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Agent vs. Patient

Often, verbs use the agent slot to express a location or time. If the agent slot is missing, an instrumental can sometimes be expressed by filling the slot if the instrumental expresses the cause (e.g.: wind open door instead of wind cause open door).


 For a language with active case marking based on control like Tyl-Sjok, it is important to know what is meant by the terms `agent' and `patient'. The principles are similar to Central Pomo, a North American language. In the following examples, agents will be shown in bold, patients will be shown in italic.

These rules apply for object and subject assignment with verbs and for genitive constructions. This is because these are the same in Tyl-Sjok.

Verbs need not always use the same assignment of agent and patient: the meaning may be different with different usages.

Note that because of these rules, referents of sub-ordinate phrase cannot be marked by word order or case. The reference particle (see Section 8.3) is used for that.

Many words that describe a property can be saturated either by adding an agent or a patient. The meaning shows nuances that are usually not grammatically marked in English or other nominative languages. Usually, the precise translation needs more words. The phenomenon occurs even in very simple sentences:

Compare the following two sentences:

man work REF good
good man work REF
It is good that the man works.
The REF particle was used to exclude `The man's work is good'.

The meaning is different, however. In the second sentence, it is inherently good that a man works which in the first sentence, the being-good is achieved by the work. So more precisely:

man work REF good
`The working of the man makes it (the working of the man) good'.

good man work REF
`That a/the man works, is (always) a good thing.'

Look at the following two examples:

man good speak Tyl Sjok
The man speaks Tyl-Sjok well.

This sentence expresses: the man speaks (maybe currently) by himself and this speaking is good. (To exclude the possibility that the sentence refers to the man currently speaking, auxiliaries may be used: `... can good speak ...' or `... with good speak ...').

good speak Tyl Sjok man
The man speaks Tyl-Sjok well.
`Good Tyl-Sjok-speaking is a property of the man.'

The fact that `man' is patient in this sentence implies: a) it is not referred to the current speaking of the man (since he is no agent, the sentence does not talk about his acting), and b) the man is not in control of speaking well. This could mean that the man comes from a certain area where all people speak Tyl-Sjok well and the sentence refers to properties of his dialect.

Interesting Verbs

For many verbs it is clear what the agent slot is assigned to and what the patient slot. However, some unclear cases exist that have to be clarified.

Static verbs
The default assignment is to assigne patient slot: red car = `The car is red.', shine sun = `The sun shines.'.

However, as shown before, the agent slot is possible to stress a different meaning. In the above example, physicians would probably stress that `The sun shines.' translates sun shine.

Verbs of experience
`Peter loves Mary': the semantic roles are experiencer and patient. Both are assigned a patient slot. The patient saturates first. So this would translate into Tyl-Sjok as love Mary Peter.

Inchoative verbs
Patient slot: `The man dies.' = become dead man.

All inchoative verbs in Tyl-Sjok contain become.

FIXME: check the lexicon..

Resultative verbs
Agent slot to the initiator, patient slot to the patient: `The man is killed.' = do dead man. With an agent: Peter do dead man. = `Peter kills the man.'. There are positive and negative forms for a) stative verbs (le, te), b) inchoative verbs (la, ta), c) resultative verbs (lu, tu).

All resulative verbs in Tyl-Sjok contain turn and all inchoative verbs in Tyl-Sjok contain do.

FIXME: check the lexicon..

Performative verbs
tell, promise, christian, swear
Perlocutive verbs
provoke, convince, humiliate
Illocutive verbs

FIXME: Clarify usage of tertiary verbs: A tell/promise/give B C. Clarify usage of `to agree *about*'..


 There are no auxiliaries, all verbs are full verbs. However, there are particles and certain full verbs that function like auxiliaries in other languages. That's why this section is named like it is.


As usual, if not further specified, the aspect of a sentence has to be concluded from the context. Tyl-Sjok has some mechnisms to change the aspect, however.

FIXME: Urgent (in order to not have a wrecked lexicon): redo this when the terms are clear.


The normal mood of a sentence is indicative. This can be changed by particles.

The following moods are expressed by particles and may modify any part of the sentence.

Energicus is marked with the EMPH particle.

Interrogative mood is marked by question words or the YN particle instead of an auxiliary.

Suppositive is marked with the ASS particle.

All other modalities are marked using auxiliaries. Note that often, auxiliaries are dropped if they mark in inferrable mood. For instance, in the right context, the following is an imperative.

drink tea
Drink tea!

