| Ìletlégbàku |
|Period||c. -900 YP|
|Spoken in||Eastern Lukpanic coast|
|Writing system||adapted Lukpanic script|
|Classification|| Western languages |
|Basic word order||head-final|
The Ìletlégbàku (pronounced [ì.ɬɛ.tɬé.ɡ͡bɑ̀.ku]) language is a descendant of Proto-Coastal-Western, and thus a member of the Western language family. The language described here was spoken around the city of Naəgbum (known to the speakers as Nugbùn) in around -900 BP, on top of a heavy Lukpanic substratum, as part of a large dialect continuum on the west Peilaš coast.
It is closely related to the other Coastal Western languages, Ishoʻu ʻOhu and Doayâu, and more distantly to other Western languages. Apart from the Coastal Western languages, important languages nearby include the various Lukpanic dialects still spoken throughout the coast at this time, Šetâmol in the Wañelin lake to the northeast, and the languages of the great steppe in the north.
The name Ìletlégbàku means 'our tribe', in the oblique case, so it's like 'of our tribe'. The people had no specific name for their language, but ìletlégbàku chèchìlè, 'speech of our tribe', is what they'd probably call it if asked about it.
- 1 Sound changes from Proto-Coastal Western
- 2 Phonology
- 3 Morphology
- 4 Derivation
- 5 Syntax
- 6 Semantics
- 7 Samples
- 8 Lexicon
- 9 See also
Sound changes from Proto-Coastal Western
- The high tone of Proto-Coastal Western becomes a mid tone, allowing a three-tone system to develop. Tone sandhi also ceases to be productive.
- Aspirated consonants raise the tone of the following vowel to high tone and are then unaspirated.
- /ɲ n/ shift to /ŋ/ after /u o/. Elsewhere /ɲ/ shifts to /n/.
- Velars are labialised before /u o/.
- /u/ shifts to /y/ in initial syllables and /ɨ/ elsewhere.
- /o/ shifts to /u/ in initial syllables and /ɑ/ elsewhere.
- /a/ shifts to /ɑ/ in initial syllables and /ɛ/ elsewhere.
- Consonants palatalise before /i e ɨ/. /s x/ > /ʃ/, /z ɣ/ > /ʒ/, /xʷ ɣʷ/ > /x ɣ/, /ts/ > /tʃ/, /dz/ > /dʒ/.
- Voiced obstruents lower the tone of the following vowel.
- Sibilants, alveolar affricates and palatal consonants raise the tone of the preceding vowel.
- High-tone /ɨ/ becomes /i/, otherwise it becomes /u/.
- Voiced fricatives and affricates merge with their voiced counterparts.
- /ɛ/ shifts to /e/ and /y/ shifts to /i/.
- /xʷ ɣʷ/ weaken to /w/, while the other labialised consonants shift to labial-velars /kp gb ŋm/.
- Consonants clustered with /ɬ/ become voiceless.
- /ɫ ʎ/ become /u i/ postvocalically, forming dipthongs. Elsewhere they become /w j/.
- /h/ lowers the tone of a preceding vowel.
- /ʔ/ raises the tone of a preceding vowel.
- /h ʔ/ are lost in coda position, at the start of words and intervocalically after /i u/.
- Elsewhere /h ʔ/ shift to /x k/.
- /p b/ weaken to [ɸ β] intervocalically.
Ìletlégbàku has mainly borrowed from Naəgbum Lukpanic due to proximity, but it has also borrowed from the Isi Lukpanic since that is the most prestigious variety. The following table shows some of the more troublesome phones in each dialect and their borrowed equivalent.
|Voiced fricatives||Isi||Voiceless fricatives|
|[ɦ]||Isi||/x/ intervocalically, dropped elsewhere|
|[l]||Naəgbum, Isi||/ɬ/ (but /j/ in early loanwords)|
|Nasal vowels||Naəgbum||Low-tone vowels + /n/ if a vowel follows|
If the word is three syllables or longer the Lukpanic stressed syllable is usually realised as a high-tone syllable.
The dialect of Ìletlégbàku described here is the dialect of Naəgbum and the immediate area around it (at the time of writing, -900 YP, Naəgbum is still mostly Lukpanic speaking). The speakers of the language had no common identity, instead identifying with their tribe, which was a fairly small unit. Because of this, Ìletlégbàku formed a dialect continuum stretching over much of the eastern Lukpanic coast, of which the speech described here is just one isolated variety of. While neighbouring tribes would be able to understand each other's speech, they might be unable to understand the speech of tribes further away.
