An introduction to Acranasian

Hi! It’s been a long time–very nearly a full two years–since I’ve last posted here. A lot has happened in the interceding time; I’ve been dealing with a lot of mental and physical illness, and I’ve been largely far too stressed to conlang seriously beyond the short composition of texts in South Eresian, but on the other hand, I’ve certainly matured as a conlanger and a linguist as I’ve progressed towards my linguistics bachelor’s degree. I’ve been learning Ojibwe for two years now, and some of the features of that have made their way into my own conlangs. I will, hopefully, be graduating at the end of December, and then I’ll be off to grad school (provided anyone accepts me!). Right now it is summer and I have loads of free time, so in lieu of the assorted things I ought to be doing, I’ve been conlanging pretty furiously over the last few weeks and finally have something to show for my work on Acranasian (South Eresian’s mother language). An overview of that is the topic of this post.

Acranasian was the language of the Acranasian civilization, which was based out of the city of Acránas (the endonym was Ak’ulānassu) and lasted from 1500 years ago until its collapse around 1100 years ago. It is an Eastern Noruic language of the Noro-Eresian family. This post will cover the phonology and grammar of Classical Acranasian in particular, and give an idea of the changes that occurred between Early Acranasian (~1500-1400 ya), Classical Acranasian (1400~1150 ya) and Late Acranasian (1150~1100 ya).



 NASAL  m  n  ŋ  ŋʷ
 STOP  p pʼ  t tʼ  k kʼ  kʷ kʷʼ  q qʼ  qʷ qʷʼ  ʔ
 AFFRICATE  t͡s t͡sʼ
 LAT. AFFRICATE  t͡ɬ t͡ɬʼ
 FRICATIVE  ɸ ɸː  s sː  x xː  xʷ xʷː  χ χː  χʷ χʷː

/ŋ ŋʷ/ would more accurately be described as dorsal than velar, since they assimilate to uvular as well as velar consonants (whereas the other nasals, until the Late period, did not).

Someone might suggest that such a large set of dorsal fricatives would perhaps not be particularly diachronically stable, and they would be correct; the system of fricatives has collapsed by South Eresian, which has the very modest fricative inventory of /s ʃ x/.


/a i u a: i: u: ai au/


/m n ŋ ŋʷ/ <m n ŋ ŋw>
/p pʼ t tʼ k kʼ kʷ kʷʼ q qʼ qʷ qʷʼ ʔ/ <p p’ t t’ k k’ kw kw’ q q’ qw qw’ ‘>
/t͡s t͡sʼ t͡ɬ t͡ɬʼ/ <c c’ ƛ ƛ’>
/ɸ ɸː s sː x xː xʷ xʷː χ χː χʷ χʷː/ <f ff s ss h hh hw hhw x xx xw xxw>
/ɬ ɬː l/ <ł łł l>

/a i u a: i: u: ai au/ <a i u ā ī ū ai au> (plus acutes for stress)


The syllable structure of the language is (C)V(S), where C stands for consonant, V for vowel and S for sonorant (any of the nasals or /l/). Geminates are very much capable of being word-initial, as in ssailā́ŋka /sːaiˈlaːŋka/ “blood.”

There are no sequences of sonorant+fricative.

Content morphemes tend to have one, and no more than one, lexical stress, although they don’t always. Function morphemes frequently occur completely unstressed.


Although Acranasian is an isolating language and as such largely lacks inflectional morphophonology, some of the many derivational processes that occur do cause some morphophonological processes to take place.

Morpheme-final fricatives delete in all positions except prevocalically and cause following obstruents to become fortis (stops become ejective, fricatives become geminate): Ał-sułłā́łu “the star god(s),” from the deity honorific ał- plus sułłā́łu ‘star’ is pronounced [ɐsːʊˈɬːaːɬʊ].

Final sonorants cause (a different kind of) fortition on following fricatives: /ɸ ɸː s sː x xː xʷ xʷː χ χː χʷ χʷː/ become [p p ts ts k k kʷ kʷ q q qʷ qʷ] respectively. The only exception to this is clusters of /l/ plus a following lateral fricative /ɬ ɬː/, which both just become [ɬː]

The unstressed vowel /a/ deletes preceding any long vowels: thus the sequence /ai:/ just becomes [i:].

