V grammar

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Due to scouts' lack of complete information on the Nognese lexicon, the article presents some examples using English glosses.

Word order

Nognese is fairly consistently head-initial, and the overall order of a clause is verb-subject-object (VSO). But some auxiliary verbs have what is called "split inflection", which pushes the main verb into the object position resulting in AuxSVO order; the verb and object behave together as a noun clause. English has AuxSVO as well in a few marked cases: questions ("Is anybody reading this?"), negative statements elided from a "there is" statement ("Ain't nobody reading this, OSHA"), and negative statements with "nor" ("nor does anybody care").

Before the verb

A sentence adverb may occupy the position before the verb; this happens especially in wh-questions. Otherwise, a noun phrase may move in front of the verb to mark it as a topic, but it leaves a pronoun behind: "Gus, is he [a] poli."

Noun phrases

Nouns act head-initial as well. As in Spanish, most adjectives follow the noun, except for demonstratives and cardinal numbers. Numbers precede the noun for much the same reason they follow in Japanese, namely that they act as nouns meaning a set of that size, taking the specific noun as a genitive: English "three fingers" becomes something more like "set-of-three [of] fingers". (Semitic languages work similarly: numbers greater than one precede the noun.) Likewise, determiners (articles and demonstratives) are seen as pronouns taking an appositive: "this ball" parses as "this, [a] ball"

Pronouns and cases

Nognese uses personal pronouns declined for case, which Celtic scholars call "conjugated prepositions" for some odd reason.

The genitive is contracted, as are the first- and second-person plural pronouns derived from the genitive. A scout proposes this etymology: noi > noy > nou > nu.

nom acc gen abl dat gloss
1st sing gi mi -mmi femmi lammi I
2nd sing si si -ssi fessi lassi you
3rd sing an, ana in, inna -n, -na fen, fenna lan, lanna he, she, it, the
1st excl moi imoi -mmu femmu lammu we, he and I, she and I, they and I
1st incl noi inoi -nnu fennu lannu we, you and I
2nd pl soi isoi -ssu fessu lassu you all
3rd pl ani ini -nni fenni lanni they
1st excl distr moci imoci -mmoci femmoci lammoci each of us
1st incl distr noci inoci -nnoci fennoci lannoci each of us
2nd pl distr soci isoci -ssoci fessoci lassoci each of you
3rd pl distr anci inci -nci fenci lanci each of them
indefinite i fe la a, an, of, from, to

An means "he" and ana means "she". The third-person singular definite pronouns ending in -na agree with antecedents that have feminine gender. The definite article does not inflect for number or gender; it is identical to the third-person masculine singular (-n) pronoun.

  • bobba "a ball"
  • an bobba "the ball"
  • ana "it" (referring to the ball)

Place names and family or lineage names take a definite article, but given names take an indefinite one, unlike in Greek, Portuguese, Czech (such as Ivana Trump's "The Donald"), rural Austrian German, rural French, and northern Italian.[1]

A genitive construction where the possessed noun is definite (the noun of noun) is normally indicated by a bound genitive pronoun suffixed to the possessed noun.

  • A possessor that is indefinite or given name does not change the possessor: bobba Mirco "Mirco's ball".
  • A possessor that takes a definite article adds an -n clitic to the possessed noun.
  • A possessor that is a pronoun contracts to a clitic that carries a secondary accent: bobbassi "your ball", bobbassoci "the ball belonging to each of you".

The fe and la prepositions can also indicate possession. Here, fe is used for part-from-whole relationships and la for things being carried or otherwise possessed by location, similarly to alienability or inherency.

  • A preposition may help clarify complicated syntax, such as when a possessor is itself compound (cf. Toki Pona pi)
  • A preposition may help disambiguate multiple meanings analogous to those of English "body" (one's physical form, or a corpse that a forensic pathologist is examining) or "arm" (manipulator appendage, or weapon).
  • Some naming conventions use fen "from the" followed by the name of a place or clan: Mirco fen Gaspar.
  • The circumlocution for indefinite possessed nouns ("some/an X of Y") uses fe followed by the plural of X, literally meaning "one from Xs of Y". Compare the French use of des (lit. "of the") as the plural indefinite article.

