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Yil, tones, miscellaneous fun stuff!

From:Amber Adams <amber@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 25, 2001, 19:48
All this talk about tones and such has made me want to drag out an old
project that I often forget about for long intervals, Yil.

Yil is a tonal language, it's also monosyllabic and almost completely
isolating.  Pronunciation is more or less IPA, save for the following:

y = [j], n = [N], th = [T], dh = [D], c = [S], r = [l].

The last is a pecularity of the native script that I chose to retain
in the Romanization-- there are two letters, both pronounced [l].
One is used only at the beginning of a syllable, one only at the end.

Valid syllables are: CV(V)(C)(c) (that last one is a [S], written "c")

The four tones of Yil are:
1 - Low
2 - Rising
3 - High
4 - Falling

The tones are not, as in Chinese languages, used to distinguish meaning,
rather, they are used to mark grammatical features.

In dictionaries, all words are listed without tone markers, which in
the native script means first tone.

For nouns, the use of tones marks cases.  Tone 1 indicates absolutive
or ergative, tone 2 indicates dative and allative (and locative with certain
oddball verbs), tone 3 is the usual locative as well as instrumental, tone 4
indicates genitive and ablative.

I'm not sure if "absolutive" and "ergative" are the correct words, but
I prefer to use them because Yil syntax is VS for an intransitive verb,
and SVO for a transitive, which would suggest some amount of ergative syntax.

For verbs, tone 1 indicates the present tense, tone 2 indicates the near future
tense, tone 3 indicates the imperative or gerund, and tone 4 indicates the
near past tense.

Yil adjectives and nouns are identical in function, both require the copula
verb 'dho.'  As such, an adjective can often be used as a noun as well.
(comparable to English -ness, Japanese -sa, etc.)

Here are some examples that will hopefully make everything clear as mud:
(remember that anything not marked is in the first tone)

Liac dau.
sleep-present he.
He sleeps.

Dau nat4 dhuc.
He eat-past meat.
He ate meat.

Bui kon4 pot zon dau2.
she bring-past delicious hot-water I-dative.
She brought soup to me.

The negative is 'du', which then carries the verb tones, the main
verb being put into tone 3.

Dau du4 nat3 dhuc.
He not-past eat-gerund dhuc.
He didn't eat meat.