Category: Grammar


I am going to refer to IRC once again and try to give a good general answer:

( bornfor) I tried asking in here a while back what the grammar-type thing I have
up on my site is lacking, and got little help :p

I am not quite sure how to answer this easily. It does depend on what you want to do with your language. A naming language needs very little in terms of grammar. A real language which can be used in the real world needs more. So allow me just to write a set of questions which should be answered by the conlanger. Sometimes, the answer is that a feature is lacking. Take the sentence “She has eaten the cookie” and “He ate the biscuit”. Rejistanian translates both of them exactly alike (mi’la’ovik isisuvara’het). English obviously does not. OTOH, the sentence “mi’la’meshi’ovik isisuvara’het” and “mi’la’mesit’ovik isisuvara’het” mean something different even though their difference canot be expressed easily in English (the first indicates that s/he possibly ate the cookie/biscuit the second one indicates the same but also that the speaker cannot estimate how likely it is).

  1. What is the word order? Can it change?
  2. What is the morphosyntactic alignment?
  3. How do you say simple sentences?
  4. How do you decline nouns? (and would you ever decline ‘beer’? ;) )
  5. Make it your conlang: Add pronouns and possession.
  6. How do adjectives work? How do adverbs work easily?
  7. It would be better and less cumbersome if your language had comparisons.
  8. How does negation work?
  9. How did I use tenses? How can I start to be using aspects?
  10. What about a trip to the world of articles?
  11. This conlang has this demonstrative and maybe that one as well, so document that (thanks, xvedejas for suggesting this)
  12. How do questions work? Do yes/no questions work? How can you ask for something more complex? Which question words exist?
  13. Relative clauses and subclauses, which both lurk in other sentences, need to be described
  14. What if you mentioned the irrealis and all the other moods?
  15. Make your conlang count (ie: add numbers) and be the first to use ordinal numbers in your conlang
  16. Regarding all the things you inserted to purposefully deviate from your European natlang. I’ll just assume you’d document that anyways…

EDIT: BTW: If you know what you are doing, this list cannot help much. This is just something, which I think someone reading about a language would ask about first. Just going by this list makes the language very euroclone-ish, which Twey very correctly criticized. On the question whether the lack of certain features should be documented, Twey and me disagreed: Twey considers this unneccessary since documented or not, the speakers have to find other ways to express their thoughts.

EDIT2: Of course, if you want anything more detailled as a structure, the one of CALS exists, but might for a newbie appear too scary.

alte: equal

Jusa ji k~hana mi’la’milhan alte evix’jet. Min’la’milhan kaladek ,jusa mi’la’sono ji mi’la’tes, la. USA and Ghana drew in regular time. They played extra time during which the USA lost. I do not expect to see a Kēlen translation of this because it is just culturally too different, but I would like to see what Kamakawi would say about the match in their reports about the Inotu Inotu. :)

I could introduce ‘milhan here, but instead I decided to use today’s word of the day to explain how rejistanis compare. The system of comparisons is quite sophisticated and probably not all that natural:

Basic sentence: Duixlan mi’milhan veka: Germany plays well.

Equative 1: Duixlan mi’milhan veka alte k~hana: Germany plays as well as Ghana
Equative 2: Sanmarino mi’milhan veka nilte Andorha: San Marino plays as well as Andorra. This imples that neither team actually plays well. The Equative 2 can also be used if the thing which is compared is not good.

Comparative: Seriviha mi’la’milhan veka alna Duixlan. Serbia plays better than Germany
Augmented comparative: Seriviha mi’milhan veka alnany Andorha. Serbia plays far better than Andorra.

Negative Comparative: Koleja nahsua mi’la’milhan veka nilna Ulukvy. South Korea played less good than Uruquay.
Augmented Negative Comparison: Samoa jusa mi’la’milhan veka nilnany Ositaliha. American Samoa played by far less good than Australia

Superlative: Italiha mi’la’milhan veka altena xi ky jo’jet. Italy was best during 2008.
Augmented Superlative: Ositaliha mi’la’milhan veka altenany divisasi’het’ra osejaniha. Australia was by far the best in the Oceanian group.

