Delta Naidda

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Naidda (Delta dialect)
Period c. 0-200 YP
Spoken in Kasca
Total speakers c. 3 million
Writing system adapted
Fáralo script
Classification Edastean
Basic word order V1; nonconfigurational
Morphology fusional
Alignment direct
Created by Radius
Physical map of Kasca, c. 170 YP


Sketch of Delta Naidda

Herein begins a sketch of the Delta dialect of Naidda, the language of the land of Kasca. The dialect is spoken in the delta of the Ya river, and though it is not the prestige dialect, it has far more speakers than any other. This sketch also represents a major revision of the original version of the Naidda language, which was intended to be the Southern dialect but also needed a great deal of repair.

Thus you may see ΔNaidda or ΔN from time to time as a punning abbreviation of "Delta Naidda" - ΔX representing, in math and physics, "change in X".

Culture of Kasca

Description of early Kasca

Dictionary of Delta Naidda {broken link → backup}

Standardization Note

Unlike Fáralo or Adāta, no variety of the Naidda language has been codified into a written standard in over a millennium. Furthermore, Kasca is a region where dialects are continually contaminating each other; the speech of any one person will reflect wordforms that originated in multiple dialects, and in many cases more than one form of a given word will be in common use even within the same town. Complicating this picture further is that sound changes have originated in different parts of Kasca and spread to some but often not all of the rest, so that the speech varieties of any two given towns will have had sound changes that applied only in one, or else in both but in different orders, resulting in even more lexical variation.

The bottom line is that the Delta Naidda dictionary should not be taken as a standardized word list for any particular location. Instead it tries to reflect most-common forms for the Delta dialect overall, and it shouldn't be neglected that variant forms will also exist for numerous words.

Among the biggest points of variation is vowel losses. Word-initial vowels were very frequently dropped in Delta Naidda words of three or more original syllables, and trisyllabic words often dropped medial vowels as well, or instead. But numerous wordforms have been imported from or influenced by other dialects that retained these vowels. Various consonant clusters also show a range of outcomes, but a full description of even just the major variations would be a massive task, and is beyond the scope of this grammatical sketch.

To summarize: it is not safe to assume that the following grammar and the entire dictionary are adequate descriptions of any single person's speech. Your Mileage May Vary.


Naidda is descended from the eastern dialects of Ndak Ta, forming part of the Edastean language family, which in turn belongs to the Talo-Edastean subbranch of the Macro-Edastean family. Sister languages of Naidda include Fáralo, Adāta, Ndok Aisô, Buruya Nzaysa, and Komejech. Of these, it is most closely related to Fáralo and Komejech, with which it comprises the Eastern subbranch of Edastean, and especially to Buruya Nzaysa, which is even classified as a dialect of Naidda by some scholars. Naidda has one known descendant, Wippwo.


Dialect map of Kasca, c. 170 YP

There are five principal dialects of the Naidda language.

  • Delta. This the is dialect covered in this sketch, and is spoken in the Ya river delta. This variety may be considered the "core" version of Naidda, though it has less prestige; its range is central in Kasca and it is spoken by more people than any other variety.
  • Southern. Spoken in Påwe and environs. This is the second-largest and most prestigious variety of Naidda, but is almost completely mutually intelligible with Delta speech.
  • Momuva'e. A sub-variety of the Delta dialect, spoken in the city of Momuva'e and its immediate vicinity. Main article Mësting Momuva'e.
  • Coastal. This variety of Naidda is fairly divergent, as it has had stronger interference from Fáralo than other dialects. Spoken in the coastal towns of Kasca.
  • Buruyan. The variety of Naidda spoken in Buruya is the most divergent, and is not really mutually intelligible with other dialects - so it may well be considered a separate language, were it not traditional to classify it as part of Naidda. Main article Buruya Nzaysa.



The 22 consonants of Delta Naidda are as follows:

Labial Dental Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Voiceless Plosive p /p/ t /t/ k /k/ ' /ʔ/
Voiced Plosive b /b/ d /d/ g /g/
Voiceless Affricate     c /ʧ/
Voiced Affricate j /ʤ/
Voiceless Fricative s /s/ sh /ʃ/
Voiced Fricative v /v/ z /ʒ/
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ ñ /ɲ/ ng /ŋ/
Tap dd /ɾ/
Trill r /r/
Approximant w /w/ l /l/ y /j/

Delta Naidda has eight vowels:

Front Central Back
High i /i/ ï /ɪ/ u /u/
Mid High     e /e/ o /o/
Mid Low ë /ɛ/
Low a /a/ å /ɒ/

Rules and Distributions


  • Naidda words never end in obstruents (plosives, fricatives, or affricates), only in vowels or sonorant consonants.
  • Voiceless plosives and affricates (p t c k) occur only in initial position, or after s or sh.
  • Voiced plosives and affricates (b d j g) occur only in initial position and between vowels. They contrast with their voiceless counterparts only initially.
  • The velar nasal occurs only at the ends of words, in which position it contrasts with all three other nasals. The other three (m n ñ) occur with no such restriction.
  • r and dd contrast only intervocalically, where they are a trill and a flap, both dental or alveolar. In all other environments, there is only a tapped r (a slightly different phone from the flap). This often weakens to an approximant in codas.
  • ly is realized as [ʎ], a palatal lateral approximant. This sound is analyzed in this sketch as underlyingly being a cluster of l with y.
  • z is normally postalveolar [ʒ] in most regions of the Delta, but for some speakers may occur in free variation with dental [z]. In a few areas only the dental pronunciation occurs.
  • Medially within words, all fricatives and sonorants (s sh v z m n ñ l r w y) can form consonant clusters with each other, in any order. None of them but s and sh can cluster with plosives and plosives cannot cluster with each other. Clusters of more than two consecutive consonants do not occur.
  • All clusters beginning with a fricative, that are legal medially, can occur in initial position as well. A few other clusters can also occur initially, such as mw, tw, or py.
  • The glottal stop clusters only with nasals, and only before them. These clusters can occur both medially and finally. In final position the nasal of such a cluster is syllabic. The glottal stop also occurs between vowels, but never initially or finally.
  • f does not occur in this dialect of Naidda, though it does in others (but only in loanwords even there, mostly from Faralo f and h). Delta Naidda has generally imported such loanwords with p in initial position and v medially. Thus Huyfarah is called Fuifara in the Southern dialect and, borrowed from that, Pwivara in the Delta dialect.


  • All back vowels are rounded (u o å) and all non-back vowels are unrounded (i ï e ë a).
  • There are no phonemic diphthongs, but adjacent vowels freely diphthongize in normal speech unless separated by a glottal stop. Except where noted below, the first of the two vowels tends to be the nucleus of such a diphthong, with the other forming an offglide. In careful speech the adjacent vowels may be separated into two full syllables.
  • The vowels can be classed into two groups, "strong" and "weak". The strong vowels are i e u o, which share the characteristic that they do not tend to be reduced in unstressed syllables. The weak vowels are a å ï, which share the characteristic that in fully unstressed syllables they become schwa, thus neutralizing the distinction between them. In addition, in any vowel sequence consisting of a strong and a weak vowel, the weak vowel becomes the diphthong nucleus and the strong vowel becomes an offglide or onglide.
  • ë behaves sometimes as a strong vowel and sometimes as a weak vowel. Its behavior in unstressed syllables and in diphthongs varies by rate of speech and from speaker to speaker.
  • The realization of ï and å vary from town to town. The former is normally either [ɪ] or [ɨ], or occasionally [ə], and the latter can be [ɒ] or [ɔ] and in a few places has merged with a. Other vowels vary less than these do.
  • u normally cannot be found at the ends of words; it becomes o instead. However, in a very few cases a u persists in this position, like du "four" and myu "stupid". These exceptions are rare and the ones that do occur are generally monosyllabic. However, the onomatopoeic uwu "owl" has it too.