A full description of the variations would be a tedious task, but for a perspective here are some of the major features of other parts of the continuum.
- As you approach Kpitamoa, dialects blend into Doayâu a little, though a fairly sharp divide is present. So there are features like lack of the proximal demonstrative, labial-velars turning into labials, simplification of the classifier system, etc.
- To the north dialects tend to have more extensive systems of tone, through mechanisms such as monopthongisation of dipthongs into rising or falling monopthongs or the reflection of former /h/ or /ʔ/ as breathy voice and creaky voice respectively. In the far north labialised consonants never became labial-velars.
- To the east are found some of the most archaic Coastal Western dialects, with some of them lacking palatalisation, labialisation or the loss of /h/ and /ʔ/. Most dialects in this area also reflect former labialised velar fricatives as labial fricatives, and have merged all clusters with /ɬ/ into /tɬ/. They usually still have the out-of-sight demonstrative, tá.
The phonemic inventory has generally been reduced. The language now has only 4 vowels and 18 consonants. However, it has gained another tone.
|Voiceless plosive||p /p/||t /t/||k /k/||kp /kp/|
|Voiced plosive||b /b/||d /d/||g /g/||gb /gb/|
|Affricate||c /ts/||ch /tʃ/|
|Fricative||s /s/||sh /ʃ/||x /x/|
|Lateral fricative||l /ɬ/|
|Nasal||m /m/||n /n/||ng /ŋ/||nm /ŋm/|
|Approximant||y /j/||w /w/|
- Before a high-tone vowel voiceless stops and affricates are pronounced with aspiration.
- The labial-velars (except /w/) vary freely with labialised velars. The labialised pronunciation is especially common at the start of a word.
- /x ɬ/ are voiced intervocalically.
- /p b/ weaken to [ɸ β] intervocalically.
|Close||i /i/||u /u/|
|Open||e /e/||a /a/|
- /e/ is pronounced [e] only in high-tone syllables; in other cases it is a more open [ɛ].
- /a/ is normally pronounced [ɑ]. It becomes a central [a] in high-tone syllables. It is in free variation with rounded versions of it.
- /u/ is pronounced [o] in high-tone syllables, and is often centralised when not initial.
Dipthongs can be formed from any of these vowels + /i u/: the full list is ai au ei eu iu ui. They look nicer written as dipthongs, but it may be better to analyse them as vowel + semivowel sequences.
There are three tones: high, mid and low. High tone is marked with an acute accent (á é í ú), low tone is marked with a grave accent (à è ì ù), mid tone is marked with no accent. High tone often has simulataneous creaky voice, and low tone has breathy voice, so that it could also be analysed as a register system. Some dialects distinguish high, mid, low, breathy and creaky tones (the latter two arising from former glottal fricatives and stops).
There is no phonemic tonal sandhi, but tone terracing does occur. This is the lowering of the tone of a syllable when it follows a syllable with low tone--so a high tone is pronounced as a mid tone would be normally after a low tone, and a mid tone is pronounced lower than normal.
Typical Ìletlégbàku words are fairly long, with many syllables, unlike some more familiar tonal languages like Chinese. It's more like a Bantu language in that respect.
Most syllables have a simple CV structure. The following clusters are permitted in syllable onsets only: pl tl kl py by ty kw gw xw. Some words begin with vowels; these originally began with a glottal stop, and this consonant has been preserved as sandhi. When a word beginning in a vowel follows a word ending in one a glottal stop is inserted between them.
Several words contain what appear to be hiatused vowels, for example íise hand. When the two vowels are the same, a long vowel is usually formed; if they are the same but different tones this vowel will have a tone contour. When they are different and start with i or u a semivowel is inserted between them (y for i and w for u). When they are different and end with i or u a dipthong is formed.
Generally, the language has been quite conservative morphologically, retaining all classifiers and levels of evidentiality, and not differing much from its ancestor in syntax. The most distinctive development in Ìletlégbàku was the reduction of case marking, moving the language further towards polysynthesis.
There are many of these processes in Ìletlégbàku. Here, they are listed in order of how you should apply them.
