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Stems and Irregular Stems
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What they are, and when you can use them
This public article was written by Admin Sheep, and last updated on 30 Apr 2016, 01:11.

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13. Pronouns
Menu 1. Using Stems 2. Irregular Stems 3. Inflecting a part of a word using the irregular stem CWS has a feature to help make creating grammar tables for slightly more complex languages a little easier. This is through using stems, and the irregular stems features. This article will attempt to explain what these are, how to use them, and what situations they CAN be used.

PLEASE NOTE: This function is really only useful to you if your conlang has a stem form for verbs, nouns etc that must be used to conjugate instead of the infinitive, nominative singular etc. If your language affixes directly to the word listed in your dictionary, then this is not for you.

To put it simply, stems are a way to apply a set of blanket rules to all grammar table cells in a table, before it will use form-specific rules.

[top]Using Stems

For the purpose of this article, I will be using Estonian verbs in my examples as this suits the purpose perfectly. Estonian infinitive verbs tend to end in -ma. In order to affix any of the many affixes to the word, you must first change this to its stem, before any additional inflection takes place. Some examples of the infinitive verb, and their stems:

ütlemaütle-to say
püüdmapüüa-to try
tahtmataha-to want
lugemaloe-to read

The first obvious step is to remove the -ma suffix. This can be achieved with the PhoMo rule: ma//_#. However, this will only work for ütlema as the other verbs are a little different. It is clear from both püüdma and tahtma that you could also add the rule t,d/a/_# after the rule to remove -ma, as this is relatively regular.

So, in order to build a grammar table for Estonian, each cell would need the two rules mentioned above added. This can be a pain in the butt to have to copy past into 50+ cells, and then to have to edit every time you change a rule (let's face it, conlangers can be indecisive about this stuff!).

The way around this is with stems.

All you need to do is create a stem (this can be done here) with the PhoMo rules to execute on all cells (in this case):


Then all you need to do is add this stem as the base stem for the table you wish to apply all of these to. CWS will then know that before it executes any rules in the grammar table cells, it first must use the stem rules. This will cut down the amount of information you need to put into the grammar tables, as now you simply just need to update the stem if you change the way the stem changes.

From there, CWS will then continue with the normal cell rules (in Estonian's case, it might add +n for first person singular present tense: ütlen, tahan, püüan, loen, or +d for second person singular present tense ütled, tahad, püüad, loed, and so on).

[top]Irregular Stems

You'll notice if you read the above section, that we haven't touched base on what happens to lugema > loe-. This is because this is a secondary function to the stems called the Irregular Stems.

In order to enable using this option, you need to specify where you wish to add this data in the dictionary settings for your language.

PLEASE NOTE: This function is really only useful to you if your conlang has possible irregular stems form for verbs, nouns etc that must be used before any additional inflection is done. If this is not the case, then this feature is not for you.

So, in order to use this, you must have some stems already set up, and the table you wish to use the irregulars in, must have these stems set to them. Once this has been done, and you have enabled irregular stems through the dictionary settings, you can add the information for words with irregular stems.

So hypothetically, let's call the stem used in the previous section the 'Verb stem' (imaginative, I know). When I edit or add the word lugema to my dictionary, there'll be a field where I can enter an irregular stem for the language's 'Verb stem'. I would enter this as loe.

This tells CWS that when:
  • the 'verb stem' is being used in a table; AND
  • when lugema is being conjugated to conjugate loe instead of lugema or luge-.

Once conjugated, the table will actually say: 'irregular stem found: loe' to alert you that it has found an irregular stem and is using that instead of the word itself.

[top]Inflecting a part of a word using the irregular stem

The irregular stem can be used to designate that only part of a word needs to be inflected. This is particularly useful for dictionary entries that are phrases. In the irregular stem field, surround the part of the word or phrase that is to be inflected with double brackets: {{ }} (remember to also set the applicable grammar table(s) to accept the irregular stem). The grammar table will the 'ignore' the rest of the word when applying the PhoMo rules, and then add them in once complete.

Using Spanish as an example, dejar de means "give up (doing something)". I would only need to conjugate dejar. In the irregular stem, I would type {{dejar}} de. Assuming I used the following PhoMo rule:


I would get the following output: dejo de. Without the brackets, PhoMo would see de as the end of the word (instead of ar) and not apply the PhoMo rule. This word uses brackets and an irregular stem to inflect a phrase.

Comments (3)
[link] [quote] 01-Jan-18 16:37
CWS Conlanger
 LIza Jane Machiavelli 
what if the language were to have no infinitive form?
[link] [quote] 18-Apr-17 05:16
Language of the Month
Where we pick the featured language of the month
@ConlangChris ask on the boards ☺
[link] [quote] 17-Apr-17 20:41
CWS Conlanger
How do i make a stem that reduplicates a specific part of the stem? Eg. normal stem=kala irregular stem=kakala.
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on 30/04/16 01:11+4hashifixed tag error
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