Rrób Tè Jĕhnò
| To Be Continued...|
CatDoom is still working on this article. The contents are incomplete and likely to undergo changes.
| Rrób Tè Jĕhnò |
[rǒp̚ tʰêː tɕən̥ôː]
|Period||c. 1 YP|
|Spoken in||Tuysáfa Northwest Coast|
|Classification|| Ronquian |
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò
|Basic word order||SV/VOS (see below)|
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò ("Tongue of the People of Jĕhnò") is a Ronquian language spoken along the wooded coastline north of the Wendoth-speaking regions of western Tuysáfa. Its speakers are farmers and fishers inhabiting a collection of chalcolithic statelets consisting of small, shifting villages oriented around a permanent ritual and political center. They are particularly notable for having developed an elaborate system of astrology facilitated by earthworks and standing stones marking astronomical alignments.
- 1 Phonology
- 2 Types of Words
- 2.1 Verbs
- 2.2 Nouns
- 2.3 Pronouns and Determiners
- 2.4 Prepositions and Conjunctions
- 3 Syntax
- 3.1 Simple Sentences
- 3.1.1 Intransitive Clauses
- 3.1.2 Transitive Clauses
- 3.1.3 The Passive Voice
- 3.1.4 Copulas
- 3.1.5 Directional Motion Verbs
- 3.1.6 Oblique Participants
- 3.1.7 Negation
- 3.1.8 Interrogatives
- 3.2 Complex Sentences
- 3.2.1 Clause Coordination
- 3.2.2 Coordination and Conjunction of Noun Phrases
- 3.2.3 Sequential Events
- 3.2.4 Exceptional Case Marking
- 3.2.5 Relative Clauses
- 3.2.6 Modality
- 3.2.7 Requests and Orders
- 3.2.8 Temporal Reference
- 3.2.9 Adverbial Clauses
- 3.2.10 Topicalization
- 3.2.11 Heavy Constituent Shift
- 3.1 Simple Sentences
- 4 Derivation
- 5 Sample Text
- 6 Lexicon
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò has a large phonemic inventory consisting of 62 consonants and 8 vowel qualities, including a number of typologically unusual segments. The language exhibits only slight dialectical variation across its range, suggesting a relatively late expansion from a smaller speech community.
|Aspirated stop||p /pʰ/||t /t̪ʰ/||tr /ʈʰ/||k /kʰ/||kh /qʰ/|
|Ejective stop||p' /p'/||t' /t̪'/||tr' /ʈ'/||k' /k'/||kh' /q'/|
|Lenis stop||b /p/||d /t̪/||dr /ʈ/||g /k/||gh /q/|
|Aspirated affricate||c /t̪s̪ʰ/||q /tɕʰ/||cr /ʈʂʰ/|
|Ejective affricate||c' /t̪s̪'/||q' /tɕ'/||cr' /ʈʂ'/|
|Lenis affricate||z /t̪s̪/||j /tɕ/||zr /ʈʂ/|
|Voiceless nasal||hm /m̥/||hn /n̥/||hny /ɲ̊/||hnr /ɳ̊/||hng /ŋ̊/|
|Voiced nasal||m /m/||n /n/||ny /ɲ/||nr /ɳ/||ng /ŋ/|
|Aspirated fricative||hf /fʰ/||hs /s̪ʰ/||hx /ɕʰ/||hsr /ʂʰ/||hv /xʰ/*|
|Lenis fricative||f /f/||s /s̪/||x /ɕ/||sr /ʂ/||v /x/||h /h/|
|Voiceless approximant||hw /ʍ/||hy /j̊/|
|Voiced approximant||w /w/||y /j/||r /ɻ/|
|Voiceless trill||hr /r̥/|
|Voiceled trill||rr /r/||gr /ʀ/|
|Aspirated lateral fricative||hl /ɬ̪ʰ/||hly /ɬʲʰ/||hlr /ꞎʰ/|
|Lenis lateral fricative||dl /ɬ̪/||dly /ɬʲ/||dlr /ꞎ/|
|Lateral approximant||l /l̪/||ly /ʎ/||lr /ɭ/|
- /xʰ/ is an extremely marginal phoneme, and many speakers do not distinguish it from /x/
|Close||ĭ i /i iː/||ŭ u /u uː/|
|Close-Mid||ĕ e /e eː/||ŏ o /o oː/|
|Open-Mid||ăĭ ai /ɛ ɛː/||ăŭ au /ɔ ɔː/|
|Open||ă a /a aː/|
Short vowels are only marked in open tonic syllables, as vowel length is not distinctive in other positions. The reduced vowel /ə/ is represented with the same character as the short vowel /e/, but as /ə/ never appears in tonic syllables the ambiguity is minimal.
Full syllables in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò have the canonical form CVS, where S may be any of /p t k q/. Vowel length is distinguished only in open, tonic syllables. Onset clusters consisting of a labial obstruent followed by /ɻ/ or /l/ are permissible.
Reduced syllables have the form Cə, and have the same range of onset consonants as full syllables.
Content morphemes in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò each have a single stressed or “tonic” syllable, which is marked with either a high or low tone. Unless preceded by a syllable bearing the same tone, these tones are usually realized as rising or falling pitch contours, respectively. This phonologically distinguishes them from ‘atonic’ particles and bound morphemes, which are realized with a non-distinctive level pitch.
In polysyllabic words the accent most commonly falls on the final syllable, but there are no strict constraints on the position of the tonic syllable. When a non-final syllable is accented, however, it is invariably an open syllable with a long vowel. Within the boundaries of a morpheme, pre-tonic syllables are invariably reduced, while morpheme-final syllables and monosyllabic bound morphemes are never reduced.
High tone accent is marked on long vowels with an acute (as in á), and low tone with a grave (à). Short vowels are marked with a breve (as on the vowel chart above) in high-tone syllables, and with a circumflex (â) in low-tone syllables.
Allophony and Phonetic Detail
- Lenis obstruents are usually voiced between sonorants. This applies to coda stops when the following word begins with a vowel. Initial lenis obstruents may be weakly voiced as well, particularly when the preceding word ends in a vowel.