- I-affection: Retained from PCW, this process has gotten considerably more complex. It is caused by most is in suffixes--but not all. It affects the vowel in the preceding syllable, turning it into another one. There are different outcomes depending on whether the vowel is in an initial syllable or not.
- a > e everywhere.
- e > i everywhere, but in non-initial syllables it does not always shift.
- u > e in initial syllables, u elsewhere.
- i stays the same.
- U-affection: Is like I-affection, but caused by u and any is that don't cause i-affection. It is not caused by u in the initial syllable of a word, however.
- a > u in initial syllables, and stays the same elsewhere.
- e > u in initial syllables, a elsewhere.
- i stays the same in initial syllables, and becomes u elsewhere.
- u stays the same.
- Tone sandhi: The tone sandhi process of PCW, where syllables preceding low-tone syllables also became low-tone and vowels preceding nasals became low-tone, has ceased to be productive and has been levelled out for most suffixes. It still survives in the hearsay evidential -bè, and is now also caused by the assumption evidential -gè (this is probably to help distinguish the evidential from the third-person marker, also -gè).
- Labialisation: This happens with the same vowels that cause coronal backing, but happens to the consonant before. It affects velars, turning them into labial-velars. Due to i-affection or u-affection, consonants may also delabialise when they end up being before a different vowel.
- k > kp.
- g > gb.
- x > w, but only before initial u and non-initial a. Elsewhere it stays as x.
- ng > nm.
- Palatalisation: This always happens to consonants before i and non-initial u but is irregular before e. It turns s and x into sh, and ts into ch. De-palatalisation can also occur, where due to i- or u- affection the vowel is not one of the palatalising vowels so a consonant in the stem becomes unpalatalised.
- Tone raising: This occurs when a suffix begins with any of s sh ts y, or a dipthongising i. The tone of the previous vowel is raised.
- Epenthetic k: This is the insertion of k between a stem and an affix. It originally came from intervocalic glottal stops when not after i or u, and so often also causing tone raising, but has been extended to any environment where two vowels meet and the first one is not i or u.
With the evolution of a fourth-person marker, the ergative case began to be redundant in most situations due to verb argument marking, and so it has been replaced by the former absolutive case. So there are two cases, direct and oblique. Direct is the regular case; oblique is used for the objects of adpositions and has various other uses. Nouns also inflect for number and animacy. Animacy can be rather unpredictable; for example words for insects are usually inanimate, certain foods are animate, and body parts vary; for example 'mouth' is inanimate but 'head' is animate.
Many of the affixes given here affect the tone of the preceding vowel; I have indicated this with (+) for a tone raise and (-) for a tone lowering.
- For the suffixes beginning with a vowel, k is inserted before them if the stem ends in a vowel that is not i or u. An exception is certain loanwords which insert any of p b m n l instead; these are given with this consonant at the end in the lexicon (e.g. Nugbùn). Since no Ìletlégbàku roots end in a consonant, there will be no confusion.
- The plural animate oblique suffix becomes -xu because of Proto-Coastal Western's coronal backing process (which has been levelled out elsewhere). This happens after u, non-initial syllable a, and some i (which is unpredictable).
- The oblique suffixes cause u-affection.
|leshì 'horse'||ashè 'woman'||klexè 'large animal'||làxwewa 'priest'||gbìxu 'wolf'|
|cheke 'earth'||dìchè 'sky'||chiì 'bee'||kápàkpù 'forest||yawà 'smoke'|
A morpheme -gì may also be added to the noun, before the case ending, giving the following 'fourth-person' case endings (all of them cause i-affection):
This morpheme comes from Proto-Coastal Western's cataphoric morpheme for demonstratives. Now that it has been extended to all nouns, it provides a way to pinpoint for sure what role a noun has in the sentence. Nouns are marked on the verb with suffixes indicating a variety of things, such as their classifier in the third person. The suffixes also mark for case, which means you can infer the role if the suffixes are different in another aspect and could only refer to one noun in the sentence.
However, sometimes the arguments will have no distinctive element; the most common way for this to happen is when two third persons are involved. That is where you use -gì. You mark one of the third persons with a different morpheme on the verb, and add -gì to the noun that morpheme refers back to.
Here's an ambiguous example:
And here's the correct way to say it, using -gì:
Ìletlégbàku has a set of possession prefixes, which are mandatory with inalienable possession. They agree with the possessor's number, person and animacy, and therefore are also used with alienable possession as an easy way of getting the equivalent of possessive pronouns.
