A Summary of Dimana Lokud

This is a sketch of Dimana Lokud, the language spoken by the Lokud people.

1. phonology 2. morphology 3. syntax 4. pragmatics 5. lexicon


Lokud phonology is relatively straightforward, and we give it only a quick glance here.


plain stop p t k
voiced stop b d g
voiced affricate j
plain fricative f s sh h
voiced fricative v z zh
nasal m n
lateral flap l
approximant y w


front back
high i u
mid e o
low æ a
diphthong ai au


The basic syllable pattern is (C)(l y w)V(n s d/l). Null onsets are permitted only in word-initial position; vowel hiatus does not occur.

Permitted codas are n s l medially and n s d finally; the l and d alternate, except before approximants. Coda s assimilates for voicing, and n assimilates for POA, to any following consonant. Onsets j sh zh cannot be followed by y, and initial m n cannot be followed by l.

Stress is consistently assigned to the first syllable of the stem in stems of one or two syllables, and the second syllable in stems of three or more syllables.


Allophony in Dimana Lokud is poorly described, but believed to be relatively minor. It is known that plain stops tend to be aspirated in stressed syllables and after nasals, that the postalveolar sounds tend to be apical, that the front-back distinction among vowels is rigorously maintained even between the low vowels a æ, and that the lateral flap becomes a lateral approximant in most clusters - but a delateralized flap after t d.


nominal morphology

Nouns directly mark only one grammatical category, number. All other nominal morphology is derivational in nature.

Noun pluralization comes in two flavors, the general plural and the fused plural. The fused plural is the older pattern, and occurs only in nouns that end in unstressed a o u au. These obligatorily change to æ e i ai to make the noun grammatically plural, in all circumstances where the referent is multiple in number. This vowel fronting alternation appears elsewhere in the grammar as well.

The loss of suffixed plurals from other nouns resulted in the development of the general plural from what had been a classifier. It consists of the particle di, which is placed immediately before a noun (and after another classifier) to show plural number. Unlike the the fused plural, the general plural is not entirely obligatory: whenever a number word or an intrinsically plural classifier quantifies the noun already, or with nouns that take the fused plural, it may be omitted. But it is required otherwise, and is never wrong.

When a noun formed by the agentive or instrumental deverbal suffixes (-yV and -nV) takes the fused plural, the vowel change applies to both the suffix vowel and the root-final vowel.

adjectival morphology

The fused plural also applies to adjectives ending in unstressed a o u au whenever their head nouns are plural in number, however marked. But adjectives have no equivalent of the general plural; those ending in other sounds simply do not inflect for number.

adberbial morphology

Dimana Lokud adverbs are unusual in that they can inflect to agree with their head verb for mood. Adverbs ending in unstressed æ e i ai often, but not always, undergo the reverse of the fused-plural vowel alternation, changing to a o u au, when the verb is irrealis. Each adverb does this either always, or never. This may reflect differing historical sources of these final vowels. Relatively few adverb roots end in back vowels by default, but those which do never change form.

verbal morphology

Regular verbs change form to reflect tense/mood, place, voice, direction, and the person and number of their subjects. Tense/mood and subject agreement are fused into one set of suffixes, followed by another set for place, while direction is marked with prefixes. Voice is more derivational in nature, and prefixes, suffixes, and separate particles are employed in expressing it.

tense, mood, and person

The stem of a regular verb, when used as a verb, carries one of the following 18 suffixes.

nonpast past irrealis
1sg -ye -zai -zau
1pl -in -ai -au
2 -ma -man -man
3sg -i -id -ud
3pl -wa -wan -wan
4sg -(e)n -ka -ko
4pl -bo -ambi -ambi

Suffixes beginning in vowels override any final vowel on the verb stem - except in the 4sg, where the suffix vowel appears only when the suffix follows a consonant. Note that stem-final d changes to l before non-approximant consonants. Following are the tense-person paradigms for three verbs, bwevon "smile", famosen "try", and samiden "think" (roots bwevo-, famos-, and samid-). We skip the irrealis because it is so easily predictable from the past forms.

1sg bwevoye famozye samidye
1pl bwevin famosin samidin
2 bwevoma famozma samilma
3sg bwevi famosi samidi
3pl bwevowa famozwa samidwa
4sg bwevon famosen samiden
4pl bwevobo famozbo samilbo
1sg bwevozaifamozzaisamilzai
1pl bwevai famosai samidai
2 bwevomanfamozmansamilman
3sg bwevid famosid samidid
3pl bwevowanfamozwansamidwan
4sg bwevoka famoska samilka
4pl bwevambi famosambi samidambi

A tense-person suffix is obligatory on all verbs; stems are never bare, outside of certain deverbal forms. The 4sg nonpast-proximal form serves as an infinitive at times, so we use it for the citation form. For regular verbs this is the suffix -(e)n, and for weak verbs, -u. Even in direct/rude imperatives a person suffix is required, normally second person (although in principle any person is possible). Thus regular verb roots may be described as bound. Only the weak verbs can ever appear with a zero suffix, and only in the first and second person non-past proximal.

Note on citation: At first glance it may seem ambiguous whether a verb cited with -en (as opposed to another vowel, which clearly would belong to the stem) has a stem-final e versus a stem-final consonant with the e belonging to the suffix. But it is fully predictable: when the consonant before the en is any of s n d, it is root-final and the following vowel belongs to the suffix. If the consonant is anything else, the e belongs to the stem. (Analogical leveling has destroyed all historical exceptions.)


