The Minhast Language Page

Minhastim Kirimtirmaht

Welcome to Minhay

Matti kattum min technical min ussupmia nessuksapki.  Tannup wannaherkakunīmannenuš.  Bīlatanmā ayuemmahan.    ("We are currently experiencing a few technical problems on this webpage.  We hope to resolve this as soon as possible.  Thank you for your patience.")

Introduction

Minhast (Minhast min kirim lit. "Minhast-speak), the national language of Minhai, is spoken by nearly 59 million people. Approximately 1 million speakers live in expatriate communities throughout the globe, with the largest concentrations residing in the U.S., Xayda, Mexico, the Middle East, Kallaxwān and Canada. Significant numbers also exist in Southeast Asia and Norhern Europe. Suyampamit ("Sentinel Stone"), Attum Attar Prefecture Added by AnyarMinhast is divided into two major dialects. Upper Minhast, which is centered in the highlands of Kilmay Rī, Ešked (Ekšed), and Attum Attar; the northeastern coastal prefectures of Iskamharat and Perim-Sin; and the National Capital Region, consisting of Āš-min-Gāl, Ankussūr, Huruk, Nammadīn, and Kered. Lower Minhast is spoken mainly in the southeastern coastal prefectures of Neskud, Yaxparim, Senzil, and Rēgum. The two dialects differ chiefly in phonetics and the lexicon, with Lower Minhast containing some Spanish loanwords absorbed during the Colonial Occupation ("Ayawaškum min Karkaraktimaħt"). Otherwise, the two dialects are mutually intelligible. Nevertheless, it is Upper Minhast that is the standardized form of the language, used in government, commerce, and the media. A now extinct dialect, known as Šarmakandast, had an even larger number of Spanish loandwords, and certain changes to certain elements of its grammar, namely its numeric system, were significantly influenced by the colonialists during this time. Šarmakandast died out during the early 1970's, supplanted mostly by Upper Minhast speakers.

Additionally, the two dialects are divided into several smaller dialects. The major subdialects of Upper Minhast include the Salmon Speakers of the "Gaššarat" (Northeastern Coast), the Dog Speakers of the "Hisašarum" (Northeaster Plains), the Horse Speakers of the "Gannasia" (Middle Plains), and the Knife Speakers (Plateau Prefecture). Lower Minhast consists of the Gull Speakers (Senzil and Rēgum Prefectures), the Osprey Speakers (Kings' Bay), and the Stone Speakers of the southernmost prefectures (Neskud and Yaxparim).

Minhast possesses a complex grammar, demonstrated in particular by the elaborate polysynthetic morphology of its verbal system. The Minhast verb inflects not only for tense and aspect, but can inflect to indicate mood, modality, causation, potentiality, intensity, and other functions. The verb also possesses a well-developed set of pronominal affixes used to cross-reference the core arguments of a clause. These affixes indicate both gender and number of the nouns they cross-reference, an essential function as Minhast nouns themselves do not have any markings to indicate these two classifications. Additionally, the verb can carry out three other operations, that of noun incorporation, antipassivation, and applicative formation, used by speakers for discourse purposes such as backgrounding previously established information and for changing the argument structure of the phrase for the purposes of focusing on a particular argument, ensuring that priviledged noun phrases retain their core status, or to employ rhetorical devices. This polysynthetic characteristic can lead to very long verbs that can express an entire sentence. To demonstrate, the English phrase, "You did not even try to get them to reconsider the matter with this evidence" requires only three words in Minhast: "Keman yattah, tašnišpipsaryentinasummatittaharu", meaning literally "To them the evidence, not-try-cause-return-look.at-yet-matter-with-it.you-did." The verb "tašnišpipsaryentinasummatittaharu", which is an individual sentence in its own right, can be parsed to its individual morphemes, yielding "ta-šn-šp-b-sar-yenti-nasum-mat-tittah-ar-u" (neg.-conative-causative-resumptive-look.at-yet- matter-instr.applicative-3rd.inanim.sg.patient/2nd.sg.agent-past-transitive)

Minhast is classified as an ergative language, where an agent of a transitive clause receives one type of case marking, while patients of a transitive sentence and subjects of intransitive clauses are grouped together under a single case. This is in contrast to an accusative language like Latin, which groups agents and subjects together under a single case (e.g. -us in mund-us "world"), and patients are grouped separately under a different case (e.g. -o ). For Minhast, agents are marked with the ergative clitic =de (e.g. nassa-de "brother"), while subjects and patients receive null marking (i.e. nassa--Ř).

Word order is SOV. In simple sentence, this word order is free, although the verb rarely deviates from its clause-final position. Deviation from the unmarked SOV word order is used for discourse purposes; an argument that is to be focused is fronted to the head of the clause. For compound and complex sentences, the verb is obligatorily fixed in clause-final position, but the other arguments of the clause, core, oblique, and sentential complements, still display free word order.

Consonants
Voiced Unvoiced
Labials b,m p,f
Dentals d,n t
Velars g, () k,x
Liquids l,r ----
Sibilants z,(ž) s,
Palatals (t) ----
Laryngeals ---- h
Pharyngeals ---- ( ħ)
Glottal ' ----
Glides y, w ----


Vowels
Short Long Devoiced
a ā (ạ)
e ē (ẹ)
i ī (ị)
u ū (ụ)


Syllabic Structure and Phonemic Interactions

Minhast words are subject to complex morphophonemic changes resulting from interactions with other morphemes occurring in the word. The verb is particularly complex in the various sound changes that may occur as a result of noun incorporation as well as the aggluginative processes involved in conjugation or other inflectional processes. These phonemic changes can be broken down according to the following classifications:


  • Assimilation
  • Metathesis
  • Syncope
  • Epenthesis
  • Voicing/Devoicing


These complex morphophonemic interactions operate according to the general phonological principals outlined below:

  1. No syllable can have a consonant cluster of more than two consonants. Syncope can be applied only if a biconsonantal cluster is formed, and the vowel is not a part of a heavy syllable (i.e. the vowel is long, or it occurs in a VCC sequence).
  2. No Minhast word can have an initial consonant cluster. After any initial consonant cluster results from one or more of the possible morphophonemic alternations described below, an epenthetic is automatically appended to the head of the word to form the permissible iCC- pattern.
  3. An epenthetic vowel is always inserted between two syllables if combining the syllables results in a triconsonantal cluster. The default epenthetic vowel is , but the other 3 vowels may also be used, depending on multiple factors (e.g. vowel harmony, an underlying quiescent initial vowel as part of the attached morpheme, etc.)
  4. Minhast has a strong tendency to form intermedial clusters, either or , providing that Rules #1-#3 are observed. If necessary, an epenthetic vowel may be added before or after the syllable to create these syllabic patterns, e.g. e.g. kanut-maris-kar- >> -kant-(u)-maris-kar
  5. The tendency to form intermedial consonant clusters creates complex assimilation interactions that nevertheless are predictable and almost always regular. These interactions are illustrated in Table X below:


