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LotM - Oct 18: Umofa
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Happy October! Our language of the month is dendana's Umofa, an a priori language with prenasalized consonants, serial verbs, unique adjective morphology, and all kinds of other cool quirks. Read all about it!
This public article was written by Admin Sheep on 1 Oct 2018, 16:30.

[comments] Menu 1. Phonology 2. Orthography 3. Morphology 4. Syntax 5. More on Umofa 6. A Note on Umofa For October's language of the month, we have dendana's wonderful  Umofa! Umofa is an a priori language with a simple, mellifluous phonology and a wonderfully detailed grammar. Read on about all of its great quirks!

[top]Phonology

Umofa's phonology is designed to be easy to pronounce, with (C)V phonotactics and a relatively simple phoneme inventory. There are two stop series, tenuis and voiced prenasalized. The affricate /t͡ʃ/ doesn't have a prenasalized affricate counterpart, although the nasal /ɲ/ is in free variation with a prenasalized [ᶮɟ]. Adding on to the oral and prenasalized stops is a series of nasals, including /m n ɲ/.

The liquid inventory of Umofa is small but unique, with an alveolar flap /ɾ/ and a retroflex liquid <l>, which is pronounced [ɭ] at the beginning of a word but can be pronounced as either [ɭ] or [ɽ] intervocalically, in free variation.

Rounding out the consonant inventory are the glides /j w/ and the fricatives /f s ʃ/.

The Umofa vowel inventory is even more simple and clean, with the 5 cardinal vowels /i e a o u/.

[top]Orthography

The romanization of Umofa is very intuitive. Overall, it's similar to IPA. The major differences are in the notation of the prenasalized consonants, palatals, and liquids. Prenasalized /ᵐb ⁿd ᵑg/ are written as simple <b d g>, palatal /t͡ʃ ʃ ɲ/ are written as <c x ny>, and the liquids /ɾ ɭ/ are written <r l>.

Umofa also has a lovely conscript! Ixaxaci Umofa is a syllabary, written with no straight lines. Additionally, every glyph except one has a loop, and most glyphs have multiple loops. Some of the glyphs resemble Tamil, Georgian, or Glagolitic, but the script as a whole is totally unique. Check out the full article for a glyph table and more information!

[top]Morphology

Umofa nouns mark a few categories, but the set of markings in each category is fairly small. For number, Umofa has only singular and plural, with plural being marked with a prefix eb-. Umofa does not have case as such, but it has a case-like dative/allative clitic prefix c- and a similar ablative prefix mi. The final kind of inflection on Umofa nouns is the suffix -se, which appears only on personal names.

Modifiers on Umofa nouns don't really inflect, but they take the first vowel of the preceding noun as their final vowel. For instance, the determiner un- "this" becomes uno following oto "thing", as in oto uno "this thing". This pattern happens with all kinds of nominal modifiers, including numbers (e.g. oto uko "two things"), adjectives (oto naro "good thing"), and possessives (oto ido "their thing"). Modifiers can also be converted to nouns with the ending -a, to verbs with the ending -ip-, or to adverbs with -ako.

Umofa verbs inflect for three categories: polarity, subject, and tense/mood. Polarity marking is obligatory—in addition to a negative prefix tu- there is an affirmative prefix a-. Subject is marked by a single consonant preceding the root. Citation form for verbs is in the infinitive, which has the prefix t- and the final vowel -a, which also serves as the realis tense/mood marker. The other tense/moods are future, near future, conditional, and jussive. Lastly, in order to remove the patient of a transitive verb, the clitic suffix -ye is used. For instance, axofa Umofa "I speak Umofa" becomes axofaye "I speak".

Umofa also has a rich derivational morphology—watch for the upcoming article about it!

[top]Syntax

The basic syntax of Umofa tends towards head-initial, with SVO word order, and genitives and modifiers following the noun. Not only do basic clauses have SVO word order, but so do questions. Questions can be marked with an optional particle mu, or by intonation alone.

Another neat tidbit of Umofa is how it marks voice. We've already described the suffix -ye, which marks the antipassive. The other voices aren't marked morphologically on the verb; instead they're marked by particles that precede the noun. For instance, axofa Umofa means "I speak Umofa", and axofa meni ama Umofa means "I made you speak Umofa", using the particle meni to mark causative.

A last stop in our tour of Umofa syntax is its serial verb constructions. Umofa has two kinds of serial verb constructions, one based on motion verbs and one based on general action verbs. In the motion verb construction, teda "go" or tuca "come" is used as the first verb, which can mean either movement followed by action, or movement resulting in action. The other construction is resultative, using an action verb as the first verb and an intransitive verb showing the result as the second verb. In Umofa serial verb constructions, the verbs are directly concatenated.

There's so much more to describe about Umofa grammar, but we're out of time, so you'll just have to catch up by reading the article!

[top]More on Umofa

That wraps up our review of Umofa! If you want more, check out Umofa's LexiBuild sets, grammar tables, phrasebook, and translations!

[top]A Note on Umofa

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Umofa that wasn't covered and you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot us (phi2dao, argyle, protondonor, or Avlönskt) a PM with your questions, comments, and/or concerns. Also feel free to drop by the LotM clan if you have other feedback, want to join in the voting process, or nominate a language!
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