Being adjectival in Old Tuvian

In my previous post, we encountered the Old Tuvian verb ṛak- ‘to be green’. The answer to the obvious question is: yes, Old Tuvian does apply verbs in an adjectival function. Let us see how this works:

putoki hilṭā ‘(the) boy is tall’

sari kewā ‘(the) king is old’

So far, so good. But how do we express a meaning like ‘the girls like the tall boy’? Well, we employ the present participle:

hoṛesā hilṭimme putoki wurā

maiden-PL-DAT  boy-ABS

So, the present participle of the adjectival verb in this instance behaves pretty much like the adjective we know from English. Of course, the participle takes any case endings from the noun (Suffixaufnahme). In addition to this, Old Tuvian also displays ‘‘regular’’ adjectives derived from nouns: hipārihi ‘golden’, sarihi ‘royal’ etc.

More interesting, though, is the way Old Tuvian makes adjectival comparisons. Any comparative or superlative form as such does not exist. It is the case system which gives a helping hand, so with the ablative case:

putokisatan hilṭā lit. ‘he is tall from boys’, i.e. ‘he is the tallest boy’ (or, depending on context: ‘she/it is taller than (all) the boys’) .

And with the equative case:

putokisunna hilṭā ‘he is as tall as the (other) boys’ or similar.

Again, we may want to express a more complicated meaning including a superlative, as ‘the king beheld the eldest girl’:

sarīwa kewimme hoṛe iokullōsā

king-DAT  maiden-ABS

We note that there is no formal distinction between ‘old girl’ and ‘eldest girl’ here—that must be deduced entirely from context. In English, of course, saying ‘the old girl’ here would imply an accentuation of her age, meaning perhaps that she was older than expected. In that case, Old Tuvian would apply an intensive suffix: kew-iṛt-imme, or maybe an inchoative suffix to denote that she is becoming older, ‘of age’: kew-ull-imme. Thus, contrary to English, Old Tuvian aligns the shorter form with the non-accentuated meaning. Suddenly, the system doesn’t seem that odd anymore.

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The Old Tuvian verb

In my previous post I gave some examples of Old Tuvian verb forms. In this post, I aim to give a more thorough picture of the OTuv verb. But first, some thoughts on the OTuv verb as a word class.

The careful reader may have observed that an OTuv case ending can be attached to a verbal root, as in uṣ-āji ‘to.say.untruth-INS’. Is it then meaningful to talk about verbs and nouns as separate word classes in OTuv? The answer is yes, because generally, a word root is either used as a noun or a verb, and the corresponding verbal or nominal form is derived from the root using a suffix, e.g. tin-iṣ- ‘to call by name’ from tini ‘name’, and uṣ-ose ‘lie’ from uṣ- ‘to say untruth’. But while the notion is useful to some degree, this doesn’t imply that there is an impervious line between the two. For instance, ṇuri ‘eye’ ~ ṇur- ‘to see’ must be said to belong to both.

Now, the most basic forms of the Tuvian finite verb consist of the stem as well as a valency marker and a personal suffix, e.g. colnā ‘he/she/it comes’, viz. coln-a-a ‘to.come-INTRANS-3psg.ABS’. From the same verbal root, we have colnī ‘he/she/it puts/brings something in’, viz. coln-i-i ‘to.come-TRANS-3psg.ERG’ and colnua ‘he/she/it is put/brought in’, viz. coln-u-a ‘to.come-PASS-3psg.ABS’. The transitive form actually demands a pair of personal endings—ergative and absolutive—but the 3rd person absolutive suffix is invisible. However, an anaphoric suffix is added if this corresponds with an anaphoric suffix in the absolutive object, thus hoṛeṛ hanṣita aṣine colnīne ‘a maiden pours the milk into the pot’, viz. hoṛ-eṛ hanṣ-ita aṣ-i-ne coln-i-i-ne ‘maiden-ERG pot-ALL milk-ABS-the to.come-TRANS-3psg.ERG-the’.

Before the valency marker, though, a tense or aspect marker is put. The zero marker corresponds to the present tense, whereas -ōs- is the past tense, as noted, and -ēt- is the future tense or an irreal aspect, e.g. colnētīne ‘she is going to pour it in, she might pour it in’ or similar.

The full chain of verbal suffixes is: root—(derivation)—(tense/aspect)—valency—(negative)—person[erg/abs]—(anaphoric), e.g. ṛohiṣētōsumuala ‘they might not have been killed’, viz. ṛoh-iṣ-ēt-ōs-u-mu-ala ‘to.die-CAUS-IRR-PAST-PASS-not-3ppl.ABS’.

