Greetings Guest
home > library > journal > view_article
« Back to Articles » Journal
0▲ 0 ▼ 0
Aspect and tense; case, number, and gender; phrases, clauses, and sentences.
This public article was written by EllaHansen, and last updated on 21 Aug 2020, 21:51.

[comments] Menu A. Words & Phrases — 2. Verbal Nouns — 3. Nouns & Demonstratives — 3. Nominal Modification & Phrases — 4. Adverbs B. The Clause — 1. Clauses & Word-Order — 2. Negation & Conjunction — 3. Questions — 4. Commands — 5. Unabsolutives & Datives — 6. Dictives & Reported Speech
This article is a work in progress! Check back later in case any changes have occurred.

(Sections will be added as I edit them; information should be more or less complete, but examples and references may be missing for some time.)

[top]A. Words & Phrases

Heláin distinguishes five parts of speech:
  1. verb (isserir ‘that which works with purpose’)
  2. noun (feiona ‘thing-name’)
  3. demonstrative (dheserir ‘this-maker’)
  4. adverb (erinelféid ‘“once”-class thing’)
  5. conjunction (filbisir ‘through-joiner’)

The functions of English adjectives are handled by nouns or verbal participles, or sometimes by demonstratives; the functions of English prepositions are handled by nominal cases, demonstratives, adverbs, or noun phrases; pronouns are classified as demonstratives; and interjections and the question-particle are classified as adverbs. This supersection (A) treats the use of verbs, nouns, demonstratives, and adverbs; conjunctions are explained with their constructions throughout supersections B and C.

[top]— 2. Verbal Nouns

The infinitive (non-past only) is in form a feminine weak noun, and in function often indistinguishable from any other noun.

  • ŋinnen av belora (Ina. 1.12)
    ‘for [he] gives blessings’
  • trassen av camora fi gesora (Ina. 1.9)
    ‘for [he] metes lives and deaths (livings and dyings)’
  • trullen i adenis ic ián (Ina. 1.4)
    ‘[he] bears all things from [his] greatness (being great)’

Like a finite verb, however, the infinitive can take patients and other arguments or modifiers; if it carries another noun as a prefix, the function of that noun must be determined by context.

In fie dha clauses, an oblique (loc. or abl.) infinitive can be used instead of an av-clause.

  • fie dha inthenis il tu tutir (Ina. 2.6)
    ‘for weighing one thing against another’
  • fie dha isceris il (Ina. 2.2)
    ‘[the god does not dwell in matter] that [it] should be worshipped’, lit. ‘for being worshipped’

The alternate infinitive (in -ea) may once have indicated the product of an action rather than the action itself, but by the time of Liturgical Heláin, it is unproductive. Of the roughly dozen such verbal nouns to survive, most have lost a short antepenultimate vowel through δ4 (clea, isclea, crea, drea, andrea, frea, and the rare, very archaic rrea); two were retained to dissimilate the infinitive from some other noun (serea from sera, sidea from suda); and two were retained for unclear reasons (levea and ridea).

Participles, unlike the often-ergative finite verb, come in active and passive forms, which do not correspond predictably to their finite verb's agent and patient. They often have idiomatic senses, and some verbs lack one or both participles or use them interchangeably.

The active participle tends to be used for a person (or less often, a thing) who causes or intentionally experiences the verb's action; its aspect tends to be imperfect.

The passive participle tends to be used for a person or thing that experiences the verb's action, usu. unintentionally, or that has experienced it.

The so-called 'third participle' is unproductive and always idiomatic. Throughout this grammar and the related dictionary, it is treated as a derived noun in its own right, rather than a true participle.

The means-noun (a weak noun marked by its unique voc./abs. ending -oi) is used for a tool or concrete object or substance by which the verb's action is accomplished. The few abstract means-nouns seem once to have been considered somehow physical (cresoi 'mind', emmeroi 'sense; nerve', iŋcitoi 'numeral', neicoi 'memory, mind').

