Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Telek Verbs

From:Marcus Smith <smithma@...>
Date:Sunday, May 7, 2000, 4:45
Here is a description of Telek verb morphology and some syntax, since the two
are intertwined.

Telek verbs agree with both their subject and object in person, gender (where
appropriate), and number (inanimates are an exception).  Agreement is shown by
the addition of class-A and -O prefixes.

                Singular        Plural
1st             na-             it-
2nd             me-             it-
animate ke-             af-
inanimate       --              --

                Singular        Plural
1st             lu-             et-
2nd             lo-             min-
animate so-             as-
inanimate       --              -- (This contradicts what I said about noun
possession before.  I've had a change of heart, and this pattern is correct.
Now inanimate possessors do not show any possessive marking.)

Class-A prefixes mark the subject of a transitive verb and an active verb.
Intuitively, an active verb is one which denotes an activity rather than a
state.   _tele_ "speak" is an activity, so takes a class-A prefix: _natele_ "I
am speaking".  The notion of "active verb" may also mean that the action is
voluntarily done: "snore" is probably an activity, but does not take an
A-prefix because it is not a voluntarily, neither is "fall".

Class-O prefixes mark the object of a transitive verb and the subject of a
stative verb.  A stative verb is one which denotes a state rather than an
activity.  _haxin_ "be red" is a state, so it takes an O-prefix: _sohaxin_ "He
is red."

As you can imagine, the distinction is not always clear.  For instance,
_akkaaha_ "cough" is marked with an A-prefix when the action is intentional
for a doctor) but with an O-prefix when unintentional (normally): _keakkaaha_
"he is coughing (on purpose)" vs. _soakkaaha_ "he is coughing".  Not all verbs
can make this distinction -- it is individually determined for each verb.
_fatuuh_ "sneeze" must take an O-prefix (_sofatuuh_ "he is sneezing",
"he is sneezing")-- of course, it is harder to imagine a natural context when
someone would sneeze intentionally.

On transitive verbs, class-A prefixes precede class-O.
lesa "see" > nalolesa "I see you (sg.)" aflulesa "They see me."
badkam "kill" > mesobadkam "you are killing him" afasbadkam "They are killing

I love irregularities and complicated systems (if you couldn't tell by now),
but to keep this message small, I'll only mention one involving transitive
verbs.  _fammi_ "want" is transitive, but takes a class-O prefix for its
subject and none for its object.  That means that only inanimates may be the
object of "want": _lufammi_ "I want it/them".  There is no way to use a 1st,
2nd or animate object with the verb -- these ideas must be paraphrased.


Here is a list of applicatives (a dash means I haven't invented the phonetic
shape yet):
goal: ken
benefactive: ax
locative (specific): ngo
allative (specific): --
ablative (specific): --
locative (general): --
allative (general): --
ablative (general): --
Instrumental n: --
Instrumental n+1: --
Instrumental etc: -- (I don't know how many there will be; at least three)

Applicatives are prefixes add to the stem to introduce another object into the
sentence.  In most cases, the new verb agrees with the newly introduced object
rather than the original object.  Agreement prefixes precede the
No more than two applicatives may occur on a single verb.

na-na'ni "I am cooking it" (no O-prefix because "it" is inanimate)
na-lo-ax-na'ni "I am cooking it for you"

An important point to make is that each object of the verb and applicatives
direct objects (with complications of course).  Any process that targets
objects, such as noun incorporation, can apply to any of these objects.

Noun Incorporation:
Like many polysynthetic languages, Telek allows many nouns to incorporate into
the verb.  Nearly any direct object may do so, as can subjects of
non-volitional verbs.  Whenever an object is incorporated, the verb no longer
requires agreement marking.

"I am cooking a deer."

aba'-axin (< aba' + haxin, h dropped because of preceding consonant, ' can't
"The pole is red."

Applicatives may be added to the verb after the direct object has been

"I am cooking a deer for you."

It is also possible to incorporate the object of an applicative.

"I am cooking it for a man."

It is not possible, however, to incorporate more than one object per sentence.

"I am cooking a deer for a man."

For purposes of phonology, these incorporated objects are treated like
derivational morphemes rather than inflections.

na-wanada-jlo (< wanada + ajlo, a dropped because of preceding vowel)
I am following a deer."

There are some restrictions on noun incorporation.  First of all, objects of
instrumental and general location/motion applicatives cannot incorporate.
is undoubtedly connected to the fact that they also do not trigger agreement
with their objects.  The other major point is that the incorporated noun
be definite.  When someone "deer-cooks" they are cooking "a deer" not "the
deer".  The incorporated noun cannot have any morphology attached.

I'm stuck with that last point.  Anything that is possessed is definite.  This
would mean that inalienably possessed things cannot be incorporated.  I really
think the expression "have a headache" contains the verb "head-hurt", but
"head" is inalienably possessed.  I'm also pretty sure that I cannot say
"for-my-mother-cook".  I'm not sure of a good place to draw the line between
what can and what cannot incorporate.    Does anybody have any idea about
how I
can resolve this?

Telek has a causative suffix -al.  This is the first morpheme that may follow
the root.  The noun introduced by the causative triggers an A-prefix, and the
subject of the root triggers an O-prefix.  The causative is considered
derivational for phonological purposes.

"I am making him cook the deer."

There are four aspects in Telek.  They are considered inflectional for
phonological purposes.
Continuous: --
Perfective: -'ni
Irrealis: -ixa
Potential: -wa

Continuous and perfective are, I believe, self-explanatory.
Irrealis refers to anything that has not actually happened, because it is
hypothetical or in the future.  This is also the aspect used of the main verb
in negative constructions.
Potential refers to an action is capable of happening.  This is how you would
say that you are capable of doing something.

"I can cook."

There are three mood suffixes for Telek.  These occur right after the aspect

Indicative: --
Interrogative: -ky
Imperative: -too

As mentioned in my phonology post (but who remembers that :-) ), in a question
the accent peak may not leave the stem.  This means that the last potential
peak is the causative marker.  The interrogative marker is only used for
questions.  In wh-questions, the wh-element is sufficient, though accent is
still restricted.
When the imperative is added, the verb no longer agrees with its subject.