kasshi

I've been working on my main conlang, Classical Kasshian

And I “discovered” that there’s one more gender in the language.  I’d known about 7 genders*, and I knew that the ancestral language had more, but now I figured out that there’s an eighth gender that’s still in limited use.  (Confusingly numbered gender IX - the old gender VIII was lost after the genders were numbered).

Gender IX is used for deities and other supernatural beings in the old polytheistic faith, and for Goddess in Nrastaism, the newer monotheistic faith.  For some orthodox Nrastaists, only Goddess herself is in that gender, but for others, Divinities and various other supernatural beings are included in it.  (Divinities are something of a cross between gods as understood in European religions and angels in Christianity).  Note that, as the deities are included in a gender separate from humans (genders I-III are for humans - I is female, II is male, III is epicene or androgyne [their culture recognizes a 3rd gender]) they are not linguistically marked for gender in the usual human sense.  Most deities were commonly portrayed in artwork and myths as having gender, but most of their philosophers and theologians considered them to be outside of gender, and considered the conception of particular deities as male or female or androgyne as merely human conceptions.  Some Orthodox Nrastaists do place the Divinities in the human genders, requiring them to be given a gender, whether male, female, or androgyne, and there is sometimes disagreement over which one said Divinity should be placed in.  Which may be why the use of gender IX for them remains strong (and eventually became standard)

In the ancestral language, gender IX was one of a small group of genders that used disyllabic markers, whereas the others used monosyllabic markers.  It was contracted to a monosyllable, but it inflects differently than the other genders.  For one, the gender IX markers retain a separate dual form, while the other genders have only singular and plural forms.  The dual is used for paired deities, not just for any reference to two deities.  It also has a consonant-final form in the singular and a vowel-final form in the dual and plural, the reverse pattern of the other genders, making its inflectional pattern distinct from the first seven.  Took a bit of work to figure out how that gender appears in the classical form of the language.  But, I’m happy with how it appears.

*The full 7-gender system is as follows:

Gender I: Female human
Gender II: Male human
Gender III: Epicene or androgyne human
Gender IV: Animals associated with humans (domestic animals, agricultural pests, wild animals with cultural significance such as common prey animals)
Gender V: Other animals
Gender VI: “Pseudo-animate”: Plants, non-living things with intrinsic movement (water, wind, fire, etc.), cultural institutions, languages, groups of people, projectile weapons, valuable metals, etc., some people also place insects and the like in gender VI
Gender VII: Other inanimates

The distinction between gender VI and VII (and, to a lesser extent, between IV and V) isn’t really clear-cut, and there’s a certain degree of arbitrariness, but there are patterns, such as valuable metals (like gold or silver) being gender VI and non-valuable metals (like iron or copper) being gender VII.  Generally speaking, abstractions, fluids, and things for which movement [including metaphorical movement] is intrinsic to their nature are gender VI.  Also, anything seen as having spiritual significance will be gender VI (some things can be either - a bowl would normally be gender VII, but one used for religious rituals will be gender VI).

From an external perspective: When I first defined the genders, I intentionally gave them a fairly vague definition, VI was simply called “pseudo-animate”, and I had the idea that things like water and fire - things that move - were in them, but beyond that, nothing specific.  As I created words, I would assign them to a gender based on what seemed right, initially, and afterwards by considering other nouns already in those genders.  This allowed patterns to develop naturally, and also to create some irregular assignments, simulating the kind of complex pattern of associations often found in natural languages.

Marriage in the Modern Kasshi Empire

Marriage in the Kasshi Empire functions rather differently from what we’re used to here in our society.  The same-sex marriage issue, such a major issue in our society, is a complete non-issue for them.  Even polygamy is a non-issue, though uncommon.

However, there are other issues such as interfaith marriage and parental consent that are non-issues (at least, not legal issues) to us that are big to them.

Marriage is tied in with the House system.  All citizens and subjects of the Kasshi Empire belong to a House (which, in rare cases, may have a single member).  The core of a House are a group of related people, most often all descendants of a common living ancestor, or, sometimes, a group of siblings.  Rarely is the common ancestor much more than a generation before the oldest living generation, though, in principle, there’s no reason it couldn’t happen, and there probably are some Houses like that.  But, as a general rule, when the head dies, the eldest child inherits the position of Head, and his or her siblings break off to form their own Houses, if they have descendants at least (those without children often stay in the original House).

