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Tekem, the language (aka deriving verbs from nouns)

From:Amanda Babcock <langs@...>
Date:Tuesday, May 1, 2001, 13:44
With all the help I've received on all-noun languages and deriving verbs
from nouns, I figure it's only fair to show everybody what I've got so far
with the language.

This is all tentative and subject to massive amounts of change, of course.

First, I wanted it to have a minimal phonology, be synthetic rather than
isolating, and be agglutinative.  This threatened nightmarish amounts of
work in keeping things unambiguous, so I added a system of sandhi the
likes of which probably does not occur in human languages (that's ok by me;
I'm going for consistency but not necessarily naturalism, and will claim
the speakers are non-human if pressed :)

I suppose that means that it's the phonemics which is minimal, not the
phonology after all.  I'll do phonemes first, and then get into the sound

The syllable structure is [C]V[S], where C is {p,t,k}, V is {a,e,o}
(didn't want to go with a,i,u), and S is {s,l,m}.  This gives the following

        a       e       o       pa      pe      po
        as      es      os      pas     pes     pos
        al      el      ol      pal     pel     pol
        am      em      om      pam     pem     pom

        ta      te      to      ka      ke      ko
        tas     tes     tos     kas     kes     kos
        tal     tel     tol     kal     kel     kol
        tam     tem     tom     kam     kem     kom

Sound changes occur: BETWEEN morphemes WITHIN words.  Bwahaha :)  If any
human language actually does this, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

I am arbitrarily defining words as utterances which can stand on their
own as answers to a question (though not necessarily as spontaneous
utterances).  This includes things like nouns ("person"), nouns marked
for a semantic role in a sentence ("language.FOC"), nouns with a copula
stuck on the end, which can be said to act like verbs if one insists
("", to be a gift), nouns marked for a semantic role and
renominalized ("giving.AGT.that", that which gives, giver; not sure if
I'm keeping this as a separate category from noun clauses, but it's currently
expressed differently than a real relative clause), and some clauses where
the noun can incorporate into the verb derived from another noun (example
further on).  Not all clauses can be expressed as single words, however.

Here are the sound changes.  Bear in mind that stops occur only syllable-
initially, s, l, and m only occur syllable-finally, and the sound changes
only occur at morpheme boundaries.

        stops after vowels become voiced fricatives
        /s/ before a vowel becomes [Z]
        /s/ before a stop becomes [S]
        [h] is inserted between two vowels
        /l/ or /m/ before vowels are palatalized ([lj], [mj])
        stops after /l/ or /m/ become voiced
        /m/ assimilates to [n] before the dental (or dental-alveolar) stop
        /m/ assimilates to [N] before the velar stop

I'd like to have /l/ change into [r] in some context as well, but I don't
know which.

Some examples using random syllables:

        ako + ko -> akoGo
        kosas + e -> kosaZe
        kostas + te -> kostaSte
        ao + e -> aohe
        palal + e -> palalye
        tanpon + pa -> tanpomba

Now for some grammar and vocabulary, pretty much in the order in which I
came up with them.

        tekem: a language.
        estom: a person.
        -ke: X in general; all of X.  tekeNge: language in general.
                estoNge: people in general.
        -tas: one unit or building block of X.  tekendas: a word.
                tekendaSke: words in general.
        -el: each and every X.  tekemyel: every language.  tekendaZel:
                every word.  estomyel: all people.
        -pos: no X, not any X.  tekembos: no language.  tekendaSpos:
                no words.  estombos: noone.
        -kol: a collection or set of X.  tekeNgol: a language group.
                tekendaSkol: a speech or letter.  estoNgol: a group of
                Note: estoNgoldas would be a member of a group of people;
                estondaSkol, on the other hand, would be more the sort of
                thing you might find in a barrow mound!  Or possibly
                medical terminology.

        -toska: a perception using X.
        empomka: an eye.  empomkaDoska: a sight.
        pokekal: an ear.  pokekaldoska: a sound.
        tepom: a mind.  tepondoska: a thought.

There's also smell, touch, taste, proprioception and orientation (these
last two are held to be sensed by the same organ.  Either the speakers are
not human, or they don't know the function of the inner ear.)

Even "dream" is formed this way; there is believed to be a small physical
soul (one of several) which experiences dreams.  It's called "tomkolkas",
thus dream is "tomkolkaStoska".  (I imagine there's a shorter word for
children to use...)

