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.

Nouns

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.

Verbs

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.

Dialects

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]

References

  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.