    Final Consonant
    Initial Consonant f p b k x g t d s š z l r m n h w y
    f ff pp pp fk fx fk ft ft fs f fs fl fr fm fn f fw fy
    p pp pp pp pk xp pk pt pt ps p ps pl pr pm pn p pw py
    b pp pp bb pk xp mg pt mb ps p ps bl br mb mb p bw by
    k kf kp kp kk kk kk kt kt ks k ks kl kr km kn k kw ky
    x xf xp xp kk x gg xt xt ss šš ss xl x xm xn x xw xy
    g kf kp gb kk k gg kt gd ks k zg lg gr gm gn k gw gy
    t ft pt pt kt xt kt tt tt st t st tt rt mt nt t wt šš
    d ft pt bb kt xt gd tt dd st t zd ld rd mb nd t dw d
    s sp sp sp sk xs sk st st ss šš ss sl ss sm sn s sw š
    š p p p k šš k t t ss šš ss l šš m n ħš ww š
    z sp sp zb sk ss zg st zd ss šš zz zl zz zm zn s zw ž
    l lf pp lb kk xl lg tt ld sl l zl ll rr mm nn l lw yy
    r rf rp rb rk x rg rt rd, dd ss šš zz ll nn rm nn rh, r ww yy
    m mf mp mb k xn mg mt md ns n nz ml mr mm nn mh ww my
    n mf mp mb k xn g nt nd ss šš nz ll rr mm nn nh nw ny,yy
    h f p p k x k t t s ħš s l r m n h w y
  6. Vowels are classified according to a "weak-strong" gradient, where the "strong" vowels are more resistant to syncope than neighboring "weak(er)" vowels. All long vowels are by definition "strong", so the weak-strong gradient really applies to short vowels:
    Table X: Vowel Gradients In Order of Increasing Strength
  7. The shape of a -CVCVC- syllable may contract either to a -CCVC- or -CVCC- pattern, depending on the strength gradients of the vowels with respect to one another. The -CaCaC- syllable pattern is the only one that does not contract. Syllables consisting of the same vowels may appear in either -CCVC- or -CVCC- patterns; the pattern they resolve to is influenced by interactions from surrounding syllables. These contractions are summarized in Table X:
    Table X: CVCVC Vowel Gradient-Based Contractions
    Initial Pattern Final Contraction
    -CaCaC- (no change)
    -CaCuC-, -CaCeC-, -CaCiC- -CaCC-
    -CuCaC-, -CeCaC-, -CiCaC-, -CCaC-
    -CuCuC-, -CuCeC-, -CuCiC- -CuCC-
    -CuCuC-, CeCuC-, -CiCuC- -CCuC-
    -CeCeC-, -CeCiC- -CeCC-
    -CeCeC-, -CiCeC- -CCeC-
    -CiCiC- -CCiC-, -CiCC-
  8. A verb root or an incorporated noun tends to lose one or more vowels to form at least one biconsonant cluster. The vowel that is lost depends on its strength gradient in relation to the noun of the neighboring syllable.
  9. With the exception of pattern -CaCa-, when two adjoining syllables have vowels within the same gradient, vocalic syncope resolves to CVCC.
  10. The pattern (C)VVCC always resolves to (C)VCC
  11. Compared to nominal and verbal roots, inflectional morphemes (e.g. theme, aspect, tense, person, etc) are resistant to syncope because this may lead to the inflectional morpheme to be changed beyond recognition. For example,-šp-irak- he informed (him) (lit. "he caused him to know") does not resolve to -šip-rak-, even though this would prevent the impermissible CCV pattern from occurring. Instead, an epenthetic vowel is added before the causative affix to prevent this impermissible consonant cluster from occurring.
  12. Although inflectional morphemes do not experience syncope, they still may experience phonological changes in the form of metathesis and devoicing.
  13. Vowel devoicing occurs in CVħC, CVxC, CVsC, or CVC syllables, where C is any of the unvoiced consonants listed in Table X.
  14. Two consecutive syllables with the pattern CVCVC resolves to CVCCVC, due to the difficulty of pronouncing the allophone in two consecutive closed syllables. Additionally, the vowel in the previous syllable may be devoiced if its adjacent consonants are voiceless, as in Example A, where the verb root vowel -a- which occurs the voiceless consonants -k- and -h- devoices to -ạ-. Note also the epenthetic vowel -i- appearing before the verb root and the 1st person incl. pl. affix ,-ħk- e.g.:
    • naħtikemkaraban >> *naħtiħkemaraban >> *naħt-hkem-ar-ab-an "We were (being) annoying" (lit.: annoying-we.and.you-[past]-[ imperf.]-[intrans])
    • nekạħtikemaraban >> *nekạħtịħkemaraban >> *nekạħt-ħkem-ar-ab-an "I was avoiding..."
  15. Dissimilation occurs in CVC-patterns involving š-Vš, resolving to s-Vš. A prime example is the number "twenty", e.g.*šan-šentāz >> *san-šentāz > > saššentāz
  16. Dissimilation occurs in CVC-patterns involving mVm, resolving to nVm.

Particles

Existentials

Form

Basic

Past Tense

Immediate Future

Future

Positive

matti min, mattim

mattarim

mattanem

massatum

Negative

hambin

hambarin

hambanem

hambatine


The core argument in the existential clause must be in the Absolutive.

Examples:
"Matti min redad."
"Hambin redad."

When an existential clause is joined to a following clause, the preposed "wa-" structure is used to join the two clauses, e.g: Hambin redad, wattaharan hurkampimampaš, sillu ("Hambin redad, wa=taharan hurk-0-an-pi-pamp=š, sillu") = "There is no man (here) who wants to harm you." The correferent NP of the clause following the existential clause must also be Absolutive.

Deictics

Type Basic Form Preposed "wa=" Form
Proximal sappu wassappu
Medio-Proximal naš wannaši
Distal waššia wassaše
Invisible hūrit wahūrit

Modals


Neutral

Dubitative

Comments

Independent

Verbal Clitic

Independent

Verbal Clitic


Hearsay

(wak)kaš

=(n)niš

(wat)tassumš

=(š)šix

it is said

Scriptive

(was)suriš

=ssumš

(wat)tupiš

'=supnimaš

it is written

Conjectural

(wan)nay

=sippaš

(wayy)utaš

=taš

perhaps

Exclamatory

ayye

ayye

“You don't say! Really!”


Noun Morphology

Overview

Gender and Number

Minhast nouns, unlike the nouns of many Indo-European languages, are not marked with affixes to indicate gender. Nevertheless the Minhast noun does have an inherent semantic gender, which is marked by the cross-reference affixes of the verb, or in possessive constructions by the cross-reference affixes of the possessum. The cross-reference affixes roughly correspond to the noun's physical gender: nouns that are semantically masculine (men, male animals) are marked with the corresponding affixes, and semantically female nouns(women, female animals) are marked with feminine cross-reference affixes. The same goes for the neuter animate and neuter inanimates. However, there are many exceptions to this rule; for example, "human infants" (harlia) are marked with neuter inanimate affixes, "trees" (kayyun) with masculine animate affixes, household implements, e.g. "broom" (yisk) like as feminine, and many abstract nouns, e.g. "the state of mind one attains when listening to the sound of the wind, or moving bodies of water (excluding the ocean)" (yurpahpa) as feminine. Therefore, gender is a lexical feature of the noun and must be learned along with the noun itself.


A similar situation arises with number: some nouns are inherently plural and take plural markings, and others are singular. This too must be memorized on an individual basis. Collective nouns are generally plural, but some inconsistencies occur, e.g. "duxtim šuppaz min ikyetkennit kalkilaban" >> ** duxt min šuppaz min ikyet=kenn-t kalk-l-ab-an "three geese [masc/common pl.]-flocks [fem. sg.] are flying to the south." Here, the possessive affix -kenn- marks the masculine/common plural šuppaz "geese" and the verbal cross-reference -l- mark the collective noun ikyet "flocks" as feminine singular.


