Oct26 –  A Constructed Language

Oct26 Syntax

All clauses fit the Subject-Predicate model and all phrases fit the Modifier-Noun model.


A basic noun phrase ends with the head noun; this is preceded by any number of modifiers, which may include cardinal numbers, other nouns, possessor phrases taking the genitive case, gap-subject relative clauses, and full relative clauses (although usually not more than one). A pronoun, partitive phrase, or superlative/ordinal phrase may appear instead of a basic noun phrase.

kurbo řak ňásita kurbo řak ňási-ta
"the 2 black cats" black "2" cat-Def

A noun may be followed by a polarity satellite. However, such a noun can't have any inflectional suffixes. Instead, a suffixed dummy noun follows. This is an exception to the rule that only the head noun of a phrase can take the noun prefixes.

miňási fé hota mi-ňási ho-ta
"my non-cat" 1S-cat Neg Ani-Def

Partitive Phrases

The whole from which a part is selected is represnted by a genitive phrase. If the whole is pronominal, the genitive case of the pronoun is used rather than the possessor prefix. The part is specified by a cardinal number followed by a dummy noun agreeing with the genitive noun or pronoun in gender. Parts are non-referential.

ňásitak řak ho kurbo. ňási-ta-k řak ho kurbo
"2 of the cats are black." cat-Def-Gen "2" Ani black

With quantifiers, the prefixes are used on definite forms to specify the part instead of the partitive construction.

kaloňásita kurbo. kal-ňási-ta kurbo
"All the cats are black." Uni-cat-Def black

Superlative and Ordinal Phrases

A superlative or ordinal phrase is headed by a definite dummy noun of the appropriate gender which is immediately preceded by the superlative adjective or ordinal number. If the superlative or ordinal is uninflected and no satellite word appears, the dummy noun is omitted and the definite suffix appears directly on the superlative or ordinal number. If the cardinality of the part is other than one, the superlative or ordinal is preceded by a cardinal number. Finally, since the superlative or ordinal phrase is essentially partitive, it's generally also modified by a genitive noun phrase or pronoun denoting the whole.

ňásitak čenkahunta ňási-ta-k čenka-um-ta
"the hungriest cat" cat-Def-Gen hungry-Cpr-Def

Adverbs of Degree

An adverb of degree is constructed as an adverbial-case noun phrase consisting of a noun denoting a unit of measure preceded by a cardinal number.

řak taifax "by 2 cups"


Clause Constituents

A subject can be a noun phrase or pronoun (NP/P), an action nominal construction (ANC), or 0. A predicate can be either an NP/P, an ANC, or a verb-headed predicate (VHP).

A VHP may have a direct object in the nominative-accusative case and any number of oblique-case arguments, the latter appearing in any order. The direct object appears immediately before the verb if not expressed as a verb prefix and may be a noun phrase, an ANC, or a noun clause (in some instances). The verb may be followed by any satellite word.

An ANC is headed by an action nominal rather than a verb and the satellite may mark only polarity. If not expressed as a noun prefix, the direct object takes the genitive case and appears immediately before the action nominal; it may be a noun phrase or an ANC. If the action nominal is based on a noun or a Table 3 verb, its (non-agent) subject can be expressed only as a genitive object. Any agent appears in the instrumental case, which may result in 2 instrumental phrases: an animate agent and an inanimate instrument. Other oblique-case phrases may appear, as with the VHP.

Clause Types

If the predicate is an NP/P, the subject must also be an NP/P. If the predicate is an ANC, the subject must also be an ANC. If the subject is 0, the predicate must be a VHP. This produces 5 types of clauses:

noun-headed clauses:
(1) NP/P NP/P róver ňási. "Rover is a cat."
(2) ANC ANC ňásik velon sovon fé. "Seeing a cat isn't writing."
verb-headed clauses:
(3) NP/P VHP žunta ňási vel a. "The boy saw a cat."
(4) ANC VHP ňásik velon faxa. "Seeing the cat is necessary."
(5) 0 VHP lanot! "Sing!"

Types (1) and (2) are used for definition and identity clauses and types (3) and (4) are used when the subject is manifest and not an enclitic pronoun; type (5) is used for:

An impersonal clauses has no subject. The subject of an imperative clause is implicitly 2nd person. A gap is an implicit coreference to the head of the noun phrase. A secondary predicate implicitly coreferences the patient or agent of the host clause.

