Dec04 –  A Constructed Language

Dec04 Syntax

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

Phrase Structure

A phrase is either a noun phrase or a pronoun. A noun phrase consists of, at minimum, a noun, which may be preceded by any number of modifiers, as follows:

  1. * Determiner or Genitive Phrase
  2. * Cardinal Number
  3. * Attributives and/or Appositives
  4. Noun

An attributive is a non-finite verb form and an appositive is a noun or pronoun followed by a non-finite copula.


Where no determiner appears, the phrase is either definite or non-referential, depending on how the noun is marked.

Word Tag Description
si Prox proximal demonstrative
tu Medi medial demonstrative
la Dist distal demonstrative
ča CQ content question
yu Ind indefinite (usually specific)
ži Rel marks head of relative clause

Partitive and Superlative Phrases

A partitive phrase specifies an indefinite referent which is selected from some whole. It consists of a word specifying the cardinality of the selected part preceded by a genitive phrase denoting the whole. The cardinality word is a pronoun, possibly derived from a cardinal number, agreeing with the genitive phrase in gender.

A superlative phrase also specifies a referent selected from a whole, in this case according to superiority with respect to some scale. It consists of a superlative noun specifying the scale preceded by a genitive phrase denoting the whole. The cardinality of the part may be specified by either the superlative noun or a separate cardinal number appearing between the genitive phrase and the superlative noun. The superlative noun and cardinal number agree with the genitive phrase in gender.

Clause Structure

A clause consists of, at minimum, a verb form acting as head of the clause; except for complement and adjunct clauses, the verb form must be finite. The head may be preceded by core and oblique argument phrases, adverbial phrases, and other adverbs and possibly followed by a conjunction.

When the head verb of a clause is non-finite, its subject is cataphoric, coreferencing the most topical argument of the following host or matrix clause that's of the appropriate gender.

Topic and Focus

The first phrase of a clause is the most topical (although not necessarily the topic) while the position of the focus, if any, is immediately before the head verb.

When a singular local pronoun is the topic, the head verb is marked for person agreement with it. However, if the pronoun is focused, the verb is marked for 3rd person agreement. Unlike other pronouns, singular local pronouns appear only as topic or focus.

Constructions involving relative and copular clauses can also be used for focusing.

Copular Clauses

If the clause is headed by a form of the copula rather than a regular verb, there are only 2 arguments: a nominative subject phrase and an accusative complement phrase, which appears immediately before the copula.

When used for focusing, the complement is the focus and the subject is specified by a relative clause.

Copular clauses are used for definition, with non-referential complements, and identity, with singular or plural complements. They're not used for existence; the locational verb yutk "somewhere" is used for that when no other verb is suitable.

Argument Phrases

The core argument phrases are those with nominative, accusative, and locative cases. Phrases with instrumental case are oblique.

A nominative phrase is enabled by a 3rd person subject marker on the head verb. An accusative phrase is enabled by the absence of an object marker on a transitive head verb or by the absence of a location marker on an intransitive head verb (which can't take an object). A locative phrase is enabled by the absence of a location marker on a transitive head verb.

Inanimate instrumental phrases may appear except with transitive experiential head verbs. Animate instrumental phrases can appear only with intransitive head verbs and only when necessary.

Locational verbs, which incorporate determiners, can't have locative arguments.

Adverbial Phrases

Sentence Structure

Sentences are made up of non-embedded clauses. A sentence is either a statement, question, or a command.

Questions and Commands

A polar question sentence is identified by the presence of the polar question particle če PQ following the final clause. A content question sentence is identified by the presence of some content question word.

A command is identified by the imperative ending on head verb of the final clause.

Relative Clauses

A relative clause is distinguished by the presence of the relative determiner Rel appearing in some phrase. The relative clause is not embedded, but precedes its matrix clause, which contains a correlative pronoun Cor to mark the role of the phrase in the matrix clause.

Complement Clauses

A complement clause precedes its matrix clause and appears instead of the matrix clause's patient or theme argument. The head verb of a complement clause may be finite or non-finite; in both cases, it's followed by the complementizer particle pi Cpl.

Adjunct Clauses

An adjunct clause precedes its host clause. The head verb of an adjunct clause may be finite or non-finite; in both cases, it's followed by a subordinating conjunction.

Subordinating Conjunctions
Word Tag Glosses Description
'an Tmp after, before, while temporal relation
yas If if condition
- Sub potential
min - because reason, cause
- - purpose
- - means
tay - miscellaneous

The temporal relation between a temporal adjunct clause and its host clause is specified by the tense of the head verb of the adjunct clause.

Temporal Relations
Tag Name Description
-Pst Past host time after adjunct time
-Fut Future host time before adjunct time
-Prs Present host time during adjunct time

Coordinate Clauses

A coordinate clause precedes another clause and is terminated by a coordinating conjunction. Zero or more adjacent coordinate clauses plus the following clause constitute a sequence, which can ususlly take the place of a single clause.

Coordinating Conjunctions
Word Tag Description
- - -

Additional Syntax

Comparatives and Equatives

In a comparison, some scalar verb (descriptive or experiential) specifies the scale of comparison used. It may appear as a finite verb form, a non-finite verb form, or an adverb of manner. The subject of comparison is compared to some standard of comparison. The quantity of the scalar verb specifies the direction of comparison: large quantity LQ is more and small quantity SQ is less while neutral quantity NQ denotes the subject of comparison and the standard of comparison as having the same degree.

The standard of comparison of an explicit comparison is specified by an adjunct clause whose head is a non-finite form of the relational verb sn "compare"; the location argument denotes the standard.

In a temporal comparison, the past or future tense is used on the relational verb along with reflexive marking.

Compound Tenses

A compound tense consists of an aspect plus a tense. The aspect is specified by the tense of the head verb of a complement clause, with past tense for perfect aspect, future tense for prospective aspect, and present tense for progressive aspect. If no other verb is appropriate, the verb sy "become known" is used as the head verb of the matrix clause.

Conditional Sentences

A conditional sentence consists of a condition sequence terminated by the subordinating conjunction yas "if" and a conclusion sequence acting as the host.


When contrafactual, a main sequence becomes a complement sequence whose matrix verb is a form of the verb šb "imagine", which always has present tense in this construction and is either a 3rd person intransitive or conjunct person transitive.

Satisfactive Sentences

A satisfactive sentence consists of a satisfactive part and a result part. The satisfactive part is a sequence containing at least one satisfactive inflection. The result part may be a conditional sentence or just the conclusion. If the sentence is one of potential, the result part is subordinated to the satisfactive part using the conjunction Sub. But if the sentence is factual or contrafactual, the satisfactive part is subordinated to the result part using the conjunction "because".

page started: 2017.Dec.09 Sat
current date: 2017.Dec.12 Tue
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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