There is a process in the language wherein grammatical phrases that do not have any lexically-marked stress become stressed on their initial syllable. This will show up at least once in the grammar section below, and is also responsible for a number of disparate South Eresian etymologies: óxta ‘house,’ for instance, is from the Acranasian uhhi ta ‘we dwell there,’ which became initially stressed (úhhi ta) because the phrase has no lexical stress.


The Early Acranasian phase had, rather than ejectives, gemination and preglottalization in free variation with each other. They had become full ejectives by Classical Acranasian.

Early Acranasian had geminate sonorants as well: /mː nː ŋː ŋʷː lː/, which could not occur in syllable codas. By the Classical period, these had merged with non-geminate sonorants. Compensatory lengthening (and also some diphthongization of sequences of /am:/ and /aŋʷː/) occurred with their deletion on preceding short vowels, so words like ínnu ‘shape’ and ‘issammá ‘hole’ became ī́nu and ‘issaumá, respectively. Word-initially, vowels were epenthesized before their shortened forms (/u/ for /mː  ŋʷː/, /a/ for /mː ŋː lː/ , so words like mmín ‘boy’ became umín.

Classical Acranasian short vowels, which I have listed in the chart as /a i u/, were really more like [ɐ ɪ ʊ].

By Late Acranasian, /l/ was being pronounced [ɾ~ɺ] intervocalically, but still [l] elsewhere.

Also by the Late phase, all nasals assimilated in place to following stops, and short unstressed /u/ was quickly centralizing to [ʉ].


As  mentioned above, Acranasian is an isolating language, with very little inflectional morphology. It is pro-drop and generally (though not completely) head-final, and has a mostly strict SOV word order with optional clause-final topic marking. It, like its descendant South Eresian, has a noun class distinction down animacy lines and lacks any sort of grammatical tense marking.


I don’t really know quite where to start, so here’re four very basic sentences and I’ll explain what’s going on in them afterwards.

Ai ‘iláma
1SG sleep.
“I am asleep”

Ma-xwíła ‘iláma
ABS-woman sleep.
“The woman is asleep”

Xwíła ma-ŋwā́ka ‘ulítap’u.
woman ABS-man hit
“The woman hits the man.”

Xwíła na-ŋwā́ka nák’u.
woman INDIR-man see
“The woman sees the man.”

The prefixes m(a)- and n(a)-, along with the interrogative prefix q(a)- (more on that later), are effectively the only inflectional affixes in the language. They are descended from Proto-Eastern-Noruic proximal and distal demonstratives, and in Acranasian have come to be an absolutive marker and an indirect object marker, respectively.  The absolutive marker m(a)- does not generally occur on pronouns, although it may. These markers only became fully grammaticalized in Late Acranasian, and something like

Xwíła ŋwā́ka ‘ulítap’u.
woman man hit
“The woman hits the man.”

 was still a grammatical sentence, albeit quite archaic-sounding, in Classical Acranasian.

Onto some more complex stuff:

K’iat’ái nī́, ƛáp’a axxula c’a nī́.
stand 1SG, house away go 1SG
I stood up and I walked away from the house.

Xwíła n-a p’áil łłī́ ī ‘umā́kw’a ‘u łłī́.
woman INDIR-3SG speak 3SG MAN know DM 3SG
Because the woman told him, he knew.

These sentence have narrative-type topic marking in it–the nī́ at the end of each clause in the former, which specifies that the topic is the first person singular, and the łłī́ in the latter, which specifies that the topic is third person singular. This started out, as has probably been surmised, in storytelling as a stylistic feature (repetition, like the repetition of the topic here, is a very important part of the style of all Eresian storytelling traditions), and was becoming very common in the Classical phase. By Late Acranasian, this clause-final topic marking was obligatory in all speech.

Also featured is the discourse marker ‘u, the usage of which, like every other discourse marker, is not easy to describe but which frequently occurs with the matrix verb of sentences with subordinate clauses. It always occurs directly after the verb. It can help to disambiguate structure discussed below.

