Ronc Tyu/Types of words

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Types of words


Ronc Tyu relies heavily on analytic serial verb constructions, and can therefore get by with very little verbal morphology. Each verb has a maximum of three different forms: the active, the passive, and the attributive. The active is unmarked, and used as the citation form.

The passive

The passive voice is most commonly formed by prefixing h-, with voiced obstruents in the onset of the verb stem additionally becoming voiceless. In verb-initial /ji wu/ sequences, the glide is simply replaced by the prefix.

  • kónc ‘bite’ → pass hkónc
  • ‘build, create’ → pass hlá
  • faen ‘sing’ → pass hfaen
  • en ‘fight’ → pass hen
  • dric ‘attack’ → pass htric
  • yic ‘praise, worship’ → pass hic

If the verb stem begins with a consonant cluster whose first component is a nasal or h, the passive prefix appears as hV-, with a reduced echo vowel that harmonizes with the stressed syllable of the word.

  • mbíc ‘turn, rotate, revert’ → pass himbíc
  • hláo ‘ask’ → pass hahláo

Immediately before prevocalic w y, the prefix surfaces as f s respectively.

  • wín ‘marry’ → pass fwín
  • yéa ‘feel, sense’ → pass syéa

Verb stems that have a mid-tone vowel and begin with single p t tl tr ts tś k m n nr ng h l r w y (optionally followed by one of w y) form the passive without a prefix, simply by changing the tone to high.

  • kenc ‘decide, judge’ → pass kénc
  • nyu ‘see’ → pass nyú
  • tlin ‘threaten’ → pass tlín

Verbs that have a low tone vowel and begin with one of m n nr ny ng form the passive by fortifying their onset consonant to p t tr tś k.

  • mìnc ‘sacrifice’ → pass pìnc
  • nàc ‘choose, take’ → pass tàc

A few verbs have irregular passives:

  • myóa ‘order, command, instruct’ → pass fyóa
  • nggóa ‘dislike’ → pass hxóa
  • ndù ‘admit, confess’ → pass hrù
  • húoc ‘reach out for’ → pass fúoc
  • mpa ‘destroy, devastate’ → pass dwá

The attributive

The attributive form of a verb is used in non-predicative situations, performing an adjective-like function. With intransitive verbs it describes the subject; with transitive verbs it usually describes the patient or theme and is thus roughly comparable to a passive participle in meaning. There are some exceptions though; for instance, the transitive verbs nenc ‘smile at’ and ndúc ‘obey, be ruled by’ have attributive forms denc and gundúc which mean ‘smiling’ and ‘obedient, subordinate’ respectively (rather than ‘being smiled at’ and ‘dominant, superior’).

Verbs beginning with a vowel or w form the attributive by prefixing k- (with /kwu/ simplifying to /ku/). This pattern is also used with a few verbs that begin with r y.

  • en ‘fight’ → attr ken ‘contested’
  • wa ‘protect, guard’ → attr kwa ‘protected, guarded’
  • ‘bless’ → attr krù ‘blessed’
  • yèanc ‘be sad’ → attr kyèanc ‘sad’

Verbs beginning with prevocalic h form the attributive by replacing their initial consonant with k- and shifting the tone of their stressed syllable to high.

  • hec ‘hew (with an axe)’ → attr kéc ‘hewn’

Verbs whose stem begins with one of the voiced plosives and affricates b d dl dr dz dź g form the attributive by prefixing k- and replacing the original onset consonant with w s l r s ś y.

  • ‘catch, capture’ → attr kwí ‘caught’
  • dei ‘share, distribute’ → attr ksei ‘shared’
  • drác ‘pillage, sack’ → attr krác ‘pillaged, sacked’
  • guo ‘be angry’ → attr kyuo ‘angry, enraged’

Verbs whose stem begins with one of the voiceless plosives and affricates p t tl tr ts tś k form the attributive by prefixing g- and leniting the original onset consonant to w l l r z ź y respectively. Similarly, verbs beginning with one of the voiceless fricatives f sr s ś form the attributive by prefixing g- and leniting the onset consonant to w r z ź.

