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0. Introduction

Tokana (or more accurately Sul Tokana) is the language of the Tokana people, who live along the west coast of the continent of Nala - a fertile, temperate region surrounded by a range of extinct volcanoes, with steep, rocky hills, deep river valleys, grassy plains, and large coniferous rainforests. The territory of the Tokana extends from the Moson highlands westward as far as the coast, with concentrations of settlements in and around the towns of Tenmothai, Kemothasi, and Uiluma, along the Moson river. The language has approximately 35,000 native speakers.

Tokana is not related to any of the languages spoken by neighbouring peoples. Its closest relatives appear to be the Kman Group, a family of about two dozen languages spoken in the Central Plains region of Nala, about 500 miles east of the Moson valley. Archaeological and historical records, corroborated by linguistic evidence, suggest that the ancestors of the Tokana migrated westward from the Central Plains about 1200 years ago, as part of a general dispersion of Proto-Kman-speaking groups across Nala. The first Tokana settlers arrived in the upper Moson valley about 1000 years ago. From there, they spread downriver over the course of two or three hundred years, peacefully assimilating the less numerous indigenous peoples of the lower valley and coastal regions. The name Tokana appears to come from the Proto-Kman root *tokka, meaning "eagle" or "hawk". If this is the case, we can infer that the ancestors of the Tokana originally belonged to a single Kman ancestral group, which had the eagle as its totem animal.

The Tokana live mostly in small villages consisting of between three and six 'compounds' or 'homesteads' called pothan, each of which is the home of an exogamous matrilineal clan, or kame. (The towns of Tenmothai, Kemothasi, and Uiluma are rather larger, consisting of several dozen pothan, as well as markets, ceremonial centres, and public buildings of various kinds.) The Tokana are a non-industrial people, whose principal economies are farming, fishing, sheepherding, and timber. They are also skilled artisans, who specialise in woodworking and textiles. The Tokana participate actively in the Ymuthmol Ilal, a vast trading network which extends for many hundreds of miles up and down the coast of Nala (other groups involved in this network include the Hbana, the Tzesek, the Auari, the Awamai, and the Kapakwilo).

There are several dialects of Tokana. However, the differences between them tend to be small, involving minor variations of pronunciation and vocabulary. In this sketch I have chosen to represent the speech of Kemothasi, which is typical of the dialects spoken in the central and northern Moson valley.


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