From Lingufacture
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Grayis is an a priori language created by BenJamin P. Johnson for Infinite Mind Pictures, Inc. to serve as the language of the Grayis Kin, one of six alien races who feature in the board game and upcoming screenplay Pilots of Gallaxia.



Grayis vowels have phonemic length, and phonetic differences based on stress. Where unstressed vowels have a different phonetic realization, it appears on the right of the tilde in square brackets.

Short Vowels: Long Vowels:
Front Central Back Front Central Back
High i
[i ~ ɪ]
[u ~ ʊ]
High ī
Mid Mid ai
[ai̯ ~ e̞ː]
[au̯ ~ o̞ː]
Low a
Low ā


Labial Coronal Dorsal Glottal
Plosive p · b
t · d
k · g
Affricate ch · j
Fricative s ·
kh ·
h ·
Approximant · w
· y
Tap or Trill · r
Lateral · l
Nasal · m
· n


  • /h/ cannot follow another consonant or occur intervocalically.
  • /s/ can only occur word-finally.
  • Words cannot end with /g/ or any consonant cluster.
  • Vowels (except for diphthongs) must be separated by a consonant.
  • Word-initial consonant clusters are limited to [plosive]+[liquid] (i.e. {ptkbdg} + {lr}), but not /tl/ or /dl/.
    • Intervocalic clusters may be:
    • Geminate plosives or sonorants: /pp/, /tt/, /kk/, /bb/, /dd/, /ll/, /rr/, /mm/, /nn/; but not /gg/.
    • Any [plosive]+[liquid] combination: /pl/, /pr/, /tl/, /tr/, /kl/, /kr/, /bl/, /br/, /dl/, /dr/, /gl/, /gr/
    • Any [plosive]+/w/: /pw/, /tw/, /kw/, /bw/, /dw/, /gw/
    • Any [nasal]+[unvoiced plosive] or [affricate]: /mp/, /nt/, /nk/, /nʧ/, /nʤ/
    • Also: /ngw/, /hk/, /hw/, /hj/
  • /i/ and /u/ are realized as [ɪ] and [ʊ], respectively, in unstressed closed syllables.
  • Like short vowels may contract (including with like short vowels which are part of a diphthong), e.g. raiwai+itta+aichī (‘those six men’) > raiwai’tt’aichī. Determiners, adjectives, pronouns, and adverbs are the most likely to lose vowels to contraction, while nouns and verbs do not usually experience any elision.

List of Valid Onsets

Onsets are not required. The following onsets may occur (including clusters): b–, br–, br–, ch–, d–, dr–, g–, gl–, gr–, h–, j–, k–, kh–, kl–, kr–, l–, m–, n–, p–, pl–, pr–, r–, t–, tr–, w–, y–

List of Valid Nuclei

Any vowel may act as a nucleus.

List of Valid (Intersyllabic) Consonant Clusters

An intersyllabic consonant is required, though it need not be a cluster. Any single consonant may occur between syllables except for ‹h› and ‹s›. The following intersyllabic consonant clusters may occur: –bb–, –bl–, –br–, –bw–, –dd–, –dl–, –dr–, –dw–, –gl–, –gr–, –gw–, –hk–, –hw–, –hy–, –kk–, –kl–, –kr–, –kw–, –ll–, –mm–, –mp–, –nch–, –ngw–, –nj–, –nk–, –nn–, –ny–, –pl–, –pp–, –pr–, –pw–, –rr–, –tl–, –tr–, –tt–, –tw–

List of Valid Codas

A coda is not required. No clusters may occur as a coda, but any single consonant may appear as a coda except for ‹g›: –b, –ch, –d, –dj, –h, –k, –l, –m, –n, –p, –r, –s, –t


Stress is determined by mora weight of the rime. No syllable can have more than 3 morae in the rime (VVC). When determining stress, the following order takes precedence:

VːC > VVC > Vː > VV > VC > V

(E.g. āt > aut > ā > au > at > a)

If syllabic weights are equal, the left-most of the equal syllables is stressed. E.g. tā́kkum ‘wide’ /ˈtaːk.kʊm/, grawukkái ‘worm’ /gra.wukˈkai/, irúntutim ‘cold weather’ /iˈrun.tu.tim/. When stress deviates from this pattern it is indicated by an acute diacritic. (Examples above are not normally accented, but acute is used for illustrative purposes.)