- Ejective consonants are relatively weakly articulated, and in some cases may be easily mistaken for tenuis stops. They are generally distinguished as having a voice-onset times intermediate between those of the corresponding aspirated and lenis consonants.
- Coda stops are unreleased when they precede a word beginning in a consonant.
- In rapid speech the alveolar trills tend to be pronounced as flaps [ɾ, ɾ̥] intervocalically, while /ʀ/ typically becomes [ɣ ~ ʁ] in all positions.
- Some speakers tend to elide word-initial reduced vowels in words with more than two syllables, particularly in rapid speech. In this case, plain obstruents following the elided vowel may retain their voicing, creating a marginal phonemic contrast between lenis and voiced obstruents.
Types of Words
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò makes a basic distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs; a transitive verb may not be used in an intransitive construction without explicit derivational modification, and vice versa. The main exception to this are passive voice constructions, described below. Each verb root also has an attributive form, which never takes further inflection. Attributive verbs serve a role similar to English adjectives and adverbs, modifying the meaning of another element of the clause.
The Verb Template
Verbs in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò inflect for tense, aspect, and mood primarily through the use of prefixes and suffixes, which conform to the following basic template:
Of these elements, only the stem is required in all verb phrases, although transitive verbs must also take a clitic pronoun.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò personal pronouns each have two forms: a phonologically independent form (described below) and a criticized form that attaches to the verb. Clitic pronouns can and frequently do act as the sole argument of an intransitive verb, and generally must be used with transitive verbs, agreeing in animacy and person with the subject noun (if any). See, however, exceptional case marking below.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò has twelve personal pronouns for animate referents, marking four numbers (singular, dual, trial, and plural) in the first, second, and third persons. In contrast, it has only two pronouns for inanimate referents: the third person collective (or "transnumeral") and third person singularity. The contexts in which these pronouns are used is described later in this document; the cliticized forms of each are described in the following table. The first form of each clitic is used before consonants, while the second is used before vowels.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò uses five prefixes to mark tense. These are most commonly used in conjunction with mood and/or aspect markers, in order to specify that an action takes place or a state comes into being at a time other than, or more specific than, the general time frames assumed by those grammatical categories.
|used as a general past tense marker, particularly for verbs taking place in the relatively distant past.|
|Recent Past|| -hĕhye-
|optionally used to denote recent events and states.|
|denotes events currently taking place or present states of being, and most commonly used to emphasize the immediacy or urgency of a statement.|
|Near Future|| -tĕt’a-
|similar to the recent past, the near future is optionally used to emphasize that an event or state will occur soon.|
|used as a general future marker, particularly for verbs taking place in the relatively distant future.|
Rrób Tè-Jĕhnò regularly makes use of six modal prefixes, each of which corresponds phonetically and semantically to an independent verb. With transitive verbs, these prefixes always refer to the needs, desires, and abilities of the subject; in order to form other types of modal constructions the corresponding independent verbs are used (see below). In the absence of a tense prefix or other explicit temporal reference, modal prefixes imply that the event or state described by the verb has not yet begun.
|corresponding to ré, "intend," the commissive mood expresses that the subject expects or intends to perform the described action or enter the described state.|
|corresponding to dlŏ, "get," the imperative mood expresses that the subject needs or is required to perform the described action or enter the described state.|
|corresponding to nyèg, "wish," the optative mood expresses that the subject hopes to perform the described action or enter the described state.|
|corresponding to dră, "be able," the potential mood expresses that the subject has the ability or potential to perform the described action or enter the described state.|
|corresponding to gă, "request," the precative mood expresses that the subject is requesting to perform the described action or enter the described state. When the subject is a first person pronoun, the precative mood is used to ask for permission.|
|corresponding to á, "want," the volitional mood expresses that the subject wants to perform the described action or enter the described state.|
The distinction between the commissive, optative, and volitional moods is relatively subtle, but generally fairly straightforward. The commissive mood expresses, like the potential mood, that the subject has the ability to bring about the event or state described by the verb, and furthermore that he or she intends to do so. It does not, however, imply any particular opinion regarding the verb, positive or negative. The optative mood expresses that the subject would be pleased if the event or state came to pass, but implies that he or she does not have the ability to bring them about. The volitional mood implies both that the subject would be pleased if the even or state came to pass, and that he or she has the ability to bring them about, or at least to make them more likely. In other words, the optative mood denotes a passive desire, while the volitional mood denotes something that the subject is striving toward.
Five aspect-marking prefixes may fill this "slot” in the verbal template. Note that terms like “past” and “present” are here used to refer to times relative to the ‘main’ time frame of the action. In the absence of an explicit temporal reference, this is the present, or the indefinite future if a modal prefix is used as well.
|expresses that the action or state described by the verb began in the past and is presently continuing.|
|Extended Progressive|| -hngau-
|expresses that the action or state is presently continuing and has been for a long time. May be used to express boredom, frustration, or irritation with a present activity or state of affairs.|
|express that an action or event is presently beginning. This prefix is never used with stative verbs.|
|Stative Inceptive|| -lo-
|expresses that a state or condition is presently beginning, often serving a role similar to the English word "become." This prefix is never used with active verbs.|
|expresses that the subject has experienced the described state or event or performed the described action before. The experiential aspect is most often used to assert that the subject of the clause has knowledge or skill in a particular area.|
The causative prefix rri-/rril- expresses that the subject of the clause is causing the direct object to perform the action or enter the state described by the verb.
Positions -1 and 1 in the verb template are not differentiated by the types of morphemes they may contain; rather, the position of frequency-marking morphemes in the inflected verb depends on the semantics of the verb stem. With transitive verbs, frequency marking comes before the verb stem, while it comes after the stem in intransitive verbs.
Indefinite frequencies are marked using the morphemes dĕnre “often,” dĕdre “sometimes,” dĕnru “rarely, seldom," dĕre “never,” and dĕnra “always.” When used as suffixes following a coda stop, the coda deletes and the initial d is fortified to t.
Morphemes for marking definite frequencies are formed from numerals by subjecting the onset consonant to lenition (as in forming the construct state of nouns; see below), shifting it to the retroflex place of articulation if it is a dental, palatal, or velar consonant, and attaching the prefix dĕ-. So the morpheme for “once” would be dĕbig (reduced to dĕbi- as a prefix before consonants), “twice” would be dĕtru (which shifts to the irregular form dĕtroy- before vowels), “three times” would be dĕdrugh/dĕdru-, and so forth. Irregular forms are listed in the lexicon.
