T́uliǹgrai Grammar

by Leo D. Orionis

Parts of Speech — Rules of Syntax — I. Verbs —
II. Adverbs, Adjectives, and Adverbial particles —

(The following sections aren't ready yet)
III. Nouns, Pronouns, etc. — IV. Particles

Parts of Speech

The kinds of words found in T́uliǹgrai utterances, whether oral or written, are classified by how they are modified in use, that is, inflected:

  1. Words inflected for voice, mood, aspect, and tense (verbs).
  2. Words inflected for modifier class (adjectives and adverbs).
  3. Words inflected for case and number (substantives).
    1. Words inflected for case, number, and gender.
      1. With unmarked inanimate gender (common nouns).
      2. With inanimate gender marked by H (correlatives, pronouns, correlative verbal affixes, and pronominal verbal affixes).
      3. With no inanimate gender (proper nouns: names of races, groups of people).
    2. Words inflected for case, and sometimes for number, but never for gender (proper nouns: personal names and place names).
  4. Uninflected words (particles: prepositions, conjunctions, phrase parsers and interjections).

Rules of Syntax

The rules for constructing a sentence in T́uliǹgrai are very simple:

  1. The order for the skeleton of a sentence is subject, direct object, indirect object, verb.  If the subject and/or direct object are incorporated into the verb, the verb complex occupies the verbal position.
  2. Modifiers follow the word or words they modify.
  3. Particles precede the word, words, or clauses they modify.

I.  Verbs

Verbs are the keys to understanding and using T́uliǹgrai.  The verb is the most important part of speech because (1) nearly every other part of speech is formed from a verb stem, (2) nearly every other part of speech may be manifested as a verb (or vice versa), and (3) the verb is the heart of the sentence.  It is the only part of speech which can form a sentence by itself, and every sentence must have a verb to be complete.  A bit of speech without a verb is merely an utterance, not a sentence.

In this section we will learn the proper use of verbs, verbal prefixes, and participles.  The things for which they are inflected shall be explained and criteria given so that you can always known which inflection should be used.

The Verb Stem

The verb stem is the heart of the verb.  It supplies the basic meaning of the verb.  Verb stems are almost always two syllables long, with both syllables open (not ending in a consonant).  A few verbs have closed first syllables; a few others are more than two syllables, with some of the syllables other than the last one closed.  But most verbs are two open syllables long, and belong to one of ten classes:

  1. With active meanings:
    1. Ending in A (Transitive), e.g., kaθa "create"
    2. Ending in I (Intransitive), e.g., lavi "run"
    3. Ending in AI (Impersonal), e.g., lumai "thunder"
    4. Ending in ÂI (Mutual), e.g., k'ařâi "love each other"
  2. With descriptive meanings:
    1. Ending in O (Adjectival), e.g., lan-to "blue"
    2. Ending in Y (Adverbial), e.g., telky "precisely"
    3. Ending in U (Prepositional), e.g., ši-u "in"
  3. With substantive meanings:
    1. Ending in E (Count noun), e.g., heke "island"
    2. Ending in Ê (Mass noun), e.g., lôlê "water"
    3. Ending in Ē (Animate noun), e.g., lořē "humanoid"
    4. Ending in EI (Event noun), e.g., saxei "snowing, snowfall"

You may wonder how "island" or "blue" can be verbs.  A better question would be, how do other languages avoid making them verbs?  When you say "Hawaii is an island," you use the English verb "is" as a linking verb, chaining "Hawaii" to "island" in a way that is understood by English and most other Indo-European languages.  Thus the verb "to be", in English, has a second usage (besides "to exist") with no intrinsic meaning but to link other words together.  Similarly when you say "The sky is blue," "is" links "sky" and "blue."  The verb "to be" is thus very common in languages where it's a linking verb.

The T́uliǹgrai verb lohi means "to be, to exist."  It is never used as a "linking verb."  To say "Hawaii is an island," we use "Hawaii" as the subject of the sentence and "island" as the verb: Hawaiiai zuhekex.  In the sentence "The sky is blue," "sky" is the subject and "blue" is the verb: Ekelai zulan-tox.