Other suffixes include:

intensive: -iṛt-, e.g. putokiṛ hoṛe ajiṛtī ‘a young man loves a maiden very much’ (aj- ‘to love’). Note: the present tense is used also for narratives.

iterative: -ar-, e.g. hoṛewēneta ciatijata renarā ‘he repeatedly goes to the maiden’s house’ (ciati ‘house’, ren- ‘to go’)

inchoative: -ull-, e.g. ṭiri ṛakullā ‘(the) land becomes green’ (ṭiri ‘land’, ṛak- ‘to be green’)

optative: -īl-, e.g. ṭirine ṇuransa puṭīlata ‘may I live to see this land’ (-ansa gerund, puṭ- ‘to live’)

reciprocative: -ak-, e.g. ajakīla ‘they love each other’

We can combine a lot of these suffixes: ṛohiṣulliṛtarīlakīla ‘may they begin to kill each other savagely again and again’. This clearly demonstrates the agglutinative nature of Old Tuvian.

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The Tuvians come to Ered

When the Tuvians (from Old Tuvian ṭūwi [t̪-] ‘man’) first reached Ered, they settled east of the Wakōre delta (wak- ‘to split’, -ōre past passive participle). This choice was prompted also by the proximity to the mountainous areas to the southwest, where the Tuvians hoped to find the precious metals hipāri ‘gold’, uṛhuṇi [(ʔ)uɻχun̪i] ‘silver’, kapali ‘copper’ and culki ‘tin’, the working of which was central to their bronze age culture. The Tuvian economy was traditionally based on livestock (ṣokue) and agriculture (upi ‘barley’, terōpi ‘wheat’). Before venturing into history, though, let’s take a look at the basics of Tuvian.

Old Tuvian phonology

Consonants: p ṭ t c k m ṇ n ɲ ŋ ṣ s h l r ṛ w j
/ṛ/ is realized as [ɺ̠] in onset and as [ɻ] in moraic coda position (see vowels).
Vowels: a [a̠] e [e̞] i o [o̞] u
Long vowels ā etc. can be analyzed as two vowels [aa], similar to other vowel combinations au, ue etc.
The syllable is (C)V(S), where S is a moraic sonorant (any vowel or n (general nasal) l r ṛ).
Old Tuvian is mora-timed (as Japanese), and has a weak stress following a Dreimorengesetz (similar to Latin).

Old Tuvian grammar

The most characteristic aspects of Old Tuvian is that it is an ergative, agglutinative language. This is part of the case system:
ŋile ‘sun’ singular plural
absolutive ŋil-e ŋil-es-a
ergative ŋil-eṛ ŋil-es-oṛ
genitive ŋil-ewē ŋil-es-ē
dative ŋil-ēwa ŋil-es-ā
locative ŋil-ā ŋil-es-an
allative ŋil-eta ŋil-es-ata
ablative ŋil-etan ŋil-es-atan
instrumental ŋil-āji ŋil-es-āji
comitative ŋil-era ŋil-es-ura
equative ŋil-enna ŋil-es-unna

The verbal system is more intricate. But let us consider a sentence:
sariwēneṛ putokijaṛ ṣauri tepōsī ‘the king’s son made a sword’

Analyzed, this is:

sar-iwē-ne-ṛ  king-GEN-the-ERG
putok-ija-ṛ  son-3psg.POSS-ERG
ṣaur-i  sword-ABS

Seeing that Old Tuvian is a SOV language in its normal word order, we can also note the practice of Suffixaufnahme, where the genitive modifier repeats the case ending of the ergative subject, inserted after an anaphoric suffix ne.

Actually this suffix can serve to present the enclitic absolutive pronouns attached to the verb, as the pronoun hane ‘this’ can function as a copula verb just by adding those endings, as opposed to the normal string of different verbal suffixes. Thus:

‘to be’ singular plural
1st person ha-ne-ta ha-na-ta-la
2nd person ha-ne-wa ha-na-wa-la
3rd person ha-ne-a ha-na-a-la

Actually the copula needs no expression, and so we have two ways of expressing a sentence like ‘they are cowards’:

mala ɲeṣesa (ɲeṣe ‘mouse’) or

ɲeṣesa hanāla

If we want to express a meaning like ‘we are not the cowards that you call us’, the copula way of expressing it would be:

tiniṣōrena-wūsisa ɲeṣena-wūsisa hanamutala

viz. tin-iṣ-ōre-na+wūs-is-a ɲeṣe-na+wūs-is-a hana-mu-tala ‘name-CAUS-PAST.PASS.PART-the+2ppl.POSS-PLUR-ABS  mouse-the+2ppl.POSS-PLUR-ABS  these-not-1ppl.ABS’

… as opposed to a more straightforward way: uṣāji-nin ɲeṣenasa tiniṣi-wila-tala, literally ‘indeed you falsely call us cowards’ (vocabulary: uṣ- ‘to be untruthful’, -nin ‘indeed’ (separately stressed)).

With that, the first lesson in Old Tuvian is at its end.

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