Archive for February, 2013

Moten Part X: Surdéclinaison, Other Patterns and Isolated Cases

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

As promised in my previous post, this article is the last one of a series discussing surdéclinaison (the first one is available here, and the second one here). In this article I am going to describe more restricted patterns, as well as isolated cases that don't fit in general categories. This post should be slightly longer than the previous one, but it should be entertaining!

Complements of Comparisons

A long time ago, I introduced the degrees of comparison in Moten, and I explained then that I couldn't describe how to form the standard of comparison (the complement typically introduced by "than" in English), as I hadn't yet described the grammatical structures needed to form such a complement. This was, of course, because complements of comparison in Moten make heavy use of surdéclinaison!

But first, let's give you a quick reminder: the degrees of comparison in Moten refer to a series of prefixes and circumfixes used on nouns to indicate:

  • The comparatives of superiority ("-er/more"), equality ("as/as much/as many") and inferiority ("less/fewer");
  • The superlatives of superiority ("-est/most") and inferiority ("least/fewest");
  • The intensifiers/excessives of superiority ("much/many/very/very much/a lot/too/too much/too many") and inferiority ("not very/not very much/little/few/too little/too few/not enough").

All those forms can take a complement, although what the complement means and how it is constructed depends on which structure we are talking about:

  • The complement of comparatives indicates the standard of comparison, and is introduced in English with "than" or "as". It can be a full clause ("he is as tall as I remember") or a noun phrase ("he is taller than me", or more pedantly "he is taller than I"), possibly starting with a preposition ("he goes more often to the beach than to the mountain");
  • The complement of superlatives describes the group from which the element in question is highest or lowest in quality, and in English can be a noun phrase introduced with "of" ("he is the tallest man of the house") or a relative subclause ("this is the smallest cat (that) I've ever seen");
  • Intensifiers don't really have complements (in the sentence "he is very tall for his age", "for his age" is not really a complement of the intensifier. Rather, it's an adverbial phrase meaning "with respect to the standard of his age", and it can be used without intensifier: "he is tall for his age" is just as correct a sentence), but excessives can. The complement of excessives indicates the goal that is missed due to the excess or lack, and in English can be introduced by "for" and be a noun phrase ("there is not enough left for me") or an infinite clause ("this is too high for me to reach"), or can be an infinitive ("this is too heavy to carry").

In Moten, the constructions are different, but the meaning is the same.

Let's start with the comparatives and the superlatives, as they both use the same construction to form their complements. In Moten, the complement of a comparative or a superlative is always introduced with the originative prefix go-. When the complement is a full clause, this prefix go- is used like any other prefix to form an adverbial subclause. Both methods described in the previous section are valid, although by and large the most common one is to directly add the prefix to the auxiliary of an independent clause.

However, this is not enough. Adverbial clauses, like adverbial phrases, can only be used to complete a verb, never a noun. However, at least in Moten, the complement of comparatives and superlatives is considered a noun complement. So we still need to convert the adverbial subclause into a noun modifier. This is done exactly like adverbial phrases as explained in the previous post, i.e. by over-inflecting the adverbial subclause in the genitive case (note that the dependent form of the auxiliary is not used in this case: once it has undergone surdéclinaison, an auxiliary is treated like any nominal for further surdéclinaison). In other words, in order to convert a clause into a comparative or superlative complement, you need to over-inflect it twice, the first time with the originative prefix go-, and the second time with the indefinite singular genitive case! Here are a few examples to illustrate how this works:

Umpi kolen gdan jelojmastu|l gojdvoj pepludegun ige: This house is smaller than I remember (literally: "This house has more smallness than (it) is remembered by me". Although hardly recognisable, gojdvoj is simply ito over-inflected in the originative and the genitive case. Notice the verb jelojmastu|l, which corresponds to the verb "to remember", but with an opposite argument orientation: the thing remembered is the subject, while the person remembering is the object, making the verb more exactly equivalent to "to be remembered by". I will discuss this verb and similar ones in a future posts).

Len pe|laz gojdvoj badi pesezgedono ito: This is the fastest dog I know (literally: "This is the fastest dog than (I) have seen (them)". Notice how the relative subclause in English is replaced by an adverbial subclause turned noun modifier in Moten. The difference between the two is that there is no expectation that the head of the subclause has a function in the subclause itself. Rather, here the subclause just describes the group the head is part of, and it is just Moten's pro-drop nature that makes it look similar to the English relative clause. But in fact, if we were to use a more complete subclause, this would be, rather redundantly: Len ba|zin pe|laz gojdvoj badi pesezgedono ito, i.e. literally "This is the fastest dog than (I) have seen dogs").

While it is fine to know how to form subclauses completing comparatives or superlatives, in general the complement of comparison is a single noun phrase (possibly one with a preposition). This is possible in Moten as well, but such forms are actually derived from subclauses, so it was necessary for me to describe them first in order to make this part understandable.

The principle is simple: the standard of comparison must be described using a subclause in Moten. However, the ability to omit anything that can be understood by context is still valid, so when the subclause closely parallels the main clause it's possible to omit everything except the different bits. And in this case, this includes omitting the verb altogether! (in a future post, I will show that omitting the verb of a clause is actually more common than I made it seem in previous posts, at least in an informal speech register. For comparisons though, it's routinely done in every register) When this is done, the marks of the subclause (the originative prefix and the genitive case) cannot be omitted though (they are needed to indicate the role of the remainder in the main clause), so they get relocated on whatever is left (normally a noun phrase, which ends up over-inflected twice over).

This description may seem overly complicated, but the described phenomenon is actually rather simple, especially if you see it in action. So I will illustrate it by giving a few examples starting with a fully specified subclause and carrying on with its shortened form:

E|lon kolam luvami koka|se gojgvej peftin ige: That woman is taller than her husband is (literally: "That woman has more tallness than her man has". Here the subclause is already shortened slightly. A full, but overly redundant construction would be luvami koka|se fedin gojgvej, literally "than her man has tallness". Notice the noun fin: "summit, top, great height, tallness", and the use of ka|se: "man" with a possessive pronoun to mean "husband") -> E|lon kolam luvami gokokazvej peftin ige: That woman is taller than her husband (literally: "That woman has more tallness than her man". Here, as you can see, the comparative complement is formed by simply omitting the verb of the comparative subclause. The remaining phrase is kept in its original form, here the instrumental, and is over-inflected in the originative and genitive, resulting in the triply inflected gokokazvej).

E tinesa umpi molen izunlaj gojdvoj tina petunedano ipelda|n ito: You can see here the biggest room that is in this house (literally: "(You) are seeing here the biggest room than the rooms are in this house". In practice, tinesa would be omitted here, leading to a sentence similar to the English translation. The noun tuna used here means "big" or "big size") -> E umpi gomolve|n tina petunedano ipelda|n ito: You can see here the biggest room in this house (literally: "(You) are seeing here the biggest room than in this house". Here the only thing not omitted in the subclause is the locative phrase, which is then over-inflected in the originative and the genitive case).