[top]— 3. Nouns & Demonstratives

Most Heláin nouns are declined for five cases as well as number/gender (masc. and fem. sg. and common pl., and occasionally collective, dual, or even trial; see §???). Demonstratives are declined for up to ten cases, below organised under the five main cases.

Vocative: The citation form of a noun, the vocative developed from an collapse of a now-lost ergative case into a true vocative. It is therefore used to show agent, addressee, or (with verbs of naming or calling) predicate. (Possible reasons for the confusion include that the ergative case likely shared the singular ending -a with the vocative of some words, and definitely shared plural endings; that the agent and addressee of an imperative is usually the same; and that agent and addressee can have the same placements in a sentence.)

The ergative vocative shows the agent (usually sentient) by whom a verb’s action is performed or caused. With an imperative, this function is indistinguishable from a true vocative.

  • finnen andrei una dher (Adh. 2.5)
    be.seen-AORAorist (tense/aspect)
    usually the simple past
    fear-ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female
    e.g. English '-ly'
    this-VOCVocative (case)
    'O [addressee]'
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male

    ‘fear shall not at all be seen by this [man]’, ‘this [man] shall by no means see fear’
  • av e, al, sora seu so. (Adh. 1.5)
    shine.IMPImperative (mood)
    a.ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    god.VOCVocative (case)
    'O [addressee]'
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male

    ‘O god, shine upon us, even upon me’, ‘let the god shine ... ’

The true vocative shows the addressee of a sentence. By an extension of this usage, the predicate vocative appears with verbs of naming and calling to show the name or designation by which the patient is called (e.g., ‘I am called Vala’ = ‘[They] call me, [saying,] “Vala!”’). (See also copulae, §??.)

As the citation form, the vocative is used for a word being discussed as a word (ruŋana coraiá ‘translate [the word] ruŋana’) and for any number not modifying a noun (intea twer u bresei yen ser ‘two plus four equals six’).

Absolutive: Every verb (excepting some imperatives) requires an argument in the absolutive (or reflexive, below).
Most often, the absolutive shows patient, that is, the person or thing upon which the verb’s action is performed; the exact relation, however, of an absolutive noun to its verb depends on the verb in use.

  • fiu seaiye barren came (Ina. 2.7)
    &-and indeed be.had-AORAorist (tense/aspect)
    usually the simple past
    life-ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male

    ‘but indeed [he] hath life’
  • dha tahwent alle (Ina. 2.1,8)
    this.ADV speak-PERF god-ABS.M
    ‘thus the god hath spoken’
  • sig alle sor (Adh. 2.4)
    be.sung.IMP god-ABS.M 1-VOC.M
    ‘let the god be sung by me’
  • s’al av ŋunnen beth verisad pitora (Adh. 2.4)
    my-god.VOCVocative (case)
    'O [addressee]'
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    for be.given-AORAorist (tense/aspect)
    usually the simple past
    people conquer-INFInfinitive (TAM)
    non-tensed verb
    .OBLOblique (argument)
    indirect or demoted object
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female
    -great enemy-ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .PLPlural (number)
    more than one/few

    ‘for my god shall endow [his] people with victory upon their enemies’

The predicate absolutive is used with most copulae (§???).

  • tea eon came ’os fi came cemiras ianas (Ina. 2.7)
    be a.REFLReflexive (valency)
    argument acts on itself
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    life-ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    a.POSSPossessive (case)
    owns, has
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    & life-ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    live-ACTActive voice (valency, volition)
    the subject acts, voluntarily
    .PCPLUnknown code-GENGenitive (case)
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female
    a.FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female
    .COLCollective (number)
    'group or mass entity'

    ‘he is his life and the life of all the living’

Reflexive: The reflexive is best understood as the absolutive and ergative vocative combined in one form. Most often, it is used for an agent acting upon himself.