  • páon ‘bake’ → attr gwáon ‘baked’
  • tùc ‘know (how to do sth.)’ → attr glùc ‘known, mastered, well-done’
  • sri ‘pierce’ → attr gri ‘pierced’
  • ‘break, destroy’ → attr gyú ‘broken, destroyed’

Verbs whose stem begins with one of the nasals m n nr ny ng or one of the voiced fricatives v zr z ź (optionally followed by w y) form the attributive by fortifying the stem-initial consonant to b d dr dź g (for nasals) or b dr dz dź (for fricatives).

  • nàenc ‘be intelligent’ → attr dàenc ‘intelligent’
  • ‘put, place’ → attr dzò ‘positioned’

Similarly, verbs with a stem beginning in one of the approximants l r y x or one of the consonant clusters hl hr hs hś hx typically form the attributive by fortifying the initial consonant to tl tr tś k (for approximants) or tl tr ts tś k (for h-initial clusters).

  • láo ‘watch, look at’ → attr tláo ‘watched’
  • yenc ‘sleep’ → attr tśenc ‘sleeping’
  • hśac ‘be ready, be finished’ → attr tśac ‘ready’

Verbs whose stem begins with a consonant cluster (not including the phonetic affricates tl dl ts dz tś dź tr dr, but including clusters of an obstruent followed by y w) form the attributive by prefixing gV-. The vowel in the prefix harmonizes with the stressed syllable, and voiceless onset consonants which are not immediately preceded by a nasal or h become voiced.

  • mbrinc ‘be brave’ → attr gimbrinc ‘brave, courageous’
  • ndźáo ‘cook’ → attr gandźáo ‘cooked’
  • bronc ‘regret’ → attr gubronc ‘regretted’
  • kyuc ‘be straight’ → attr gigyuc ‘straight, direct’
  • ksèc ‘lead, guide’ → attr gigzèc ‘guided’

Verbs whose stem contains a minor syllable theoretically also prefix gV-, but the two minor syllables will usually be contracted into a single full syllable. In words of this type with stem-initial b d g, the resulting contractions will be of the shape gu- glV- gi-.

  • ravae ‘drop, cause to fall’ → attr gravae ‘dropped’
  • dinggéc ‘be colorful’ → attr glinggéc ‘colorful’
  • gundùn ‘sew’ → attr gindùn ‘sewn’ (underlying |ɡəjəndùn|)

There are also a few verbs with irregular attributives:

  • mbùn ‘be good, do well’ → attr mùn ‘good’
  • do ‘come (towards something)’ → attr dlo ‘approaching (something)’
  • kyá ‘reach, arrive at’ → attr gíe ‘reached, attained, accomplished’
  • syu ‘meet’ → attr tśa ‘encountered’
  • pwae ‘be red’ → attr gèi ‘red’


Nouns in Ronc Tyu are inflected only for number.

Other relevant distinctions are animacy and possession, but these are not marked on the noun itself. Animacy (animate vs. inanimate, a/i) plays a role both for pronoun choice and for the validity of some syntactic constructions, and possession is notable because there is a subclass of nouns which are obligatorily possessed.

Number marking

Countable nouns

Most nouns in Ronc Tyu distinguish singular and plural number (sg/pl). There are several different “regular” ways to form the plural, which are to a certain degree predictable from the phonological shape of the singular form. However, irregular or even suppletive plurals occur in a significant percentage of nouns, likely more than 25%.

Animate nouns whose stressed syllable begins with a single obstruent, optionally preceded by a nasal or fricative, regularly form their plural by infixing -w- after the onset and changing the tone to high. If the onset obstruent is voiced in the singular, it becomes voiceless in the plural, and if the onset obstruent is followed by y in the singular, this y is replaced by the -w- of the plural marker.

  • pei ‘boy, son’ → pl pwéi
  • tèi ‘thumb’ → pl twéi
  • kác ‘male dog, hound’ → pl kwác
  • nggá ‘elephant’ → pl ngkwá
  • fyao ‘friend (of)’ → pl fwáo

Animate nouns whose stressed syllable begins with a single nasal, h, a semivowel, or a vowel regularly form their plural by infixing -fw- and changing the tone to high. Onset h is deleted in the process, and onset nasals assimilate in place of articulation, giving the onset cluster mfw.

