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Direction of action in Vodholk
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person, agreement, case, and volition
This public article was written by severy, and last updated on 11 Nov 2015, 07:49.

[comments] Menu 1. Overview 2. SV Agreement: nominative and elsewhere 3. Lowest-volition marker 4. SV Pronouns: the case of no case 5. MV Action direction: overview 6. MV Sign-type overview 7. MV Agreement types
This article is a work in progress! Check back later in case any changes have occurred.


Action direction refers to who does what to whom. In English, this is generally realized by word order: in the sentence "the woman hit the man" it is clear that the woman does the hitting, and the man is the one who is hit. Our pronouns also carry case: "she hit him" is one way to rephrase the above sentence.

Spoken Vodholk (SV) uses fairly free constituent order, meaning that the order in which arguments appear in a sentence is unrelated to the action direction. Instead, there are a number of non-syntactic ways this can be indicated: using person, agreement, case (in SV), and animacy/volition.

The first few sections will deal primarily with SV, with MV (Signed/Manual Vodholk) detailed afterwards.

[top]SV Agreement: nominative and elsewhere

Verbs in Vodholk must agree to the nominative subject if there is one:

kala e'poskath cat.NOMNominative (case)
TRANS subject, INTR argument
PSTPast (tense)
action occurred before moment of speech
'the cat yawned'
Sometimes there is no nominative argument, especially in sentences that would be interpreted as middle or passive voice in other languages. This is called elsewhere agreement:
epos'e fo'o'ath boat-ACCAccusative (case)
TRANS direct object; patient
sink-PROGProgressive (aspect)
be verb-ing
'the boat is sinking'
Of course, in many sentences there are multiple arguments (and/or adjuncts). In these cases, both nominative and elsewhere agreement are used:
e'kealeka paop'e ke PST-push-1SG.NOM-3PL dog-ACC 1SGM 'I pushed the dogs'
However there are of course many sentences where there are more than two arguments, or where there are multiple arguments but no nominatives. In these cases, a more complicated approach is warranted. See a full table of agreement markers here.
[top]Lowest-volition marker
In some sentences, particularly when there are numerous arguments, a particle called the "lowest volition marker" is placed before the argument (or conjunct) of lowest volition, especially if there is an argument with greater animacy to contrast with:
keth kla épse'e e'leokath ákel'a 1SG.GENGenitive (case)
LVLowest volition (volition/ role)
least agentive/ volitional argument
flower-ACC PST-give-1SG.NOM-3SG parent-ALLAllative (case)
'to, onto'
'I gave my parent a flower'
In this example, although the kla is not necessary syntactically or semantically - the case markings on 'parent' and 'flower' along with the agreement on the verb indicates the action direction clearly. However, it is often used in such cases to facilitate comprehension. The particle kla is mandatory in multi-argumental sentences where there is no nominative/ volitional agent in order to indicate what is being acted upon:
asa opfolath epepkas kla opkol'e AUXAuxilliary-GNOGnomic (aspect/mood)
common, timeless truths
skin-3SG PROXProximal (proximity)
close to speaker
e.g. this/ that
-knife-INSTRInstrumental (case)
'with' 'using'
LV seal-PL-ACC
'this knife is used to skin seals'
Kla is much more important (and much more often used) in signed than spoken Vodholk. The sign for kla is tapping the back of the nondominant hand with the pinky of a Y-shape hand, and generally occurs after the low-volition sign instead of before it.
[top]SV Pronouns: the case of no case
Vodholk pronouns are usually only inflected for two things: genitive case and antagonistic class. Generally, agreement marking on the verb is relied upon to indicate who is doing what.
thel po e'ek'ethop 3SG 2SG PST-hit-3SG.NOM-2SG 'she hit you' thel po e'ek'epath 3SG 2SG PST-hit-2SG.NOM-3SG 'you hit her'
Another option, especially for when there are multiple third-person arguments, is to demote one of them to fourth person (obviative). Generally, the demoted argument is the less-volitional.
thek a e'ek'ethas 3SG 4SG PST-hit-3SG.NOM-4SG 'he hit her'
(Note that here "he" and "she" do not communicate any sort of gender in the original Futhorcish, I am merely using them to demonstrate that there are two different people.) Also, note that Futhorc is an optionally pro-drop language. Although both the agent and patient can be dropped, it is quite common for only the agent to do so. The patient cannot drop unless the agent has as well.