Note the use of the postposition axxula ‘away’ here. This is part of a complex system of postpositions in Acranasian, most of which ultimately turned into the locative system discussed in the last post (relatedly, the verb c’a ‘go’, in the first example, became the inceptive suffix -tz), but which also includes some of the things that ultimately became South Eresian prepositions and a few of the other derivational suffixes. Several postpositions also serve as subordinating conjunctions for adverbial clauses; in the second example, you see ī, which indicates manner, being used in such a way, specifying how the topic knew whatever the information was. More on this:

Amakiā́lqwa axxula c’a nī́ łłā qúlāk’i nī́.
Amachálco away go 1SG because angry 1SG

This contains another postposition functioning as a subordinating conjunction, and this sentence is actually ambiguous: it can mean either “I left (the town of) Amachálco because I was angry” or “I was angry because I left Amachálco.” This ambiguity here arises because of conflict between the postpositional usage of łłā, which essentially treats amakiā́lqwa axxula c’a as a relative clause, and its usage as a clausal conjunction, which, aside from these postpositions slash adverbial clause conjunctions, always precede clauses. By the Classical period, the former was very much the preferred reading (due to analogy with other conjunctions), and clause-final conjunctions eventually fell entirely out of use.

Xxū łłáhhi a’ā ma siā ƛáp’a āp’usa c’a ‘u hi’ī.
IRR rain all.around CONJ N house outside go HORT
If it’s raining, then I shouldn’t leave the house.

Xxū łłáhhi a’ā qa?
IRR rain all.around Q
Is it raining?

Kwī ‘umā́kw’a qa ma xxū łłáhhi a’ā?
2SG know Q CONJ IRR rain all.around
Do you know if it’s raining?

All of these make use of the irrealis marker xxū. I suppose this is perhaps closer to being subjunctive than anything else, although it was in part inspired by the Ojibwe irrealis prefix ji-.

The negative particle siā occurs in the first sentence. This mostly occurs clause-initially.

The particles hi’ī and qa are both modal–the first one marks that the speaker hopes something will happen or thinks it should, and which I generally call hortative (there’s another particle that I call optative, and I won’t go into the nuances of that distinction here). The latter marks questions (not just polar questions, but polar when it occurs without other question marking; see below). Both of these are postverbal particles; the only modal particle that can be classified as preverbal, at least in the Classical period, is xxū. By the Late period, qa was shifting towards being preverbal, influenced by such constructions as in the third sentence above, where it occurs prior to the clause of the question that is being asked pragmatically, if not semantically. The particle a’ā, another postverbal thing, indicates that the verb is occurring all around the deictic center and is very frequently used for weather verbs.

Also seen in the first and third examples above is the coordinating conjunction ma. This occurs in certain constructions, particularly to mark the consequent of a conditional (as in the first) and to mark that the matrix verb of the sentence takes a proposition as an argument (as in the third).

And speaking of clauses…

Ŋwā́ka na-qúlāk’i na-xwíła nák’u łłī́.
man INDIR-angry INDIR-woman see 3SG
The man sees the angry woman.

Ŋwā́ka n-a m-ai ‘ulítap’u iā na-xwíła nák’u łłī́.
man INDIR-3SG ABS-1SG hit REL INDIR-woman see 3SG
The man sees the woman who hit me.

These are relative clauses. As you can tell, they precede their heads–one of the few head-final features that survived into South Eresian. The indirect prefix na- occurs both on the beginning of the relative clause (qúlāk’i ‘angry’ in the first and a (3SG) in the second) and on the head of the relative clause (xwíła, the woman). The second includes the relativizer , which in the Early phase only occurred when the ergative argument of a transitive verb was relativized but in the Classical phase became generalized to all transitive verb relativization. Acranasian relative clauses can be said to be gapped; neither xwíła nor any pro-forms which refer to xwíła occurs within the relative clause proper.

Q-ā́ŋ n-ai qúlāk’i qa?
Q-person INDIR-1SG angry Q
Who is angry at me?

N-ai qa-ŋínū ī qúlāk’i qa?
INDIR-1SG Q-reason MAN angry Q
Why are you angry at me?