Bazlo molen o|so bazlo molam izunlaj gojdvoj peo|so izunlaj ito: There are more cars in this town than there are cars in that town (literally: "In this town more cars are situated than cars are situated in that town". This sentence shows how the comparative construction can be used even when what is compared is used as a noun rather than an adjective) -> Bazlo molen gomolvami peo|so izunlaj ito: There are more cars in this town than in that one (literally: "In this town more cars are situated than in that one". This example may be the clearest of them all: the main clause and the subclause were nearly identical, and the only thing that has not been omitted in the subclause is the different pronoun).

Although this structure is superficially similar to the English usage, there is a small difference worth mentioning. In English, "than" is often treated as a preposition, leading to sentences like "he is taller than me" (instead of the prescriptivist "he is taller than I"). In Moten that's never the case: even when the verb of the subclause itself is omitted, it is considered to be present "in spirit", and the comparative construction with a single noun phrase is still treated as a subclause (in this way, Moten is more similar to prescriptivist English than to actual spoken English). In particular, this means that one cannot use a reflexive pronoun in Moten in the same way as it is used in the following example: "I was part of something greater than myself". Since vike always refers to the subject of the very clause it's in, in the case of comparative constructions it refers exclusively to the subject of the comparative subclause, which wouldn't make sense in the example above. Rather, the example I just gave can be translated simply as Koga gokogvaj tamut pejuva|n judosun etok, literally: "I was a part of a greater something than I". The strength of the English word "myself" is translated here by repeating the pronoun in both the main clause and the comparison.

Now that we've seen how to form the complements of comparative and superlative constructions, the time has come to look at the complements of excessives. Luckily, although those complements work slightly differently from the complements of comparatives and superlatives, the main structure is the same, so I won't have to go through a long description again. Basically, the basic form of the complement of an excessive is a subclause, like the complement of a comparative or superlative. But rather than being introduced with the originative go-, this subclause is introduced with the final te-, which indicates goal. Like the complement of comparatives though, this subclause must then be turned into a noun modifier, so it is over-inflected in the genitive case. In other words, subclauses completing excessives are identical to subclauses completing comparatives or superlatives, with the only difference being the replacement of go- with te-. Here are some examples to illustrate this:

Ibutaj kolsos ga itmamej tejdvoj peniptizun ige: Those chairs are too heavy for me to carry (literally: "Those chairs over there have too much heaviness so that I carry (them)". Notice the use of the infinitive ibutaj: "to sit" to refer to something facilitating sitting, i.e. "chair". The noun ipiz means "heaviness, high weight" while the verb itmamej means "to carry, to hold, to bear").

Ba jo|zemej tejdvoj lentamun e izunlaj ito: There's not enough here for you to eat (literally: "Too little (of it) so that you ingest (it) is here". Notice how one can indicate the degree without explicitly mentioning what is in excessive degree by using the pronoun tamun: "some, one". This works also with comparatives and superlatives, although we will see in a future post that such usage is not as common as one might think).

Forming a complement corresponding to a single infinitive is as simple as omitting everything in the subclause except the verb itself:

Ibutaj kolsos itmamej tejdvoj peniptizun ige: Those chairs are too heavy to carry (literally: "Those chairs over there have too much heaviness so that (I) carry (them)").

Forming a complement with a single noun phrase is done just as it is done with comparatives and superlatives: omit everything in the subclause that can be inferred by context, including the verb, and move te- and the genitive case to whatever's left. Using the example directly above, one can then make the following sentence:

Tebvaj lentamun e izunlaj ito: There's not enough here for you (literally: "Too little (of it) so that you (ingest it) is here").

Notice that in this usage, when the noun phrase refers to an animate being (a person or an animal, usually), the final prefix te- can be replaced with the benefactive prefix |la-. This is never done for entire subclauses though. For instance, the example above could also be:

|Labvaj lentamun e izunlaj ito: There's not enough here for you (literally: "Too little (of it) for your benefit is here").

So that's all there is to say about the complements of comparatives, superlatives and excessives. The main thing to remember is that they rely strongly on surdéclinaison, as both a functional prefix and the genitive case are necessary to build them correctly.

Other Nominalisations

So far, all the nominalisations done by surdéclinaison we've seen involve nouns in the genitive case (possibly itself the result of surdéclinaison) and verbs in the dependent form (notwithstanding the special case of adverbial subclauses). Those are indeed common and very productive, but by no means the only way to form nominals by over-inflection. Indeed, quite a few other inflected noun forms can be nominalised through over-inflection, although most of them are not nearly as productive (or at least more restricted in meaning) than the nominalisation of the genitive. I'll mention here three such patterns, which are relatively common and reasonably productive.

A long time ago, on my post about numbers, counters, dates and time, I mentioned the word negesizdan: "week", adding that I would eventually explain how this neologism was formed. Time for me to do so.

As I explained then, the noun siza: "(calendar) day" cannot normally be used for durations, but indicates the day of the month. There is one exception: when a compound number+siza is used in the accusative case (optionally with the functional prefix of time di-), it indicates that the action lasted for a continuous period of calendar days. For instance:

Bdan imasizdan izunlafodo|n ito: He's been looking for you for three whole days (literally: "(he) is trying to locate you for three calendar days". Notice how the verb izunlafotoj: "to search, to look for, to try to locate" is in the imperfective aspect rather than the perfect aspect as in English, since this sentence does not indicate the result of something happening in the past, but rather a current event that happened to start in the past).

Using imasizdan here emphasizes that the action happened continuously during that period of time (hence the translation "for three whole days"), unlike alternatives like imagdomun, which also means "for three days", but doesn't necessarily mean that the action happened continuously during that period (in particular, since gom literally means "the period of the day between sunrise and sunset", it implies that the action stopped during the night, while imasizdan implies continuous action throughout day and night. Yes, you can exaggerate in Moten as well as in any other language!).

Such an expression can, like any other, be over-inflected in the genitive in order to complete a noun (for instance: imasizduva|n zunlaz: "a three-day stay", for instance at a hotel), and such a form can itself be nominalised by surdéclinaison: imasizduvea|n: "the three-day one".

However, the expression itself can be nominalised as is, without having to over-inflect it in the genitive first. This pattern forms nouns that refer to generic calendar periods that don't already have a name (like siza itself, mune: "month" and ada: "year"). In particular, it can be used to form Moten equivalents of periods of time that have a special name and meaning in various languages but not in Moten. Hence negesizdan (literally "seven-day period") for "week", or for instance getolsizdan (literally "fourteen-day period") for "fortnight".