In many ways, the House is the basic legal unit of their society.  Many property and tax laws are based on Houses rather than individuals.  Taxes are based on the House’s income, rather than any individuals, with tax brackets based on the size (measured by number of adults) of the House.  This creates an interesting situation where a long-term servant is sometimes adopted into the House to reduce taxes - by adding a member to the House, the tax brackets change, lowering the House’s taxes.  Plus, by becoming a member of the House, the servant’s wages change legal status from “income”, which can be taxed, to “intra-House finances”, which are outside of taxation!  This provides an economic benefit to the House, but, on the flip side, a member of a House cannot be expelled (any adult may, however, choose to withdraw from a House, but then they become a House of one member).  There are also certain legal regulations that entitle all members of a House to a certain portion of the House’s resources, so this method is not taken lightly.

Another way in which the House forms a basic unit of society is in membership in the legally-recognized Faiths.  Each House is recognized as a member of a single Faith.  This has certain legal ramifications.  For example, certain Faiths are permitted to discipline their members for violating religious laws.  Also, some social services are provided through the Faiths.  There are two “Faiths” outside of the actual faiths per se, they are the Minor Faiths Coalition and the “Secular” category, which combines the non-religious with those of unrecognized religions.  Every House belongs to one of these Faiths.

Marriage consists of the transfer of a person from one House to another. This transfer requires the consent of the Heads of both Houses.  Particularly as it will affect the taxes of both Houses.  This may sometimes require an economic transfer to compensate, but that custom is rapidly dying out.  Refusal of consent from one or both Houses’ heads can be circumvented by leaving the Houses and setting up a new House, but that is not a decision to be taken lightly, given the major significance of the House system to a person’s life.

If the two Houses belong to different Faiths, then things can get more complicated.  Because of the series of agreements known, propagandistically, as the “Age of Religious Harmony”, it is difficult for a person to change registered Faiths (as one might imagine, this leads to a number of cases where people are registered as a different religion then they actually follow).  Changing registered Faiths requires the consent of one’s local religious leader.

Empress chiNikan was the last empress of what later historians would refer to as the Second Kasshi Empire. She began her reign as a champion of the traditional Nrastaist faith. Early in her reign, she greatly increased imperial funding of Nrastaist temples and set out to stamp out heterodoxy, calling several conferences for the purpose of establishing an orthodox interpretation of various religious debates. She also gradually repealed the long-held tolerance of other faiths, culminating in the destruction of their worship sites. Her reign descended further and further into dictatorship, as she built up a fanatically loyal corps of defenders dubbed the Sacred Guard. She had her rivals murdered, including nearly the entirety of the Imperial Family. A few fled the Empire and lived in exile in other nations, or in disguise. Eventually her paranoia and her delusions of grandeur reached such a point that she declared herself a new prophet, and established a new religion, turning on the traditional faith itself. For several years, her power remained near-absolute, but eventually her enemies banded together to overthrow her. There were also rebellions in various parts of the empire and secessionist movements. Civil war broke out. Eventually her supporters were defeated. Her enemies finally reached the imperial palace. After a fierce fight with fanatical members of the Sacred Guard, all of whom sacrificed their lives for her, the imperial palace was taken. ChiNikan herself was not found, however. Rumors circulated that she was still alive and plotting to return to power. Legends still exist that some day she will return to rule the Kasshi, a sort of anti-King Arthur, and many believed she was not human, but a demon in human form. In the chaos following the end of her reign, the rebellions on the fringe, revivals of suppressed faiths and sects, and rival claimants to the throne, the Empire shattered. The heart of the former empire descended into decades of fighting between rival claimants to the throne, and local warlords who seized power over small territories, eventually settling into several sovereign states, the rulers of all of which kept the old title (which is why in the modern descendants, the cognate of the old word for Empress now refers to lesser offices, such as a noble title or governor). It would be centuries before a reunified Empire would appear. Meanwhile, each of the new states had its own religious hierarchy, and the Nrastaist faith would never be as united as it was before.