Possession works by putting the possessor noun before the possessed one in the oblique case. You don't always need to do this though since Ìletlégbàku is pro-drop. If you do this and it is inalienable possession, you still need the prefixes, but if you do it and it is alienable possession you must not use the prefixes.
Some nouns are distinguished only on the basis of whether they're inalienably possessed or not; for example íise 'hand' means 'helper, assistant' when possessed alienably. This is a productive process, usually forming words for jobs from body parts. For these nouns, you would always use a pronoun in the oblique case, and not the prefixes, if you wanted to get across the alienably possessed meaning.
The prefixes are:
The first forms given here are the normal ones, the second is i-affected, and the third is u-affected.
If these prefixes are attached to a word beginning in a vowel, and don't end in i or u, k is inserted between the prefix and the word. These words also raise the tone of the prefix, unless they're Lukpanic loanwords.
- nákashè 'my wife'
- emécè 'his dog'
- ìlelàxè 'my eyes'
- cúwaxu lelàxè 'their eyes'
Ìletlégbàku's personal pronouns have changed little. The distributive plurals have shifted into always meaning 'each of us'.
The personal pronouns only have first and second-person forms; for third persons you use demonstratives. The basic demonstrative roots are:
- chè - 'this', near the speaker
- dà - 'that', near the addressee
- ché - 'that', away from both interlocutors
The other demonstrative tá, for something not visible, has become archaic in the dialect of Naəgbum; in some other dialects it is still used while ché has become archaic.
A suffix gì can also be added, giving chìgì, dègì, chígì. This has shifted from its original cataphoric meaning. Now, it provides an unambiguous way of talking about another item when the main demonstratives are already being used for a different item. Due to the fact that demonstratives take classifiers, they are rarely needed.
The demonstratives take obligatory classifier suffixes, agreeing with the noun they're attached to. Examples:
- cúwa 'that person over there'
- cùwa 'this person'
- dace 'that solid thing near you'
- chìgùte 'this other animate thing'
The classifier suffixes are used in various places throughout the grammar, not just the demonstratives. While Proto-Coastal Western strictly restricted classifiers to nouns of a certain animacy, this has been loosened up in the modern language, so that, for example, Class II may contain animate things--in contrast with most of the other Coastal Western languages. However, not all nouns have been regularised like this: for example líye 'snake' still uses the Class VI classifier because it is animate. The result is that the usage of the classifier suffixes can be a little unpredictable and I give the classifier for each noun in the lexicon.
All of the Proto-Coastal-Western classifiers have survived in Ìletlégbàku, reflecting its general conservativeness.
|II||wù||u-affection||long or stick-like things|
|III||yeté||i-affection, tone raise||buildings and other limited areas|
|IV||ye||i-affection, tone raise||liquids and gases|
|VII||ce||tone raise (unless backed)||solid spherical and irregularly shaped|
|VIII||chí||u-affection||soft things that aren't food|
|IX||wa||u-affection||things that can speak; humans|
|X||shì||i-affection, tone raise||intangible, abstract things|
Quantifiers are a special class of words in Ìletlégbàku. They function like other modifiers, but take classifier suffixes agreeing with their noun, like the demonstratives. They may therefore be seen as part of a determiner class, with the demonstratives, although they can be combined with demonstratives.
Here are the numbers. Ìletlégbàku uses a base eight system.
Larger numbers up to 15 are formed by compounding nawà or a multiple of it with another number. For instance nawakigè is 8 + 5 = 13. Ordinals of these compounds take the last number in the compound and put it in ordinal form: nawakigbàgbù means 'thirteenth'. I-affection, u-affection, labialisation and palatalisation never occur when compounding numbers, although tone raises may happen. Multiples of 8 are formed by putting an ordinal in front, as part of a compound, so the number meant is [ordinal] * 8; for instance sìdùnawà is '16', sìdùnawàtagbà is '17', nawàgbùnawà is '64', nawàgbùnawàgbùnawà '512'.
Other quantifiers are also present, for instance shìpe 'some', yace 'many', pá 'all'.
