Jan12 –  A Constructed Language

Jan12 Syntax


Argument Structure

The argument structure of a predicate gives a role to each argument, whether apparent or not. The direct (non-inverted) paradigms for verb-like predicates are:

Predicate1 Subject
Predicate2 Patient Agent
Predicate3 Theme Recipient Donor

For noun-like predicates, they are:

Predicate1 Subject
Predicate2 Possessor Subject

The inverse marker (-V) swaps the roles of the last two potential arguments:

Predicate2-V Agent Patient
Predicate3-V Theme Donor Recipient
Predicate2-V Subject Possessor

There's also a thematic inversion (-T) that moves the theme to the end; it's used only for C-2, R-2, and A-3.

Predicate3-3-T Recipient Donor Theme

Reflexive and reciprocal predicates are marked by the -X inversion. For trivalent predicates, the donor and recipient roles are involved, as with the inverse. The reflexive paradigms are:

Predicate2-1-X Agent&Patient
Predicate3-2-X Theme Donor&Recipient

The reciprocal paradigms are:

Predicate2-X Arg2 Arg1
Predicate3-X Theme Arg2 Arg1


The possessibility suffix (+) increases the potential valence of a univalent word, adding a possessor argument. Note that some noun-like words are already bivalent and possessible.

M-Dur-dog+ Tom Fido "Fido is Tom's dog."
M-Dur-dog+1-V Fido "Fido is someone's dog."
M-Dur-dog+1 Tom "Tom has a dog."
dog+ Tom "Tom's dog"

M-Gno-mother John Mary "Mary is John's mother."
M-Gno-mother-1-V Mary "Mary is someone's mother."
M-Gno-mother-1 John "John has a mother."
mother John "John's mother"


A predicate is negated using the proclitic adverb (Neg).


The head of a phrase is an attributive predicate with the actual valence equal to the expected value. The head word may be preceded by a determiner and/or a number (including cardinal numbers, fractional numbers, etc.) or by a quantifier. The phrase may be further modified by attributive clauses and/or a relative clause. Phrases can be used as possessors of possessible predicates.

Determiners, Numbers, and Quantifiers

cat "the cat" - definite
P-cat "the cats" - definite
Def "5" cat "the 5 cats" - definite
"5" cat "5 cats" - indefinite
Exi cat "1 or more cats" - indefinite

The determiners and quantifiers include:

Vocative Phrases

Vocative phrases are extra-clausal phrases introduced by the vocative particle yau.


Secondary Clauses

A secondary clause follows its host clause. There are two kinds: depictives and resultatives. A resultative secondary clause has resultative predicates while a depictive secondary clause has coreferential predicates). While the host argument coreferenced by a depictive can be any, that coreferenced by a resultative is limited to a patient or subject.

M-Pst-eat meat John C-nude "John ate the meat nude."
M-Pst-eat-V John meat C-raw "John ate the meat raw."

M-Pst-pound metal Mary R-flat "Mary pounded the metal flat."
M-Pst-put cat 1S R-Aor-in house "I put the cat in the house."

manlama kirke vî gubul xerto.
m-an-lama kirke g-u-bul xerto
M-Pst-put cat 1S R-Aor-in house
"I put the cat in the house."

Attributive Clauses

Attributive clauses have attributive predicates with the valence set to include the modified head word.

M-Prs-see white-1 cat 1S "I see a white cat."
M-Prs-see big-1 black-1 dog 1S "I see a big black dog."
M-Prs-see break-1 window 1S "I see the broken window."
M-Prs-see break-2 window boy 1S "I see the window-breaking boy."
M-Prs-see break-2-V boy window 1S "I see the boy-broken window."
M-Prs-see in-2 house cat 1S "I see the cat in the house."
M-Prs-see in-2-V cat house 1S "I see the house the cat's in."

M-Prs-this-1-X give-3-T boy woman book
"This is the book the woman gave the boy."

Relative Clauses

When a non-core item is to be relativized, a relative clause must be used instead of an attributive clause. A relative clause has a subjunctive predicate and contains the relative pronoun Rel. It follows the head word, which is now marked so that the actual valence is the potential valence.

xertok tamexa yû kirke cibulek tai
xerto-k t-a-mex-a kirke c-i-bul-ek tai
house-1 S-Prf-see-V 2S cat C-Dur-in-1 Rel
"the house such that you saw the cat in it"
"the house in which you saw the cat"

boy-1 S-Prf-find-V 2S dog+ Rel
"the boy such that you found his dog"
"the boy whose dog you found"

Complement Clauses

A complement clause has a subjunctive predicate. It replaces the theme, the patient, or the subject of the matrix clause, whose predicate usually takes the thematic inversion so that the complement clause appears last.

Predicate2-T Agent ComplementClause
Predicate3-T Recipient Donor ComplementClause


M-Pst-see-T 1S S-break window boy "I saw the boy break the window."
M-Prs-permit-T 1S S-go 2S "I permit you to go."
M-Prs-permit-1 S-go 2S "You may go."

The subjunctive type is replaced by the resultative when the complement clause shares an argument with the matrix clause. Note the decrease in actual valence:

M-Prs-want-T 1S S-see elephant John "I want John to see the elephant."
M-Prs-want-T 1S R-see elephant "I want to see the elephant."


When the matrix clause expresses a wish, the aspect of the complement clause expresses time relative to that of the matrix clause. The implicit mood of a wish is contrafactual.

