Ndak Ta/Grammar - Additional stuff
- 1 Cases, Prepositions, and Their Usage
- 2 Clause Syntax
- 3 Ergative Verbs
- 4 Derivation and Compounding
Cases, Prepositions, and Their Usage
Theta roles typically expressed by each of the cases:
- Subjective case: agent, force, experiencer
- Objective case: patient, instrument, experiencer
- Dative case: recipient, destination, goal, patient
Experiencers: This works like English for the accusative verbs, but be aware that ergative verbs (they are explicitly marked "ergative" in the lexicon) always put experiencers in the objective case.
Instruments and Patients: This is rather different from English. Where we would say "I hit it with a hammer", Ndak Ta would say "I hit it(DAT) a hammer(OBJ)". When there's an instrument, it gets the objective case and the actual patient gets the dative case. The same applies if the subject causes someone else to do something: where English would say "I made him kill it", Ndak Ta would say "I killed it(DAT) him(OBJ)" as if "him" was an instrument used to do the killing. Similarly, if a sentence puts a patient in the dative and does not mention anything with the objective case, it refers to indirect causation, like English "I had it killed".
|âk||genitive (possessor, source), agentive (in passive constructions, like English "by"), initiative ("since")|
|wau||benefactive (purpose), "for", "concerning", "with respect to"|
|nte||adverbial (manner, as in "he sent it with love")|
|um||compositive (like 'a pile of bricks')|
|ngu||appositive, essive ("as")|
|al||abessive ("without"), "besides", "except for"|
|puk||"per", "for each"|
|sa||elative ("from out of")|
|uwa||ablative ("from", "from near", "after")|
|ob||adessive ("at", "near to")|
|isla||allative ("to", "towards", "before"/"by" for time)|
|nggairit||terminative ("as far as", "as much as", "until")|
|rambe||prolative, prosecutive ("along", "via", "during")|
|mbembu||interessive ("between", "among")|
|ntatsn||("surrounding", "all around")|
|rigng||("across", "in spite of")|
Prepositional Phrase Syntax
The word order is P-NP - that is, first preposition, then the noun phrase it applies to. The same rules apply to noun phrases here as anywhere else. Prepositional phrases are always modifiers to some other sentence element, be it noun or verb. In noun phrases they typically follow all other constituents of the phrase. If they modify the verb, they most often come at the very end of the sentence, but sometimes they are used at the beginning before the verb instead, a matter of style choice. Using such an adverbial prepositional phrase before a verb tends to emphasize it somewhat.
- The locative prepositions anda, isla, and nggairit govern the dative case for the noun phrases they take.
- The other locative prepositions govern the objective case.
- The relational prepositions govern the subjective case most of the time, but sometimes objective case if the speaker wishes to emphasize the noun. For instance, âk lu diàka "of the king" is neutral, while âk lung diàka is equivalent to English "of the king" (i.e., the king and not something or someone else).
These are clauses used as an argument of the verb (a subject, object, or indirect object), or as the object of a preposition. Some verbs can or must take whole complement clauses as one or more of their arguments. The complement clause is subordinated with the nominalizing conjunction rai, which comes at the beginning of the clause, and to which a case marker from the 'singular' row in the noun case table is suffixed: nothing for subjective case, -ng for objective, and -m for dative. This marks the role that the complement clause as a whole takes in the sentence. Complement clauses take finite or infinitive verbs as appropriate to the construction. Word order within a complement clause is VSO, and aside from the complementizer rai, a complement clause could usually stand on its own as a sentence.
Adverbial clauses are adjunct clauses that, rather than being an argument of the verb, just add extra information. These take three forms: prepositional phrases (the use of which is previously described), complement clauses used as the object of a preposition, and embedded adverbial sentences. The latter are subordinated with the conjunction raits at the beginning of the clause, similarly to complement clauses, but unlike those, adverbial clauses normally take the word order SOV. All adverbial clause types can come either at the end of the sentence, or at the beginning.
The first example shows an adverbial prepositional phrase. Note: "to fall" is an ergative verb and thus takes an object, not a subject. Also note that the locational preposition anda governs the dative case.
The following example is more complex, with the same prepositional phrase placed inside a complement clause which is itself the subject of a causative construction:
The next example shows an adverbial clause that is formed by using a complement clause as the object of the preposition nggairit "until", which governs the dative case.
The last example presents the third type of adverbial clause, an embedded sentence with the conjunction raits and SOV word order. This type of clause typically stands on its own, but it may occasionally also appear as the object of a preposition.
Coordinated clauses are two or more clauses that would be able to function independently as sentences, linked by various coordinating conjunctions describing the relationship between the clauses. However, elements are often omitted from them, or "gapped", to avoid overrepetition of content words. Gapping is governed by the following rules:
- a coordinated clause missing a subject is assumed to have the same subject as the previous clause.
- a coordinated clause missing a direct and/or indirect object is assumed to not have any, unless a special conjunction is used, as per:
- special forms of the conjunctions exist that cause all object gaps in the coordinated clause to refer to the same objects of the first clause.
- Unlike English, verbs cannot be gapped. However, the pro-verb su (somewhat equivalent to English "do") can be used. For instance, where English can say "I like you, and he me", the second clause gaps the verb; Ndak Ta would have to say "I like you, and he does me". The proverb can inflect like any other for mood, tense, and number.
|on||and||("I like him, and he seems trustworthy")|
|dal||but||("I dislike him, but he seems trustworthy")|
|mi||or||("You can buy it with cash or charge it to your credit card")|
|gunto||so, thus||("He seems trustworthy, so I agreed to lend him the money")|
|nin||therefore||(takes the place of English if/then. Where English says "if X then Y", Ndak Ta says "X nin Y")|
|boda||"exclusive or"||(takes the place of English either/or. Where English says "either X or Y", Ndak Ta says "X boda Y")|
|lik||nor||(takes the place of English neither/nor. Where English says "neither X nor Y", Ndak Ta says "X lik Y")|
Note that all of these can be used between noun phrases in addition to between clauses. The following list, however, cannot:
Underscores _ are used to indicate gaps in the coordinated clauses. In parenthesis afterwards are given the pronouns that would appear there if they needed to.
