SECTION VIII: CLAUSES

VIIIa – Sentence Types

PUNCTUATION
You may already have noticed that I'm using Spanish‐style punctuation at each end on questions (¿ … ?) and commands (¡ … !), partly because I just think they're cool, but mostly because it gives better advance warning of the otherwise hard‐to‐identify sentence types.
STATEMENTS
Normal declarative sentences can take many forms, most of which are explained in detail later on in this section.
COMMANDS
Exhortations, demands, and announced “wishes” (such as “long may he reign”) are recognisable by the fact that the verb doesn't take normal pronoun suffixes – instead it takes one of the following alternative set of “optative” suffixes:
First‐Exclusive ·u ! “let me/us (but not you)”
First‐Inclusive ·um ! “let's (all)”
Second‐Familiar · ! “go on, do it!” (plain command)
Second‐Polite ·ut ! “please…”
Third‐Neuter ·u ! “let it”, “may they”
Third‐Epicene ·u ! “let him/her/them”
The three different ·u ! forms are uncommon, and usually need to be accompanied by specific nouns or pronouns to avoid ambiguity: ¡ is daimpi·u !, “let it begin!”; ¡ ji on·tharko·u ! “(long) may the king live!”; ¡ pa sifulu·o ! “let me die (if I am lying)!” (note the use of ·o ! rather than ·u ! when the verbal stem itself ends in u).
The null suffix · ! for second‐familiar here results in a basic command identical to the normal third‐epicene statement form: ¡ desen ! “speak!”, desen “he/she/they spoke”.  This rarely leads to any ambiguity since commands are also identifiable by tone of voice, or by redundant formalities like the use of subjunctives and explicit pronouns: ¡ jejale na desen·ukh ! “please speak”.
QUESTIONS
There are two basic types of question construction, “Yes/No” and “Wh”.
Statement: ji e niamo “the king ate something”
Y/N Question: ¿ ji e niamo ? “did the king eat something?”
Wh‐Question: ¿ fe ji niamo ? “what did the king eat?”
Wh‐Question: ¿ nuf e niamo ? “where did he eat something?”
“Yes/No” questions are formed in English by moving a verb to the start (“There are.”/“Are there?”), often using an added verb “do” (“It rained.”/“Did it rain?”).  That kind of complicated reshuffling is not needed to form simple questions in this language – the intonation pattern (or punctuation) is enough.
“Wh‐questions” (with a “who?” or “where?” or similar question‐word) are a little more familiar, since they may involve bringing the question‐word (fe, nuf, or whatever) to the beginning of the sentence.  Note that these preposed words are not the same as the relative‐words (e, nui etc.) used to translate “what”, “where” etc. in relative clauses (see IXc).
NEGATIVES
No special rules are required to form negative commands or questions – just add the me‐ prefix as usual (see VIIb).  Thus ¡ me·desen· ! “don't speak!”, and ¿ ji e me·niamo ? “didn't the king eat something?”.

VIIIb – Active Verbs

INTRANSITIVE
“Intransitives” are verbs with no “object” noun (see cases, IVb).  If the subject of the sentence is expressed only by agreement on the verb rather than an explicit noun (see VIc) this can mean grammatical sentences as short as pe “he/she walked”.
TRANSITIVE
“Transitives” are verbs with an “object” noun; they may have a whole string of subject, object, and oblique‐case nouns (normally in that order) as in ji e deat·on thun·es niamo “the king ate something beside the river” (literally “king something river beside eat”).  On the other hand they may have only the object: e niamo “he ate something”.

English transitive verbs often have the option of throwing out their object, and expressing more or less the same idea intransitively – “he ate”.  But the verb niamo isn't free to do that – it's always transitive.  To help you keep things straight, verbs are labelled in the lexicon as “T(ransitive)” or “I(ntransitive)”, not merely as “V(erb)”s.

VIIIc – Linking Verbs

The verb “be” and a few others like it such as “seem” are linking verbs (marked with an “L” in the lexicon).  They form descriptive or equative sentences (“X is Y” or “X is a Y”), which may look like transitive sentences in English but behave quite differently from the ones described in the previous section.  The verb in such a sentence comes in the middle rather than at the end, and the “Y” position is marked as a subject rather than an object (cf. posh English “it is I” rather than colloquial “it's me”).

“Be” (or “am/are/is/was/were”) usually translates as either re or khoi (depending on Aspect – VIIc):

These sentences have a nice, familiar, English‐like structure.  However, the subject can be omitted where it's clear what's being described, and the verb “be” itself can be left out when convenient:

The convention of writing an em‐dash where a linking verb has been dropped is purely a punctuation trick (borrowed from Russian), not reflected in the spoken language; ji — tánne “the king's a father” sounds just like ji tánne “the king's father”.  To avoid confusion, the former would usually be ji re tánne.  For neuter nouns, on the other hand, no explicit verb is needed to distinguish kéntha — lefichi “the horse is a shadow” from kéntha lefichi·es “the horse's shadow”.

English also uses “be” for “exist”, but that translates as an entirely separate verb, on·tur·uk (a normal intransitive verb with verb‐final word‐order):

Without the on· (imperfective) prefix, tur is used for pointing out things that weren't previously apparent:

VIIId – Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs are particularly common in this language, taking the place of many verbs which English makes passive or just intransitive: for instance while arnu·s means “it burned (something)”, the equivalent of English “it burned (away)” is arnu·s·or, literally “it burned itself”.  Verbs that behave like this are marked out in the lexicon by being labelled not as “T(ransitive)” but “R(eflexivising)”.

Verbs are made reflexive by adding not a special pronoun (like English “myself”, “themselves” etc.) but an invariable suffix ·(o)r, whose meaning varies to match the subject:

No separate object pronoun is needed to specify who it's being done to; indeed, adding an object to the clause changes the sense of the reflexive ending from “oneself” to “one another”, “each other”:

The verb akhe·r (apparently the reflexive of “become”, although by the regular rules that shouldn't have a reflexive!) is used to construct unambiguously passive sentences.  The verb to be passivised becomes an infinitive (VIId) with the main verb position taken by akhe·r, and “by” translates as the postposition ie: