The Proto-Besokian language (PBs. [Mîlûd] Hârunin) is the common ancestor of the Besokian languages. Spoken between the 4th and 3rd millennium B.E.B. in Nishûnâc and the surrounding areas, it was the primary language of the early Besokian culture before splitting into multiple descendant branches as the Besokian peoples dispersed from their original homeland, most significantly the Soskish languages. As main liturgical language of the Besokian cult it was preserved in writing early on, rendering it one of two potential candidates for the first written language in Elondor (beside Classical Shaharian).
The Besokian appellation is exonymic, stemming from its association with the Besokian peoples, a term in turn derived from their original distribution along, and association with, the Besokan river. the endonym Hârnunin more generally refers to the people of the Second Hill (Nishûnâc), serving as the early Besokian’s name for themselves and a broader racial designation separating them from the peoples of Belkondíl and Seligon.
Attestation and Classification
Proto-Besokian is sparsely attested in writing in two stone carvings at Nishûnâc, the Hêrûn hâm Hôrenod and the Old Besokian world map, the oldest carvings at the site with a presumed date of origin in the early Bronze Age, around 2200 B.E.B. for the latter but potentially significantly earlier for the former, closer to the first Dasmilian writings in the early 3rd century. Like the younger Old Besokian carvings at the site, they are written in the Old Besokian abugida, the common ancestor of the Besokian script family.
The variety thus preserved is the oldest tangible Besokian idiom, and although it shows much greater similarity to Old Besokian and the Soskish languages than to its northern descendants, it has generally been accepted as a plausible ancestor for the Besokian family as a whole, and missing lemmas can easily be reconstructed on account of attested daughter languages. Outside of the family, the Proto-Besokian seems to be closest related to the near-contemporary Proto-Andaro-Yenmic, presumed to have been spoken in the northern Besokan valley, forming a hypothetical Macro-Reknayan language family.
Distribution and Speakers
Proto-Besokian was spoken by the early Besokian farming community at Nishûnâc and the surrounding areas subdued in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. The oldest attested form of the language, the idiom used in the Hêrûn hâm Hôrenod, seems to date to around 2900 B.E.B., an early time of Besokian prosperity on the eve of the Besokian explorations. No earlier evidence for a Besokian language exists, but the continuous settlement of Nishûnâc from at least 4000 B.E.B. suggests a continuous language spoken at the site, even if over multiple historical stages. Its attestation in writing and geographical dispersal into the Besokian family relay that the language was both a vernacular and used in religious ceremonies, and likely also an administrative idiom; its liturgical usage later gave rise to the Old Besokian variety. It was this same language that was spoken by the first Besokian explorers venturing into eastern Belkondíl and Amasia, eventually giving rise to the Besokian language family.
The descendants of Proto-Besokian fall into four groups, forming the three branches of the Besokian family and the Old Besokian language. The first Besokian migrations are likely to have taken settlers north into the middle Besokan valley, where relationships with the Andarians were established around 2800 B.E.B. The foundation of Old Kattas around the same time laid the groundwork for the first sedentary Besokian community beyond the sway of Nishûnâc, and the Kattasi dialect is likely to have emerged not long after. Forming the basis for the Kattasi language family, the descendants of this dialect were later spoken throughout the Reknaya and in Geran, most notably in the Kingdom of Yamenna.
The southern Besokians remained centred on Nishûnâc for considerably longer, even after the equine domestication in Oakshire around 2300 B.E.B. and the subsequent pre-Soskish expeditions reaching as far Amasia. The farming communities along the middle Besokan were the first to develop a dialect distinct from the speech of Nishûnâc, around 2300, originating the Reknayan language family. The riders of the south remain bound to Nishûnâc the longest, gaining a distinct language of their own around with the emergence of Proto-Soskish around 2150 B.E.B.
At least for the duration of the Old Besokian period (2200–1750 B.E.B.), all three groups maintain their strong ties with Nishûnâc and seem to return to the Second Hill for religious and presumably commercial activities. The language spoken by the small elite that permanently remains at the site, while showing clear signs of innovation and phonetic reduction, also remains close to its Proto-Besokian ancestor. Old Besokian seems mostly reserved for use during the great rites that all clans are gathered for. Its phonological and morphosyntactic innovations are not represented in writing, which adheres strictly to Proto-Besokian norms, until around 2000 B.E.B. By 1750, the political and spiritual power of Nishûnâc has diminished enough to allow its vassals to break free; Old Besokian carvings are found for not quite another century before Nishûnâc is finally abandoned around 1680 B.E.B., and with it the last remainders of a Besokian holy language.