For the most part, orthography does not differ from the phonology. Where it does, it is indicated below.

/ p b t d k g ʧ ʤ s x h w j r l m n i ai̯ ä äː au̯ u /
ch j[1] kh y ī ai a ā au ū

Grammatical Orders and Alignments


The typology of Grayis is predominantly SOV (subject-object-verb), but may be better described as simply verb-final. The positions of subject and object may shift depending on topicality or markedness.

Morphosyntactic Alignment

Grayis has what may be considered tripartite alignment, which means that nouns are differentiated for subject, object, and agentive roles; these roles are all marked with particles which may be considered adpositions.

Other Orders

The Grayis language is predominantly head-final, and this is reflected in many of its more granular alignments.

Noun Phrases

In noun phrases, only adpositions precede the noun. Demonstratives, numerals, adjectives, genitive constructions, and relative clauses all follow the noun, in that specific order (preposition – NOUN – postposition - determiner/demonstrative – numeral – adjective (phrase) – genitive (phrase) – relative clause). For example, the noun phrase “with those six tall men from town who stole my ferret” would be assembled in the order:

nu raiwai’tt’aichī mīkkidj barruh au kī pairrit ā chā’u jik makwat.

nu raiwai itta aichī mīkkidj barruh au pairrit ā chā au jik makwat
cmt this six[2] tall town gen rel.erg ferret obj 1sg.gen pst.pft steal
with men those six tall from-town who ferret my stole

‘with those six men from town who stole my ferret’

Adjective Phrases

In adjective phrases, (adverbial) measurements of degree (very, less, too, |c.) follow the adjective.

murāgi utta mūri katla

murāgi utta mūri katla
dog that good very

‘that very good dog’

Verb Phrases

As mentioned in Typology, Grayis is a verb-final language, and as such, adverbs always immediately precede the verb. In the case of negation, negatives come between the verb and other adverbs. TAM particles, if present, always directly precede the verb after negatives.

yun ī chā ā nijūkit dī jai jik akkā.

yun ī chā ā nijūkit jai jik akkā
3sg erg 1sg obj intentional adv neg pst.pft push
he me intentionally not pushed

‘he didn’t push me on purpose’


The Grayis number system is nonal (base-9), but has reflexes of an ancient system based on multiples of 3, which can be observed in the etymology of the basic numbers.

Grayis Decimal Meaning
1 (1)
ai 2 (2)
chil 3 (3)
chirri 4 (3+1)
kilai 5 (3+2)
aichī 6 (2×3)
chalayī 7 (4×2-1?)
nauri 8 (9-1)
9 (9) (=10 in nonal)
chillīkka 27 (=30 in nonal: 33, ‘great three’)

Further numbers are formed by compounding using the word ha ‘and’.

(Teens) Dec. Non. Ayinnā (20) Dec. Non. Tens Dec. Non.
narī 10 11 ayinnā ha 19 21 na- 9 10
nanai 11 12 ayinnā ha ai 20 22 ayinnā 18 20
nachil 12 13 ayinnā ha chil 21 23 chillīkka 27 30
nachirri 13 14 ayinnā ha chirri 22 24 chirrinnā 36 40
nakilai 14 15 ayinnā ha kilai 23 25 kilinnā 45 50
nalaichī 15 16 ayinnā ha aichī 24 26 aichinnā 54 60
nachalayī 16 17 ayinnā ha chalayī 25 27 chalainā 63 70
nanāli 17 18 ayinnā ha nauri 26 28 naurinnā 72 80
ayinnā 18 20 chillīkka 27 30 duhkā 81 100

Multiples of ten are formed in the same manner as ayinnā. Orders of magnitude are formed regularly with multiple compounds.

Tens Dec. Non. Multiples Dec. Non.
na- 9 10 chil 31 ~ 3 3
ayinnā 18 20 32 ~ 9 10
chillīkka 27 30 chillīkka 33 ~ 27 30
chirrinnā 36 40 duhkā 34 ~ 81 100
kilinnā 45 50 kaigu 36 ~ 729 1,000
aichinnā 54 60 nakaigu 38 ~ 6,561 10,000
chalainā 63 70 duhkakkaigu 310 ~ 59,049 100,000
naurinnā 72 80 īlim 312 ~ 531,441 1,000,000
duhkā 81 100 jumai 318 ~ 387,420,489 1,000,000,000

Grayis numbers always follow the noun they modify, and the plural marker should not be used when a number is present, e.g. tānū hah ‘trees’, but tānū ‘nine trees’.


