South Eresian: inflections, pronouns and prepositions

South Eresian is largely an isolating language, but it does have some inflections, primarily on verbs.  In this post I will cover these inflections, pronouns and adpositions, and detail how they relate.

Verbal Inflections:

Person inflection on verbs in South Eresian is reasonably straightforward and regular, with only a few verbs showing any sort of irregularity.  Verbs inflect for the absolutive/nominative (which it should be analyzed as will be covered in a moment) and for any non-subject part of the verb phrase, including adjuncts, adverbs and other things, which I will cover later.  Here are the absolutive/nominative inflection paradigms:

ních- : to walk:
–                   Sg              Pl

1P:              níche        níchex
2P:              níchet       níchec
3Pan:         ních          níchen
3Pinan:      níchel       níchey

lát- : to sit:
–                    Sg              Pl

1P:              láte            látax
2P:              látat           látac
3Pan:         lát              látan
3Pinan:      látal           látey

sícu- : to play music:
–                    Sg              Pl

1P:              sícue           sícuex
2P:              sícuet          sícuec
3Pan:         sícua            sícuen
3Pinan:      sícuel           sícuey

mácr- : to be creative:
–                    Sg              Pl

1P:              mácre          mácrax
2P:              mácrat         mácrac
3Pan:         mácra           mácran
3Pinan:      mácral          mácrey

The paradigm for nich- applies when the final vowel in the stem is one of /i e o/, whereas the paradigm for lat- only applies if the final vowel in the stem is /a/.  The paradigm for sicu– applies when the verb stem ends in a consonant cluster or /kʷ/ and the final vowel is one of /i e o/, and the paradigm for macr– applies when the verb stem ends in a consonant cluster or /kʷ/ and the final vowel is /a/.

Whether these suffixes should be considered absolutive or nominative is animacy-dependent; specifically, when the patient of a transitive verb is animate, the whole clause treats that patient as if it were a dative and the verb as if it were intransitive, which ends up meaning that when the patient is animate, the verb inflects for the agent, patterning like a nominative.  This process does not occur when the patient is inanimate, so then the verb inflects for the patient, as an absolutive.  This will be explained better later in the post, especially when covering the preposition na.

The other paradigm consists of prefixes rather than suffixes and displays no variations or irregularities:

p’el- : to speak:
–                   Sg              Pl

1P:              nep’el        xep’el
2P:              tep’el         quep’el
3Pan:         tlep’el        inp’el
3Pinan:      ap’el          yep’el

Additionally there is the reflexive prefix is-, which is largely only used for the third person (second and first persons just use their respective prefixes), but can be used for first person as well, especially in formal situations.

When a verb has both animate and inanimate things that would normally take these prefixes, only the animate prefixes occur; that is to say that verbs inflect for inaninimate dependents only when there are no animate objects dependent on the verb.

These stack when there is more than one animate thing that takes a (non-ma or ha) preposition.  When occurring together, they contract; the 3PP.ANIM prefix is reduced to just /n/ after another affix, producing nen- ten- tlen- (*an-) xen- quen- (*yen-).  The 3PS.INAN prefix takes a glottal stop when occurring after another prefix (which must be the 3PP.INAN prefix): yeha-.  All the others have their final vowel deleted except after the 3PP.ANIM prefix, i.e. the other prefixes plus the 3PS.ANIM prefix would produce netl- tetl- (*ax-) xetl- quetl- intle- (*yex-).  Each prefix may only occur once per verb.  Contraction moves leftward from the stem, so in a verb that takes three prefixes in the sequence 1-2-3-VERB, 2 and 3 will contract together whereas 1 will remain intact.

tlenp’ele na huéla cua qaqáraska
“I talk to the woman about the monsters.”

There are, additionally, some free-standing pronouns which aren’t technically verb inflections but which aren’t important enough to warrant their own section:

–                   Sg              Pl
1P:              né               xé
2P:              té                qué
3Pan:         tlé                ín
3Pinan:      á                 yé

These are used primarily for clarification about the agent of a transitive verb with an inanimate patient, where the agent is not specified on the verb, but can also be used for emphasis.

