Onmaqish is the language of the OnKitabie, the race living in the remote valleys of Tiemaqil Shike. Its name means literally “teaching tongue” (On-maqish). Due to its isolated nature it bears little resemblance to other known languages, and since it is spoken by such a small and geographically localized population, there is little dialectical variation across the population.

It is written in the Onmaqish Script, an alphabet/imperfect abjad with eighteen consonants and three vowels and heavily used by the OnKitabie, who have a cultural obsession with the written word (which is another reason why the language is relatively standardized).


Onmaqish has 21 distinct sounds (or phonemes), not all of which are shared with English.

IPA Romanization Examples (not perfect since English is dumb)
m m animal
k k attack
t t bat
b b unborn
n n thrown
ŋ ng running
ʒ j vision
z z lazer
q q Iraq
x kh (Scottish) loch
ð dh that
θ th teeth
s s Erastil
ʃ sh ambush
j y yum
f f after
l l able
IPA Romanization Examples (not perfect since English is dumb)
i ie baby
ɪ i bit
ə e (British English) bird
a a paw


Words in Onmaqish operate on a tri-consonantal root system similarly to languages like Arabic and Hebrew, where words are derived from a common three-consonant root that has a certain meaning.

For example, one root is m-k-t, which is unpronounceable because it’s not a word, there’s no vowels, idiot, it’s a root, pay attention. These three letters roughly mean “freedom, or the idea of free-ness”. Then the structure of m-k-t is applied to various different formats that create different words but still have a common base. So the structure for a location looks like this: 1-i-2-3-ab. Slot the root in, and you get m-i-k-t-ab, or miktab, a place of freedom (which is what the OnKitabie call a library). Otherwise, if we want the verb for “to be free,” the structure for verbs is 1-a-2-3-a. With the root it becomes makta, to be free. A person is 1-a-2-3-ib, or maktib (a free person), while animal is i-1-a-2-3, or imakt. (If any of you can tell me what a “free animal” is, I’m all ears, I have no clue.)


Onmaqish is a Verb-Subject-Object language, meaning its basic sentences are structured similarly English, but the verb generally appears before the noun that does it. So rather than “The person led the army”, it would be “Led the person the army”, or “Kajtie mem bakal mi thetayafam”. Overall, Onmaqish is very Head-Initial, with only prepositions, articles, and sometimes determiners appearing before the noun that they modify. All other modifiers, from adjectives to relative clauses to numerals, appear afterwards.

Stress generally falls on the second-to-last or third-to-last syllable. However, it is also highly influenced by what vowels are present in each syllable. For example, in the word jilmab, the stress is on the final syllable. This is because each vowel is ranked by “strength”. The strongest vowel is the “a”, followed by “i”, then “ɪ” and then “ə”. The syllable with the stronger vowel will often be the stressed one, regardless of where it is in the word, though it varies case by case.

Noun Class

Onmaqish nouns are separated into three different classes, which operate like grammatical gender in languages like French, Spanish, German, Arabic, and many others. However, instead of being based on gender, Onmaqish nouns are rated on a scale of “least animate” to “most animate”. The three classes are: Idyllic, Animate, and Inanimate.

Idyllic nouns are those perceived by the OnKitabie to have agency and/or destiny, essentially things which are abstract or complex enough to possess sentience or some philosophical equivalent. The classic example is people, though other Idyllic nouns are: books, stories, families, and the world. Furthermore, proper nouns, even those of non-idyllic subjects, are marked as though they are part of this case. For example, the Miktaban is marked idylically. However, they are not considered truly idyllic by OnKitabie scholars.

Animate is the most restrictive class, this is essentially for just animals, things which are animate and capable of thought, but not sentient as the OnKitabie perceive them.

Inanimate are nouns which are non-living. This includes concrete things like mountains, houses, and the sun, but also abstracts like length and time, and qualities like colors, or timeliness.

The noun class affects three things: pluralization, articles, and modifiers.

Pluralization: When a noun is pluralized, the class effects how that is done. Idyllic nouns pluralize with a -as (people: bakal-as: bakalas), Animate nouns pluralize with a -in (animals: fim-in: fimin) and Inanimate nouns pluralize with a -il (libraries: miktab-il: miktabil).

Articles: In Onmaqish, the indefinite article (“a” in English) is implied with the verb, meaning “a city” would just be “shas” so there’s no need to worry about that. However, the definite article (“the” in English) which causes a noun to become defined, is altered depending on noun class (like how, in Spanish, “the” becomes “la” or “el” depending on the noun’s gender). For Idyllic nouns, it is “mem” (the person: mem bakal). For Animate nouns, it is “may” (the fish: may iemba). For Inanimate nouns, it is “mi” (the house: mi minzab).