Grayis personal pronouns are divided into five categories which may be considered registers of formality, though rather than describing hierarchical relationships, they are determined by the familial and educational relationships between the speakers. There are five registers, though not all pronouns have all five forms, and some may have the same form for two or more registers.

  • Equal Register. This is the register you would use with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and others you interact with regularly who do not fall into any of the other registers.
  • Family Register. This is similar to that of Equal, but it has the additional connotation that the speakers are related to one another. This is the register for cousins, siblings, and sometimes other family members such as aunts, uncles, or other non-nuclear relations.
  • Stranger Register. The third register is the default for most day-to-day interaction. This is also known as the Neutral Register, as it may be seen as slightly formal. This register is used with anyone you don’t know well. Many workplaces also maintain a neutral register for professional interactions in situation where the Equal register may otherwise be used.
  • Teacher Register. The fourth register is used explicitly for addressing a teacher, parent, or mentor. Situationally, this may also be the assumed register for addressing family elders.
  • Child Register. The fifth and final register is the inverse of the Teacher register: It is how parents address their children, and how teachers address students.
Equal Family Stranger Teacher Student
chal[3] cham[4] chā[5][6] char[7] chāh[8][9] first person singular, ‘I’
kit[10] kāl[11] kālli[12] chit[13][14] second person singular ‘you’
yun[15] yumi[16] yun yunum[17] yunīllah[18] third person singular animate ‘he / she’[19]
wih third person singular inanimate ‘it’
kichal[20] kicham[21] -[22] chakrālli[23][24] jachīt[25] first person dual inclusive ‘you and I, we’[26]
jāla[27] jahla[28] jal[29] jālinum[30] jahla[31] first person plural, ‘we’
gīs[32] gīt[33] gillā[34] gailinūh[35] gīt[36] second person plural, ‘you (all)’
yaum[37] yaunūh[38] yaunīllah[39] third person plural animate, ‘they’
waih third person plural inanimate, ‘they, those things’[40]


Grayis nouns do not inflect for case or number, but depending on how they are analyzed, they can be said to have six possible cases. The “inflection” is actually simply the addition of grammatical particles which clarify the role of the noun in a sentence. (The “conjugation” of verbs works in the same way.)

Grayis can also be analyzed as having no cases at all, and simply has five postpositions in addition to various prepositions. They are presented here as cases simply to help clarify the tripartite morphosyntactic alignment, but the learner should feel free to think of them in whatever manner is easiest to remember.


The absolutive particle ū is placed after a subject noun which does not take a direct object. This is always the case with intransitive verbs, and can also be the case with optionally transitive verbs with no object.

Chā ū’k plīnum t’āmīd.

chā ū uk plīnum ta āmīd
1sg abs prox river prg stand
I by river am.standing

I am standing by the river.’


The counterpart to absolutive is ergative. Any noun which takes a direct object must be marked with the particle ī. (This particle is always paired with another noun phrase containing the particle ā, and vice versa.)

Kāl ī chā ā ijun, kū’k plīnum t’āmīd.

kāl ī chā ā ijun uk plīnum ta āmīd
2sg erg 1sg obj see rel.abs prox river prg stand
You me see which by river am.standing

‘You see me standing by the river.’


The accusative (or direct object) of any verb is marked with the particle ā. (This particle is always paired with another noun phrase containing the particle ī, and vice versa.)

Yaum ī juchī ā jai’dwam.

yaum ī juchī ā jai idwam
3pl erg meat acc neg eat
They meat not eat

They do not eat meat.’


The genitive particle au indicates that the noun belongs to, is a part of, or is related to another noun. The genitive particle can be thought of as equivalent to the English clitic ’s, though it has a few different uses as well, such as forming the possessive pronouns (‘my’, ‘her’, ‘their’, |c), or translating the words ‘of’ or ‘from’.

Īmmikanā ī chāttur au chā’u brūk ā jik kamū.