  • -Vha

The suffix -eha (if the stem-final vowel is one of /i e o/) or -aha (if the stem-final vowel is /a/) is best considered to pattern with the person inflections, but considering it a person inflection isn’t a perfect solution.  Basically, what this suffix does is mark what I call the situational:

All is silent.

It is raining.

When this verb takes a subject, the subject it takes (with ha for relative clauses,  which I talk about below) is the context in which the situation applies:

hótleha óxta
still-SIT house
All is still in the house.

Verbs with the situational may take a proposition (marked by a complementizer ma or ra, which will be covered in a future post), where the situational verb marks a property of the proposition:

háutimeha ma amác na xepásita yá
weapon-SIT COMP 3PS.INAN.INDIR-know-3PS.ANIM.ABS DAT 1PP.INDIR-secret REL-[+stress]
It is dangerous that she knows our secret.

  • -nih

The suffix -nih should probably be called a relational suffix.  What it does is mark a background verb which some other action occurs during; the other proposition is marked with ma:

q’asnihe ma nechóc ná
stand-RELAT-1PS.ABS COMP 1PS.INAN-kick-3PS.ANIM.ABS DAT-[+stress]
While I was standing, he kicked me.

tláxniheha ma tiréme
I fell asleep while it was raining.

  • REDUP-

The reduplicative prefix REDUP- marks continuous or habitual aspect.  It is formed by reduplicating the stressed vowel of a stem in exactly the same manner as the plural mentioned below.  Compare:

aních e móh
He is walking a lot (right now).

aniních e móh
He walks often.

Nominal Inflections:

There is only one inflectional process that takes place on nouns.  This is plural marking, which is formed by reduplicating the (C(r))V part of the stressed syllable word-initially, just like the habitual/continuous verb aspect marking:

chilása “snowflake” → lachilása “snow”

himára “flower” → mahimára “flowers”

If the stem begins with a vowel, the consonant immediately following the stressed syllable is reduplicated as well:

imára “purple thing” → marimára “purple things”

óxta “house” → oxóxta “houses”

anaqót “grain bin → qotanaqót “grain bins”

There is some dialectical variation among use of the plural.  In Tlaqoyan, plural must be marked on animate nouns but on inanimate nouns it is strictly optional, only obligatory when there are numerous varieties of the noun in question.

tláquey tlé ma himára
spread-3PP.INAN.ABS 3PS ACC (SG)-flower
He plants flowers (all the same kind).

tláquey tlé ma mahimára
spread-3PP.INAN.ABS 3PS ACC PL-flower
He plants flowers (probably different kinds).


Somewhat confusingly, even though the verbal inflection paradigms show a split-ergative system, the prepositions are best treated as strictly nominative/accusative without a trace of ergativity.  All prepositions function to allow a following relative clause, which I will cover in a later post.

  • ha

This marks the nominative.  It occurs exclusively to allow the nominative to take a relative clause and never surfaces otherwise.

qét ha tláx huáca
silent-3PS.ANIM.ABS ha cry-3PS.ANIM.ABS man
The crying man is silent.

  • ma

This marks the inanimate accusative.  Not to be confused with the complementizer ma.

chóquel né ma anaqót
kick-3PS.INAN.ABS 1PS ma grain-bin
I kick the grain bin.

  • na

This marks the animate accusative or the dative.  Dative here can only refer to people or objects, never to places.  It also functions as a benefactive, though this overlaps with tla, and as a marker of subject matter, though this overlaps with cua (cua is used for this only on verbs of discourse).  Verbs that take an EXPERIENCER theta role in the subject position only take na complements.

tlerítepe na hostín
3PS.ANIM.INDIR-hit-1PS.ABS na young-man
I hit the young man.

inp’elex na huehuéla
3PP.ANIM.INDIR-speak-1PP.ABS na women
We speak to the women.

inpétet na qaqáraska
3PP.ANIM.INDIR-think-2PS.ABS na PL-monster
You think about the monsters.

arél máyli na óxta
Mayli loves the house.

