Qþyn|gài: A Polysynthetic Language (S7)


Qþyn|gài is a constructed human language. It is highly agglutinative and polysynthetic.

The essay about Qþyn|gài is programmed entirely in Lisp. All text, markup and language examples and lexicon are originally in Lisp. To give you a taste of how Qþyn|gài is composed, look at this:



        (CASE PAT)
            (HEAD :DOG "")))
        (CASE AGT)
            (HEAD :PERSON ""))))
A/The person watches a/the dog (so they say)


Qþyn|gài is an artificial human language with the following properties:

  • a-priori: not derived from any other language
  • totally regular
  • only one open lexical class, called full words or substantives
  • fluid-S active case system
  • primarily head-first morphology
  • primarily head-last syntax
  • primarily head-marking
  • VOS word order (=~ predicate, patient, agent)
  • agglutinating
  • polysynthetic: substantives can be incorporated into predicates
  • underspecified by default
  • extremely precise on demand
  • mandatory categories: case, valence and evidence
  • optional categories: mood, aspect, tense, inclination, ...
  • optionally, coarse or fine-grained or vague degree modifiers may be applied to almost every other category.
  • pro-drop: arguments of predicates (mainly pronouns) may be dropped.

Claiming that Qþyn|gài has only one open lexical class is only half the truth: some of the substantives exist in a reduced form, a core. The core form generalises the meaning, so cores could be counted as a second open lexical class, although they are directly related to substantives.

Further, some cores can be reduced to affixes. The connection between cores and affixes is obvious, however, not all cores can be reduced to affixes. It is not investigated so far whether affixes are an open class.


  • Beauty
  • Neutrality
  • Good signal-to-noise ratio for speaking
  • Regularity


  • Only valence and degree infixes are grammar-only and thus not found in the lexicon but in the grammar description.
  • This seems to become the first language I create that I like the sound of. :-)

Basics Principles

This is a very brief overview of Qþyn|gàis structure.

  • Every word contains a classifier that is taken from the lexicon entry for the main stem used to form the word.
  • Every word in a sentence carries a case infix.
  • There are three morphosyntactic ways to express relations:
    derivation: (head + suffixed stem)
    saturation: (head + agent/patient)
    modification: (head + adjunct)
  • There are two types of words in a sentence: heads of complex (=multiple word) clauses, which carry evidence and valence markers, and words that form a clause for their own, which do not carry evidence and valence markers.
  • The order of morphemes in words without evidence and valence markers is as follows:

    classifier case main (derivation)
    consonant vowel stem stems
  • The order of morphemes in words with evidence markers is as follows:

    evidence case classifier valence main (derivation) (patient) (agent)
    consonant vowel consonant vowel stem stems stems stems

    The evidence markers may be replaced with mood markers. Evidence/mood is treated as one category in Qþyn|gài.

    Agent and patient may themselves be derived words, so each is a sequence of stems.

  • The order of words in a clause is as follows:

    (adjuncts) head (patient) (agent) (adjuncts)
    (clauses) word (clause) (clause) (clauses)

    The head is marked if there are adjuncts following it.

Morphosyntax in a Nutshell


Roots have the following structure:

{C1 -- C2 --}

classifier consonant
second consonant ('true root consonant')
gaps for vowels
word boundaries

(But Qþyn|gài is not a Semitic conlang.)

Example: sn| ~ 'person'

Complex roots with additional syllables exist, but will be neglected for simplicity here in the introduction. They will be dealt with in the main grammar description.

The first consonant C1 is a classifier. It is only used on the head (the first component) of word consiting of several stems (a derived word). The classifier very vaguely give a hint about the meaning.

Roots have vague meanings. They are the basis for the main lexicon entries: stems.


Inserting a vowel after the C2 consonant of a root gives you a stem:

{C1 -- C2 V}

Example: sn|au ~ 'person'

This is a lexicon entry. Stems are semantically related to the base root; the vowel makes a more precise meaning.