Modifiers: Modifiers (adjectives & adverbs) are attached different suffixes depending on the class of the noun they are describing. Colors are exempt from this since colors are grammatically weird and stupid. Modifiers also go after the noun, unlike before the noun in English (“story long” rather than “long story”). For Idyllic nouns, the modifiers end in -em (long story: zannib biyam-em). For Animate nouns, it is -ay (holy fish: iemba jilam-ay). For Inanimate nouns, it is -i (hot desert: minmaq khimam-i).


Possession is generally marked by one of three methods: a construct state, pronoun suffixes, and prepositions.

Possession in Onmaqish is usually portrayed by something called a “construct state,” where the two relevant nouns are placed one after each other, with the second one being the “dependent”, or the one modifying the first, almost like an adjective. This “dependent” noun is marked with the suffix -it and, if the phrase is defined, only that noun takes the definite marker.

So if I were to say “The house of the person” I would say “bakal mi minzab-it”. Bakal is person, but didn’t take the definite article it normally would, because that was handled by mi minzab-it.

This doesn’t just apply to possession in the way that we think of it, but more generally describes a level of relationship between the two nouns where one is dependent on the other for context. For example, “master of the library”, “kjalit miktab-it”, doesn’t mean that the library is literally possessed by the master, but it shows what the master has mastery over: the library.

When pronouns are involved in possession (such as “my hat” or “their friend”), rather than using the construct state, pronoun suffixes are simply attached to the ends of the possessed noun to show who possesses it. For example, “my farm” would be “nishnab-bn”, and “your story” would be “zanam-ja”. These suffixes define the noun, so the definite article is never applied.

Finally, possession can be determined with the “to” preposition (“lie”) to describe possession. So while “nishnab-bn” would be “my farm”, “I have a farm” would be written “lie-bn nishnab”. lie here gets the pronoun suffix, and this literally translates to: “to me a farm”.


Verbs in Onmaqish mark for the tense (past, present, future), person (singular, plural), and noun class (idyllic, animate, inanimate) of the object. There are also two marked aspects, the perfective and imperfective. The perfective aspect is not marked, while the imperfective is marked with an -eng suffix. The perfective marks verbs that have actions that have a definite time and have been completed, while the imperfective marks verbs that have ongoing or habitual actions. They can be thought of like this: perfective in the past tense would be like “I ran” compared to imperfective, which would be like “I was running”, or, in the future tense: “I will run” versus “I will be running”.

However, this does not translate into the present tense, because Onmaqish would not distinguish between “I run” and “I am running”. Instead, both of those translations are represented with the imperfective marking. Meanwhile the perfective form has taken the “perfect” meaning. (Which is completely different from “perfective” because somehow linguists aren’t good at coming up for names for things.) The perfect form of the verb acts sort of like a super-past tense, translating to “I had run”. This implies that it was not only a completed action, but that that action also occurred before the topic of the sentence itself.

This method of verb marking can get kind of wild pretty quickly. If you have the verb for praying (jalma), and conjugate it in the present tense for a group of people (3rd person idyllic plural), you get tijalmiem. However, since that is the perfective present tense, it is interpreted as a perfect, meaning it doesn’t mean “they are praying” but “they had prayed”. In order to keep it in the present tense, it has to be in the imperfective, meaning it needs the -eng suffix. So “They are praying” translates to “tijalmiemeng”, which is a great word, I love saying it out loud. It may seem unwieldy, but an Onmaqish speaker would respond saying that using three words in English to say what Onmaqish can do in one is unwieldy, so who are we to judge?

The final note about verbs is that they can also be marked for object. This is done with a possessive affix, exactly the same as how possession is marked between nouns with pronouns (a process outlined elsewhere). Each pronoun has a corresponding suffix that, provided that the listener knows which thing the pronoun is referring to, can be attached to the end of the verb in order to mark it as an object. However, often the verb can’t take an object pronoun directly (as in the case of “tijalmiemeng”, unfortunately, I wanted to see how long we could make that word). In that case, an appropriate preposition is used in conjunction with the verb, and the object is marked there. For example, if I wanted to say “They are praying for me.” I would say “they are praying” (tijalmiemeng) and then use the “for” preposition (fim) with the 1st person singular possessive pronoun suffix (-bin). Tijalmiemeng fim-bin. They are praying for me.