Negative Superlative: Koleja nahtaj mi’la’milhan veka niltena. North Korea played the least good-
Augmented Negative Superlative: Tasmaniha iverlin mi’la’milhan veka niltenany. Tasmania Berlin played by far the least well.

Relative Comparative: Lixtentyn mi’milhan veka alsina Andorha. Liechtenstein plays better than Andorra even though both teams do not play well.
Relative Augmented Comparative: Lixtentyn mi’milhan veka alsinany Samoa Jusa. Liechtenstein plays by far better than American Samoa, but still not actually good.

Relative Superlative: FC Kelin mi’aru lasane’het veka alsitena Kelin’ra. The FC Cologne is the best team in Cologne though it is not good.
Relative Augmented Superlative: Silanines mi’aru lasane’het veka alsitenany Osejaniha’ra. New Zealand is by far the best team in Oceania, but it is not actually good.

I hope these examples explain comparisons somewhat.

Please don’t flame because I insulted your team! These are just examples!!! PUT THE FLAMETHROWER AWAY!!!

Last but not least and back to the original point: ‘milhan alte means irregularly: to draw, to tie a match.

Oh and completely irrelevant link of the day: The Krakenorakel (‘octopus oracle’) predicted the matches for Germany correctly so far (it does predict a victory against England). And now the Digital Cuttlefish made a poem about him. I, personally am amazed that he managed to find something which rhymes with Germany.

One of my readers asked me to do a posting about internet memes in Rejistania. I have not forgotten that, but it is rather hard because I would have to explain colloquial rejistanian first.

Generally, the rather verbose affix system is reduced to what is needed to understand someone If written, the apostrophe (or as rejistanis would call it: kulsi’het) is omitted unless before and after the stem of the word. Lolcats are allowed to omit these kulsi’het’ny as well (if you are not a lolcat, you just look stupid if you do this). However even lolcats retain the apostrophes indicating the infinitive.

What does that have to do with the current Word of the Day? Mainly that there is no impersonal ‘it’ or ‘there’ in rejistanian. Don’t get me wrong: They do use jilih quite often, but only if it refers to something. Otherwise, there have to be different constructions. One of these uses ‘aru or rather: its negation. ‘There is no X’ becomes X mi’aruta. Even lolcats would not make that “*X aruta”, but there is something worse than lolcats: People who do not speak rejistanian. Which brings us back to the topic of internet memes. “*Hakim aruta” (everything does not exist) was what a subtitle-translator made of “all cancel” in a film about a woman stranded in a third world country which experiences an economic crisis. And this or the more general “X aruta” has become a meme in the rejistanian-speaking parts of the internet.

Other derivations of ‘aru:
aru: existant, also current
aru’tan: existance

Example: Isuxeku’het mi’aru’ta. (cake 3S-be-NEG: There is no cake.)

kuxu: poor

“The Phoenicians invented money, but why did they not invent enough of it?” The kuxu’he (poor person) Sala Asidi has problems making ends meet. He can live in absolute or only relative kuxu’tan (poverty). He can come from a rich family and did ‘kuxu’han (impoverish), or he did ‘kuxu (be poor) for the entire time he had been on this planet. He might have a plan to ‘kuxu’tes (get out of poverty) and maybe it works. Probably however, fate will be a harsh mistress and his project will be a kuxu’het (something lacking resources).

If against all odds, Sala does succeed, we will meet him again at sletin (rich).

Sala might not have noticed but we did, that the suffixes for allative and ablative can also be affixed to a verb meaning something like “into a state” and “out of a state”. This is the one place where state verbs are required. The usage of adjectives here would create unwanted ambiguity. This is a typical situation where rejistanian recycles affixes when they vaguely fit their meaning. It does have something of an ika’het, but is done by design. This was supposed to help the learner.

