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A'stou part III: the Personal System and the Verb (LONG)

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Thursday, June 1, 2000, 20:58
Today I'm gonna present you the verb morphology in A'stou. You already saw
the noun morphology and you know thus that this is an accusative language.
Yet the verb morphology is quite different from Western Indo-European
languages. Also, there is no verb corresponding to 'to be' and A'stou
resorts to nominal sentences for this (and shows tense on these sentences
with other means -adverbs, time complements, etc...). But first, here's a
review of the personal system which is quite different from the personal
systems of all languages I now:


The personal system of A'stou can be divided in six persons, but those
persons are different from the ones you're used to see in other languages.
thus I won't give them numbers but names:

- "ego": this is the person of the speaker, unique, point of reference of
the rest. yet, when someone talks in the name of a group, he will still use
the "ego" person, to show that the group is one and talks through his mouth
(in this case the listener is naturally excluded from this group). It can
also be used for generalities when the speaker wants to include himself in,
but wants to exclude the listener from.

- "non-ego": this is the person of the listener, of the receiver of the
message, whether he is unique or multiple (group). It is also used in an
indefinite sense (French 'on') when the speaker wants to include the
listener and exclude himself from the generality.

- "inclusive nos": this person refers to the group where the speaker and
the listener both belong to, or at least that's what the speaker wants to
point out. It mustn't be used when the speaker talks in the name of this
group. This person can be used as a general French 'on', where both the
speaker and the listener are included.

- "exclusive nos": this person refers to the group where the speaker
belongs to, and from which the listener is excluded. Yet, when the speaker
speaks in the name of this group, he must use the "ego" person.

- "vos": this person refers to a group to which the listener belongs, but
to which the speaker wants to be excluded from. It never refers to a group
of listeners (the "non-ego" is used instead) but to the general group they
belong to.

- "non-persona": this person can refer to anything but the speaker and the
listener. It can refer to people, but only when they are not present. It is
also used to address people who cannot answer (because they are not present
and don't actually hear you) or who won't (or will be unlikely to) answer
(like gods and superior beings).

Here are approximate correspondants of these persons:

- "ego": me, us.
- "non-ego": you.
- "inclusive nos": me and you, we and you, us, them.
- "exclusive nos": us, them.
- "vos": you, them.
- "non-persona": him, her, it, them, you, Thou.

It's quite a strange system isn't it? I guess it's very well-suited for
political debate :) . What do you think of it?


The verb, as the center of the sentence in A'stou, shows much information.
Here is a review of what can be shown on the verb:

- voice: active, middle.
- impersonal moods: verbal noun, verbal adjective, verbal adverb.
- impersonal tenses: past, present, future.
- personal moods: discursive, narrative.
- personal aspects: punctual, countinuous, perfect.
- personal tenses: present/aorist, past/past perfect, future/prospective.

In the active voice, verbs agree with the subject and the object if present
(subject and object can never refer to the same being. This reflexive
meaning is taken in charge by the middle voice). In the middle voice, verbs
agree only with the subject. Also, the discursive mood can use affixes for
all persons, while the narrative mood is restricted to the affixes of the

Impersonal moods correspond roughly to what we know as infinitives,
participles and gerunds. Yet they are used less verbally than the
equivalents I gave. The impersonal moods are called:

- verbal noun,
- verbal adjective,
- verbal adverb.

Each of these moods can appear in active or middle voice and in one of the
three impersonal tenses: past, present and future.

The different affixes are:

- active voice: suffix -ia- just after the verbal root,
- middle voice: no suffix (yes, in A'stou the middle voice is the unmarked
- present tense: infix -n- after the first vowel of the root,
- past tense: infix -sh- after the first vowel of the root,
- future tense: infix -k- after the first vowel of the root.

Once that is done, you make the different impersonal moods with the
radicals you've just formed:

- verbal noun: it's a neuter noun and thus takes the case endings of the
neuter gender right after the radical (thus the I-E of the verbal noun is
formed by radical + -ei). The N-V of verbal nouns is formed with the
radical + -i.