Siā ai na-kwī n-ai qúlāk’i ī́ na-ŋínū ‘umā́kw’a.
N 1SG INDIR-2SG INDIR-1SG angry MAN INDIR-reason know
I don’t know why you’re angry at me.

Here are some wh-questions and also how the language handles a statement (the third) that is marked with wh- words in English but not in Acranasian. The first two use the interrogative prefix q(a)- on the element being questioned, with the derivational agentive suffix -āŋ in the former and the noun ŋínū ‘reason’ in the latter. No wh-movement occurs, as is evident in the second sentence. The third sentence makes use of a relative clause kwī n-ai qúlāk’i ī́ “you are angry at me in such a way” on ŋínū, plus the double indirect marking already discussed in the bit on relative clauses (I should note that the verb ‘umā́kw’a ‘know’ takes arguments with n(a)-, not the absolutive m(a)-, for the known thing).

The postposition ī here, seen before in this post a few times, is stressed in the third sentence–this occurs in cases like this when the object of the postposition here is null, as relative clauses in Acranasian use a gapping strategy. The morphophonological principle discussed way up above that applies stress to the initial syllable of phrases that don’t have any predetermined lexical stress thus applies.

That’s all I can remember of the grammar for now. I’m sure there’s more running around in notebooks or frolicking with dust bunnies in the dark corners of my mind.


Acranasian makes use of a fairly large amount of compounding to form new words. This is largely pretty simple stuff. Compounds are head-final, such as in pā́ŋqala-qála, ‘flower-time,’ a poetic term for “spring.” Verb-noun compounds are frequently lexicalized relative clauses:

“clothing worn during mourning”

but for the most part, verb-noun compounds are dispreferred compared to noun-noun compounds. By Late Acranasian, the lexical stress on the second element of most compounds was being dropped.

There are a number of derivational suffixes in the language. One, -ūssu, can be seen above–this one takes a noun or a verb and makes it more general and abstract for the purposes of talking about the general properties of things, in ways roughly equivalent to -ness or -ity in English, eg ƛā́k-ūssu, ‘write-ūssu’, is roughly equivalent to ‘orthography.’ These suffixes are mostly derived from Proto-Eastern-Noruic nouns that had become defunct aside from compounding by Early Acranasian.

Acranasian society was fairly stratified, and this was marked linguistically through the common use of honorific prefixes. Like the derivational suffixes mentioned in the last paragraph, these are derived from lexicalized PEN elements–but in the case of the honorific prefixes, these elements were relative clauses. There is a long list of these (and I keep changing them), but one of the ones that survived most into South Eresian was the prefix ał-, which is affixed to the name of natural phenomena and some abstract concepts to mean “the god of (phenomenon)”– thus do we get Ał-łauhhiā́ ‘sea goddess’, Ał-łā́cu ‘sun goddess,’ Ał-xxānuqā́ ‘god of victory.’

That’s what I’ve got for now. The next post will probably be either an examination of South Eresian morphophonology or an overview of the changes, both phonological and morphosyntactic, that occurred between Late Acranasian and Modern South Eresian. These topics are, of course, pretty closely related. If anyone wants to read one more than the other (in the unlikely scenario that anyone reads this at all), do let me know. Otherwise, feel free to ask questions about the material or correct any stupids I’ve probably made, and thanks for reading!


South Eresian statives, transformatives, locatives and verbs of motion

I was going to talk about this in a post with the rest of the derivational morphology, but I am currently posed to do a complete overhaul of the rest of the derivational system.  This post will thus deal with stative verbs, transformative verbs, locative verbs and verbs of motion, which are interrelated systems.


First of all, it is helpful to think of every content word in South Eresian as being, at its core, a verb, with the (fairly variant) nominalizer suffix appended if it is a noun:

nán- to be a person, to be human

“You are all human”


Atlátzy- to be the sun goddess

“I am the sun goddess”

“sun goddess”

sícuatl- to be a musical instrument

“It is a musical instrument”

And so on.  This is pretty simple and straightforward; I won’t go into how this works with transitive verbs, because that’s about to get overhauled and it isn’t really important here.


There are two basic transformative derivational suffixes; -tz and -xm.