  • nonc ‘girl, daughter’ → pl mfwónc
  • he ‘mouse, rat’ → pl fwé
  • wec ‘god’ → pl ufwéc

Animate nouns whose stressed syllable begins with one of l r x regularly form their plural by prefixing h-. A substantial number of words with initial nasals and obstruents also follow this pattern (with voiced obstruents additionally becoming voiceless).

  • luc ‘toe’ → pl hluc
  • xan ‘fox’ → pl hxan
  • trùc ‘priest, shaman’ → pl htrùc
  • ugei ‘chieftain, leader’ → pl uhkei

Inanimate nouns regularly form their plural by prefixing n-. Obstruents in the onset become voiced, with fricatives and liquids fortifying to voiced affricates. However, if the onset in the singular contains h, this h is deleted and the other obstruents stay voiceless. If the word begins with a nasal-obstruent cluster, the prefix becomes syllabic nV-, with the vowel harmonizing with the main syllable.

  • an ‘amphora’ → pl nan
  • koun ‘weapon’ → pl nggoun
  • traen ‘room (of a house)’ → pl ndraen
  • ri ‘knot’ → pl ndri
  • sec ‘shooting star’ → pl ndzec
  • htsao ‘knife’ → pl ntsao
  • ndùc ‘battle’ → pl nundùc

Inanimate nouns beginning with prevocalic m n nr ng regularly from their plural by fortifying the onset to mb nd ndr ngg. Semivowels after the nasal consonant usually appear unchanged, except that the cluster ny becomes ndź.

  • nèc ‘torch’ → pl ndèc
  • nyù ‘door, gate’ → pl ndźù

As mentioned above, lots of nouns have irregular or even suppletive plurals. Some examples:

  • myào ‘horn (of an animal)’ → pl pyáo
  • tsyún ‘person’ → pl twín
  • kwac ‘woman’ → pl ngwèi
  • tao ‘man’ → pl mwì
  • taoc ‘male horse, stallion’; nyec ‘female horse, mare’ → pl for both: tśinc ‘horses’

There are also many nouns that don't have distinct plural forms. Most of these are by default interpreted as singulars, but they can also be used to refer to a plurality of items. In order to specify an unmistakably plural meaning, they can simply be combined with an appropriate quantifier.

  • túnc ‘finger(s)’ → ngàe túnc ‘several fingers’

Collective nouns

Among both animates and inanimates, there are some nouns which are by default collective (coll). Many of these refer to things like liquids or granular masses which do not naturally occur in easily manipulable single entities, others refer to natural collections such as mountain ranges or forests, and yet others refer to groups of kindred people or animals. Collective nouns can be used both to refer to the collection as a whole or to a part of it, but in order to specifically refer to a single specific member of the collection, the noun has to be inflected for singulative number (sgv).

The singulative is typically formed with an infix -y- after the onset of the stressed syllable.

  • pàc ‘feather(s), coat of feathers’ → sgv pyàc ‘a single feather’
  • muo ‘apple(s)’ → sgv myuo ‘a single apple’

If the syllable onset ends in one of t d k g s z ng l r w, the infix usually surfaces as palatalization of the consonant to ts dz tś dź ś ź ny y y y respectively. (But note that there are also several words with these onset consonants which form their singulative with -y- instead of palatalization.)

  • tou ‘land’ → sgv tsou ‘place, area, location’
  • kun ‘thunder’ → sgv tśun ‘a single clap of thunder’
  • sei ‘statement, utterance’ → sgv śei ‘word’
  • kwàe ‘heap, batch, amount (of sth.)’ → sgv kyàe ‘share, fraction, part; a single piece (of sth.)’

Words that begin with a vowel or y form their singulative with a prefix m-.

  • oc ‘rock(s)’ → sgv moc ‘a single rock’
  • yein ‘ice’ → sgv myein ‘piece of ice, icicle’

A few collective nouns have irregular singulatives.