Lokud verbs also mark spatial deixis - that is, whether the situation expressed by the verb happens "here" (proximal) versus "elsewhere" or "at that place" (distal). Like tense, this category is obligatory - clauses must be grounded in space in addition to time, except in the irrealis. These suffixes follow the tense suffixes, but rather than being entirely independent, differ by tense in which place is marked. In the nonpast tense, only the distal is marked, while for the past tense and the irrealis, only the proximal is.

nonpast past/irrealis
proximal -- -s
distal -di --

The past-proximal suffix replaces any final n or d in the past/irrealis suffixes. For example, the second-person paradigm is as follows:

nonpast past/irrealis
proximal -ma -mas
distal -madi -man

For comparison, here is the first person singular:

nonpast past/irrealis
proximal -ye -zais / -zaus
distal -yedi -zai / -zau

All the person suffixes work this way.

Dimazais ni.
dima-zai-s ni
say-1sg.PAST-PROX 4sg
I said it (here).

Finally, there is a third suffix for place, -sad. It can be used after any of the person-tense suffixes, and it marks a distal event that has proximal relevance. This is quite comparable to the "perfect" aspect found in many other languages, but specifies a spatial rather than a temporal relationship (though the two often coincide).

Place suffixes are not obligatory in the irrealis, nor when the clause expresses a state of affairs that's generally true regardless of location.


In addition to the default active voice, the language also marks on the verb a reflexive, a passive, a marginal middle voice, and two applicatives.

-el reflexive
-tu passive (with particle hai before verb), OR
middle (no particle; formal/archaic)
shen- applicative 1
es- applicative 2

Voice affixes are derivational. Voice suffixes come before person/tense suffixes, and voice prefixes come after directional prefixes.


When a sentence indicates motion the verb commonly takes a directional prefix to specify a direction of motion that is anything other than the forward, expected, or default direction.

no- up
la- down
den- back
an- around, to the side
zæ- across, over

Directionals can be extended to all manner of situations that involve a direction only indirectly or metaphorically, much as do many other languages (e.g. English "fill up", "set back", "try over", "work out").

Lalundizai o vyaha.
la-lundi-zai o vyaha
down-roll-1sg.PAST CL barrel
I rolled the barrel down."

Various combinations of a verb with a directional have become quite routinized, and certain verbs rarely appear without a customary directional prefix.

irregular verbs

There are a number of irregular verbs in the language, which fall into several categories. They are all irregular in their tense-person behaviors; the other grammatical categories work as usual.

1. The "weak" verbs, numbering about three dozen, follow a different and highly defective suffix paradigm. Only some of the most frequently used among historical weak verbs still retain it; all others have been regularized.

nonpast past/irrealis
1sg, 2sg -0 -a
1pl, 2pl -0 -dæn
3sg -a -si
3pl, 4sg, 4pl -u -sed

2. A small class of verbs consistently supplete when there is a plural subject. Some of these are weak verbs in one or both roots.

3. The verbs "be", "be located", "have", "say", "want", and "cause" all have suppletive forms used with proximate (third person) subjects, while "make" suppletes for tense in addition to number. Following are the verbs with proximate-suppletion, with the proximate root cited in the third person plural because the other forms can be best predicted from this.

person be be located have say want cause
1, 2, 4pon hyakun agan diman telen ikan
3(pl/nonpast)kyuwa fliwa sowa uyowa tawa lyewa

4. Verbs stems ending in the sequence VyV, before suffixes with initial i, tend to undergo shape changes to avoid the illegal sequence *yi. Verbs ending in CyV simply drop the y before these suffixes. Parallel behaviors may occur in the rare cases where w in the same position is followed by the suffix -ud, and in one weak verb before -u.

That verb, "make', is the most highly irregular in the language. It shows all four of the above types of irregularity, and suppletes with three roots: kod-, nyo-, and bewa-. The first of these shows regular suffixes, while the other two use the weak paradigm. Following is its full inflection table.

nonpast past irrealis
1sg nyo kolzai kolzau
1pl bewa bewadæn bewadæn
2sg nyo kolman kolman
2pl bewa bewadæn bewadæn
3sg nya kodid kodud
3pl bu bewased bewased
4sg nyu kolka kolko
4pl bu bewased bewased

5. Some monosyllabic verbs not ending in consonants gain a prosthetic w or h before suffixes beginning with vowels.

derivational morphology


Dimana Lokud is relatively rich in deverbal forms. Following are the nominal deverbals.

The symbol V in suffixes below means a copy of the root's last vowel. Note that in fused plurals both instances of this vowel will undergo the vowel change (memboyo "one who cooks" > membeye "those who cook"). When used with a weak verb, all of these are attached to the verb's -a form, not its -u form - with two exceptions, those being swinu ("to sit, stay") and nyu ("to make, do"). This is yet another regard in which the latter verb is irregular.

All the nominal deverbals are exemplified on the verb diman (among others):

diman to say
dimaya speaker, head, chief; "one who does the telling"
dimo word, phrase
dimana language, speech variety, manner of speech
dimad speaking

There are also four adjectival deverbals.

Three adverbial deverbals complete the list, for a total of eleven deverbal forms.



word order

Transitive sentences containing full noun phrases for subject and direct object are typically SVO, and intransitive ones with full noun phrase subjects are typically SV. However, the pre-verbal position of the subject marks it as having the pragmatic status of "topic", or "proximate". A subject that is not the topic usually appears later in the clause, resulting in VOS/VS. In no case may a direct object appear to the left of the verb, nor may any other material intervene between verb and direct object.

