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Térnaru Grammatical Sketch

From:Keith Gaughan <kgaughan@...>
Date:Thursday, March 7, 2002, 11:38
Last night I was thinking to myself that it's a while since I've
mailed anything like this to the list and seeing that I've never
mailed anything about Térnaru except mentioning that it has this
feature or that when they come up, I thought I'd mail a grammatical
sketch. I'd love to get some feedback on the phonological processes
more than anything else, but any comment is much appreciated.
Well, here goes:


Basic Syntax

The various phrases of the sentence can roam freely and have no set position
asides from the trend of the subject/topic being the first item in the
and the verb complex being last, making it an SOV language.

There is a growing tendancy towards making sentences VSO. If so, the Verbal
Particle sits after the verb, otherwise it tends to come before the verb.
Relative clauses are always SOV.


The verb in Térnaru is generally the last item in the sentence. It is
accompanied by a particle called the Verbal Particle (VP). The verb itself
takes very few inflections, except for clause nominalisation in the creation
relative clauses, deriving the gerund and verbal adjective, and in deriving
imperative forms of the verb.

Where the sentence is topicalised, the VP or any other element may come
the verb and the case particles of the topicalised NP, e.g.

"As for me, I was happy":

  (1) Vé íl a-gílt
      1SG PST ABS-be.happy
 *(2) Vé  al-íl   gílt
      1SG ABS-PST be.happy

(1) is a well-formed sentence; (2) is not. This is because the particle a,
which marks the Absolutive case is seperated from the verb gílt (be happy)
the VP - í - marking the sentence as being in the past tense.

Inflections upon verbs are usually for the purpose of derivation - creating
wholly new verb, noun, or adjective - except in the case of the nominalising
suffix -un, used in forming relative clauses, and the suffix -ya to make
imperative (the only mood not indicated on the VP).

The singular imperative is indicated with the suffix -iés. The plural
imperative is indicated with the suffix -nu which causes a complex degree of
mutation on the preceeding consonants. I'll outline this when I have time.

The gerund is formed with the suffix -dwé; the verbal adjective from the
gerund + -in, e.g.

    dyoren  >  dyorendwé  >  dyorendwin
    "fall"     "falling"     "fallen"

The agent noun is formed with the prefix il- and affects the voicing of the
following consonant by making it unvoiced, e.g.

    tak  >  iltak
    "hit"   "hitter" (one who hits)

The patient noun is similarly formed to the agent noun with the prefix in-
affects the voicing of hte following consonant by making it voiced, e.g.

    tak   >  indak
    "hit"    "hitee" (one who is hit)

The VP may be placed virtually anywhere in the sentence, so long as it
split any NPs or seperate a topic's case particles from the verb.

The form of the VP is:


where Ø indicates the null morpheme acting as the root to which all other
affixes are attached.

The only currently known type-P prefix is s-. This indicates the sentence is

Type-1 suffixes indicate tense and are -íl (Past), -(e) (Present, the e is
epethentic), -en (Future), and -at (Abstract).

Type-2 suffixes indicate mood and are -né (Ability), -wa (Need), -ié
-an (Appropriateness/Trueness), -té (Subjunctive: doubt/assumption) and, -ur
(Optative: wish). Note though that -en + -né = -enté and -at + -té = -asé.

Noun Phrases (NPs)

Each NP except the topic has a Case Particle (CP), or preposition if you
prefer, to denote their purpose in relation to the rest of the sentence.
particle comes before its NP. An NP may have more than one particle in front
it if it serves more than one purpose in the sentence, e.g. if the sentence
reflexive, a sentence such as

  (3) an-a-Lídu    íl  ták
      ERG-ABS-Lídu PST hit
      "Lídu hit himself" (assuming Lídu is male :-)

is perfectly valid.

Other than that, adjectives follow the nouns they govern; direct and
relative clauses follow the NPs the govern too; numbers preceed the noun,
between the CP and the noun.

Pluralisation is indicated with the suffix -í. Between the noun and the
pluralisation suffix come the determiners.

Nouns are by default indefinite. When affixing a determiner, in some cases
epethentic vowel e is introduced. In other cases it's not, with the
causing some sort of mutation in the preceeding letters.

The determiners are -d- (Definite/Demonstrative: this/these), -r-
(Definite/Demonstrative: that/those), and -w- (Partitive).

Where -d- occurs after a liquid, rhotic, glide or vowel, no change occurs.
it occurs after a nasal consonant, that nasa consonant becomes n. If it
after t or d, it becomes s, e.g. érakwant > érakwans, érakwansí. Otherwise
epethentic vowel e is inserted.

Where -w- follows a w, it becomes l, e.g. éw > élwí. In the singular, if -w-
not preceeded by a vowel, a is added at the end, e.g. éw > élwí.

Following an r, -r- becomes -l-, e.g. alvír > alvírla, alvírí.

The posessives are affixed after the plural affix, if any. They are:

    -éva    My
    -avu    Our (incl.)
    -ava    Our (excl.)
    -ésu    Your (sg.)
    -asu    Your (pl.)
    -ant    Their (sg.)
    -ans    Their (pl.)
    -amé    Ones

The pronouns are:

    vé      Me
    vésí    We (incl.)
    vésa    We (excl.)
    su      You (sg.)
    ssí     You (pl.)
    lís     Them (sg.)
    yéq     Them (pl.)
    kesé    One

Case Particles

Here's an incomplete list of the case particles. The letter given in
is now epethentic, but was once part of particle and only now appears to
prevent hiatus.

    Absolutive  a(l)
    Ergative    an(i)
    Dative      wa(s)
    Genitive    u(l)
    Relational  kké(s)  Means: from, of, related to, associated with, etc...
    Vocative    es

In intransitive sentences, the ergative is used to mark an active subject,
one who willingly/voluntarily takes part (`I slid across the ice' - I made
myself slide on it), whereas the absolutive is used to mark an passive
i.e. one who does not take part of their own will (`I was slid across the
ice' - Someone else made me slide on it).

Relative Clauses

Relative Clauses are essentially nominalised sentences. They are always
topicalised, with the topic at the beginning - being the NP governed by the
clause - and ending with a nominalised verb. This is similar to the way
Japanese relative clauses work.


  (4) Tagas       a-Lídu   íl  al-abrírun
      information ERG-Lídu PST ABS-desire-NMLS
      "The information that Lidu wanted"


I have this described, but I don't want to post it yet.


The four particles representing the degrees most (superlative), more
(comparative), less (negative comparative), and least (negative superlative)
are néa, nus, séa, and sun respectively. They follow their adjectives, e.g.
(happy) and gí néa (happiest).