- verbal adjective: verbal adjectives are like any other adjectives and
thus must agree in gender with the noun they complete. They are made simply
with the radical followed by the needed case endings (the N-V of such
verbal adjectives ends in -au for masculine, -ou for feminine and -eu for

- verbal adverbs: the verbal adverbs take simply the adverb ending -lou
after the radical (I will talk about adverbs in another post, but you must
know that A'stou adverbs take different endings depending on the kind of
word they complete. -lou is simply the ending they take when they complete
a verb or a complete clause).

Thus, with the root da'l-: build, make, one has (the translations are only

active voice:
present verbal noun: da'nliai~ /'danlja.i/, da'nliaei /'danlja.Ej/: to
build, the building
past verbal noun: da'shliai~ /'daSlja.i/, da'shliaei: to have built, the
(finished) building
future verbal noun: da'kliai~ /'daklja.i/, da'kliaei: to be going to build,
the (future) building

present verbal adjective: da'nliaau /'danlja.o/, da'nliaai /'danlja.E/:
past verbal adjective: da'shliaau /'daSlja.o/, da'shliaai: having built
future verbal adjective: da'kliaau /'daklja.o/, da'kliaai: being going to

present verbal adverb: da'nlialou /'danljalu/: (while) building
past verbal adverb: da'shlialou /'daSljalu/: (after) having built
future verbal adverb: da'klialou /'dakljalu/: (before) building

middle voice:
present verbal noun: da'nli /'danli/, da'nlei /'danlEj/: to build ((for)
past verbal noun: da'shli /'daSli/, da'shlei: to have built (")
future verbal noun: da'kli /'dakli/, da'klei: to be going to build (")

present verbal adjective: da'nlau /'danlo/, da'nlai /'danlE/: building (")
past verbal adjective: da'shlau /'daSlo/, da'shlai: having built (")
future verbal adjective: da'klau /'daklo/, da'klai: being going to build (")

present verbal adverb: da'nllou /'danllu/: (while) building (")
past verbal adverb: da'shllou /'daSllu/: (after) having built (")
future verbal adverb: da'kllou /'dakllu/ (before) building (")

NOTE: It is not known whether double consonnants like <ll> where pronounced
long /l:/, geminate /l.l/, separated by a glottal stop /l'l/ or just
contracted /l/. there was probably dialectical divergence here.

Personal moods correspond to the conjugation as such. There are two moods
called "discursive" and "narrative". They have an effect on the meaning of
tenses and on the persons that can be used. The "discursive" mood is the
mood of normal, everyday speech. Hence in this mood all persons can be
used, and the timeframe is relative to the moment of talking. Thus the
tenses "present", "past" and "future" correspond to "at the moment of
talking", "before the moment of talking" and "after the moment of talking".
"Present" can also be used for intemporal and habitual actions. On the
other hand, the "narrative" mood is the mood of stories and quotations. It
is used in stories and indirect speech. In this mood, only the
"non-persona" is allowed (compare with English which says: "He said: '_I_
love you'" and "He said (that) _he_ loved _her_") for the subject, but also
for the object (so even if the "you" is the one you're talking to right
now, you cannot say "He said he loved _you_" in A'stou. For that, you have
to precise the name of the person you talk to, if the context doesn't make
it clear). Also, this mood has an effect on tense as it puts them on a
distinct timeframe, unrelated to the moment of talking (hence its use in
stories). In this case, the "present" tense refers to the time reference,
"past" takes place before this reference, while "future" takes palce after
it. In order not to make any confusion, I'll refer to the tenses "present",
"past" and "future" respectively as "aorist", "past perfect" and
"prospective" when I talk about the narrative mood.