Modifiers typically follow their heads. Noun phrases follow the order Det - CL - PL - noun - modifiers, where Det means any quantifier, deictic, or number (i.e. determiners), CL means a classifier, PL means the plural particle, and modifiers include adjectives, attributive phrases, relative clauses, and the like.


In all examples below, subclauses are glossed in brackets for clarity, and initial discourse particles are dispensed with.

complement clauses

Complement clauses are subclauses that fill the grammatical role of a verb's direct object, or are otherwise an argument of the verb. Adjunct clauses are subclauses that are oblique with respect to the verb. The two classes are not robustly distinguished in Dimana Lokud, save that complement clauses are tightly bound to their position to the immediate right of the verb (and any other complements) while adjunct clauses are more free to be moved around in the sentence according to information prominence and considerations of style, and that adjunct clauses require overt subordination while complement clauses do not.

Basic complement clauses can be summarized with a single rule: form one as a normal sentence, and place it after the matrix verb. No overt marking of subordination is necessary, although it is possible (which we define here as non-basic).

Although the rule is simple in principle, it is worth examining its most frequent manifestations. The simplest of these are subclauses that have the same subject as the matrix verb. This type is formed simply with a normal finite verb plus any complements that it might have, and placed directly after the matrix verb. The subordinate verb is marked for the appropriate subject, tense, and place, as usual, and bears the same suffix as the matrix verb if both verbs are regular and share the same tense and location.

Pwesye peleye wedi.
like-1sg.PRES [watch-1sg.PRES man-PL]
I like looking at men.

In another basic complement clause type, the subject of the matrix clause has a role in the subclause other than the agent, but is the currently active discourse topic. In this case it will be promoted to subject of the subclause, and the subordinate verb passivized.

Pwesye hai peletuye.
like-1sg [PASS watch-PASS-1sg.PRES]
I like being looked at.

As with any passive clause, the agent can be re-added in an oblique role.

Pwesye hai peletuye wa wedi.
like-1sg [PASS watch-PASS-1sg.PRES by man-PL]
I like being looked at by men.

A third type is where the matrix clause subject is present in a non-agent role in the subclause, while not being topical. In this case the subclause is not normally passivized, but instead a different subject is specified within the subclause in the usual manner.

Telen vwazoye ni.
want-4sg.PRES [touch-1sg.PRES 4sg]
He wants me to touch him.

A fourth basic type is where the subject of the matrix clause plays no role in the subclause.

Teleye bwevoma.
want-1sg.PRES [smile-2.PRES]
I want you to smile.

subclausal subjects

Complement clauses can only be complements or direct objects of a matrix verb, while adjunct clauses are always oblique; a subclause cannot itself be the subject of a matrix clause.

*Bwevoma lyon zu.
*[smile-2.PRES] please-4sg.PRES 1sg
That you smile pleases me.

Situations that would call for this are handled in either of two ways. Firstly, the subordinate verb can be nominalized and possessed by its subject, which is not morphosyntactically different from any other possessed noun being the subject of a clause. For example, it is not possible for the nominalized verb to take a direct object.

Bwevad en lyon zu.
[smile-NOM 2sg] please-4sg.PRES 1sg
Your smiling pleases me.

*Dimad dimana oso en lyon zu.
*[speak-NOM language 1pl 2sg] please-4sg.PRES 1sg
Your speaking our language pleases me.

Or, the matrix verb can be passivized, and the would-be subclause demoted to an adjunct clause in the manner of an agent of any passive verb. The same preposition is used, and a full range of internal structure is available in the subclause.

Hai lyotuye wa bwevoma.
PASS please-PASS-1sg [by smile-2.PRES]
I am pleased that you smile.

Hai lyotuye wa dimama dimana oso.
PASS please-PASS-1sg [by speak-2.PRES language 1pl]
I am pleased that you speak our language.

voice and valence

Most verbs lexically specify valence: they are either transitive, or else intransitive, and cannot freely be switched without valence-adjusting operations. Chief among these operations are the voice affixes. For reference, these are:

-el reflexive
-tu passive (with particle hai before verb) or middle (no particle; formal/archaic)
shen- applicative 1
es- applicative 2

valence reducing operations

The reflexive voice covers all cases of the clause subject acting upon itself, and in colloquial language serves as a middle voice as well, in which a semantic patient is cast as undergoing a process or performing an action upon itself. In this use it often serves as a decausative with lexically causative verbs, removing the notion of causation from the scene. All transitive verbs can take the reflexive.

The passive voice promotes a semantic patient to the grammatical role of subject, while still casting it as receiving an action (as opposed to undergoing a process). This is chiefly used for patients that are topical in discourse. Agents can be re-added in oblique positions. Almost all verbs can be passivized; passivized intransitive verbs work a little differently, promoting to subject a nominal that would otherwise be oblique, and leaving a stranded preposition in its wake.

In poetry and highly formal speech the -tu suffix can also appear alone as a middle voice, contrasting with the reflexive in that the reflexive specifies a self-directed action and the middle specifies a process undergone. In colloquial language the reflexive has completely taken over for the middle voice.

valence increasing operations

Among the numerous derivational prefixes a verb may take, there are two applicative prefixes, shen- and es-. The difference between the two can be subtle and is not fully understood at this time, but as a general guide, shen- promotes oblique nominals to direct object that express the target, destination, or benefactee of the action, thus resembling a dative-shift operation (although Dimana Lokud has no clear grammatical role of indirect object), while es- promotes nominals referring to people or objects the action is performed with respect to or in physical relation to and very frequently occurs with a directional affix. With verbs of locomotion es- is strongly preferred over shen-. Both applicatives are used primarily with intransitive verbs and result in transitive clauses. Occasionally they are used with transitive verbs, with the semantic patient demoted to oblique or, if it's clear enough from context, simply omitted.