Other meanings relate to verbal noun phrases:

  • In an inverted construction commonly seen in verbal noun phrases, fe roughly means "by": verb i patient fe agent.
  • Fen (lit. "from the") and lan (lit. "to the") are also used as conjunctions, meaning "because" and "therefore".

Relative clauses in Nognese often use resumptive pronouns because both the zero and fe relativizers end up meaning English "such that".

The wide use of the ablative fe in Nognese calls to mind the habit of children learning English to use "from" more broadly than standard: for agents (for which "by" is standard), causes ("because"), possession ("of"), and standards of comparison ("than", proving the "different from" prescriptivists right in a way).[2]


Nouns of masculine gender end in a consonant or o; feminine ones end in a. Some nouns denoting a part from a whole whose gender may vary, especially body parts, will take the possessor's gender if the possessor is known. Plurals are genderless; most are formed by removing the final vowel (if any) and adding i.

A consonant-final word whose penult syllable is stressed and open is syncopated when made feminine or plural, meaning the vowel is contracted out of the final syllable: -VCVC becomes -VCCa for feminine or -VCCi for plural. If this results in a consonant cluster forbidden by phonotactics, the consonants merge into a geminate, usually with the value of the second consonant in the cluster.

Another plural is formed by removing the vowel and adding ci. In the standard dialect, it's a distributive plural, meaning "each of several". This triggers sandhi effects that are not completely understood.


Verbs do not conjugate for number and person, seeing as the subject (which is not a null subject) generally immediately follows the verb as if it's already a suffix.

Past tense, irrealis mood, and progressive aspect are fairly orthogonal. The past tense is expressed by a prefix ia- before the verb. The consonant after verb stem's accented vowel becomes geminate if it is not already a geminate or cluster, and in some verb stems, this vowel becomes o. An initial vowel of the verb stem may be dropped. Single actions in the very recent past are not marked past. In a non-finite verb, ia- may represent having finished something.

An auxiliary verb rai, roughly meaning "will", expresses the future tense or irrealis mood.

Another auxiliary verb inca ('nca after a vowel, or ca when sentence-initial, finite, and present), roughly meaning "keep" or "remain", denotes an ongoing, repeated, or explicitly present action. Inca is not used with state of being verbs, but it itself is used as a generic state of being verb in much the same way as Spanish estar. As with other verbs, the past prefix fuses with each of these: iarai "would (have)", and ianca "(had) kept".

Like several other languages,[3] it uses an existential possession clause where English uses "X has Y", of the form (in)ca Y la X, literally "Y remains to X". But because complements in being clauses are also in the dative (la), such a form can also mean "Y is X". Context, particularly which nouns are definite, distinguishes this these two.

These auxiliary verbs pull the subject in front of the verb: rai <subject> la(n) <verb> i <object> or inca <subject> la(n) <verb> i <object>. The n of lan in this position is dropped when the verb starts with a consonant cluster or when the action was not mentioned before. Commands thus begin rai si la(n), which is often abbreviated in speech to la(n) alone due to conversational deletion[4] when not in rai si lan! "do it!".

This structure ultimately arises from the gerund or infinitive being largely a null morpheme, signified by a verb lacking a subject. Any sentence beginning with a verb can be used as a noun phrase meaning the V-ing by S of O. In fact, verbal noun marking could almost be seen as a disfix when the verb's final vowel is contracted out between a subjectless verb and the i of its direct object.

Verbs are negated with the suffix -nai. A final diphthong may be simplified: rai "will" to ranai "won't". Though VSO typology would predict a prefix like the Semitic , the use of a suffix is likely the result of a Jespersen cycle.


One dialect habitually silences unstressed i, and all its plurals use the ci paradigm without dropping the preceding vowel.


  1. Phira et al. "Articles before the name of a person". Linguistics Stack Exchange, 2011-09-13. Accessed 2014-11-05.
  2. Eve V. Clark and Tatiana V. Nikitina. "One vs. more than one: antecedents to plural marking in early language acquisition". Linguistics 47–1 (2009), 103–139, DOI 10.1515/LING.2009.004. Accessed 2018-08-21.
  3. Manishearth et al. "How does expressing possession vary across language families?". Linguistics Stack Exchange, 2013-09-13. Accessed 2014-02-05.
  4. John Lawler. "Answer to Why is there omission of subject in sentences like 'Thought you'd never ask.'" English Language & Usage Stack Exchange, 2012-05-07. Accessed 2014-09-19.