The personal moods also make the distinction of aspect (unlike the
impersonal moods). there are three aspects: punctual, continuous and
perfect. "Punctual" and "continuous" are mutually exclusive, while
"perfect" can be used with both (much like English can say: "I have eaten"
(perfect+punctual) and "I have been eating" (perfect+continuous)). We thus
have a four-way distinction:

- punctual,
- continuous,
- perfect punctual,
- perfect continuous.

Finally, the personal moods make the distinction of voice the same way as
the impersonal moods.

Conjugation in A'stou is between agglutination and inflection. It is made
of affixes that always keep one form, but the affixes can carry more then
one function (like the personal affixes that show also the voice). The
different affixes are:

- "discursive" mood: no prefix,
- "narrative" mood: prefix me- in front of the verbal root.

- present/aorist tense: infix -n- after the first vowel of the root,
- past/past perfect tense: infix -sh- after the first vowel of the root,
- future/prospective tense: infix -k- after the first vowel of the root.

- punctual aspect: no affix,
- continuous aspect: suffix -ter after the personal endings,
- perfect aspect: infix -a- after the tense infix, plus voicing of this
infix (when possible).

- active personal endings:
- subject (just after the verbal root): "ego": -i, "non-ego": -o,
"inclusive nos": -o (plus palatalisation of the last consonnant of the
root, infix included), "exclusive nos": -ei, "vos": -u, "non-persona": no
ending (-e between a consonnant and an exclusively consonnantal object
- object (just after the subject ending): "ego": -s, "non-ego": -ph,
"inclusive nos": -z, "exclusive nos": -az (<-i + -az> becomes <-iaz> /jaz/,
not <-i~az> /, while <-u + -az> becomes <-uaz> /waz/, not <-u~az>
/ , "vos": -g, "non-persona": no ending.

- middle personal endings (only subject):
"ego": -ir, "non-ego": -or, "inclusive nos": -or (plus palatalisation of
the last consonnant of the root, infix included), "exclusive nos": -er,
"vos": -ur, "non-persona": -ra.

NOTE: The subject affixes for "inclusive nos" have an interesting history,
because it's the same internally and externally :) . They used to be -io
and -ior, but I got fed up with the too much agglutinating character of the
A'stou verbal system, so I changed it a little, keeping the agglutination
but adding a few nice features. To explain the presence of the
palatalisation, I give as an internal explanation that the affixes were
indeed -io and -ior in remote past, but that the semi-vowel /j/
progressively went up to the last consonnant of the root (the last phonetic
one, so infixes are included even if they are grammatical affixes) by
metathesis, and that it got attenuated so much that it became simple
palatalisation of the consonnant.

NOTE2: Of course, intransitive verbs in active voice have only the active
subject endings, not the object ones.

So the complete verbal complex is:

- for the active voice: (narrative prefix +) beginning of the root until
the first vowel + tense infix (+ perfect infix) + end of the root + active
subject ending (+ active object ending) (+ continuous suffix)

- for the middle voice: (narrative prefix +) beginning of the root until
the first vowel + tense infix (+ perfect infix) + end of the root + middle
subject ending (+ continuous suffix)

NOTE3: There are very few examples of verbs used without tense infix. But
those examples seem to come from very old and fixed expressions used like
sayings. It is not possible in Classical A'stou. Verbs used without tense
infix certainly had a meaning of generality and universality, which has now
been taken by the present tense. All those examples seem to appear only in
the discursive mood. There is also one (very much unused) form without
tense infix which is the imperative. It is made with the radical of the
verb, alone in middle voice and suffixed with -ia in active voice, and has
hardly any use (the Dha'stem seemed to find it much too rude, and thus
rarely used them, except sometimes with animals).

Word order was quite free in A'stou, but the default order seemed to be
VSO, with SVO and SOV quite common too (orders with O first are found too,
but they seem to be more marked, with nearly a passive-like feeling given
to the sentence).