The OnKitabie culture is very focused on writing and language (their name meaning literally “taught by the book”) and as such the system by which they write is of vast importance to them. Not all are literate, but teaching letters and numbers is very important in upper class urban culture, and most city residents, especially within the borders of the Miktaban, will have at least a rudimentary understanding of writing.

The Onmaqish script is an alphabet, with each glyph representing a single phonetic sound, like in English. However, far less emphasis is placed on vowels, especially weaker ones like “i” and “e”, so writing of those is almost optional. Vowel marks as a whole have only been in use for about a hundred years, with readers simply relying on context and assumption beforehand. Even now, vowel markers aren’t considered letters themselves, but simply diacritics, which results in the script also resembling an abjad, rather than an alphabet, like Arabic.

Ignoring vowels, there are sixteen letters, corresponding for the most part with the consonant phonemes of the Onmaqish language (though “thiem” represents both the “ð” and “θ” sound, just like the “th” in English).

It is important to note that Onmaqish is read right to left, like Arabic or Japanese, rather than left to right, like English.


Letter Name IPA Romanization Examples (not perfect since English is dumb)
min m m animal
ik k k attack
ti t t bat
bik b b unborn
in n n thrown
ingin ŋ ng running
jil ʒ j vision
zif z z lazer
akh q q Iraq
qam x kh (Scottish) loch
thiem ð and θ th and dh that and teeth
sakhna s s Erastil
shakhna ʃ sh ambush
yam j y yum
fim f f after
ilik l l able

The alternate forms of ti, ingin, zif, shakhna, yam, fim, and ilik are the result of different writing styles evolving through the centuries, and while somewhat rare, you will see the occasional scribe prefer to use one over the other for one reason or another.

Beyond these letters, there are a handful of other symbols commonly used in writing, such as the vowel markers.

Going from right to left, ongin is a variation of ingin that has specific cultural meaning. This letter is only used in the context of the “on” prefix. This prefix essentially means“taught by” derived from the archaic preposition “ang”, which roughly meant “by” or “begought by”. It is now used exclusively as a possessive prefix denoting a master-student relationship. Surnames mean “taught by ___”, such as Tajani’s surname, OnMaqibn, meaning Maqibn was Tajani’s teacher, and Tajani’s student would take the surname OnTajani.

mem is a word, the definite article of Idyllic-class nouns. The word would have originally been written as two mins written next to each other, which eventually morphed into the modern symbol for mem.

The last three are the vowel markers. kasa is the marker for the “a” sound, and is written raised compared to the surrounding letters. At the beginning of words it can extend down to the bottom of the line. fiema represents the “i” sound, and is written in line with the letters. Of the vowel markers, it is treated most like a letter. (This because it originally morphed from the yam consonant glyph.) These two markers are pretty much always used in modern writing. The last and weakest is tish, which represents the “ɪ” sound, which is written lower relative to the other letters, and sometimes completely underneath. It is not always written, especially with more common words and words with other more powerful vowels. The “ə” is too weak of a vowel to have its own symbol, and is usually not written. In the rare cases where it is written, a tish is used.

Writing is usually done with a thin, ink-soaked brush or a wide-tipped reed pen dipped in ink, which is what gives the letters their swooping, thick lines. The hand is usually angled far down, to keep it from dragging over the writing while moving from right to left, and is meant to move is large, sweeping motions. Letters will often interlock together, especially those with prominent tails like ingin, akh, qam, yam, and ilik. Usually the scribe will write all the consonant glyphs and the fiema and then, once they’ve finished the word, go back over to add any necessary kasa and tish, since those lines are quickly and easily drawn between letters.

Here is a sample. Remember it’s read right to left. This reads “ib khanli yangtima shie mi miktab.” which translates to “I love to study at the library.” Notice the vowel markers; the kasa extend noticably above the line, the fiema are in line, and the tish descend. Also notice the lack of a tish in “yangtima” which would have been awkward to write between the ingin and the ti, and so was omitted.


Onmaqish numbers operate like Roman Numerals. There are seven symbols, as shown here:

Like other writing, they are written and read right to left, and like Roman Numerals, they operate in base ten and simply must be added up to determine the number they represent. Here is one through ten.

And then the higher symbols are used as necessary. The symbol for one, as shown above, is stacked to represent one through four, and then put above the next highest symbol to add to it. This means that these lines will always be present only at the end of any written number, since they only represent one through four. Here are a few larger numbers to demonstrate the pattern.

If it’s difficult decoding these, follow this process. The numbers are all reversed because they’ve originally been written the other way (not that that really matters with addition but still).

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  • Last modified: 2020/06/26 15:41
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