Abstract nouns are generally singular neuter inanimates, although other abstract nouns also occur with discordant gender and number, e.g. "irriyaskipakenkit" ** >> irriyask=pa=kenk-t "My knowledge [masc. pl.]"


Case

Nouns are divided into two classes, weak and strong stems. Weak stems are nouns that end in the glides -ua, -ia, and -ea. In contrast, strong stem nouns are those that end in either a consonant or a short or long vowel, i.e patterns -CV and -CVV.


There are three cases in the Minhast noun: the Absolutive, Ergative, and Oblique. The Absolutive case is used for the patient of a transitive sentence, or for the subject of an intransitive sentence. It is also used as a citational or vocative case. Nouns in the Absolutive case are null-marked Ř; no affixes or clitics are added to the noun stem to mark the Absolutive case. The class a noun belongs to affects the shape of the stem when case clitics are added. Weak nouns drop the final -a of the glide, and the remaining vowel receives compensatory lengthening when case clitics are added. The case forms, specified for the two noun classes, are summarized in the table below:


Nominal Declension for Strong and Weak Noun Stems
Case Strong Noun Weak Noun
Absolutive gal marua yarea simmia
Ergative gal=de marū=de yarē=de simmī=de
Oblique gal= marū= yarē= simmī=
Stative gal= marū= yarē= simmī=
Meaning horse star young girl night


The Ergative suffix =de has several allophones. These allophones are phonetically conditioned for the most part according to the rules described in Section X, but in the last row of the table the clitic takes a different form from the expected *=dde and *=tte


Ergative Clitic -de- and Allophones
Preceding Phoneme Erg. Enclitic Form
(V)V, g, z, l, r, n =de
f, p, k, x, s, š, ħ, =te
m =be
d, t =e



Postpositional clitics are attached to the Oblique case, which marks non-core arguments. These clitics indicate spatial and directional relations between and among the primary and secondary participants in the clause. The most common postpositional clitics are listed in Table X:



Common Postpositional Affixes
Case Postposition
Dative -(a)ran
Benefactive -niħ
Ablative -yār
Locative -kī
Instrumental -pār
Commitative -kān
Malefactive -daħ

Personal Pronouns

The personal pronouns make three-way distinctions in syntactic role (ergative, absolutive, oblique), gender (masculine, feminine, neuter), and a two-way distinction in number (singular, plural), and animacy (animate, inanimate). The personal pronouns are represented in five different forms: as independant roots used primarily for discourse functions, such as emphasis or disambiguation; as bound roots representing oblique arguments; as stative clitics attached to noun phrases; as verbal affixes performing coreferencing functions of noun phrase arguments; and as nominal affixes bound to head nouns in possessive constructs.


The Minhast independent personal pronouns are divided into ergative and absolutive forms, both of which are irregularly inflected. Unlike English, the independent pronouns are infrequently used. When they appear in a clause, they serve to emphasize their coreferents or clarify the syntactic roles or attributes of the core arguments, such as gender or number. Otherwise, their use is completely optional.


In addition to the independent ergative and absolutive personal pronouns, there is a set of bound personal pronominal roots to represent oblique arguments. Because they are bound roots, they must appear with postpositional affixes or other suffixes.


The pronouns also occur as stative clitics, which are attached to noun phrases. These clitics are similar in form to the pronominal affixes of the intransitive verb. As Minhast does not have a verb equivalent of "to be", the stative pronominal clitics' primary function is to form equational sentence-type structures, e.g. Nēyūnek,I am Nēyūn",Minhastitạħ, "You are Minhast", sattēk, "Here I am", etc.




Table of Personal Pronominal Forms
Independant Forms Bound Forms
Person - Number - Gender Ergative Absolutive Oblique Stative
1st Sg. yakte yak yak- -ek
2nd Sg. tahte taħ tah-,taħ- -taħ
3rd Masculine - Common Sg. kūde kua kū- -na
3rd Feminine Sg. lēde- lea lē-, ley- -lea
3rd Neuter Animate Sg. šemet šea šē-, šey- -šea
3rd Neuter Inanimate Sg. mēde mea mē-,mey- -mea
1st Plural Inclusive hakemt(e) hak hak- -hakkem
1st Pl Exclusive nemt(e) nem nem- -nem
2nd Pl. taħtemt(e) taħtem -taħtem -taħtem-
3rd Masc./Common Pl kemt(e) kem kem- -kem
3rd Fem. Pl. wext(e) wexī, weššī wex- (n/a)
3rd Neut. Anim. Pl. sešt(e) seš sešš(i)- -sseš
3rd Neut. Inanim Pl. maht(e) maħ mah-, maħ- -maħ



The pronominal verbal affixes are divided into two groups. One group is a set of portmenteau pronominal affixes coreferencing the ergative and absolutive arguments of the transitive clause. The other group contains pronominal markers coreferencing the absolutive argument of the intransitive clause. Because of their role in verbal morphology, the pronominal verbal affixes will be dealt in Chapter X, Section X "Verbal Pronominal Affixes".


The final group of morphemes representing personal pronouns are the possessive pronominal suffixes. They are identical in form to the portmenteau pronominal affixes in the transitive verb, but here the agent and patient segments of the possessive suffixes are used for different purposes. The agent segment of the possessive pronominal suffix coreferences the possesser, while the patient segment coreferences the possessum. Like the portmenteau affixes in the verb, the portmenteau possessive pronominal suffixes mark gender, number, and animacy, important functions that are exploited in Minhast to disambiguate the attributes of the possessor and possessum nouns as described in Chapter X, Section X "Possession". The possessive pronominal suffixes, without any additional affixes, by themselves represent absolutive arguments. They can take postpositional suffixes to mark them for oblique status, or they can take an ergative clitic to mark it as the agent of a transitive clause, e.g. absolutive Aħyan-min-gelīšet vs. ergative Aħyan-min-gelīšet=e, "...Aħyan's horse". The full paradigm of the possessive pronominal suffixes, as they have the same form as the transitive portmenteau pronominal affixes, can be referenced to in Table X of Chapter X, "Verbal Pronominal Affixes".


The Stative

A feature of the Minhast noun, absent in Indo-European nouns, is it can take verb-like inflection, taking markers identical to the tense and aspect affixes of the verb. This form of the noun is called the Stative. The Stative is often used to emphasize that the noun in question exists in a particular point in time, not present at the moment of the speech event. More importantly, these affixes function in place of the copula: Minhast has no verb "to be" and instead uses two nouns in apposition, e.g. "Dirruk Anyar" for "Anyar is a young man". To say "Anyar was a young man", the word "dirruk must receive past tense marking, i.e. "Dirruk-ar Anyar". The Stative is also used for identificational purposes, e.g. "Anyar-ek" e.g. "I am Anyar". The Stative evolved diachronically, originally consisting of the noun or NP followed by an independant pronoun, e.g. *"Anyar yak". Tense-aspect markings were added later, as a result of generalizing from intransitive verb forms, e.g."Karan-ek-ar-an" "I was sad".


Demonstratives

Deixis functions are carried about via independent adverbial affixes (e.g "here", "there", etc) and by pronominal forms that may stand alone as substantives, or as enclitics attached to the end of a NP.