The algorithm for assigning lexical stress in Naidda is as follows:

  1. Start by assigning the accent to the first syllable of the root (or the first root, in a compound word).
  2. For certain derivational prefixes, the accent is attracted to the first syllable of the prefix instead.
  3. If there are more than two syllables to the right of the accent, move it to the first syllable of the 'next morpheme to the right if there is one, even if its first vowel is epenthetic.
  4. Repeat step 3 until the accent is no earlier than antepenultimate position.
  5. Alternating syllables to the left and right of the accent gain secondary stress.

Some examples, with the period . indicating morpheme boundaries:


Morphophonological Processes

The morphophonology of Naidda is relatively straightforward. The major processes are as follows:

Epenthesis - various types of consonant clusters are not legal in Naidda. If an illegal cluster would be formed morphologically, an epenthetic a is inserted at the morpheme boundary to hold apart the cluster.

Medial voicing - voiceless stops (including the affricate c) are contrasted with voiced ones only in initial position. When a prefix is added to a word beginning with a voiceless stop, it becomes voiced - or, more specifically, the contrast is neutralized, and voiced and voiceless pronunciations occur in free variation when this happens. But in any case such stops are always written voiced. The exception is that after determiner proclitics voiceless stops continue to be written voiceless, as there is a stronger preference among speakers for the voiceless pronunciation here - though the two are still in free variation. Voiceless fricatives remain contrasted in medial position and are unaffected by this rule.

Vowel elision - there are two possible results of adding a suffix beginning with a vowel to a stem ending with a vowel. If the vowel of the stem is unstressed, it is simply overridden by the suffix vowel. If it is stressed however, the two will instead co-exist, diphthongized, if they are sufficiently different from each other (e.g. e and ë do not readily co-exist this way, which is a particular problem when verbs ending in either vowel occur in the first person). If they are not, elision may happen anyway - although a new resolution to the problem has recently arisen in the delta: separating the two vowels with an epenthetic glottal stop.

Eng palatalization - when a word ending in ng takes a suffix, the velar nasal changes to a palatal nasal ñ.

S-devoicing - when s comes before a voiced stop or fricative due to morphological processes, the stop or fricative devoices in the following manner:

  • sb, sd, sg -> sp, st, sk
  • sv -> sp
  • sj, sz -> sc

Noun Phrases


The structure of a Naidda noun phrase is relatively rigid. The order of NP components is:

Determiner(s) - Noun - (Modifiers)

Naidda nouns are invariable in form.


Before the noun there are two positions which can be filled by determiners. In every NP at least one of these two slots must be filled.

A first position determiner may be a proclitic which serves as an article or deictic, or it may be a possessive pronoun. These two sets do not co-occur. Quantifiers, which may be either numbers or non-numeral quantifiers, occur in the second determiner position.

NOTE: see the "pronominal prepositions" section for a fuller explanation of the possessive pronouns and how not only possessive ones can be determiners.

Articles and Deictics

Clitic Meaning
l- the
u- or w- a, some
d- as for
g- this
c- that

These clitics, if present, attach to the beginning of the next word and are written hyphenated.

the woman

Clitic Morphophonology

The indefinite article consists of u- before consonants and w- before vowels. The other proclitics are pronounced before vowels as if they were part of the word. Before consonants, an epenthetic schwa intervenes, unless a legal initial cluster is formed.

Possessive Pronouns

There are only three possessive pronouns, one for each person.

Person Pronoun
1 a'e
2 airo
3 a

Non-Numeric Quantifiers

Quantifier Meaning
wa a few, a minority of
nam some, however many
ova many, lots of
i'i most
me no, none of
or all, each


Number Native Fáralo
1 ce
2 ni --
3 wo --
4 bo bu
5 du --
6 ïshï --
7 mëm --
8 son ude
9 nïl --
10 ro --

For the numbers 1, 4, and 8, both the native and the borrowed Fáralo numbers are in common use.

Multiples of ten are formed by suffixing -ro. Ordinals are formed by prefixing ï-, or in the case of six, y-.


the tree

ova di
many trees

l-ova di
the many trees

airo di
your tree

a'e ïshï di
my six trees

l-ïboro di
the fortieth tree


Three main types of modifiers are discussed here: nominal modifiers, prepositional phrases, and relative clauses. These follow the head noun in that order:

Modifiers - Prepositional Phrases - Relative Clauses

Nominal Modifiers

Naidda does not have a distinct class of adjectives, per se. Instead, nouns are modified by other nouns. There remains a marginal syntactic distinction; a number of nouns are used much more often in an attributive role than as the head of an NP. These are generally translated in the lexicon with English adjectives. Nevertheless, any noun can be the head of a noun phrase, and any noun can be used to modify another.

It is never difficult to tell which of the nouns in a noun phrase is the head: it is always first. Additionally, nouns never take determiners when used attributively, while NP heads always do.

l-di spe
the green tree

l-spe di
the tree's green (or the greenness of the tree or the shade of green on the tree)

l-wo di spe
the three green trees

Heavy Modifiers

Prepositional Phrases

PPs come in two types: full phrases, and "pronominal prepositions" (or, if you prefer, "prepositional pronouns"). Both are explained in the Prepositions section.

Both types occur in the same position in a noun phrase when used in the "normal" way (see the prepositions section): after the noun and after any nominal modifiers, but before any relative clauses.

Relative Clauses

Formation of relative clauses is covered below. Relative clauses, if any, always occur at the tail end of a noun phrase.

Personal Pronouns

The personal pronouns of Naidda distinguish person, number, and within third person, animate/inanimate in the plural and masculine, feminine, and neuter in the singular.

Free (stressed) Pronoun Forms

Singular Plural
1 e ove
2 liño wiño
3m loro wamar
3f la'a wamar
3n lojon wajon


These pronouns are not required in transitive clauses, with verbal participant reference marking being sufficient. Thus, Naidda is a pro-drop language. Free pronouns, which always bear lexical word stress like any other full content word, are used for three main purposes: contrast focus, non-sentential speech acts (such as insults and one-word answers to questions), and to supply more information in an otherwise ambiguous clause. More information on these later.

In intransitive clauses personal pronouns are required, even if a full noun or a pro-form is also used. In this case, a reduced and unstressed form of the pronoun cliticizes to the end of the verb.

Enclitic (unstressed) Pronoun Forms

Singular Plural
1 -e -ove
2 -liñ -wiñ
3m -lor -war
3f -la -war
3n -lon -won

They slept.

The Verb Complex


Naidda marks the time of a clause (tense and aspect) with a set of auxiliary verbs. Each AUX indicates one or more specific combinations of tense and aspect, except for ïna which makes a sentence imperative.

To use an auxiliary:

  1. Add the AUX to the beginning of the clause (before the verb, but after any left-dislocated information).
  2. Move the main verb to later in the clause, usually the end, if it isn't there already.
  3. Mark the AUX, but not the main verb, for participant reference.

Stån ero.
AUX(NF-IMPF)-3s>3s open
He is opening it.

The auxiliary verbs are:

AUX time gloss
0 preterite ---
ste nonfuture imperfect NF-IMPF
we future imperfect F-IMPF
steda nonfuture inceptive NF-INCP
weda future inceptive F-INCP
stevë nonfuture perfect NF-PRF
wevë future perfect F-PRF
cona aorist AOR
ïna imperative IMP


Imperfects are used for actions that are or will be incomplete (depending on whether the future or nonfuture AUX is used), or for states that are or will be ongoing.

