Mar27 –  A Constructed Language

Mar27 Syntax


A noun phrase contains a noun and may contain a determiner, a number, a number of participles, and a possessor phrase or it may be be a relative clause. The dummy noun do may substitute for a specific noun when other constituents are present. Pronouns may substitute for whole noun phrases. The order of phrase constituents is

Determiner   Number   Participles   Noun

Participles agree with the head noun in gender and number; case is marked only on the noun. Determiners and numbers lack agreement morphology.

ji selee kaffi
some hot coffee
de tasnaa 'eleffanto
the unseen elephant

Possessors, ordinal numbers, and superlatives may substitute for the determiner.

Jaanibo kaffi
John's coffee
fisloo lenko
the fastest cat

3rd Person Possessors

Whether the possessor is mandatory and marked by a prefix or optional using a genitive, the 3rd person possessors have the same semantics.

Tag Genitive Prefix Possessor
Rfx tibo ti- subject of verb
3TS 'ebo 'e- current topic
3TP 'empo 'en-
3AS dabo da- other animate anaphor
3AP daspo das-
3IS ibo i- inanimate anaphor
3IP ispo is-

Note: Subject needs to be defined.


The verb appears last in its clause (except for a polar question particle). The clause may be finite, headed by a finite verb form, or participial, headed by a participle. Phrases may appear in any order, but the most basic is Subject Object ... Verb, to the extent these terms are relevent.

de 'eleffantok de kaffi 'ertaslii.
The elephant is going to see the coffee.

Secondary predicates are participial. They agree with the coreferential phrase in gender and number (participles aren't marked for topicality). The secondary predicate must appear in the clause somewhere after the coreferential phrase. While a depictive may coreference any core argument, a resultative may coreference only the patient (including passive or patientive univalent subject).

Subordinating conjunctions follow the subordinate clause; coordinating conjunctions are interposed between clauses.

la kaffi daslee suu sermolee.
I want this coffee to be hot.

Infinitive clauses are also participial and appear immediately before the auxiliary verb. The agent of the auxiliary is coreferenced by the subject of the infinitive. The patient of the auxiliary is always inanimate singular.

de 'eleffanto dadas sermolee.
I want to see the elephant.

Auxiliary Constructions

In formal speech, the non-coreferential uses a finite subordinate clause; the auxiliary patient is marked 3rd person inanimate singular.

Jaanik de 'eleffanto sertas suu 'ermolee.
John wants me to see the elephant.

In informal speech, the subject of the subordinate clause is treated as the patient of the auxiliary and the suu clause is replaced by a participial clause.

Jaanik de 'eleffanto dadas 'oomol.
John wants me to see the elephant.

In formal speech, the coreferential uses a participial clause; the auxiliary patient is marked 3rd person inanimate singular.

Jaanik de 'eleffanto dadas 'ermolee.
John wants to see the elephant.

In informal speech, the subject of the subordinate clause is treated as the patient of the auxiliary making the auxiliary reflexive. Note that the case of the agent is now absolutive instead of ergative.

Jaani de 'eleffanto dadas datmol.
John wants to see the elephant.

Besides mol (molee, damlee), other modal verbs can be used.

deontic necessity require, need kox koxii dakxii
deontic possibility allow, accept baa bawai dauwai
epistemic necessity deduce tik tigii datkii
epistemic possibility guess son sonai dasnai

These are usually passive when used as auxiliaries.

kartas suu dauwai. - formal
dadas govaa. - informal
You may see him.


A polar (yes/no) question is indicated by the final polar question particle PQ (qoo). See Yes and No for examples.

A content question is indicated by the presence of a content question pronoun, the content question determiner CQ (qa), a content question adverb, or a content question verb.

qaa kandadaste?
Who have y'all seen?
qa kaffi daslee?
Which coffee is hot?
qau de 'eleffanto kartas?
When did you see the elephant?
ji 'eleffantos dahaimos?
Where are some elephants?

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses in Mar27 are internally headed. The determiner Rel (xi) is used with the head noun (which may have other modifiers). The noun takes the case appropriate to its use within the relative clause. The relative clause terminates with the resumptive pronoun, which takes the case appropriate to the noun's use within the matrix clause. The head noun phrase is usually the first phrase in the relative clause. Note that there are no headless relative clauses.

xi kaffi de 'eleffantok 'ertahii no daslee.
The coffee the elephant saw was hot.
xi 'eleffantok Jaani 'ertaste nobo kaffi dahelnee.
The coffee of the elephant that saw John isn't hot.
Jaanik xi 'eleffanto tibo kaffi dawolci 'ertaste no dahaimo?
Where's the elephant John saw drinking his coffee?

Definition and Identity

A form of copula is used as the verb. The subject, if a phrase, appears first and the complement immediately precedes the copula. Both the subject and the complement take the absolutive case. The clause is one of identity if the complement phrase is definite; otherwise, it's one of definition.

Jaani 'eleffanto naa.
John is not an elephant.
deemii kaffi sebo do jii.
That coffee is mine.

Usage of the Cases

The ergative case is used for agents of bivalent verbs. The absolutive case is used for patients of bivalent verbs, subjects of univalent verbs, copular complements, and for objects of postpositions. The dative case is used for recipients and beneficiaries. The genitive case is used for possessors.

Jaanik de 'eleffanto 'ertaste.
John has seen the elephant.