1st and 2nd person pronouns appearing as subjects are usually enclitic to the satellite or to the verb if there's no satellite. The same-subject pronoun is always enclitic.

Noun Clauses

A noun clause is an embedded verb-headed clause that appears as a subject or direct object, according to the following rules:

Relative Clauses

There are 2 types of relative clauses: those with gap subjects and those with non-gap subjects and employing a form of the relative pronoun RP. The satellites appearing in the 1st type are limited to the 3rd person forms (, bok, and 0). Any argument of the clause's main verb can be relativized using the grammatical voice mechanism. Present tense in a relative clause is interpreted as relative tense unless the adverb "now" appears.

mó ňásita kudiftiš žunta kalen a.
ňási-ta ku-dif-ti-š žun-ta kalen a
1S.Ins cat-Def Des-take-Ret-Loc boy-Def tall Pst
"The boy to whom I'd taken the cat was tall."

žáno dumámita velti tarta xaska.
žáno du-mámi-ta vel-ti tar-ta xaska
John RP-mother-Def see-Ret man-Def angry
"The man whose mother John has seen is angry."

Parenthetical Clauses

A parenthetical clause is constructed as an independent sentence, not like a relative clause, and follows the phrase it refers to.

žunta (mó ňásita kudiftiš atu) kalen a.
žun-ta ňási-ta ku-dif-ti-š a=tu kalen a
boy-Def 1S.Ins cat-Def Des-take-Ret-Loc Pst=SS tall Pst
"The boy, to whom I'd taken the cat, was tall."

Definition and Identity

Definition and identity constructions both use noun-headed clauses.

An identity clause is one where the referents of the subject and predicate are equated. Both subject and predicate are definite, in the broad sense of definite. Which phrase is the subject and which is the predicate is a matter of pragmatics.

žáno veltis tarta. žáno vel-ti=s tar-ta
"John is the man you've seen." John see-Ret=2 man-Def

A definition clause is one where the referent of the subject is a subset of the predicate's referent. While the subject is definite (as above), the predicate is non-referential.

róver ňási. róver ňási
"Rover is a cat." Rover cat

Contrastive Focus

Identity clauses are also used for contrastive focus. The subject (or the predicate) is headed by a definite dummy noun modified by the verb (although the dummy noun is sometimes omitted). For 1st and 2nd person, the free pronouns are used, not the enclitic subject pronouns.

xaska hota támo. xaska ho-ta támo
"The angry one is Tom." angry Ani-Def Tom

gurkum hota mé gurok-um ho-ta
"It's me that's thirstiest." thirsty-Cpr Ani-Def 1S

Topic and Direct Address

Topic and direct address are extraclausal. While topic is represented by a nominative-accusative phrase or pronoun placed before the clause, direct address is represented by a phrase or pronoun with the vocative suffix, placed before any argument of the clause.

žáno mérisá tá támo velti žáno méri-sá támo vel-ti
"As for John, Mary, he has seen Tom." John Mary-Voc 3A Tom see-Ret

Secondary Predicates

Secondary predicates appear among the oblique-case arguments of the host clause. Resultatives always coreference the patient of the host clause. They're headed by participles (verbs) but take the adverbial case ending. Depictives may coreference either patient or agent. They're headed by dummy nouns modified by participles. The dummy nouns agree in gender with the coreferenced argument.

tarta halgo nox mukta čem a. tar-ta halgo no-x muk-ta čem a
"The man ate the meat raw." man-Def raw Ina-Adv meat-Def eat Pst

tarta nelgo hox mukta čem a. tar-ta nelgo ho-x muk-ta čem a
"The man ate the meat raw." man-Def nude Ani-Adv meat-Def eat Pst

nefta tilosxo rogata čikop a. nef-ta tilos-xo roga-ta čikop a
"The woman hammered the metal flat." woman-Def flat-Adv metal-Def hammer Pst

šermuta naux ňásita tek am. šermu-ta nau-x ňási-ta tek a-m
"I put the cat in the house." house-Def in-Adv cat-Def put Pst-1S

Absolute Positives

In an absolute positive clause, the absolute measure of something is specified using an adverb of degree with an adjectival verb.

támo mon bunxo kalen. támo mon bun-xo kalen
"Tom is 7 bun tall." Tom 7 bun-Adv tall

Comparatives and Equatives

For all comparatives and equatives the scale of comparison is an adjectival verb, not necessarily the main verb of the clause. For comparative clauses (comparisons of inequality), the comparative form of the verb is used while for equative clauses (comparisons of equality), the equative form is used.

