Nov28 –  A Constructed Language

Nov28 Syntax


A basic noun phrase contains a noun and may contain a determiner, a quantity word, and a relative clause. There may be additional appositive nouns marked with the same case, and even more than one relative clause. The determiner is first, followed by the quantity word, the head noun, and then any additional nouns or relative clauses.


The determiners are as follows; the first three are proclitic.

Word Tag Description Notes
'a Def definite used only with quantity words
fr NR non-referential  
xa CQ content question  
pi Prox demonstrative, proximal  
ku Medi demonstrative, medial  
da Dist demonstrative, distal  
zan Uni quantifier, universal precludes quantity word

A noun phrase with no determiner is indefinite if a quantity word appears, and definite otherwise.

Quantity Words

The quantity words include the proclitic singular and plural markers, the cardinal numbers, and words such as "many" and "few".

Proclitic Quantity Words
Word Tag Description
'i S singular
'u P plural


A noun phrase or pronoun in the genitive case may appear in place of the determiner; this denotes the possessor.

Partitive, Ordinal, and Superlative Constructions

These all follow the same pattern: a noun phrase or pronoun in the partitive case followed by an optional quantity word followed by a terminating noun. If the quantity word is omitted, the singular marker is assumed.

In the partitive construction, the terminating noun is a generic one agreeing with the partitive case phrase or pronoun in gender.

In the ordinal construction, the terminating noun is the nominalized form of an ordinal number.

In the superlative construction, the terminating noun is the nominalized form of the comparative-superlative forms of an adjective.

Degree of Comparison

The degree of comparison consists of a quantity word followed by an adverb of degree.


In addition to its arguments, a clause may contain a primary and/or secondary predicate, adverbs, a vocative phrase, auxiliary verbs, and a polarity marker. The order of all these components is free with certain exceptions.

Motion clauses may lack predicates -- there's no word for "go". The use of an allative, ablative, or perlative case argument is sufficient. Predicates used typically specify the manner of going.

Perception clauses may also lack predicates; the appropriate sense organ is referred to in the instrumental.


Imperative clauses are marked by the presence of the imperative particle Imp. The ergative case argument refers to the entity commanded; if none appears, it defaults to 2nd person.


Instead of embedding the content clause within an auxiliary clause, auxiliary particles are included in the content clause; this allows arguments of the content clause to be relativized even when an auxiliary is present. The types of auxiliaries are ordered: when all three groups appear, aspectual auxiliaries apply to the content while Group 2 auxiliaries apply to the aspectuals and Group 1 auxiliaries apply to Group 2.

Word Tag Description Group
# Wit evidential, direct Modal Group 1
# Hrs evidential, indirect
# EP epistemic possibility
# EN epistemic necessity
# DP deontic possibility Modal Group 2
# DN deontic possibility
# SP social possibility
# SN social necessity
# NP natural possibility
# NN natural possibility
# Vol volitive
# ??? counter part of volitive
# ? process phase, begin Aspectual
# ? process phase, pause
# ? process phase, resume
# ? process phase, finish
# Iter iterative
# Cont continuative

The presence of a deontic or volitive modal auxiliary implies a modal case argument; if none appears, it defaults to 1st person singular in statements and to 2nd person in questions.

The presence of a Group 2 modal auxiliary also makes the content hypothetical rather than actual.

child-Erg sung DP
"The child is permitted to sing."


There are two polarity particles. If neither of them appears, the polarity is positive.

Word Tag Description
nai Neg negative
see Aff affirmative (contradicts a negative)

Polarity is "inside" the Group 1 auxiliaries and "outside" the aspectuals; it remains to be seen whether it's inside or outside of Group 2.

Multiple-Case Arguments

An argument may have more than one role in the clause. Currently, there are two ways this is handled:

  1. Mark the argument as ergative and use the reflexive pronoun for the other.
  2. Mark the argument as ergative and omit the 2nd role.

Prox info John-Erg (Rfx-Abl) 1S-All
"John told me this."

Secondary Predicates

Secondary predicates are coreferential. There are two kinds: resultatives and depictives.

