Apr21 –  A Constructed Language

Apr21 Syntax


An argument phrase is either a relative clause, a noun phrase, or a pronoun. Every noun phrase begins with a determiner and ends with a noun; modifiers appear between the determiner and the noun. A modifier is a coreferential clause lacking one argument phrase, which is supplied by the noun of the phrase. If the noun is bivalent, an inalienable possessor phrases follows it.

Def mother Def young boy
"the young boy's mother"
Def big in Def yellow belong_to Def old man house dog
"the big dog in the yellow house belonging to the old man"


The vocative determiner replaces the proper noun determiner in direct address. It's derived from the vocative particle o + a, the vocative particle also occurring before la when addressing an unknown person. See Determiners and Related Words

The indefinite determiner Ind can be replaced by a word denoting quantity, such as a cardinal number.

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses are internally headed and contain a noun phrase beginning with the determiner Rel; they begin with BRC and end with ERC.

BRC Def 1S-see mother Rel man ERC
"the man whose mother I saw"
BRC PN John hear Def dog in Rel big house ERC
"the big house in which John heard the dog"

Partitive Construction

The partitive construction selects a part or subset of a whole or set. The head noun in the partitive construction is a bivalent dummy noun, either SSA- or SSI-. The possessor is used for the whole and has the same gender as the possessum, which is used for the part. The determiner for the part is indefinite (Ind, ti) unless the part is modified by a superlative or an ordinal number. The determiner for the whole is usually definite (Def, do).

2 of those 5 books Ind 2 P-SSI Dem 5 P-book

Superlatives and Ordinals

The ordinal numbers and the superlative forms of adjectives are syntactically similar. They modify the part in the partitive construction, specifying which elements of the whole are included in the part. When an ordinal number or superlative is present, the partitive construction can be simplified. This can only be done if the cardinality of the whole isn't specified and the determiner of the whole is definite.

the newest of those 5 books Def Sup-new P-SSI Dem 5 P-book
the biggest [of the] dog[s] Def Sup-big dog


The order of phrases in a clause is basically Subject Verb Object. Use of inverted verb forms is limited to coreferential clauses and content question clauses; even these must have 2 or 3 3rd person arguments.

Basic Clause Syntax
Role Content Question Coreferential Non-coreferential
Sub CQ V1 (3P)-V1 (Sub) (%#)-V1
Agt CQ V2 (Pat) (3P)-V2 (Pat) (Agt) (%#)-V2 (Pat)
Don CQ V3 (Rcp) (Thm) (3P)-V3 (Rcp) (Thm) (Don) (%#)-V3 (Rcp) (Thm)
Pat CQ V2-Inv (Agt) (3P)-V2-Inv (Agt) -
Rcp CQ V3-Inv (Don) (Thm) (3P)-V3-Inv (Don) (Thm)
Thm CQ Don (3P)-V3 (Rcp) Don (3P)-V3 (Rcp)
Thm CQ DR (3P)-V3-Rfx DR (3P)-V3-Rfx
Agt+Pat CQ V2-Rfx (3P)-V2-Rfx (AP) (%#)-V2-Rfx
Don+Rcp CQ V3-Rfx (Thm) (3P)-V3-Rfx (Thm) (DR) (%#)-V3-Rfx (Thm)
Pat CQ L#a-V2 L#a-V2 -
Rcp CQ L#d-V3 (Thm) L#d-V3 (Thm)
Thm CQ L#d-V3 (Rcp) L#d-V3 (Rcp)
Thm CQ L#dr-V3-Rfx L#dr-V3-Rfx

The actual order of trivalent objects follows this rule: donor before recipient before theme, except that a theme pronoun appears before a donor or recipient noun phrase.

Gender Restrictions

For trivalent verbs, both the subject and the object are animate and the theme is always inanimate. Other verbs have no gender restrictions.

The sole argument of a univalent noun takes the noun's lexical gender as does the possessum of a bivalent noun; the possessor of a bivalent noun also has a lexically determined gender.

Kinds of Clauses

Besides noun modifiers, coreferential clauses are used as resultatives, depictives, adjuncts, complements, and coordinate clauses. Non-coreferential clauses are used as adjuncts, complements, coordinate clauses, and main clauses.

When a coordinate or an adjunct clause is coreferential, it must have a 3rd person argument with no corresponding noun phrase or pronoun in the clause. For the 1st coreference, the conjunction introducing the dependent clause takes a personal form . There may also be a 2nd coreference; in this case the 3rd person verb suffix is used. Note that this coreference mechanism is used only for 3rd person arguments; for local coreference, the pronominal affix is repeated.

Coordinate Clauses

A coordinate clause is connected to a preceding main clause, coordinate clause, or other host clause by a coordinating conjunction, such as "and", "ior", etc.

John sang and Mary danced. PN John sing and PN Mary dance.

If the adjunct clause has coreferential arguments, they're matched with arguments of the same gender and number in the preceding clause. If there are more than one possible match, the 1st one is used for the first coreference, etc.