  • theiss on telinis ecer (Adh. 2.5)
    lie.IPRFImperfect (aspect/tense)
    was verb-ing
    a.REFLReflexive (valency)
    argument acts on itself
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    house-OBLOblique (argument)
    indirect or demoted object
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female
    which-VOCVocative (case)
    'O [addressee]'
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male

    ‘[he] who lies (lays himself) in [his] house’

The reflexive is used for the subject of most copulae.

  • te’ alleon avai. (Adh. 2.1)
    be god-REFLReflexive (valency)
    argument acts on itself
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    light-ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female

    ‘The god is light.’

Genitive: In general, words in the genitive case can modify other nouns to show possession, origin, material, or the like, or can appear independently in certain idioms and comparisons. In singular demonstratives, a possessive case (unsurprisingly used for the possessive function) is distinct from a relative case (used for all other genitive functions).

The possessive genitive shows the possessor of the thing it modifies. The possessive suffix -osa (II.??? 'Derivation') is semantically equivalent to the possessive genitive.

  • estitahwennis av eos istea ián (Ina. 2.7)
    thought-word-OBLOblique (argument)
    indirect or demoted object
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female
    for a.POSSPossessive (case)
    owns, has
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    exist a.ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .COLCollective (number)
    'group or mass entity'

    ‘for at the word of his thought all things are’
  • came cemiras ianas (Ina. 2.7)
    life-ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .MMasculine gender (gender)
    masculine or male
    live-ACTActive voice (valency, volition)
    the subject acts, voluntarily
    adjectival form of a verb
    -GENGenitive (case)
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female
    a.GENGenitive (case)
    .COLCollective (number)
    'group or mass entity'

    ‘the life of all the living’

The partitive genitive can show the origin or material of the thing it modifies, the whole of which the thing it modifies is a part, or (more formally than the possessive where distinct) the quasi-possessor of a person, idea, or other technically unpossessible thing.

  • istwín m’avai arienas (Adh. 1.2)
    rise.IMPImperative (mood)
    thy-light-ABSAbsolutive (case)
    TRANS object, INTR argument
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female
    understanding-GENGenitive (case)
    .FFeminine gender (gender)
    feminine or female

    ‘make rise thy light of understanding’

The relative genitive is used independently to show for whom or what a statement is true, or in certain idiomatic phrases. In comparisons, it shows the person or thing to which the subject of a comparison is being compared.

  • finnen andrei una dher talama tutir (Adh. 2.5)
    ‘this man shall see fear no more than that’
  • harren alle leveas avesuvas (Ina. 1.8)
    ‘the god is greater than the pure air’
  • fiu umbarren cresoi ore cresoiras beth (Ina. 2.6)
    ‘nor has [he] a mind like human minds’

[Rel. gen. with certain verbs, phrases like metis, etc.]

Oblique: The oblique case in nouns corresponds to the locative, allative, ablative, comitative, and instrumental cases in demonstratives. A clarifying demonstrative often follows an oblique noun but can be omitted when the verb suggests a particular sense of the oblique. (Note that an unambiguous oblique is most often called by its corresponding demonstrative case: e.g., ‘locative’ rather than ‘locative oblique’.)

The locative shows a place, object, or time at, in, or on which, or a person near whom, the verb’s action takes place; more rarely, it is used in place of the allative.

The allative, in its most basic use, shows a place, object, or state to, into, onto, or towards which the verb’s action progresses (sometimes metaphorically); a length of time for which it happens; or a point in time until which it happens.
The dictive allative shows the addressee of an absolutive speaker or a kind of indirect object or third verbal argument in similar idioms. (See dictive constructions, §??.)

The ablative shows a place or object away from which the verb’s action progresses (sometimes metaphorically, e.g., with verbs of disagreeing, forswearing, and the like); it is only rarely and confusedly used of time.

The comitative shows a person in whose company or with whose participation the verb’s action is done, or a quality (‘comitative of manner’) with which it takes place.

The instrumental shows an object or instrument by means of which the verb’s action is done; with dative verbs, it shows the thing given.


