Jan03 –  A Constructed Language

Jan03 Syntax


The word order within a phrase is as follows:

Noun - Determiner - QuantityWord - Modifiers

The quantity words include "few", "many", the cardinal numbers, and maybe some other words. Quantity words don't appear if the noun is quantified or non-referential. A quantity word makes the unmarked noun specific indefinite; if neither quantity word nor determiner appears, the noun is definite.

"a house"

The modifiers are participles, genitive phrases, and relative clauses.

miao motiš
miao mo-tiš
cat Att-small
"the small cat"

Partitives, Ordinals, and Superlatives

A partitive construction consists of a dummy noun, a quantity word, and a genitive phrase or pronoun, in that order.

ny cu gošar
ny cu go-šar
Ina P Gen-house
"some of the houses"

An ordinal construction consists of an ordinal number, an optional quantity word, and a genitive phrase or pronoun, in that order. A superlative construction is similar, substituting a superlative for the ordinal number. The gender of the ordinal or superlative agrees with that of the genitive phrase or pronoun.

wembian gošar
wembian go-šar
SupIna-big Gen-house
"the biggest of the houses"


A clause typically begins with the resulting or current or originating state of the patient followed by any core arguments. Other constituents may follow.

Univalent Verbs

Univalent verbs have 1 core argument, a patient.

For most verbs where an agent affects a patient, the verb is univalent and the agent is an oblique argument taking the ergative-instrumental case. There are also verbs, such as "kick", where it's the agent that undergoes the change of state.

zetak rys dysox
ze-tak rys dy-sox
Prf-kick man Loc-door
"The man kicked the door."

Bivalent Verbs

Bivalent verbs have 2 core arguments, a copatient followed by a patient. The copatient is always required.

The bivalent verbs include those derived using ba-, those derived from possessed nouns using na-, gao "have" (the possessor is copatient), žao "know" (the knower is copatient), and all spatial relations (the location is copatient).

nunhik šar miao.
nun-hik šar miao
Con-in house cat
"The cat tried to enter the house."

Nominalized Verbs and Clauses

The prefix šo- (Nom-) derives action nouns from verbs. These are inflected just like other nouns and are optionally possessed, with the patient, if any, constructed as possessor.

The complementizer prefix žu- (Cpl-) nominalizes whole clauses (which are constructed as usual, with the verb first), allowing them to take case prefixes or be used as patients.

zebyk sox nišotakho
ze-byk sox ni-šo-tak-ho
Prf-shut door Erg-Nom-kick-NR
"The door was kicked shut."

zebyk sox nižutak rys
ze-byk sox ni-žu-tak rys
Prf-shut door Erg-Cpl-kick man
"The man kicked the door shut."

Relative Clauses

A relative clause begins with the relativizer particle de (Rel) and contains the relative pronoun la (=R) which marks by its position or prefix the role of the head noun within the relative clause.

tiš miao de zenameklami
tiš miao de ze-namek=la=mi
small cat Rel Prf-see=R=1S
"The cat that saw me is small."

Tense, Aspect, and Mood

Mood Particles

The following particles may appear at the beginning of the clause, preceded only by the polar question particle:

Word Tag Description
kae EN epistemic necessity
sel EP epistemic possibility
men Wit witness (direct evidential)
heš Hrs hearsay (indirect evidential)
bae Img future state or action (mood)
cur Ctf contrafactual state or action (mood)
su Imp imperative-hortative-jussive mood

In the following, the K-person is the speaker in statements and the addressee in questions.

Modal Prefix Usage

When a modal prefix appears, any negation negates the modal rather than the content verb. The following formula can be used to transfer polarity to the content verb:

Negative *Possibility Verb => *Necessity Negative Verb
Negative *Negative Verb => *Necessity Possibility Verb

In the following, the entity in question is the semantic agent (or sometimes an instrument); this may be represented by the patient, copatient, or ergative argument. Volitive and deontic modality require an animate entity.