Kopazai ni ad en. (no applicative)
give-1sg.PAST 4sg DAT 2sg
I gave it to you.

Shenkopazai en.
APPL-give-1sg.PAST 2sg
I gave you (something).

Causative constructions are expressed syntactically, rather than morphologically. They are formed with a verb of causation, followed by a subclause expressing the caused situation. By far the two most commonly used causative verbs, ain and ikan (proximate lyewa) have no other meaning than "to cause", and differ only by control specification (see below).

Aizai samilka.
cause-1sg.PAST [think-4sg.PAST]
I made him think.

Ikaman Twalma peleka en.
cause-2.PAST [NAME watch-4sg.PAST 2sg]
You made Twalma watch you.


Noun phrases may begin with classificatory particles that specify the shape, consistency, type, or distribution of the noun's referent in any given instance. Classifiers are obligatory after numerals, and with the direct objects or intransitive subjects of most verbs of motion, handling, or location. In all other syntactic environments, they are used whenever judged semantically appropriate by the speaker. Often more than one classifier could fit a given referent at a given time, and the choice between them depends on what's most relevant to the speaker's communicative intent.

It is important to note that classifiers classify the referent, not the noun: a given noun is used with whichever classifier is most semantically appropriate, not unlike derivational morphology. But classifiers do not derive new lexical items - they do not allow a noun to refer to anything it couldn't refer to on its own. For example:

i doku - a human arm
myan doku - an animal leg
zod doku - a tree branch
kwan doku - a table leg
doku - an arm, leg, or branch

Sometimes the choice of classifier is purely down to how the speaker wants to portray something:

i vanta - a village (viewed as a human community)
yos vanta - a village (viewed as a place at which one can be located)

classifier use examples
o Single round object. Ball, fist, rock, apple, egg, bird, mouse
apu Multiple round objects. Balls, fists, rocks, apples, eggs, birds, mice
un Solid long things, horizontal. Fallen log, stick, saw, spear, hammer, axe, bone
hu Solid flat things, horizontal. Tray, table, door, lake, the ground
kwan Solid long or flat things, vertical. Tree trunk, upright pole, marker stick, wall, cliff face
nahe Flexible flat or long things. Blanket, shirt, leather, leaf, fish, net, necklace, rope, river, vine, single hair, finger, tail
si Layers and stacked flat things. Stack of trays, stack of blankets, layers of an onion, tree bark, clothing being worn
lya Bulky or unwieldy things. Heavy package, large bundle, boulder, house, bear, moose, corpse
Granular masses. Sand, collected grain or seeds, loose ashes, fur, hair
yos Liquids; also places. Water, milk, broth, mud, porridge, odor; village, mountain, room
Open or empty things. Basket, cup, pot, bowl, hole, hollow in a tree, valley, sky, open hand, (jocularly) a hungry person
dus Things that fill spaces. Fog, rain, smoke or stench in a room, clouds filling the sky, floodwater, forest
zod Branched things. Tree, plant, comb, broom, dandelion seed, roots on a plant, hand, chair
pan Multiple small round objects. Blueberries, cherries, nuts, beads, pebbles
iyed Sharp, fragile, or dangerous things. Blade, bramble, arrow, needle tip, tooth, claw, burning materials, spoiled food, poison
dwa Dispersed masses or like objects. Snow all over, rocks here and there, spilled water, fallen crumbs, stars in the sky
ze One or more types of something. Types of food, types of people, different thicknesses of rope, languages (treated as types of speech)
in Pair of like objects. Pair of shoes, pair of like rocks, married couple, one person's eyes or hands
au Abstractions and things not manifest. Spirit, dead person, idea, word, courage, lost or discarded item
uwa Units of time. Days, years, hours, generations
jin Handfuls. Handful of food, handful of dirt
ad Customary containers with contents. Cup of water, sack of potatoes, bowl of food, basket of fruit
go Customary units of length. armlengths of rope, fingerlengths of cloth, paces across a room
yu Customary groupings. Herd, flock, group of people gathered to chat, bundle of arrows, set of teeth, change of clothing
myan Animates other than people. Dog, sheep, chicken, deer, insect; also fire
i Male/general people and their parts and traits. Man, child, foot, finger, face, personality
ja Female people; also weather and the sky. Woman, daughter, breast; storm, sunshine, the sky, the moon

pronouns and reference

Personal pronouns are as follows:

1sg zu
1pl oso
2sg en
2pl kwa
3sg beyo
3pl ladu
4sg ni
4pl meye

Like nouns, the pronouns do not vary for case. Syntax and verb suffixes are generally sufficient to make grammatical roles clear.

Dimana Lokud is a pro-drop language, to an extent. Personal pronouns are normally dropped when they would be the subject of a verb, as the verb suffixes alone constitute full subject reference. However, pronouns that are not the subject cannot be thusly dropped, not even when the correct pronoun would be easily understood from context.

Elmid ni.
take-3sg.PAST 4sg
He took it.