The Interrogative Mood
The interrogative mood is marked using the infix ‹ĕhr›, which follows the onset consonant of the first syllable of the stem. With stems beginning in a vowel the prefix hr- is used, coming after any other prefixes applied the verb. The interrogative mood is used in forming polar ("yes or no") questions.
- mohyehá "you (sg.) prayed" → mohyehĕhrá "did you (sg.) pray?"
- jirelág "he/she intends to come" → jirehrág "does he/she intend to come?"
The Iterative Aspect
The iterative aspect is formed by reduplicating the verb stem, effectively compounding it with itself (see "compounding," below). The accent, in this case, falls on the first instance of the syllable that would be accented in the unmodified stem if the verb is transitive, and the second if it is intransitive. This is used to express that the subject performs an action regularly or has performed it many times in the past.
- mecég "you two wander" → mecezĕcég "you two are always wandering around"
- jihyegrág jĭ "he/she hurt himself/herself" → jihyegrádrag jĭ "he/she hurt himself/herself regularly"
Four aspect-marking suffixes related to the ending of an action or state may occupy this “slot” in the verbal template. The use of one of these suffixes implies that the verb took place in the indefinite past, unless a modal prefix or an explicit temporal reference is used as well.
|Cessative||-hwe||expresses that an action or state has come to an end. With telic verbs, it expresses that the activity described was not completed and may, depending on the context, carry the implication of failure. Following a coda stop, the suffix reduced to -e and the coda becomes aspirated. A preceding d becomes tr, while a preceding g becomes p.|
|Completive (Telic)||-xegh||used with telic verbs (active verbs that imply a natural end point) not related to movement to express that the action described has been completed, placing emphasis on the present consequences of its completion. When following a final stop, the stop deletes and the suffix becomes -hxegh.|
|Completive (Atelic)||-gra||semantically similar to the telic completive suffix, but used with verbs of motion and all atelic verbs. A preceding gh deletes, while gr shifts to r following b and fuses with stem-final d and g, resulting in zr and dr, respectively.|
|Perfective||-ma||used to describe a state or action as a simple whole without placing any particular emphasis on its ending or completion. Following a coda stop, the stop deletes and the suffix becomes -hma.|
Attributive verbs are regularly formed by fortifying the onset of an otherwise unmodified verb root:
Initial plain stops, affricates, and fricatives (except /h/) become aspirated:
- ĕrà dá "a vixen is cunning" → ĕrà tá "a cunning vixen"
Initial voiced nasals become voiceless:
- cè ngàì "a person is different" → cè hngàì "a different person"
Initial aspirated and ejective stops and affricates take the prefix Sə-, where S represents a plain stop or affricate homorganic with the onset (/t̪ə-/ is used before both dental and retroflex stops):
- rrĕcàì p’ĕzríg "a promise is secret" → rrĕcàì bĕp’ĕzríg "a secret promise"
Initial /h/ is replaced with /kʰ/:
- grég há "a woman prays" → grég ká "a praying woman"
Initial voiced liquids (including /r/ and any lateral approximant or voiced trill) other than /ʎ/ are replaced with /ʈ/:
- rrĕrĕdráú rró "a puppy is content" → rrĕrĕdráú dró "a content puppy"
Initial /w/ is replaced with /p/, and initial /j/ and /ʎ/ with /tɕ/:
- tréd wób "a male dog is lazy" → tréd bób "a lazy male dog"
- rréb yágh "a boy is happy" → rréb jágh "a happy boy"
Initial /r̥/ becomes /ʈʰ/:
- kà hràì "a snake is fast" → kà tràì "a fast snake"
Aspirated fricatives and voiceless nasals and approximants usually remain unchanged:
- rrĕkĕtr’íg hmà "a jewel is precious" or "a precious jewel" (depending on context)
The prefix /tɕ-/ is used with verb roots beginning in /i/ or /e/:
- dré íb "a bird is foolish" → dré jíb "a foolish bird"
The prefix /k-/ is used before any other vowel:
- féd ĕrà "a warrior is naked" → féd gĕrà "a naked warrior"
A number of verbs have irregular attributive forms, which are listed in the lexicon.
As in the examples given above, attributive verbs primarily function as deverbal adjectives, and usually follow the nouns they modify. With intransitive verbs, the semantics of the attributive form are relatively straightforward, describing the attributes or behavior of the modified noun. With transitive verbs, the attributive verb is generally interpreted as passive and perfective.
When used to modify the head noun in a genitive construction, the attributive precedes the noun instead of following it.
In any case, a relative clause may always be used in place of an attributive (see "relative clauses" below).
This method is considered more cumbersome and attributive verbs are generally preferred in everyday speech. However, relative clauses are often used for clarity in potentially ambiguous contexts, since the process of forming attributives can result in the phonetic merger of phonologically similar verbs.
Rrób Tè Jĕnhò has a small class of adverbs, which includes markers of degree and spatial deixis.
Attributive verbs may also act as adverbs, specifying the manner in which an action takes place.
The most fundamental distinction in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò nouns is based on animacy, which has a great deal of influence on how a verb behaves grammatically. Each noun also has two distinct forms or "states": the absolute and the construct.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò makes a simple binary distinction between animate and inanimate noun referents. Nouns describing people, animals, and spiritual beings, including terms referring to groups of animals or people collectively, are classified as animate. The animate class also encompasses nouns describing body parts, phenomena related to the weather and the ocean, and regularly occurring periods of time such as day and night and the seasons of the year. Most other things, including man-made and naturally occurring objects and substances, abstract concepts, and collective terms for human occupations and activities, are classed as inanimate.
Nouns themselves are not overtly marked for animacy, but pronouns, articles, and relativizers have different forms which agree with the animacy of their referents, and nouns of each class are marked differently as the agents of passive verbs. Grammatical number is also handled differently depending on the class of noun being counted, with animate nouns being marked for four numbers and inanimate nouns for two. Furthermore, number marking in inanimate nouns is always optional, while animate pronouns are always explicitly marked for number.