Main Article: Proto-Besokian Writing
As far as is tangible from writing, Proto-Besokian seems to share the sparse phoneme inventory of the Soskish languages, distinguishing only 14 consonant and ten vowel phonemes.
|plosive||/b/||/t/ /d/||/k/ /g/|
A voicing contrast is present only the in the plosives, with /d/ as the only common voiced plosive phoneme. /g/ and /b/ are rare, /p/ absent entirely. Voiceless plosives were likely aspirated, /k/ potentially with a tenuis allophone in final position, as has been posited for Old Soskish based on transcriptions into the Olgish alphabet.
|High||/iː/ [iː] /i/ [ə]||/uː/ [ʉː] /u/ [ɨ]|
|Mid||/eː/ [ɛː] /e/ [ɛ~ɪ]||/oː/ [ɔː] /o/ [ɔ]|
|Low||/aː/ [aː]||/a/ [ɑ~ʌ]|
Proto-Besokian distinguishes short and long vowels in all metric positions. Accent was tone-based and fixed on the first syllable of a word, initiating a dactylic pattern propagated into suffixes and clitics and establishing the typical Besokian high-low-low rhythm.
Proto-Besokian morphosyntax is notable for its minimalist inflection but highly complex derivational system. There is no formal distinction between word classes, and lexemes are highly polysemous and their interpretation strictly context-dependent.
Matrix word order is VOS from a base-generated SVO. The predicate consistently appears sentence-initial, only preceded by complementizers and conjunctions. The subject appears last, followed only by adjuncts and enclosing the remaining arguments between itself and the predicate. The order of internal arguments varies, but PP — Ind Obj — Dir Obj seems to have been preferred. Modifiers follow their hosts, either directly or connected by intervening particles (see below).
While not appearing in the Besokian Cosmogony, negation was likely formed by a two-item construction consisting of the complementizer *at (which seems to double as a negative prefix), appearing sentence-initially, and a negative particle *mî as head of a NegP scoping over the VoiceP, hence appearing directly between the last internal and the external argument. The latter position is invariable, clearly distinguishing unergative and unaccusative predicates (as the subject is an internal argument in the latter, it is followed rather than preceded by *mî).
This gives the following (flat) template for the Proto-Besokian clause:
Clause Negation (*at)
|Predicate||Argument PP||Indirect Object||Direct Object
|Negation (*mî)||Unergative Subject||<VP>||Adjuncts|
Like that of its Soskish descendants, Proto-Besokian inflectional morphology is fairly simple and poor in forms. Only three inflectional prefixes are attested, a possessive marker îr- and the couplet î- and ê-, the exact function of which is not known, but which based on use in descendant languages and attestation in the Besokian Cosmogony are presumed to have marked modal and local attributes, respectively.
The Proto-Besokian derivational system is significantly more complex, if barely attested and largely lost in its descendants. A small number of independent affixes are used to express simple relationships, so the prefixes kô- and shê-, deriving the feminine and masculine agent noun, respectively (the feminine form the default); while similar forms are preserved in the Kattasian languages, they have been replaced by Olgish -a and -in in both Soskish and Reknayan. A set of suffixes -êsh, -an, and -ôr with a function of denoting objects in different sizes (-êsh the smallest and -ôr the largest) is attested on the Old Besokian World Map and preserved in several daughter languages. Compounding is common and well-attested, using an interfix -e-.
Beside the independent affixes, Proto-Besokian seems to have had an extensive and complex derivational system, which is not preserved in any of its daughter languages and only sparingly attested in the textual record. It appears to make use of both pre- and suffixes and stem-vowel changes, so deriving an (attested) word hatânishor ‘journey’ from an (attested) root tûnish. Items derived in this way seem to retain stress on the original stem vowel, explaining irregularities in the Soskish and Kattasian stress systems.