Note that when a possessed noun is the subject of a sentence, the possessor is usually the topic, but the possessed noun itself is still the subject. Thus topical possessors of subject nouns cannot be dropped either.


singular plural
this na
that (visible) myu mi
that (not visible) shid mi
now had -
then heyu hehi
here ga -
there lon lain

Aside from the deictic words, correlative pro-forms are not single words in the usual sense. Instead, compositional combinations of a deictic with a classifier, or a quantifier or number with a classifier, fill this role. However, note that in colloquial speech, classifiers in this usage will generally cliticize to the end of the deictic or quantifier. This does not occur when they are used together as part of a noun phrase.

this (long thing)

those (round things)

everyone (who is female)

anywhere - or, anything (that is liquid)


A nominal or pronominal possessor of a noun is placed after it like an adjective, and marked with the fused plural if appropriate for agreement with the noun (not to be confused with a singular pronoun's own grammatical number). A nominal possessor is one of the few places where a classifier may not appear with a noun - nor may the possessor be quantified.

mishe zu
mother 1sg
my mother

It is important to note that in this construction, only the possessor may be the topic. If instead the possessed noun is to be the topic, the possessor must instead appear in a prepositional phrase with the preposition vai.

mishe vai nogi
mother of cat
the mother of the cat

Possessed possessors can simply be strung together.

di nogi mishe ose
PL cat mother 1pl-PL
our mother's cats

linking verbs

Linking verbs are those verbs employed in predicate nominals and related sentences. Chief among them is the copular verb, pon (proximate kyuwa), "to be". The copula is a regular verb, and the syntax of these constructions is not much different from those with other verbs:

Pon songai.
COP-4sg.PRES bird
It is a bird.

Kaze mimyan kyuwan di songai.
INFM:NEG those:CL COP-3pl.PAST PL bird
Those were not birds.

The copula is used in the predicate nominal and predicate adjective constructions. But the closely related predicate locative employs a different copula, hyakun (proximate fliwa), "to be located".

Hyakuye ga.
LCOP-1sg.PRES here
I am here.

Notable is that although there is no clear way to test whether sentences with the basic copula are transitive or intransitive, those with the locative copula are clearly intransitive. Two behaviors make this apparent. Firstly, the locative copula is among the verbs that requires a classifier - but it is the subject (if an overt one is present), not the complement, that requires it.

Myan songai hyakun ga.
CL bird LCOP-4sg.PRES here
A bird is here.

And secondly, a full nominal cannot by itself be a complement of the locative copula; it requires a preposition, making it oblique.

Hyakuye *halzas / nai halzas.
LCOP-1sg.PRES *home / at home
I am home.

Unlike almost all other verbs, a preposition following the locative copula typically cliticizes to it. This will be indicated in writing in this document, except for the above example.

Hyakuyad halzas.
hyaku-ye:ad halzas LCOP-1sg.PRES:toward home
I am on my way home.

positional linking verbs

There are three further linking verbs: to sit, to stand, and to lie. These may be employed instead of either of the copulas, or not, at the speaker's choice; they offer a more expressive alternative. However, in this usage, the choice of linking verb must agree with the physical orientation of the subject: vertically-oriented objects, standing people, and other upright things will be described as standing, horizontally-oriented things (including e.g. liquids or scattered materials) will be described as lying, and things that do not clearly have either orientation will be described as sitting. Abstractions and things with no physical orientation at all will not usually be used with a positional linking verb.

Tando nomi plako.
tree stand-3sg.PRES tall
The tree is tall.

The subject will not necessarily require a classifier with any of these linking verbs, unless they are used locatively. That usage, just like the locative copula, both requires the subject to be classified and the complement to take a preposition - which cliticizes to the verb again. These are the only other verbs than the locative copula that can bear a cliticized preposition.

Zod tando nomitama kehaki.
CL tree stand-3sg.PRES:inside valley
The tree is in the valley. (The tree is upright.)

Finally, note again the requirement that the verb choice agree with the subject's actual physical orientation, not just its expected one. This allows the linking verb to convey information not present elsewhere in the clause:

Zod tando wihitama kehaki.
CL tree lie-3sg.PRES:inside valley
The tree is in the valley. (The tree is fallen.)


The negative particle is ze. To negate a constituent, the negative particle is placed after it.

dime ze
word.PL NEG
no words

To negate a clause, the negative particle is placed after the initial particle, and cliticizes to it. When there is no initial particle the negative particle can stand alone at the beginning of the clause.

Kaze dimazai.
I didn't say anything.

Alternatively, and especially in subclauses, the negative particle may be placed after a verb to negate it, implicitly negating the whole clause.

Dimazai ze.
say-1sg.PAST NEG
I didn't say anything.


Numbers quantifying a noun appear before it, and its classifier, in the noun phrase. Note that a classifier is obligatory when a number appears in a noun phrase, or is referential itself. When counting, the classifier is normally used at the end of the count, and in longer counts at each multiple of ten, but need not appear with every single instance counted.

1 gai
2 inu
3 van
4 yun
5 poti
6 wele
7 shan
8 pauska
9 lamelid
10 hlæd


The following list is incomplete.

tama "inside", "within"
wa collocative ("with"); agentive ("by")
vai ablative/genitive
nai locative
ad allative/dative
jun instrumental


Although initial discourse particles convey the most information about modality in a Lokud sentence, the mood of the verb remains an important feature. There is only one marked mood, the irrealis. This is governed by discourse particles in main clauses, but also appears independently of them, especially in questions and subclauses. Such independent use conveys that the clause is not claimed to be true.

Yalsi kwintud zu.
yadu-si kwinte-ud zu
seem-3sg.PAST [believe-3sg.IRR 1sg]
He seemed to believe me.