One thing to remember that there is nothing special about negesizdan and getolsizdan in Moten. That's to say, those words are no more culturally important than, say, |simsizdan: "six-day period" or genisizdan: "ten-day period" (a "week" of the traditional Chinese calendar). However, since they correspond to relevant periods of time in our Western world, C.G. and I use them more often than other periods.

By the way, this pattern is not restricted to siza. Any counter related to time and date can be used in the same way. For instance, with pele: "minute", one can form gevelbelden: "quarter of hour" or imagenipelden: "half hour". With mune, you get for instance imamunden: "trimester" and |simunden: "semester". And with ada, you naturally have japujadan: "century" and senadan: "millenium".

While the above pattern is still relatively generic, the one I'm going to talk about now, while productive, is also very restricted in meaning and use. Still, it's interesting to look at.

Back when I first described the functional prefixes, I may have given the impression that the benefactive |la- and originative go- were only used with persons, while the final te- and causative |zu- were only used with objects and concepts. And while it's true that |la- and go- are often used with animates and te- and |zu- with inanimates, it's by no means the whole story (as the use of go- for the complement of comparisons, regardless of the animacy of the complement, shows). One day I'll go back to the use cases of the functional prefixes (which are quite varied), but for now let's focus on one particular case, which is the basis of the surdéclinaison pattern I want to talk about.

As I've explained before, when used with a person the benefactive |la- can indicate the person who is given something, or the person for the benefit of whom the action is done:

Nanageduzun |laba negesizdan kun eganeo joplej ito: I'll give you the book next week (nanaguz is the participle of |nanagi: "to write", but is mostly used to mean "book". Notice the expression negesizdan kun (dj)eganeo, literally "on the second week after an unspecified origin". Context makes it clear that it means "next week". Notice also how the perfective present with an indication of time corresponds to the future tense in English).

Tinedan |laga izu|lebi egek: (He) cleaned the room for me.

However, the benefactive can also be used with inanimate concepts and objects, in which case it indicates that the action is done in order to enhance, improve or upgrade that object or concept. Here's an example to illustrate:

Poltuz amla kolen |lajumbvude|n ito: This new door will improve the house (literally: "this newly-acquired door is one to enhance the house". Using te- instead of |la would have resulted in a neutral statement instead: poltuz amla kolen tejumbvude|n ito: "this new door is for the house". Notice also the expression |lajumbvude|n, which is the adverbial phrase |lajumpej: "for the sake of the house" over-inflected twice, first in the genitive case to make it a modifier phrase, then nominalised and put in the accusative case as atom requires. This kind of expressions is relatively common in Moten).

While there is still nothing special about this, things start getting interesting when the noun with the benefactive prefix refers to a body part. In that case, the resulting inflected form can be nominalised directly by surdéclinaison (without first putting it in the genitive). The noun formed that way has a very specific meaning: rather than indicating something generic that in some way "enhances" the body part, it refers specifically to a piece of jewellery that is commonly associated with the body part in question. For instance, from poma: "neck", one can form |lapoma: "necklace". From jespoma: "wrist" (literally "hand neck", with jez meaning "hand", "arm"), one gets |lajespoma: "bracelet". From mensin: "ear" (literally "cup", used metaphorically to refer to the outer ear including earlobe), we get |lamensin: "earring". And from ipe|lastu|l: "finger" (basically the infinitive of a verb meaning "to show"), one forms |lajpe|lastu|l: "ring".

"Wait, what about zanej?" you may ask. Good question! As it happens, there's no reason why the pattern above should be the only way to name jewels, and indeed, some pieces of jewellery have alternative names. In general though, the terms based on body parts are the ones that are most commonly used. The exception is, indeed, the finger ring. Because the word |lajpe|lastu|l is so long, and a bit of a tongue twister, the much shorter and easier to pronounce synonym zanej is used much more often. In any case, it's an interesting pattern to remember, despite its restricted use.

The last pattern I want to mention is slightly different from the previous ones. It may also be at the same time the most restricted one in terms of usage, and the least restricted one in terms of productivity. Indeed, unlike previous patterns and actually all surdéclinaison as I've described it so far, it can be used with any word in any form, including particles! (and that includes clitics as well) In fact, it can even be used with things that aren't even words, like phrases or sentence fragments!

Until now, we've seen how to talk in Moten about things, events, actions, situations, etc. To do so, I have written about Moten, in English. But what if I wanted to translate those blog posts into Moten? What if I wanted to talk about Moten in Moten? To do so, we need the ability to quote words and sentence fragments in Moten itself, something we can't seem to do yet. I did mention how to handle direct speech once, but that method (repeating the direct quote as a separate sentence and referring to it further using a pronoun) does not really work well when talking about words. What we need is a method to embed a sentence fragment in another sentence, in a way that allows case marking so that we know the function of that fragment in the sentence.

In Moten, this is actually done in a relatively simple way: by nominalising the word or sentence fragment using the infix article -e- (basically, treat the fragment as a nominal stem and put it in the definite form). The result can then be inflected as if it were any other definite noun. In writing, this is usually accompanied by quotes, while in speech there is sometimes a slight pause before and after the nominalised form, especially when it's a sentence fragment.

There are three main uses to this pattern:

  • Embedding quotes in other sentences;
  • Mentioning citation forms of words;
  • Using interjections adverbially.

The most common use of this pattern is to embed direct quotes (usually short ones, more rarely full sentences) within a sentence, as an alternative to the usual quoting method described above. Here are a few examples:

Mudutun isej etok? — 'Mejtedon' isej etok: "What did (he) say?" "(He) said 'hi'." (literally: "(He) said the 'hello'", with mejto, a particle meaning "hello, hi" nominalised by -e- and put in the accusative case to become the object of isej: "to say").

'Kovepe|ne' lugen penegipedizno ive|zaj ito: "Sorry" seems to be the hardest word (literally: "The 'sorry' looks like the hardest word". In this case, due to the shape of the word vepe|ne: "sorry", the surdéclinaison isn't visible, and since that word is also a noun meaning "apology", the sentence could also mean: "The apology seems to be the hardest word". Context and simple common sense make the meaning clear in this case. Notice also the form penegipedizno, from negipiz: "difficult, hard to do", put in the superlative of superiority, definite and in the accusative singular. It parses as pe-negip<e><d>iz-n-no. It's actually a case where the morphophonemic rules of Moten are slightly unclear about how to treat the suffixes -n and -no together, given that without the superlative the word would become negipedizun: "the difficult". Maybe due to the influence of this form, a Moten speaker might be heard saying penegipedizuno instead of the form above. They are in free variation, although the first one is still the one most commonly used).