In an explicit comparison of inequality, the standard of comparison is the object of the secondary verb form dáx "than", while in an explicit comparison of equality, the standard of comparison is the object of the secondary verb form kéš "as". The semantic role of the standard isn't specified.

In an implicit comparison the secondary predicate for the standard of comparison is absent; the implied standard is the subject of comparison at an earlier time.

If a degree of comparison is present, it specifies the degree of difference.

midáx kalenunco. mi-dáx kalen-um=so
"You're taller than me." 1S-than tall-Cpr=2

támo žáno dáx tux šimiš kalenum. támo žáno dáx tux šimi-š kalen-um
"Tom is 4 šimi taller than John." Tom John than 4 šimi-Adv tall-Cpr

An action nominal construction may be used as the standard of comparison. This is used for complex comparisons and can also be used to specify the semantic role of the standard.


Usage of the Grammatical Voices

The semantic role of the subject depends on the grammatical voice of the verb. The description of the role is that of the corresponding case.

Usage of the Cases

Usage of the Tenses, Aspects, and Moods

The past, present, and future tenses represent past, present, and future time, respectively. Tense is absolute in main clauses. In subordinate clauses, past and future tense are absolute, but present tense is relative unless the adverb "now" appears.

The aspects are distinguished only for the indicative mood.

The imperative mood is used for commands. The hypothetical mood is used for possible conditions and conclusions. The contrafactual mood is used for impossible conditions and conclusions. The indicative mood is used for everything else.

Auxiliaries and Embedded Clauses

Depending on the auxiliary and its grammatical voice, the embedded clause (or noun clause) is either the object or the subject of the auxiliary verb. The satellite usually appears only once, if at all. Except where noted, it appears after the auxiliary (belonging to the outer clause).

Subject Raising

Subject raising is when the subject of an embedded verb-headed clause is treated as if it were the subject of the auxiliary. This manifests in 2 ways: it moves an enclitic subject pronoun from the embedded clause to the matrix (auxiliary-headed) clause or it allows the embedded subject to be relativized using the gap-subject strategy.

Epistemic Modality

The epistemic modal auxiliaries are vet (logical possibility, LP) and dan (logical necessity, LN); they belong to the patientive verb class. Subject raising is normal. The satellite appears between the verb and the auxiliary (belonging to the inner clause). There are also derived perceptive verbs, glossed as guess and deduce, respectively.

nefta lanot a vet. nef-ta lanot a vet
"The woman may have sung (then)." woman-Def sing Pst LP

mukta čenti danco. muk-ta čem-ti dan=so
"You must have eaten the meat." meat-Def eat-Ret LN=2

Deontic Modality

The deontic modal auxiliaries are pal (social possibility, SP) and fax (social necessity, SN); they belong to the patientive verb class. Subject raising is normal. There are also derived perceptive verbs, glossed as permit and require, respectively.

žunta tartés sóxa pel fax.
žun-ta tar-tés sóxa pel fax
boy-Def man-Def.Dat book give SN
"The boy is required to give the man a book."

tartés sóxa pel fax žunta
tar-tés sóxa pel fax žun-ta
man-Def.Dat book give SN boy-Def
"the boy who's required to give the man a book"

tarta žuntau sóxa pelik pal.
tar-ta žun-tau sóxa pel-ik pal
man-Def boy-Def.Ins book give-Rcp SP
"The man is permitted to be given a book by the boy."

žuntau sóxa pelik pal tarta
žun-tau sóxa pel-ik pal tar-ta
boy-Def.Ins book give-Rcp SP man-Def
"the man who's permitted to be given a book by the boy"

Potential Modality

The potential modal auxiliaries are meš (physical possibility, PP) and buk (physical necessity, PN); they also belong to the patientive verb class. Subject raising is normal. Aspect and voice are marked on the auxiliary.

lanot meš as čú? lanot meš a=s čú
"Were you able to sing?" sing PP Pst=2 PQ

lanot bukom. lanot buk=om
"I can't help but sing." sing PN=1S

Aspectual Auxiliaries

The aspectual auxiliaries include the process phase verbs "begin", žek "pause", "resume", and "finish", along with the verbs "repeat" and sisof "continue". Subject raising is normal. Aspect and voice are marked on the auxiliary.

