|From:||Tom Tadfor Little <tom@...>|
|Date:||Friday, May 4, 2001, 15:44|
The Iltârer noun system distinguish three numbers: singular, plural, and
collective. The collective is distinguished from the plural by inclusively
containing all real and possible elements of the class; it often has a
certain Platonic or archetypal connotation, much as seen in the English
word humanity, which is not only signifies all human beings, but also the
collection of qualities that constitute human identity.
There are three cases, known as simple, agent, and referential.
The simple case is often used for a direct object, the subject of an
intransitive verb, and for abstract nouns and nouns representing inanimate
objects, regardless of whether they appear as subject or object. The uses
of the simple case are best understood in contrast with the uses of the
agent case, which are easier to characterize.
The agent case is used to convey a conscious act of will, carried out in
some fashion. Subjects of transitive verbs are often, but not aways, in the
agent case. Objects of transitive verbs may sometimes take the agent case
also, if the sense demands it. The choice of case is not purely a
syntactical matter, there are semantic considerations as well. Consider
these three sentences:
_Tattane Cinsirâ a Ilin._ Cinsir fights Ilin. (Cinsir in agent case, Ilin
in simple case.) The implication is that Cinsir is the instigator, the one
whose intention produces the fighting.
_Tattane Cinsir â Ilinen._ Cinsir fights Ilin. (Cinsir in simple case, Ilin
in agent case.) Now Ilin is the instigator, even though Cinsir remains the
subject of the sentence.
_Tattin Cinsir ehte Ilin._ Cinsir fights Ilin. (Both in simple case, verb
in spontaneous mood.) This describes the scene in a detached way, as an
outbreak of violence, with the parties being treated almost as inaminate
Although it might be tempting to translate the second sentence using a
passive verb, and the third one using an intransitive verb, this is not
quite accurate. All three Itârer sentences tell us that Cinsir is in fact
fighting; he is acting, not merely receiving action. The agent case is one
of several mechanisms through which Iltârer addresses subtleties of
different mental and material perspectives on events.
The referential case is one of the great workhorses of the language. It can
be regarded as a genitive of extremely broad application, or as a mechanism
for producing adjectives from nouns. It is also the usual case for objects
of prepositions. Without a preposition, a noun in the referential case can
modify another noun, a verb, or a whole clause or sentence.
In Northern Iltârer, referential nouns have essentially replaced a system
of adjectives that existed in Proto-Iltârer. A few of these "true
adjectives" remain in use, mostly number-words and adjectives derived from
adverbs of time. Concrete, collective nouns are preferred for referential
use, leading to a preponderance of metaphorical expression in the language.
For example, although there is an abstract noun _siphphêña_ meaning
"loyalty", and one might indeed use it in the referential case and say
_sentan siphphêña_ "a person of loyalty". However, the traditional
idiomatic expression of this concept is _sentan pîtasenler_ "a person of
houses" because the collective _pîtasenel_ "houses" carries strong
connotations of community, interdependence, and the ethics appropriate to a
settled people. Although such expressions mystify inexperienced
translators, they are ubiquitous in the language. One should not imagine,
though, that these metaphorical meanings are so conventionalized as to lose
the force of metaphor. In fact, there is a constant tension between
conventionality and innovation, with the result that the precise meaning of
referential nouns is one of the most rapidly evolving features of Northern
Iltârer. Reading texts from as few as four or five generations before one's
own time requires special instruction, even though the vocabulary and
grammar have scarcely changed.
There are four classes of nouns, distinguished by their ending in the
simple singular. In Proto-Iltârer, these were grammatical genders (although
without any strong male/female associations), and adjectives agreed with
nouns in gender. When the adjective system was largely supplanted by the
use of the referential case in Nortern Iltârer, the inflection of the
remaining adjectives was simplified and gender markings were lost. The four
classes thus function as declensions rather than grammatical genders.
There is a generic class, with no distinctive ending, encompassing a great
range of nouns of different sorts. The -a class consists mostly of abstract
nouns. The -r class includes about two-thirds of all proper nouns, and a
small assortment of others. The -l class has a preponderance of concrete
nouns for objects found in nature, but includes many nouns of other sorts
Number and case are indicated by inflectional endings, which are different
for each class of noun. The regular inflectional scheme is shown here, with
the inflections for true adjectives also given for completeness.
-l class -r class -a class generic adjectives
simple -l -r -a - -e
agent -le -râ -an -en -e
referential -lith -rath -a -er -er
simple -li -ri -as -es -et
agent -lil -ril -asat -eth -et
referential -lin -rir -al -el -etel
simple -sil -risil -añi -enel -eñe
agent -sile -risî -añin -enlen -eñe
referential -silithin -rith -aña -enler -eñer
Tom Tadfor Little firstname.lastname@example.org
Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA)
Telperion Productions www.telp.com