Luvosi 'us vajaguz ite|zon' bunes ito!: His "I don't know" are annoying (me) (literally: "(I) have become annoyed by that one's '(I) haven't learned'". Here what is quoted is actually a full clause: us vajaguz ito: "(I) don't know". It is treated as a single word and nominalised with the article, and then declined in the accusative plural. Its status as a nominal is cemented by the use of the genitive phrase luvosi: "that one's" on it. Notice also the verb ibunesi: "to become annoyed by". It is similar to the English verb "to annoy", but with opposite orientation, and refers to the creation of bother, hence the use of the perfect aspect to indicate that the annoyance is currently existing).

Slightly less common, for the simple reason that talking about one's own language isn't a common activity for many people, is the use of the pattern with citation forms:

'Kozunlea' tolugden ito. Me|lo 'kojzunleaj' neglugden ito. 'Kome|leo' samlugden ito: "Place" is a noun. "To be at", on the other hand, is a verb. "But" is a particle (literally: "The 'place' is a nominal. The 'to be at' however is a verb. The 'but' is a particle". While the first two citation forms are indistinguishable from normally inflected nominals, the last one inflects the normally invariable particle me|lo, which means it has to be surdéclinaison in action here. Notice also the infinitive. As I mentioned a while ago, the infinitive is used as citation form for verbs. But to be truly used as a citation form in a Moten sentence, it needs to be definite. Finally, notice the words tolugen, neglugen and samlugen. They are the Moten names for respectively nominal, verb and particle).

'Kojteo' 'atevomi' beldegun ito: "Is" is a form of "to be" (literally: "The 'is' is a shape of the 'to be'". The noun be|leg means "form, shape, figure, appearance").

Komotenku|leju 'house' de lugeden komut isej ito? — 'Umpedin': "How do (you) say 'house' in Moten?" "'Umpi'" (literally, the answer is "The 'house'", in the accusative case as it is basically an abbreviation of 'umpedin' isej ito: "(you) say 'umpi'". Notice the expression 'house' de lugeden, literally "the word 'house'". The word de is a coordinating particle, which like opa can often be translated as "and". Its main difference with opa, though, is that while the latter coordinates nouns that have different referents, the former coordinates nouns that have the same referent. In other words, while the phrases ka|se opa ge|sem and ka|se de ge|sem both mean "a man and a father", in the first case the phrase refers to two separate persons, one a man and the other a father, while the second refers to a single person, who is both a man and a father. Another common way to translate de is as "that is" or "that's to say", although the most common way to translate it in English is by plain juxtaposition. And this is the case in the expression 'house' de lugeden, where de is used to indicate that "house" and "the word" have the same referent, i.e. "the word 'house'". This is done because while Moten speakers are happy to over-inflect even their interjections, they aren't as willing when it comes to foreign words and phrases that have not been borrowed and adapted to the Moten phonology. Those just cannot be inflected. Since uninflected phrases cannot have a grammatical function in a sentence, the solution is to coordinate the foreign word or phrase with a Moten word like lugen: "word", which can take inflections. Since only the last of coordinated phrases needs to be inflected, this solves the problem: the foreign word can stay uninflected, while still having a well-defined function in the sentence).

Finally, this pattern can be used to include interjections and onomatopoeia into a sentence, with a well-defined syntactic function (rather than the paralinguistic function those usually have). Mostly this is done for purposes of quoting (see above), but when the nominalised interjection is put in the instrumental, it can be used as an adverb of manner, describing the action in a metaphorical way. A few examples will help understand how this usage works:

Gevomi genegedaj tekafe kokinkean ipenlazdu|lun ito!: (He) keeps inviting (me) for coffee, everyday at 5, like clockwork! (literally: "(He) keeps inviting (me) each day at 5 o'clock, for a coffee, like the tick tock!". Here we see the onomatopoeia kinkan, representing the sound of a clock ticking, over-inflected in the instrumental definite to indicate an almost mechanically recurring event. It can be interpreted positively, to mark punctuality, or negatively, to mark routine. Notice also the verb ipenlastu|l: "to invite", conjugated in the imperfective aspect as the sentence refers to a habitual event)

Los koni|sej otedon joknezde|n etok: He kept droning about his car (literally: "He kept talking about the car like the blah". Here the onomatopoeia used is ni|si, the sound of continuous speech, which can mark boredom. The verb is joknesej: "to recount, to narrate, to talk about").

Kozutejuun izektin etok: (He) was following as still as a mouse (literally: "(He) was following like the ...". Even an onomatopoeia that does not strictly follow the phonotactic rules of Moten, like zutuun, the mark of absolute silence, can be over-inflected. The verb here is izeki: "to follow, to go after").

One word of warning: this usage is considered very informal. It's used in speech among friends, but it should be avoided in writing and in formal situations. I'll devote a future post on the subject of language registers in Moten.

Isolated Cases

We've nearly reached the end of this already far too long post. But before I conclude, I'd like to show you a few more expressions that are constructed using surdéclinaison. The difference between these expressions and the ones I've shown so far is that these are not productive at all. They are exceptional phrases that do not form patterns. Unlike the cases presented above, you cannot emulate these to form other expressions. But it's still useful to know they exist.

In terms of meaning, all those expressions are basically adverbial phrases, although some of them are actually disjuncts, i.e. they do not directly modify the sentence, but instead show the speaker's attitude towards it. According to C.G., a Moten speaker treats them as single units (the closest thing Moten has to true adverbs) but is aware of their internal structure, which is always transparent.

Here are a few examples of such constructions:

  • tekojses: actually, in fact (this is the noun isis: "truth", in the instrumental definite, over-inflected with a final prefix. The form kojses itself means "really, truly");
  • godetun: from now on (here we have the pronoun et: "this time, now", in the accusative case and over-inflected in the originative);
  • tegoga: personally, for my part (this is the pronoun ga: "I", put in the originative and then in the final form. It's used as a disjunct, and interestingly it keeps its form even in indirect speech, although it then refers to someone else than the speaker);
  • dikovo|sedan: normally, when things go well (the noun vo|sa: "beauty, appropriateness", in the instrumental definite, over-inflected in the accusative case, with the temporal prefix di-. Despite the temporal prefix being nominally optional, in this case a construction without temporal prefix is never used);
  • |negdin kodidon: while we're at it, at the same time (a construction difficult to translate in English, it expresses the idea of doing something at the same time as something else, because the two activities belong with each other, or at least one facilitates the other. It's the verb |negi: "to do", conjugated in the imperfective aspect, and then made into a temporal subclause, by over-inflecting the auxiliary in the accusative case with the prefix di-, itself over-inflected in the instrumental. The result is still treated as an adverbial subclause, and can actually take participants. For instance: ba |negdin kodidon: "while you're at it" or umpedin |negdin kodidon: "since we're busy with the house". This expression is somewhat informal).