M-Prs-wish-T 1S S-Prf-sing-1 Mary "I wish Mary had sung."
M-Prs-wish-T 1S S-Dur-sing-1 Mary "I wish Mary were singing."
M-Prs-wish-T 1S S-Pro-sing-1 Mary "I wish Mary would sing."

Adjunct Clauses

Adjunct clauses are formed like complement clauses but appear after a complete set of arguments (or maybe before the host clause). For temporal adjuncts, the translation includes a conjunction "while", "after", "before", or "when" which depends on the aspect of the adjunct clause.

mukuanka meidi tijondaka jâni
m-u-kuan-k-a meidi t-i-jonda-k-a jâni
M-Aor-leave-1-V Mary S-Dur-eat-1-V John
"Mary left while John was eating."

mukuanka meidi tajondaka jâni
m-u-kuan-k-a meidi t-a-jonda-k-a jâni
M-Aor-leave-1-V Mary S-Prf-eat-1-V John
"Mary left after John had eaten."

mukuanka meidi terjondaka jâni
m-u-kuan-k-a meidi t-er-jonda-k-a jâni
M-Aor-leave-1-V Mary S-Pro-eat-1-V John
"Mary left before John ate."

mijondaka jâni tukuanka meidi
m-i-jonda-k-a jâni t-u-kuan-k-a meidi
M-Dur-eat-1-V John S-Aor-leave-1-V Mary
"John was eating when Mary left."

Adjunct clauses may also be coreferential. In the following the subject of the adjunct coreferences the subject of the host; it's not clear if this is correct!

mammex jâni meidi cerjondal
m-an-mex jâni meidi c-er-jonda-l
M-Pst-see John Mary C-Pro-eat-0
"Mary saw John before she ate."

mammexa meidi jâni cerjondal
m-an-mex-a meidi jâni c-er-jonda-l
M-Pst-see-V Mary John C-Pro-eat-0
"Mary saw John before he ate."


The adjunct clause syntax is used for degree and manner adverbs as well.

M-Pst-eat fish John S-slow-0
"John ate the fish slowly."
M-Dur-tall wall S-Deg 5 foot
"The wall is 5 feet tall."

But some degree words can modify the predicate:

mozgarbolgi tujorbe caklet kirke.
m-os-gar-bolgi t-u-jorbe caklet kirke
M-Gno-much-bad S-Aor-drink chocolate cat
"Drinking chocolate is very bad for a cat."


The comparative construction uses a coreferential predicate for the explicit standard of comparison, the predicate being "more", "less", or "same".

M-Prs-big dog C-Dur-more cat.
"The dog is bigger than the cat."
M-Prs-big rat C-Dur-less cat.
"The rat is not as big as the cat."
M-Prs-big cat C-Dur-same dog.
"The cat is as big as the dog."

Possibly less is the inverse of more, with the basic meaning of more being to surpass?

The scale of comparison may be an adverb:

M-Hab-run Tom S-fast-0 C-Dur-more John.
"Tom runs faster than John."

It can also be the quantity or the quality of an argument:

M-Pst-eat many apple John C-Dur-more Tom.
"John ate more apples than Tom."
M-Pst-eat-V John many apple C-Dur-more P-potato.
"John ate more apples than potatoes."
M-Pst-eat big-1 P-potato Tom C-Dur-more John.
"Tom ate bigger potatoes than John did."

The subject of comparison is (usually?) the subject of the host clause.


Direct and Indirect Discourse

Indirect discourse uses subjunctive predicates while direct discourse uses main or imperative predicates.


As already noted, polar questions begin with the polar question particle ce (PQ).

Content questions contain forms of the content question pronoun (CQ).

Probably, embedded questions are identical to non-embedded ones.

Conditional Sentences

A conditional sentence consists of a condition clause and a conclusion clause. Both clauses are main clauses. The condition clause is introduced by the conjunction "if". There are 2 kinds of conditional sentences: ones with possible conditions and conclusions and ones with impossible conditions and conclusions. For the latter, both verbs are contrafactual. For the former, both are indicative. The conclusion may instead be a question or a command.

if M-Fut-sit that-1 chair John, M-Fut-break-1 3IS.
"If John sits in that chair, it will break."
if Opt S-Pro-sit that-1 chair John, Opt S-Pro-break-1 3IS.
"If John sat in that chair, it would break."

Satisfactive Sentences

A satisfactive sentence consists of a satisfactive clause and a conditional sentence (although the condition is usually omitted). A satisfactive clause contains a form of the satisfactive word ("so, enough"); it's also a main clause.

Copular Clauses

Noun-like words are used as predicates without the copula. However, when the noun is modified, the copula is used as the predicate with the noun-like word and its modifiers becoming the complement (first argument). Note that the for definition clauses, the complement must be indefinite; otherwise an identity clause (which must use the copula unless the predicate is a proper noun) is constructed.

miborfo faidou.
m-i-borfo faidou
M-Dur-dog Fido
"Fido is a dog."

mis golak ko borfo faidou.
m-i-s gola-k ko borfo faidou
M-Dur-Cop big-1 1 dog Fido
"Fido is a big dog."

mis golak borfo faidou.
m-i-s gola-k borfo faidou
M-Dur-Cop big-1 dog Fido
"Fido is the big dog."

page started: 2013.Jan.18 Fri
current date: 2013.Feb.26 Tue
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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