Pronominal Demonstrative Forms

Independent

Attributive

Clitic

Comments

Absolutive

Ergative


Absolutive

Ergative

Proximal

sap

sapte

sapim, sap min

=sap

=sapte

this one, near the speaker

Medio-proximal

nax

naxt(e)

naxtim

=nax

=naxt(e)

this/that one near the listener

Distal

waššī

wašt(e)

waššim

=waš

=wašt(e)

far from both speaker and listener

Invisible

kiryit

kirte

kiryit min

=kirit

=kiryit


Numbers

Cardinal and ordinal numbers are one of the [two/XX] groups of true adjectives in the Minhast language. Minhast employs a vegisimal, i.e. base-20, counting system. Numeric expressions involve binding the number and modified noun in a specific construct involving the ligature: Both cardinal and ordinal numbers can take possessive pronominal suffixes (see Part III "Syntax - Possession" for discussion of possessive constructs), which then convey "X number of..." in the case of cardinal numbers, and "the Xth one of/among..." for ordinals, e.g.:


  • Meneħnemš nasxēreħ iŋkunnuħnemaran "Four of us went out there into the forest."
  • Menhakkem nasxēreħ iŋkunnuħkēmaran "The fourth one among them went into the forest."

The numbers 1-10 even have intransitive verbal forms, meaning "There were X number of us/you/them." The cardinal, ordinal, and verbal forms are summarized below:



Number Cardinal Ordinal Verbal
one šūmi sanannūx, manx -šūmi-an
two šānī šānāx -šān-an-
three duxt duxtāx -duxut-an, -duxt-an
four meneħ menhāx -mene-an, -menh-an
five kaħtam kaħtamāx -katam-an
six silix silxāx -silix-an, -silx-an
seven gelix gilxāx -gelix-an, -gelx-an
eight mun munāx -mun-an
nine karun karnāx -karun-an, -karn-an
ten tazem tazmāx -tazem-an, -tazm-an
eleven šiktāz šiktezāx ----
twelve sen senāx ----
thirteen halk halkāx ----
fourteen duggalk duggalxāx ----
fifteen āš āšāx ----
sixteen neš nešāx ----
seventeen manšat manšatāx ----
eighteen zenat zenatāx ----
nineteen zelkark zelkarkāx ----
twenty šentāz šentezāx ----
twenty-one šentāz-u-šum šentāz-u-manāx ----
twenty-two šentāz-u-šan šentāz-u-šanāx ----
twenty-three šentāz-u-duxt šentāz-u-duxtāx ----
thirty šentāz-u-tazem šentāz-u-tazmāx ----
forty saššentāz saššentezāx ----
fifty saššentāz-u-tazem saššentāz-u-tazmāx ----
sixty duššentāz duššentezāx ----


For the numbers (21)and higher, the linker -u- is inserted between the vegisimal number and the unit number. The numbers saššentāz (40) and(60) are etymologically derived from("two twenties") and("three twenties") respectively, due to regular sound changes from consonantal assimilation patterns.



Quantifiers and Interrogatives

Quantifiers and Interrogatives are the second group of adjectives in Minhast. Additionally, they can stand on their own as independant nouns in their own right. They convey the sense of "some","each", "all" etc. Like numbers, these adjectives form syntactically bound constructs and thus require the ligature min, using the same syntax as that used for both numeric and possessive phrases. In addition, when used as independant nouns, quantifiers exhibit Ergative-Absolutive inflection, whereas is defective and receives Absolutive and Oblique inflections only. The Distributive form of the verb is used to indicate the distributive nature of an action or state across patients of the VP.


 

The "Min" Ligature

The ligature min is a particle or clitic that denotes a close relationship between two noun phrases. The ligature has several functions:


  1. To bind a numeral, quantifier, or qualifier to the modified NP, e.g. šānī min hutep "two seagulls",baddux min ayyek "some cattle", āda=m min redad "Which man?"
  2. To create gentilic noun phrases, e.g. karum Canadanast=im rakne "Nine Canadian tourists"
  3. To form possessive NPs redad min sespirmaħt "The man's hand"
  4. To bind true adjectives, e.g. wakuk min hattewak "A gold ring"
  5. To form appositions, e.g. yakalmay min uzak "Member states"

The Minhast ligature has been compared most often to the ligatures found in the Philippine languages, e.g. Tagalog -ng/na, Ilocano nga/a), although other ligatures are found cross-linguistically with functions corresponding to that of the Minhast ligature, e.g. Persian -e/-ye (known more commonly as the ezafe), and the Chumashan ligature hi-.


The Minhast ligature has several allomorphs, occurring either as an independent particle or as a clitic, as demonstrated in the following table:


Minhast Ligature min and Allophones
Preceding Phoneme Final Form Notes
f,g,h,k,m,p,r,s,š,(w),y,z min  
(V)V =m Long vowels are retracted to short vowels
b,d =mbin Preceding -b is metethasized, -d is elided
l,n =mmin Preceding -l, -n are elided

Possession

To express possessive phrases, Minhast uses the ligature particle -min- to link heads with their dependant arguments in structures represented in the following diagram:


[possessor] - min - [possessum]


The ligature -min- is used to bind the posessor with the possessum, e.g. ipnines-min-itar "sword" + [ligature] + "edge" i.e. "(the) sword's edge". Note that number, let alone other syntactic characteristics (e.g. gender, animacy, etc) cannot be discerned for either the head or dependant nouns. Although the gender and animacy of the head and dependant nouns are unmarked, these attributes are nevertheless known as they are inherent, albeit memorized lexical characteristics. The same cannot be said for number, which is not a fixed attribute in nouns. The default number of both head and dependant noun in this type of possessive construct is singular, but by no means is this absolute, and sometimes a plural translation of one or both nouns in the possessive phrase must be used, as is illustrated in the phrase, Birīħ-min-Hūr, "The Lions' Mountain", not "The Lion's Mountain". The correct, former reading is known only through historical and literary context.


Because of the potential for ambiguity in this type of possessive construction, an alternate structure predominates, which employs portmenteau pronominal affixes similar in form to the verbal pronominal affixes to bind to the posessum, as illustrated by the following formula:


[possessor] - min - [possessum + ergative portmenteau pronominal affix] - t


Modern Minhast prefers this construction, so today constructions like tazer-min-erak.massešt, (literally "a/the bird - its feathers") predominate. The agent segment of the portmenteau pronoun, -ssešt-, refers to the possessor head noun tazer "bird", and marks it as singular and animate. The patient segment -ma- refers to the dependant noun erak and marks it as plural and inanimate. Any case clitics used to specify the word's grammatical role are appended at the end of the NP, e.g. tazer-min-erak.massešt(i)=kī "on the bird's feathers".


The portmenteau affixes are also used in expressing direct pronominal possession, e.g. iššū-tirekt "my head", or ezab-lent "his sister". Case clitics are attached after the portmenteau affixes.


Possession may additionally be marked for distributed ownership, in which case the verbal Distributive affix -tar- is added to the NP, e.g. "kamaktarsussišt" *kamak-tar-sussiš-te "their swords, one sword per person", versus shared ownership, where the verbal Reciprocal affix -sart- is added, e.g. "balassartitirkakte" *balam-sart-tirkak-te "our [inclusive] land (that you, I, and others share).


In cases where a possessum occurs among two 3rd person NPs with the same gender, number, and animacy, the reflexive affix -šar- can be used to disambiguate which NP is the possessor. Hence, the sentence "Xaniš and Yuttam dropped their pencils. Xaniš reached down and retrieve his own pencil" would be rendered as "Xaniš sut Yuttam irriyetaran rassibaru. Xaniš irriyet-šar-tirenn=aran", as opposed to "Xaniš irriyet-0-tirenn=aran" would imply that Xaniš reached for Yuttam's pencil.