There are many more of those, and I will point them out when we meet them in future posts.

What's Next

Pfew! In total, this took much longer than I expected! That said, surdéclinaison is at the heart of many grammatical constructions in Moten, so it deserves to be treated extensively. I do hope you enjoyed the ride!

Now that I've finished discussing about surdéclinaison, there is not much Moten grammar left to describe. Next post will be about the last bits of morphology I haven't looked at in depth yet: derivation and compounding, i.e. how to make words out of other words. Compared to surdéclinaison, this is a relatively simple subject, so I expect one post on it will be enough. And I will do my best to keep it at a reasonable length!

Latest Thoughts on "The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head"

Friday, February 22nd, 2013
       I originally posted this piece back in June of 2012, but strangely enough, hardly anybody viewed it at that time.  Now, at February 22, 2013, as I'm getting ready to publish v.2, The Storm-Wing, I'm going to repost and update this piece.   I'm also going to upgrade the abridged sample chapters from The War of the Stolen Mother, so that the complete text, from the opening "Translator's Foreword" through Chapter 8 are on this same blog.  You can also download approximately the same amount of text as a Smashwords sample.

        I've inserted the back cover of The War of the Stolen Mother in the sidebar. I decided, instead of doing a description or a blurb, to use an adaptation of another of my illustrations for The War of the Stolen Mother.  It shows the first meeting between the Companions of Ki'shto'ba and the trickster Za'dut. I hope you enjoy it!
        The original art for the back cover showed the scene set among dark rocks, but I thought I would make the back mirror the front, so I framed it with the tree instead. The original also includes A'zhu'lo, but the twin would have made it a little crowded. The little critter that Wei'tu is hanging onto is one of the Little Ones -- the domesticated "dairy ants."
        Probably the only thing I might change about these covers is the type font. I'm using Lucida Bright -- I abandoned Book Antigua in this series because the apostrophe, which gets used a lot, is kind of strange in that font. But I'm not real happy with Lucida Bright either, so I may tinker some more. I have a weakness for Harrington, but it's probably fancier than would be wise to commit to. I want to settle on a font I can use for the entire series. [I ended up using Harrington on the front cover, but I'm not using that font on The Storm-Wing.]

        The formatting for the printed book is coming along. The whole thing has 36 chapters and yesterday I completed Ch. 26. That is to say, I've got that much inserted into the template. I've been making quite a few alterations as I go. Some of them are stylistic and some are substantive, but a lot of them are required to make the text fit. Remember those long, made-up names, with the syllables separated by apostrophes? You can't divide those syllables at the ends of lines -- it would look goofy! Therefore, since the text has to be justified, some lines end up with big gaps between the words. That will never do! So I have to rewrite so that the long names come at the beginnings or in the centers of lines. I never make things easy on myself! [I have now gotten used to this process and even find it rather fun!]
        The footnotes have turned out to be less of a problem than I expected. I haven't had any instances where the text split itself between pages, and only one instance that I can remember where I had to adjust for a big space at the end of the page.  [In The Storm-Wing, I had one  long footnote that had to be split between pages.  I really hate that, so I fixed it by moving the numeric reference to a later point in the text.  It's a satisfactory solution, at least in this case.]
        So all this fiddling means typos may creep in and that's why I'll probably want to peruse the thing one last time.

        I may change my mind and make an attempt to put Stolen Mother on Smashwords. I sell something every now and then to people who don't have Kindles, and I do get quite a few sample downloads, which can't hurt. It's all going to depend on whether they can cope with footnotes.  [I did that, of course, and now know exactly what to do.  Amazing how one learns from experience!]

        I have a confession to make. "Stolen Mother" is a terrible spoiler for The Termite Queen! Since it takes off right at the end of TQ, there's a lot of talk about what happened in that story. (More reason for you to buy and read Termite Queen right away!) When I did that, I never thought of it as a spoiler; I thought of it as filling in the backstory, since people who haven't read TQ may read these books. There is nothing I can do about it since references to the plot of TQ are embedded in the fiber of Stolen Mother and subsequent tales. Oh, well ...

        I have only one other remark: Back in the post about the titles of the six volumes, I stated that the tentative title for Volume V would be The Quest for the Golden Fungus: The Companions Reach the Sea.  I've decided to make it The Quest for the Golden Fungus: The Path of Gold (or The Golden Path -- I still have to ponder that some more). Otherwise, the titles are pretty much set. [Actually, I'm still pondering the titles for the final two volumes.  I think these are way too long, but I do want to keep the term The Quest for the Golden Fungus, because it mirrors The Golden Fleece.]

once is yhtin (revisited)

Friday, February 22nd, 2013
once = yhtin (adverb) (some things Google found for "yhtin": an uncommon term; is a Chinese website for Yunnan Chengfeng Non-ferrous Metals Co. LTD; user names; a very rare last name; name of a gaming character in League of Legends; similar yhtiö means company, corporation in Finnish)

Word derivation for "once" :
Basque = behin, Finnish = yhdesti
Miresua = yhtin

Note, I chose not to use the most common Finnish word for once, kerran, which is a form of the word meaning time, occasion. Instead I decided to use yhdesti, which also means once, and is the multiplicative case of yksi, the Finnish cardinal number one.

My previous Miresua conlang word for once was ysetin. I'm changing this word because in Finnish yht- (and yhd-) are used in many derived terms and compounds of one. Besides, the new word is a better mix and uses the common letter H. (By the way, my Miresua word for one is yst.)

This is a word from paragraph one of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.


Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

It’s now February 20th, and this is the first Dothraki post of the month. Given that it’s a short month, this may very well be the last, as well. I feel obliged to offer up some sort of explanation, given that (most months) I’ve been pretty good about living up to my unwritten (until now) four posts per month goal.

As it has turned out, this month has been pretty busy. In addition to the SWTX PCA/ACA Conference from last week, I’m giving a TED University talk at TED this month (a whole 6 minutes on the 28th!), and have been busy doing a lot of prep work for that and for TEDActive, where I’m giving a workshop. If you want to talk any Dothraki, the best place to catch me these days is on Twitter or at our weekly Dothraki chat on IRC.

I didn’t want this post to be completely devoid of Dothraki, though, so I thought I’d address an issue that came up on Twitter. Our latest (and quite prolific!) Dothraki speaker Tyene Sand was trying to translate a sentence using the Night’s Watch (that is, the name “the Night’s Watch”). That can be translated in a number of ways (I offered Vitihiraki Ajjalani), but the translation called for the phrase to be declined in some way. This is where one runs into a dilemma.

