Virtual Verduria

Note: To view this page properly you'll need a Unicode font. The following characters should look like the (boxed) graphic-- though the lowercase d-hachek and t-hachek probably won't.

ā ē ī ō ū Ā Ē Ī Ō Ū č ď ř š ť ž Č Ď Ř Š Ť Ž

Phonology [Index]

Vowels Consonants Phonological constraints Syllabification Stress


There are eight vowels in the Mažtane vocalic system:
            front           back  
    high    i ü î             u  
    mid     e ö               o  
    low               a 
For the Verdurian orthography, see below. For the purposes of the on-line grammar, the vowels are transliterated using five unmarked and five accented vowel symbols:
a as in top IPA [a]
e as in best IPA [e]
i as in machine IPA [i]
o as in hotel IPA [o]
u as in sloop IPA [u]
î as in fit IPA [I]
ä as in father (that is, longer than a) IPA [a:]
ë as in yes IPA [je]
ö as in Ger. schön, Fr. deux IPA [œ]
ü as in Ger. Hüte, Fr. tu IPA [y]

Verdurian vowels are clean, never diphthongized (cf. English row).

In Mažtane dialect e and ö are somewhat lower than o, but the spread of all three vowels is fairly large, and a central pronunciation (e between [e] and [e], o between [open O] and [o]) is not incorrect.

The rounded/unrounded distinction exists only for front vowels, and has developed since Caďinorian times. For those who are uncertain how to pronounce the rounded vowels: pronounce the i in machine, but with lips rounded for u, and you'll have a ü. Or say a series of u's, then shift your tongue to the i position. Similarly, pronounce e as in best with lips rounded for o, and you'll have an ö.

î is a lax variant of i. It must be considered phonemic (cf. čineki 'bosses (acc.)', činekî 'bosses (nom.)'), but its yield is very small, inasmuch as it only occurs finally. I prefer to transliterate it with a breve ĭ, but this isn't as widely supported in html, and î matches the transcription of Barakhinei and Elkarîl.


Mažtane contains the following consonants. Red indicates the IPA value; black indicates romanized forms (the alternatives are discussed below). For the Verdurian orthography, see below.
p b t d c g q  ch  f v dh s z sh zh rh  m n l r y

f, v, b, m, n, z, y are pronounced as in English. Notes on other sounds:

c  as in Scot always hard, and unaspirated
č as in church never a [k] as in chasm
d as in door dental, as in Spanish
ď as in there always voiced
g as in get always hard - never soft as in gin
h silent
k as in Arabic Iraq   uvular stop; see below
l as in loony always clear; never dark as in ill
p as in spot unaspirated, as in Spanish
r as in Sp. caro single-tap, much like American English t in later
ř as in Fr. rue uvular r
s as in sorry never voiced as in reason
š as in shoe
t as in stop dental, unaspirated, as in Spanish
ž as in leisure

Earlier versions of this page used the digraphs for the characters with hacheks (e.g. ch for č), but now that Unicode is widely available I've used it. (The lowercase ď should really have a hachek rather than an apostrophe; it's correct in my Unicode book, and realized as it is in actual fonts thanks to the vagaries of Czech typography.) The digraphs are acceptable in e-mail, board postings, and the like. For reference, here's the Unicode code points for the special characters. In html write (e.g.): č

Č 010c č 010d
Ď 010e ď 010f
Ř 0158 ř 0159
Š 0160 š 0161
Ž 017d ž 017e

Verdurian has lost the unvoiced Ť of Caďinor. However, Caďinor did not contain the sounds č, š, or ž, which have arisen in Verdurian by palatalization. A voiced j appeared in Old Verdurian, but it has subsequently merged with ž.

h was pronounced [x] in Caďinor; it reduced to a [h] in Old Verdurian and is silent today (in Mažtane; the Ctésifoni still aspirate it).

In lower-class Mažtane ř is pronounced as [hr]. In educated speech it is an uvular r, as in French or German; it must not be confused with r. Neither consonant is pronounced with the r of Midwestern American English; r is a single-tap trill, as in Spanish. A longer trilled r is also acceptable, although more characteristic of Ctésifoni speech.

r must not be allowed to color the preceding vowel: the vowel in hora is as in 'low,' [o ra], not as in 'for.'

c, which is always hard, is a velar stop, as in English, while k is uvular, /q/. To pronounce this sound, pronounce a series of k's while sliding your tongue back as far as it will go. You will principally notice a difference in pitch: k will be almost an octave lower than c. The tongue is in about the same position for k and ř.