Ìletlégbàku verbs mark for evidentiality instead of tense. These are the levels:
|Direct participation||-ye||i-affection, tone raise|
|Non-visual sensory||-ishì||i-affection, tone raise if not backed|
|Inferred||-yu||u-affection, tone raise if not backed|
Note that the non-visual sensory suffixes begin with dipthongising vowels, and thus never have an k inserted before them.
Verbs also take markers agreeing with the person and case of their ergative and direct arguments. Since Ìletlégbàku is pro-drop, this means pronouns which are the direct objects or subjects of verbs are usually not used, unless you really need to specify number.
These are the markers for first and second person. The second forms given are the backed versions; note that -ché is never backed as it would then merge with backed -té.
The first-person ergative marker is often shortened -ki when not in especially formal speech. The second-person forms can also be low-tone -tè -chè; this was originally a marker of impoliteness, signifying the speaker's contempt for the addressee, but it is now used ubiquitously by men when speaking in an informal context. Among women, or when speaking formally, it is perhaps even more insulting than it used to be.
As for the third-person markers, they are usually the classifier suffixes. However, a special -gè marker is used for ergative animate arguments (its plural form -gèli has fallen out of use). Fourth-person markers, used to resolve ambiguity with the markers (see the Case section for detailed information), have also been innovated: the form is -gì. This usually replaces any -gè marker if there is one; otherwise it is appended to the end of an absolutive classifier.
The markers always go ergative-first (otherwise ambiguity might arise with the fourth-person marker). Note that -gè never undergoes i-affection (because it would then become gì, merging with the fourth-person marker), and that -ki never causes any affections because it is an abbreviation of -néki.
Two mirative markers can be used, -pù and -u (which becomes -ku after a non-high vowel). -u's meaning has shifted to just surprise, not necessarily doubtful, while -pù still asserts certainty. To mark doubt explicitly put the surprise marker in low tone: -ù. These markers go before the argument markers, directly after the evidential.
Various other suffixes can also be added onto the verb, after the argument markers. All of these are almost adverbs; however they are subject to and cause morphological processes indicating that they are considered as part of the same word. Here's a list of some of them:
|(k)ìme||i-affection, tone raise||Negates a verb|
|shì||tone raise||Forms a question|
|mu||completely (perfect aspect)|
|tlawè||again and again (repeated aspect)|
|chigè||continuously (continuous aspect)|
|náye||frequently, habitually (generic aspect)|
Most of these can be in any order, but the negative marker ìme always comes at the end and the interrogative marker shì always goes at the end too, after the negative marker if there is one.
To show the power of the verbal system, here's an example of a maximally inflected verb:
Compounding and incorporation
Compounding is very productive in Ìletlégbàku, and new compounds formed will be understood and not seen as incorrect. Compounds are head-final, as in English.
Nouns are often incorporated onto verbs. When this is done, the root alone is added to the verb as a prefix and participates in most of the morphological processes, but not i-affection, u-affection or coronal backing. Exactly when this is done is rather complicated and a matter of style. Generally it is done to give an indefinite, generic or partitive meaning.
The suffix -shekéye, which causes tone raising, indicates a passive verb. Being a sort of derivation of suffix, it comes before evidentials.
- It is not used on intransitive verbs.
- On monotransitive verbs, it reduces the valency by 1, making it intransitive. The object remains in the same case, the direct, while no ergative argument is specified. There is no way of specifying an ergative argument with passive verbs.
- On ditransitive verbs, it reduces the valency by 1 making the verb transitive. The subject becomes the direct object, while the direct object becomes the subject. The recipient, who is now semantically the agent, is left unspecified.
This is a list of productive derivational suffixes.
- The adverbaliser -cu (backed -ku). Causes u-affection.
- The nominaliser -té, indicating an agent of a verb like English -er.
- -té also functions as a verbaliser, in which case it indicates a causative.
- The nominaliser -yéshì, indicating a patient of a verb. This causes tone raising.
- The augmentive -dù. Causes u-affection.
- The dimunitive -kpi. It can be nasalised to -nmi to form stronger dimunitives. Both forms cause i-affection.
- The negative -ìme, which when in this position doesn't merely negate the verb but reverses its action like English 'un-'.
The verb phrase in Ìletlégbàku is synonymous with the clause, forming a complete sentence on its own.
A verb phrase consists of a single verb, plus an optional subject, direct object, or indirect object. They may come in any order; the role of the nouns is usually evident from the verb's agreement suffixes. The default order, however, is Subject - Indirect object - Direct object - Verb.