Although verb suffixes do not always differ between past tense and irrealis mood, the feature is nevertheless always present under the surface, and usually becomes clear when the discourse particle is considered:

Ka dliswan shid.
INFM discuss-3pl.PAST that
They discussed that.

Es dliswan shid.
perhaps discuss-3pl.IRR that
They might discuss that.

For this reason, verbs are glossed in this document as irrealis whenever appropriate even when the same suffix marks only past tense elsewhere. Additionally, whenever the verb is irrealis - whether or not this form is different from the past tense - inflecting adverbs agree appropriately with the mood of the verb.

Es haigo dliswan shid.
es haige-o dlis-wan shid
might tomorrow-IRR discuss-3pl.IRR that
They might discuss that tomorrow.


The degree of control the subject has over the situation expressed is very often lexically encoded in Lokud verbs, frequently leading to pairs of verbs that differ only by whether the situation is controlled. Some of these pairings are common in other languages and not especially notable on their own, for example:

[-ctrl] [+ctrl]
see watch
hear listen to
fall drop down
receive get, take

But the Lokud distinction is more pervasive, including such pairs as the following, approximated into English as best we can:

[-ctrl] [+ctrl]
come to know; hear about learn by studying
cough involuntarily cough for a purpose; clear one's throat
breathe normally breathe, in a controlled way
hit, without aiming hit a target aimed at
break break, in a controlled manner
blurt out; misspeak say
pass out; be asleep go to sleep
run into meet with
fly; be propelled through the air fly by self-propulsion
go (see below) go

The morphosyntax of Dimana Lokud is sensitive to this lexical distinction in several regards:

These properties are sufficient to diagnose any verb's control status even if its semantic properties do not quite appear to fit or there isn't an opposing pair member to contrast with. Indeed, numerous verbs of either class lack a direct counterpart, hence the utility of su-.

He hiccupped.

He hiccupped. (He simulated having the hiccups.)

Note that the [-ctrl] verbs do not necessarily specify that the subject lacked any control over the situation. For example, one can most often choose not to receive something, but the verb is still [-ctrl] in Lokud. The distinction is more about whether there is full, active, and controlling involvement in a process. This is different from intentionality - for instance the [-ctrl] verb "break" can be used even when one intentionally breaks something, if this is done in a poorly controlled manner (such as smashing it with a fist) whereas the [+ctrl] verb is used in situations like breaking a stick into equal halves, breaking a nut shell to get at the nut, or rebreaking a partially healed broken bone in order to set it.

Another interesting case are the verbs for "to go". The [+ctrl] verb covers normal situations of animates engaging in locomotion - but if this is interfered with by darkness, highly uneven ground, or being drunk, the [-ctrl] verb is employed. Meanwhile the motion of inanimate objects is governed mainly by nature, even when the motion is initiated by a person, and thus requires the [-ctrl] verb. Much the same applies to the verbs for "fly" - self-propelled flight, such as by using wings, is usually [+ctrl] while flight that results from an initiating force, but thereafter follows a trajectory dictated only by physics, is always [-ctrl].

Songai zesinjid swed.
songai zæ-es-inja-id swed
bird across-APPL2-fly-3sg.PAST room
The bird flew across the room (using its wings).

Songai zesavid swed.
songai zæ-es-ave-id swed
bird across-APPL2-fly-3sg.PAST room
The bird flew across the room (because I threw it).


topics and subjects

The "topic" in a portion of discourse is the referent primarily discussed during that portion. A topic is "activated" when it is first made a topic, and in general, it remains the topic until another is activated or the discourse ends. A topic may be of any grammatical person. It is important to keep in mind that the notion of a "topic" in Dimana Lokud is something that operates at the discourse level, not the sentence level: it is common for a sentence not to refer to the current topic.

A full nominal is activated as the topic by using it as the subject of a sentence and placing it to the left of the verb. Thereafter the noun phrase is typically not re-stated (except for deliberate reiteration), and further sentences about this topic will thus have only verb suffixes as continued pointers to the topical referent. Free pronouns are also commonly used when a first or second person referent is activated as a topic, but this is not obligatory.

In most sentences, the topic will be the sentence subject whether it is already active or just being activated. Most often it is the most agentive referent in the sentence. When it is not the most agentive, the passive or reflexive voice will often be employed to promote the topic to the subject status. But not always: only when the agent would be a full nominal is the passive (or reflexive) required.

There are three further types of sentences, which share the characteristic that the subject is not the topic:

- Those casting the topic in an oblique role. Oblique-role topics are often - but not always - made into a subject by a double-promotion maneuver accomplished by using a verb that is both applicative and passive.

- Those which do not mention the currently active topic at all. It is these sentences in which VS/VOS word order is employed, and additionally, the subject takes the preposition wa. This is the same preposition with which agents can be re-added to passive sentences.

- Those in which the subject is a possessed noun. In these sentences, unless the possessor is in a prepositional phrase, by default the possessor is the topic and the possessed noun is the subject.


The third person verb suffixes are always co-referential with a recently specified topic noun. They cannot appear without a topic that is currently active in discourse, and there can be at most one such topic at a given time. All other referents, that aren't first or second person, are obviated - that is, they are referred to with the fourth person suffixes and pronouns.

By default, whenever a full noun is used as the subject of a matrix clause, this noun is the new topic and therefore proximate: the third person suffixes are used for it. This de-activates any prior topic in the discourse. But there are specific situations to take note of:

- Full noun subjects in subclauses cannot cause a topic reset. They are always obviated or else already activated as the topic.