Each noun stem has two forms, referred to as the “absolute” and “construct” states. The absolute state is considered to be the less-marked form of the verb, and is used for most nouns that aren't involved in genitive constructions, as well as verbs acting as the dependent element (the "possessor") in such a construction.
The construct state is used to mark the head nouns in genitive constructions, as well as in the formation of nominalizers and locative constructions. Genitive relationships are formed by placing the head noun (the "possessed" noun) in the construct state and following it immediately with its dependent.
The construct state is formed through consonant mutation, usually by lenition of the onset consonant. The regular outcomes of this process are as follows:
Aspirated stops and affricates lenite to the corresponding “plain” consonant:
- qí ‘face’ → jí dă "mother’s face"
Plain stops and affricates lenite to plain (central) fricatives at the same place of articulation, with the exception of /ts/, which lenits to /ɕ/, and /q/, which lenits to /h/:
- bĕ "beer" → fĕ mò "your beer"
Plain fricatives lenite to approximants or trills, with both /s/ and /ɕ/ becoming /r/, /x/ becoming /j/, and /h/ becoming /ʀ/:
- féd "warrior" → wéd sĕwĕgrég "warrior of the queendom"
Voiceless nasals become voiced:
- hnyèg "foot" → nyèg zéd "rabbit's foot"
Voiceless approximants and trills become voiced and prefixed with the reduced vowel /ə/:
- hwó "bow" → ĕwó bă "father's bow"
Ejectives generally lenite to plain stops and affricates in high-tone and atonic syllables and to voiced nasals in low tone syllables, with both /ts’/ and /tɕ’/ becoming /ɲ/:
- p’ŏ "descendant" → bŏ Ká "descendant of the Goddess"
- c’è "claw" → nyè ghĕnà "bear’s claw"
Nouns beginning with a voiced approximant or nasal generally remain unchanged:
- rrúd "mouth" → rrúd p’àù "lion’s mouth"
Although these alternations are the most common, there are a large number of nouns with irregular forms in the construct state. Among the more common irregular alternations are plain stops that alternate with voiced nasals, aspirated stops that alternate with aspirated fricatives, and “fortis” consonants that remain unchanged in the construct state. Aspirated fricatives behave particularly irregularly during construct state formation, with no one pattern of alternation being exceptionally common.
It is worth noting that possessives are generally used significantly less often in Rrób Tè-Jĕhnò than in English, often being left to context. For instance, when kinship terms are used in a statement they are assumed to refer to relatives of the speaker (when the kinship term acts as the subject of a clause) or the subject (when the term is used as another sort of argument) in the absence of an explicit genitive construction.
Similarly, terms referring to specific political or social roles are interpreted as referring to the individuals who fill those roles within the community of the speaker or subject of a statement.
Locative Use of the Construct State
A small, closed category of nouns may form construct states with locative meanings:
|hfáb||"skin"||gráb||"on the surface of, on top of, on"|
|jĕ||"eye"||nyě||"in front of, across from, facing, within sight of"|
|pàù||"head"||bàù||"at the top of, above"|
|srĕ||"guts"||rĕ||"in, inside of"|
|cĭ||"neck"||zĭ||"behind, at the back of"|
|cră||"sole, palm"||zră||"below, under, at the bottom of"|
|wí||"air"||wí||"outside of, distant from"|
A few nouns are purely locative in meaning, such as tréb "left," fríd "right," pó "north," and nĕlréd "south". In the absolute state, these refer to the direction itself, while in the construct they are used as locatives:
- bó nò "to the north of the ocean"
In Rrób Tè Jĕhnò subordinate clauses that behave as noun phrases must be introduced with a noun in the construct state, which serves to nominalize the entire subordinate clause. Only a few nouns are regularly used for this purpose:
|céb||"event"||zéb||a general nominalizer of factual or hypothetical events|
|c’í||"reason"||zí||nominalizes clauses describing cause, motivation, and purpose|
|vŭ||"fact"||yŭ||nominalizes known, factual, usually past events and states|
|kè||"job"||gè||nominalizes tasks and regular activities|
|mògh||"help"||mògh||nominalizes goals to which an action constributes|
|zé||"idea"||xé||nominalizes concepts, plans, purposes, and hypothetical events|
|sré||"intention"||ré||nominalizes intended future events in hortative constructions|
|p’ĭ||"manner"||bĭ||nominalizes manner subclauses and descriptions of methods|
|gàù||"place"||vàù||nominalizes locative subclauses|
|sáí||"word(s)"||rráí||introduces reported speech|
|tú||"story"||dú||introduces the topic or summary of a story|
Although the number of subject nouns is primarily marked using clitic pronouns, any animate noun may optionally be pluralized using the prefix nye-, which may be emphasized using the reduplicated form nyĕnye-.
Inanimate nouns may also be modified by nyĕnye-, and may be marked for the singulative number using the prefix p’i-.
Pronouns and Determiners
Pronouns in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò mark three grammatical persons (first, second, and third) and, for animate referents, four numbers (singular, dual, trial, and plural). The trial number is used formally to refer to exactly three referents. Informally, however, it is often used to refer to a small number of referents that number more than two, but not exactly three. This is roughly analogous to the use of the English word “couple” (which literally denotes a group of two) in informal phrases like “me and the guys hung out and drank a couple beers.”
Inanimate pronouns are marked for only two numbers: the collective, which is typically interpreted as referring to either a collective group of objects or an indefinite quantity of an uncountable substance, and the singulative, which refers to a specific member of such a group or a measure of such a substance. The collective is somewhat misleadingly named, however, as, in the absence of an explicit quantifier, it is basically transnumeral, ambivalent with regard to number. Notably, when its referent is a man-made item such as a tool, weapon, or boat, the collective pronoun is understood as singular by default, and the singulative pronoun is not generally used.
The independent forms of each pronoun are shown on the following table. These are most commonly used as the objects of transitive clauses and in Exceptional Case Marking constructions (see below); pronominal subjects of transitive and intransitive verbs are usually cliticized to the verb (see "clitic pronouns" above).