In Turkish, if you take a foreign noun and try to decline it, the word behaves a little differently from native (or assimilated) Turkish nouns. Turkish names take a number of case suffixes (similar to Dothraki), but these suffixes participate in vowel harmony. Here’s a small example:

mağazastoremağazadaat the store
göllakegöldeat the lake

As you can see, in the Turkish forms in the third column, there’s a suffix that’s either -da or -de. Which suffix you get depends on the character of the previous vowel (for more, see this article on Turkish vowel harmony), but they both mean the same thing.

That’s fine and good. What happens, though, when you add these suffixes to a foreign word? Turkish, as it turns out, does a couple of things differently. First, the suffix is always attached with an apostrophe (kind of like how sometimes in English, acronyms are pluralized with an ‘s as opposed to just s [e.g. DVD's rather than DVDs]). Second, unless the quality of the vowels is quite apparent, Turkish just uses one of those two suffixes—specifically, the -da suffix. Here’s an example:

GoogleGoogleGoogle’daon/at Google

So, now that we know what Turkish does, what does Dothraki do?

First, Dothraki noun phrases are often declined on the head noun. This is the rough equivalent of “passerby” vs. “passersby” in English (the latter being the formal plural of the former). Take, for example, the phrase asavva evomen, which has various meanings depending on context (for now, let’s say “afterlife”). If one wanted to pluralize this phrase, the appropriate plural would be asavvasi evomeni (the latter adjective taking an -i on account of concord). That is, asavva is the head noun, so it takes the plural; one doesn’t treat the whole thing as a single noun and attempt to add some sort of inflection to the end of evomen.

That said, one may want to write in Dothraki and talk about modern people, companies, products, places, etc. For something like “Google”, one option would be to try to translate the concept (good luck) or to render it in Dothraki (Gogol?). This might end up making things more confusing than necessary, though. As a result, the kind of catch-all repair strategy used in Dothraki is the preposition haji. Haji means something like “because of” or “on account of” or sometimes “with respect to”. In Dothraki proper, its meanings are a bit more specific. When used in conjunction with foreign names or terms, though, it stands in for any preposition and/or the genitive, allative or ablative cases. Thus, one might say something like:

  • Anha tih mae haji Reddit.
  • “I saw it on Reddit.”

Technically haji there could be standing in for she, ma, irge, hatif, vi, ha, ki—or the ablative, genitive or allative cases. Really, though, given the context, it seems likely that it’s standing for she (a general locative. Not sure if anything more specific would be used to refer to something one sees on a webpage. Mra, maybe?). One might be able to supply a context that would force another reading, but the most obvious reading suggests that whatever was seen was seen on Reddit.

Though the solution is pretty simple, the drawbacks are that there could be confusion or ambiguity, so it behooves one to supply the proper context so that only the correct interpretation is plausible. If more specificity is absolutely required, one can always use the proper preposition. If a case is needed, it’s probably best to attempt to render the noun in Dothraki, as below:

  • Anha dothrak Disneylandaan!
  • “I’m going to Disneyland!”

To make it clear, one may (in the Turkish style) separate the case ending from the root with an apostrophe, but personally I prefer it without.

I hope your February’s going well and that it’s not too cold where you are! It rained today, so California will get a bit chillier for the next couple of days, but otherwise I can’t complain. For those of you who speak or are familiar with other case languages, what do those languages do with foreign proper terms? How would “Google” come out in the instrumental in Russian? Or the translative in Finnish?

Dothras chek!

knife is vezti (revisited)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
vezti = knife (noun) (some things Google found for "vezti": a uncommon term; a very rare last name; vezti or vežti means to carry in Lithuanian; in Russian (transliterated) vezti means carry, drive; similar vesti means clothes in Italian; similar Veztsy (aka Khutor Veztsy) is the name of place in Belarus)

Word derivation for "knife" :
Basque = aizto, Finnish = veitsi
Miresua = vezti

Another Basque word for knife is labana.

My previous Miresua word for knife was vaiso. Last time I knowingly defined my word for trouble as the very similar vaizo. So, now I'm redoing my word for knife. I think the word for knife needed a T in it anyway.

Conlangery #84: Delason

Monday, February 18th, 2013
George and Mike have a wonderful conversation with Nizar Habash, creator of Delason. Featured Conlang: Delason Feedback: Hi! I discovered this podcast almost a month ago and I’m on episode 46. I’m actually not a conlanger, but I love linguistics and I love the discussions you guys have about different aspects of language. Thank you […]

Conlangery #84: Delason

Monday, February 18th, 2013
George and Mike have a wonderful conversation with Nizar Habash, creator of Delason. Featured Conlang: Delason Feedback: Hi! I discovered this podcast almost a month ago and I’m on episode 46. I’m actually not a conlanger, but I love linguistics and I love the discussions you guys have about different aspects of language. Thank you […]

My books

Monday, February 18th, 2013
I'm back from a visit to Wellington.  A pleasant weekend away, I got to see jousting, mediaeval re-enactment, and metal weapons combat.  What fun!

Also I got to raid second-hand book stores for new material for my eclectic language project.  Three new Teach Yourself books added to my collection.

The first two are TY Welsh and TY Beginner's Hindi.  These are later publications from the Hodder&Stoughton period of this franchise.  I'm pleased with finding them.  I have an earlier TY Welsh from the English Universities Press period so I was glad to find a more modern version.  I didn't have a good Hindi title in this series so Beginner's Hindi was a good find.  Perhaps one day I will find more good introductions to this language.

As these are later titles they don't list the irregularities or highlighted words in the contents that I want to use and incorporate into my eclectic language.  I will add them to the stack of books I want to work through and see if they add any new material in my write-up of my own grammar.

The third book I found was irresistable! TY Hausa from 1973!  The patron saints of invented languages have been looking after me this weekend!  It's an interesting language with glottalised and non-glottalised stops, and tense-marking in pronouns!  I like the latin orthography, a very attractive language.

Following the rules of incorporation into my eclectic language I have three new extracts to note for my grammar creation of an eclectic tongue: 1. some new notes on the verb 'to be'; 2. the future aspect of the verb 'to go'; and 3. notes on the relaters sai and da.

I was also tempted by a modern edition TY Swahili.  I resisted as I felt I had made enough dents into my budget.  Perhaps it will still be there in a future visit.

My books

Monday, February 18th, 2013
I'm back from a visit to Wellington.  A pleasant weekend away, I got to see jousting, mediaeval re-enactment, and metal weapons combat.  What fun!

Also I got to raid second-hand book stores for new material for my eclectic language project.  Three new Teach Yourself books added to my collection.

The first two are TY Welsh and TY Beginner's Hindi.  These are later publications from the Hodder&Stoughton period of this franchise.  I'm pleased with finding them.  I have an earlier TY Welsh from the English Universities Press period so I was glad to find a more modern version.  I didn't have a good Hindi title in this series so Beginner's Hindi was a good find.  Perhaps one day I will find more good introductions to this language.

