Hanleni halsen (introduction)

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Jennifer Barefoot

axa watalu wa k@ e sa ise xerehan
axa adoyamu wa k@ isiuh xiuhine ihwedy@h hu ta ayera
axa xerehu wa k@ iso nolane ayihxek alayu hu
tah axereha wa na seikimes sayanine inya hu

A great bird, if she sings...
A bird of the river, if she ruffles her feathers in the mist...
A bird of song, if she praises the stars of the night...
Then the song, that every ruler hears it...

axa  watal.u       wa  k@ e   sa  ise xerehan
bird greatness.GEN TOP if she AGT MET sing

axa  a.doyam.u     wa  k@ isiuh xiuhin.e   ihwe.d.y@h
bird DEF.river.GEN TOP if MET   ruffle.3SF feather.COL.3SFn ACC

     ta    a.yera
     in/at DEF.mist

axa  xereh.u  wa  k@ iso nolan.e    ay.ihxe.k   a.lay.u       hu
bird song.GEN TOP if MET praise.3SF DEF.star.PL DEF.night.GEN ACC

tah  a.xereha wa  na  seikime.s sayan.ine in.ya  hu
then DEF.song TOP REL ruler.DIS hear.3P   it.RES ACC


  1. I know it seems odd to introduce an argument as a topic and then use it as an agent, but it's a classical poetic device in Asiteya called siukat awahangitema or "doubling the subject". Anyway, I like the parallel structure it gives it.

  2. Asiteya doesn't have adjectives; it uses verbs or genitive nouns.

  3. Only a transitive verb may take an enclitic personal ending, so having a personal ending implies that the subject is an agent (see note 1). Intransitive, like in line one, must have a free pronoun.

  4. Notice the metaphoric particle has a different form in each line. This is because if the particle directly precedes the verb, the final vowel of the particle is brought into direct vowel harmony with the first syllable of the verb.

  5. A plain relative clause (like in line 4) is often understood as "May (something happen)".

  6. Pronunciation : x = English sh; vowel + h = breathy aspirated vowel (in Standard dialect) / voiceless vowel (in Northern dialect); r = tap; t, d, and n are dental; @ = mid central vowel; other vowels approximately Italian.

  7. I don't think Asiteya has gender per se, but there are a number of items and concepts that for cultural reasons I haven't yet fully explored take the feminine pronoun, especially in poetry.

I still haven't found where understanding birdness came to include something about a ruler, though I think it's neat how a bird "washing its clothes" mutated into ruffling its feathers.


GEN: genitive
TOP: topic/focus
AGT: agent
MET: metaphoric; verbal particle that indicates that the action is not happening in quite the same way as a simple indicative, sort of "outside" the indicative; appropriate to use after "if"
DEF: definite article prefix
3SF: third person singular feminine verb ending
COL: collective plural; in this case, the feathers considered as a whole
3SFn: third person singular feminine noun ending, shows possession
ACC: accusative particle/direct object argument marker
PL: unmarked/default plural
REL: relative pronoun
DIS: distributive plural, glossed "each" or "every"
3P: third person plural verbal ending
RES: resumptive

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© Irina Rempt, Jennifer Barefoot 23-06-1999