Reflexive and Reciprocal Constructions
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò has no reflexive pronouns, and forms reflexive constructions by using coreferential personal pronouns as both arguments of a transitive verb. When a dual, trial, or plural pronoun is used in this manner the resulting clause is often interpreted as reciprocal. Reciprocal constructions may optionally be explicated through the use of an independent pronoun as the subject of the clause.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò lacks simple indefinite pronouns (such as the English ‘someone’ or ‘something’), instead making use of two indefinite determiners: ĕsro (used with animate referents) and ĕhsro (used with inanimate referents). These are used in conjunction with nouns, most commonly generic “dummy nouns" like cè, ‘person’ and có, ‘thing,’ but more specific nouns may be used as well.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò makes use of two definite articles: gi, used with animate referents, and fi, used with inanimate referents. There are no corresponding indefinite articles; nouns are assumed be be indefinite in their least-marked form.
The definite article is generally not used to mark head element of a genitive construction, nor with kinship or political terms that are implicitly possessed by the subject or speaker. When the definite article refers to the dependent element of a genitive construction it precedes the head noun (which is in the construct state) rather than between the two elements. When the definite article is used with a noun that is typically implicitly possessed, it serves to negate that possession.
Demonstratives in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò distinguish two levels of spatial deixis, but are unmarked for the animacy and number of their referents. The determiner su, ‘this, these,’ refers to objects relatively near the speaker, while gu, ‘that, those,’ refers to objects farther away. A third demonstrative, hnu, is best translated as ‘the other,’ and is used to distinguish between multiple objects regardless of their distance from the speaker.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò demonstratives are strictly adnominal, but demonstrative pronouns may be formed by pairing the appropriate determiner with a generic noun. For instance, one might refer to gu có, "those things," or su xég, "this creature."
- c'ĕ "any (of many)"; t'ód "either (of two)"; dĕt’ód "any one of three"; kĕdĕt’ód "any two of three"
- gú "some, a few (of many)"; ngàì "some, a few (of a collective group), a little, a small amount of"
- zĕ "every, the entire"; nàd "both"; hnâ "all three"; nà "all (of many)"
- dlréd "each (of a collective group)"; gréd "the entirety of, all (of a collective group)"
The following table summarizes which quantifiers are used with which grammatical numbers:
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò has a senary or "base-6" counting system, with unique terms for the multiples of 6 as high as 36. Other numerals are formed through a somewhat irregular form of compounding, as shown on the following table:
Numerals above 36 are formed using the conjunction ne, "and," to coordinate srégh (which remains independently accented) with a second numeral to be added to it. Beginning with gĕsregh, "72," numerals are compounded before srégh, acting as multipliers. These undergo the same initial consonant lenition found in the second element of additive compounds. Under this system, 100 is gĕsrégh ne crĕbé, 1000 is zrĕdĕhsrégh ne p’íg, and 1296 (36x36) is rĕhsrégh.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò has only two dedicated ordinal numerals, which pattern syntactically as quantifiers: hmèg, "first," and hsŏ, "second." Other ordinals are formed as locative constructions using the construct-state noun nyèg, here meaning "at." "The third man" would therefore be gi có nyèg t’úgh, literally "the man at three."
Prepositions and Conjunctions
In Rrób Tè Jĕhnò Prepositions and conjunctions take the form of particles usually consisting of a single atonic syllable. The distinction between particles and clitics is somewhat ambiguous here, as function words in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò phonetic properties similar to dependent morphemes. In addition to being toneless, particles always end in a short, open syllable, though a number exhibit latent or "muted" coda consonants. These consonants are pronounced only when the particle is followed by a word beginning in a vowel, in which case they are syllabified as onsets on the following syllable rather than codas on the particle. Particles without a latent consonant are sometimes reduced to a single consonant before vowel-initial syllables in rapid speech, but this is considered irregular and usually only occurs with very common phrases.
Intransitive clauses in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò minimally consist of a subject noun followed by an intransitive verb, giving SV word order. A clitic pronoun may be used in place of a noun or full pronoun.
Clauses containing transitive verbs have a basic order of VOS in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò, though the obligatory use of clitic pronouns suggests an underlying subject-initial syntax.
The Passive Voice
Transitive verb stems may be passivized by omitting the clitic pronoun and including only one argument with the verb. The result is essentially an intransitive clause that has been syntactically reversed.
A second noun phrase may be included as the agent of a passive noun by marking it with the preposition dre (if animate) or wo (if inanimate). Again, the normal syntax of the clause is reversed, with the agent preceding the patient.
The verb srŏ, "stand," is used as a general copula in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò, behaving as a transitive verb in that context.
When used to express a locative meaning, an appropriate noun in the construct state is paired with the object noun.
- deciduous tree(s)
The verb hngàù, "sit," may optionally be used in place of srŏ in locative copular clauses to emphasize that the position of the subject is permanent.
As Rrób Tè Jĕhnò lacks a class of adjectives per-se, statements that would be phrased as adjectival predicates in English are generally expressed with stative intransitive verbs, requiring no copula. This is also the case for some common professions, which are typically identified using the active intransitive verb describing their characteristic activity.
Directional Motion Verbs
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò has a complex set of seven deictic motion verbs marking the person of the origin or destination:
|Destination (come towards)||Origin (go away from)||No destination/origin|
|1st person||c’ĭ "come/go towards speaker"||gàì "go away from speaker"|
|2nd person||mâ "come/go towards listener"||k’áí "go away from listener"|
|3rd person|| lŏ "come/go towards somewhere other
than speaker or listener"
| báí "go away from somewhere other
than speaker or listener"
|cég "go nowhere in particular, wander"|
Additionally, a number of verbs mark movement in other directions relative to the location of the subject of a clause, including sĕwŏ "ascend, climb," pă "go down, descend," xó "go upstream," and zí "go downstream."
Directional motion verbs form an irregular grammatical category. On the one hand, they may act as the core of intransitive verb phrases:
However, they may also behave as transitive verbs if a second verb phrase is included to indicate the specific destination of the movement. In this case.
The destination or origin of movement is often implied rather than explicitly stated, but one may specify both by combining motion verbs as sequential events (see below).
Directional motion verbs may also modify other active verbs, indicating the direction of the action. In this case, they become cliticized and behave as bound morphemes attached to the verb they modify, following the phonological rules for compounds (see below):
Rrób Tè-Jĕhnò has no ditransitive verbs, and indirect objects must always be introduced through the use of a preposition or ECM construction.