Now we come to the derivations that act as though they're deriving from

Currently, the root word from which "gift", "giver", "recipient of a gift"
etc. are derived is the abstract noun "giving".  I may follow Tom Tadfor
Little's suggestion and make it a culturally-related concrete noun, however.
But for the present, we have:

        tokasepes: giving

Unless and until it leads to ambiguity, I'm going to use the markers for
syntactic role in a sentence (i.e. PAT, AGT, etc) along with a "renominalizer"
to create the derived nouns, even though it feels backwards from the way
the markers are used otherwise.  If this causes grave concern, simply recall
that the speakers may not be human :)

        -tal: renominalizer for deriving nouns; also used to form relative
        -kes: marker for the patient role.  -keStal: one who is or experiences
        -pa: marker for the agent role.  -paDal: one who causes X.
        -em: marker for the focus role.  -endal: that which is the focus of X.
        -ol: marker for the locative role.  -oldal: the place at which X is
                or occurs.
        -pem: marker for the temporal role.  -pendal: the time at which X
                exists or occurs.
        -tom: marker for the instrumental role.  -tondal: a tool associated
                with X or which is used to bring about X.
        -as: marker for a role indicating that X was the reason for the
                predicate.  -aStal: the reason for X.
        -po: marker for a role indicating that X was a result of the
                predicate.  -poDal: the result of X.

Some examples:

        tokasepeSkeStal: recipient of gift; one to whom is given.
        tokasepeSpaDal: giver; one who gives.
        tokasepeZendal: gift; that which is given.
        tokasepeZoldal: place of giving.
        tokasepeSpendal: time of giving.
        tokasepeStondal: instrument by which something is given.
        tokasepeZaStal: reason for giving.
        tokasepeSpoDal: result of giving.

With more concrete nouns that don't have so many natural arguments, some
of the derived nouns may be poetic, philosophical, or obscure:

        estoNgeStal: that which is a person.  Different emphasis from "estom".
        estombaDal: that which causes someone to be a person (philosophical).
        estomyendal: the focus of being a person; personhood.
        estomyoldal: the location of being a person (nonstandard, might
                be used in some oddball religious philosophy).
        estombendal: the time of being a person (poetic or philosophical).
        estondondal: that which is used to make someone a person.  Maybe
                religious, maybe psychological.
        estomyaStal: that which is the reason for being a person (religious
                or philosophical).
        estomboDal: that which is the result of being a person (more

Time for full sentences.  Sentences use a copula, affixed to the argument
that expresses the relation to the others (or, feel free to think of the
copula as a verbializing particle).  This is meant to be similar to a
trigger system.

        -ko: copula

        estoNgeGes     tekeNgehem       tokasepeSpaGo -  tepoNge.
        person.all.PAT language.all.FOC giving.AGT.cop - mind.all
        people.PAT     language.FOC         mind.
        It is mind which gifts people with language.

We can say "giver" (as a noun not bound to the copula) simply with
"tokasepeSpaDal", but "the giver of language to people" is multi-word and
thus requires a relative clause using "ko" before "tal":

        estoNgeGes     tekeNgehem       tokasepeSpaGoDal
        person.all.PAT language.all.FOC giving.AGT.cop.rel
        "that which is the giver of language to people"

Without the "ko" affix in "tokasepeSpaGoDal", it would just be a string
of derived nouns, two inflected for role and one not.

There are as many ways to compose a sentence as there are arguments
(depending on whether you count the copula-bound noun as one of the
arguments to the copula, or as a verb and the other nouns as arguments
to that verb).  Two ways to write "the person sees the giver":

        tokasepeSpaDalyem    empomkaDoskaGeSko -      estom.
        giving.AGT.rel.FOC   eye.perception.PAT.cop - person.
        that-which-gives.FOC             person.
        The person is the see-er of the giver.

        estoNges   empomkaDoskaheNgo -      tokasepeSpaDal.
        person.PAT eye.perception.FOC.cop - giving.AGT.rel.
        person.PAT             that-which-gives.
        The giver is seen by the person.

One more vocabulary word:

        katom: a good thing.

"The language is good":

        katoNgeSko -         tekem.
        good-thing.PAT.cop - language.

To write "that the language is good", I need a way to make the whole
sentence into a complementary clause.  So far I only have ways to make the
predicate into a clause; I have no way to include the trigger, the
unmarked noun that comes after the copula.

Maybe one solution would have been to move the role marker off the "verb"
and attach it to the trigger, moving the trigger in front of the "verb",
and attaching "-tal" to it: "tekeNges katoNgoDal".  But I decided to do
something more fun: noun incorporation!  I know almost nothing about noun
incorporation, so this may very well be more alien syntax coming up.

"That the language is good":


Next I wanted a word for "creator of language".  I figured I can use
the word for "that which causes something to be a language":


All in order to say: "And the creator looked up on the language, and saw
that it was good."  More or less.  I had a choice of "the language-creator
is the see-er of the fact that the language is good" or "that the language
is good was seen by the language-creator".  Using the latter:

        tekembaDalges        empomkaDoskaheNgo -
        language.AGT.rel.PAT eye.perceive.FOC.cop -


And that's where it stands, as of last Friday actually (lost half the
email message and had to recreate it).  Apologies for any messed-up
terminology.  It's been 7 or 8 years since I took a ling class.



Dan Seriff <microtonal@...>
jesse stephen bangs <jaspax@...>
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>