T́uliǹgrai verb stems consist of a root, usually taken from the earlier Erêtiǹgrai language, with the verb classes added.  Using different endings give different verbs: for instance saxei means "snowfall", but saxê is "snow" (from Er. sax, "to snow"); vero means "strong", but very is "strongly" (from Er. vera and vere, respectively); dâko means "green", but dâke is the color green, and dâka means to paint or otherwise make something a green color (from Er. dakka, "green").

The rest of the verb

Words in T́uliǹgrai are constructed from verb stems with affixes (prefixes and suffixes) attached that define the part of speech and other elements of meaning.  A verb may be described schematically as

Verb = Voice + Mood + Directness + Stem + Tense

No verb is complete without all these parts.  A few verbs, notably verbs of weather, need nothing else to form a complete sentence.

Active Z
Passive S

If the subject of the sentence does the action, the verb is active; if the subject has the action done to it, the verb is passive.  For example, in "The boy flew the kite," "flew" is active; but if we say "The kite was flown by a boy," "was flown" is passive.  The meaning is interchangeable but the expression and the emphasis is not; the first sentence revolves around the boy and what he's doing, while the second is concerned mostly with the kite.  Only transitive verbs can be passive.

Indicative U
Infinitive A
Subjunctive O
Imperative I
Participial Î
Interrogative E
Numative EI
Potential Ô
Conditional AI
Certain Y
Expectational Ê

Mood shows whether a verb is a command, a question, wish, statement of fact, or some other kind of statement.  It has nothing to do with the time the verb occurs, whether it's complete or not, whether it's active or passive, etc.

The Indicative mood is used for statements of facts and opinions.  It is the most common verbal mood.  "The boy flew the kite" is a statement in the indicative mood.

The Infinitive mood is used for verbs dependent on other verbs ("He is able to fly a kite"), and in dependent clauses answers "Why?" or "To do what?" ("He struggled to fly the kite.").  In English the infinitive is usually signalled by the word "to" placed before the verb.

The Subjunctive expresses a wish ("I would I could fly a kite!") or a condition contrary to fact ("If only I could fly a kite!").

The Imperative is used for commands and orders, e.g., "Go fly a kite!"

The Participial corresponds to adjectival participles in English, or relative clauses used as adjectives: "The running man" ("The man who's running"), "The broken sword" ("The sword that was broken"), "We who are about to die". They can be either active or passive: "The tree that burned", "The tree that was burned". Participles can also be adverbial, when they modify another verb, or an adjective: "She sings as if she's in pain", "He will sleep like he's dead".

The Interrogative is used for neutral questions, where neither yes nor no is the preferred answer: "Is he flying a kite?"

If a question expects a negative answer, the Numative mood is used: "He isn't flying a kite, is he?" ("No" expected)

If a question expects a positive answer, the Nonnetive mood is used: "He's flying a kite, isn't he?" ("Yes" expected)

The Potential translates "may" or "might", as in "He may be flying a kite," or "He might fly a kite."  If the "then" part of an "if-then" statement is not certain, the potential mood is used, as in "then he might fly it."

The Conditional mood translates the "if" part of an "if-then" statement, for example, "If you give that boy a kite ..."

The Certain mood translates the "then" part of an "if-then" statement if the outcome is certain, as in "then he will fly it all day long."

A verb in the Expectational mood preceded by the particle tal denotes events not expected to happen, that occur anyway; Tal tluzêjodix, "So he's coming after all (we thought he wasn't going to).  The particle An before a verb in the expectational mood means that the event was expected to happen, and then didn't; An tluzêjodix, "But he was going to come (and now he didn't).


If the action of a transitive verb is done to someone or something else, or the verb is not transitive, it is direct and no morpheme occurs at this location.  If the verb is transitive and the action is performed upon the subject of the sentence by the subject of the sentence, the verb is reflexive and occurs at this location in the verb.  "He told her" is direct; "He told himself" is reflexive, and in T́uliǹgrai requires no word for "himself"; it's supplied in the English translation because English requires it.