PN John drop Def melon and-SA ran.
John dropped the melon and ran.
PN John drop Def melon and-SI burst.
John dropped the melon and it burst.
PN Tom see PN John and-SA chase-3SA.
Tom saw John and chased him.

Adjunct Clauses

One type of adjunct clause is the temporal adjunct, which specifies the time of its host clause relative to that of the adjunct clause. Temporal adjunct clauses are preceded by the temporal conjunction pa ("when", Tmp).

Except for the last case, the host verb is usually aoristic.

a meri (arrive) pa a jan kosma a meri (arrive) pa a jan ko-sma
Mary arrived after John had eaten. PN Mary arrive Tmp PN John Ret-eat.

Other adjunct clauses are used for circumstances, causes or reasons, purpose, or means, depending on the conjunction.

If the adjunct clause has coreferential arguments, they're matched with arguments of the same gender and number in the host clause. If there are more than one possible match, the 1st one is used for the first coreference, etc.

Resultatives and Depictives

A resultative secondary predicate specifies a situation resulting from the host action. It always coreferences the host clause's patient.

A depictive secondary predicate specifies a situation current at the time of the host situation. It can coreference any of the host clause's arguments. A depictive is semantically similar to a coreferential adjunct clause with relatively present time.

a jan sæm do (meat) (raw).  a jan sæm do (meat) (raw).
John ate the meat raw. PN John eat Def meat raw.

Comparative Constructions

There are 2 kinds of comparatives: one where the subject of comparison is compared to an explicit standard of comparison and one where the subject of comparison is compared to its former self (temporal comparison). The comparison can be an equality or an inequality; the former uses the equative form of the scale of comparison while the latter uses the comparative form. The elements of a temporal comparative are the subject of comparison, the scale of comparison, and optionally the degree of comparison. The elements of an explicit comparative are the same plus the standard of comparison, which is expressed as the argument of a locative depictive.

John is heavier than Tom. PN John Cmp-heavy at PN Tom.
Tom ran faster [than before]. PN Tom run Cmp-fast.
John ate as many potatoes as Tom. PN John eat Equ-many P-potato at PN Tom.

For negative comparisons, the comparative form of the opposite word of the scale of comparison is used. Explicit comparatives can instead swap the subject of comparison with the standard of comparison.

Complement Clauses

A complement clause is one that takes the place of a patient or theme argument phrase. If it's not coreferential, it begins with the complementizer particle (Cpl). A coreferential complement clause coreferences the matrix clause's agent.

a jan pil zok do ælæfant.  a jan  0- pil 0- zok do ælæfant
"John wants to see the elephant." PN John 3S-want 3S-see Def elephant
a jan pil gó zok do ælæfant.  a jan  0- pil gó 0- zok do ælæfant
"John wants her to see the elephant." PN John 3S-want Cpl 3S-see Def elephant


A content question is indicated by the presence of a content question word.

qok oniqtam? qok o- ni-qta-m
"What are you asking me?" CQI 2S-PRG-ask-1S

A polar question is indicated by the initial polar question particle PQ.

qá daserok? qá da-se -ro-k
"Did they tell you that?" PQ 3P-tell-2S-3SI

Spatial Verbs

The spatial verbs derived from determiners are used directly as predicates specifying static location. For motion to, from, or via the location, the pronominal forms are used as objects of the dynamic verbs fal(a), kol(a), and bæl(a), respectively.

la sir ælæfant la  sir ælæfant
"this elephant" Dem here elephant
qor a jan?  qor  a jan
"Where's John?" where NP John
qorxi a jan nifla? qorxi  a jan ni- fla
"Where's John going?" where NP John Prg-go_to


Conditional Sentences

A conditional sentence consists of a condition clause and a conclusion clause. The conclusion appears first and is preceded by either the conditional particle Con or the contrafactual particle Ctf. The condition follows and begins with a conjunction. In Apr21, there's no specific word for "if"; instead one of the conjunctions for specifying time, cause, or circumstances is used.

Con Def chair break Cir PN John sit-3SI.
If John sat on it, the chair broke.
Ctf Def chair break Cir PN John sit-3SI.
If John had sat on it, the chair would've broken.

If neither Con nor Ctf appears, a factual relationship between the clauses is involved, not a conditional one.

Def chair break Tmp PN John sit-3SI.
When John sat on it, the chair broke.

Satisfactive Sentences

A satisfactive sentence consists of a satisfactive clause and a result part. The satisfactive clause is one containing a word of sufficiency or excess. The result part is a conditional sentence or, more often, just the conclusion. It can be actual, conditional, or contrafactual.

PN John heavy Sat-Deg, Def chair break.
John is so heavy, the chair broke.
PN John heavy Sat-Deg, Con Def chair break.
John is heavy enough for the chair to break.
PN John heavy Sat-Deg, Ctf Def chair break.
John is so heavy, the chair would've broken.

page started: 2013.Apr.22 Mon
current date: 2013.Apr.28 Sun
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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