Gender: The two nominal genders -- masculine and feminine -- are distinct in the singular only. Each weak noun has its own preferred gender but can appear in the other, if the context calls for it (see, e.g., nominal modification, B-?? below); a strong noun, however, keeps strictly to its gender (except ad, which is uncertain). The gender of some nouns can be predicted by applying the following rules in order until one fits:

  1. Nouns referring to men and male animals are always masculine; nouns referring to women and female animals are always feminine (unless the sex is unknown to the speaker, or irrelevant).
  2. Participles and weak nouns ending in -e are masculine; infinitives, diminutives, n-declension nouns, weak nouns ending in -i, and andallarasti strong nouns are feminine.
  3. Nouns for non-mammalian animals, body parts (except those particular to women), objects made of metal, stone, or wood, and other rigid objects (excluding buildings and pottery) are masculine; nouns for plants (excluding some parts of plants), mammals, objects made by spinning, weaving, or braiding (including pottery), liquids (excluding some bodies of water), and buildings are feminine.
  4. Nouns ending in -eiv are masculine; nouns ending in -ein and -eid are feminine.

The gender of other nouns cannot be predicted; however, nouns ending in -oi are often masculine, and nouns for states or qualities are often feminine. Some nouns regularly take endings for both genders, depending on sense: e.g., fana is masculine in its senses ‘wing’ (a body part) and ‘ship’ (a wooden object), but feminine in its senses ‘sail’ (a woven object) and ‘fern’ (a plant).

Number: All weak nouns and demonstratives decline in two numbers: singular, referring to one thing, and plural, referring to more than one. Where there is a choice, the singular is usually preferred to the plural: e.g., bellen herre ‘a virtuous man is happy’ rather than the grammatical but stylistically weak bellen herora ‘virtuous men are happy’.

Dual forms, referring to two things (or persons), appear in some strong and n-declension nouns and the demonstratives er ‘one’ and sor ‘I’. The n-declension duals are used for paired body parts only (brentha ‘a pair of hands’); astwa, the dual of asti ‘love’, is used of love between two persons; and the duals of allún ‘day’ and urrún ‘night’ and their derivatives are used for a pair of consecutive days (or nights) only. Where dual forms are lacking, the plural can be used instead.

Trial forms, referring to three things (or persons), appear in the strong nouns allún, urrún, nor, rian, and their derivatives; istaiar in its sense ‘witness’ and talaiar ‘judge’ also have archaic trial forms anistaira and antalaira. The number cwer ‘three’ acts as a makeshift trial demonstrative. Where trial forms are lacking, the plural can be used instead.

Collective forms appear in some assorted nouns and most demonstratives; they refer to a large group of things (or persons), to the set of all such things (or persons), or to the defining quality of such things (or persons): e.g., nor ‘man’, teinnovra ‘all men; manhood; manliness’. Collectives in -ián are frequently weakened to n-declensions in -ien: e.g., mel ‘star’, melien ‘starry hosts’. Where collective forms are lacking, the feminine can be used instead.

[top]— 3. Nominal Modification & Phrases

A noun can be modified with a following demonstrative or noun (in apposition), a genitive or oblique noun or phrase, a participial phrase, or a relative clause.

A modifying demonstrative is sometimes necessary to clarify the case of an ambiguous noun, to mark a plural noun as dual or trial or a feminine noun as collective, or to contain another modifier (see ??).

tered allún eól, aistwín f’annún, telinitered f’isteninis il (Adh. 2.9)
‘at the gates of the day, both dawn and sunset, at the gates of the house and upon the high place’
(The sense of the clarifying demonstratives eól and il is carried over to nearby nouns.)

cul ecsollen breŋcäei anda illin (Ina. 2.9)
‘then the cup shall be emptied onto the ground’

came cemiras ianas (Ina. 2.7)
‘the life of all the living’

fie dha’l eberihwe av cemivelli tan (Ina. 2.10)
‘that they may have all things needed for life’