īmmikanā ī chāttur au chā au brūk ā jik kamū
wife erg brother gen 1sg gen stone acc pst.pft take
wife of-brother of-me stone took

My brother’s wife took the stone.’


The dative particle ai indicates that the noun is an indirect object of some kind. The dative case is a bit ambiguous in most languages, and can often be replaced by various prepositions (such as ‘to’, ‘for’, or ‘towards’).

Yun ī brūk ā yaunīllah ai gaillāk.

yun ī brūk ā yaunīllah ai gaillāk
3sg erg stone acc 3pl.child dat give
She stone to-them gives

‘She gives the stone to them (her children).’


Finally, the oblique case (also called the prepositional case) is used when a noun is preceded by a preposition, or is otherwise not followed by any of the above adpositions.

Nu iruntutim.

nu iruntutim
with cold

‘It (the weather) is very cold.’


Grayis personal given names are usually composed of two words which often describe parents’ hopes or aspirations for their child. This may be one or two nouns, a noun and an adjective, or a noun and a verb. Most names are composed of four syllables, though this is not a rule, and it is sometimes considered prestigious to have a name composed of mainly long syllables. While there are many common names and themes, there are not a set of standardized names.

Noun (+ Noun)

Noun + Adjective

Noun + Verb

There are also many ways to form surnames, which follow the given name, and often refer to a family or a geographic area of origin, though many are single nouns related to nature.


The full corpus of the Grayis lexicon can be found here.

Swadesh List

For those of you who like this sort of thing!