Aspect and Tense

Jan03 marks aspect on the verb rather than tense. One function of the aspect marking is to specify time relative to some temporal point of reference. This may be specified by a temporal adverb or by a mood particle. In the absence of any such indication, the time of utterance (absolute time) is assumed.

In most cases, an aspect always marks the same relative time. However, the aoristic, which is present relative to a past or future time, can't be present in absolute time, so its referent is moved to the past.

Except where a change of state is specified or implied, a static verb represents a state while a dynamic verb represents an action. Consequently, there are some differences between static and dynamic verbs with regard to the appearance and usage of the aspects.

The unmarked aspect refers to a current state or an action in progress (which is necessarily incomplete). The absence of such a state or action at the time of reference is indicated by the not-in-state aspect (Not-).

The transition-to-state aspect (Inc-) specifies that an entry to a state is in progress; it applies only to static verbs. The absence of this is indicated by adding the not-in-state aspect (Not-). A transition-to-state is implied by any resulting state aspect marker when applied to a static verb.

The originating-state aspect (Ori-) specifies that an exit from a state is in progress; it also applies only to static verbs.

The no-longer-in-state aspect (Aft-) specifies both the absence of the state or action at the time of reference and the presence of the state or action at some earlier time.

The not-yet-in-state aspect (Bef-) specifies both the absence of the state or action at the time of reference and the presence of the state or action at some later time.

The moment-of-completion aspect (Aor-) specifies that an action or a change of state takes place at the time of reference. The action or transition need not be actually punctual.

For the completed-result aspect (Prf-), the specified state or the state resulting from the specified action has been successfuly reached. The prior transition or action is implied.

For the attempted-result aspect (Con-), the specified state or the state resulting from the specified action was not reached, although the prior transition or action was attempted.

For the failed-result aspect (Fal-), the specified state or the state resulting from the specified action was not only not reached, but the prior transition or action was not even attempted.

Temporal Adjunct Clauses

A temporal adjunct clause begins with the conjunction ka (Tmp) and specifies the temporal relation between the main situation and the subordinate situation according to the tense or aspect of the adjunct clause.

zesen kuaffiho nirys ka nunlofce
ze-sen kuaffi-ho ni-rys ka nun-lof=ce
Prf-hot coffee-NR Erg-man Tmp Con-sleep=3A
"The man heated coffee after trying to sleep."

Syntax, Part 4


A polar question is marked by the polar question particle či (PQ) at the beginning of the sentence.

A content question is marked by the presence of the content question pronoun or determiner (CQ), which occurs in situ.

Comparative Clauses

At minimum, a comparative clause consists of a comparative adjective (the scale of comparison) and a phrase or pronoun (the subject of comparison). It may also contain a standard of comparison, which is a phrase or pronoun preceded by the conjunction ? (Cpr), and/or a degree of comparison as well other constituents.

GT-heavy John Cpr Tom
"John is heavier than Tom."

If no standard of comparison appears, the standard is an implicit reference to the subject of comparison at an earlier time.

LT-hot coffee
"The coffee isn't as hot."

The scale of comparison isn't always the main verb of the clause.

Prf-run Tom GT-fast Cpr John
"Tom ran faster then John."

Prf-Ins-stomach=Rfx potato GT-many Erg-John Cpr Erg-Tom
"John ate more potatoes than Tom."

Prf-Ins-stomach John potato Eq-many Cpr tomato
"John ate as many potatoes as tomatoes."


Coordinated Clauses

Coordinated clauses are separated by a coordinating conjunction.

Conditional Sentences

A conditional sentence consists of a condition, introduced by "if", and a conclusion. There are 2 kinds of conditional sentences: contrafactual (where both condition and conclusion have contrafactual mood) and actual (where neither is contrafactual).


The English glosses in the vocabulary may be misleading unless the following are taken into account:

page started: 2014.Jan.04 Sat
current date: 2014.Jan.18 Sat
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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