Dative and Benefactive
Dative participants are marked with the preposition dlo, "for, to".
Benefactive participants are marked with the preposition u(gh), "for the benefit of".
Antibenefactive participants are marked with the preposition gra(g), "to harm".
Instrumental participants are marked with the preposition wo, "with, by, using".
Comitative participants are marked with the preposition fa, "with," while anticomitative participants are marked with rre, "without".
Locative participants, which are noun phrases describing the location at which an action takes place, rather than nominal complements describing the location of an object, are marked with the preposition sro paired with an appropriate noun in the construct state.
Note the difference in emphasis between this example and the following, which includes the locative as part of the subject noun phrase:
If the action described in the clause involves motion but nevertheless takes place at a single location the preposition ce(g) is used instead.
Destination and Origin
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò uses a set of prepositions derived from verbs of directional motion to mark oblique participants representing the origin or target of an event or action. These are identical to the corresponding verbs, save that they are not independently accented and cég becomes ce(g).
Negation Rrób Tè Jĕhnò is marked through the use of a versatile particle, xe. When placed at the beginning of a clause, this particle negates the verb used in the clause:
In clauses with transitive verbs, xe may be placed directly before the subject or object (or both) in order to exclude that specific argument. When the subject is so included, the resulting phrase indicates a contrast with another argument, which may be explicitly included in the clause or left implicit:
While yes-or-no questions in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò are handled with the interrogative infix ‹ĕhr›, as described above, non-polar questions are formed using the stative verbs hràì, "be what" (referring to inanimate nouns) and hráú, "be who" (referring to animate nouns). These are irregular in that they are always fronted in the clause, rather than following their subject, and never take pronominal prefixes. Likewise, in the attributive form they precede the noun they modify rather than following it as normal.
General questions regarding location are formed using the phrase tràì gàù "what place," before the subject and a copula marked in the interrogative mood. More specific location questions use a fronted locative construct state and may use other nouns in place of "place."
Other adverbial interrogatives conform to the same syntax.
Coordinating conjunctions such as o, "and," e, "or," and q’e, "but" are placed clause-initially. Note that these conjunctions cannot used to link noun phrases within a clause.
Coordination and Conjunction of Noun Phrases
For all non-subject noun phrases, coordination is accomplished through the use of the conjunction ne, "and, with".
This conjunction is not used with sentence subjects; instead, the preposition fa, "together with" is used, immediately following with the subject noun phrase.
"Or" relating to noun phrases is expressed using the preposition rro. This particle may be used to mark both oblique participants and subjects.
"But" is not distinguished from "and" when coordinating noun phrases, and fa (along with the negative particle, if necessary) is used to express both meanings.
Closely related sequences of events sharing the same subject may be coordinated using the conjunction to. When transitive verbs are coordinated in this manner, only the first is marked with a clitic pronoun.
In many cases, verbs coordinated as sequential events may be interpreted as statements of cause and effect.
In any event, it is always possible to express sequential events by dividing them into separate clauses coordinated with the conjunction o. This typically serves to indicate that the events or actions described are unrelated, but it can also serve to break up a complex sequence of related verb in order to make them easier to parse.
Exceptional Case Marking
Exceptional case marking or "ECM" in Rrób Tè-Jĕhnò (named for a syntactically similar type of construction in English, despite the lack of morphological case marking) is a type of subordination in which the object of the main verb in a clause acts as the subject of a subordinated verb phrase. These constructions follow the formula VP1 NP2 VP2 (NP3) NP1, in which NP1 is the subject noun phrase of the first verb phrase (VP1), NP2 is the object of VP1 and the subject of VP2, and NP3 is the object of VP2 when the verb in VP2 is transitive. NP2 is always a noun or free pronoun, and the verb in VP2 never takes a clitic pronoun, even if transitive.
The first verb phrase of an ECM construction must be transitive, while the second verb in the construction may be transitive or intransitive, but cannot be marked for the passive voice. Despite these restrictions, ECM constructions are used in marking numerous grammatical categories in Rrób Tè-Jĕhnò, including certain kinds of modality, causation, comparison, and reported speech.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò introduces relative clauses through the use of a relativizer particle agreeing with the animacy of the noun modified by the clause. The relativizer hmo is used with animate nouns, while bĕp’o is used with inanimate nouns.
In Rrób Tè Jĕhnò, the commissive, imperative, optative, and volitional mood affixes indicate the intentions, needs, hopes, and desires of the subject of a clause. In order to express other types of modality, the corresponding full verbs must be used in an ECM construction.
Requests and Orders
Direct orders and instructions may be expressed using a bare verb stem.
This, however, is usually considered brusque and impolite, and is generally used only when the urgency of the situation or the heightened emotional state of the speaker prohibit a more complex construction. When issuing instructions to social subordinates, the imperative mood affix is usually used with a second person subject.
When the speaker wishes to use a more deferential tone while still expressing authority, an ECM construction using the verb ré, "intend," may be used.
Requests are normally constructed using the verb gă, "request."
Using the verb á, "want," is generally considered more forceful and less polite, and is typically only used when speaking to friends or family members. Conversely, the verb nyèg, "wish," is often used when speaking to a social superior, being considered more deferential than a direct request.
While Rrób Tè Jĕhnò verbs may be morphologically marked for tense, verb phrases may be assigned more specific time frames through the use of the preposition fe and a temporal noun. Note that the verb is not marked for tense in these constructions.
The attributive verbs yàì "be next" and ĕrĕ, "be previous" may follow the temporal noun to specify its relationship with the present time.
In order to refer to specific times further from the present, ordinal numerals are used in addition to these attributives.
Indefinite time references simply use the indefinite quantifier c’ĕ, "any."
Temporal references describing the duration of an event are instead marked with the preposition fau.
Adverbial clauses in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò are coordinated with the verb phrases they modify using conjunctions consisting of a nominalizing construct state noun prefixed with a fused grammatical particle.
Adverbial clauses describing an agent's reason or motivation for performing an action or being in a state are generally expressed using the conjunction baizí, corresponding to the English "because."