Inceptives indicate the beginning of an action, or onset of a state.

Perfects are very comparable to "I have done it" or "I will have done it" in English.

When there is no auxiliary at all, a preterite (past-perfective, or "narrative past") time is usually assumed. However, this is highly context-dependent: when several clauses in a row have exactly the same time, i.e. they would use the same AUX, often only the first one is marked and the subsequent clauses stand without auxiliaries, inheriting their time indication from the prior clause. This inheritance can continue indefinitely until the time of a clause needs to be different than that of the previous one.

The aorist is used mostly for states, rather than actions, and indicates that the state is generally true, or is true over an indefinitely long timespan. For example, "the sky is blue" would be translated with the aorist.

Imperatives are commands or instructions to do something.

When no main verb appears in the clause, the auxiliaries become copulas.


Participant Reference: Transitive

Naidda uses a complex system of suffixes to mark the person and number of both the agent and patient of the verb, if it is transitive. While these suffixes are patterned in ways that derive from the pronouns the suffixes originally came from, in this discussion we treat them as unanalyzable.

There are two exceptions to this, however. Reflexive suffixes occur for certain person-number combinations that either can or must indicate somebody performing the action on themselves. Reflexives are formed by suffixing -in- between the root and the rest of the transitive suffix. Italicized forms in the table are reflexive.

The other exception is that except for reflexives, suffixes denoting singular patients consist of the suffix for a plural patient, plus final -n.

The following table demonstrates these suffixes in use in the verb piño, "to fear". The person and number of agent arguments are in rows, while the person and number of patient arguments are in columns. Thus, if "he" fears "all of you", the entry for 3sg-2pl is used: piñaddo.

me us thee ye him them
I/we piñoyin/piñin piñoyi/piñini piñeddon piñeddo piñoyån piñoyå
thou piñoron piñoro piñinolon piñorol piñorån piñorå
you piñorwin piñorwi piñorilon piñinil piñorwan piñorwa
he piñin piñi piñaddon piñaddo piñån/piñinån piñå
they piñain piñai piñaiddon piñaiddo piñiwan piñiwa/piñinwa
  • These suffixes are applied to the first verb in the sentence - whether it's the main verb or an auxiliary.
  • There is no differentiation between 1sg and 1pl agents in these suffixes. Thus for 1-1sg and for 1-1pl, there is both a reflexive and a non-reflexive possibility.
  • In the third person, specifically 3sg-3sg and 3pl-3pl, there are reflexive and non-reflexive forms. The REFL-3sg-3sg form means "he did it to himself" and the plain 3sg-3sg form means "he did it to (someone else)".

Participant Reference: Intransitive

As previously discussed, in intransitive clauses the verb - or the aux - is suffixed with an enclitic pronoun. For reference, here is the table again:

Enclitic Pronoun Forms

Singular Plural
1 -e -ove
2 -liñ -wiñ
3m -lor -war
3f -la -war
3n -lon -won


Exactly who the enclitic pronoun refers to - an agent? a patient? - is a matter of some flexibility. A wide variety of apparently contradictory uses have been observed in Naidda, which, bewilderingly, appear to cause the speakers few difficulties. The grammatical analyst can at best state some general trends in what is observed, but with the caveat that any particular instance may disobey them.

  • Verbs which nearly always take agents, like "to run": the enclitic pronoun refers to this agent.
  • Verbs which nearly always take patients, like "to sleep": the enclitic pronoun refers to this patient.
  • Verbs which can go either way, like "to hit": the pronoun usually refers to the agent (and the full nominal argument as well, if there is any; the pronoun and the nominal argument are always co-referential.) It can also refer to the patient, however. Where the referent falls on the animacy hierarchy is highly relevent: entities high on the hierarchy are highly likely to be agents, while entities low on the hierarchy are at least somewhat likely to be patients instead.

Simply put: if one reading doesn't make sense, try the other. If both make sense, assume the pronoun refers to an agent.

The Irrealis

In Naidda, a verb is made irrealis with a prefix that has multiple forms.

  • Before vowels: e'-
  • Before sibilants (s and sh): e-
  • Before any other consonant: s-

He would come.


Unlike participant suffixes, the irrealis prefix always appears on the main verb, even if an auxiliary is present. The irrealis marks that a statement is counterfactual. That is, while a realis clause makes a claim that the statement expressed in the clause is true, an irrealis clause makes no such claim at all.

The irrealis may or may not co-occur with a modal adverb. When it stands without such an adverb, an "if"-clause preceding or following the irrealis clause makes it conditional. When the irrealis appears with a modal adverb, the adverb specifies the modality of the clause.


A clause is negated by the prefix ma- (before consonants) or m- (before vowels). As with other prefixes, intial voiceless stops and affricates become voiced.


Negative concord is exhibited between main verbs and auxiliaries: if both are present, the negative prefix generally appears either on both, or on neither.

Mwevëlor modo.
NEG-AUX(F-PRF)-he NEG-come
He will not come.

The negative prefix and the irrealis prefix are mutually exclusive on the main verb, but if an auxiliary is present, it may still be negated while the main verb is irrealis. This occasionally necessitates re-wording so that an auxiliary may be used for carrying the negation.

Mastevëlor e'odo.
He would not come.

Verbal Nouns

Naidda verbal nouns come in two flavors: active and passive.

suffix example gloss
active -'a ku'me'a "hitting" AVN
passive -sa ku'mesa "getting hit" PVN

Gïmvin l-ku'mesa
hurt-3s>1s DEF-hit-PVN
Getting hit hurt me.

These suffixes create normal nouns from verb stems, and tend to fill roles that in other languages are filled by gerunds, infinitives, and participles. When used as the head of an NP they require determiners like any other noun. Note also that this is the only remaining trace of morphological passivity in Naidda. However, there is a periphrastic passive construction which uses the passive verbal noun.

You can also negate verbal nouns. When one is the head of a noun phrase, it takes the negative quantifier me, but when used attributively, it instead takes verbal negation.

airo me cïna'a
your NEG love-AVN
your heartlessness

airo nïzri majïna'a
your wife NEG-love-AVN
your unloving wife

Prepositional Phrases

Normal PPs

Conventional, full prepositional phrases in Naidda are straightforward and do not work significantly differently from those in English and many other languages. In short, a prepositional phrase consists of a P followed by an NP. Any noun phrase can be the object of a preposition, and the preposition is always in the third person. The one notable difference is that first and second person pronouns cannot appear after third person prepositions.

Prepositional phrases modifying nouns are placed late in the NP, normally after all one-word modifiers but before any relative clauses. Those modifying verbs can occur anywhere in the clause after the inflected verb or AUX.

Full clauses can also be the objects of prepositions; in this case, the clause is formed as a nominalized clause.

wo w-inzo
for.3 INDEF-farmer
for a farmer

Pronominal Prepositions

Or, "prepositional pronouns", take your pick. Naidda prepositions are inflectable for person - first, second, or third - and these inflected prepositions are entire PPs unto themselves. The personal inflection specifies the object of the preposition. Or, if you look at it from another angle, these words are personal pronouns marked for a large number of grammatical cases.