Subjects are never inanimate. In cases where English would have an inanimate subject (e.g. 'The fire destroyed the village') some alternative phrasing must be found, usually using an instrumental ('The village was destroyed by the fire').
Most intransitive verbs take only an object (Ìletlégbàku being an ergative-absolutive language) but there are a few verbs, usually actions performed at will by the speaker like 'run' or 'speak', that take only a subject instead.
Ìletlégbàku is strongly pro-drop. When enough information is given from the suffixes in the verb, actual nouns are usually left out. For the first-person and second-person in particular, the pronouns are rarely needed. The only reason you might need to use them is if you need to specify that the pronoun is plural or not: so a sentence using a singular pronoun like this:
actually has the implied meaning of 'Only I killed him'. Likewise doing this with nà would mean 'All of us killed him..
However, indirect objects can never be dropped, since they are not marked on the verb.
Note that the indirect object in this example is 'egg', not 'you' as in English--the indirect object is assumed to be the argument that is not agreed with on the verb, and you could equally say:
However, the one with the fewest words is usually preferred. This second version would have the effect of emphasising that it's you the egg is being given to.
Modifiers attached to the verb may go in any position; the most usual position is the front.
A noun phrase consists of a head noun with modifiers before it. These modifiers may be:
- Other nouns, in the oblique case, if they possess the attached noun. These go before any other modifiers, and may even take modifiers of their own. If the possession is inalienable, a prefix must be added to the possessed noun. Prefixes can also be used with inalienable possession, but only if you drop the actual possessor noun; so phrases like *núu nuxuwageyè do not occur--just say nuxuwageyè to mean 'my friend'.
- Demonstratives, which come after any possessors. These have to take a class prefix agreeing with the noun.
- Quantifiers, which come after any demonstratives. These have to take a class prefix agreeing with the noun.
There are no real adjectives. The meaning of adjectives is usually gotten across with prefixes, such as càme- 'red', which are morphologically parts of the word and participate in i-affection and palatalisation and all that (not coronal backing though).
Some nouns may function as honorifics, indicating that their head is identified with what the noun means. Unlike other modifiers, these are placed after their head noun, in the oblique case. Nouns that do this are generally descriptions of people, such as xuwageye 'relative, friend', pígè 'chief', and tingè 'father'. Names are also used in this way.
Adpositions are mostly postpositions, i.e. they come after their object. A few, however, namely the ones derived from body parts, are prepositions coming before the object. The noun in an adpositional phrase takes the oblique case.
Adpositional phrases function just like any other modifier, coming before their heads.
Complement and adverbial clauses
Complement clauses, i.e. clauses that work as argument of verbs, are normal clauses, but have a special pronoun in them, yáshì. This pronoun may be seen as standing in for the complement clause within the main clause. It functions and is placed within the clause like the argument of the verb it's standing in for. The complement clause then precedes it.
Yáshì can also take the oblique form, yáshuku, and be used as the object of adpositions, forming adverbial clauses. Constructs like this are used for a wide variety of complex structures, such as conditionals (with i 'if'), reasons (with éi 'because'), and purposes (with tla 'for'). Many speakers knock off the first syllable to make it into shuku, but this is not as widespread as, for example, ki as a first-person ergative marker.
Yáshì is never used in an ergative role (in constructions like 'That he was cheating on me angered me'), since it is an inanimate noun. You can always find a way around this though. ('His cheating on me, it angered me').
Relative clauses, like complement clauses, have a special pronoun in them, whose root is gì. The pronoun stands in for the noun the relative clause is attached to within the relative clause, unlike complement clauses where it's the other way round. It takes a classifier agreeing with that noun, and appears wherever its role dictates within the relative clause. The whole relative clause goes before the noun it's attached to.
The discourse particles and adverbs of Proto-Coastal Western have been merged into a single adverb class, and then some of these have become incorporated onto the verb as verbal suffixes. The non-suffix adverbs always take the same form, and go in the usual verb modifier slot--before direct NPs but after any ergative NP. They usually go after more complex verbal modifiers, but this may be varied for emphasis, as in the example below.
The above sections have described sentences with verbal predicates; but other types are possible.
Nominal predicates are very simple: simply put the two nouns you want to equate next to each other. The nouns both take the direct case.