Sala mi’vana ‘kuxu’tes ,mi’selme esda, venil.
Sala 3S-want (INF)be_poor-ABL ,3S-be_indebted high, but.
Sala wants to escape poverty but is highly indebted.

shensa’het: [authoritarian] government
shensa’he: king

Mi’shensa tani’het sa. (3S-rule country-HET seven: He rules the seven kingdoms)

‘shensa and related forms have a strong authoritarian connotation. A democratic kovomin’het (government) would not use ‘shensa but ‘lentine (represent).

Small grammatical tidbit related tot the sentence above: like in Turkish, the plural suffix ‘ny is omitted when a number follows.

Bandwagons are nice and thus, when David J. Peterson announced that he is the person behind the Dothraki language, I thought participating in the hype was okay.

\begin{rant}On the other hand and despite all the positive things, which it brings for conlanging, I have to admit that it makes my guts clench. I am one of these cave-dwellers who considers many things of the modern world bad. Mainly among these is the entertainment industry. These people are IMHO these first to be put against the wall when the revolution will come*. I believe that their views on copyright are extremely harmful to society and that they tend to be hypocrites who do not practice what they preach. This annoys me greatly. I can accept someone being a morally bankrupt slani’he**, but at least be honest about that. I think that the example of Na’vi and Klingon shows that the film industry seems to see copyright not as the right of the creator, but as a way to make money. I hope that the contract of Peterson is not one where he has to ask for permission to use the language himself or has to put up with slani’he’ny selme who do not know an infinitive from an imperative make the dialogue in the sequel. I think that would be worst (and happened to Klingon already).\end{rant}

*I was using a literary quote to make a point, not advocate violence against anybody.
**the translation for slani in my dictionary is a series of punctuation characters ;)

As you might have noticed, I start with words of a personal significance or those which I like to use to illustrate grammatical structures. The word ‘xetsu is one of the latter ones.

The nouns are as you expect them to be with the rejistanian derivation system: (xetsu’he: someone who choses, xetsu’het: option, alternative and in the plural: settings, xetsu’tan: choice (as a concept)). The adjective means that something can be chosen.

Then, there are strange compounds: ‘xetsukovomin, ‘xetsutani, ‘xetsunanti, ‘xetsurekijo and ‘xetsukali. All of these mean ‘to elect’ and all the ‘het forms mean ‘election’ however, these words are all different. Except the first one, all refer to different levels of government: while xetsukovomin’het is the general term for an election, xetsutani’het is a federal one (tani’het means country), a xetsunanti’het occurs on nanti (state) level, a xetsurekijo’het on rekijonal (or regional) level and a xetsukali’het on municipal level (kali’het means city).

The grammatical significance of the word ‘xetsukovomin is a strange one. For some odd reason, I often confused the order of the verbal prefixes, but have no issues remembering this conjugated verb: Min’ki’lanjamesit’rala’xetsukovomin’ta.

Min indicates the 3rd person plural.
ki is the future tense marker,
lanjamesit is a subjunctive form, which indicates a similar probability as the ‘maybe’ in: Maybe I will win the lottery. It is a compound of two other subjunctive forms: lanja and mesit. (the lack of a subjunctive marker indicates the indicative)
rala is the passive voice (its lack indicates active voice)
and ta the negation.

As such, the word means: it is possible but not very likely that they won’t get elected. As I wrote earlier people wondered what this word is actually good for. Well, during the LoCoWriMo, I actually managed to use it. Syku Inik’s best friend was said this to a reporter after he implied that Syku was a chanceless candidate and Syku just said that during an election everything is possible:

{Asav’il Kansu Sanateni’han ji Kiran Milan’han. Min’ki’lanjamesit’rala’xetsukovomin’ta asty’het’jet jilih. Hakim mi’ma ‘kidhi.}

(Consider Kansu Sanateni and Kiran Milan. It is possible, but not very likely that they won’t get elected in this year. Everything can happen.)

