Saturday 21 November 2009

Introduction to the Yellow City Trade Tongue

It's raining and miserable outside; typical North of England November day. So I'm sitting at the kitchen table with a nice cup of tea working on an old idea - the Yellow City Trade Tongue. Here's an introductory primer.

The Trade Tongue arose out of the need for a common language which could be spoken by both humans and slug people. Slug people, lacking teeth and having only a rudimentary palate, cannot form many sounds which humans find easy to produce. Humans, on the other hand, cannot produce the pheromones which slug people use to augment their spoken language. This created a need for a simple language accessible to both races, and over centuries the Trade Tongue has evolved as a means to fulfill that need.


There are ten consonants in the Trade Tongue, corresponding to the sounds p, b, q, g, ɸ, ʝ, χ, ɰ, l, and h. In the roman alphabet these can be reproduced as, approximately, p, b, k, g, f, y, x, w, l and h. x is never produced as in 'xylophone' or 'extra', but always like the French r, the Spanish j, or the Portuguese rr. f is extremely light and is pronounced only with the use of the lips, not the teeth.


There are fuve vowels - a, i, u, e, and o, almost identical to the Spanish equivalents. These can be elongated, commonly represented as á, í, ú, é, and ó, but also sometimes transcribed aa, ii, uu, ee or oo. When elongated, vowel sounds never mutate - thus e as in 'exit',
é as in 'air', but never as in 'feed'.

Sound Structure

The Trade Tongue has a highly regimented consonant-verb-consonant-verb pattern. Two consonants are never found together. It also has a strict kind of vowel harmony which means that vowels are either regular or elongated in one word, but never both. Thus aa, ii, uu, ee and oo can be found in the same word together but are never found in the same word as a, i, u, e or o, and vice-versa.


The Trade Tongue is an agglutinative, SOV language. All the verbs are regular, and distinguished by having three past tenses (last night, yesterday, general past) and three future tenses (tonight, tomorrow, general future). Nouns and verbs are not gendered and do not inflect according to gender.

[Next step is to begin constructing the vocabulary.]


  1. very nice, but it reminds me of the hardships of studying linguistics

  2. Whereabouts in the grim north are you, if you don't mind me asking?

  3. I'm in Liverpool. Not as grim as Manchester or Newcastle, mind you. ;)