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niKòmbá: conlang sketch

From:David Stokes <dstokes@...>
Date:Monday, January 29, 2001, 19:14
Here is a sketch of my new language, niKòmbá. Things will certainly be
changing in it. But I present it for your interest and comments. It is
meant to be the parent of another as-of-yet unnamed language which is
the ultimate goal of this project. So I would appreciate any input which
I can incorporate as I produce its descendants.

niKòmbá is inspired by Bantu languages with a little Tagalog thrown in.
The vocabulary is entirely a-priori.

Enjoy !



stops: p, b, t, d, k, g
palatalized stops: py, by, ty, dy, ky, gy
fricatives: v, z, x
nasals: m, n, ng
liquids: w, l
pre-nasalized: mb, mv, nd, nz, ngk
lateral release: bl, dl, gl


   i, u
   a, o

Vowels have four tones: rising  á, falling  à, high  â, low  a.

Rising and falling tones may only occur in word stems.
Affixes display vowel harmony w.r.t. tone. High tone always before
falling or after rising, low tone always before rising or after falling.
Often tone will not be marked on affixes since it follows from the stem.

Syllables have the form CV, or CV(n or l) where n can be any nasal.

The prototypical niKòmbá word has a core of two syllables with a
rising-falling or falling-rising tone pattern surrounded by gramatical
affixes of the proper tones (high or low). The characteristic
rising-falling sound of niKòmbá led their neighbors to refer to the
koKòmbá people derogatorily as "hyenas". Later the koKòmbá adopted the
hyena as a national symbol.


Multiple noun classes are marked by prefixes. These prefixes are used to
show class concord through all parts of speech. Most of the classes are
heterogenious, but some generallities can be drawn.

     Singular   Plural       Contents
1.      ada-    ango-   divine, royal, astronomical
2.      ko-     ga-     people
3.      pa-     to-     tools, artifacts, some professions
4.      kyu-    ka-     animals, natural world
5.      dya-    ka-     plants, natural world
6.      ni-     du-     mind, emotion, language
7.      mva-    zu-     government, heirarchy, weapons, injury
8.      mbo-    mi-     money, trade, food, social interactions
9.      wa-     lu-     misc., loan words
10.     ngo-    bi-     abstract, math, physics, philosophy
11.        kin-         no plural - collective nouns
12.        ndo-         no plural - abstract concepts

niKòmbá has a focus system, and nouns are suffixed to show their role in
the sentence. This suffix can also show definiteness, like use of "the"
in English.
Agent:                          -wa             -la
Patient:                        -ti             -dli
Goal or Beneficiary:            -vo             -blo
Source, Instrument, or Location:  -ku           -glu

-n can be added to the above suffixes to indicate the focused noun, but
it is not required since focus is indicated on the verb. Used in very
correct speech, not informally.

Other affixes may be added between the class prefix and the stem to
alter meaning of the word.


Follow the noun modified. Prefix agreement with noun modified.

Ex. ko-gyà "man", dya-bàgú "tree", ngám "big"
kogyàla kongám "the big man", dyabàgúwa dyangám "a big tree"


Infinitives end in -nasal.

Verbs are prefixed to agree with the focused noun.

Verbs take a suffix that marks aspect and implies tense. Each aspect has
a tense normally associated with it. The implied tense can be altered by
use of an auxillary. The suffixes are:

Progressive/Present:    -nzu
Perfective/Past:        -bya
Inchoative/Future:      -dyo
Stative/Still:          -ki

The auxillaries (actually they are adverbs) to alter from the implied
tense are:

Past:           anó,    ("previously", related to pànó "yesterday")
Present:        dyákù,  ("presently", from "at hand", dyán "hand")
Future:         ní      ("newly")

Ex. mandán "to sleep", mandábyu "slept"(past perf.),
     mandánzu anó "was sleeping"(past prog.)

These auxillaries can also be used with the aspect that implies their
tense to strengthen the tense, in particular, anó with the
Perfective/Past for events in the distant past.

Particles before the verb are used to mark moods.
Imperative:  zâ,     Probabilitive:  íbi,   Necessitative:  mbá
as well as other I don't know yet.

niKòmbá uses serial verb constructions instead of prepositions. Multiple
verbs agree with the same noun to denote a complex action.

Ex. gyà "man", nàdlá "house", wím "to walk", zán "to enter"
   kogyàlan panàdláblo kowíbya kozábya.
   "The man house walked entered." or "The man walked into the house."

Basic sentence structure has verbs at the end of the sentence. Agent is
usually first. A few example sentences:

"Birds are flying over the green mountain."

katívûwa dyatádlàku dyaxíl kakínzu katípànzu.

4PLUR-bird-AGENT 5SING-mountain-LOC 5SING-green 4PLUR-above-PROG

"The man carried a gift to the woman."

kogyàlan mbobàwati kolùblo kotyàbya.


"The man began to build a new house."

 kogyàla panàdláti panì kozàdyo anó.



David Stokes