Normal Usage

As an example, where in English we would say "to me", in Naidda we can say to.1 and this is usually sufficient. However, whenever more information is desireable (such as the number of the referent), the preposition can take a personal pronoun as an object. This description is adequate for the first and second persons.

to me or to us

åddi ove
to.1 us
to us

In the third person, a preposition either has a full NP as its object (as described in the previous section), or it stands alone as an anaphor. That is, without an explicit object, it refers back to a noun phrase that has already been mentioned recently in the discourse. Similarly to the first and second persons, when in the third person more information about the preposition's referent is desireable, it can take a full pronoun as an object.

to it/him/her/them

ådda lojon
to.3 him
to him

Appositional Usage

First and second person prepositions can also take NP objects. In this case, the NP is apposed to the pronoun's referent.

we w-inzo
for.1 INDEF-farmer
for me, a farmer (or for me as a farmer)

Determiner Usage

The "possessive pronouns", previously discussed in the Noun Phrases section, are in fact the inflected possessive prepositions. As already covered, these can be used as determiners:

a'e båma
of.1 wheat
my wheat

Naidda distinguishes the determiner use of possessives from a non-determiner use:

g-båma a'e
this-wheat of.1
this wheat of mine

The latter construction is the normal, default use of a PP in Naidda, with the possessive prepositions doubling as possessive pronouns. That is how I have presented these things thus far, for the sake of simplicity.

However, it's not the whole truth. Actually, any inflected preposition can be a determiner the way the a possessive one can:

wodo myåsko
for.2 party
the party for you (literally the-for-you party)

This is a common device in Naidda, and is why the line between "preposition" and "pronoun" is blurry at best.

Cautionary Note

At first glance it may be difficult to tell determiner usages from appositional ones: how do you know if wodo myåsko means the party for you or for you as a party?

Keep in mind that the determiner usage results in an NP while the appositional usage results in a PP. As such, as with any NP, prepositions used as determiners cannot co-occur with a determiner clitic - and that every NP must have at least one determiner. Therefore wodo myåsko cannot be appositional because there is no other determiner than wodo (not to mention that its meaning is bizarre). If you wanted to say this anyway, however, just bring in a proclitic: it makes completely clear that l-myåsko is the NP and that it is therefore the object of wodo.

List of Prepositions

1st 2nd 3rd/default meaning
a'e airo a possessive
we wodo wo "for", "concerning", at (directed towards)
ume omvo om genitive (non-possessive association)
ñwe ñudo ño essive, appositive; "as"
kwëne kwïnzo kwïn comitative; "with"
ale åro ål "without", "besides", "except for"
pu'e poiro po "per", "for each"
si sado sa ablative, "from"; instrumental, "with"
ne nido ni "in", "into", "inside"
åddi åddado ådda "to", "towards"
wi wado wa "after", "since"
ove ovro o "at (locative)", "near", "nearby to"
sli slado sla "before", "by" (as in "by tomorrow")
ñizedi ñizedo ñizi "until", "as far as", "as much as"
råve råvëdo råvë "along", "via", "during"
ledi ledado leda "between", "among", "throughout", "surrounding"

Pronouns and Participant Reference

Role Disambiguation

As previously shown, the transitive participant markers for Naidda verbs are in some cases defective. They also do not supply as much information as personal pronouns do. In some cases, this can make it difficult to tell who is doing what to who. This is exacerbated by the tendency of speakers to avoid using full noun phrases to the extent they can get away with.

Animacy Hierarchy

The majority of such cases are clearly resolveable by context, primarily by means of an agency hierarchy (or "animacy hierarchy"). The hierarchy is a set of assumptions built into Naidda grammar about which of any two entities is most likely to be the agent, or source of the action. In general, the higher of any two entities on the following list is assumed to be the agent:

  1. 1st person
  2. 2nd person
  3. other people
  4. sentence topics (when marked with d-)
  5. animals
  6. everything else

Coñïvån l-nalor l-ro.
kick-3s>3s DEF-horse DEF-man
The man kicked the horse

Coñïvån l-ro l-nalor.
kick-3s>3s DEF-man DEF-horse
The man kicked the horse

As one might guess, due to the transitive participant suffixes, cases in which the animacy hierarchy becomes important do not arise with extremely high frequency. Nevertheless, the pattern is consistently observed to resolve many clauses that might otherwise be ambiguous, when such situations do come up.

Use of Pronouns

In some cases even the animacy hierarchy will fail and a clause will remain ambiguous. This can happen for two reasons:

  • both the subject and the direct object are at the same level on the hierarchy (both are people, or both are animals, etc.);
  • the subject is meant to be the one that's lower on the hierarchy.

In either case, speakers will often simply tolerate the ambiguity, because the surrounding context is generally sufficient anyway. But if there is any doubt, a personal pronoun can be added to clarify. The pronoun is placed directly after the subject noun phrase, and refers to it; or if there is no NP, the pronoun will stand alone. This usage is syntactically identical to that of contrast focus.

Coñïvån l-nalor lojon l-ro.
kick-3s>3s DEF-horse it DEF-man
The horse kicked the man.

Coñïvån l-nalor l-zivra lojon.
kick-3s>3s DEF-horse DEF-sheep it
The sheep kicked the horse.

In addition, a pronoun may simply be used to supply more information about its referent, even if grammatical roles are already clear:

Dëñëlyån ove.
like-1>3s we
We like it. (without the pronoun, the sentence could also mean "I like it.")

Gender and Animacy

The animacy system for Naidda personal pronouns is very straightforward. The 3-feminine and 3-masculine pronouns are used for human beings (and gods), as is the 3-animate in the plural, while the 3-neuter pronouns are used for everything else. However, in a number of narratives and folk tales, other entities - animals, even rocks - can be personified, in which case the animate pronouns are used.

Gender of pronouns is semantically rather than grammatically based: it varies by biological sex of the referent, as in English, and has nothing to do with any grammatical property of the antecedent noun.

The historical basis for all of the above is that the masculine and feminine personal pronouns derive from "the man" and "the woman" as a relatively recent development in Naidda (within the last five centuries). Indeed, the full form of the feminine pronoun la'a remains perfectly homophonous with "the woman", l-a'a, and the masculine pronoun has diverged only slightly.

Contrast Focus

Contrast focus, also called disjunction, is one of the main uses of personal pronouns. It draws attention to the fact that the sentence subject itself, and not some other person or thing, is the source of the action.

In this usage, a pronoun is simply supplied as an overtly expressed clause subject, either on its own when no such subject is otherwise needed, or else in addition to a full noun phrase, especially a personal name. In the latter case, the pronoun always directly follows the noun.

I/we broke it.

Goñiyån e
break-1>3s I
I broke it myself.

Goñinån Murisi loro.
break-3s>3s NAME he
Murisi broke it himself.


query this that some no every
thing gëa gåyë ceyë nayë mayë ëyë
person yaro gåro cero naro maro ëro
place malo gålo celo namlo malo ëlo
time sol gådol cesol nadol masol ëdol
way eba gï'n cï'n namï'n
reason nwa cïddo

Clause Types

Independent Clauses


The basic template for main clauses in Naidda is V1 - the verb comes first, and is followed by one or more other sentence elements, including nouns denoting agents or patients, and modifying information such as adverbial clauses, prepositional phrases, or adverbs.

The order of these post-verb elements does not depend on the grammatical roles of subject or direct object, but instead on the principle "New Information Comes First" or NICF.

NICF applies to all post-verbal constituents, not just noun phrases. For instance if the main new information in a clause is adverbial, it will precede any subjects or direct objects that are present.

Naidda can also be described as a "pronominal argument" language. The key notion of pro-arg is that the verb, including mandatory participant marking, is the core clause all by itself - everything else is oblique, including subject and object nominals.

Erån l-wogïño kwïn u-gån.
open-3s>3s DEF-shell with.3 INDEF-knife
He opened the shell with a knife.

If an auxiliary is present in the clause, it takes the V1 position at the beginning, and the main verb is moved to later in the clause - typically but not necessarily the end.