Strong nouns, lacking case, are often clarified by demonstratives. However, a strong noun can appear without a demonstrative when it is the patient or agent of its verb, is modified by apposition, or is joined by fi with an unambiguous noun.

finnen teiglen fintha eas ecetir (Ina. 1.6)
‘whose eyes see the world’ (patient)

fie dha’l unebereisf’ e teiglen (Ina. 2.2)
‘that the world cannot hold him’ (agent)

harren alle celoeil cemeiŋiniras f’ioneil geseiŋiniras (Ina. 1.9)
‘the god is greater than the life-giving rain-cloud and the death-giving snow-cloud’ (modified by apposition)

teiginannen ean tegeis allún fi meleteinis yen ivra ’citir (Ina. 1.11)
‘which comes straight around in order with day and season together’ (joined by fi)

Because Heláin does not distinguish between nouns and adjectives, any noun can (at least in theory) modify any other noun by apposition. The main noun is followed by the modifying noun in the same case and number/gender (or an equivalent, e.g., plural for dual); unless the modifier is an ambiguous strong noun, a demonstrative is not necessary.

denitha sera
‘child maiden’ = ‘maiden daughter’, ‘daughter, who is a maiden’

dha tahwent alle filtahwenired beth eollin (Ina. 2.8)
‘thus the god hath spoken to the human prophets’

Likewise, a genitive modifier simply follows the noun it modifies, usually without a demonstrative.

When an oblique noun or a longer phrase modifies a noun, it is most often placed between the noun and a demonstrative agreeing with the noun, or between two such demonstratives after the noun.

allún camm coráv cameon eos dhe (Ina. 2.7)
‘the day before his life was alive’

Note that a demonstrative can also be used independently as a pronoun of sorts. See also (delayed patient) and (stylistic e).

sig alle sor, fiu nen e adhaid (Adh. 2.4)
‘I will sing [of] the god and serve him with hymns’

etahweneisfe dhe aiar uner (Ina. 2.7)
‘no being can speak of this’

[top]— 4. Adverbs

[top]B. The Clause

[top]— 1. Clauses & Word-Order

The simplest clause consists of a verb followed by its absolutive patient.

  • inunn ave, leind uri, ann eru. (Adh. 2.2)
    ‘the sun sets, the darkness falls, the night comes’

The patient can be neither omitted nor separated from the verb (except by a postpositive conjunction); if a patient is to be omitted or delayed, a placeholder patient (usually a form of er, that is, e/i/ora) is supplied directly after the verb.

  • av e al sora, seu so. (Adh. 1.5)
    ‘O god, shine upon us, even upon me.’
    (Normal order would be av sora ... al or al av sora ... )

In a main clause, a true vocative tends to come before the verb and an ergative vocative, after the patient, but either one can be in either position. When the agent is a lone demonstrative, it comes directly after the patient.

  • al umbarren ... pare beth oráv (Ina. 2.2)
    ‘the god has not a body as [do] men’
  • etahweneisfe dhe aiar uner (Ina. 2.7)
    ‘no being can speak of it’
  • [address; demonstrative agent]

In a subordinate clause, the verb properly comes first (after a conjunction such as fiel, u, or fie dha’l/c, or after an unbridging adverbial modifier). Three exceptions in Tersas are these:

  • estitahwennis av eos istea ián (Ina. 2.4)
    ‘for at the word of his thought all things are’
  • cusenariennis av eos arren ián (Ina. 2.6)
    ‘for in the understanding of his heart he knows all things’
  • s’al av ŋunnen beth verisad pitora (Adh. 2.4)
    ‘for my god shall give [his] people victory upon [their] enemies’

An adverb or adverbial clause can fall anywhere except between the verb and its patient; its preferred position, however, is at the end of the clause it modifies. A lone adverb generally comes before a verb only for strong emphasis or unbridging (see below).