The suffix -tz is inserted on verb stems to change them from being stative to expressing the concept of beginning or becoming:

“I become the sun goddess”

“He/she started playing music”

Similarly, -xm is inserted on verb stems to change them from being stative to expressing the concept of finishing or stopping being something:

“The music stopped playing”

“We stop making corn liquor”

“You are no longer human”

You all stop being Cáxmecans.

These suffixes can be combined, although that’s kind of an odd thing to do:

“He/she begins to stop making corn liquor.”

I stop beginning to play music.


Things get a bit wonky here.  There are fifteen locative suffixes; twelve of them are best thought of as being in binary pairs.  These should be thought of as verbalizers being applied after the nominalizer morpheme is applied, describing something in the context of their relation to the noun.  I’ll use óxt-  “house” for all my examples here, since it’s pretty all-purpose.

-cui / -aps : inside/outside

“I am inside the house”

“I am outside the house”

-met / -qos : touching/not touching

“I am in physical contact with the house.”

“I am not in physical contact with the house.”

-tle / -cot : above/below

“I am above/on top of the house”

“I am below the house”

-lch / -orim : left/right

“I am to the left of the house”

“I am to the right of the house”

-elm / -qs : front/back

“I am in front of the house”

“I am in back of the house”

-ajr / -ni : far/near

“I am far from the house”

“I am near the house”

-lt : side

“I am beside/next to the house”

-mix : surrounding, about

óxtemixen nanán
/ˈoʃt-Ø-miʃ-n ~ˈnan-Ø/
“There are people surrounding/scattered about the house”

-excar : through

óxtexcaral tálma
/ˈoʃt-Ø-eʃkaɾ-l ˈtalm-Ø/
“A tree is through the house”

These suffixes can combine, in sometimes-impressive displays of alternating nominalization and verbalization, like so:

“I am inside the house, to the right”

“I am on top of the house”

“I am below the front of the right of the house.


As is probably surmisable, transformative suffixes may combine with locative verbs to form verbs of motion.  These come after the locative suffixes.

“I stop being far from the house”

“I go into the temple”

This is pretty straightforward and easy once you understand the locative system.


A question arises when you try to use these verbs, however: how do you describe the location within a locative verb or verb of motion, when it is incorporated like so?

This kind of gets into syntax, which I haven’t really written about here yet, but whatever (I really don’t know where to start in describing the syntax even though it’s not super complex, derp).

The most unmarked strategy is to use a dummy locative noun á with the locative and transformative suffixes and append it as a relative clause to the uninflected noun:

xólel ha ácuitze cuá ya óxta
/ˈʃol-l ʔa ˈa-Ø-kʷi-t͡s-e ˈkʷa ja ˈoʃt-Ø/
“The house that I go into is blue”

And the inverse…

ácuitze cua xólel ya óxta
/ˈa-Ø-kʷi-t͡s-e ˈkʷa ˈʃol-l ja ˈoʃt-Ø/
“I go into the blue house”

The second strategy takes advantage of the subject-dropping capabilities of the language; it basically uses the verb in a relative clause with a null antecedent (although you could definitely consider the antecedent to be the thing adding stress to the relativizer):

xólel ha óxtacuitze cuá yá
/ˈʃol-l ʔa ˈoʃt-Ø-kʷi-t͡s-e ˈkʷa ˈja/
“The house that I go into is blue”

And the inverse:

óxtacuitze cua xólel yá
/ˈʃol-l ʔa ˈoʃt-Ø-kʷi-t͡s-e ˈkʷa ˈja/
“I go into the blue house”

The final strategy is formal, somewhat archaic and redundant (the location is specified twice!), which means it’s not used often in general speech.  It can be thought of as a mix of the other two strategies, or the other two strategies can be thought of a redux of it.

xólel ha óxtacuitze cuá ya óxta
/ˈʃol-l ʔa ˈoʃt-Ø-kʷi-t͡s-e ˈkʷa ˈja/
“The house that I go into is blue”

And the inverse:

óxtacuitze cua xólel ya óxta
/ˈʃol-l ʔa ˈoʃt-Ø-kʷi-t͡s-e ˈkʷa ˈja/
“I go into the blue house”

I think that’s it.  I realize that this is kind of a weird system, so I’ll be happy to answer any questions about how it works!

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.