Mar22 –  A Constructed Language

Mar22 Syntax

Legend: Definitions, Terms, <Text>, [IPA], -Tags-, and "Glosses".

Syntax Overview

The syntax tends to be modifier-head.


A phrase is either a noun phrase, a superlative phrase, and ordinal phrase, a partitive phrase, or a pronoun.

A noun phrase ends with a noun, which may be preceded by a determiner or genitive phrase, a quantity word, and any number of participles, in that order. If a participle is negated, the negative polarity particle pai Neg appears before the participle with only a possible degree adverb in between. A possessed form of a noun may appear only if the noun is the only word in the phrase; otherwise, any possessor appears as a genitive phrase. If neither possessor nor determiner appears and the noun is referential, the phrase is definite.

A partitive phrase consists of a nominalized quantity word denoting the cardinality of the part, along with a representation of the whole from which the part is selected. That representation is either a possessor prefix or a preceding genitive phrase.

A superlative phrase contains a superlative form of the scalar verb used to select a part from the whole, along with a representation of the whole. The scalar verb may be preceded by a quantity word specifying the cardinality of the part. The representation of the whole is either a possessor prefix or a preceding genitive phrase; if the quantity word appears, the latter must be used. The number of the superlative agrees with the cardinality of the part while the animacy of the superlative agrees with that of the whole.

An ordinal phrase is constructed like a superlative phrase except that the superlative is replaced by an ordinal number.


The proximal, medial, and distal demonstratives along with an interrogative determiners are related to the locational verbs. There are also indefinite, satisfactive, and relative determiners. All of these are used with referential nouns, in which case if no determiner or possessor appears, the phrase is definite.

Word Tag Description Glosses
žii Prox proximal "this/these"
toi Medi medial "that/those"
lai Dist distal "yon"
čai Q interrogative "which"
yoo Ind indefinite "a(n)", "some"
- Sat satisfactive "such"
see Rel relative


A clause ends with a verb, which may be preceded by various kinds of argument phrases, adverbial consistuents, and possible a vocative phrase. If the finite or imperative verb is negated, the negative polarity particle pai Neg appears before the verb with only a possible degree adverb in between.

Vocative phrases, which identify the addressee(s), may be inserted before or after a clause constituent.

The absolutive phrases are the core arguments; both patient and agent take the absolutive case. The oblique arguments are the instrumental, benefactive, and malefactive phrases. Locative phrases are core arguments for relational verbs and are oblique arguments for other verbs.

If the agent or patient agreement on the verb is 3rd person, a corresponding phrase usually appears in the clause. If not, the phrase must appear in an earlier clause. The former of 2 absolutive phrases in a clause is proximate while the latter is obviative. If 1 of 2 expected absolutive phrases is absent, the phrase appearing is the obviative one.

Except where notes, argument phrases may appear in any order; however, the first and last positions have pragmatic significance.

Topic and Focus

A clause may contain a topic and/or a focus; these can be core and/or oblique arguments. If a topic appears, it's the first phrase in the clause while the focus (if any) is the last. Personal pronouns are redundant when used as topical core arguments (i.e. the verb is marked with the same person and number). However, when used as focal core arguments, the appropriate verb agreement is 3rd person.

Trivalent Verbs

There are a number of ways a verb can be trivalent (besides adding an oblique argument).

Relational verbs can have 3 core arguments: the location has locative case while the locatee and cause have absolutive case.

An applicative promotes an oblique argument to patient. To avoid having more than 2 absolutive phrases, the original patient can't be expressed unless:

  1. it appears as a complement clause (e.g. the theme of "tell") or
  2. the applied patient isn't 3rd person.

Adverbial Constituents

Some verbs have adverbial forms which are used postpositionally. These have a single argument which appears as either an absolutive phrase or a personal prefix.

Comparatives and Equatives

Comparative and equative constructions compare a subject of comparison to a standard of comparison with respect to a scale of comparison, which is represented by some form of a scalar verb. A comparative is concerned with whether the subject of comparison is greater than the standard while an equative is concerned with whether they're equal. In either case, the standard may be either explicit or implicit.

An explicit comparative standard is followed by the adverbial form of the verb "exceed" (Cmp) while an explicit equative standard is followed by the the adverbial form of the verb "match" (Equ). The scale of comparison is represented by a scalar verb, adverb, or quantity word. The subject of comparison is the phrase preceding the standard of comparison.

In an implicit comparative construction, the verb "increase" is used and in an implicit equative construction, the verb "continue" is used. The scale of comparison is represented by the action noun of a scalar verb whose possessor is the subject of comparison.

Final and Coordinate Clauses

The final clause may be followed by the polar question particle tee PQ provided that the clause isn't imperative, jussive, or a content question. Coordinate clauses are always preceded by coordinating conjunctions. A coordinate clause verb is imperative iff the final clause verb is imperative.

Coordinating Conjunctions
Word Tag Name
- - -

Subordinate Clauses

A subordinate clause appears before (usually immediately) its host clause. Its verb must be finite. Whenever a subordinate clause coreferences a host clause argument, the phrase appears in the subordinate clause. The kinds of subordinate clauses are adjunct, complement, and relative clause.

Each adjunct clause is followed by one of the subordinating conjunction, shown in the table below. For the temporal conjunctions (Aft, Bef, and Tmp), the 1st gloss is appropriate for telic clauses and the 2nd for non-telic clauses.

Subordinating Conjunctions
Word Tag Gloss or Description
- Aft "after", "when no longer"
- Bef "before", "when not yet"
- Tmp "when", "while (during)"
- - purpose
- - means
- - cause, reason

A complement clause precedes its host clause, whose patient or theme argument is replaced by the complement clause. The patient agreement on the host clause verb is marked as unspecified (unless the verb is trivalent). The complement clause verb often has future mode.

Like other subordinate clauses, relative clauses are preposed, not embedded. The first phrase of a relative clause begins with the determiner Rel, which marks the head phrase of the relative clause. Since the head phrase appears within the relative clause, it doesn't appear in the host clause.


Usage of the Modes and Aspects

The future mode is predictive. The contrafactual mode is used in contrary-to-fact conditions and conclusions. The epistemic necessity mode involves deduction. The jussive mode is used for suggestions and indirect commands. The realis mode is used for all other finite verbs.

In the perfect aspect, the verb represents a state resulting from a prior event while in the stative aspect, the verb represents a state with no prior event implied. The aoristic aspect takes as a whole the event represented by the verb. A verb with habitual aspect represents a series of events while a verb with progressive aspect represents a single event in progress. In the prospective aspect, the verb represents a state from which a subsequent event is expected to emerge.

Determining Tense

Things that force the tense of a finite verb to be non-present include aoristic aspect, temporal adverbs other than "now", and most temporal adjunct clauses. Unless overridden by a temporal adverb, verbs with future mode have future tense when non-present while verbs with other modes have past tense when non-present. Unless overridden, verbs with stative, perfect, habitual, progressive, and prospective aspects have present tense.

The time of an imperative verb is either immediate future or deferred future.


Negative polarity applies to the immediately following verb, but not to its mode.

When the verb is negated, any universal or existential quantification is changed to the other.

page started: 2017.Mar.26 Sun
current date: 2017.Mar.28 Tue
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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