In order to express that an action is motivated by a specific past event, the conjunction baiyŭ may be used instead, which might be roughly translated as "because of the fact that..."
Just as a nominalized clause behaves syntactically as a noun phrase, a simple noun phrase may serve a function similar to a reason clause.
Reason clauses are frequently topic-fronted (see topicalization, below).
A clause describing the purpose of an action is typically coordinated with the conjunction lozí, corresponding roughly to the English phrase "in order to..."
In order to express that an action contributes toward a larger, more complex task or goal the conjunction lomògh may be used instead, translating roughly as "to help in..."
As with reasons, purposes may be expressed using noun phrases rather than whole clauses.
Clauses describing the results of an action or event may be coordinated with rrizéb if the result is an immediate reaction, or grarégh if the result develops gradually over time.
Subclauses describing the manner in which an action is carried out or an event takes place are coordinated with the conjunction febĭ.
Temporal subclauses are introduced using the same prepositions as temporal reference noun phrases, in conjunction with the nominalizer zéb, "event of..."
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò permits topic fronting as a method of drawing attention to new topic of discussion or emphasizing the role of a particular element of the cause. The topicalized element is simply moved to the beginning of the sentence, while the order of the other constituents remains unchanged. In practice, only oblique noun phrases and nominalized clauses are regularly fronted, while differences in dynamic stress and relative intonation are more commonly used to place emphasis on one of the core arguments of a predicate.
Heavy Constituent Shift
Complex relativized and nominalized clauses may be shifted in order to make a sentence easier to parse. The subordinate clause is moved to the end of the sentence, and a pronoun fills its normal position in the main clause. In the case of a nominalized clause, the collective inanimate personal pronoun is used. In the case of a relative clause, the referent of the clause is moved as well and a personal pronoun agreeing with the number and animacy of the referent is used in its place.
Rrób Tè Jĕhnò has a rich inventory of derivational morphemes and processes. In many cases, more than one productive method exists for deriving a particular meaning from an existing word, as speakers of the language have supplemented their native systems of derivation with affixes borrowed from the Wendoth languages.
Note that derivational suffixes in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò gain a rising pitch accent following accented short vowels in open syllables, causing the formerly accented vowel to reduce to ĕ.
Diminuitives are regularly formed from nouns in one of two ways. The first is onset retroflexion, characterized by the following processes:
- Initial non-retroflex affricates and dental stops become retroflex affricates
- Initial velar stops become retroflex stops (in some lexicalized diminutive nouns, these have shifted to retroflex affricates instead)
- Initial uvular stops shift to gr
- Initial labial obstruents are followed by the infix ‹r›
- Initial h shifts to hr
- Initial central fricatives other than f and h become retroflex sibilants
- Initial lateral fricatives become retroflex
- Initial approximants are replaced with ĕrr
Diminuitives are typically used to refer to young members of an animal species, and as terms of endearment or mockery.
hlyíg "sow" → hlríg "piglet"
t’ă "grandmother" → cr’ă "little grandmother" (term of endearment)
có "man" → cró "little man" (pejorative)
The second method for forming diminutives, typically used with noun stems beginning in nasals or retroflex consonants, or when the former method would introduce unwated ambiguity, uses the suffix -wi. This is reduced to -i following stems ending in a stop, with the following effects on the coda:
- Final b and gh remain unchanged
- Final d becomes dr
- Final g becomes b
mù "deer" → mùwi "fawn"
ĕcrég "wanderer" → ĕcrĕbĭ "planet (astronomical)" (literally "little wanderer")
Augmentatives are formed from nouns using the prefix rrĕ-, rr- before an initial vowel. They are more typically used to indicate authority, importance, or strength, rather than mere physical size.
hnyè "family, clan" → rrĕhnyè "royal or chiefly family"
ĕtr’úg "priestess, sage" → rrĕtr’úg "high priestess"
Agent nouns may be formed from verb stems in one of two ways, both of which produce a noun describing a referent who habitually performs the action described by an active verb or is consistently characterized by a stative verb. The first method is to shift any initial dental, palatal, or velar consonants to their retroflex counterparts and apply the prefix ĕ-. With verb stems beginning in a vowel, the prefix ĕrr- is used instead.
cég "go nowhere in particular, wander" → ĕcrég "wanderer"
dróg "go hunting, be a hunter" → ĕdróg "hunter"
The second method uses the suffix -nu. If the verb stem has a final stop it deletes and the suffix becomes -hnu.
ĕjí "be afraid" → ĕjínu "coward"
ĕwáígh "complain, gripe" → ĕwĕhnŭ "whiner"
Many agent nouns have been conventionalized over time, most often using the former of these two processes. However, the use of the suffix is generally more productive with verbs lacking an established agent noun.
Nouns for products or results of verbs may be formed using the suffix -id, -hid after a vowel. Note that many verbs have lexicalized result nouns which may be used instead of or in addition to nouns formed with -(h)id.
bí "jump, leap (verb)" → bíhid "jump, leap (noun)"
Instrumental nouns may be formed from verbs through consonant mutation and/or the use of a prefix, depending on the form of the verb stem. The resulting noun refers to a physical tool or ingredient used in performing the action described by a modified active noun, or to an object characterized by the quality described by a modified stative noun.
- Stem-initial plain stops, affricates, and fricatives (except for h) become aspirated and take the prefix ĕ-
- Initial voiced nasals become voiceless and likewise take the prefix ĕ-
- Before aspirated and ejective stops and affricates, the prefix ĕSĕ- is used, where S represents a plain stop or affricate homorganic with the onset (ĕdĕ- is used before both dental and retroflex stops).
- Before aspirated fricatives and voiceless nasals, the prefix ĕ- is used on its own
- Initial h is replaced with ĕk
- Initial voiced liquids (including r and any lateral approximant or voiced trill) other than ly are replaced with ĕdr
- Initial w is replaced with ĕb, and initial y and ly with ĕj
- Initial hr is replaced with ĕtr
- The prefix ĕj- is used with verb stems beginning in i or e
- The prefix ĕg- is used with verb stems beginning in any other vowel
Note that the result of this process is typically identical to the attributive form of the modified verb, save for the addition of ĕ-.
dlyĭ "mold (from clay)" → ĕhlyĭ "mold, form (noun)"
zó "cut" → ĕcó "knife, cutting tool"
Alternatively, the suffix -wa may be used, which interacts with coda stops in the same manner as -wi.
hnè "fill" → hnèwa "funnel"
Antipassives may be formed from transitive verbs using the prefix nĕ-, which is reduced to n- before vowels. This has the effect of reducing the valency of the verb, such that it behaves in all ways as an intransitive verb. A similar meaning may also be expressed by using a noun representing the result or product of a transitive verb as the object of that verb.