As expected, possessive NPs can mark tense and aspect, e.g. "kassartisussiššasattapte" *kar-sart-sussiš-asatt-ab-te "the car which they will be owning together".


In the case of nouns derived from nominalized VPs, the situation becomes even more complex. In particular, nominalized transitive verbs, which are able to encode agent-patient relationships, can secondarily express possessive relationships. An example would be astekkenareft, literally "they that begat me", a formal term for "my father". Here, the portmenteau affix -ekkek- denoting the ergative 3rd person common plural and the absolutive 1st person singular, paraphrases the possessive relationship using verbal syntax to describe agent-patient relations.


Verb Morphology

Overview

The verb is the most complex part of Minhast grammar. Because the noun can only indicate case and deixis, the verb performs additional functions, such as specifying the gender, number, and animacy of the core arguments, whether the core arguments are collective or not, whether an action was carried out or experienced by individual members of the core arguments, etc. In addition, the verb can indicate the speaker's attitude towards the sentence, including evidentiality, assertion, etc.


The verb is divided into two major classes: transitive and intransitive. Intransitive verbs take only one core NP, in the Absolutive case, as its argument. Intransitive verbs include adjectival verbs (Minhast has only a few true adjectives), stative verbs indicating conditions, and action verbs that do not take direct objects (e.g. kaysat "to jump"). Reflexive and reciprocal verbs are also intransitive.


Semantically transitive verbs that have been antipassivized are also intransitive; the antipassivation process alters the argument structure of the clause, demoting an Absolutive noun to Oblique status. The Absolutive argument is required in all sentences, therefore the Ergative noun becomes the derived Absolutive argument in an antipassivized clause.


The Minhast verb is organized into a template containing eight affix slots (called by traditional Minhast grammarians the šabāye). Verbal affixes, depending on their classification, fall within one of these slots. Multiple affixes may occupy a given slot, but all affixes follow a rigid order, and an affix that is assigned to one slot may not appear in another slot; to do so would result in an unintelligible verb. Many slots are themselves divided into smaller sections. Not all slots are filled at a given time - in fact, some affixes are mutually exclusive with others, whose combination would otherwise create nonsensical meanings. The šabāye are displayed in the table below, in the order of their respective positions within the verbal template:



Order of Verbal Affix Slots
Preverbal Affixes Verb Stem Mode Affixes Prepronominal Affixes Pronominal Affixes Tense-Aspect (TA) Affixes Transitivity Affixes Postverbal Affixes

Verb Structure

The Preverb contains three slots. The first slot is reserved for what Minhast grammarians call the Theme 1 markers, which are used to indicate the quality or nature of the action or state; these may include such things as degree or intensity, potentiality, etc.


Theme 1 Affixes

Theme Affix Meaning Additional Notes
Optative -šak- to desire, wish Incompatible with imperatives.
Conative -šn- try Incompatible with imperatives.
Abilitative -mar- can, to be able to Incompatible with imperatives.
Inclinative -ntar- almost Denotes an action that was or is nearly to be carried out; Incompatible with imperatives.
Potentive -nitt(a)- might, possibly Incompatible with imperatives.
Causative -šp- to cause, bring about When used with the Privative, become the Negative Causative
Resumptive -b- again
Intensive Intransitive -nt(a)- very, extremely This affix is used with adjectival, stative, or qualitative verb roots only.
Intensive Active -t(a)- very, extremely This affix is used with semantically transitive verb roots, even if the verb has been antipassivized.
Privative -mašn- to undo Reverses a state or action. When used with the Causative, it means "to cause to not be/do something"
Necessitive -(y)yat- to be necessary
Cessative -kš- to cease Indicates the cessation of an action or state
Iterative -rex- to do several times This affix occurs only with semantically transitive verb roots

The second slot is reserved for the applicative affixes. These affixes are employed in valency operations, promoting oblique arguments to Absolutive status:

Applicative Affixes

Role Affix
Dative -dut-
Benefactive -rak-
Instrumental -mat-
Locative -n-
Commitative -mgar-
Ablative -ner-
Malefactive -nusk-


The third slot contains the Theme 2 affixes:


Theme 2 Affixes

Mode Affix
Habitual -asum-,-abab-
Inchoative -saxt-
Inceptive -nd-
Inverse Volitional -kah-
Partial Control -šk(e)-

The Inverse Volitional affix is used to mark whether a verb is deliberate, or accidental. This affix interacts with the semantic characteristics of the verb root, expressing the accidental or involuntary occurance of an act in verbs which under normal circumstances indicate an action or state that is semantically deliberate. Thus, a verb like hitting carries as part of its semantic nature a deliberate act. The presence of the Inverse Volitional affix converts the deliberative nature of the act of hitting to that of an accidental or involuntary nature. Conversely, verb roots which are normally acts or states that semantically involuntary become deliberate when the Volitional affix is applied.

Verb Stem

The verb stem is the core of the Minhast verbal complex. The verb stem consists of the following slots:



Verb Root Incorporated Auxiliary Verb Derivational Affixes Incorporated Noun Adverbial Affixes


Prepronominal Affixes

The morphemes in this verb slot, named because they come immediately before the pronominal affixes, are also known as the "social affixes" . These affixes indicate the the nature of an event or state within, between or across the core arguments of a clause. The first three affixes of this slot are mutually exclusive, but may occur in combination with one of the final two affixes. The Distributive and Partitive can combine to create certain idiomatic expressions, e.g.  zekyaškī tammuntarnesmahekaru "I haphazardly spread it across the table".



Class Affix Additional Notes
Reflexive -šar-
Reflexive-Benefactive -sakšar
Reciprocal -šattar-,-sart- This affix requires plural actor affixes
Reciprocal-Benefactive -sakšatt- This affix requires plural actor affixes
Assistive -fk- This affix requires plural actor affixes
Assistive-Benefactive -fkast- This affix requires plural actor affixes
Associative -mmak- This affix requires plural actor affixes
Associative-Benefactive -mmakast- This affix requires plural actor affixes
Adversarial -dus(s)art/dust- Co-occurs requires plural actor affixes
Distributive -tar- The Distributive refers to an action or state across each individual, and is usually translated as "each". The Distributive may also in some verbs indicate that the verbal event is spread out spatially across a surface, or temporally across different segments of time (e.g. "each day"). The Distributive does not refer to the Ergative argument of transitive clauses; for that, the appropriate Quantifier adjective/noun is used.
Partitive -nes- Conveys that only a portion of the argument(s) is involved in the verbal event or state, sometimes translated as "some". The Partitive does not refer to the Ergative argument of transitive clauses; for that, the appropriate Quantifier adjective/noun is used.

Pronominal Affixes

The pronominal affixes present one of the greatest challenges to the students of the Minhast language due to their inherent complexity in structure and morphosyntax. These affixes serve important functions to the core arguments they coreference, such as indicating syntactic roles, gender, animacy, and number. These affixes, along with the role affixes, also serve to identify the verb as transitive or intransitive. For the transitive verb, the pronominal affixes present greater complexities than those of the intransitive verb - the transitive affixes, representing both the ergative and absolutive arguments of the clause, are portmenteau affixes; although some patterns can be discerned from this fusion of the segments representing the ergative and absolutive components, the transitive pronominal affixes are mostly irregular and have to be memorized individually. As expected, the affixes may change shape due to the sound changes created by adjacent morphemes. However, many of these sound changes deviate from the normal assimilation patterns described earlier in Chapter X "Phonology".


