Greyfolk language

The greyfolk language is a constructed language that is used by the fictional greyfolk species. There are two main goals for the greyfolk language: 1) reflect and integrate with the culture of the greyfolk and 2) be accessible and easy to learn for human users. To achieve the second goal iIn the most recent versions of the greyfolk language, I have incorporated elements that are often considered ideal for an international auxiliary language. This is why the greyfolk language has a limited phonology and a simple grammar.

Any language enclosed by and touching guillemets—« and »—is in the greyfolk language. Furthermore, romanized greyfolk orthography is represented with guillemets and not with the angle brackets—⟨ and ⟩—that are standard for orthography. This is a stylistic choice made because I love guillemets and they help the greyfolk language stand out.

Phonology and phonotactics

Inventory

Greyfolk was designed with a simple phonology so it can be easily produced and easily understood by speakers of many natural languages. It has 9 consonants («m, n, p, t, k, s, y, l, h») and 5 vowels («a, e, i, o, u»). The language uses no contrasting voicing, no contrasting vowel length, no lexical stress, no diphthongs, no tones, and only simple consonant clusters.

Consonants Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
Nasal m n
Plosive p t k
Fricative s
Approximant j~ɰ1
Liquid l2
Transition h
  1. written «y», can be pronounced like English ‘y’ or ‘w’ or like Spanish soft ‘g’
  2. can be pronounced like English ‘r’ or like Spanish ‘r’ or ‘rr’
Vowels Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

Syllable structure

The syllable structure is C1(C2)V(C3) with the following rules:

  • C1 can be «m, n, p, t, k, s, y, l, h»
  • C2 can be «y, l», but not after «y, l, h»
  • V can be «a, e, i, o, u»
  • C3 can be «m, n, l»

Writing system

The writing system of the greyfolk language was designed to be a featural writing system that uses simple glyphs that can be easily represented in low resolution media such as a sixteen-segment display or a 3×5 dot-matrix display.

greyfolk m n p t k s y l h a e i o u
Latin m n p t k s y l h a e i o u

In the greyfolk writing system, letters can be written linearly, but they are most often written in syllable blocks. So, while a syllable in the greyfolk language can be written as a row of characters in its romanized form (e.g., «mam»), syllables can be written using the greyfolk writing system as follows:

  • C1V syllables like «ma» can be written as ma or ma 
  • C1C2V syllables like «mya» can be written as mya or mya 
  • C1VC3 syllables like «mam» can be written as mam or mam 
  • C1C2VC3 syllables like «myam» can be written as myam or myam 

Featural correspondences

Because the writing system is featural, each glyph loosely represents the features of the vocal tract used when making the corresponding sound.

Grammar

Word classes

The vowels «e, i, o, u» indicate word class as follows:

  • «e» indicates a noun (or pronoun)
  • «i» indicates a modifier (e.g., adjectives, adverbs)
  • «o» indicates a verb
  • «u» indicates a function word (e.g., conjunctions, prepositions, particles)

And «a» is filler—it doesn’t mean anything except that the word isn’t over. So, it can’t be the first vowel.