Here are a few examples of simple A'stou sentences:

Gala'ga da'shl g_ Dha'stem e'bi U'lda be Dha'otid be

Gala'ga da'-sh-l                g_      Dha'stem e'bi           U'lda be
Gala'ga.N-V     build.past.nps.npo      "for"   Dha'stem.def.D-A-L      Island.def.A-G

Dha'otid be

"Gala'ga built U'lda bi Dha'otid be for the Dha'stem"

<g_> with a D-A-L noun can be used for destination as well as benificiary
of the action (while the recipient of an action is given by the D-A-L
alone). "U'lda be" is in the A-G case because it's the object of the verb
(accusative use), while "Dha'otid be" is in the A-G because it completes
the preceeding noun (genitive use). In fact, "U'lda bi Dha'otid be" is used
as a noun for the continent where the Dha'stem lived.

NOTE4: Gala'ga is the supreme god of the main Dha'stem religion. He is
supposed to be the father of the Dha'stem race and to have created their
continent to give them a place to live and prosper. He is *not* the Creator
of the Universe, and not unique (the Dha'stem were polytheistic). An
interesting thing to know is that in A'stou, names are normally followed by
the article. the only exceptions are unique names, names used to refer to
only one being and always the same (like gods). That's why Gala'ga is
referred here without article (nobody else carries the same name). A last
comment on this sentence is that A'stou writing didn't have punctuation marks.

E'nzoliphter (a'vka)

E'-n-zol-i-ph-ter               (a'vka)  (you.D-A-L)

"I believe you"

It's worth noting that the object in A'stou needn't be in the A-G case. In
this sentence, the object is in the D-A-L case ("to believe in sth." and
"to believe so" are rendered with the same verb in A'stou, with the object
being in A-G when it is a thing you believe in, and in D-A-L when it's a
person you believe s/he tells the truth). The real mark of the object is
the agreement of the object ending on the verb, which always appears,
whatever case is the object. Also, the form used has the continuous aspect
suffix. Unlike in English, verbs like "believe", "know", are used with
continuous aspect when referring to the particular moment (because the
state of believing and knowing is not punctual but takes place during a
certain period of time).

Abbreviations used here:
N-V: nominative-vocative case,
A-G: accusative-genitive case,
D-A-L: dative-ablative-locative case,
def: definite article used,
pres: present,
nps: "non-persona" subject ending,
es: "ego" subject ending,
npo: "non-persona" object ending,
neo: "non-ego" object ending,
cs: continuous aspect suffix.


A'stou has a very important peculiarity which is that it doesn't have
subclauses. Or more exactly, personal moods are used only for principal
clauses. All kinds of subclauses are rendered through "infinitive
subclauses", which are phrases centered around an impersonal form of a
verb. Depending on the function of the subclause, the impersonal form can
be a verbal noun, a verbal adjective or a verbal adverb. The word order in
such subclauses is a little more restricted than in principal clauses, and
can be V-initial or V-final (depending on the function and the position of
the subclause) only (no SVO, but SO and OS are both quite common. In fact,
the two most common word orders for infinitive clauses are OSV and VSO - S
near to V -). When expressed, the subject of such clauses is always in the
I-E case (that's one of the uses of this case that made me call it
improperly Instrumental-Ergative). As subclauses are not formally different
from noun phrases, A'stou doesn't have separate sets of conjunctions, but
uses simple prepositions instead. The topic of subclauses in A'stou is
quite large, so I will stop here, but I can write another post about it
later if you want.

NOTE: A few months ago, while I was reading a booklet about the structure
of languages, I was surprised and interested by the existence of some
languages that didn't have subclauses but used noun phrases with noun forms
of verbs instead. I already liked the infinitive subclauses of Latin, so
the idea of making a language with only infinitive subclauses really
pleased me. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered on my notes
about A'stou that actually I had already done that when I was 17!! :))

Okay, I hope I've been clear enough in this post and that you found it
interesting. All comments are welcome of course.

                                                Christophe Grandsire
                                                |Sela Jemufan Atlinan C.G.

"Reality is just another point of view."

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