The pronominal affixes distinguish three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter. The neuters are further differentiated into animate and inanimate; the masculine and feminine genders are inherently animate and thus require no special marking. These affixes also indicate singular and plural numbers. Both the masculine and the feminine 3rd person plurals have merged into one common gender, while the gender for animate and inanimate neuter nouns are still distinguished.


Due to the complexity of the transitive pronominal affixes, their full forms are summarized in Table X below:


Portmenteau Pronominal Affixes for the Transitive Verb: Agent x Patient


Patient (Singular)
Agent 1st sg. 2nd sg. 3rd masc. sg. 3rd fem. sg. 3rd neut. anim sg. 3rd neut. inanim. sg.
1st Sg. ---- -tak- -(e)k- -kk- -k- -tirk-
2nd Sg -ktah- ---- -tah- -lettah- -tah- -tittah-
3rd Masc. Sg -knen- -tnen- -nn-, -- -lenn- -enn- -tirenn-
3rd Fem. Sg -kl- -tal- -l- -ll- -l- -till-
3rd Neut. Anim. Sg -k- -t- -- -- -se- -ti-
3rd Neut. Inanim. Sg -km- -tam- -m- -mm- -m- -tmm-
1st Pl. Incl. ---- ---- -hak- -hlak- -k- -tirhak-
1st Pl. Excl. ---- -tnem- -nem- -lennem- -ennem- -tinnem-
2nd Pl. -ktahm- ---- -tm- -lettm- -ettm- -tittm-
3rd Pl. Common -kken- -takken- -nk- -lekken- -seššen- -tikken-
3rd Pl. Neut. Anim. -ksen- -taen- -sen- -less- -sesse- -tisse-
3rd Pl. Neut. Inanim. -kmah- -tamah- -mah- -mmah- -ma- -timmah-



Patient (Plural)
Agent 1st plural incl. 1st plural excl. 2nd plural common 3rd plural common 3rd plural neut. anim 3rd plural neut. inanim.
1st Sg. ---- ---- -tmek- -kenk- -ak- -mak-
2nd Sg -hektah- -nimtah- ---- -kemtah- -iat- -mattah-
3rd Masc. Sg -hakn- -nenn- -tenn- -kenn- -sen- -mann-
3rd Fem. Sg -hall- -nell- -tall- -kell- -sel- -mall-
3rd Neut. Anim. Sg -hak- -nem -tahem- - kem - -se- -ma-
3rd Neut. Inanim. Sg -hakm- -nemm- -tamm- -kemm- -sem- -namm-
1st Pl. Incl. ---- ---- ---- -kemhak- -sak- -makkak-
1st Pl. Excl. ---- ---- -tamme- -kemmi- -sni- -manne-
2nd Pl. Common ---- -nittam- ---- -kettamm- -sutam- -mattam-
3rd Pl. Common -hakkem- -nikkem- -takkem- -ikkem- -skem-,-skum- -makkem-
3rd Pl. Neut. Anim. -haks- -nims- -tass- -kess -suss-, -suss- -mass-
3rd Pl. Neut. Inanim. -hakmah- -nemmah- -tammah- -kemmah- -smah- -nammah-


In comparison to the transitive pronominal affixes, the affixes for the intransitive verb are much simpler. There forms are listed below in Table X:


Absolutive Pronominal Affixes for the Intransitive Verb

Person Absolutive
1st Sg. -k-
2nd Sg. -ta-
3rd Masculine - Common Sg. --
3rd Feminine Sg. -l-
3rd Neuter Animate Sg. --
3rd Neuter Inanimate Sg. -m-
1st Plural Inclusive -hak
1st Pl Exclusive -mm-
2nd Pl. -tam-
3rd Common Pl. -km-
3rd Neut. Anim. Pl. -i-
3rd Neut. Inanim Pl. -mah-, -ma-

Tense Affixes

Tense Affix Additional Notes
Remote Past -šar- The Remote Past usually encompasses periods of decades or longer
Past -ar- ----
Present -Ř- Also encompasses the immediate past.
Immediate Future -ne- ----
Future -(a)satt- ----

Tense-Aspect Marker (TAM) Affixes

Aspect Affix
Imperfect -(a)b-
Perfect -Ř-
Partial Completion -knakt-

Post-TAM Affixes

The Post-TAM affixes serve to mark the verb's transitivity, and to establish its role as either a true verb or a nominalized VP. All affixes in this slot are mutually exclusive.


Class Affix
Detransitivizer -an
Transitivizer -u
Nominalizer -naft

Clause Operation Affixes

These occupy the final position of the verb complex. They often co-occur and interact with other verbal affixes and participate in valence operations (e.g. antipassivation, applicative formation) to coordinate clauses.

Affix Meaning Notes
-pi- Antipassive
-pamp- Correferential Affix This affix occurs in an intransitive verb to indicate that the Abs. argument is coreferrential with an Erg. argument of a later clause.
-mā General Subordinative

English translation: "then; that". This suffix is used primarily to link Sequential clauses. It also interacts with other verbal affixes in clause combining operations to form conditionals, complements, and other clause types.

-nimmā Purposive in order to
-namā Direct Quotative English: "Thus (x) says/said". Marks the following clause as direct speech.
-tamā Indirect Quotative English: "(s/he) said that". Marks the following clause as indirect speech.
-dur, -dūr Consequential Affix Indicates the clause is a direct result of the preceding clause
Irrealis Affix This affix marks the VP as an unrealized and/or hypothetical state or event. This affix, combined with the Consequential affix and certain sentential particles, forms hypothetical and conterfactual clauses.


The Correferential affix "-pamp-" combines with the other Clause Operation affixes to form highly irregular allomorphs:

Allomorphs for Correferential "-pamp-"

-an -ampi -u
-- -ampa(mpa) -ampimampa -nipampa
= mā -ampā, -ampamā -ampimampā -nimampā, -nimampimā, -nimampamā
= š -ampampiš -ampimampiš -nimampiš
=mā + š -ampama(ma)š -ampimampaš, -ampimampimaš -nimampamaš
= nimmā -ampamapimmā -ampipampimmā -nimampimmā
= nimmā + š -ampamapimmaš -ampipampimmaš -nimampimmaš

Noun Incorporation

Minhast, like many polysynthetic languages, employs extensive noun incorporation (NI), where a noun is absorbed into the verb complex. Only nominal stems may be incorporated; enclictics and inflection morphemes are excluded from the incorporataion process.


NI is used for a variety of purposes. A common function of NI is to background previously established information. Also, when the core arguments of a clause refer to human beings, native speakers prefer to retain them as core arguments throughout an entire narrative; NI, often in combination with applicative formation, will often be exploited on non-human nouns to ensure that the human nouns remain as core participants.


Nouns in an instrumental oblique role, like nouns that are patient core arguments, may be incorporated into the verb. When instrumental oblique nouns are incorporated, additional issues arise. When there is a semantic patient and an instrumental oblique noun occurring in the same sentence, it is possible that the semantic patient remains an independant word while the instrumental oblique noun is incorporated. Applicative formation cannot take place in this instance because the patient noun retains its status as the direct object of the clause - applicatives affixes are used only to indicate that a noun in an oblique role was promoted to Absolutive status. Thus, the only sign that the incorporated noun in this situation is a semantically instrumental noun is the absence of applicative markers on the verb.


Sometimes a non-instrumental oblique noun is promoted to Absolutive status, which requires the verb to take the appropriate applicative affix. An instrumental oblique noun can still be incorporated in this case, but now an ambiguous situation arises: outside of contextual cues, there are no formal grammatical structures that indicate whether the incorporated noun was originally a Patient, or whether it was originally an instrumental noun now incorporated into the verb complex. The listener must therefore rely on contextual cues to determine the incorporated noun's true role.