A following y or ë palatalizes a preceding n or l to [ñ] and [l], as in Italian bagno, baglio. With other consonants the effect is the insertion of a subtle [j] glide, without changing the position of articulation of the consonant. Upper-class speakers are notorious for palatalizing these glides.

n is pronounced like English ng before k or g; this distinction is never phonemic.

Doubled consonants (prenne) must be pronounced double, as in penknife, not penny. The distinction is phonemic: prene has a different meaning.

American English is apt to change intervocalic s to z, t to d, etc., these habits must be avoided in Mažtane. (They are characteristic however of Avélan speech).

These pronunciation rules apply to Mažtane dialect only. For an overview of the major phonological characteristics of other dialects, see Dialects.

Phonological constraints

Most syllables are CV or CVC in form; there are no restrictions on what (single) consonants can appear initially or finally.

Syllables may also begin with

Clusters differing from the above only in voicing (e.g. gdeon, znak, zdesy) are rare but acceptable. Other initial clusters are generally marks of borrowings (e.g. nkaš from Ismaîn; pkekpe from Rafani, sbayu from Naviu) or other rare processes, and may be subject to alteration (e.g. sbayu is pronounced and increasingly spelled zbayu; while Ismaîn rse 'strange' was borrowed as urze).

Syllables may end with


Normally syllables are divided before a single consonant, and between two consonants:
i-fo-ru, ba-ra-hi-ne-i, ver-dú-rë, pren-ne, hip-na-ga, suš-čan, maž-ta-na.

However, two consonants should not be divided if they form an acceptable initial cluster (see the previous section):

Ke-bri, e-glé-rec, but compare am-rab, al-ced-la, gar-lo pi-flec, su-sre-vo-lu, re-mlot-ka ra-spu-yo, ba-sfa-he, but compare es-ďi-tel, mus-čo-te šri-fta, bo-ctei-ca na-si-tse, šu-pse

These rules apply even when the word is compound: i-mo-li-gec (im + oligec), i-mle-ben (im + leben).

Two vowels should be divided (řo-se-or, nu-o-tan); however, if the second vowel is an i or u it tends to form a diphthong with the previous vowel instead (au-dec, to-scei-o).

The tendency of Verdurian to create open syllables has helped preserve its clear, unreduced vowels.


Stress in Verdurian is generally on the penult (second-to-last): mažtana /mazh 'ta na/.

Vowels in diphthongs are counted in determining the penult, but orthographic y is not : Žaney /'zha nej/, but drukei /dru 'qe i/.

Stressed syllables other than the penult are always marked, with either a vuáë (which we represent as an accent) or a lenge sign (which we represent as a diaresis): Verdúria /ver 'du ri a/, drukië /dru qi 'e/.

In other words, accent the marked syllable first (á é í ó ú); then a 'long' vowel (ä ë ö ü), or the first of them if there are two; otherwise the penult.

The Alphabet [Index]

Letterforms Capitalization Diacritics Difficulties On romanization Punctuation Cursive script


Here are the letters of the Verdurian alphabet, in upper and lower case, with their names and standard transliteration.

The Caďinorians arranged the letters in their current order, so as to produce a nice meter when the names of the letters are spoken. (They were unfortunately foolish enough to make the names of voiced and voiceless letters rhyme; this was corrected in medieval times.)

The letter names are invariant: an cës, ďun cës 'one C, two C's'.

Verdurian orthography was reformed just two centuries ago, is highly phonemic, and has kept up with the few notable sound changes since then (e.g. si --> š before a vowel).


Since the invention of printing the use of capitals, once chaotic, has been reduced to a very simple rule: The first letter of a sentence, of a proper noun, and of a title is capitalized.

Ce-uestu e verdúry. This man is Verdurian.
Žanme néronden. He came on Néronden (market day).
Ya ivrice so ivram <Eta soi aďî>. He's read the book On the Gods.

For an English speaker, there are some unexpected corollaries:


The diacritics are shown on a lower and an upper case u (shown in grey).

The lenge indicates a 'long' vowel: ä, ë, ö, or ü. The name is a misnomer: these sounds have no common origin or relationship, and only one (ä) is actually a long vowel. (ö and ü are, as we have seen, rounded front vowels; and ë is an abbreviation for y + e.)

The vuáë, written as a wavy line over a lowercase letter and as a straight line over a capital letter, is used to indicate stress, when it cannot be derived by rule: á é í ó ú. It also indicates voice for certain consonants (e.g. g), although in this case it is considered part of the letter.

The breve or short symbol is found only in grammars and in old texts. In the modern language it appears only on i.

The mole symbol (transliterated â, ê, etc.) is used on foreign words, and only by scholars: e.g. Řânor.

The lenge cuzea (Cuzeian lenge) is used when writing Cuêzi; it distinguishes long from short vowels. I transliterate it as a macron, eg. ū.

Spelling difficulties

The Verdurian orthography is quite phonemic; one can always pronounce a word correctly from its spelling, and generally spell it right from its pronunciation. There are a few things to watch for, however.

A note on romanization

The system of transcription used here (and elsewhere in the Verdurian Research Series) is based on three principles: 1) each Verdurian letter should be represented by one Roman letter, never a digraph; 2) Roman diacritics are defined for each Verdurian diacritic, rather than being based on terrestrial usage; 3) no allophonic variations are represented.

Verdurian orthography was reformed just two centuries ago, is highly phonemic, and has kept up with the few notable sound changes since then (e.g. si --> š before a vowel), so this approach seems justified.

Instead of ď one could use đ or even ð, but these don't really fit the rest of the transliteration.

The one particular letter equivalent which may require explanation is the use of c, k for [k], [q]. Admittedly my choice is partly aesthetic-- qrof just looks odd. But if k is an unusual representation of [q], q would not suggest the correct pronunciation any better to English speakers; and my choice also alludes to the Ctésifoni pronunciation of both letters as [k].


The kešaš ("comma" in the picture) is similar to our comma. Verdurian grammars explain it with a simple rule: insert a kešaš wherever you would pause in speaking. One might still ask, of course, how big a pause and when do you pause anyway? However, modern British usage on commas (i.e. not too many of them) will not take you far wrong.

The symbol is also used to introduce a quotation, much like the dash in French.

It can be redoubled to indicate a long pause.

The bolyáše kešaš ("full stop") is used to end a sentence. Reduplicated, it is used to indicate the end of a long speech, or an ellipsis.

The cues ("?") marks an question, replacing the bolyáše kešaš.

The iskriča ("!") marks an exclamation, replacing the bolyáše kešaš.

The šircaî ("( )") are used to set off any expression from the rest of the sentence; they are used where we would use parentheses, certain commas, and sometimes even quote marks. Titles of artistic works, if longer than a word or two, are generally placed in šircaî.

For ease of reading, this book uses English punctuation conventions in romanized Verdurian text, with two exceptions: the kešas is used to introduce quotations in extended text, and the šircaî are used in Verdurian fashion.


The classical alphabets

The Verdurian alphabet derives ultimately from the Cuêzi alphabet, which in turn, according to the Cuzeians, was given to them by the ilii. The earliest letterforms were pictures of objects that began with that letter-- e.g. r represented rāsī 'pot'. (For more on the development of the Cuêzi alphabet, see the Cuêzi grammar.)

By the Golden Age the letterforms had been considerably simplified, and the inability to distinguish voiceless and voiced consonants was corrected by writing the latter with a horizontal bar on top:

First the Arániceri (around ZE 650) and then the Caďinorians adapted the Cuzeian alphabet for use with Caďinor. Symbols for sounds lacking in Cuêzi were derived either by modifying existing letters (e.g. Ť is simply an s without the vertical bar), or from variant Cuêzi letterforms (e.g. the Caďinorian ek k was an early alternative for c). (People tend to be extremely conservative when adapting an alphabet for their own use, preferring to adapt what's there rather than create new letters from scratch.)

Medieval developments

In medieval times letterforms were further stylized and simplified; the current lowercase forms derive from the medieval script.

A medieval writer would no sooner have written the language he spoke than a Republican would write speeches in Black English Vernacular; our knowledge of Old Verdurian before about 2700 comes only from occasional snatches-- quotations from popular songs, errors in Caďinor, representations of the speech of hoi polloi.

The first works written entirely in the vernacular (besides perhaps private letters which have not survived) were religious-- lives of saints, devotional instructions, hymns, written in the people's language to reach a wide audience; stories, plays, and songbooks soon followed. Spelling of Old Verdurian was at first chaotic, and nowhere more so than in the representation of the new sounds which had developed since classical times.

