Tesяfkǝm: A Constructed Language (S11)


Tesяfkǝm's syntax is LALR(1) parsable, i.e., there is a bison specification for it. The bison file is here.

Most morphemes are clitics in Tesяfkǝm and combine to larger phonological words. This process is shown with dashes throughout the grammar.

Affixation is shown with a '=' sign.

English glosses of Tesяfkǝm stems will contain '_' signs for separating words in the English translation.

Basic Clause

The basic clause is sequence of adverb phrases (APs): AP AP AP ... AP. APs may be lexicon entries or noun (N) - verb (V) pairs. Each AP contributes to the clause's meaning, but there are no simple rules about how exactly: the APs act as a unit of mutual modification. See the chapter about serial verb construction (SVC) for details.

A basic AP is a sequence of a noun phrase (NP) and a verb phrase (VP).

The first AP of a clause always contains an evidence/mood marker, which is inserted between its NP and VP. The first AP cannot be a lexical AP.

Not considering lexical APs, a basic clause look like this: NP-MOOD-VP NP-VP NP-VP ... NP-VP.


A sentence is a sequence of coordinated clauses started by a proclitic speech act (SA) marker. So a minimal sentence consist of three morphemes: a speach-act marker, a mood marker, and a verb (the noun may be dropped).

A typical sentence with one clause looks like this: SA-NP-MOOD-VP NP-VP ... NP-VP.


Relative Clauses

Relative clauses modify a constituent by constraining the predicate the constituent denotes. Relative clauses in Tesяfkǝm are not restricted to nouns, but may modify verbs, too.

Tesяfkǝm has two different types of relative clauses: internally and externally headed relative clauses. They are different both in structure and in usage.

Internally Headed

The internally headed relative clause (IHRC) is usually used for descriptive relative clauses, i.e. those that do not restrict the referent.

In an IHRC, the modified noun is the topic of the relative clause and thus syntactically part of the relative clause (therefore, it is called internally headed). As in any clause, an evidence/mood marker marks the topic and secondly the start of a subclause. The end of the relative clause is marked with a resumptive particle (RES), which is syntactically part of the matrix clause.

Normal sentence N1-MOOD1-V1.
Modified predicate N1-MOOD1-V1 RES
Used as a noun in matrix clause N1-MOOD1-V1 RES-MOOD2-V2
Used as a verb in matrix clause N2-MOOD2 N1-MOOD1-V1-RES

The first NP in the sub-ordinate clause is the reference in the matrix clause.

Example for use as a noun: 'The man who is eating is tall' ~ 'man-MOOD1-eat RES-MOOD2-tall.'

Example for use as a verb: 'Peter is a tall man.' ~ 'Peter-MOOD2 man-MOOD1-tall-RES.'

Externally Headed

The externally headed relative clause (EHRC) is usually used for restrictive relative clauses, but as with the IHRC, it's usage may be based in pragmatic reasons, too.

In an EHRC, a relative particle (REL) attaches to the modified noun. A subclause with a topic gap is used right in front of that noun. The subclause thus starts with an evidence/mood marker.

normal sentence N1-MOOD1-V1
modified noun MOOD1-V1-REL N1
modified verb MOOD1-V1-REL-V2
with matrix clause MOOD1-V1-REL N1-MOOD1-V2

The topic gap in the relative clause is the reference in the relative clause (no relative pronoun is used).

Example: 'The man who eats is tall.' ~'MOOD1-eat-REL man-MOOD2-tall

Note how in this type of relative clause, the modified noun is in the matrix clause just like in English.

Further note that relative clauses are the only way to express alienable possession. E.g. for 'Peter's hat', you'd need two verbs: 'MOOD-owned Peter-owns-REL hat' ~ 'the hat that Peter owns'

Clauses as Arguments

Much like relative clauses, a whole subclause can be turned into an NP or VP denoting the state or event described by that clause, by using an SNP particle after the clause. The syntax is the same as for a RES particle.

Example: 'Because the man eats, he becomes tall.' ~ 'man-MOOD1-eat SNP-MOOD2-causes-tall=become.'

Most clause subordination is handled like this.


Coordinated clauses are conjoined by an infixed, enclitic clause coordination particle.

Each clause coordination particle come in two versions: a high priority and a low priority one. Depending on the priority, a relative clause and nominalisation particles is stronger or weaker. This allows the speaker to unambiguously determine whether two coordinated clauses are part of a given subordination.

name the coordination particle
October 28th, 2007
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