Stån l-wogïño kwïn u-gån ero.
AUX(NF-IMPF)-3s>3s DEF-shell with.3 INDEF-knife open
He is opening the shell with a knife.


While a noun marked as a sentence topic may be left in place after a verb, most often it will be dislocated to the beginning of the clause - before the verb. Nouns dislocated to left of the verb (or aux) are always marked as topics.

Erån d-wogïño kwïn u-gån.
open-3s>3s TOP-shell with.3 INDEF-knife
He opened the shell, however, with a knife.

D-wogïño erån kwïn u-gån.
TOP-shell open-3s>3s with.3 INDEF-knife
As for the shell, he opened it with a knife.

A noun can be extracted from just about any location and topicalized. Note that this works hand-in-hand with pronominal prepositions - when a preposition's object is moved to the front of the sentence, the P becomes a stranded anaphor.

D-gån erån l-wogïño kwïn.
TOP-knife open-3s>3s DEF-shell with.3
As for a/the knife, he opened the shell with it.

Nominalized Clauses

In Naidda, most subclauses are handled by nominalization - subclauses fit into larger syntactic structures just as nouns would. Nominalized clauses are used for all of the following:

  • complement clauses: clauses which serve as an argument (agent or patient) of the main verb
  • objects of prepositions: prepositions, especially those with temporal meanings, can take nominalized clauses as objects just as they would regular nouns
  • adverbial clauses: clauses which add more information to the main clause (this requires extra morphology)
  • various other situations where in other languages you might find a subclause, infinitive clause, or something else along those lines

Nominalized clauses, except for adverbialized ones, are normal noun phrases and require determiners.


There are two types of nominalized clause formation: direct, and full.

Direct nominalized clauses are simple: word order is exactly like any other clause, and the verb is formed into a verbal noun. Note that verbal nouns cannot take participant marking, so pronouns - if any are needed - take their independent forms. Direct nominalized clauses are possible only when there is no AUX, and are problematic for transitive clauses. Nominalized transitive clauses tend to be of the full form, instead. Despite these limitations, direct nominalized clauses are usually preferred to the full form when possible.

wa l-ta'a loro
after.3 DEF-die-AVN he
after he died

Full nominalized clauses are more complex than direct ones, but offer more flexibility. The nominalizer ri (glossed as SUB) takes the verb-initial position and inflects like an AUX (including participant marking and negation), and the main verb is displaced to the end of the sentence just like it would be with any other AUX. If there is already another AUX, the nominalizer is prefixed to it.

wa l-rilor ta
after.3 DEF-SUB-he die
after he died

råvë l-ristån arå la'a skïn
during.3 DEF-SUB-AUX(NF-IMP)-3s.3s evening.meal she cook
while she was making dinner

There is little semantic difference between the two types, but full nominalized clauses tend to be associated with more formal and technical registers of speech, and occur less frequently in day-to-day chatter.

Adverbial Clauses

Adverbial clauses are also nominalized clauses, further modified by adding the adverbial prefix të- to the nominalizer; thus: tëri. This prefix is mutually exclusive with the negative prefix, so negative concord is broken, but the main verb remains negatable if it's not irrealis.

Tëriste kwïn omvo li, naive cån boda.
ADV-SUB-AUX(NF-IMP)-I with.3 your year work-I greatly even.more
When I was your age, I worked even harder. (literally: (when) I was with your years, I worked even more greatly)

Direct nominalized clauses can also take the adverbial prefix, which simply attaches to the verb:

Kåstalon l-tolo tëlila'a l-ånze.
continue-it DEF-time ADV-flow-AVN DEF-river
Time passes as the river flows.

Since adverbs and verbal arguments are on the same syntactic level in Naidda it should be no surprise that the line between a complement clause and an adverbial clause is blurry. Morphologically they are distinct, but whether a subclause in a given sentence takes the adverbial prefix will vary from speaker to speaker and day to day. Subclauses describing the time, place, or manner of the main sentence will usually take the adverbial prefix.

Relative Clauses

Naidda relative clauses are embedded clauses modifying a nominal word that participates in the clause. They are formed with the relativizer rom. This works much like the clause nominalizer ri, in that the relativizer takes the verbal participant marking and negative concord and the verb is moved to the end, as it would be with an auxiliary - and if there is another AUX already, the relativizer is simply prefixed to it.

Relative clauses follow the relativized noun, generally after most other modifying information.

l-ro romlor ta
DEF-man REL-he die
the man who died

l-ro maromastelor mada
the man who isn't dying

The relativized noun does not appear within the relative clause, except for verbal participant reference, which takes care of role disambiguation just like it would in any other clause:

l-ro romyån ena
DEF-man REL-1>3s see
the man who I saw

l-ro romin ena
DEF-man REL-3s>1s see
the man who saw me


Predicatives are those sentences using a copula, those which in English use the copular verb "to be". The Naidda copula is not a single verb, however; instead, it is the entire set of auxiliaries. A predicative clause in Naidda follows the same pattern: an auxiliary, the subject NP, then the predicated material. The latter can be another noun phrase, an attributive noun, a prepositional phrase, or in clefts even a relative clause.

important traits shared by predicative clauses:

  • They lack full verbs (this is most immediately obvious difference from full clauses).
  • They universally follow the order AUX - subject - predicate.
  • A comma-pause normally can be found between the subject and predicate. This is important; without the pause, the syntactic boundary between subject and predicate would often be hard to discern. When there the subject is expressed only by an AUX suffix, rather than an NP, the comma-pause becomes even more important.
  • Even if the time of the clause would normally not involve any AUX in a full clause, one is always required in a predicative clause.
  • Although the copulas are identical to the auxiliaries in form and function, for clarity they are glossed as COP instead of AUX.

Predicate Nominals

A predicate nominal is a clause in which an NP is the predicated material. It must be a full proper Naidda noun phrase, requiring a determiner, to distinguish it from a predicate attributive. The usual uses of predicate nominals are for equation, to equate one noun to another ("that man is my father") and proper inclusion, to identify membership of the subject in a group or class ("that man is a Fáralo").

Conalor, u-lanång.
COP(AOR)-he INDEF-friend
He is a friend.

Predicate Attributives

Predicate attributives are clauses where the predicated material is a property or trait being ascribed to the subject, and which consists of a noun used attributively (i.e. outside of a noun phrase, with no determiner). This is often a verbal noun.

Conalor, lanång.
COP(AOR)-he friend
He is friendly.

Note that the difference between the predicate nominal and predicate attributive versions of this example is made simply by the presence or absence of a determiner.

Predicate Locatives and Possessives

A predicative locative is simply a clause where the predicated material is a prepositional phrase.

Stela Koili, o l-wïmlo.
COP(NF-IMP)-she NAME at.3 DEF-home
Koili is at home.

Possessive clauses in Naidda come in two flavors: full clauses, in which a verb like båre, "own", is used, and predicate locatives in which the prepositional phrase uses kwïn, "with". The former type is semantically marked, and occurs roughly as often as we would use "own" or "possess" in English (and isn't a predicative clause at all); the latter type is more frequent and less marked, and roughly equivalent to when we'd use "have" in English.

Ste u-marsha båre.
AUX(NF-IMP)-I INDEF-hammer own
I own a hammer.

Ste, kwïn u-marsha.
COP(NF-IMP)-I with.3 INDEF-hammer
I have a hammer.


A cleft is a predicative clause with two special characteristics:

  1. the predicated material is a relative clause in which the subject NP is the relativized noun; and
  2. the subject is dislocated to the left of the copula and marked as a topic.

