1.1 Introduction

Alashian (known natively as Hallasūn Nalaskyā or just Nalaskyā) is one of the two official languages of the Republic of Cyprus, alongside Greek. It is spoken by about 340,000 people, or about 30% of the island's total population.

1.2 Cyprus and Alashia

Cyprus is an island nation located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, to the south of Turkey and north of Egypt. Throughout its history it has been a major trading center between Europe and the Middle East and a region of strategic interest, and as a result its history is intertwined with the many major powers that have been present in Anatolia and/or the Levant over the last several thousand years. The island was settled by both the Greeks (an Indo-European people) and the Alashians (a Semitic people) sometime in the second millennium BC, displacing an older Eteocypriot people who were completely assimilated by the 4th century BC. Since then Cyprus has been effectively bilingual.

The name “Alashia” (Alashian Αλασκιώ Alaskyā, Greek Αλασία Alasía) is of unknown origin. In ancient times it appears to have referred to the entire island of Cyprus (or possibly a location on the island), but eventually came to be identified specifically with its Semitic-speaking inhabitants. Nowadays the term is used only in reference to the predominantly Alashian-speaking parts of the island; the modern Alashian name for the island as a whole is Τζειπριώ Čīpriyā, clearly a loan from the Greek Κύπρος Kípros.

Modern “Alashia” consists of two separate regions in Cyprus. The larger of two, encompassing the Plains, Kyrenian, and Karpasian dialect groups, stretches along most of the northern coast of the island, including the western portion of the Mesaorian Plain, most of the Kyrenia Range, and the Karpass Peninsula. Included in this region is Kyrenia (Greek Κερύνεια Kerínia, Alashian Τζιρείν Čirīn), the largest monolingual Alashian city and the de-facto capital of Alashian culture. The second region, encompassing the Southern dialect group, is located along the southeast coast of Cyprus and is centered on the city of Larnaka (Greek Λάρνακα Lárnaka, Alashian Τζαττιήν Čəthien). Standard Alashian is based on the dialect of Kyrenia/Čirīn.

The rest of Cyprus is monolingually Greek, and Alashian will not be widely understood. However, Greek is understood virtually everywhere, as there are very few Alashian speakers who do not have at least basic proficiency in Greek.

A map of Cyprus showing the main Alashian-speaking areas
A map of modern Cyprus, with shaded areas designating the regions where Alashian is widely spoken. “Alashia” is composed of two geographically separated regions, one along much of the northern coastline of the island, and another centered around the southern city of Larnaka (Alashian Čəthien). Names in parentheses are in Alashian.

1.3 The Alashian Language

Alashian is a member of the Semitic language family, making it related to such languages as Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Assyrian, and Amharic. Semitic, in turn, is believed to be a branch of a much larger Afro-Asiatic family that encompasses many languages of northern Africa and the Middle East.

Proto-Afro-Asiatic is generally held to have been spoken about ten thousand years ago, although it is unknown where; north Africa is generally cited as a likely (if vague) location. Changes in climactic conditions, including the growth of the Sahara desert, forced many migrations from the region. In time Afro-Asiatic split into at least six families: Berber (spoken by the Berber peoples of the western Sahara and the northwest coast Africa), Chadic (including a number of central African languages, the largest of which is Hausa), Cushitic (including various east African languages, the largest of which is Oromo), Egyptian (which is now extinct), Omotic (including a number of languages spoken in Ethiopia), and Semitic. The ancestors of the Semites crossed the Sinai Peninsula into the Middle East, and then spread out to control much of the region. Proto-Semitic in turn eventually split into three main branches.

The Eastern Semitic family took hold in ancient Mesopotamia, and gave rise to such languages as Assyrian and Babylonian. This entire branch is now extinct, but due to its age and separation from the rest of Semitic, is invaluable for the reconstruction of Proto-Semitic.

Speakers of Southern Semitic languages settled along the southern coast of Arabia, in modern-day Yemen. Many later crossed over back into Africa, into modern Ethiopia. The most populous South Semitic languages are now spoken in Africa (in particular Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia); however, a number of Modern South Arabian languages are still spoken in Yemen and Oman, including Mehri, Soqotri, and Shehri.

The Central Semitic family has become the most widespread and populous by far. It consists of three main subgroups: Aramaic, Arabic, and Canaanite-Alashian. Aramaic was once the lingua franca of much of the Middle East, but is now consists of a large number of mutually-unintelligible languages scattered across the Middle East, and is spoken primarily by Christian, Jewish, and Mandaean communities. Arabic, on the other hand, has spread far beyond its original homeland in the western portions of the Arabian peninsula, and is now spoken from Morocco to the Persian Gulf by hundreds of millions of people. Classical Arabic has broken up into a number of colloquial “dialects”, which may be considered languages in their own right.

The Canaanite-Alashian homeland appears to have been in the Levant, with Proto-Alashian being spoken in what is now Syria. While they seem to share a few early linguistic developments in common, the Canaanites and Alashians split quite early on (and indeed some historical linguists propose splitting Canaanite-Alashian into two separate branches that have coalesced in many ways due to early contact). The Canaanite branch went on to develop into such languages as Phoenician and Hebrew. Around 1600 BC the Alashian language spread to Cyprus due to migrations, and for a while may have been present in both Cyprus and Syria 1 .