To express strong imperative here, use the auxiliary `want', add the pronoun, use an emphatic particle on the action `drink'. Or do all of that:

want you EMPH drink tea
Will you drink tea!!

(Also compare German: ,Trink das!' - ,Nein!' - ,Du sollst das trinken!'. This uses the same auxiliary (`sollen' = `wollen' in Tyl Sjok due to agent marking))

There is no direct way to express optative mood, thus, an achievable wish. Use `want' or `shall' instead.

FIXME: maybe introduce something.


You can emphasis interrogative mood by adding `to ask (pose a question)' to the phrase.

ask I get-rid body-waste happen-at WHICH
Excuse me, where is the toilet?

It is considered slightly more polite. More politeness can be added by requesting:

The verb `to request' roughly translates to the politeness idiom `please'. And request ask whould be translated with `Excuse me, please'. It is equal to Mandarin's `qing3 wen4 ...'.

May, Must, Shall, Can

realis tex2html_wrap_inline7477 action happens
dt. sollte shall/advise it is advisable to happen
dt. soll/will want someone wants it to happen
dt. muß must/force someone forces it to happen
dt. kann, frz. sait/peut can/enable all prerequisites are fulfilled
dt. kann/darf may/allow there is no law/rule against it
dt. dafür sorgen, daß cause/make make s.o. do s.t.; make/case s.t. (to) happen

Note: the auxiliary `make' is the same word as `cause'.

Again: these are no auxiliaries. These verbs do not modify the sub-ordinate verb! They all have an own agent and patient slot. The agent is the reason or enforcer, the patient is the action.


I want read book
I want to read a book.
Here, `I' is the reason of wanting, and the agent of the sub-ordinate clause `read book' is attached from the matrix clause, so it is `I', too. You can assign this slot differently, of course:

I want you read book
I want you to read a book.

You may also use the patient slot of `want' to express that someone else, who is either specified or not, wants something. This can be translated using `should' or `shall' or the like.

Want I read book
I shall read a book. (not necessarily with optative meaning)
dt: Ich soll ein Buch lesen.
`(Someone) wants that I read a book.'

The interesting thing is that these constructions can be used for the other verbs of this class, too.

force I read book.
I must read a book (by external reason).

I force read book.
I must read a book (by internal reason (addict of reading))
Note that in contrast to English, the patient of `force' has no tendency to not refer to the agent in Tyl-Sjok.

I can read book.
I can read a book (I know how to do it).

enable I read book.
I can read a book (there are no external reasons preventing reading)

And now, for the strange things.

Light enable I read book.
I can read a book since there's enough light.
`The light enables me to read a book.'

Wife force I stay home.
My wife forces me to stay at home.

Existence and Other Copulas

 Not really is there a copula. Instead, a valence 0 word is promoted to valence 1p (with a patient) and used as a predicate.

Usually, the described is in the patient slot, but occasionally, this can be changed to express control of the situation. So promotion of valence 0 to valence 1a is also possible.

The default phrase:

imperator se-sal.
Cesar is imperator. (Inherently, it is his fate, they made him...)

Promotion to valence 1a is seldom:

se-sal imperator.
Cesar is imperator. (By his own will/fault/influence. Made himself...)

In sub-ordinate clauses, this can be used directly:

tu-lu-tus kill imperator se-sal
Brutus kill(s/ed) imperator Cesar.

Some saturated clauses may also be used as predicates.

like monkey Peter
Peter is like to a monkey.

There are ways of clarifying how the construction was done by using additional verbs that compose the sentences without the need of promotion. Often a pseudo copula `to be equal-to' is used.

Furthermore, a second patient can be attached using `with', `to harass', `to please' or `to control (dt. lenken)'. The following sentence shows this, but this sentence is usually considered overloaded with clarification, because that construction neglects the fact that there is promotion.

equal-to imperator please Cesar
Cesar is imperator.

Of course, in rare cases where where it is unclear whether `to have' or `to be' is meant, this construction may be used.


Composed predicates may modify non-saturated governors, too.

Peter like monkey behave
Peter behaves like a monkey.
`Peter does the behaving that is similar to that of monkeys.'

Or with a patient:

like dog stupid Peter
Peter is stupid like a dog.

Some weird examples:

Peter Idiot
`Peter idiots'
Peter is (behaves like) an idiot.