When a y seemed to be needed; it was taken from Cuêzi; other writers, however, had resurrected the same letter (or perhaps developed it from s + c) to represent both š and č. Eventually this confusion was sorted out by modifying y in the direction of i to create a new letter i brevë for y. This freed up the chen to represent č; this letter in turn was flipped for š, and from this the creation of for ž (and j in languages which needed it) followed automatically .

was originally an abbreviation for kr, and served as a new letterform once /qr/ had come to be pronounced as a single sound, uvular r. Other such graphic abbreviations were common in manuscripts, but have died out since the invention of printing (3134).

The vernacular was used for official documents starting around 3000. Verdurian spelling continued to be fairly haphazard till the Eleďe spelling reform (3272). The University of Verduria scholars who schematized the new spelling took the eminently sensible tack of taking spelling directly from the speech of educated Verdurians. Some writers had been doing this all along; others had been using Avélan or Ctésifoni dialect; yet others preferred spellings more reminiscent of Caďinor. The new spelling caught on quickly in Verduria and Avéla, but was adopted only a hundred years later in Ctésifon. (Ctésifonis still write many proper names in Caďinor spellings-- e.g. the name of their city, which Verdurians write Žésifo.)

With the revival of interest in Caďinor in modern times, there was a movement to reinstate 'correct' letterforms. Some scribes readopted the Caďinorian alphabet in toto; others used the rediscovered letters for decoration. A number of rules were tried (e.g. capitalizing every word, or using the Caďinorian alphabet for quotes or for emphasis) before the current system of capitalization, following the practice of the Avélan printers, was standardized.


In late Caďinor the lenge was shorthand for an initial /j/ glide: baedia --> baedä, zieis --> zëis, siome --> söme, niule --> nüle. Similarly, the mole was shorthand for a preceding /w/: potua --> potâ, kuekhos --> kêkhos, muigu --> mîgu, ťuor --> ťôr. (In origin both diacritics are small representations of y and u.)

The convention was soon obscured by sound change: /ju/ and /wi/ changed to /ü/, and /we/ to /ö/, so that ü and ê were reinterpreted as representations of these new sounds. Later on many of the remaining u-glides were lost, so that the diacritics in potâ (OV počâ) and ťôr became merely decorative. To add to the confusion, many scribes simply wrote ie, ye, ia, or ya, or even mixed spellings.

Finally the Eleďe spelling reform replaced ê with ö, which made a nicer parallel with ü; reserved ä for long a, previously written with a lenge cuzea; and discarded the mole entirely, except for scholarly uses. The reformers preferred a single diacritic with multiple meanings to the orthographic chaos then prevailing (and which I have only hinted at).

Historically î is an allophone of /i/ occurring before a final t, and this situation is reflected in the orthography; it is distinguished from i only in grammars. With the loss of the t the vowel became phonemic, contrasting for instance in minimal pairs like šualî/šuali. However, î still occurs only finally (in the standard dialect). The diacritic itself is a reversed mole.

Other languages

A number of other languages are written in the Verdurian alphabet (soa znakora etaldei 'symbols of the Plain', as opposed to znakora parnië 'mountain symbols', the Barakhinei alphabet). A number of these have created new or alternate letterforms, shown below with their names as used by Verdurian scholars.

and ten are used in Caďinor and Kebreni.
Čen vuáë 'voiced čen', transliterated j, is used in Caizu, Ismaîn, and Flaidish.
Ü breve 'short ü', transliterated w, is used in Caizu, Ismaîn, and Kebreni.
Šen ismaë and ež ismaë are Ismaîn's retroflex sibilants, which sound like š and ž to Verdurians.
Čen ismaë is Ismaîn's alveolo-palatal stop, which sounds like č to Verdurians. The voiced version is represented with the čen vuáë.
La ismaa is Ismaîn's lateral fricative, much like Welsh ll.
Ra ismaa is Ismaîn's syllabic R (in Ismaîn, distinct from consonantal r).
Cës fleade 'Flaid C' is transliterated X and pronounced /ks/.
Niš fleade is the Flaidish glottal stop; to the Verdurians it sounds like no sound at all, thus its name, 'Flaid nothing'.

Cursive script

The Verdurian script, like the Arabic, is suitable for sophisticated elaboration, which can sometimes be as baffling to read as it is beautiful.

The difficulties start in giving a canonical form for each of the letters. Many variations are possible, and the rules for their use are aesthetic and flexible rather than fixed and mechanical. However, the forms given below are a good place to start.

Most letters have different forms when they occur initially, medially, or finally. (Where a medial form is not given, use the initial form; where a final form is not given, use the medial form.) The differing forms are of course designed to facilitate a running hand, with as few breaks as possible.