Over the ensuing several millennia Alashian came under the influence of many different languages, as many different peoples ruled over Cyprus in this time period. These include, in chronological order, Aramaic, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and English. The one constant influence, however, has been Greek, which has been present on Cyprus for nearly as long as Alashian appears to have been. The Greek influence on Alashian has been immense in phonological, morphological, syntactic, and lexical domains; many have drawn comparisons between the Greek influence on Alashian and Italian influence on Maltese (a medieval offshoot of Arabic), although the former has much greater time depth.

1.4 History of Alashian

The earliest indisputable inscriptions in Alashian are from the 10th century BC, consisting of short marks of ownership (including names of clearly Semitic origin) and votives written using the Cypriot syllabary. However, the first texts of any length come from the 8th century BC, when Cyprus came under Assyrian rule and the Aramaic alphabet was adopted to write Alashian. Assyrian rule lasted until the mid-7th century, after which the island appears to have been divided into a dozen or so city-states along various ethnic lines: most were Greek, several were Alashian, and at least one was Eteocypriot. There may also have been some Phoenician presence on the island during this time.

In 570 BC the island fell under brief Egyptian rule, and then became a tributary state of Persia until the 4th century BC. The island's kings supported Alexander the Great on his campaigns against Persia, but after his death the territory was passed between the hands of several successors. In 58 BC the island became a Roman province.

In the early centuries AD the island's inhabitants, both Greek and Alashian, were converted to Christianity, and remain Eastern Orthodox to this day. Christianization brought along with it the Greek and Syriac scripts, which largely displaced the older Aramaic-derived alphabet. However, usage tended to be quite irregular, as both of these alphabets were not particularly suited to the Alashian sound system.

Under Roman and later Byzantine rule the Alashians struggled to maintain their identity and avoid assimilation with the Greeks. It was during this time when Greek use in Cyprus grew dramatically to the detriment of Alashian, and much of the fertile Mesaorian Plain came to be Greek-speaking and the northern Alashian dialects were split from the southern ones. From 688 to 965 the island was governed as a condominium, ruled by both the Byzantines and Arabs.

In the 12th century the island was attacked by the Crusaders, who took control. However, the local population resented rule by the Latin Crusaders and Templars. Several revolts by the Greeks and Alashians occurred, leading to the creation of an independent Alashian kingdom in the 13th century. In the 15th century the entire island came under Venetian rule, despite several failed revolts.

In 1571, Cyprus was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, a period which saw many Turks settling in the northern regions. In the 19th century it became a British protectorate, though conflict between the Greeks, Turks, and Alashians made the region somewhat unstable. An uprising during the First World War resulted in many Turks being expelled from the island. In 1953 the territory declared its independence from the United Kingdom as a single, unified republic. The Greeks constitute the majority of the island's population, but the Alashians control several autonomous provinces within the Greek Cypriot state, comprising about a fifth of the island geographically and a third by population.

Modern literary Alashian was codified in the late 19th century, with a standardized variant of the Greek alphabet becoming the only permissable script for writing the language. This new alphabet simply made official one of the most widely used informal adaptations of the Greek script in use at the time, and shows a number of clear Greek influences.

In predominantly Alashian-speaking regions of Cyprus, both Greek and Alashian serve as languages of education and media. However, Alashian has little official presence in the rest of country.

1.5 Introduction to this Grammar

This grammar seeks to outline the basic principles of Standard Alashian as is taught in schools in Alashian-speaking areas and is expected to be used in formal and semiformal contexts in these regions. This will be followed by a descriptions of the various dialectal variations in the language in chapter 22.

This grammar begins with a description of the phonology and writing system of the language in order to provide a foundation for pronunciation and reading throughout the rest of the text. From here, morphology and word formation will be examined, with emphasis on structure rather than meaning; due to the complexity of Semitic verbal systems in general, the verbal morphology is divided into a number of sections. All of this information will then be combined in the chapters on syntax, which will detail the actual usage of all of these forms.

At the end of this grammar are a number of appendices explaining other features that did not fit anywhere else. Chapter 23 contains a detailed historical account of the development of modern Alashian from a technical perspective, detailing the emergence of Alashian phonology and morphology from Proto-Semitic.

Standard Alashian orthography using the Greek alphabet will be employed throughout this text. For ease and clarity, however, transliterations will always be provided in italics. English translations always appear in double quotation marks: αλλασούν ναλασκιώ hallasūn nalaskyā “the Alashian language”. Details on the orthography and transliteration scheme are provided in chapter 3.

Phonetic transcriptions will appear in [square brackets], while phonemic transcription appear in /forward slashes/, as per linguistic convention. All phonological transcriptions use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

Once more of the morphology has been introduced and usage is being examined more in depth, interlinear glosses will be used alongside transcriptions and translations. These provide a morpheme-by-morpheme breakdown of a given Alashian word or phrase. Multiple morphemes are separated by hyphens, while a morpheme conveying multiple meanings at once will have those meanings separated by a period. Non-lexical morphemes appear in smallcaps. For instance, Alashian uses distinct plural endings for nouns that vary by gender, so the plural of the word “dog” would be indicated Null morphemes are indicated with Ø; however, this is usually only done to draw attention to the fact that a particular morpheme has zero surface realization.

Hypothetical word forms, in particular reconstructed forms of a proto-language, will be preceded by a single *asterisk. Non-existent forms, used for instance to indicate an exception to a pattern, will be preceded by **two asterisks.

1) This is, however, highly speculative. There is no uncontested evidence of Alashian presence in Syria at all, but archeological evidence seems to suggest this was the most likely situation.