Present D
Past N
Perfect M
Future S
Future Perfect Š
Present/Future ST
Present/Past ND
Past/Future NS
Timeless X

T́uliǹgrai has both simple and compound tenses.  The simple tenses are similar to those of Latin: Present translates either "He is flying a kite" or "He flies a kite," Past, either "He flew the kite," or "He was flying the kite," Perfect, "He has flown the kite," Future, "He will fly a kite," and Future Perfect, "He will have flown the kite."  None of these should give English users any trouble, except for the common practice today of reversing the past and perfect tenses.  Ignoramuses who say "I seen him" and "I have saw him" and "I would have saw him" can be expected to mistranslate T́uliǹgrai tenses the same way they mangle their own language.

T́uliǹgrai also has compound tenses for events that occur at more than one time; Present/Future means an action that occurs in the present and continues in the future, but did not happen in the past; this is particularly useful in imperatives to denote that something must be done from now on, regardless of whether it was done in the past.  Present/Past denotes action in the past and present, but not the future.  Past/Future tense is used for action that occurs in the past and future, but not in the present.  Finally, the Timeless tense is used if an action occurs in past, present, and future; if the time when an action occurs is irrelevant; and in proverbs.

With no more knowledge of grammar than this, and a little vocabulary, you can make complete statements about the weather: zulumaid, "it's thundering", zusaxaiǹ, "it had snowed", even zesatais? "will it rain?"  But you can't say "it's not thundering," "it snowed hard," or even "it's hardly raining."  For those we need adverbs.

II.  Adverbs, adjectives, and adverbial particles


Adverbs (words that modify the meaning of verbs or adjectives) are formed in T́uliǹgrai by adding -R to the end of the adverbial verb stem.  The resulting word follows the verb or adjective it modifies, for example zulumaid stetyr, "it's thundering loudly", zusaxain mivyr, "it snowed hard", or zusatais kusyr, "it will rain hardly at all."


Adjectives (words that modify the meaning of nouns) are formed in T́uliǹgrai by adding L to the end of the adjectival verb stem.  The resulting word follows the noun it modifies, just as adverbs follow verbs.  But it is not inflected to agree with the noun it modifies in case, number, gender, etc. as in Latin and other languages.

Note that you could frame the adverbial examples above in terms of an event noun and an adjectival verb: eilumai zustetod, "The thunder is loud," eisaxai zumivon, "The snowfall was heavy," or eisatai zukusos, "The rain will be light."  The choice of which way to express the thought is a matter of style.  Simpler, better T́uliǹgrai generally results from preferring to express the verbal meaning as a verb, otherwise the adjectival meaning, otherwise the substantive meaning.  Nouns that begin in EI- are event nouns, a good signal to express them as verbs unless there is some reason in emphasis, parallel expression, or poetic scansion to do otherwise.

Particles that modify adverbs and adjectives (adverbial particles)

The negative particle has an adverbial function but differs from adverbs by not ending in -YR.  Also, like all particles, it precedes the word or clause it modifies, instead of following it as adjectives and adverbs do.  For example, tê zusumaind, "it wasn't and isn't foggy." or "it isn't foggy so far."  (It's easy to spot particles; they're the only one-syllable words in T́uliǹgrai.  More on particles below.)

Indo-European languages originally had singular, dual, and plural number for their nouns (one sword, two swords, three or more swords). In parallel with that structure, adjectives had three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative, and superlative, as in good, better, best. In degenerate modern IE languages like English, which lost the dual number hundreds or thousands of years ago, the comparative is fading in favor of the superlative, so that we often hear something being called the best, rather than the better, even when only two things are compared.