Derivational Affixes

Most Minhast derivational affixes are verbal affixes, diachronically derived from incorporated nouns. The only exception is the gentilic suffix "-ast" and its allomorphs, reserved for nouns.

Derivational Affixes
Affix Gloss/Meaning
-hupn- instrumental affix
-ast,-yast,-wast,-st gentilic suffix
-šnī-,-šn- consisting of
-pniš- propensity towards
-pa- abstract affix, "-tude,-ity","-ness"
-sset- temporal affix, "time of"
-ky-,-kī- locative affix
-(n)niwak-,-nwak- occupational affix, "one who engages in an activity"

Clause Structures

Antipassivation

Antipassivation is a valency-decreasing process whereby the absolutive argument of a transitive verb is demoted to oblique status or is deleted from the clause, thereby demoting in turn the ergative argument to absolutive status. Antipassivation is used for discourse purposes, with the following functions:


  1. To delete the Object when it is unknown or not topic-worthy
  2. To mark an Object as indefinite by demoting it to Oblique status, usually the Dative case.
  3. To mark the Subject as indefinite by demoting it to Absolutive status
  4. To create a semantic pivot in clause combining operations.


Antipassivation is accomplished by transforming the Transitive verb into an Intransitive verb (by replacing the Transitive -u Role suffix with the -an Role suffix and replacing the Erg.-Abs. portmenteau pronominal affixes with the Abs. pronominal affixes). The clictic =de is removed from the Agent NP. The Patient may either be deleted, or the Dative affix -aran or Instrumental affix -pār is added to the demoted Patient if retained.


Pivots

Clause combining operations in all languages inevitably deal with a situation where there are two core NPs in one clause, one of which is coreferrent with an NP of following clause. In languages with verbal pronominal affixes referencing the core NPs, the correfferrent NP is often not explicitly mentioned in the succeeding clause(s). As long as the gender, number, animacy, and case of the implicit correferrent NP is different from that of the other core NP, the identity of the correferrent NP is clear. However, in situations where two core third person NPs share number, gender, and animacy, the identity of the correferrent NP may be ambiguous when it is not explicitly mentioned. The following English sentence illustrates an example of a two-clause sentence structure, containing two core NPs that share gender and number: "Iradem struck Isnar, and (he) left."


Did Iradem leave after he hit Isnar, or did Isnar leave after being hit by Iradem? Languages have developed different strategies to disambiguate the correferrent NP, such as switch-referencing, obviation, or other morphosyntactic strategies to deal with sentences like the above example. For Minhast, the sentence above contains no ambiguity because the language handles correference by using pivots: if a core argument is correferrent with that of a preceding clause, the correferent NPs of both clauses must agree in case. Thus, if an Patient NP in clause #1 is coreferrent to the Agent NP in clause #2, the Agent NP in clause #2 must be in the Absolutive case in order to agree with the Patient, e.g:


Iradembe Isnar ušnarumā, weyhapni nuħtaharan. "Iradem struck Isnar, and after that he (Isnar) ran off ."


The first clause is transitive, taking two core arguments, Iradem in the Ergative case, and Isnar in the Absolutive case. The second clause is intransitive and is gapped: there is no overt mention of either NP from the first clause. Nevertheless, there is no ambiguity as to which person ran off - it could only be Isnar. The verb nuħtaharan is an intransitive verb, as indicated by the intransitive marker -an, and its pronominal affix is the null-marked third person masculine singular person. Thus, nuħtaharan can take only one core argument, the Absolutive. Isnar is in the Absolutive case in the first clause, and is the gapped Absolutive argument of the second clause.


In combinations where all the verbs are semantically transitive and Agent and Patient interchange their case frames, valency operations occur: a verb may be antipassivized thereby demoting an Agent to the Absolutive case. The Patient may then either be demoted to the dative or instrumental case, or omitted altogether, as in the sample sentence:


Iradembe Isnar ušnarumā, usapārammā, bušnaru. "Iradem struck Isnar, (Isnar) kicked, and (Iradem) struck him again."


This sentence starts with the two core arguments explicitly mentioned in the first clause (Iradem[erg] and Isnar[abs]). The second and final clauses are gapped, none of the core arguments are explicitly mentioned after the first clause. All verbs are notionally transitive but the second verb (usapār-an=mā) is grammatically intransitive, as indicated by its intransitive marker -an, whereas the first and final verbs are marked as expected with the transitive marker -u. The affix -an. when it appears on a notionally transitive verb, indicating the verb has been antipassivized.


The intransitive usapārammā can take only one argument, the Absolutive. Isnar is the Absolutive argument in the first clause, and so must be the gapped argument in the second clause, even though Isnar's role is now that of Agent, not Patient. Isnar is also the gapped Absolutive argument in the final clause. Isnar is the Absolutive argument of all three clauses, whether explicit or implicit, and is therefore coreferrent with all three clauses. If a speaker wanted to mention explicitly mention the Patient in the second clause, the Patient would have to be marked as an Oblique argument, using the dative postposition =aran, as in:


Iradembe Isnar ušnarumā, Irademaran usapārammā, bušnaru. "Iradem struck Isnar, (Isnar) kicked Iradem, and (Iradem) struck him again."


Languages which use an Absolutive argument to coreferrence linked clauses are said to employ an S/O pivot. Morphologically ergative languages that coordinate clauses with S/O pivots therefore demonstrate ergativity at a syntactic level. Minhast is such a language, ergative at the syntactic level as well as at the morphological level.


Applicative Formation and Argument Structure

Like antipassivation, applicative formation is an operation that alters the argument structure of clause. Applicative formation allows the promotion of an oblique argument to Absolutive status. Therefore, unlike antipassivation, applicative formation is used in clausal operations to maintain or increase transitivity. Applicative formation, by creating a derived Patient argument from an oblique NP, also is a focus-changing device. Consider the following example:


Hatuxte nessiria sanumpar isangarumā, sanum sekaran eyimtatu. "The oracle lights the pyre with a burning branch, then draws (in the air) an arc with the branch."


Here, the branch (sanum) is introduced in the first clause as an instrumental NP. The speaker wishes to retain the branch as topic-worthy since it is relevant to the rest of the narrative, so the sanum is promoted to Absolutive status by inserting the instrumental applicative affix -mat- into the verb eyimtu. Thus, the branch becomes the focal point of the narrative, promoted to a derived Absolutive argument, and assuming a role in subsequent S/O pivot operations.


Wa-Structures

The ligature wa-, like the ligature min, establishes a dependancy between phrases. Unlike min, wa- is used to link an NP or other adjunct to a VP. It is also used to create certain idiomatic phrases, and performs other functions, such as:


  1. To create topic-comment sentences
  2. To create adverbs
  3. To bind existential particles (e.g. matti "there is/are" and hambin "there is no/none") to their arguments
  4. To bind evidential and modal particles to the clauses they modify
  5. To indicate a topic switch in discourse
  6. To decrease the valence of a clause
  7. To form simulative/equalis phrases and clauses
  8. To bind a complement clause to the main clause when the Absolutive argument of the main clause is coreferrent with the complement clause and the main clause is gramatically transitive (i.e. the main clause contains an Ergative argument).