A depictive may, in theory, coreference any argument of the clause, but mostly coreferences either the absolutive or the ergative argument. In any case, it immediately follows the coreferenced argument.

paztr mos xar crk.
paz-tr mos xar crk
man-Erg meat raw consumed
"The man ate the meat raw."

paztr hent mos crk.
paz-tr hent mos crk
man-Erg nude meat consumed
"The man ate the meat nude."

A resultative coreferences the absolutive argument, with certain exceptions.

xurt selc'r dactr touqnu.
xurt selc-'r dac-tr touq-nu
metal flat-Inc woman-Erg hammer-Ins
"The woman hammered the metal flat."

boy-Erg sick-Inc run
"The boy ran himself sick."

Relative Clauses

A relative clause begins with the coreferential pronoun ka (Cor), which is marked for the case of the head noun within the relative clause, and ends with the relative clause terminator cr (Att). Relative clauses are postnominal but are not marked for case.

Adjunct Clauses

An adjunct clause is either coreferential or non-coreferential. If the former, it begins with the coreferential pronoun ka (Cor), which is marked for the case of the coreferenced noun within the adjunct clause, and immediately follows that noun within the host clause. If the latter, it begins with the particle 'e (Sub), and usually appears before the host clause. In both cases, adjunct clauses end with the clause terminator particle to (Adv).

Complement Clauses

Complement clauses are non-coreferential and begin with the particle 'e (Sub). They end with the complement clause terminator particle ml (Cpl). Complement clauses are used mainly for indirect reported speech.

Comparatives and Equatives

In a comparative clause, the scale of comparison is the comparative form of an adjective while in an equative clause, the scale of comparison is the equative form. A degree of comparison specifying the degree of difference between the standard and subject of comparison may appear in a comparative clause.

The standard of comparison is a noun phrase or pronoun with the standard case. It immediately follows the subject of comparison. If no standard of comparison appears, the implied standard is the subject of comparison at an earlier time.

Note: Possibly, there should be a 2nd case for the equative so that the 1st can mean "surpass" and the 2nd "match".

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

Mary-Erg Marsha-Std fast-Equ run
"Mary runs as fast as Marsha."

John-Erg Tom-Std many-Cpr potato consumed
"John ate more potatoes than Tom."

many-Cpr potato tomato-Std John-Erg consumed
"John ate more potatoes than tomatoes."

Tense and Aspect

A clause may be marked for tense or aspect. The particles are:

Tense and Aspect
Word Tag Description 1 Description 2
# Dur durative or present relative present
# Aor aoristic or aorist definite non-present
# Ret retrospective or perfect relative past
# Pro prospective or future relative future

A clause not marked for tense or aspect is either durative if the clause is static or aoristic if the clause is dynamic. If a verb appears, it determines the type of action. Otherwise, the following will make a clause dynamic:


Polar questions are terminated by the polar question particle xr (PQ).

Conjoined Clauses

Coordinate clauses are joined by intervening coordinate conjunctions such as "and" and "or". There's no pivot; instead, the same subject pronoun cr (SS) is used. It has the same referent from clause to clause, that being the first argument of the first clause.

thief-Erg melon fall and SS-Erg run
"The thief dropped the melon and ran."

melon thief-Erg fall and SS burst
"The thief dropped the melon and it burst."

Conditional Sentences

A conditional sentence consists of a condition and a conclusion. The condition is a statement preceded by "if" and the conclusion is a statement, question, or command preceded by "then". The condition and conclusion may appear in either order.

Satisfactive Sentences

A satisfactive sentence is a statement of sufficiency (or excess). It consists of a satisfactive part and a result part. The satisfactive part is a statement containing one of the satisfactive words. The result part is also a statement and may be a conditional sentence or just the conclusion to one. The following shows the 3 types of results:

  1. "John is so heavy, the chair broke (when he sat on it)."
  2. "John is heavy enough to break the chair (if he sat on it)."
  3. "John is so heavy, the chair would've broken (if he'd sat on it)."

Type 1 is a simple statement. Type 2 is a factual conclusion and Type 3 is a contrafactual conclusion.

page started: 2013.Dec.01 Sun
current date: 2013.Dec.03 Tue
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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