In the world of humans, cats do not have much of a language. Emotions are expressed through vocalizations, as well as certain simple aspects of life like social standing and requirement (although not of what), but what little syntax there was while the mistress was spreading her word was barely capable of transferring that simple message. Today, the language used by cats is still primitive and simple, highly agglutinative and spontaneously combining, but most certainly a language, capable of expressing anything a language might be expected to express.
Language is more or less universal, due to the fact that the most common speakers are cats who wander all over the world, and has changed little since the last ice age, since which travel between macrocontinents has become more difficult. Most differences are in terms for certain specific objects and in phonology (which are for the most part marked here). The American dialect, however, is slowly branching off and may be considered its own language in some respects.
Note that the orthography used on this page is for the convenience of human text-based communication; cats have no known writing system. This page will spell all cat words in all caps; this is not by any means necessary, but is typical in academic works.
Due to the relatively unchanging culture of the majority of cat society, the language changes relatively little. Since the last ice age, only within the last rough thousand years have discernible dialects begun to spring up. This is primarily due to higher spread of the species, and lower relative mobility of ÀRÜE, the wandering philosophers of society that make up the majority of frequent speakers and act as the main conduit of binding culture. It may be that these wanderers are primarily responsible themselves for the universality of the Cat language, as since access to the American continents has become more difficult (with only ice bridges linking Siberia and Alaska, and potential routes across Greenland from northern Europe) linguistic divergence has taken place between the ZˑYÎ-dominated regions of North and South America, and the rest of the world (including Eurasia, Africa and Oceania). Another explanation for the relatively low drift is culture itself: most communication is through scent and body language, and there is little interaction between established groups.
|K||cough*||[kʰ] as in ‹cat›|
|S||hiss||[s] or [ɕ] as in ‹shine›|
|N||snarl||[ɴ] or [ŋ] as in ‹sing›|
|I||mew2||[i] as in ‹feel›|
|H||chuff||[h] as in ‹harm›|
|R||purr3||[ʀ] or [r] as a rolled or trilled ‹r›|
|O||growl||[ɔ] or [o] as in ‹boat›|
|Y||chirrup or trill||[y] or [ʏ] as in Swedish ‹syl›|
|A||scream or gurgle||[a] or [ɒ] or [ɑ] as in ‹father›|
|E||chirp||[e] as in Durham English ‹rain›|
|C||click or chatter*4||[!] or [tʃ] as in some African clicks, or English ‹chill›|
|Z||murmur||[z] as in ‹zip›|
|U||caterwaul or moan||[u] as in ‹fool›|
|X||silent meow||[x] as in Scots Gaelic ‹loch›|
[*] K and C are stops, and though they may be regarded as syllabic, they are shorter than the vowels and sonorants and merge with the following syllable.
1 Anthropolinguistic Phonological Standard
2 Realized as a whistle in ZˑYÎ cultures, or as a moan in NHX and KÈC cultures.
3 Realized as a rumbled exhalation in NHX and KÈC cultures.
4 Realized as a chatter only in repetition.
When attempting to pronounce words using the APS, separate consonant clusters with schwas (ie [ə]) and vowel clusters with relevant glides (ie [u]>[wu]) to retain similarity to native articulation, especially syllabicity.
Although they are not letters, : is used to note that the previous phone is stressed, whereas ˑ represents a glottal stop [ʔ], and a half-long prior syllable. Neither of these can be applied to K and C, which are each voiceless stops in both standards.
It should be noted that in both standards, all phones are potentially syllabic, although CV syllables exist.
Unlike human languages, there may be many stressed phonemes in one word, as well as many double. Double phoneme may also be stressed, either the first (KA:A) or second (KAA:). In human languages with stress, it is often necessary for word parsing, but due to the fact that most sentences in Cat lack unnecessary poetry, and are often made up of a single word, this is not as necessary, so stress is differentiating. For those sentences that have two or more words, a notable pause is put between (can be written as a space).
