] in all positions.
  • Under the influence of other local languages (such as High Elven and Etrandish), /ɸˠ ɸʲ βʲ/ are often pronounced as labiodental [fˠ fʲ vʲ] rather than the recommended bilabial.
  • /ɾˠ ɾʲ/ cannot appear word-initially or geminated. Both word-initially and when geminated, they are replaced by /ʀ/
    • /ʀ/ can only appear word-initially, or between two vowels. It cannot appear after nasal vowels.
  • Nasal vowel + /ɾˠ ɾʲ/ clusters are usually pronounced as nasal vowel + /dˠɾˠ dʲɾʲ/ clusters instead. For example, /ãɾˠa/ and /ãɾʲa/ can be respectively pronounced as [ãdˠɾˠa] and [ãdʲɾʲa].

Vowels

Front Back / Central
Oral Nasal Oral Nasal
Close Long ĩː ũː
Short i ĩ u ũ
Mid Long e̞ː ẽ̞ː o̞ː õ̞ː
Short ẽ̞ õ̞
Open Long (æː) (æ̃ː) ãː
Short (æ) (æ̃) a ã
  • The open front vowels /æ æ̃ æː æ̃ː/ exist in only a few of the most conservative dialects and have disappeared in every other variant of the language, having shifted to /ja jã jaː jãː/ in all positions, except after /w j ʀ/, where they became /e ẽ eː ẽː/ instead.
    • In Froturn Halfling, /æː æ̃ː/ is being reintroduced and is starting to replace /aː ãː/ as a result of enroaching High Elven influence. /a ã/ remains untouched, however.
  • Nasal vowels lose their nasalization if they are proceeded by a nasal+vowel cluster.
  • Nasal vowels tend to be dissimilated into vowel + nasal clusters before stop consonants and rhotic consonants, turning /ãbˠ/, /jãbʲ/, /ãdˠ/, /jãdʲ/, /ãg/, /jãgʲ/, /ãɾˠ/, /jãɾʲ/ into [amˠbˠ], [jamʲbʲ], [anˠdˠ], [janʲdʲ], [aŋg], [jaŋʲgʲ], [anˠdˠɾˠ], [janʲdʲɾʲ] respectively. This doesn't effect nasal vowels word-finally or before other kinds of consonants.