The passive voice eliminates the agent argument; the patient retains the absolutive case.

de 'eleffanto dadaste.
The elephant has been seen.

The reflexive and antipassive voices eliminate the patient argument, with the agent now taking the absolutive case, since it effectively acts like the subject of a univalent verb.

Various postpositions may also be analyzed as case markers.

Trivalent Verbs

A trivalent verb has 3 argument roles: donor, recipient, and theme. The donor takes the ergative case and corresponds to the agent of the verb. The theme takes the absolutive case and the recipient the dative case. The theme is always inanimate and the recipient and donor animate.

If the patient of the verb is inanimate, it corresponds to the theme and otherwise to the recipient. When one of them is pronominal and the other is a noun phrase, the patient is the pronominal one. When both are pronominal, the patient is animate and the theme is marked by an independent pronoun. When both are noun phrases, the patient can be either.

The passive voice eliminates the donor argument; the case assignments are unchanged.

The reflexive and antipassive voices eliminate the recipient as an argument. The donor now takes the absolutive case, distinguished from the theme by gender.

Usage of the Aspects

The aspects are relative to a time determined by context. See also Temporal Adjunct Clauses.

The stative aspect is used for states which hold at the current time referent.

The aoristic aspect is used for actions taken as a whole. It's incompatible with absolute present time, so use of the aoristic will automatically refer to non-present time.

The progressive aspect is used for actions in progress at the current time referent.

The habitual aspect is used when the situation is repeated on multiple occasions.

The retrospective aspect is used for situations occurring before the current time referent. The earlier time may become the new time referent.

The prospective aspect is used for situations occurring after the current time referent. The later time may become the new time referent.

Temporal Adjunct Clauses

A temporal adjunct clause consists of a finite or participial clause followed by the temporal conjunction bon. It precedes its host clause.

In all the above, the host clause verb is (most often) aoristic.

de 'elaffanto dadaste bon kaffi sergolci.
After seeing the elephant, I drank coffee.
kaffi daalaklii bon de 'eleffanto sertas.
Before drinking coffee, I saw the elephant.
Taamik de 'eleffanto 'ertas bon Jaanik kaffi 'ergolci.
While Tom saw the elephant, John drank coffee.

Explicit Comparatives

The construction to compare a subject of comparison to an explicit standard of comparison uses an adverbial postpositional phrase for the standard. There are 3 postpositions: ken "more than", ??? "less than", and ??? "equal to". The scale of comparison is an adjectival word. The degree of comparison, if any, specifies the degree of difference between the subject and the standard.

siimii kaffi deemii do ken daslee.
This coffee's hotter than that one.
Taami Jaani ken fisle danokpa.
Tom runs faster than John.


Conditional Sentences

This construction consists of a condition clause and a conclusion. The conclusion may be actual, potential, or contrafactual; it can even be a command or a question. If contrafactual, a conclusion clause is followed by the particle nii. The condition clause appears first and is followed by a conditional particle: niixe if the condition is contrafactual and qe otherwise. Either both condition and conclusion are contrafactual or they both are not.

'eleffantos kartasso qe, kaffi cirgolci!
If you see elephants, drink coffee!
de kaffi dahelnee qe, sergolkonee.
If the coffee isn't hot, I'm not drinking it.
de kaffi dahelnee niixe, sergolkonee nii.
If the coffee weren't hot, I'm wouldn't be drinking it.

Note: niixe is accented (as well as the verb), unlike most post-verbal particles.

Satisfactives and Results

This construction consists of a satisfactive clause and a result sentence. A satisfactive clause contains one of the satisfactive words (see Related Words). The result sentence is a conditional sentence specifying an actual, potential, or contrafactual result; most often, the condition clause is omitted.

de kaffi penjuu daslee, sergolaknee.
The coffee was so hot, I didn't drink it.
de kaffi penjuu daslee, sergolakpanee.
The coffee was too hot to drink.
de kaffi penjuu daslee, sergolaknee nii.
The coffee was so hot, I wouldn't have drunk it.

John was _so_ drunk he fell down.
This box is light _enough_ to carry.
He spoke in _such a way_ as to make me angry.



Absolute present time is the default at the start of a discourse. It can be reestablished using the adverb xuu ("now"). A past or future time may be established by various means. It can be reestablished using the adverb doo ("then").


(0) lenko to mifci Cat and Mouse
(1) si lenko sertaste. I saw a cat.
(2) doo ji mifci 'essakno. He was chasing a mouse.
(3) 'ertaska. It saw him.
(4) 'ertolaqnaa. He didn't catch it.
(5) de mifci manjuu dahisle. The mouse was very fast.

Yes and No

The word forms sii and nee may be used as answers to polar questions as "yes" or "true" and "no" or "false", respectively. Normal polar questions use only positive (unmarked) polarity. However, a negative form is used if a negative answer is expected. In this case, nee ("no") means "true" and sii ("yes") means "false". Likwise, an affirmative form is used is a positive answer is expected; the answers work like the unmarked case. Finally, sii and nee can be replaced by forms agreeing in gender, topicality, and number with the verb in the question.

de kaffi daslee qoo? nee.
Is the coffee hot? No.
de kaffi dahelsii qoo? sii.
The coffee's hot, isn't it? Yes (it is).
de kaffi dahelnee qoo? nee.
The coffee's not hot, is it? No (it isn't).

page started: 2013.Mar.31 Sun
current date: 2013.Apr.09 Tue
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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