  • cua

This marks the locative.  The locative here is more broad than in most Indo-European languages, as it not only covers where a verb takes place but also all locations in verbs of motion and locative constructions, which I will cover in a later post.  cua can also refer to subject matter.

aníchen cua lírua
3PS.INAN.INDIR-walk-3PP.ANIM.ABS cua river
They walk to/by/from the river.

tlep’ele cua áuxili
3PS.ANIM.INDIR-speak-1PS.ABS cua Auxili
I speak about Auxili.

  • tla

tla has many uses: it is used as the instrumental, as the benefactive (sometimes; it is generally only used when only using na would result in ambiguity with its other, dative use), as the comitative and as the causal.  It basically is useful for anything motivating the action.

tlep’oche na qónqa tla huámazatl
3PS.ANIM.INDIR-smash-1PS.ABS na duck tla hammer
I smash the duck with a hammer.

tlemíchet na huáca tla temachín yá
3PS.ANIM.INDIR-die-2PS.ABS na man tla 2PS.INDIR-mother-3PS.ANIM.ABS REL-[+stress]
You kill the man for your mother.

  • ra

This is a marginal preposition that is slowly being replaced by tla in all circumstances, especially in the Tlaqoyan dialect.  It is used for anything facilitating the verb action, such as instruments or helpful people.  Not to be confused with the complementizer ra.

tlep’oche na qónqa ra huámazatl
3PS.ANIM.INDIR-smash-1PS.ABS na duck ra hammer
I smash the duck with a hammer.

tlemíchet na huáca ra temachín yá
3PS.ANIM.INDIR-die-2PS.ABS na man ra 2PS.INDIR-mother-3PS.ANIM.ABS REL
You kill the man with the help of your mother.

  • e

e covers the manner in which a verb occurs, such as is usually expressed as adverbs in English.

huíchel érui ma moríz e qétos
eat-3PS.INAN.ABS Erui ma tuna e silence
Erui eats the tuna silently.

When an animate non-subject is marked on the verb, a preposition must occur within the clause.  If the preposition’s argument is deleted, it becomes stressed:

inp’ele ná
3PS.ANIM.INDIR-speak-1PS.ABS na-[+stress]
I speak to them.

inních érui é
1PS.INAN.INDIR-walk-3PS.ANIM.ABS Erui e-[+stress]
Erui walks like them.

This does not necessarily occur when the argument of the preposition is inanimate, although it may, especially in formal speech:

rítepey né (má)
hit-3PP.INAN.ABS 1PS (ma-[+stress])
I hit them.

aníchex (cuá)
3PS.INAN.INDIR-walk-1PP.ABS (cua-[+stress])
We walk there.

Next up: Derivational morphology and verbs of motion.


9 thoughts on “South Eresian: inflections, pronouns and prepositions

  1. I called it relatively isolating because outside of the verbs, inflectional morphology is quite sparse (though derivational morphology certainly isn’t). It’s mostly because it’s much less synthetic than my original concept for the language so it seems isolating in comparison to what I originally wanted, though. I should probably rethink using the term, though.

    I just realized I completely forgot to include any examples of indirect affix stacking. Whoops. Fixing that now.

    • Yeah, that makes sense. I suppose it was just my reaction to seeing polypersonal agreement on verbs. The language I’m working on currently has this kind of thing going on too, where nouns really don’t have much morphology at all, but verbs have a lot of stuff going on (though it’s slammed into a couple of morphemes).

  2. Fixed that now. Maybe I should cover word order and relative clauses next instead of derivations, hm.

    Thanks for the feedback, by the way.

  3. Reduplication is a phonological process and shouldn’t be marked as a morpheme. Instead, mark it as CONT or HAB, but in your morpheme breakdown you would use a ~ instead of a dash.

    See the leipzig glossing rules for a better explanation.

    • Yeah, yeah, I’m familiar with the glossing rules, I just chose to break from them there to emphasize where the process was happening, since I had already explained what the reduplicative process in question did.

      Perhaps I should have followed the standard rules, but I assure you I’m aware of Leipzig conventions.

      • i mean obviously they’re just a guideline…. but it bothers me a little bit when people mark the meaning of a morpheme as REDUP

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