Vowel height is differentiating. Indeed, since each non-stop phoneme in Cat is potentially syllabic, and any phoneme may technically precede or follow any other, vowels are defined not by syllable placement but by whether or not they can be pitched. There are five levels, written as diacritics.
|Diacritic||Vowel Height Level|
|Ä||falling or voiceless|
Cat can be considered to be a highly agglutinative, or potentially polysynthetic language, in that a single word will be made of a single stem and many affixes. It is comparatively unique to human languages in that a single word will also often contain several bound morphemes, with suffixes and prefixes added on following a stem composed of nouns and verbs. Like many polysynthetic languages, adjectives (and, arguably, verbs) are difficult to label as a distinct part of speech, and a word describing a subject, adjectives, action, and adverbs is given certain tense and plurality at the end of the word, opposite of the root noun, with other tense as a prefix, opposite of what could be considered the verb phrase. It may thus be more productive to initially distinguish only between bound and free morphemes.
Word order in Cat is generally OSV, although it can also be SVO for style or emphasis. The object is often removed entirely in favour of applying a passive verb to the subject, if the actor can be inferred. For instance, in English, “Mistakes were made”, in Cat is ÄSSÌ:ÌÌˑ. Another exception to nearly any sort of syntactical rule is proper noun, which are often agrammatical for various cultural reasons, providing potential evidence for an earlier form of the language with a divergent syntax once prominent in some parts of the world.
Z AE:ÊCÎ KÒCỲ:NHX:ÊKÏÏ ÊˑSHỲC KÒÁZ:
z ae-êc-î kòcỳ-nhx-êk-ïï êˑ-shỳ-c kòá-z:
TONE:fervor friend-1-VOC corpse-nhx-PROX-ACC.PL 1-hide-DAT help-IMP
"My friend, help me to hide these NHX corpses!"
Parts of speech are loosely held, and nouns are often used as adjectives, verbs for nouns, and various other transformations with no phonological indication. The exception to this is that one may sometimes tell verbs apart from other parts of speech as, with no suffix, their last phoneme will very rarely be stressed or a stop.
All morphemes can be sorted into either free morphemes or affixes. All free morphemes, listed in the Vocabulary section of this page, are realized either as a noun, in stem-initial position, or as an adjective or verb (to be X), which, like in many human polysynthetic languages, are treated more or less as a single part of speech.
Plural is made by repeating the last phoneme (barring a glottal stop, and disregarding stress) of a word, including suffixes.
Stress is added to the final syllable of each morpheme in the stem, unless (A) the final phoneme is a stop, or (B) the following morpheme is an affix (except for possessive suffixes).
A general rule is that the descriptor (adjectives, adverbs) follows the described.
Although, being a polysynthetic language, essentially any word can take the place of an adjective in Cat without being agrammatical, there are some words that frequently adjectival and whose quality can be modified. Quality of degree is modified by changing the tone of the regularly mid-level vowel, which most free morphemes that are frequently in a non-root position have. High tone indicates superlative, while low tone indicates a lesser than normal degree (ie "not very"). "Too much" is indicated with a very high tone, although occasionally, specifically in the Americas, the adjective UÒ: is used as well or typically instead. The intensifier suffix (almost always on verbs, in which case it is -IKA) uses I as its variable-tone vowel. Comparative is accomplished by the comparative case affix and appropriate inflection. (ie "she is more sick than a dog" = ÒˑHXˑ ÂCKSÓ:)
Adverbs are typically identical to adjectives. The only exceptions tend to be adjectives that end in stops (K, C, ˑ) or stressed phonemes (:), which are omitted in base adverb form. In the same way, words listed here that typically take the place of nouns but may be used as verbs can have these word-final phonological features that must be omitted.
Listed in order from distance to stem (ie a tense suffix will precede a mood suffix).
|E||Suffix||Active person, individual ("one") (archaic)|
|IK or KA:||Suffix||Intensifier|
|ÂC||Suffix||3rd person feminine|
|ÔC||Suffix||3rd person masculine|
|Ŷ||Suffix||Conative (ie try)|
Suffixes when applied to objective phrases and prefixes when applied elsewhere. When present, they always either begin or end a word. Shown here as suffixes; disyllabic case affixes are inverted when prefixed.
|Oblique (ie about)||Ü|
|Perlative (ie through, along)||ÏÖ|
|Ablative (ie by, from))||Ÿ|
|Essive (ie as)||ËÜ|
|Locative (ie in)||Ë|
|Superessive/Allative (ie on(to))||ÏË|
|Dative (ie to)||C|
|Commitative/Instrumental (ie with)||Ö|
Accusative affix is often optional, and typically just used in more complex sentences or on words ending in a stop.
