C grammar

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This article has nothing to do with the C or C++ programming language.

Noeneg, nicknamed "C" by scouts, has an overall SOV, head-final typology. But in fact, main clauses are SvOV or AvSOV: after the first noun phrase or adverbial phrase is a tense particle. Scouts notice a parallel to helping verbs in the real-world V2 languages German and Dutch.


Scouts report plurals following several patterns, or declensions.

In the k-declension, the plural form of a noun is derived from the root by making the vowel long and suffixing k.

ful "person" > foelk [fu:lk] "people".

The i-declension was a bit harder to figure out. If the final consonant is nasal, the plural form is derived by adding an 'i' after the root vowel.

glum [flʊm] "seal (animal)" > gluim [flɔʏm] "seals".

A final plosive becomes nasal, and if voiceless, a glottal stop is inserted before it. This combination of a glottal stop is spelled with the original consonant followed by 'n'.

lap [lɐp] (uncertain meaning) > laipn [leɪʔm̩]

It is believed that this was originally a suffix -in that has metathesized.

It turns out this metathesis is common in compound words: the resulting vowel is a diphthong formed from the first and last roots in the compound.


There are two kinds of clauses in C: main clauses and subordinate clauses.

The second component of a main clause, after a noun phrase or adverb phrase, is a tense-aspect particle. One scout pointed out a parallel to verb-second behavior in Germanic languages. The form of a main clause is

MainClause => (NP|AdvP) Aux (NP|AdvP)* Participle

Main verbs come in several participle forms:

  • Progressive ("eating")
  • Passive ("eaten")
  • Continual/habitual ("eater")
  • Infinitive ("eat")

The stems of the auxiliary verbs express aspect. They inflect for tense (C*VC* becomes C*uVC*) but not for subject agreement.

Present Past Gloss
bli [blɪ] blui [bloʏ] inchoative ("start")
ir [ɪɻ] uir [oʏɻ] neutral ("be")
ham [hɐm] huam [χʷəm] perfective ("finish")

Noun-verb compounds are fairly common in Noeneg. The vowel drops out of the verb stem, just as the a drops out of Latin facere when it becomes -ficare as a suffix.


Some languages have a closed class of finite verbs (verbs that take conjugation), with most of the work done by other word classes.[1] Standard Noeneg is like this to an extent, with the tense-aspect particles in the V2 slot originating from suppletive verbs, one for each tense. But one related language appears to go even further, with only a handful of verbs (glossed be, make, go, etc.) taking the aspect inflection as well, producing Basic English-like constructions such as "has made a promise" instead of "has promised".

There are hints of a contact language between Noeneg and Nognese that keeps the tense auxiliary in V2 but fronts the main verb to the first position (or third with a topic NP or sentence adverb): "Written had he that letter last week." This pattern is typical in Breton[2] and possible but rare in German.[3]


  1. Andrew Pawley. "Where have all the verbs gone? Remarks on the organisation of languages with small, closed verb classes" 11th Binnenial Rice Univerity Linguistics Symposium.
  2. Steve Hewitt. "Arabic: verb-subject-object or verb-given-new? Implications for word order typology". Conference on Communication and Information Structure in Spoken Arabic, 2006. Accessed 2013-11-11.
  3. Andrew C. Wetta. "A Construction-based Cross-linguistic Analysis of V2 Word Order". Accessed 2014-02-04. Via jlovegren. "Answer to German is SOV: should it not have been 'Ich ein Berliner bin'?". Linguistics Stack Exchange, 2011-11-21. Accessed 2014-02-04.