  • màc ‘village’ → sgv myèc ‘house’
  • hao ‘siblings’ → sgv hmáo ‘one of several siblings’
  • lánc ‘time’ → sgv línc ‘moment’
  • ric ‘salt’ → sgv yoc ‘grain of salt’

Approximately 30% of all collective nouns do not have a morphological singulative form. To the extent that it is semantically useful, a periphrastic singulative can be formed with the particle mba:

  • pínc ‘oak forest’ → sgv mba pínc ‘oak tree’
  • tsào ‘grape(s)’ → sgv mba tsào ‘a single grape’

Collective nouns can optionally be treated as countable, so that plurals may be formed both from their collective base form (i.e. as multiple distinct collections) and from their singulative form (i.e. as multiple distinct members of the collection). This is done in the same way as forming a periphrastic plural for countable nouns without a morphological plural, that is to say, by adding an appropriate quantifier:

  • màc ‘village’ → ngàe màc ‘several villages’; sgv myèc ‘house’ → ni myèc ‘many houses’
  • hao ‘siblings’ → tòc hao ‘three groups of siblings (from three different families)’; sgv hmáo ‘one of several siblings’ → káe hmáo ‘two siblings (but not all of them)’


There is a subgroup of nouns in Ronc Tyu whose members are inherently possessed, and must co-occur with a noun or pronoun referring to the possessor.¹ This possessive relationship is not overtly marked in any way; the possessed noun is simply followed by the possessor.

a descendant of the chieftain
the language of the villagers
honey (lit. juice of the bees)

In contrast, when a noun not belonging to the class of inherently possessed nouns appears in a possessive construction, a preposition must be used - usually yu ‘of, belonging to’, but san ‘socially related to’ for kinship terms and other social relationships.

the knife of the shaman
the mother of the queen

Inherently possessed nouns can be both animate or inanimate, and both countable or collective. It is notable though that most kinship terms and body part nouns are not inherently possessed, and in fact often used without a possessor, as they are simply assumed to belong to another person mentioned in the same or preceding clause.

The mother sings a song for her daughter.

If an inherently possessed noun is further characterized by an attributive verb, the attribute appears between the noun and its possessor:

a small group of people

¹) There are three exceptions: Inherently possessed nouns may appear without an overt possessor (1) in a question asking for their possessor, (2) in a coordinated noun phrase together with a not inherently possessed noun which belongs to the same possessor, or (3) when used as the complement of one of the animate-referent directional verbs kein ‘go away (from speaker)’, kèi ‘go away (from listener), pei ‘go away (from someone other than speaker or listener)’, tsì ‘come (towards speaker)’, mya ‘come (towards listener)’, or dźi ‘come (towards someone other than speaker or listener)’ if they are possessed by the inherent target of the verb.

Pronouns and determiners

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns make finer distinctions than nouns. Third person pronouns inflect for the animacy of their referent, and the number system is also much more elaborate, with special dual (du) pronouns for animate and inanimate countable referents (usually but not exclusively used for natural pairs), paucal (pc) pronouns for animate countable referents (used for groups of approximately three to six members), and a plurative category for collective referents (glossed as pl like the regular plural, because of both similar semantics and identical form, and used to describe either multiple collections or multiple distinct members of a single collection).

countable antecedent collective antecedent
singular dual paucal plural collective singulative plurative
1st person ne nac dźé hei
2nd person mun minc bún wae
3rd person animate tśi kuc ndzì ndźí ndzì tśi ndźí
3rd person inanimate to hkáe ndáo to ndro ndáo

Indefinite determiners

There are no dedicated indefinite pronouns in Ronc Tyu. Instead, semantically generic nouns such as tsyún ‘person’, śec ‘animal’, zwà ‘plant’, táo ‘thing’, tsou ‘place’, lánc ‘time’, or xiec ‘idea’ can be combined with an appropriate indefinite determiner (sru for animates and tsu for inanimates) to function as indefinite pronouns:

  • sru tsyún ‘somebody’
  • sru śec ‘some animal’
  • tsu zwà ‘some plant’
  • tsu táo ‘something’
  • tsu tsou ‘somewhere’
  • tsu lánc ‘sometime’



Like indefinite pronouns, demonstrative pronouns are formed by using a generic noun together with a suitable determiner. There are two levels of spatial deixis, but no distinction for animacy. The relevant determiners are ki ‘this’, ‘that’, and ‘the other one’.