Bridging (deva): When two adjacent clauses share an agent, it is usually placed between them, after the first patient and before the second verb. To avoid unwanted bridging, an adverb (such as dha) or similar expression (such as tul or cul) is placed before the second noun.

  • istannen min neráin, elbarren alg’ istenored (Ina. 2.10)
    ‘if they go up [to worship], men shall bring a gift to the priests’

[but neráin here is absolutive! better examples, perhaps further bridging rules]

[top]— 2. Negation & Conjunction

Gramuary: The ordinary negative word in  Heláin, classified as an erinelféid or adverb, is un- or una (fixed and free forms; it's unrelated to the English prefix). It can be prefixed to a verb or another adverb to negate it. Fixed to the demonstrative er 'one, a/the', it forms the negative demonstrative uner 'no, none, no one, nothing', which modifies a noun or another demonstrative to negate it. The free adverb negates a verb or clause; in constructions that don't rely on a distinction between the fixed and free forms, the free adverb is rather more emphatic (often translated 'not at all' or 'never'). The default, least-marked negative is a prefix on the verb.

▼ (examples)

The fixed/free distinction is important for imperatives and certain kinds of compound verbs. With imperatives, the free adverb is used when the positive command would be an action performed by the addressee, and the fixed adverb when it would be experienced: med tu una 'don't eat that', unelám 'don't fall asleep'; gos (e) mun una 'don't kill yourself', uŋgós 'don't die'.

In verb-verb compounds, the fixed adverb negates the entire compound and/or the base verb, and the free adverb negates the prefixed verb only: umbesitalveill e 'it's not necessary to shout', besitalveill e una 'it's necessary not to shout'. (My notes from last year's Gramuary say the opposite but I think I prefer this.)

The word fiuna 'and/or not' tacked onto the end of a sentence indicates that it's a yes/no question: fefinnen dhe mur corallún fiuna 'did you see him yesterday?'

Theoretical mathematics uses the word uŋcit 'not-number' = 'nothing, zero'.

Gramuary:  Heláin has ergative-absolutive alignment (which I accidentally invented while developing it, and only later recognised). Ordinarily, each verb has a required patient in the absolutive case, and an optional agent in the vocative case (into which a now-lost ergative case collapsed).

Verbs can share arguments by a construction called a fi-string: essentially, a set of two or more verbs linked by the conjunction fi, which together function as a single verb, sharing the same patient, agent (if present), and free modifiers. Of the sentences, probably only ‘He insulted and hit him’, ‘He slept and was watched’, and ‘Jim hit and hurt Joe’ could use a normal fi-string.

However, a verb can sometimes carry an argument as a prefix. Thus an agent-verb compound could be one of the verbs in an agentless fi-string, e.g., ‘Jim slept/awoke and was Joe-seen’ or ‘Joe had been Jim-hit and died’. This fi-string syntax makes it look as if the patient is the pivot; on the other hand, a subordinate clause can share an agent (and not patient) with the main clause.

There are three third-person options: dher ‘this’, tur ‘that (nearer)’, cur ‘that (farther)’.

▼ 1-2. saw and left

▼ 3. saw him and he left

▼ 4-5. washed, cooked, ate

▼ 6-7. insulted and hit

▼ 8. slept and was watched

▼ 9-10. bought and gave

▼ 11-15. the tragedy of Tethon and Yeni

[top]— 3. Questions

[top]— 4. Commands

[top]— 5. Unabsolutives & Datives

[top]— 6. Dictives & Reported Speech


How timely; I’ve been working on so-called dictive verbs in my reference grammar of  Heláin.

▼ 1-3. going to the city: basic indirect speech

▼ 4/7. don’t know: compound dictives

▼ 5. my brother: anaphora etc.

▼ 6/10. commands and questions

▼ 8-9. complex statements

Comments (0)
privacy | FAQs | rules | statistics | graphs | donate | api (indev)
Viewing CWS in: English | Time now is 29-Nov-20 16:15 | Δt: 130.8699ms