D-Murisi stelor, romin ena.
TOP-NAME COP(NF-IMP)-he REL-3s>1s see
Murisi is who saw me.

Zero predication

In formal or careful speech, an auxiliary stands as a copula for all predicative clauses, and speaking this way is never wrong. Nevertheless, an informal but very common construction exists that can be analyzed as using the zero-AUX as a copula. On the surface, these expressions take the form of straightforward noun phrases shorn of any clausal structure. However, the meaning is predicative in nature, implying a zero copula that would fit in perfectly with the use of the zero-AUX - especially because the implied tense-aspect (preterite, narrative past, or time inherited from prior clause) is the same.

l-wïmlo woli
DEF-house full
the full house

L-wïmlo woli.
[0-COP] DEF-house full
The house was full.

There is a very strong preference to avoid any complex material in a zero-copula clause; in general, they appear identical in form to simple noun phrases, and rarely involve subclauses, coordination, or other such complexities. The construction also tends to be limited to informa registers where less attention is paid to how one speaks, and may come across as "folksy", blunt, or clipped, though it does appear in some poetry as well.

Other Syntax



Naidda adverbs come in two types: roots that are adverbs by default, and nominal stems adverbialized by means of the prefix të-.



Verb roots can also be made into adverbs, but the prefix can only be used with nouns, so the verb must first be formed into a verbal noun.


NP usage

An adverb is used whenever a nominal modifier itself needs to be modified.

A nominal word occurring by itself after a head noun modifies it, unless it is marked as an adverb, in which case it modifies the nearest nominal word to the left (which itself is a modifier of the head noun).

l-tolïddo nabï
DEF-sunset red
the red sunset

l-tolïddo nabï cån
DEF-sunset red greatly
the very red sunset

Adverbs in this environment can also modify each other. In all such cases, an adverb modifies the word immediately to its left.

u-lëi mesa tëjïna'a cån
INDEF-word say-PVN ADV-love-AVN greatly
a very tenderly spoken word

This modification of the word immediately to the left applies to all simple adverb strings, in both the NP and clausal usages. When multiple adverbs together modify the head (the nominal word or the clause) instead, they must be listed - separated from each other by the conjuction n, "and", or at minimum by a comma-pause:

u-lëi mesa tëjïna'a, tëjå'e
INDEF-word say-PVN ADV-love-AVN ADV-soft
a softly and tenderly spoken word

Clausal usage

Naidda adverbs - except for those appearing in noun phrases - are generally best considered to operate on the level of the whole clause, rather than "modifying" the verb. The main reason for this is that on the whole they do not show any preference for being placed after - or even necessarily anywhere near - the verb, though there are some limited exceptions.

Instead, Naidda adverbs - and adverbial clauses and prepositional phrases - behave as constituents on the same level as the clause's subject and direct object: all of these elements tend to be listed after the verb (or AUX) in an order primarily determined by NICF. In turn it is this behavior that leads some analysts to describe full-NP subjects and objects of the verb as oblique.

Ñade bo.
sleep-I again
I slept again.

Like with noun phrases, adverbs can be moved to the front of a clause. This may be used for emphasis that the adverb is a key point of the clause. Or, it can simply be done for stylistic purposes, imparting in some cases a sense of continuity or bridging from previous content.

Tëde'o, majonayå a kåve mavïñor.
ADV-normal NEG-AUX(AOR)-1>3p their law NEG-respect
Normally, we do not respect their laws.

Modal Adverbs

Modal adverbs in Naidda are used to impart modality, or grammatical mood, to a clause. There are various modal adverbs, the most common of which are listed below. It is a small, closed class, and differs from more run-of-the-mill adverbs in that their placement in a clause is restricted to the position directly after the verb or AUX and that their functions are generally limited to imparting a specific modality.

Modal adverbs can be divided into two classes: those which govern the irrealis verb form, and those which do not. The former require the verb be made irrealis, and express a range of irrealis meanings; they are a majority of modal adverbs. There are only two modal adverbs that do not govern the irrealis, and they do not require the verb to be realis either; both options are possible. They are generally considered to be modal adverbs because their meanings and placement are as restricted as the irrealis ones.

Irrealis Adverbs

Adverb Modality Example
va permissive E'ë'olrån va. - "You may take it."
oso admonitive E'ë'olrån oso. - "You should take it."
co'o obligative E'ë'olrån co'o. - "You must take it."
oivre desiderative E'ë'olrån oivre. - "You would like to take it."
oinae hortative, optative E'ë'olrån oinae. - "If only you would take it."

Non-irrealis Adverbs

Adverb Modality Example
ïrnon futilitive Ë'olrån ïrnon. - "You are trying to take it."
moiso antivolitional Ë'olrån moiso. - "You are forced to take it."


Polar Questions

Like its sister language Fáralo, Naidda forms polar questions (those requesting a yes or no answer) in several ways.

Most often, questions are formed with tag words. The most common tags are lonzë, "correct", and ca, "yes", which seek confirmation that a sentence is true. Lonzë is the more formal of the two.

Talor, ca?
die-he yes
He died, right?

This pattern can be used with a negated sentence as well, to seek confirmation that the affirmative version of the sentence is not true. (compare English "He didn't die, right?") Alternatively, negative tags, most often sumo, "wrong", can be used in conjunction with the irrealis, to much the same effect:

Stalor, sumo?
IRR-die-he wrong
He didn't die, did he?"

In general Naidda speakers follow the confirmation-seeking approach to questions, but there are times when a neutral question that does not suggest its own answer is more desirable. In these questions, one offers the listener a choice by using two tags, one affirmative and the other negative:

Talor, lonzë, sumo?
die-he correct wrong
Did he die?

Finally, there is a highly formal question form, borrowed from Fáralo. In this type of question, one uses the irrealis and fronts the verb to before the AUX. (It cannot be used without an AUX.)

Sta wevëlor?"
IRR-die AUX(F-PRF)-he
Will he die?"

Disjunctive Questions

A disjunctive question is one that requests the listener choose between two or more offered options, generally with the assumption that only one of them can be correct; compare English Do you you prefer large or small?. In Naidda such questions are formed in a manner highly parallel to yes-no questions with two tags, in that both options are listed at the very end of the sentence and set off by comma-pauses just as tags would be:

Wevëliñ mura, gådol, cesol?
AUX(F-PRF)-you decide now then
Will you decide now or later?

The tagged options are quite often entire nominalized clauses. Similarly, when a disjunctive question is asking for which of two verbs is correct, they are formed into verbal nouns, leaving the clause without a main verb and thus converting it into a predicative clause:

Wevëliñ, kïña'a, orë'a?
COP(F-PRF)-you walk-AVN run-AVN
Will you be walking or running?

  • Note that English "he is walking" does not otherwise have any grammaticalized analog in Naidda syntax, save that predicating one verbal noun to another (c.f. to live is to die) is permissible. The syntactic resemblance in disjunctive questions is coincidental.
  • Questions with more than two options also occur. The extra options are simply appended to the list of tags. In rare cases half a dozen or more options may be listed in such a question.

Content questions

Content questions are those which request the listener fill in the blank. Interrogative words are fronted; the clause is otherwise normal.

Gëa torwan?
what eat-2s>3s
what did you eat?

Yaro wabayån?
who hit-3s>1s
who hit me?


The Delta dialect of Naidda makes use of a number of periphrastic constructions for various grammatical purposes. Different types and uses of paraphrasis is one of the major points of variation between dialects; many of these do not exist outside the Delta area.


Fundamental Naidda does not have any manner of passive voice. Intransitive clauses appear with a single argument that can be the agent or the patient, and context is relied on to make the direction of action clear, via the animacy hierarchy. This remains the "educated" way to speak. However, in recent generations a passivizing construction has come into widespread and frequent use in the delta.