Passive Voice Periphrasis, aka "The Pseudo-Passive"

Minhast, like many ergative languages, does not have a formal passive voice (see Dixon). However, it is capable of expressing the passive voice with a curious construction involving, paradoxically, a semantically transitive verb. This "Pseudo-Passive" construction employs the verb "to take" -ittaš- and NI of a verb root. Because the S of a passive voice construction in prototypical nominative-accusative languages is usually an involuntary patient, the Inverse Volitional affix is used to change the semantically deliberate nature of -ittaš- to an accidental or an involuntary event. The Pseudo-Passive construction can be illustrated by the following formula:


-ittaš - [incorporated semantically transitive verb root] - kah-


Thus, to express the equivalent of the English construction, "Jeff was assaulted last night", the Minhast equivalent becomes, literally, "Jeff took the hitting against his will last night", i.e. Dief kayyarkī ittaš nikaharan.


It must be noted, however, that the Pseudo-Passive construction occurs quite rarely in Minhast and is considered stilted by native speakers. When it does occur, it is usually found in translations of a passive phrases in texts from nominative-accusative languages. The prefered construction used to convey the same D-structure is to employ an Antipassive construction, with the indefinite noun keytān "someone", and demoting the recipient of the action to an oblique role, e.g. Keytān Diefpar kayyarkī ušnaran, "Someone hit Jeff last night."


There is a similar structure, found mostly in literature quoting oracular speech, but this structure lacks the Inverse Volitional affix:


ittaš - [incorporated semantically transitive verb root]

This structure occurs in highly marked discourse, such as in emphatic indirect commands, e.g. ittaššullumtahan "You shall take the hearing" (i.e. Take heed and listen carefully!). This particular style is noticeably prevalent in quoted oracular speech found in the Minhast epics "Anyaddaddaram", "Renkun sut Minsun", and "Karabtanarek".

Dictionary

Vocabulary for the Babel Text:


tušmat wa+CC = it is said (dubitative hearsay particle + wa-ligature)
šumi = one; single
kirim = speach
damikman = one day
-sarim- = to find, encounter
tasum = field


sašarahasmaknaft = settlement (lit. "that really big thing which they sat on")
saššikia,(h)aššikia (Mod. Minhast) = settlement (lit. "sitting place")
sašahas- (Classical Minhast) = to sit down
-sašši-, (h)ašši- (Mod. Minhast) = to sit down


-puħt- = to stand up
banak = stone
tušša = building
sut,wasutti =and
tuyye = boulder standing vertically; megalith
šuxt = sky, heavens


-amandu- = to touch
iggam = mud
-nahaštuh- (Classical Minhast), -našt- (Mod. Minhast) = to cook
issik = tar, pitch


-nuspiggar- (Classical Minhast), -nispikkar- (Mod. Minhast) = to glue
wahēk = and then
bīda/kidam = god, deity
bayye = behold; look at this,


-neššim- = to go down, descend
redad = man


hambin = there is no/none (negative existential)
hata = no, not


-kawan- = to do
-kannek- = to understand
išpikiškannek- = to cease to understand

išpimaškannek - = to render incomprehensible (lit. "to remove understanding" Causative -šp- + Privative -maš- + -kannek- "to understand")

išpikiškannek - = to render incomprehensible (lit. "to make understanding stop" Causative -šp- + Cessative -kš- + -kannek- "to understand")


-umi- = to leave, depart kayāhē = and so it was; thus it happened
niriz = name
gabgabalaram = incoherent speech; "Babel" (augmentive form of gabal, "nonsensical statement")


Other Vocabulary


hupniwak = implement; something used to do something


-ssup- = to pick up


pīyikhupn = screwdriver (>> -pīyik- to drive into + -hupn- "something utilized to do something"



Sample texts

Babel Text

  1. Tušmat waššumi min kirim kirmakkemsarabu.' / It.is.said.that one.speaking speak-it+they-past-impf-trans.
  2. Damikman, šinarkī sarimtasummakkemammā, sašarahasmaknaftaran išpipuħtimmekiman. / One.day, Shinar=in encounter-plain-it+they.trans.=and.then sat.it-they.nmlzr.=to cause=stand.up=intrans.
  3. Kirimsartikmantammā: "Banak min tušša sut tuyyeran išpipuħtatirhakan. Tuyye waššuxtaran amandumaħnēan. Wahēk iggampar nahaštuhmakman kawaħnakman. Issikpar nuspiggarikman."
  4. Wahēk, bīda šuxtanyar neššimammā, redad min sašarahašmaknaftīren sut banak min tušša sut tuyye.
  5. Kirimtamā: "Bayye, hambin wahata markawantirennu. Išpimaškanneksartikmasattan!
  6. Wahēk kawantiru, 'ikiškannekšartikmammā banak kišpip puħtiktirammā umitarikman. Kayāhē, ittašnirihsakmu gabgabalaram.

  1. Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.
  2. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
  3. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.
  4. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
  5. But the Lord camedown to see the city and the tower that the men were building.
  6. The Lord said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
  7. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
  8. So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
  9. That is why it was called Babel -- because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

"Šurpēpa - The Strangers" (from the "Anyaddaddaram" - The Anyar Saga)

Wattanum essanešekammā, šanī min ayyas sarekan, kinartatešamammā, yābītirenni min sittum ittaššitešamkasmā tībūr gabahtatešamammā, duxtaren birīh min dīlūtimmiyar sarehtatešammā, duxtaren derek min ukaradahtešamaraneft. Bikrimtešamabammā yaduk dilammā bisuktitešan. Tammaf bin banduhā lasaptešaman, kirimtirtešam yatammaftiran.


Wahēk itamtadahtešaman, pira yakreh sassatešamarampirmā, atūhitek beybeytireku. Laburkemantamā esamekammā, akkuktirekkī sanalkutekammā, ururtahtirek tedekammā wāwayekammā, ušnitirtešampar yekwekan. Wakkan, birīh min dīlūtimmaran pardātešamammā, asukatešaman.


"And then I hid behind a great stone and saw two men walking, whispering to each other, their eyes had the look of the stag pursued by the hunter. Three times they looked above to the crest of the mountain, three times they looked to the path from which they came. They spoke to each other again, the younger nodded and they began to climb (the side of the mountain). They wore strange foreign garments, and their tongue was strange to my ears.


"Then they turned towards my direction, for they had heard me. I slid to my right to hide (behind the stone better). I reached to my quiver and pulled from it my arrow. I strung my bow and waited for their attack. But then they took fast to the mountain crest, and fled the place where I hid."


Excerpts from the Minhast Epic "Harat min Ahtum = The Book of Valor”

Wahēk Iradem kahtihakti kalamakanarhan iskaptiran, taddusan iyasanneryamakyanaban, wakkakelenkī tamaxtaban, waggayak nirusnēbu, wattiyak urusambisabu, wattaram urusambisabu. “Zā, šụxtan min urugamtạhtemeft! Yaknih tahišmektạhteman! Kananneyakt ibassanennaramtanneytạhtarabu, wannanayak kulmanektạhtaru. Išpiparankentaktenunamā, hašišpiyamparankentakteku. Kusamek irugariktiran, gantumasektenu!”


“And thus our hero Iradem, with blood flowing from his wounds, crawled onto the shores (of the island). And upon those sands he arose, and with a great shout of grief for his kinsmen lost at sea, he cried out to the gods: “Hear me, Tyrants of the Clouds! You take the lives of my brothers, and yet you spare me! Would that you had shown me the same mercy you gave unto them, for my Spirit is ruined and alone without them!”

Sound Sample:shurpepa.wmv