There are two ways of forming adpositional predicates. You can simply say the adpositional phrase on its own, with the head noun afterwards:
Another way is made by adding the suffix -(k)éye, which causes tone raising, to the adposition. This turns the adposition into a verb, which is then inflected and treated as normal. The two ways are basically synonymous, though this one is perceived as more formal, and allows you to specify evidentiality, etc, and drop the involved nouns. The noun the adposition is attached to becomes the ergative argument, while the object behaves like the direct argument but still takes the oblique case.
Conjunctions are fairly simple. When they connect phrases, they go after the final one of the two things they coordinate, unlike in English. When they connect clauses, however, they go in between.
Heavy constituent postponing
The 'heavy constituent postponing' of Proto-Coastal Western has been retained, but has changed somewhat in patterns of usage. Heavy constituent postponing is never strictly obligatory, but it is generally felt that a sentence is clearer when the postponing is used, and therefore it gets more and more likely to happen as the constituent gets longer. However, heavy constituent postponing only happens when there is something in front of the constituent when it's in its normal position.
What it entails is simply the movement of any verbal modifier or relative clause to the end of their clause, after the verb. Here's an example:
Another type of transformation is topicalisation. This remains in essence the same as Proto-Coastal Western: to emphasise a phrase in the sentence move it to the front, put a comma after it, and replace it in the main sentence with the appropriate pronoun or the pro-verb tá 'do'. The pronoun no longer has the anaphoric morpheme, instead being a normal demonstrative. Here's a list of the pro-forms used for each type of fronted element:
|Verbs||tá- + appropriate suffixes||to do|
|Complement clauses||cheshì||proximal demonstrative + class X|
|Adverbial clauses||chéshì||distal demonstrative + class X|
Verbal modifiers can be topicalised in a different way, by simply moving them to the front in front of the ergative noun. With adverbial clauses, both methods exist; using the method with the pronoun emphasises it more strongly.
Negatives and Questions
The negative morpheme is (k)ìme, and it can be applied as a prefix to just about any word in a sentence to negate it, except verbs where it is applied as a suffix and negates the whole clause.
As a prefix, it may be affected by i- or u-affection; as a suffix it causes i-affection and tone raising.
The interrogative morpheme shì is used in the same way. It causes tone raising and i-affection as a suffix on the verb; everywhere else it is a prefix. Basically it forms a question by asking whether the word it's attached to is true or not, so:
To form wh-questions, you use the relative pronoun root with the interrogative suffix, that's shìgì-, plus the appropriate classifier. You do not need to move this pronoun from its usual position.
There are a few different ways of forming imperatives. The oldest is to use the noun chiyele 'wishes' in a complement clause, which can be appended to a sentence using a zero copula, so you say basically 'these are my wishes'. This, however, gives off the impression of being a bit old-fashioned.
The more common way is to simply state it as a question. The imperative meaning will be implied from context.
This is quite a polite way of forming an imperative, like English 'Could you do this...?'. For a more forceful imperative some speakers have borrowed the Lukpanic intended future suffix, -nmau. This suffix causes tone lowering. This is seen as non-standard, however.
Number is obligatorily marked wherever an object in real life is in a group; so you say tagbàwa yúku 'one man' but shìwa yúxu 'two men', in the plural. For mass nouns and other situations where the number can't be determined, you use the singular form.
The pronouns also have 'distributive plural' forms. This has shifted from its original meaning into meaning 'each of (the pronoun)'. That is, it means that the action performed by this noun is not done by the group as whole but individually by each member of the group.
The classifiers are fairly straightforward. To put their meanings in more detail:
- I (chè) is a quite specific class used for any soft foods—mainly fruit. Examples: nexwèklème 'mushrooms', klàme 'berries'.
- II (wù) is used for any long or stick-like inanimate thing. Examples: tíbe 'root', chéine 'horn'.
- III (yeté) is used for limited flat things and enclosures, even very small flat things like leaves. It is not used for extremely big ones which have no limit for all practical purposes, like land. Examples: shìdè 'palm', kápàkpù 'forest'.
- IV (ye) is used for incorporeal but clearly real things, mostly liquids and gases. Examples: chìpé 'water', shìte 'wind'.
- V (chì) is used for granular masses—powders, etc.. Together with IV it makes up most of the mass nouns. Examples: chegè 'sand', iwa 'vomit'.