There is only one class of words in Qþyn|gài -- all stems behave alike.

Derivation by Composition

Multiple stems can be composed. This kind of composition is always derivational in Qþyn|gài, i.e., the process is totally regular. There are no ad-hoc composites in the language. In a derived word, the class consonant is lost for all but the first component, the head of the derived word:

Derivation of two stems {C1a -- C2a Va} + {C1b -- C2b Vb}
yields {C1a -- C2a Va C2b Vb}

Derivation is usually head-first (but not strictly).

Example: 'snowman' ~

{<classifier 'person'> GAP 'person' 'snow'}.

Qþyn|gài: sn|auhàu ~ 'snowman'

During derivation, the meaning of the second part is often generalised. Therefore, many derived word are also lexicon entries. However, new derived words can be regularly generated freely by this mechanism. The lexicon often gives the meaning of a second stem when used in a derivation.

Note, however, that some derivational suffixes like -'person' are really the head of the whole word. The lexicon will give an explanation of how the derivation works.

The part of a stem without the classifier consonant will be called core: it is an item that is derived from a stem, but cannot be used independently.


To make a word complete, the GAP has to be filled. There are two possibilities:

  1. You want a predicate: add a valence vowel
  2. You don't: add a case vowel

In case of 1), the added valence vowel defines the argument structure of the predicate. Qþyn|gài marks semantical and syntactical valence here (due to this, a simple vowel is often not enough, but we'll neglect this for now).

Example: you want to add a patient (e.g. 'Joe') to the above word. For the predicate, you'd get:

{GAPe GAP <'person'> <'pat' valence> 'person' 'snow'}

Qþyn|gài: sán|auhàu ~ 'to be an ex-snowman'

There are two new gaps now at the beginning of the word. The second one is the same as before: for another valence or case vowel. Only you cannot add two valence vowel, so this must be a case vowel now.

Every words needs to carry a case vowel in Qþyn|gài, even predicates.

The first gap shown as GAPe is for an evidential or mood infix.

Every predicate carries an evidential/mood affix.


To the above phrase, we'll add an evidential for perception.

We get:

{<perceive> GAP 'was' <'person'> <'pat'> 'person' 'snow'}

This is no sentence: case and the patient are both still missing for a complete sentence:

Core Case

If a phrase is non-modifying, it is assigned the predicative case. There is only one core case, since the agent/patient function is marked by the valence already.

Agentive/patientive case is marked on the head in the valence infix.

Predicative case (PRD) marks main clause predicates and non-modifying dependents. The above phrase as main clause:

{<perceive> <PRD> 'was' <'person'> <valence> 'person' 'snow'}

~ '(to perceive that) X is an ex-snowman/was a snowman'

The patient 'Joe' is still missing. We must make a stem from a name. Qþyn|gài does it like this:

{<classifier for 'unique'> GAP "Joe" 'name'}

("Joe" will probably be /tsu/ in Qþyn|gài)Joe will be the patient of a clause and it will not modify anything. This it will carry predicative case, too. We get:

{<'unique'> <PRD> "Joe" 'name'}

Now we can compose a complete sentence:

{<perceive> <PRD> 'was' <'person'> <'pat'> 'person' 'snow'} {<'unique'> <PRD> "Joe" 'name'}.

= '(I see/It can be seen:) Joe is an ex-snowman./was a snowman'.


A different valence infix can be selected to mark that the patient is incorporated into the predicate. Let's call this valence 'pat*'. Then we get:

{<perceive> <PRD> 'was' <'person'> <'pat*'> 'person' 'snow' "Joe" 'name'}.

This is 'Joe was a snowman.' in one word.

Only words in predicative case can be incorporated. Together with their case infix they will drop their classifier.

Other cases

Clauses may be modified by other clauses. For this, the clause is assigned a different case than predicative. The modifier precedes the modified.

May 16th, 2011
Comments? Suggestions? Corrections? You can drop me a line.