- A speaker can choose not to reset the topic. See "Topics and Subjects" above.

- A speaker can obviate an active topic without specifying a new topic. This signals a shift of empathy away from the topic. For example, consider: "Karen was loved by everyone. But then she stole our tools." Karen remains topical throughout; but in the second sentence, in Dimana Lokud, references to her will be obviated because the speaker has shifted the focus of his empathy from Karen to her victims. Rarely, a topic may be obviated from the moment of its activation.

- When a full noun subject is possessed, by default it is obviated and is not activated as topic - rather, the possessor is.

speech act types

Most sentences begin with an initial discourse particle. Each particle serves two functions: to mark the modality of the sentence, and to declare the nature of the speech act. The Lokud would not necessarily see these as separate functions.

Discourse particles are usually dropped from sentences only in two circumstances: to express an assertion or imperative with impolite force, or, following a sentence with a particle, when the same one applies. Multiple sentences may fall under the speech act defined by the particle, and only the first of these needs to be present, but they are frequently reiterated. Short sentences, especially those presented as afterthoughts or immediate continuations, are much more likely to drop the particle than longer sentences that advance the discourse. Only in narratives can they be dispensed with for long. Discourse particles operate on the level of the sentence or the speech act, not the clause; subclauses cannot take them, and the nothing can appear to their left within a sentence except dislocated material, interjections, and vocative elements.

Following are the main initial particles.

ka The sentence politely informs the listener of a fact, or answers a question. Ka may be used to signal that the material is relevant to the discussion at hand, if this is not obvious from its content. Any of the above can be done impolitely by dropping the particle.
lau The sentence is rhetorical, a restatement or elaboration of a previously mentioned thought, or is otherwise not new information to the listener. Rhetorical questions also use this particle, but retain other traits of questions (rising intonation, use of query words).
e The sentence is a question, a non-rhetorical request for information.
u The sentence is a polite imperative - it requests an action from the listener. U can be glossed as "please", and it requires the main verb be irrealis. Again, a more insistant imperative can be formed simply by dropping the particle.
hayaThe sentence is performative. That is, the sentence constitutes the very act it describes, fulfilling itself. The particle can be thought of as meaning "hereby". Performative sentences do not always require the particle, especially in ritualized speech. Haya requires the verb to be present tense, and generally first person as well.
hwi The sentence expresses an invitation, exhortation, or appeal that something be done, or a hope that something be the case. Hwi requires the main verb be irrealis.
es The sentence raises a possibility, provides a possible explanation, gives one or more options, or offers a line of reasoning. Es requires the main verb be irrealis.
vlod Like es, but instead of bare possibility, the sentence is presented as something the speaker doubts is true. Vlod requires the main verb be irrealis.
azo The sentence relates a narrative, or repeats hearsay information. The information is claimed to be true but the speaker is hedging on responsibility for its veracity.
sen The sentence follows from a previous one. This particle may be used simply for discourse continuity (like "and then") or it may present a relationship of logical consequence from the prior sentence (like "so" or "therefore"). When a sentence with es or vlod is followed by a sentence with sen, the main verb is required to be irrealis too, and the pair is best interpreted as a single conditional statement. Whereas if it follows a ka sentence, the verb will generally not be irrealis. The previous "sentence" need not be an actual sentence - it can be any manner of communicative act, such as a one-word answers to questions; stand-alone interjections; profanity; or wordless vocalizations or gestures of surprise, interest, confusion, understanding, and so forth.

Kari, u jememas zu.
Kari IMPER marry-2.IRR-PROX 1sg
Kari, please marry me (here).

Nenka, haya jemeye en.
Nenka PERFORM marry-1sg.PRES 2sg
Nenka, I (hereby) marry you.


Control specification is directly indicated where appropriate, as capturing the distinction both clearly and concisely in English often presents a challenge.