  Grayis English   Grayis English   Grayis English
001 chal I 070 tidīntipi feather 139 raichillā to count
002 kit you 071 tunu hair (on head) 140 dimi to say
003 yun, wih he, she, it 072 upam head (anatomy) 141 tūranā to sing
004 jāla, kichal we 073 grigi ear 142 ayattan to play
005 gīs you 074 ruyu eye 143 achar to float
006 yaum, waih they 075 unna nose 144 tratūm to flow
007 itta this 076 chabah mouth 145 aitu to freeze
008 utta that 077 rakkas tooth 146 arib to swell
009 iddu here 078 mannī tongue 147 krīmuttād, lūpupaus sun
010 uddu there 079 ūgitta fingernail 148 ailā moon
011 julkās who 080 tugi foot 149 ikī star
012 julkāt what 081 wuch leg 150 wīch water
013 julkād where 082 īju knee 151 chukutta rain
014 julkīn when 083 tāga hand 152 plīnum river
015 julkīl how 084 krillu wing 153 ūkkai lake
016 jai not 085 rudduk belly, abdomen 154 chamai sea
017 nakī all 086 īmus guts, entrails, intestines 155 tauki salt
018 mikidj many 087 ūta neck 156 brūk stone
019 limā some 088 chīlāk back 157 ikak sand
020 munnu few 089 durudj breast 158 mauddulā dust
021 iyūr other 090 trāchai heart 159 runar earth, soil, dirt
022 one 091 willunān liver 160 gakwai cloud
023 ai two 092 tudī to drink 161 trāki fog, mist
024 chil three 093 idwam to eat 162 iyatur sky
025 chirri four 094 kanna to bite 163 gribinta wind
026 kilai five 095 drūbat to suck 164 innirri snow
027 mīkkidj big, large 096 aikīch to spit 165 khihchis ice
028 luklai long 097 rinah to vomit 166 īrra smoke (not steam)
029 tākkum wide, broad 098 wahyāh blow 167 pakwā fire
030 ruchi thick 099 ahman to breathe 168 mūnak ash, ashes
031 tattūmu heavy 100 khalāh to laugh 169 pakku burn
032 ina small, little 101 ijun to see 170 radal path, road, trail
033 īnaik short 102 ihka to hear 171 maunis mountain
034 bīru narrow 103 nibahkai to know 172 khūn red
035 mīrrichi thin 104 arūn to think 173 ruchī green
036 kanā woman 105 naram to smell 174 grāla yellow
037 raiwai man (adult male) 106 akkai to fear 175 yilūr white
038 lān person 107 jīttā to sleep 176 iyūb black
039 mikit child 108 akūra to live 177 līna night
040 īmmikanā wife 109 igī to die 178 gintā day
041 īmmiraiwai husband 110 ichak to kill 179 jannik year
042 ummā mother 111 pikat to fight 180 trabākutim hot (of weather)
043 tuma father 112 hantijus to hunt 181 iruntutim cold
044 mīka animal 113 igach to hit 182 tanū full
045 plati fish 114 chappa to cut 183 chupi new
046 ugīttī bird 115 chappai to split 184 trayi old
047 murāgi dog 116 tahkah to stab, to pierce 185 mūri good
048 īh louse 117 kitlih to scratch 186 kaita bad
049 katas snake 118 tantaichīyun to dig 187 ipis rotten
050 grawukkai worm 119 itān to swim 188 khaukku dirty
051 tānū tree 120 puyat to fly 189 wāchīn straight
052 tiradūntāt forest, woods 121 trala to walk 190 ūyu round
053 griyuch stick 122 tānu come 191 traigu sharp (of a knife)
054 rūna fruit 123 dārai to lie 192 mudub dull (of a knife)
055 īrit seed 124 chittan to sit 193 ās smooth
056 kadūn leaf 125 āmīd to stand 194 ichīs wet
057 bāru root 126 duru to turn 195 krās dry
058 rīkkud bark (of tree) 127 akīt to fall 196 braidim correct, right
059 tina flower 128 gaillāk to give 197 pichit near
060 dunidj grass 129 grauntā to hold 198 nunta far
061 īkaittā rope 130 būjih to squeeze 199 dijaiwi right, right-hand
062 grinin skin 131 brijar to rub 200 kurauwi left, left-hand
063 juchī flesh, meat 132 ganauri to wash 201 uk at
064 khūlunna blood 133 maunti to wipe 202 ji in
065 pūkkīch bone 134 attis to pull 203 nu with
066 tuya grease, fat 135 akkā to push 204 ha, ku and
067 addi egg 136 wiyīr to throw 205 if
068 kurunat horn 137 dalūh to tie, bind 206 udj because
069 tikkilai tail 138 gribbun to sew 207 turuh name
  1. /ʤ/ is spelt ‹dj› when word-final.
  2. The plural particle hah can be thought of as a determiner or numeral. It is not used in conjunction with a number or another adjective that would otherwise indicate plurality (e.g. many, some, seventeen, several, |c).
  3. “I who am your equal”
  4. “I who am your kinsman”
  5. “I who am a stranger to you”
  6. Etymological reference to chātturrarri ‘second brother’; indicates friendship or friendliness.
  7. “I who am your teacher or parent”
  8. “I who am your student or child”
  9. Though similar in sound to chā, this is an etymological reference to laichāh, the yellow shadow from the red sun; indicates compliance.
  10. “you who are my equal or kinsman”
  11. “you who are a stranger to me”
  12. “you who are my teacher or parent”
  13. “you who are my student or child”
  14. Etymological reference to chitir, the red shadow from the yellow sun, indicates truculence.
  15. “he or she who is my equal or unknown to me”
  16. “he or she who is my kinsman”
  17. “he or she who is my teacher or parent”
  18. “he or she who is my student or child”
  19. There is no gender distinction in the third person pronouns, though there is a distinction between animate (“he/she”) and inanimate (“it”).
  20. “you and I who are equals”
  21. “you and I who are kinsmen”
  22. There is not a single pronoun to represent this idea; instead it is rendered simply as chā ha kāl ‘I and you’.
  23. “you who are my student or child and I who am your teacher or parent”
  24. Metathesis of char+kālli, because /rk/ is not a legal intrasyllabic sequence.
  25. “you who are my teacher or parent and I who am your student or child”
  26. The first person dual inclusive pronoun (“you and I”) is optional; there is not a plural inclusive, and all other first person non-singular roles are assumed by the first person plural, whether inclusive or exclusive.
  27. “we who are your equals”
  28. “we who are your kinsmen”
  29. “we who are unknown to you”
  30. “we who are your teachers or parents”
  31. “we who are your students or children”
  32. “you who are my equals”
  33. “you who are my kinsmen”
  34. “you who are unknown to me”
  35. “you who are my teachers or parents”
  36. “you who are my students or children”
  37. “they who are my equals, kinsmen, or are unknown to me”
  38. “they who are my teachers or parents”
  39. “they who are my students or children”
  40. As with the third person singular, there is an animacy distinction in the third person plural (both rendered as ‘they’ in English). No registers are used with inanimate pronouns.