- VI (te) is used for most animates, but not things capable of speech. Examples: líye 'snake', mili 'tongue'.
- VII (ce) is used for most inanimates that don't fit into other classes, generally solid things. Examples: sheyi 'stone', chiì 'bee'.
- VIII (chí) is used for soft, inanimate things (but not if they're food, in which case they go in class I). Examples: màcè 'nose', chíbù 'worm'.
- IX (wa) is used for things capable of speech, including humans. A few more quirky things are found in it too, like birds. Examples: ya 'man', wùdùgbù 'eagle'.
- X (shì) is used for intangible and abstract things, e.g. nominalisations of verbs. It is also used for (apparently) unlimited planes, like the world. Examples: tléke 'land', bàché 'holiness'.
Instead of inflecting for tense, verbs inflect for evidentiality. Here are more detailed descriptions of each level.
- ye is used when the speaker (not necessarily the subject) was directly involved in the action. Therefore it will usually have a first-person pronoun as an argument, but not necessarily if the speaker was part of a group.
- chì is used when the speaker saw the action happen. If the speaker experienced the action with multiple senses, chì is only used if sight was the most dominant sense. As the most common evidential in everyday speech it is used in some situations where evidentiality does not apply, e.g. in imperatives.
- ishì is used when the speaker experienced the action as it happened, but didn't see it. It is also used if the speaker did see it, but only marginally while getting more information from other senses.
- yu is used when the speaker did not have any direct experience of the event, but has evidence that the event happened. It is also used for some irrealis verbs when evidence indicates that the verb will happen (e.g. in interrogatives when you already suspect the answer is 'Yes', and in conditionals that are very certain and logical, e.g. 'If you push something, it moves')
- gè is used when the speaker did not have any direct experience of the event, and has no evidence, but nonetheless suspects that it happened, e.g. from general knowledge or routine. It does not necessarily imply doubt. As well as this main use it is used for most irrealis verbs (in questions, conditional statements, etc.).
- bè is used when the speaker did not have any direct experience of the event, but has evidence from being told it happened by another person. It is also the default evidential for stories.
The four aspects have a variety of different uses.
- mu, the perfect aspect, comes from a PCW adverb meaning 'completely'. It is used whenever you need to express that an action was completed to its full extent.
- tlawè, the repeated aspect, comes from a PCW adverb meaning 'repeatedly'. It is used whenever you need to express that an action was done again and again but in well-defined instances.
- chigè, the continous aspect, comes from a PCW adverb meaning 'continuously'. It is used whenever you need to express that an action was done constantly, like the repeated aspect, but the action as a whole cannot be split up into multiple actions.
- náye, the generic aspect, comes from a PCW adverb meaning 'frequently'. It takes the place of English's simple present, indicating that something is done habitually by the speaker.
The horse and the sheep
A horse on a hill saw some sheep. A woman was cutting away the wool of the first sheep, a child was milking the second sheep, a man was slaughtering a third sheep. On their fire, a third sheep was being cooked.'
'The horse said this to a sheep: It pains me to see humans using sheep like this.
One sheep said this to the horse: I want you to listen to me. It pains me to see the horse who runs swiftly being shot and eaten. Humans do not know how to use your swiftness. But next year they will know. Then you too will be the slave of the humans!
Having heard this, the horse fled into the plain.
Gbùdù sheyáku leshì mùxùcheidèbègète. Ashè tagbàgbùte mùxuu tíwe besèbègbàchí, geyè sìdùte mùxù xwátèbègète, yà nùkpugbùte mùxù wuchecèbègète. Chíwalu káyéku tabè mecagbùte mùxù gbùgbushekéyèbète.
Leshì mùxùgì chishì chèchìbègishì: "Íyékéyéyene tabè cheidayukíshì, yàméyékè du mùxù tátáyugète yáshì."
Tagbàke mùxù leshìgì chèchìbègishì: "Shiyéyechéne yáshì chiyíyékíshì. Íyékéyéyene tabè cheidayúkíshì, sechàchu gìtè shèchègète leshì pápéteshekéyáyute ca yasèpeshekéyáyute yáshì. Yàméyékè túu wùgbùkpu tátáyugeshì cheidàyugeshiìme. Wetunè gè cheidàyugeshì. Pa cà yàméyékaxu gàbè ta!"
Shiyèbègeshì yáshuku gbìkpu, leshì tagewedàwèbète.