  • ki tsyún ‘this person’
  • ki śec ‘this animal’
  • ki táo ‘this thing’
  • kù táo ‘that thing’
  • nú táo ‘the other thing’


A few especially important concepts have their own dedicated deictic words:

  • twinc ‘here’
  • lóa ‘there’
  • htsí ‘now’
  • tèin ‘then (in the future)’
  • yéi ‘then (in the past)’

In addition there are two special demonstratives, the logophoric subject pronouns dzó (animate) and hto (inanimate), both best translated as ‘the same one’. They differ from the other demonstratives in that they are not determiners, but full pronouns which can neither be used adnominally nor in a non-subject position within their clause. They may refer back (a) to the subject of the same clause if already mentioned, (b) to a participant of a previous coordinated clause, (c) to a participant of the matrix clause if they are themselves used within a subclause, or (d) in complement clauses within a comparative construction also to the subject of a parallel complement clause. hto can only refer to an inanimate third person subject. dzó will usually refer to an animate subject, but may occasionally refer to an agent-like animate non-subject instead, for instance to the demoted agent of a passivized clause with an inanimate subject. Like hto, dzó usually has a third person referent, but occasionally it is also seen referring to speech act participants.

Interrogative determiners

The interrogative determiners tróu (animate) and trén (inanimate), both best translated as ‘which?’, work much like other determiners and can be combined with generic nouns to create interrogative pronouns:

  • tróu tsyún ‘which person?’
  • tróu śec ‘which animal?’
  • trén táo ‘which thing?’


Indefinite quantifiers

  • se ‘no, none (of many)’; dòc ‘neither, none (of a few)’
  • ‘any (of many)’; dzòc ‘either, any (of a few)’
  • ngàe ‘several, some, a few’; ngei ‘a little, a small amount of’
  • ni ‘many’; ndźi ‘much, a lot, a large amount of’
  • ‘every’; nac ‘both’; dzá ‘all (of a few)’; na ‘all (of many)’
  • hac ‘each (member of a collection)’; xòac ‘the entirety of, all (of a collection)’

Here's a table that indicates which number configuration these quantifiers can be used with:

no any few many all
countable sg se
du dòc dzòc nac
pc dòc dzòc (ngàe) dzá
pl se ngàe ni na
collective coll se ngei ndźi xòac
sgv se hac

Indefinite quantifiers may occasionally be reduplicated for an intensified shade of meaning: tè tè ‘any single one’, ngàe ngàe ‘very few’ (sometimes appearing with paucal pronouns), ni ni ‘very many’ etc.


Ronc Tyu uses a mixed base-6/base-24 counting system. The basic numerals are:

cardinal multiplier ordinal
1 pìc mìc mác
2 káe hoc gzo
3 tòc nòc ntòc
4 pyáo dzùnc
5 fyein wein
6 la
12 lác
18 kóu
24 tróun

Numbers higher than six are formed by simple addition, with the nearest basic numeral as the base:

7 (11₆) yé pìc (6 + 1)
8 (12₆) yé káe (6 + 2)
15 (23₆) lác tòc (12 + 3)
20 (32₆) kóu káe (18 + 2)

Numbers higher than 30 (50₆) are composed out of groups of 24, 12, and 6, with a multiplier preceding the two-dozen component if necessary. (The term for 36 (60₆), la yé, is formed analogously as (6 * 6), but it's the only numeral that uses a multiplier on a base other than 24.)