As these are later titles they don't list the irregularities or highlighted words in the contents that I want to use and incorporate into my eclectic language.  I will add them to the stack of books I want to work through and see if they add any new material in my write-up of my own grammar.

The third book I found was irresistable! TY Hausa from 1973!  The patron saints of invented languages have been looking after me this weekend!  It's an interesting language with glottalised and non-glottalised stops, and tense-marking in pronouns!  I like the latin orthography, a very attractive language.

Following the rules of incorporation into my eclectic language I have three new extracts to note for my grammar creation of an eclectic tongue: 1. some new notes on the verb 'to be'; 2. the future aspect of the verb 'to go'; and 3. notes on the relaters sai and da.

I was also tempted by a modern edition TY Swahili.  I resisted as I felt I had made enough dents into my budget.  Perhaps it will still be there in a future visit.

A short story in Tmaśareʔ: Sohcakehka

Friday, February 15th, 2013

I discovered recently that there have been Conlang Relay games I didn’t know anything about, running on Tumblr. The first one of those has a very nice story as its initial text, which I decided to translate into Tmaśareʔ:


Lącweweʔnǫʔ hihmoʔ, śecahma twepahpątmąmase sǫssohca. Hapaʔtayećiyąʔmąma koʔ cǫke, roʔ kwińihtamąma kohpco, cmę ca pǫkmǫ halćaʔęnoʔwa. Haho polpapeńehcamąkwa, “Yećehęʔ naʔehona pątaʔcoyąpaʔkńǫńe koʔ!”

Hiya śeʔ yeyapomiloʔta tohmotwihloʔtaʔma. Ǫtahpilcaloʔkwa śeteʔ, yaho ca hiwahka mekońoʔnaloʔkye. Nehi, sayoʔ ina, sohca kehka kwetaraloʔwatmo cą.

Śkehka… yasohcaʔyamąta.

Hunter Rock

Long ago, a great hunter roamed this land. He could shoot arrows very skillfully, so he became famous, and with time he also became proud. He would tell everyone loudly, “No animal has ever been able to escape the tip of my arrow!”

However, a snake heard these words and became angry. It bit him in the hand and paralyzed him with venom. Alas, before the night came, the hunter had been turned into stone completely.

This rock… it is said that this is him.

My translation of this text contains several details worth talking about, so I’ll give you an annotated breakdown of the whole story:

Lącweweʔnǫʔ hihmoʔ, śecahma twepahpątmąmase sǫssohca.
ląc=we~weʔną-oʔ hihmoʔ, śe=cahma-Ø twe-pahpąta-mą-wa-se sǫs-sohca-Ø
many=PL~year-GEN upward, this=land-ABS LOC-explore-REP-3.I-3.VII major‑hunter‑ABS
Long ago, a great hunter roamed this land.

The opening sentence of this story is syntactically unusual in Tmaśareʔ, following a pattern of AdvOVS. I’m aware that this structure may ultimately have come about due to cross-contamination from Doayâu, a genetically related language with significantly more freedom in word order. (It was my turn in Conlang Relay 20 just a week ago, and I translated into Doayâu in that game.) Tmaśareʔ is normally quite strongly SOV-oriented, but I wanted to have the subject appear after the verb (just like it would be done in Doayâu) in order to place pragmatic focus on the hunter – after all, he’s not just the subject of this sentence, but also the main protagonist of the story. Tmaśareʔ already permitted postposing the subject for exactly this purpose, but only if the transitive object was either postposed as well (which would contradict the intended focus effect), or else left out entirely (which I can’t do here because the location of the action hasn’t been established yet). To solve this dilemma, I used the locative applicative prefix twe- on the verb, pointing to the same referent that would normally be the direct object. Since applied objects cannot be postposed, it is only the subject which is placed after the verb, and applicativization has the nice side effect that the subject now appears in the absolutive case, making it even more suitable as a focused rheme.

Some other things worth noting in this sentence:

  • The temporal expression ‘long ago’ is rendered as lącweweʔnǫʔ hihmoʔ, literally ‘many years upward’, reflecting a cognitive metaphor TIME IS WATER. Water flows downhill, so ‘upward’ with regard to time is of course earlier than the present.
  • The word for ‘a great hunter’, sǫssohca, contains the adjectival prefix sǫs- whose main sense is ‘primary, major, most important’ but has now acquired the additional meaning ‘exemplary’.
  • In Kelemta’s original story, the hunter is female. In Tmaśareʔ society, it would be nigh impossible to even imagine a female hunter – and in any case, a woman who is skilled with bow and arrow would be so extremely unusual that you’d expect her gender to play a major role in the plot, which it doesn’t do here at all. I could have changed the story to accommodate for this, but since the hunter’s gender wouldn’t be visible in the Tmaśareʔ version of the text anyway, I have opted to simply use a different pronoun in the English retranslation instead, so that’s why the hunter in my text is male.
  • The original text also contained an introductory hedge ‘I am told that…’. In Tmaśareʔ, this notion is expressed through the use of the hearsay evidential -mą, glossed as REP.


Hapaʔtayećiyąʔmąma koʔ cǫke,
hapaʔta-<yeći>-yąʔ-mą-wa koʔ cǫke,
shoot-<arrow>-ABIL-REP-3.I indeed skillfully,
He could shoot arrows very skillfully,

roʔ kwińihtamąma kohpco, cmę ca pǫkmǫ halćaʔęnoʔwa.
roʔ kwińi-hta-mą-wa kohpco, cmę ca pǫkmǫ hala-<ćaʔę>-loʔ-wa
therefore shine-RES-REP-3.I accordingly, CIRC and gradually swell-<mind>-EVID-3.I
so he became famous, and with time he also became proud.

The most interesting detail in this sentence is probably the idiomatic verb ‘have a swelling mind’ to denote ‘become proud, become arrogant’. In this context, it’s worth noting that the circumstantial particle cmę indicates that the following phrase is a natural and predictable consequence of the preceding phrase (here: it’s no wonder that someone becomes proud or arrogant if he’s famous), and that the idiomatic verb does not use the hearsay evidential -mą as expected from the previous phrases, but the inferential evidential -loʔ – this not only makes the storytelling feel more engaging, but it’s also an early hint at the conclusion of the story: There is in fact more evidence for the hunter’s pride than just word of mouth…

Another thing to note is the use of noun incorporation in the first verb of this sentence in order to portray the shooting of arrows as a habitually recurring activity rather than a punctual action – ‘he could arrow-shoot skillfully’ instead of ‘he managed to shoot an arrow on target’.