Verdurians are inordinately fond of the swashes (principally but not exclusively) on the l, a, and d; a whole word may be cradled in the tail of an a.

The learner should try out the script, comparing it to the examples, and not being afraid to experiment. A manual of Verdurian calligraphy, such as Žamarey's Yežilát and ečomuin (Šriftanáe i Verdúria, 3475), will provide additional techniques, variations, and ideas, as well as correct errors.

Ďitelán mu cum pén veaďen er mësan so Sannam.
Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Numbers [Index]

Cardinals Ordinals and fractions Mathematical symbols

cardinal ordinal fraction combination
0 nul
1 an pere perë --
2 ďun ftore muatë dva-
3 ďin tvere dinë tve-
4 par četve bargë če-
5 pan pane panëe pa-
6 sués suese suesëe sue-
7 hep hepe hepëe ë-
8 žoc žoce žocëe žo-
9 nev neve nevëe në-
10 dec dece decëe
100 šatem šateme šatemë


The numbers from 0 to 3 (nul to ďin) all decline as regular adjectives: nul uestu 'no man', ana redelcë 'one woman', ďinî elcarî 'three dwarves.' Counting, or speaking of the number itself, the masculine singular is used: ďun er ďin eu pan, 'two and three are five.'

The numbers 4 and above are invariable: par dalî 'four kings.'

The numbers from 11 to 19 are dežán, decďún, decďín, decpár, decpán, decsués, dechép, dežóc, desnév. The irregular forms 11 and 18 are explained by the derivation from Caďinor; dect 'ten' became dec before a consonant; in dect an 'eleven' and dect ioci 'eighteen' however the ct remained and underwent the usual sound change ct --> ž. Similarly, dec nebri --> desnév shows the usual change of cn --> sn.

Multiples of 10 or 100 are formed using the combination forms plus -dec or -šatem: dvadec 20, tvedec 30, češatem 400, etc (The combination forms are used in a few derived words as well; e.g. dvase 'alter ego'.)

Combining these rules, we have dvadežán 21, tvedecďún 32, čedecpár 44, ëdežóc 78, and so on; note the continuing irregularity of numbers in -1, -8, -9.

The higher numbers are fairly straightforward:

11 dežán 100 šatem
12 decďún 101 šatem an
13 decďín 200 dvášatem
20 dvadec 300 tvéšatem
21 dvadežán 562 pánšatem suedecďún
28 dvadežóc 1000 mil
30 tvedec 1960 mil nëšatem suedec
40 čedec 2000 ďun mil
70 ëdec 3480 ďin mil čéšatem žodec
99 nëdesnév
1,000,000 perun
1,000,000,000 ftoron
1,000,000,000,000 tveron

Under this scheme, it can easily be seen that 233,097,254,675 is named dvášatem tvedecďín ftoron nëdechép perun dvášatem pandecpár mil suéšatem ëdecpán.

There is also a special word for 100,000 (leh). It can only be used with single-digit multipliers: pan leh, 500,000.

Ordinals and fractions

Ordinal numbers are regular declension II adjectives: so četve iliu 'the fourth iliu', ftorë žina 'the second girl'. The first four have distinct morphemes (pere, ftore, tvere, četve); the rest are formed from the cardinal number by adding -e: pane 'fifth', dvadežane '21st', perune 'millionth', etc.

Beyond perë 'whole', muatë 'half', dinë 'third' and bargë 'fourth' (the latter two are imports from Cuêzi), the reciprocal of a number is a noun formed by replacing the final -e of the ordinal with -ëe: panëe 'one fifth'; panëe ivrei 'one fifth of the book.'

Mathematical symbols

The ordinal symbol (in form a small e) abbreviates an ordinal number; thus Mëranac 2e 'Mëranac II'.

The fraction sign is written after the number; thus U" '1/2', U' O" '2nd 1/4', i.e. 2/4.

The arithmetic symbols are used much as in English. Note the pronunciation:

-2 sam ďunán ("without two")
2 + 2 = 4 ďun er ďun eu par ("two and two are four")
16 + 100 = 116 decsués er šatem eu šatem decsués
5 - 2 = 3 pan sam ďunán eu ďin ("5 without 2 are 3")
7 x 6 = 42 hepe sues eu čedecďún ("the 7th 6 are 42")
10 / 5 = 2 decë panëe e dhun ("the 10th 1/5 is 2")

Virtual Verduria