Other Auxiliaries

The verb xar "want" can appear as an auxiliary, as can the verb "wish (for)". In the latter case, the satellite appears between the verb and the auxiliary (belonging to the inner clause).

Multiple auxiliaries can occur.

ňásita vel xar a danco. ňási-ta vel xar a dan=so
"You must have wanted to see the cat." cat-Def see want Pst EN=2


Temporal Adjuncts

Temporal adjuncts are clauses terminated by the conjunction kan (Tmp, "after, before, if, when, while"). They precede (or follow) the host clause. The use of the indicative distinguishes them from condition clauses and the aspect of the adjunct determines the temporal relation to the host:

Ret host after adjunct
Pro host before adjunct
Dur host while adjunct
Aor adjunct while host

When the adjunct has aoristic aspect, the host tends to have durative aspect and otherwise aoristic aspect, but other combinations occur.

nefta mukta čikpe kan žunta fol a.
nef-ta muk-ta čikp-e kan žun-ta fol a
woman-Def meat-Def pound-Dur Tmp boy-Def sleep Pst
"While the woman pounded the meat, the boy slept."

žáno silbata šin kan té pirta a. žáno silba-ta šin kan pirot-a a
"When John sat on the chair, it broke." John chair-Def sit Tmp 3I break-Pas Pst

méri čenti kan lé atu. méri čem-ti kan a=tu
"After Mary ate, she (Mary) left." Mary eat-Ret Tmp leave (here) Pst=SS

gubeš ungos kan ňásita velor. gu-beš un-go=s kan ňási-ta vel-or
"Before you leave, see the cat." Medi-Abl leave-Pro=2 Tmp cat-Def see-Aor

Conditional Sentences

A conditional sentence consists of a condition and a conclusion with the condition usually preceding the conclusion. The condition and conclusion are either both hypothetical or both contrafactual. The condition clause is terminated by the conjunction kan (Tmp, "after, before, if, when, while").

žáno silbata šincu kan té pirothwá a.
žáno silba-ta šin-su kan pirot-su-a a
John chair-Def sit-Hyp Tmp 3I break-Hyp-Pas Pst
"If John sat on the chair, it broke."

žáno silbata šinas kan té pirtasa a.
žáno silba-ta šin-as kan pirot-as-a a
John chair-Def sit-Ctf Tmp 3I break-Ctf-Pas Pst
"If John had sat on the chair, it would've broken."


A satisfactive sentence consists of a satisfactive part and a result part. The satisfactive part is an indicative clause containing one of the satisfactive adverbs. The result part may be a conditional sentence (usually just the conclusion) or an indicative sentence.

támo heš xaska a, silba pirot atu.
támo he-š xaska a silba pirot a=tu
Tom Sat-Adv angry Pst chair break Pst=SS
"Tom was so angry, he broke a chair."

támo heš xaska a, silba pirotcu atu.
támo he-š xaska a silba pirot-su a=tu
Tom Sat-Adv angry Pst chair break-Hyp Pst=SS
"Tom was angry enough to break a chair."

támo heš xaska a, silba pirtas atu.
támo he-š xaska a silba pirt-as a=tu
Tom Sat-Adv angry Pst chair break-Ctf Pst=SS
"Tom was so angry, he would've broken a chair."

Coordinated Clauses

The coordinating conjunctions appear between the conjoined clauses. The enclitic same subject pronoun tu (SS) is used when the subject of the 2nd conjoined clause is the same as that of the 1st.

marša gurka vai čenkatu čú? marša gurka vai čenka=tu čú
"Is Marsha thirsty or hungry?" Marsha thirsty or hungry=SS PQ

Reported Speech

Reported speech is either a direct quotation or indirect.

Direct speech appears as a complete sentence set off by quotative particles. It may appear either before or after the reporting clause.

Indirect speech may be either a complete sentence following the reporting clause or a subordinate clause. If the latter, it appears as either a verb-headed clause or an ANC, according to the rules of embedded clauses. If the former, the reporting clause contains a cataphoric pronoun such as žinné "this".

page started: 2013.Oct.30 Wed
current date: 2013.Nov.16 Sat
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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