SECTION IX: SYNTAX

IXa – Word‐Order

VERB‐FINAL ORDER
The general rule for sentences is that the verb comes at the end – an idea some may find easier to grasp if I compare it to Reverse Polish Notation.  The subject is often omitted, and intransitive sentences may not involve any other nouns to arrange in order, leaving verb‐only sentences like nena “he/she sang”.  However, when there are nouns in the sentence they all go before the verb, in an order determined by their role: “(Subject) (Object) (Oblique with postposition) Verb”.  Thus sumfa kéntha ji·da u fáru “everyone gives horses to the king” is literally “everyone(Subject) horse(Object) king(Oblique) to(ThirdEpicene) give(ThirdEpicene)”.  The order of the nouns is sometimes shuffled around for purposes of emphasis: ji·da u sumfa kéntha fáru throws the spotlight on the king's role in the sentence.
LINKING‐VERB ORDER
Sentences built around linking verbs (VIIIc) are unusual in that they can end in a noun (or adjective, or other descriptive element), just as in English, and leave the verb in the middle (or sometimes drop it completely).
QUESTIONS
As described in VIIIa, the only word‐order change involved in questions is the one that pulls “question‐words” into initial position, and even that isn't compulsory.
INFINITIVES
Infinitives are tucked in immediately before the verb they depend on, in “reverse order” relative to the English: kéntha niamo·uk oas·uk moek·ap “I want to try to eat a horse” (literally “horse(Object) eat(Infinitive) try(Infinitive) want(FirstExclusive)”).
MODIFIERS
One‐word modifiers tend to come before the word they modify (so it's uduth pe, “downward he/she walked”), but phrases acting as modifiers (e.g. relative clauses – see below) appear in following position, and certain adverbs of degree trail after the word they qualify (see under Intensives, Va).
MISCELLANEOUS
Postpositions follow their nouns – kéntha·don u·s “to a horse”.  Adjectives precede their nouns – chargi·ra kéntha “white horses”.  In possessive phrases, owners precede property – ji kéntha “the king's horse”.  Putting the three above rules together we get phrases like ji chargi·ron kéntha·don u·s “to the king's white horse”.

IXb – Connected Clauses

COORDINATION
Conjunctions like ta, “and”, stitch together clauses of equal importance rather than making one clause dependent on another (they are “coordinating” rather than “subordinating” conjunctions).  They behave much like their English equivalents as sentence‐linkers (in pe ta desen “he walked and he talked”) or between items in lists (in barin ta sotanja on·niamo·s “they eat birds and fish”).  But ta is often thrown in to string adjectives together, too: akin·a ta chargi·ra sotanja “a beautiful white bird”.  The place of ta in narratives is often taken by tep: pe tep desen “he walked and (then) he talked”.
SUBORDINATION
Most conjunctions aren't like this, however – they introduce subordinate clauses, often marked by subjunctive suffixes (VIId).  For instance, lemmo “in order that” introduces purpose clauses: sinche·r lemmo ji·da anuach·ukh “she stood up to greet the king”.  Subordinating conjunctions are distinguished in the lexicon by the label “S” rather than “C”.
CONDITIONALS
“If” translates as duo, often accompanied by either tuker or ankat (“already”/“soon”) to clarify whether the “decision point” is in the past or future.  The subjunctive mood may or may not be used, depending on how “imaginary” it is: duo tuker barin niamo·n, sifulu·an “if you ate the fish, then you will die” vs. duo tuker barin niamo·n, sifulu·okh·an “if you'd eaten the fish, you'd've died”.
QUOTATION
“Report” clauses (“know that…”, “say that…”, “believe that…”) do not involve any equivalent of English “that” – they are simply quoted verbatim: arfai·an, is on·numa·p “you said you could see it” (more literally “you said: I see it”).  More subjective examples frequently involve subjunctives: sajan·ap — jait·a, sifulu·okh·an “I was afraid that you were/might be dead”.

IXc – Relative Clauses

Relative clauses are phrases such as “the man who sold you this is a cheat”, “the horse that died collapsed here”, or “show me the house where you live” – subordinate clauses being used to describe or more closely specify a noun (the man, horse, or house).  They are introduced by special words: in English, words like “who” and “where”, precisely resembling the question words “who?” and “where?”, but in this language by entirely distinct words such as e, nui which literally mean “something”, “somewhere”.

To form a relative clause, take the basic sentence containing the noun in question:

and the sentence to be converted into a subclause:

first reorganising the sentence so that the repeated noun is replaced by a dummy word like e and moved to the start:

and put the two sentences together like this:

The relative clause e·da … fáru·ap is inserted immediately after the noun it describes.  Note that relative clauses can be hard to detect in English – the above might have been disguised as “the king I gave the horse is strong”.

One last complication: if the subject of the subclause and the subject of the main clause are both the same thing, and if the clause is only an incidental description (“I ate some fish, which I had caught”) not a defining criterion (“I only ate the fish that I had caught”) then a slightly different form is often used – the participial phrase (see following).

IXd – Participial Phrases

If you're wondering “Where are the participles?  Where are the descriptive relative clauses?” – well, actually both of these conventional syntactic categories (and more) translate into one rather tricky idiom I'm labelling the “participial phrase”, easily recognised since it always starts with the word en.

ADVERBIAL PARTICIPIALS
faro nena en akin “the woman sang beautifully” – formed from en plus adjective, placed at the end of the sentence after the verb it describes.  These really have nothing much to do with the following constructions except appearance.
ADJECTIVAL PARTICIPIALS
faro en nena “a singing woman” (or “a woman, who sang”) – formed from en plus verb, placed after the noun it describes (not before it, as a normal adjective would be).  This construction does all the work of English active and passive participles (adjectives like “twinkling”, “divided”, “burning”, “unseen”).
PREDICATIVE PARTICIPIALS
The en phrase may be based on a sentence involving a “linking” verb like re (VIIIc): faro en akin re nena “a woman, who was beautiful, sang”.  The verb normally comes in the middle of such predicative sentences, or gets omitted entirely: faro — akin, “the woman was beautiful”.  Nonetheless, it appears at the end of the en phrase.
RELATIVE PARTICIPIALS
En clauses can get more complicated, but always follow the formula of starting with en and ending with a verb (e.g. fáru): ji en kéntha pa·da u fáru — rasek “the king, who has given me a horse, is strong”.
Note that the en phrase there is an incidental description of the king in question.  This is almost but not quite identical to the true relative clause construction: ji, e kéntha pa·da u fáru, — rasek “the king who gave me the horse is strong”.  The relative clause here is presented as a way of identifying which king is being referred to.

Participial relative constructions are seen even by native speakers as somewhat formal and convoluted, so they can probably be safely ignored by students at this introductory level.