33 (53₆) tróun yé tòc (24 + 6 + 3)
48 (120₆) hoc tróun (2 * 24)
89 (225₆) tòc tróun lác fyein ((3 * 24) + 12 + 5)
166 (434₆) la tróun lác yé pyáo ((6 * 24) + 12 + 6 + 4)

The abstract noun méc ‘events, instances, occurrences, repetitions’ is used to create multiplier forms for numbers greater than 6:

168 (436₆) yé pìc méc tróun ((6 + 1) * 24)
432 (2000₆) kóu méc tróun (18 * 24)

Cardinal numerals precede the noun they refer to (which appears in the plural if it is countable and the number is higher than one, and in the singulative or plurative if it is a collective noun), but they usually follow any determiners.

(these) two people

The order of numeral and determiner can be reversed to give a partitive meaning:

two of these people

The first three numbers have suppletive ordinal forms, which are treated as numerals and go before the noun. They also function as determiners in that they make the noun definite, and cannot co-occur with other determiners:

the second woman

Ordinals for numbers higher than three are formed as locative phrases with the preposition nic ‘at, on’.

the fourth man


Prepositions in Ronc Tyu are divided into two classes. Adnominal prepositions are used within noun phrases or as the object of the copula in locative predicates, but they cannot syntactically depend on a non-copula main verb. In contrast to this, adverbial prepositions always relate to the sentence as a whole and are often used to introduce additional oblique-role noun phrases.

I can see a pine tree [which stands] on the hill. (adnominal preposition)
I can see a pine tree [while I'm standing] on the hill. (adverbial preposition)

The two types of prepositions can be combined with each other, using an adnominal prepositional phrase as the object of an adverbial preposition. This is most commonly done in order to provide more detail about the location of an event:

The children are playing outside of the house. (lit. at outside the house)

(In the above example, téc ‘at, near, around’ is an adverbial preposition relating to the event as a whole, and wèi ‘outside of’ is an adnominal preposition describing the place which has been introduced using téc.)

Adnominal prepositions

Some of the most common adnominal prepositions are:

  • nic ‘at, on’
  • xònc ‘on, next to, touching’
  • ngoun ‘in, inside’
  • gao ‘in the middle of’
  • rae ‘at the edge of’ (but still within the relevant area)
  • wèi ‘outside of; without’
  • tśec ‘near, alongside; with, containing’
  • runc ‘beside, close to’
  • myuc ‘among, in reach of, connected to’
  • nge ‘before, in front of, across from, facing’
  • ke ‘behind, at the rear of’
  • poun ‘above, on top of’
  • tra ‘under, at the bottom of’
  • tac ‘to the left of’
  • urìc ‘to the right of’
  • odzac ‘to the north of’
  • nrenc ‘to the south of’
  • ngù ‘to the east of’
  • tuo ‘to the west of’
  • rie ‘around’
  • rùc ‘through, between, surrounded by’
  • bao ‘towards, in the direction of; intended for’
  • vei ‘coming from; made of’
  • yu ‘of, belonging to, associated with’
  • san ‘socially related to’
  • venc ‘corresponding to, depending on, modeled on, in the style of’
  • ‘instead of, in contrast to, rather than’
  • ‘due to; made by’

Adnominal prepositions may be reduplicated to intensify their meaning: runc runc ‘very close to’, wèi wèi ‘far away from’, poun poun ‘high above’ etc.

Adverbial prepositions

The most important adverbial prepositions are:

  • suo ‘at, on’ (loc.stat)
  • téc ‘at, near, around’ (loc.dyn)
  • ‘for, to’ (dat)
  • wonc ‘for the benefit of’ (ben)
  • wo ‘with, by, using’ (instr)
  • ta ‘by’ (demoted animate agent)
  • fa ‘together with, accompanied by’
  • re ‘without’
  • pa ‘as, like’

A few subordinating conjunctions may also be used in the role of adverbial prepositions:

  • htlanc ‘during (a short timeframe)’
  • hpi ‘during (a longer timeframe)’
  • hkwì ‘in the manner of’
  • bzèi ‘due to’

Some other semantic notions that might be expected to be covered by adverbial prepositions (such as temporal ‘before’/‘after’ or the direction of movement) are instead expressed with the help of coverbs, i.e. lexical verbs which can, in addition to their usual role, be used exactly like adverbial prepositions. For more detail, see the chapter on serial verb constructions.