Verbs of opposite effect may be formed using the infix ‹ĕzr›, which also triggers the palatalization of some onset consonants.
- Initial dental stops become dental affricates
- Initial velar stops become alveolo-palatal affricates
- Initial velar and coronal nasals and laterals become the corresponding palatal consonants
- Initial velar and coronal fricatives become x
- The prefix zr- is used with verb stems beginning in a vowel
The derived term has the same valency as the original verb, and expresses either an antonym of the unmodified verb or the reversal of the action described thereby.
ĕrŭ "bless" → ĕrĕzrŭ "curse"
dlŭ "tie, bind" → dlyĕzrŭ "loosen, untie"
Adjective-like verbs may be formed from nouns using the prefix nĕ-, which causes initial dental, palatal, and velar consonants to shift to the retroflex place of articulation. Before nouns beginning in a vowel, the prefix becomes nr-. The result is a stative verb describing the condition of resembling or being similar to the modified noun. The precise nature of this similarity tends to be fairly idiosyncratic to the particular noun modified.
dlúd "sand" → nĕdlrúd "be granular"
hlyó "slime" → nĕhlró "be slimy"
k’íb "chalk, white color" → nĕtr’íb "be pale, whitish"
ĕré "circle" → nrĕré "be round, be circular"
Several types of compound are regularly formed in Rrób Tè Jĕhnò, though all obey the same basic phonological rules. When a word with a final stop is compounded before a word beginning in a consonant, the resulting cluster is generally resolved according to the following patterns:
- Final stops elide before voiceless nasals and aspirated fricatives
- Final stops assimilate to the place of articulation of a following aspirated or ejective stop, and an epenthetic schwa is inserted between the two consonants
- Final stops elide before plain stops, affricates, and fricatives and voiced nasals, causing the following consonant to undergo fortition to an aspirated stop or fricative or a voiceless nasal
- Before a voiced liquid other than ly, final stops undergo retroflection, as in diminutive formation
- Before hr, final stops are retroflexed and aspirated
- Clusters with w and hw are resolved as with the diminutive suffix -wi, becoming aspirated before the latter
- Final stops are platalized before y and hy, as in the formation of verbs of opposite effect, becoming aspirated before the latter, after which the approximant is elided
The accent normally falls on the final syllable of a compound unless the first element of the compound ends in an open syllable with a long vowel, in which case the syllable with the long vowel is accented. Vowels in atonic syllables are reduced, becoming ĕ, unless in the final syllable of the compound.
Nominal compounds fall into three basic categories:
- Compounds consisting of a noun in the construct state followed by a noun in the absolute state are generally similar in meaning to a noun phrase containing the two nouns.
- Compounds consisting of two nouns in the absolute state typically represent something that is characterized by both component nouns, with neither being the clear "head".
- Compounds consisting of a noun in the construct state followed by verb refer to an instance of the noun characterized by the verb. This type of compound has limited productivity, being used almost exclusively with intransitive verbs, particularly stative verbs.
Verbal compounds are less common than nominal compounds, and less regular in terms of their semantics.
The following is a formalized version of a traditional story told in communities all along Tuysáfa's northwest coast. The setting for the story is Grĕpàì, a country of high mountains and primeval forests that is the home of the "First People" (RTJ. Hmèg Tè), the mythical ancestors of the Northwest Tuysáfan languge speakers. In the mythology of the Tè Jĕnhò the First People are said to have lived in intimate contact with the fá, spiritual beings that inhabit and lend animacy to the various creatures and natural forces of the world. The greatest of the terrestrial fá is Wég, the animating spirit of the land itself, though even Wég is ultimately subservient to the sky goddess Ká, the primary deity of Tè Jĕhnò religion.
Ká hyeyég, o dosrŏ rĕ vób gréd grĕhnò. Xe hmèd ngè sro gráb já. Ngàxegh ghŭ lyàì Hmèg Tè, o xe qit’úg cí bĭ qirrĕfĭ jéd. Qitĕră to ĕzríb rrú.
Jisrŏ fá hmo jinòd Wég Mòg. Jisĕwŏ p’ihsà to nyè wí jéd gŭ, o jibáí tràì lozí jilĕdlré gi wí. Fe zéb jibáí ró jĭ to ág, jikh’ád ĕdŏ Mòg, p’izĕkhă mè bĕp’o jisĕdŏ ĕdŏ lye rrĕgré jáí bĕp’o qijáí ĕdŏ gi tè. Qilŏ to sĕdŏ cé drú ne dĕt’ă lye fi rrí p’izĕkhă fá hngàì, ngĕnge zéb jihnè jáí wí o qidĕzráhwe gi tè. Qinĕdágh to lá to nĕfàù to nĕzú ce gi rrí jéd Hmèg Tè.
Jihyelŏ rĕ jáí Hnră, to rrilŏ jĭ yé mù ĕwŏ hmo jirrimà jĭ. Jisĕdŏ gi mù lye fi rĕ khă lozí jĕqó jĭ Hnră, q’e dohmô gi jéd to xe dígh ghŭ jĭ fi tr’éd. Fi jáí hyelodĕzrá, o jihmô zĕ jĕ vób. Qidĕzrá dŭ rrizéb nèd dlă cè hmo qihngáú gŭ gi wí jéd, o xe qidradáí mò sáí. Gi nyecè ĕjí o qimê nyecè mò qĭ to rrilŏ jĭ qĭ, grarégh tr’ĕ gi tè o qilosrŏ nyĕnyĕzĭ mè. Qidodáí sáí hngàì zĕ zĭ, o fe bĭ fi céb tr’ĕ rrób Hmég Tè o jilosrŏ nyĕnyesób hmo haihĕcrúb qĭ.