Idiot Peter
`Peter is idioted'
Peter is an idiot. (inherently)


 The following three verbs exist for describing the place or changing the place of something. They are called Location Verbs in the following.

be-at y tex2html_wrap_inline7479
go-to kju tex2html_wrap_inline7397 () also: `come to', `arrive at'
go-from tje () tex2html_wrap_inline7397 also: `come from', `start at'

Some regularities as described in Section 2.9.2 can sometimes be found.

In ancient Tyl-Sjok tje was *tei < *tiu (indicating more clearly `come from') until this diphthong disappeared.

Compare the Mandarin words `zài', `cóng' and `dào'. These are generally analysed as prepositions in Mandarin, but originate from verbs. But please note that in Tyl-Sjok, the structure is different from Mandarin: Mand: `Wo zài túshūguan kàn shū', Tyl-Sjok: `I read book be-at library.', E: `I read a book at the library.' (literally: `My book-reading takes place at the library.'). This is because Tyl-Sjok has no SVC and disallows verbs with two patients.


These verbs' only patient (because it has no control) is a place, the agent (because it had/has/takes control of the place) is a phrase that happens at that place or during/at the end of the change of place. The translation usually is a preposition construction using `at', `from' or `to'. resp.

FIXME: How to translate `to come to' in Tyl-Sjok? Should there be a difference between `come' and `go' in Tyl-Sjok? Currently, there is none. I tend to mix up `lái' and `qù' in Mandarin although the difference is the same as in German, my L1..

I eat be-at sleep.
I eat where I sleep.


 The following three verbs exist for describing time or changing of time. They are called Time Verbs in the following.

happen-when hw tex2html_wrap_inline7479
last-until xja tex2html_wrap_inline7397 ()
start-at sjo () tex2html_wrap_inline7397

Regularities can be found as described in Section 2.9.2. Non-plosives here show the relation to time, not to location.

In ancient Tyl-Sjok, xja was *xoe until that diphthong disappeared.


These verbs' single patient (because it has no control) is a moment (or a perfective, durative, momentary or commencing action), the agent (because it had/has/takes control of the time) is a phrase that happens at, before or after this moment (or durative action). The translation usually is a prepositional construction: `when', `at', `while', `before' or `after', resp.

Note that both moments and actions can be used.

I not eat happen-when sleep.
I don't eat when I sleep.

Note: Location verbs are used before time verbs if they occur in the same sentence. In this case, the location may be left out if it is equal to the time. E.g.

crash car happend-at happend-when I cross street.
The car crash happend when and where I crossed the street.

The construction is occationally used. Especially in the construction happen-at happen-when I or the like: `here and now'.


 To denote parts of a bigger section in either location or time, there are special nouns in Tyl-Sjok whose agent slot (the owner/controller) is further described. For sub-positioning, Tyl-Sjok does not distinguish location and time since the Location and Time Verbs disambiguate this in all cases.

inner, inside
outer, outside
front, in front of, start, before sin
back, behind, end, after xan
over, above, surface
under, underneath
right side

Man go-to house inside
The man enters the house.

Note that the sub-positioning is underspecified with respect to the closeness (although the term `sub-positioning' suggests that it is still part of the whole). So attachment and detachment are possible interpretations.

Sign be-at house front.
The sign is at the house (mounted to the front).
The sign is in front of the house (but not attached).

I read book happen-at dinner end
After dinner I (will) read a book.
At the end of the dinner I (will) read a book.

To further specify the difference, Re-Position Verbs may be used.


 In order to do re-location in location and time, there is a special class of verbs that have only a patient which is being re-positioned.


If it is clear whether the attaching position or the separated position is meant, these verbs may be left out.

The Subposition Verbs may be used to further specifiy the exact location.

Book be-at away I front
The book is in front of me.

Or shorter:

Book be-at I front
The book is in front of me.

Sign be-at exactly house front.
The sign is at the house (mounted to the front of the house).

Sign be-at away house front.
The sign is in front of the house.

I read book happen-at exactly dinner end
At the end of the dinner I (will) read a book.

I read book happen-at away dinner end
After dinner I (will) read a book.

I read book happen-at near away dinner end
(Shortly, remotely, but not immediately) after dinner I (will) read a book.


 Verbs describing movement have developed in such a way that a series of verbs is used to describe the precise movement. The structure is very similar to Mandarin Chinese. The basis are the time and location verbs which specify where and when the action takes place. The default way of specifying movements is by location verbs alone. Adding main verbs further specifies the precise way of movement.

