Supplanting the mother tongue
Previous reconstructions of the evolution of Lilitika have been very much over invested in the narrative put forth by an organisation called Survika, the official body of progressive grammarians and poets instituted by Reséa Sarthía in 2 lilpo to drive innovation and the fostering of cultural identity through language reform. With the discovery of several key works by Sarthía herself in Oksirapho and recognisably early Ketalán, apparently written before the better-known Íomanazinení versions, the traditional account of Lilitika's naturalistic phase as a consequence of synthetic effort does not hold water. It is time to reinterpret the available evidence.
The Egrekelai—the human descendants who escaped the tragedy at Ksreskéza as a whole, regardless of political alignment—continued to compose substantial numbers of new works in the father tongue well into the 5th century lilpo. Conversationally, it most likely survived well into the eighth century in the hands of the Mitrajethíasa. Except for those written by the Mitrajethíasa, most texts from the 2nd century onward show a gradual suppletion and wholesale replacement of various words either invented or modified by the Lilitai.
The Survika functioned under a mandate issued by the first Matriarch to foster the development and spread of a uniquely Lilitic language and culture, suited to human tongues and experiences. Initially, this was interpreted with the candour of a young Ksreskézaian institution, and records exist of book-burnings, both of old Oksian works and of certain texts (usually of a politically sensitive nature) composed in colloquial language (see below.) Under this plan, the Survika produced three language standards, Oksí, Íomanazinení, and Zeyetaní, which were largely ignored by the people except for ceremony. These dialects were overrepresented in aphorisms, official documents, and literary critique—which often made reference to the titles of works in other dialects in translation rather than in their own formats—helping to perpetuate the illusion to scholars that they were more widespread than they really were.
The Survika began by completely doing away with the grammar of Oksirapho. Building on a scientific premise, the grammar was exhaustively analytical and involved little inflection, resulting in tedious clusters like the well-known -is ím kai subjunctive of purpose. This was the natural extension of the postpositional system in Oksirapho; verb complexes always ended with -is and noun complexes always ended with gender: -a, -e, or -o, (plurals -asa, -ete, and -ozo.) Use of Oksí was only advocated briefly, from c. 5 lilpo to 9 lilpo.
Íomanazinení Lilitika texts appeared as early as the summer of 8 lilpo, featuring a distinctively synthetic style with very exact grammar, similar to Oksí but with more agglutination. Initial standards documents from Survika suggest it was never intended to be an everyday language, but rather an evolution of Oksí specialized as a formal language. Oksirapho continued to be the popular tongue on the nomadic fleet for several more decades.
Not long after the first appearance of Íomanazinení, poets began to tinker with its grammar, particularly replacing the case infix system with more compact case endings. It seems that there is some grain of truth to the myth that the Office of the Matriarch at first opposed these developments (which tended to resemble Oksirapho case endings), although most of what we know of this comes from preserved propaganda posters made by Mitrajethíasa around 20–25 lilpo.
The widespread occurrence of these experiments proved to be problematic for the grammarians of Survika, who were accustomed to prescriptive work rather than descriptive, but recognised the importance of securing the legibility of these poems for future generations. Sometimes these grammarians referred to such language as kantí steka apes haponí deñkumelasa, "pure body in soiled clothes," to indicate their contempt for such regressive grammar. Instead they favoured a drive toward a simpler, more compact grammar influenced by Paligu and other languages, but these languages had very low prestige in the former Ksreskézaian Empire and were widely disliked.
After decades of schisms, in 81 lilpo Zeyetaní was sanctioned as form of these experiments by the exasperated grammarians of Survika, and the efforts to develop another constructed dialect for everyday use were shelved. The alternative they had been developing, internally referred to as Itsaní Lilitika, was never completed, and is now considered lost.
Natural threads: the Rafivíai
The respect afforded to Survika varied between ships, and sometimes among different populations within the larger ships. As late as 400 lilpo, authors were still regularly composing literature in Oksirapho, which suggests they had an audience. However, the everyday language spoken by most of the Lilitai could not be described as pure Oksirapho; with each passing year, speakers (most of whom were illiterate) formulated new innovations, borrowed concepts from the dialects of Survika, and euphonized clumsy Oksirapho vocabulary to fit more comfortable phonosyntactics. The deliberateness of this process, similar to the evolution of slang, is generally identified as the reason why so little drift occurred in phonology. Indeed, it is generally thought that the phonology as late as the fifth century lilpo was very similar to that used tens of thousands of years earlier by the Rotomemi.
The third century saw a general decline in the usage of standardized language; official documents from this era are riddled with inconsistencies, even those written by authors who had ostensibly perfect grasp of Survika-approved forms in earlier years. Eventually this fragmentation reached such a severe level that certain words came to have mutually unintelligible—or worse, contradictory—meanings in different communities, and public opinion towards prescriptivism softened: now, the Lilitai wanted Survika to identify a standard form of the language that had developed in defiance of the grammarians.
After the dozens of rafivíai were identified and described, Survika began to assemble a more coherent dialect, the well-known Sarasí, which was finished in early 390. It was well-received by majority populations on most ships, but outliers, especially the Mitrajethíai and their sympathisers, continued to favour alternatives.