The following example contains both an object-gapping conjuntion and the proverb su:
Relative clauses are embedded sentences that modify a noun or noun phrase. They are formed with a relative pronoun at the beginning of the clause, and a gap where the relativized noun would be. The word order within the relative clause is normally SOV, but may also be VSO, especially when the verb in the relative clause is the copula, or when all remaining core arguments within the relative clause are expressed by pronouns.
The relative pronoun is roma, and can be inflected with -ng or -m to indicate that the relativized noun is, respectively, a direct or indirect object within the relative clause (which is different from the role it plays in the main clause: compare "the man that I saw" with "the man that saw me"). The pronoun remains roma when the relativized noun is the subject of the relative clause.
Ergative verbs work like other verbs in most ways, except that when used in intransitive sentences, the argument they take is normally an object, not a subject (but, either way, is always marked as an object). In an intransitive sentence, the argument of an ergative verb is nearly always a patient or experiencer, while the argument of an accusative verb never is. The passive/antipassive verb suffix -l switches this around so that ergative-antipassives take agentive nouns for subjects and accusative-passives take patientive nouns for objects in intransitive sentences.
To illustrate this, let's compare the verbs "to eat" and "to kill" (tu and engku). Tu is ergative while engku is accusative. Both can be used either transitively or intransitively. In transitive sentences, both work much like English: "I eat the food" and "He killed Mary" both have agents in the subjective case and patients in the objective case. When engku is used intransitively, we get a sentence like "he killed", in which 'he' is the agent of the killing. This applies to all accusative verbs. When tu is used intransitively, however, we do not get "I eat". Instead, the best translation into English would be "I am eaten"! It's the thing eaten that normally goes with this verb in an intransitive sentence.
Then we can change these around by adding the passive/antipassive suffix -l to the verb (before tense/number marking). This changes the above examples from "he killed" and "I am eaten" into "he was killed" and "I eat".
Derivation and Compounding
Most Ndak Ta derivation is "zero-affix", i.e. does not involve any additional morphemes.
- Verb -> Adjective - Done by means of participles as described previously. To recap, a verb stem inflects first for mood and/or voice, as applicable, then gets any applicable adjective suffixes, then is placed after the noun.
- Noun -> Adjective - The bare noun stem is placed after the noun it modifies, without any determiners of its own. Example: lu ngkai lai "the egg bird"; specifies that it's a bird's egg and not some other kind of egg.
- Verb -> Noun - I made a brief entry in the verb inflection table for gerunds, but didn't explain anything. The verb stem, which may be inflected for mood but nothing else, is simply treated as a noun in its own right, requiring a determiner. Note that nouns derived from verbs this way cannot take direct objects like English gerunds can; complement clauses must be used instead.
- Noun -> Verb - Practically any common noun can be verbed by inflecting the stem like a verb would be. However, this strategy is not often used.
- Adjective -> Verb - Some adjectives, particularly those describing a state that can be experienced by a person - cold, wet, happy, etc. - can be turned into verbs by adding the appropriate verbal morphology. However, verbs derived this way are always intransitive and, this is important, always ergative. Example: ngwolâin î uwa lung tu, full me after/from the eating: "I was made full from the eating".
The suffix -bu turns a verb into a noun that is an agent or patient of the verb (like English -er and -ee rolled into one); typically refers to a subject if the verb is accusative and an object if the verb is ergative, but there are exceptions.
The suffix -lau means "place of" and can be applied to verbs or nouns, resulting in a noun that means "the place where X occurs/occurred" and "the place where X is/was" respectively.
The prefix umbom- is a type of causative; it turns an adjective into a verb meaning "to make X", for instance "to make blue". Not often used.
The suffix -le weakens verbs and adjectives, turning "blue" into "bluish" and "flow" into "trickle"; attached to nouns, it functions as a diminutive and familiarizer, and is often used with names of people. Whenever attached to a noun or name, any syllables after the first (or stressed) are omitted and -le attaches to the end of the first syllable. Extremly common.
Not exactly rare, but not exactly common either. Can take either order; either head-modifier, or modifier-head, and speakers have to remember which way is meant for every compound. Compounding of more than two words is unattested.
By far the more common way to turn multiple words into single lexical items is via idioms and set phrases.
A Strange Particle
Watch out also for the category-defying particle ta. Yes, that's the same one that appears in the name of the language. It performs a function very much like a 'dynamic' aspect, and in fact imparts exactly that to verbs, but can be used to modify nearly any part of speech. So "to be" + ta = "to become", while "to have" + ta = "to get". Using it after the preposition isla, meaning "before" in the instance that shows up in the sample text, imparts a dynamic-like emphasis somewhat equivalent to English "even before". And the language name itself? Ndak is a noun. A proper noun; it's the name of the people who speak this language (and doesn't mean anything else, it's an unanalyzable ethnonym). Ndak Ta is, in a sense, the 'dynamic aspect' of the Ndak, which to them is the sum of their speech, way of life, and social interaction. It thus refers to both the language and culture of the Ndak. It can be used with plenty of other nouns too, but gives meanings that aren't always predictable. For instance maundi ta, "person"-dynamic, which doesn't appear in the text, refers to one's spirit and/or mind. Ta can modify nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, and prepositions. Despite this flexibility, it isn't hugely productive.
- Back to Ndak Ta