Haho polpapeńehcamąkwa,
haho-Ø polpa-peńe-hca-mą-kwa,
every:I-ABS loud-tell-towards-REP-3>3.I,
He would tell everyone loudly,

“Yećehęʔ naʔehona pątaʔcoyąpaʔkńǫńe koʔ!”
ye=ćehą-eʔ na-ehona-Ø pątaʔco-yąpa-ʔo-kńǫ-ǫńe koʔ
no=animal-ERG 1SG:POSS-arrowtip-ABS escape-ABIL-DIR-3>3.III-NEG:CPL indeed
“No animal has ever been able to escape the tip of my arrow!”

Let’s focus on the matrix sentence first: ‘He would tell everyone loudly’ does not necessarily imply that the hunter really spoke with a loud voice. The adjectival prefix polpa- ranges in meaning from ‘loud’ to ‘prominent, easily visible’ and ‘bold, audacious’. We can infer from this that a metaphorical reading is also possible, and in fact ‘tell loudly’ is a Tmaśareʔ idiom for making sure everyone is aware of what one wants to say, i.e. for bragging and boasting. (Note also that we’re back to the hearsay evidential: The narrator has not met the hunter in person, so he has learned about the latter’s bragging only through other people’s tales.)

In the quotation itself, a direct participation evidential is used – representing the point of view of the hunter, and very typical for first‑person speech. Apart from this, we can see that Tmaśareʔ tends to use double negation with negated subjects; the verb is still marked as negated: ‘No animal hasn’t been able to escape’ meaning ‘no animal has ever been able to escape’. The verb is also marked for completive aspect to indicate both that this is a final judgement of each individual attempt at escape, and that the statement itself is an experiential perfect, i.e. something that describes the present in terms of completed but situationally relevant events in the past.


Hiya śeʔ yeyapomiloʔta tohmotwihloʔtaʔma.
hiya-Ø śeʔ yeya-<pomi>-loʔ-ta tohmo-twih-loʔ-ta=ʔma
snake-ABS however hear-<word>-EVID-3.II angry-become-EVID-3.II=and
However, a snake heard these words and became angry.

What we have here is the Tmaśareʔ equivalent of a serial verb construction. It’s in fact not quite the same as the phenomenon found in many African and Asian languages, but it serves a similar function: The two predicates attributed to the snake, ‘it heard these words’ and ‘it became angry’, are portrayed as occurring with an intrinsic connection within a very short timeframe, but without assigning them to separate clauses, without subordinating one to the other, and without specifying the exact relationship between them. This is done by juxtaposing them, inflecting them identically with regard to participant agreement (and here also evidentiality – again the inferential -loʔ because well, we do have physical evidence that the snake got angry), and connecting them with the postclitic =ʔma ‘and’. The semantic effect is that the two predicates come across as two aspects of a single event.

Because verb serialization is only possible in Tmaśareʔ if the conjoined verbs all have the exact same participants, the structure of the predicate ‘heard these words’ is adapted by incorporating the object (‘words’) into the verb, resulting in an intransitive verb with a backgrounded object: ‘the snake heard words’. There is just a single utterance in this story that the incorporated -pomi- might refer to, so the sentence is still perfectly comprehensible.


Ǫtahpilcaloʔkwa śeteʔ, yaho ca hiwahka mekońoʔnaloʔkye.
ǫtahpa-<ilca>-loʔ-kwa śeta-eʔ, yaho-Ø ca hiwahka-Ø mek-ońo-ʔna-loʔ-kye
bite-<hand>-EVID-3>3.I this.II.SG-ERG, PROX.I.SG-ABS and snake_venom-ABS INSTR‑rigid‑FACT‑EVID‑3>3.VI
It bit him in the hand and paralyzed him with venom.

Tmaśareʔ does not often use free pronouns to refer to third‑person entities, but here there’s no way around it (except for overt repetition of the noun, which tends to be avoided, just as we do in English). The snake, cast in the absolutive case in the intransitive sentence before, is now a transitive agent and must thus appear in the ergative case, marked on the deictic pronoun stem śeta-. The hunter, not present in the previous sentence, is actualized in the form of the proximate 3rd person pronoun yaho.

Other points of interest:

  • Even though the two predicates in this sentence are arguably just as closely connected as the two predicates in the previous sentence, it is not possible to portray them as a single event through serialization because the verbs do not have identical participants. Even incorporation of hiwahka ‘venom’ would not solve this issue, because that noun is the target of the instrumental applicative prefix mek-, and applied objects may only be incorporated if the clause does not contain a patient – but we need to refer to the patient (the hunter) in both verbs, and so the participants can’t be made identical.
  • The incorporated noun in the first verb, -ilca- ‘hand’, is an example of the cross-linguistically common strategy of possessor raising through incorporation: By saying ‘the snake hand-bites the hunter’ instead of ‘the snake bites the hunter’s hand’, we can present the affected person as focused and the less salient body part as backgrounded without losing semantic detail.
  • Again, the inferential evidential is used because we have physical evidence, as described in the next sentence:


Nehi, sayoʔ ina, sohca kehka kwetaraloʔwatmo cą.
nehi, saye-oʔ ina, sohca-Ø kehka-Ø k-weta-ra-loʔ-wa-ta-mo cą
alas, night-GEN before, hunter-ABS rock-ABS LAT-be_changed-CAUS-EVID-3.I-3.II-CPL EMPH
Alas, before the night came, the hunter had been turned into stone completely.

Here it is the structure of the verb that deserves closer inspection: First, a lative applicative (the prefix k-) is used to syntactically integrate the result of the transformation (the rock) into the sentence. Second, we have an intransitive verb with an applied object, and the two absolutive arguments belong to different noun classes – class I (humans, gods, birds etc.) for the hunter, class II (other animals, solid spherical or irregularly shaped objects) for the rock – and this results in the verb taking two different absolutive person agreement markers, which is quite unusual cross-linguistically. Third, the verb carries a causativizing suffix -ra, but there is no trace of the causer (the snake) in the whole sentence, not even in verbal agreement. This construction may indicate a permissive meaning, as described in a different post, or causation across temporal distance, as exemplified here (assuming that it took some time for the venom to petrify the hunter). Fourth, we still find an inferential evidential.


Śkehka… yasohcaʔyamąta.
śe=kehka-Ø… ya=sohca-ʔyV-mą-ta
this=rock-ABS… aforementioned=hunter-be-REP-3.II
This rock… it is said that this is him.

A short sentence to finish off this short story. As we can see, nominal predication in Tmasáreʔ is usually done with a verbalizing suffix, here the stative -ʔyV, where V stands for a copy of the preceding vowel. Also note that we have finally come back to the hearsay evidential: The rock is obviously there to provide evidence for the story, but we can only be sure that this specific rock is indeed Hunter Rock because people call it Hunter Rock…

That’s it for now, I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did. Comments are welcome!