  • the semantic patient is the grammatical sentence subject
  • the syntactic main verb of the sentence is "come"
  • the lexical verb is formed into a passive verbal noun
  • this verbal noun is made the object of the preposition "to"
  • the semantic agent can optionally be specified by making it the object of "from"

Odolor ådda l-ïñosa.
come-he to.3 DEF-kill-PVN
He was killed.

Odolor ådda l-kåirosa.
come-he to.3 DEF-make.welcome-PVN
He was made welcome.

Wove ådda l-ïñosa sa odo.
AUX(F-IMPF)-we to.3 DEF-kill-PVN from.3 come
We will be killed by it.

Evidential verbs

Certain Naidda verbs can be added after the main verb to impart evidentiality to the clause - that is, how the speaker knows the information. In some ways this may look like a case of serial verbs, but Naidda has no other serial verb constructions, and in fact this is derived from the elision of grammatical material that would have made clear that it is actually a subclause embedded in a grammaticalized main clause.

Wevaddon këno måddë.
AUX(F-PRF)-3s>2s ask hear
I hear he will ask you

Let's take a look at how we build this clause.

First, consider the sentence "he asked you" - this would be kënaddon (ask-3s.2s). Now, consider the strategy English uses to add evidentiality; let's say this information is hearsay. In English we often mark this by making a subclause out of the action and embedding it in "I hear ...". Naidda has followed a similar approach. In historical writings we can find much the same construction:

Ste l-riaddon këno måddë. (archaic)
AUX(NF-IMPF)-I DEF-SUB-3s>2s ask hear
I hear that he asked you

Next comes the elision. The AUX, its suffix, the article, and the clause nominalizer were always exactly the same between all of these evidential clauses, so over time it became common to simply omit them: Ste l-riaddon këno måddë. This of course left a participant-reference suffix hanging unattached to anything, so it then migrated to the verb: Kënaddon måddë.

When the subclause already had an AUX, that problem didn't even arise: Ste l-riwevaddon këno måddë. --> Wevaddon këno måddë. The net result ended up just like tagging an extra verb word onto the end of a clause; it's as simple as that.

There are only four verbs used in this way for evidential marking:

  • måddë (to hear) - the information is hearsay
  • ena (to see) - the information is gained by direct sensory experience (even if that experience is auditory!) - Kënaddon ena. He asked you (I heard him do it).
  • må'n (to know) - the information is deduced or assumed with relatively high confidence - Kënaddon må'n. He must have asked you.
  • nilïn (to suppose) - the information is deduced or assumed with relatively low confidence; it is a guess - Kënaddon nilïn. I guess he asked you.

with predicatives

At first glance, this might seem tricky: a predicative clause looks much like any other except that it lacks a main verb. So what happens when we use a predicative clause with an evidential verb? It might sound like it would be hard to tell from a non-predicative clause. But in fact they always look different, because a predicative sentence is grammatically intransitive and the evidential verbs, when used as main verbs, are always transitive - so they use different participant reference suffixes. Plus, there is the usual comma-pause of a predicative clause that also helps mark it. Here is the closest the two constructions get to ambiguity:

  • Conalor, u-lanång ena. "I see that he is a friend."
  • Conalån u-lanång ena. "He sees a friend."

So once again, the advice to students of Naidda is: pay attention to commas! The transitive and intransitive suffixes are just as important, though, and there are often other clues as well - for instance, the aorist AUX cona is infrequently used with action verbs like "see" because of semantic incompatibility (seeing something tends to be a transitory action rather than an ongoing state).


Naidda comparison is indicated with the adverb , which means "more" or "most". These two meanings, often called comparative and superlative respectively, are distinguished in Naidda not by morphology or the form or choice of the comparative adverb, but instead by whether the head of the noun phrase is indefinite or definite:

l-wïmlo pi
DEF-house big
the big house

u-wïmlo pi në
INDEF-house big more
a bigger house

l-wïmlo pi në
DEF-house big more
the biggest house

When the standard of comparison is already well identified to the discourse participants it is generally omitted from the comparison, as above. When mentioned, however, it takes the form of a prepositional phrase using the locative preposition:

u-wïmlo pi në o airo wïmlo
INDEF-house big more LOC.3 your house
a bigger house than yours

u-dïmve lize në o cero
INDEF-child young more LOC.3 that.person
a younger child than that

Conae, zewe në ovro.
COP(AOR)-1s tall more LOC.2
I am taller than you.

Causative Constructions

Naidda does not make use of any morphological causative. There are a few lexically causative verbs (e.g. ïño "to kill"), but the great majority of causation is expressed by either of two available periphrastic constructions, the direct causative and the indirect causative.

The semantic difference between these two constructions lies in the means of causation. The direct construction is prototypically used when the causer is immediately, directly, even physically responsible for the situation caused, and it selects a human causer. By contrast, the indirect construction is used when there is a greater degree of removal of the causer from the situation caused, and inanimate causers are freely allowed.

For example, if Isamïng hits Murisi because she was told to do so by Gado, one would ordinarily describe this with the indirect causative, whereas if Gado physically picks up her hand and hits Murisi with it, the direct causative becomes the obvious choice.

Direct Causative

The direct causative is a valency-increasing operation, in which the subject is demoted and replaced by the cause of the situation expressed. The treatment of the demoted subject depends on its semantic role; usually it becomes a direct object, but in the case where there already is a direct object and the demoted subject is an agent, it becomes the object of the instrumental preposition instead.


  • intransitive - Ïddolor. - He fell.


  • transitive - Ïddoyån. - I made him fall. (literally: I fell him.)

  • intransitive - Avwalon a'e wïnlo. - My garden thrived.


  • transitive - Avwayån a'e wïnlo. - I made my garden thrive. (literally: I thrived my garden.)

Notable is that the application of the direct causative to intransitive clauses is quite akin to what English does with its "middle verbs"; it's much the same relationship as between English "the window broke." and "I broke the window." One major difference is that Naidda's process is productive with most verbs, instead of restricted to a specific class of middle verbs. English examples with non-middle verbs - like "I volunteered her for the mission." - are marginal and quite idiosyncratic.

The transitive version, meanwhile, is essentially identical to a clause that indicates an instrument. Compare:

  • Ku'merån. - You hit him.


  • Ku'meyån sado. - I made you hit him. (literally: I hit him with you.)


  • Ku'mån l-bå'n. - The stick hit him.


  • Ku'meyån sa l-bå'n. - I hit him with the stick.

Indirect Causative

Indirect causatives have a looser semantic relationship between the causer and the causee than the direct causative does, and a correspondingly looser syntactic relationship between them as well.

The caused situation is expressed as a nominalized clause, which is made the direct object of some verb, for which the causer is its subject. However, there is no single verb that simply means "to cause"; instead, a number of verbs can be used for this, and selection of the verb expresses information about the means and volitionality of causation. The most neutral choice is cåve, "give".

  • Ku'merån. - You hit him.


  • Cåveyån l-rirån ku'me. - I made you hit him. (literally: I gave that you hit him.)

Some other causative verbs are:

verb means of causation volitional?
naive "work" by working to bring it about yes
cïrïm "discuss" by persuasion or guile yes
såvme "force" by command or threat of force yes
gaño "move" by physical placement of objects involved yes
lu'ï "try" by testing, or trial and error yes
åddë "stand" by obstruction sometimes
"touch" by provoking a reaction sometimes
stïn "lose" by accident, happenstance no

Cashae n dëyån l-po'mona'a l-li.
sneeze-1sg and touch-1sg>3sg DEF-flee-AVN DEF-bird
I sneezed and scared the bird away.