As I said yesterday, various words relating to time have two forms: One for past and one for future events. These words are an example. They are constructed of sji which is found also in other words which start with ‘every-‘ in English and the past or future tense marker. The words have of course no tense seeing that they are no state verbs and the position of la or ki is not anyhow like in their meaning as tense markers (where they are prefixes between number and subjunctive prefix), but rejistanian prefixes do work in several jobs to make ends meet. It was a design decision to re-use suffixes when it could at least vaguely be justified, because words like kiam, iam cxiam in Esperanto annoyed me. They just refered to nothing. If Zamenhof used the -as of the present tense there instead, it would have made much more sense. So I adopted the idea into rejistanian, only that the (unmarked) present tense could not be used.

A good way to disambiguate between these 2 words would be the sentences Min’la’va jilih reja jilih sjila (We-PST-do this method this always: We have always done it like that) and Min’ni ‘va jilih reja jilih sjiki (We-must (INF)do this method this always: We must always do it like that).

Other words which change between la and ki forms are lata/kita (never), lajitax/kijitax (later), lystas/kijistas (earlier*), sunla/sunki (when), ulja/ulki (sometimes*) and ulsila/ulsiki (which is similar to the previous word but with a higher degree of uncertainty or a lower degree of caring).

* the la form here changes due to its company but it is there.

There are always ways to express one idea in another language. It might be clumsy, it might omit some details, but it can work. Of course, if you wanted to express a certain idea about relativity in a tribal language you would have to translate many ideas first on which it depends, but it is not impossible. For some odd reason, certain monolingual Americans seem to disbelieve that and complain about the lack of distinction between simple and progressive tenses in Rejistanian (I didn’t even want them to learn the language, they did so uninvitedly on a wiki-discussion page about it).

So while Rejistanian does indeed lack progressive tenses, it still can indicate the difference betwwen a progressing and a habitual action. One of the ways is by indicating a habitual action as such via ‘sikeva. This carries an anthromorphic component though as it has the connotation of the subject as a conscious actor. Umis’het mi’sikeva ‘okox (The stone falls / Stone-HET 3S-to_do_habitually (INF)fall) would indicate that the stone consciously decides to do so. This might not be what you want to express*. You can use always there instead. But the distinction between sjiki (always in the future) and sjila (always in the past) might be better for another posting. FYI: Umis’het mi’okox sjiki would probably be the cromulent way to express the idea behind “The stone falls”.

Related forms:
sikeva: as habit, habitual(ly), related to a habit
sikeva’tan: habit

*though I occasionally consider the things around me not only to be alive, but very consciously intending to annoy me. :)

If Sapir and Whorf were right (in the strongest sense), the USA, the UK, Canada and many other nations where English is the main language would not be real democracies. Of course candidates could be elected, but since the English language lacks a handy expression like the German term “kandidieren” and has to use clumsy terms around it, it would mean that the people who are eligible are chosen by a king/president/giant penguin. ;)

Rejistanian was inspired by German in this respect and has the expression ‘atani. What makes this word so special? Mostly that I use it to illustrate derivation quite often since it was the first I encountered which exists in all noun classes. So I will present a quick excursion into the world rejistanian words.

The infinitive of a verb starts with an apostrophe. This only indicates the shift of the stress from the second to the first syllable and has no other phonetic quality. ‘atani: to run for office

The adjective or adverb is not marked: atani: related to a campaign/candidacy

The ‘he class refers to a person who is related to the word: atani’he: candidate

The ‘het class refers to a concrete object or thing (or at least to something more concrete than the ‘tan class): atani’het: campaign

The ‘tan class refers to abstract objects: atani’tan: candidacy.

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