Halfling languages

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Language: English
Halfling
EthnicityHalflings
Geographic
distribution
Froturn, Etrand and Antanath
Linguistic classificationNorlokian
  • Halfling
Proto-languageProto-Halfling

The Halfling languages is a language family (or singular pluricentric language) consisting of two main traditional variants, Eastern Halfling and Western Halfling (both of them being more akin to a group of mutually intelligible dialects rather than true languages with a standardized form), and two standardized variants, the Froturn Halfling and Antanath Halfling, respectively based on Eastern Halfling and Western Halfling. Because even Eastern Halfling and Western Halfling are, to a large extent mutually intelligible, they are sometimes considered a single (pluricentric) language. As such, the Halfling language has been traditionally the ethnic language of the Halflings. Today, it is the official language of the Community of Antanath (in the Antanath Standard) and is a recognized minority language in Froturn (in the Froturn Standard), 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

Just like Dwarven - both contemporary and historical - Halfling is traditionally analyized as having two variants (broad and slender) for each and every consonant, with the exception of the broad /w ʀ/ and the slender /j/.

If we don't count the velarized and palatalized variants of each consonant, then Halfling only has two nasals: a labial and a dental/alveolar one. Aside from that, Halfling has always had both voiced and voiceless stops/affricates and voiceless fricatives at five places of articulation: (bi)labial, dental (coronal non-sibilants), alveolar (sibilants), postalveolar (shibilants; retroflex if broad, alveolo-palatal if slender), dorsal (velar if broad, dorso-palatal if slender). Historically, the voiced stops also had fricative allophones, but influence from foreign languages made them into their own phonemes. Eastern Halfling would preserve these voiced fricatives, while Western Halfling would merge them with their corresponding approximants and rhotics.

There is one slight problem with the traditional analysis of analyzing broad and slender consonants as separate phonemes: it necessitates the fabrication of complicated rules. The palatalization and velarization loses its phonemic status in the syllable coda - consonants must asssimilate to the previous consonant. For example, the clusters /sˠtʲ/ and /sʲtˠ/ are illegal, and must harmonize to /sʲtʲ/ and /sˠtˠ/ respectively. This harmonization process also happens from syllable onset to syllable coda - words like /tˠatʲ/ and /tʲatˠ/ are illegal, and thus must harmonize to /tˠatˠ/ and /tʲatʲ/ respectively.

Thus, to answer the complications of the traditional analysis, some posit that /pˠu pʲu pʲi/ should be analysed/interpreted as /pu pju pi/ respectively, making the broad and slender consonants allophones in complementary distribution - broad consonants before back vowels and /w/, slender consonants before front vowels and /j/. This would mean reanalysing /tˠatˠ/ and /tʲatʲ/ as /tat/ and /tjat/ respectively.

Linguists still prefer the traditional analysis simply because of its analogy with Dwarven, a language closely related to Halfling.

Vowels

Halfling historically had a six-vowel system, or twelve-vowel system, if we count long and short vowels as separate, with vowels being divided into three heights (close, mid, open) and two places of articulation (front and back) - /æ æː e eː i iː a aː o oː u uː/ respectively. Halfling developed nasal vowels from vowel+nasal clusters.

Most dialects ended up losing the front open vowels /æ æ̃ æː æ̃ː/, breaking them into /ja jã jaː jãː/ in most contexts, except after /j w ʀ/, where they became /e ẽ eː ẽː/ instead. Only the most conservative dialects still preserve the front open vowels.

Eastern Halfling additionally acquired an extra set of front-rounded vowels /ø ø̃ øː ø̃ː y ỹ yː ỹː/ via loanwords from the languages that influenced it heavily (Dwarven and Etrandish). These vowels are absent in Western Halfling, and even a lot of monolingual speakers of Eastern Halfling have difficulty articulating them, often breaking /jo jõ joː jõː ju jũ juː jũː/ or unrounding /e ẽ eː ẽː i ĩ iː ĩː/.