Qþyn|gài: A Polysynthetic Language (S7)

Pre-Word Categories


Roots have the structure C–(CV)*C–, i.e., they begin with a consonant, called the class consonant, followed by a gap for a vowel, followed by a possibly empty sequence of consonant-vowel pairs, followed by a consonant, followed by another gap for a vowel.

The first open vowel is the case/valence slot. This vowel is inserted during phrase composition.

The last open vowel is the derivational slot. This vowel is used to derive stems from the root word. The stems are related in some (unpredictable) semantical way with the meaning with the root. Root meanings are quite vague. Stems have to be lexicalised, too.

Examples of Roots

Qþyn|gài root something vaguely related to
sn| person, human, sentient
snǂg small, furry animal
nng perception, feeling
nr experience, involvement


Stems are roots extended with a derivational vowel. Their meaning can be taken from the lexicon.

The valence slot that is inserted to make a head from a stem may change the semantics of a predicate in a fine-grained way.

Examples of Stems

Qþyn|gài stem meaning
sn|au person, man, woman, human, sentient being
xsty I, we, 1st. person. pronoun
snǂgỳ dog
nngí listening, to listen to, watching, to watch
nngùi with a patient: happen to experience, to witness
nrùi with a patient: to experience
nngùi with an agent: be sentient (state), to think (durative)


Cores are stripped stems, which lack the classifier consonant.

Cores are prefixed for for tense, aspect, mood, evidence, inclination modification.

Cores are suffixed for derivation (this is due the overall head-first structure). Therefore, stems+suffixed_cores are often lexicalised compounds.

The meaning of the stem is usually generalised when only the core is used. Therefore, core meanings sometimes also occur in the lexicon.

State/Event Changing Particles

As a special kind of particles, same cores act as state/event changing particles. These can change a state ('to be red') into an event ('to become red' or 'to make red').

Among these state/event changing particles are some that correspond to the only stems in the language that describe events themselves. The vast majority of substantives in Qþyn|gài are states. Entities (e.g. 'a cat') are taken to be states. There is no syntactical difference between 'to be a cat' and 'a cat' in Qþyn|gài.


Valence Infixes

Valence affixes are the only particles that do not correspond directly to lexicalised entities like cores, stems or compounds. They either simply vowels or a vowel plus an additional prefixed core.

Adjunct/Case Infixes

Adjunct/case affixes are degenerated cores that only consist of the core's vowel. A core becomes a grammatical particle that changes the case of the word it is attached to and thereby the way that word modifies the following phrase.

Mood/Evidence Prefixes

Mood/evidence affixes are degenerated cores that only consist of the core's consonant. A core becomes a gramatical particle that changes the mood and in the case of a propositional clause, the evidential state of the clause.

October 28th, 2007
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