ad to, towards, for (prep)
agan to have
ain to cause [-ctrl]
ampid fin
amvan to begin [+ctrl]
ana sickness, disease
anako sick
antesan plain, flatland
apowa ear
aspan to flow, ooze, drip (of thick liquids)
aspaya snail
asta many
aumun to cough [+ctrl]
auyu finger (pl. awi)
aven to fly [-ctrl]
æflin spring
ægod tense, tight
æpwan to meet [+ctrl]
æzgun to hurt, wound [-ctrl]
bandyo ankle
bæsu rock
bæyau river
bezwen tasty, savory, rich
bilu to stop
bini hard, stiff
blan honey
blanko sweet
boshai loud, noisy
botan to hear [-ctrl]
bwandan to steal
bwayo aromatic
bwevon to smile
byevin to pull
byun to break [+ctrl]
dahiti steam
damo thumb
dan any
dele head
delku bramble (any vine with thorns)
depi mud
deya healthy
dezad shore, riverbank
dezafan to cough [-ctrl]
difisi froth
diji tail
diman to say [+ctrl]
dimana language
dimaya speaker, head, chief
dimo word, phrase
doku arm, branch, leg
dlisen to discuss, debate [+ctrl]
dume fur
duminga dust
duwezen to breathe [+ctrl]
dwad bright
dweman to discuss, argue about [-ctrl]
dwesha quiet, peaceful
edu to make, do [-ctrl]
elmen to take, get [+ctrl]
elwan to say [-ctrl]
espile snot, mucus
eswad cockroach
etwaye unclear, murky
eyæti thin, narrow
falsa painful
famosen to try
fantu wing
fængo plant (without thorns)
febilka to hiccup [-ctrl]
femen to come
flanze hawk
flizde sour
fumbe toe
fushun to be called
fwan fresh
fwento elbow
fwi all, every
fyape feather
ga here
gai one
galyod beeswax
genyen to go to sleep [+ctrl]
glan clean
gwa stick
gwisi moss
gyezuwa horizontal, lying down
had now
haige tomorrow
haina sharp
haloya cloud
halzas home, residence; burrow, nest (of animals)
hatashi fern
hæs bubble
hehi at those times
heyu then; at that time
hidu to let, allow
hivi star
hlæd ten
hwaiza crow, raven
hwan dog
hwelo basic, plain, bland
hwifen to awaken
hyai fire
hyakun to be located
hyeled cold
ihijid bald
ihitete starved
ihiyed dry
ikan to cause [+ctrl]
indadin to be sexually penetrated [-ctrl]
injan to fly [+ctrl]
inu two
jaindo feces
jaun to taste
jeda flea
jemen to marry
jezbe bee
jid hair
jomba wide; bulging; fat, obese
jun with (instrumental) (prep)
jushi swamp
kamfyo the top of the foot
kanyæn to burn
kæsho flesh, meat
kehaki valley
kemwa smooth
keyan blood
kolga dirty, soiled
kondan to fall [+ctrl]
kongo pig, boar
kontas shell
kopan to give, put [+ctrl]
kowi thirsty
kulun wood
kwakwad blind
kwe sleepy
kwekola young (of an animal)
kwinten to think, believe [-ctrl]
lain at those places
lafe soft
lalen to bite
lamelid nine
lauki drunk, intoxicated
leshe mist
litelai confluence of streams or rivers
livla buttocks
lon there; at that place
lundin to roll
lwaka hot
lwasan to love
lwatelo trunk, torso
lwen snake
lyon to please, satisfy
madi leg
malæn to sleep, pass out [-ctrl]
manzo day
masawa heel
mawi owl
mæntu anus
melyo lake
membo meal
membon to cook
memboyo one who cooks
mi those
mindo egg; testicle
misyon to receive [-ctrl]
mishe mother
mokwaina gravel
monyæ tongue
mowan to touch, come into contact with [-ctrl]
mwafye wrist
mwen belly
mwetan to call, cry out [+ctrl]
myendai nest
myu that (visible)
myuzan to mean, signify
myuzo meaning, thing signified
na this
nai at, in, on (prep.)
namblod womb
naule fog
nemiwo foot
nepwid dark
nivyan to carry, bring [+ctrl]
niza insane; eager
nobe upright, standing, vertical
nogi cat
nomon to stand
noyun to walk
nyenu to fall [-ctrl]
nyofo knee
nyu to make, to do [+ctrl]
od chest
oman to stick, adhere
ongan to hold, keep [+ctrl]
ozuwan to stir
ozuwana stirring spoon; fire poker
pale hill
pampes loose, relaxed, calm
pandu deer
panta tooth
papeyen to boil
pauska eight
pauskazyu spider
pændan to go [-ctrl]
pekan to hate
pelen to watch, look at, examine [+ctrl]
piman nose
piste skin, leather
plako tall
plen to break [-ctrl]
ploshe building, house
pon to be
ponyen rain
posyad broken bone
poti five
punau vine
pwale hand
pwan to go [+ctrl]
pwaso earth, soil
pwavau flower
pwesen to like, enjoy
pwidu to breathe [-ctrl]
pyabwe short
saiji face
samiden to think [+ctrl]
saugan to laugh [-ctrl]
sayo palm
sæmin wonderful, great
selman stream
senyama vulva
sepas breast
songai bird
soti to frighten
soyu slick, slippery
swægan to run
swed room (in a building)
swinapa seated, sitting
swinu to sit, stay
syud sap, pitch
shahen to teach
shaho student
shan seven
shæn smoke
shemen to hurt (feel pain) [-ctrl]
sheyan to hit [+ctrl]
shid that (not visible)
shila claw
shilwed hoof
shokon rough; abrasive
talmos body
tama inside, within (prep)
tando tree
tauva the sky
telen to want
tete food
tidya clearly visible
tikwan to attack [+ctrl]
tlan fly
toglan to learn [-ctrl]
tombun to push, force
tonton to work, labor
tontus workable, possible, realistic
toyun to see [+ctrl]
tumun to have sex [+ctrl]
tunen ant
twatan to glow, shine
twen forest
twepo malodorous
twilu drop (of water), tear (i.e. from crying)
twiven to hit [-ctrl]
tyu but
uhud sand
ulvi sparrow
vai from, of (prep)
valyen to begin [-ctrl]
van three
vanta village
vevi mold, mildew
veviko moldy, rotten
vilin to cry out, scream [-ctrl]
vimi penis
vlæn full, satiated
vola plant (with thorns)
vwain to listen; listen to [+ctrl]
vwazon to touch, handle [+ctrl]
vyaha barrel
wa with (comitative); by (agentive) (prep)
wæhod dull, blunt
wedu man
wele six
wihen to lie
wites clear weather
yadu to seem, appear
yana the sun
yankon to learn [+ctrl]
yastwa frost
yed water
yelko wet
yene sleet
yenja hungry
yes or
yu salt
yuko salty
yun four
yulelu cave
yusi mouth, lips
yutuba mosquito
ze not
zedi horn
zomba eye
zona snow
zontwan to freeze
zwazu to meet, run into [-ctrl]
zweti urine
zyu bug, insect
zhavya goat
zhayan to measure [+ctrl]
zhuwi rule, law
zhwai grass