List of free morphemes. Affixes are listed above.
|Again||NÍˑ||NÍ(:) in stem-final|
|Alright/Well||YÊ||YÊˑ as greeting|
|Always||Ò:XÙ||previous phoneme unstressed|
|Be/Exist||I||copula typically implied; tone changes according to tone of previous vowel; no vowel = mid tone; technically an affix (previous phoneme unstressed)|
|Beautiful||A:HR||previous phoneme unstressed|
|Before/Prior to now||ÔN|
|Bless||A:CU||previous phoneme unstressed|
|(To be) Born||CÀR|
|Bottom/Rear (coll. vagina)||HÜ|
|Cat||CŶˑ||when plural, change to CÝˑ|
|Child (of a cat)||XÎ|
|Come (also Approachable/Interested)||Ò|
|Do, Make||II||first tone changes according to tone of previous vowel; no vowel = mid tone|
|Explore/Investigate||Ỳ:KO||previous phoneme unstressed|
|Feel||ÒCX||as a sensation|
|Food/Meat||Ó:CC||previous phoneme unstressed|
|Friendship/Love||A||love = superlative|
|Hate||N:SZ||previous phoneme unstressed|
|to be Hurt||ZKOÙ|
|Kill||KÒỲN||object typically non-feline; feline object considered rude or presumptuous|
|Large/Powerful||NHU||almost always pronounced with tonally high vowel (NHÚ)|
|Leaf||ÒCEHŶX||sometimes merely ÒCE|
|Lover||Á:E||previous phoneme unstressed|
|Move||HO||ÈHO to move oneself|
|Murder||SÀ:R||only in righteous context|
|Murder||KSÒSÀ:R||in shameful context|
|Noble||NÙ||'master/sire' or 'mistress/dam' with gender modifier|
|Remember||HUÍ:NÍˑ||past tense: HUÍˑNÍˑ|
|Say/Speak/Talk/Tell||CÍ||past tense: KOO|
|Sense (ie smell)||XHC|
|Smile||RA||cat facial expression|
|There (by you)||ÎK|
|There (away from us)||ÂÔK|
|Tear (cry)||S:SÙ||previous phoneme unstressed|
|Today||ÖHYˑN||Ö:HYˑN as time adverb; previous phoneme unstressed|
|Tomorrow||ÖHY:ÂˑN||Ö:HY:ÂˑN as time adverb; previous phoneme unstressed|
|Tomorrow night||ÖÌR:ÂˑN||Ö:ÌR:ÂˑN as time adverb; previous phoneme unstressed|
|Tonight||ÖÌR:N||Ö:ÌR:N as time adverb; previous phoneme unstressed|
|What||AÄ||Aˑ as passive subject|
|Whisker||ÒCE||colloquial slang for "care"|
|Yesterday||ÖHYÔN||Ö:HYÔN as time adverb; previous phoneme unstressed|
|Yesterday night||ÖÌRÔN||Ö:ÌRÔN as time adverb; previous phoneme unstressed|
|Young||ŶN||as a prefix, a non-felid's young|
|CZHUÊCHZAÄN||My testicles are still attached/still hang.||"I'm fine" / "It doesn't matter" [used ironically by females]|
|NÙÂˑXÉˑ||My dam!||"Good God!" / "Damn!" - relatively tame all-purpose interjected expletive.|
|ÄNAHUÍ||Don't know||Perhaps / Maybe|
Honorifics are applied according to sex, and are suffixes.
Masculine modifier: Ôˑ
Feminine modifier: Âˑ
A further part of speech is employed to indicate tone, and is usually only used either in interrogatives or to indicate sentence breaks, although can also be considered akin to an interjection. Tone words are placed at the beginning of sentences.
|Tone Word||Implied Tone|
Cats use a base-5 numbering system. The highest number is 124 (125 can be considered synonymous with "many"). As an adjective, numbers prefix a stem(which remains singular).