a e'ek'ethas 4Fourth person (person)
obviative, not present
'he hit her' *Ungrammatical
segment is ungrammatical to native speakers
thek e'ek'ethas 3SG PST-hit-3SG.NOM-4SG 'he hit her' e'ek'ethas PST-hit-3SG.NOM-4SG 'he hit her'
Pronouns take the low-volition marker if there are at least three arguments of a similar person:
thek a e'afoethas kla pleka'e 3SG 4SG PST-tell-3SG.NOM-4SG LV story-ACC 'he told her a story'
Pronouns can take other cases, but generally do not.
[top]MV Action direction: overview
Manual Vodholk can use sign-space to indicate positional information about signs, making it often much-more intuitive than agreement marking in SV. However, overall it has quite a few dissimilarities: markedly, it does not have any form of case-marking. Word order in MV is fixed as verb-last, but the arguments may still appear in any order besides that. Besides the use of kla (LVLowest volition (volition/ role)
least agentive/ volitional argument
), detailed above, verbal agreement takes several forms, depending on the type of noun and verb signs used. Note: underlined segments below are "sign-glosses" - see this article for an explanation of these.
[top]MV Sign-type overview
In order to understand the types of agreement, it is necessary to comprehend sign-types in Vodholk. Sign-type here refers to the physical placement of the sign and, in case of verbs, how much syntactic information is encoded within the verb-sign. Specified signs incorporate in their formation the physical placement on a particular location on the body (excluding the other hand) or in sign-space. Sometimes the placement is iconic - for instance, BIRD (SV falo) is up.claw sky (slightly above the signer's eye-level) - however sometimes it is arbitrary, e.g. in WHITE (keok) is me.S chin tap Neutral signs, on the other hand, are not formed in "neutral sign space." This means it does not touch any part of the body except perhaps for the other hand. For example, DEER (fáthea) (mimicking the antlers); SEAL (opko) is W.flat.down swim flat.up.5. There are also combined signs, which are generally compound signs, in which there is both a neutral and specified aspect. For example, MEAT pfeso: 3: arm.pinch→mouth, which is a compound of 'flesh' and 'eat.' These signs are categorized by their final position for purposes of agreement, so MEAT is a specified sign. Static signs do not involve any form of syntactic motion. This distinction is primarily of importance to verbs, but can also describe nouns: EDIBLE FRUIT (pélap) involves motion - sky twist ∟ mouth - but this is merely mimicking picking and eating fruit from a tree. The motion describes an object, not an action. For verbs, FREEZE (eokap) is a static sign: flat.down.3 rubs circle.rub flat.up.5. Directional verb-signs incorporate the location of the arguments with a movement. For instance, I-HIT-YOU is, whereas YOU-HIT-ME is The direction of action is therefore incorporated into the verb itself.
[top]MV Agreement types
There are six main types of agreement, which depend on the types of verb and noun signs used in the sentence. Static-neutral agreement (SNA) involves placing a neutral noun in an upper sign space (slightly below the signer's eye level) and another in the lower sign space (more at chest level). The static verb sign is then performed starting in the agent's space and moving to the patient's:
LAKE↑ WINTER↓ FREEZE (kla satho'e eosas eokapath) 'the winter freezes the lake' DEER↑ WOLF↓ FLEE (fathea'e polako 'akathath) 'the deer flees from the wolf'
Static-specified agreement (SSA) is a bit more complex. Since the noun-signs cannot be placed in the neutral sign-spaces themselves, they require indexation before the verb can be used. When the neutral noun-sign is one-handed, e.g. HUMAN efe 2 ear circle, it can be indexed by the nondominant hand simultaneously with the sign production. Otherwise, indexation occurs before the sign production. Signs are indexed by the nondominant hand placing a B.flat.down in one of the two sign spaces.
HUMAN-PL-INDEX↑ DOG-PL-INDEX↓ HAVE (efel paop'e kelthath) 'humans have dogs'
Static-mixed agreement (SMA) involves both a static and a specified noun. Here, we treat the specified noun just as in SSA. Directional-neutral agreement (DNA)
DEER.a WOLF.b CHASE.a→b (pólako fáthea'e 'akathath) 'the wolf chases the deer'

Directional-specified agreement (DSA)

Directional-mixed agreement (DMA)
If only one noun is specified, then it can be left in its specified location, and the directional verb can link it to the
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