T́uliǹgrai nouns have singular, plural individual, and plural collective (discussed under nouns, below), but number has nothing to do with comparison of adjectives and adverbs. The emphatic particle da serves this purpose. Its forms are da, de, di, do, du, and dy, which might be translated as:

Degrees of comparison of adjectives and adverbs
Dâkol, "free" Dâkyr, "freely"
DA Da dâkol, "more free, freer" Da dâkyr, "more freely"
DE De dâkol, "free indeed" De dâkyr, "freely indeed"
DI Di dâkol, "very free" Di dâkyr, "very freely"
DO Do dâkol, "most free" Do dâkyr, "most freely"
DU Du dâkol, "extremely free" (rarely used) Du dâkyr, "with extreme freeness" (rarely used)
DY Dy dâkol, "incredibly free" (almost never used) Dy dâkyr, "so freely it's incredible" (almost never used)

The emphatic particle is also used with verbs, either expressed or implicit, to indicate agreement:

Degrees of agreement
DA "Yes", or "I agree."
DE "Indeed," or "Absolutely."
DI "You bet!" or "Count on it!"
DO "God, yes!" or "Oh hell yes!" or "You bet your ass!"
DU "YES, GODDAMMIT!" (rarely used)

There are no articles in T́uliǹgrai.  Eretiǹgrai had both a definite and an indefinite article, but the weaker indefinite article is completely gone, and the definite article survives only as the definite anclitic particle -ûk and the honorific ûk, which combines with the gender prefixes to form honorifics for heads of Great Households; see Particles.

III.  Nouns and other substantives

A noun in T́uliǹgrai splits its verb stem (e.g., "lêse") into root ("lês") and class ("e"), and reverses them.  To this are added the appropriate gender prefix, and suffixes for case and number.  Thus a noun may be described schematically as

Noun = Gender + Class + Root + Case + Number

No noun is complete without all these parts.  The tables below show the forms of each part, with an explanation of when each is used.

Neuter Traditional *R
Aatuan L
Feminine Traditional K'
Gêθē KR
Eretē X
Aatuan G
Royal Aatuan KT
Single KS
Masculine Traditional TL
Gêθē TR
Eretē T'
Aatuan D
Royal Aatuan KT
Mixed/Unknown TS

See the Gender section for an explanation of why there's more than one kind of neuter, feminine, and masculine, and what the different kinds mean, or Chapter 12 of The Reborn Princess Caper.  Note that when applying a gender prefix to a living being other than an Iǹgrē, you should use the Traditional prefixes.  Thus a male ēřobai would be a tlēřobai, while a female one is a k'ēřobai.

Nominative AI Subject of the sentence.
Genitive A Ownership or production.
Partitive AO Origin, membership; the whole a part belongs to; quantity, age, measure; description, innate quality.
Ablative Ê About, concerning, considering. Titles of books are usually in the ablative.
Locative E In or on or at a location in space; use a preposition with locative object to be more specific.
Temporal In or at or during a location in time; use preposition with temporal object to be more precise.
Dative EI The indirect object of a verb or verbal clause.
Accusative I Direct object of a verb or verbal clause; the objects of prepositions other than locative and temporal.
Attestive IU According to; Latin per.
Instructive O The agent of a passive sentence, corresponding to the subject of an active sentence.
Proactive Ô Despite or instead of; circumstances prepared for; cf. Latin pro plus an object.
Causative OI Cause or reason; because of.
Allative U Means, instrument; manner, way, condition; sensory impressions; purpose; degree of difference.
Vocative Y Direct address.

All substantives except the verbal prefixes are declined, or inflected for case.  The case of a noun (or other substantive) shows how it's being used in the sentence.  T́uliǹgrai has fourteen cases, no two of which can be used for the same thing.  Some of the cases overlap with prepositions; you can say "at the house" with the phrase ni-u ecome (preposition plus object in the temporal case), or ecome (noun in the locative case).  Generally it's better not to use a preposition unless it's more specific, and you want to be that specific on that occasion.

Sample sentences and examples: SOON!

Singular A person, for instance.
Plural Individual More than one individual.
Plural Collective More than one, considered as a group; both of them, the three of them, all of them.

To be continued…

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