Cïrïmrån l-riån a muzeda ïm.
discuss-2sg>3sg DEF-SUB-3s>3s his approach change
You persuaded him to reconsider.



Naidda often uses compounding to form new words. Following are some of the most productive types.

It should be noted that Naidda speakers have a penchant for deleting material around the morpheme boundary in a compound, generally to the left of it. Often this is nothing more than deleting the final vowel of the first root, but sometimes speakers will elide a whole syllable, or more.


Descriptive compounds are the most frequently occurring in Naidda. They usually consist of a head followed by a modifier (though in a few words of ancient vintage this order is reversed), and result in a noun. Descriptive compounds always name a more specific thing than specified by its parts - just as English blackbird names a specific bird and cannot be used for just any bird that is black. For this reason, descriptive compounds are listed in the lexicon, whereas instrumental and dvandva compounds tend not to be because their meanings are usually more compositional.

a duck


One type of compound is the instrumental. In this type, a noun compounded to a verb names the instrument used - much like English can-opener but without needing the final -er.

the paintbrush


A productive type of Naidda compounding is the dvandva - as an alternative to the conjunction of two nouns with n, "and", they can simply be concatenated into a compound word. In particular, this is done with things that occur together naturally, and the dvandva provides a handy way to refer to them as a combined entity.

this wind and rain

Sometimes the dvandva will contain a relic of the conjunction, between the two morphemes:

airo mëvwënomo
your father-and-mother
your parents

Derivational Morphology

-lo and -vo

-lo is a nominal locative, essentially meaning "place of". It is attached most often to verbs, but can sometimes be used with nouns. This suffix is very highly productive.
me "speak" -> melo "stage, pulpit" (or other places where you speak from)
sïm "cloud" -> sïmlo "sky"

-vo is a deverbal agent nominalizer, much like English -er. The modern productive usage always has the form -vo and always produces nouns referring to human beings, but numerous fossilized words have old allomorphs of this suffix (like -zo and -po) and may refer to animals or other nonhuman things.
uro "cure" -> uruvo "doctor"
seddï "jump" -> seddïspo "frog"

Both -lo and -vo are so common they pervade the lexicon, and often you will find triplets of a root appearing bare and with both suffixes:
kïmvål "denounce, complain"
kïmvålo "tavern" (place where you complain)
kïmvålvo "old woman" (person who complains a lot)


-le tends to function as a verbal attenuative - it weakens the base meaning. Until recently this suffix saw mainly fossilized usage, and meanings of these words have often drifted from simple attenuation - but use of the suffix with a productively attenuative meaning or an ironical reverse meaning has found more popular favor in the last generation or so.
pobo "dance" -> povle "twitch"
numye "exaggerate" -> numyele "tell a whopper"

-l is a diminutive. It is mostly restricted to personal names, but occasionally appears on other nouns. Children's names (and nouns) are most often shortened before the -l is added; names of adults are not similarly clipped.
bada "sweet" -> badal "berry"
Maroshi (name of person) -> Marol or Maroshil "dear/sweet/little Maroshi"

The suffix -vwa is used productively with many attributive nouns naming one end of a spectrum or dichotomy, and indicates somewhat or a middle-of-spectrum state.
vårïse "hot, humid" -> vårïsevwa "mild weather, moderate temperature"
shalan "obese" -> shalanavwa "somewhat plump"

borrowed Fáralo morphology

-o serves as a patient and instrument nominalizer, but it is not productive. It is restricted almost entirely to roots borrowed from Fáralo.
sëbo "gift" (from Far. saepu, "given thing")

ña- tends in Naidda to act as another participial nominalizer, but it is also mostly restricted to Fáralo roots, and the exact effect of this prefix varies.
ñagada "pleasant" (from Far. ngakada, "pleasing")

other morphology

vo- (or vom- before vowels) is a type of causative seen on some noun roots, converting them into verbs. Its use is restricted mainly to color words and terms for emotional or physical states that can be experienced by people.
lïsho "cold" -> volïsho "make cold"

-da has several uses. One of the major ones is to impart an inceptive or dynamic aspect to verbs (this can be accomplished grammatically with auxiliaries; the suffix offers a lexical alternative). It can also indicate a temporary condition. When applied to some noun roots, a new verb is derived meaning become X. This morpheme also appears in some fossilized nouns, with poorly predictable effects.
bårë "own" -> bårëda "acquire"
rålña "be insane" -> rålñada "go crazy"
iddi "need" -> iddida "temporarily need"
gåya "angry" -> gåyada "get mad"
gom "life" -> gomada "culture"

ai- or ay- denotes membership in a thing, group, people, country, etc.
Tolya (god of the sun-cult) -> Aidolya "Tolyism" or "Tolyist" (of-Tolya)
Lashumo (toponym) -> Ailashumo "Lashuman"

-ïshmïl is a suffix indicating "knowledge of". It is used infrequently, but still productively. Somewhat equivalent to English -ology.
vi "star" -> vyïshmïl "astronomy"

-år forms deverbal nouns with various effects. It can be used for nonhuman actors in much the same way -vo is used for human actors; most common among these are resultatives and instrumentals.
vïspe "punish" -> vïspår "pain"
koda "close, cover" -> kodår "roof"
ïnå "sense, perceive" -> ïnår "sensation, perception"

-ya and -yo

These twin morphemes are not very straightforward and demand a closer look than the other derivational morphology.

Firstly, whether they are even suffixes at all is debatable; they may simply be the noun roots ya and yo, used attributively. But if so, they are nearly always found directly after the noun they modify, before any other modifiers. The dictionary lists them as independent words, and my convention is to write them separately most of the time, but as suffixes when part of a naming system.

Second, there are two distinct realms where they appear. One is the "productive" usage: most nouns can take one or both, where ya indicates goodness, happiness, or some manner of nobility, and yo indicates importance or salience. These are thus their dictionary definitions.

The other realm is that they are built into several naming systems. Their meanings in these names are often at odds with their dictionary definitions, and sometimes choice of -ya versus -yo is important while at other times they are interchangeable. They appear always on names of gods and days of the week, and often on color words. They are also part of the archaic system for forming large numbers (which has been largely replaced by the Fáralo system).


Names of the days by default take -ya, while -yo indicates certainty of the day in question, or insistance on it:

gomya "Tuesday" (English day name is chosen arbitrarily, here)
gomyo "definitely Tuesday"

This varies in other dialects. In the southern dialect for instance, days of the week always take -yo, and -ya is not used.


Gods, meanwhile, take -ya by default, while -yo is primarily a vocative which occurs in prayer:

Tolya "the Sun God"
Tolyo "o Sun God"

An exception is that priests devoted to a particular god will often use only -yo with that god's name.


In the delta dialect (but not most others) -ya and -yo are interchangeable on color names, and indicate a prototypical or pure instance of the color:

sisiya, sisiyo "pure blue"


  • Multiples of a hundred used to be formed with -ya and multiples of a thousand with -yo, but this is no longer often encountered except for 100 itself. (këya "100"; rarely: sonya "800", royo "10,000")
  • Practitioners of a religion tend to add -yo to the name of their faith but not to others, especially in a context where multiple religions are mentioned. For example, Etúgeists in the delta refer to their religion as Tugëyo.
  • In some areas -yo will be used on the name of a lord as an informal reference to his nobility, while in other areas this is seen as crudely deifying the lord.
  • Names of animals are converted into anthropomorphized character names in fables by adding -ya. (Nalorya n Imwaya "Horse and Snake")

Sample Text

see: Delta Naidda/Texts