The movement is specified by embedding the clause so far using the following verbs in that order:

(normal), fast, slow, ...
(self initiation), push, pull, throw, kick, ...
crouch, roll, fall, raise, fly...
Point of View
come, go, ...
leave, return, ...

FIXME: Think about this thoroughly..

Verbs like `enter' or `exit' are rather expressed by using sub- and re-positioning (e.g. lit. `arrive at the inner of the room').

Instruments are added by the instrumental verbs `to use/with' (this makes verbs like `to walk', `to drive', ...).

Purposes are added by using the purpose verb `for' (e.g. to add `to attack', `to get', `to give').

Verbs are saturated before used in the sequence (get, give, ...).

It is important to see that embedding defines the order of the verbs. E.g. Peter fast come arrive-at train station (`Peter' is agent of `come') but come Peter push ball arrive-at child. (`ball' is patient of `come'). However, the embedding place is usually changed in order to keep the verbs in a row and embedding levels low. So the previous sentence would preferably be rendered as Peter push come ball arrive-at child.

A sentence like Bond fast push roll come return bomb for defence happend-when I(=now) arrive-at Dr. No. feet in-front. is totally grammatical, but usually considered heavily overspecified.

In contrast to Mandarin, there cannot be a timely order. Words like `na2 lai2' (E: `to bring') cannot be formed like this. They are translated by using a purpose: come for give instead of the Mandarin construction *take come. The reason for this difference is that Tyl-Sjok does not compose words in this sequence, but rather uses embedding to describe the movement.

Other types of movement (may) have a different order than in Mandarin (e.g. `hui2 lai2'), because Mandarin uses modification as a word order criterion, while Tyl Sjok uses control.

To Have

  The verb `to have' is rendered with the help of the verb with, harass, please or control depending on whether the experiencer is in control or not. Often, none of the verbs is used, because word order makes control information clear enough. They may be used for stylistic variations.

I with book
I have a book

I with wife.
I have a wife.

`with' can be used if the experiencer is in control, and also if not. If control is asserted, a possession is implied by this verb.

Another possibility to stress unwantedness is to use `harass':

virus harass I
I have flue.

The verb `harass' is always used when a second patient slot would be necessary, but is not available. For example, usually, you would say

I love you
I love you.

But to stress that it controls you totally, you would say:

love you harass I
I love you (I am totally incapable of controlling it).
`Love to you harasses me.'

The verbs with will often be referred to by using to have since `with' might be confused with instrumental usage.

As mentioned, these verbs may be left out.

I move have car you.
I move car you.
I drive your car.
*`I drive you being a car.' is quite infeasible.

The following paragraph will explain that in that sentence, you may even leave out the `move' in formal language:

I car you
I drive your car.

like monkey harass Peter
like monkey Peter
Peter is like a monkey.

Default Verbs

  In Tyl-Sjok, verbs that describe the expected thing to do with an entity can be left out. It may depend on the context what is meant. Some examples:

sun to shine
money as patient: to have
car as patient: to have
car as agent: to drive
meal as agent: to eat

It is usually considered poetic style to totally drop a default verb. In normal language, the word `to do' is used instead of the default verb.

I move car
I do car
I car
I drive a car

Also note that Tyl-Sjok has a vocabulary, where verbs are more likely to be there than nouns. E.g., there is no atomic word for `reason' but only for `cause'. Also, `meal' does not exist. Only `to eat'. Other forms are often created by using the NULL particle.

Constructing Verbs

Tyl-Sjok has a lot of verb makers and modifiers. The language seems to have derived from states and things only. So actions and changes can be formed from states or things. For this, Tyl-Sjok has positive and negative forms of verbs modifiers:

positive negative Example
normal le te le tulu = to really be boilingly hot
durative lw tw lw tulu = to boil
inchoative la ta la tulu = to become boiling
resultative lu tu lu tulu = to (make) boil = to cook

Many verbs are formed using these verbs. The negative forms negate the state, not the action, so ta tulu means `to become not boiling'. So it makes sense to say te ta tulu: `not to become not boiling'. Many words using tu or ta use the prefix `de-' in English (or `ent-' in German).

FIXME: THINK: Possibly add another one for `iterative' aspect (dt: streichen tex2html_wrap_inline7397 streicheln). Or others..

up contents
Home Up: Tyl-Sjok--An Artificial Isolating Human Previous: Alternative Approach to Syntax Next: Adjectives

Henrik Theiling
Sat Jun 9 18:52:24 CEST 2001