Vulgar High Elven

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Language: English
Vulgar High Elven
EthnicityHigh Elves
Extinctevolved into Middle High Elven around 200 BEKE
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Vulgar High Elven is a generic term for the nonstandard (as opposed to classical) sociolects of the High Elven language that postdated Archaic High Elven but predated Middle High Elven. The word vulgar in this case refers to its original meaning of common or vernacular, and not the more pejorative usage, tasteless or indecent.

During all of its lifespan - from 600 BEKE to 200 BEKE - it coexisted with Classical High Elven as a spoken language. While the latter served as the language of the church, administration and poetry, Vulgar High Elven was the language of the masses, the ordinary folk.

Because of its nonstandard nature, Vulgar High Elven had no official orthography. Vulgar High Elven was very often also called colloquial High Elven during the time it was spoken.

Phonology, differences from Classical High Elven in pronunciation

At first, Vulgar High Elven did not have drastic differences from Classical High Elven when it came to pronunciation - in fact, initially, the biggest difference was the simplified grammar and extra vocabulary. However, later on, the differences in pronounciation grew gradually - highly-educated upper-class speakers who seldom interacted with the unwashed masses had a conservative pronounciation, while the lower-classes were more innovative:

  • Hardening of standalone /w/ to [β]. /kʷ gʷ/ were not effected. This seems to have also happened in the speech of upper-class educated folks.
  • Softening of intervocalic /b/ to [β]. Some dialects are said to have hardened word-initial and post-nasal /β/ to [b], but this feature died out by the time of Middle High Elven.
  • At one point, the diphthongs /ɐu̯ ɐi̯ eu̯ oi̯/ respectively monophthongized to /ɔː ɛː joː eː/. The diphthongs /eɐ̯/, /oɐ̯/, /ɪɐ̯/, /ʊɐ̯/, /ʏɐ̯/, and /ui̯/ remained intact for the time being.
  • At one point, the unaspirated velar stops /k g/ developed palatal allophones [c ɟ] before the front unrounded vowels /ɛ ɛː eː ɪ iː/, which eventually became their own phonemes, when an additional vowel shift and consonant shift made their distribution more arbitrary:
    • The consonant clusters /ks kt gd gn gl/ coalesced to [ɕː cː ɟː ɲː ʎː], which introduced /c ɟ/ before back vowels as well. These all degeminated when word-initial or not followed by a vowel.
    • Word-initial /j/ hardened to [ɟ], introducing it before practically all vowels.
    • The aspirated /kʰ/ - which never had a palatal allophone to begin with - deaspirated to [k], reintroducing [k] before front unrounded vowels.
    • The vowels /ʏ yː/ unrounded to /ɪ iː/, while the dipthongs /eɐ̯ oɐ̯ ɪɐ̯ ʊɐ̯ ʏɐ̯ ui̯/ respectively became [jɐ wɐ jɐ wɐ jɐ wi]. This shift not only reintroduced /k g/ before front vowels, but also the standalone /w/.
  • At one point, /sc/ also coalesced into [ɕː].
  • The aspirated stops /pʰ tʰ k/ became [f t k].
  • Fricatization of aspirated /pʰ/ to /f/
  • /tj/ affricated to [t͡sj]
  • /nj lj/ coalesced into [ɲ ʎ] word-initially, [ɲː ʎː] anywhere else.
  • Vowel length distinctions were gradually eroded, until they were gone completely. /ɐ/ also merged with /a/.
  • Secondary vowels were weakened, then elided in /VkVt/ and /VgVd/ clusters, reintroducing /kt/ and /gd/
  • The new phonemes /ɕ c ɟ/ were further fronted to /s t d/ in the coda-position, when not followed by a vowel.

None of these changes were indicated in the orthography, which drifted further and further from the actually spoken language, until the spelling reforms during the Middle High Elven era.