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Phonology

Renqila has the following consonantal phonemes: labials (p, b, m), labiodentals (v), dentals (t, d, lh //, l, n), alveolars (s), palatals (ç /ɕ/, q /tɕ/, y /j/), velars (c /k/, g, ng /ŋ/, h /x/), uvulars (r /ʀ/), and glottals (' /ʔ/). The vowels are a, e, i, o, u, and the diphthongs are ea, eo, ie, io, iu, uo (all falling). In addition, there are four tones, a, á, â, à: neutral, rising, peaking, falling. Their realization is complex, and shall be discussed below. In some dialects, there is a distinct retroflex series with a voiced and voiceless stop, derived from the clusters tl, dl, cl; the l likewise is pronounced as a retroflex flap. In other dialects, the palatals may have a postalveolar articulation, h may be weakened to a mere aspiration, and r may be a voiced glottal spirant.

All syllables must contain a vowel and almost all begin with a consonant. The only permissible clusters are those of an initial stop follwed by l or y. A word may end in a vowel, or the consonants m, l, h, '. These phonemes have several variants when followed within the word by another consonant. M has the allophones /n/ (before a following dental or palatal) and /ŋ/ (before velars); l becomes lh in front of a voiceless consonant (though still spelled l here) and r in front of ; h becomes /ɣ/ before voiced stops and v, and assimilates completely before g and r; the glottal stop assimilates completely to the following consonant.

Grammatical or function morphemes are mostly of the type simple consonant plus simple vowel and have the "neutral tone", whereas content morphemes tend more strongly to have closed syllables and diphthongs ? in general, more complex syllable types ? or to be disyllabic, and they are tonic, having a rising, peaking, or falling tone.

The actual manifestation of each of the three "full tones" (rising, peaking, falling) depends on whether they occur in isolation, or are preceded or followed (or both) by a neutral tone, while the sound of the neutral tone depends on which of the full tones are near it. The length of a word also affects the overall tone pattern of the word. Within a word, the syllable with the full tone is stressed, and others are unstressed. [NOTE: As of now, I still don't know exactly what the phonetic realization of the tones is.]

Nouns

The noun phrase consists of a head noun, plus any modifers (such as adjectives, prepositional phrases, and relative clauses), which always follow the noun. The Renqila noun lacks case-marking to distinguish the subject/agent and direct object, which are distinguished only by their position in the sentence (usually the subject precedes the object). Prepositions are used to indicate the relationships of nouns to other elements of the sentence, and express the indirect object and possessive constructions. As clitics they attach to the following noun phrase, and depending on the transcription, they are written apart from the following noun phrase, attached to it, or with a hyphen intervening (as in this text). Some common prepositions are se (to, toward), ya (in, at, on), si (with), qal (through, by means of), mi (before, in front of), be (after, behind), po (on, above, over), hem (under), so (from).

A few words which are closely associated with time or location are used adverbially by themselves: híu (day, during the day), (night, at night), règem (home, at home).

Vo is used prepositionally to indicate the indirect object, and also the benefactive ("for"). The malefactive mal [sic] is also used for the indirect object, when it is implied that an action affected the indirect object negatively.

To indicate alienable possession, the preposition cu is used. Relationships among people are expresssed diffferently, by the particle te. Similar relationships, such as between animal parents and offspring, are expressed the same way. When the possessed item is a part of the body or a product/creation of the possessor, there is yet another formula, using di. This also applies in general to parts-whole relationships.

Another particle is i, roughly equivalent to "of," which indicates a general relationship between two nouns. It is not strongly possessive like the others, but is often used for describing content, material, measure, etc.

Adjectives (as color words, numerals, demonstratives, etc.) are modifiers that may appear after their head as they are. Simple adjectives are unmarked and morphologically indistinct from nouns; adjectives may also be formed from nouns with the prefix -me. Within a noun phrase, the order of modifiers is descriptive adjective, numeral, demonstrative / interrogative, and finally any "heavy" modifiers (prepositional phrases, relative clauses). A monosyllabic non-tonic modifier (usually a numeral or demonstrative) will attach to the preceding word, whether the head or another modifier.

Verbs

Renqila inflects verbs for tense, mood, voice, and agreement with the subject. The tenses are past (-lu), present (-tu), and future (-ngo). These descend from an ancient paradigm with five aspects, imperfective/progressive (-0), aorist/punctual (-tu), perfective (-lu), prospective (-ngo), and inceptive (-co). The language innovated a form involving complete reduplication of the verb (later abbreviated to partial reduplication) to express emphatically imperfective/progressive action. At about the same time, action that was only weakly progressive came under the dominion of the aorist, and as the reduplicated form became more limited to iterative action, the imperfective and aorist merged. The reduplicated iterative fell out of use, superseded by adverbial expressions equivalent to "with frequency" or "again". The simple/imperfective, perfective, and prospective forms were then reanalyzed as tenses, and the inceptive took on another use altogether (keep reading for more on that).

The modal elements are generally prefixed, such as suh- (potential), ham- (optative), ca- (jussive or third person imperative), but also -po (informal second person imperative), and -do (polite imperative). As can be seen from the example of hansuccè, more than one affix can be combined.

The verb agrees with its subject for first and secon-person subjects (all third-person subjects have zero-marking). The endings, occupying the final spot on the inflected verb, are 1 sg. -(u)h, 2 sg. -(u)m, 1 pl. -su', 2 pl. -po', with the parenthetical "u" appearing when the preceding syllable ends in a consonant. The subject pronoun may then be dropped. The personal endings evolved from cliticized pronouns:

The inflection of voices other than the active is more complicated. The passive takes takes a circumfix tuh-qe, and the direct object is moved to the position of subject. The subject is dropped, although it may appear in a prepositional phrase headed by qal-. Note that aspect markers follow the tuh- segment and precede the root verb; the present tense requires no additional affix in this case, while the past and future affixes merge with tuh-, forming tulhu- and tungo-. Historically, passive forms arose from an auxiliary tuh plus a passive participle in -qe, which fused. The causative takes a suffix -co, with the agent appearing as subject, the ultimate patient as direct object, and the cause appearing in a so-phrase. The causative present causative form was originally an inceptive aspect form (see above) whose meaning shifted from "begin to" to "cause to". The "reverse" prefix ta- on a verb indicates that the subject and direct object changes places (giving VOS); the verb then agrees with the object. Applicative formations allow the promotion of nouns in prepositional phrases to direct object. They are formed by giving the verb an applicative prefix, which is generally the same as the preposition it corresponds to (though the applicative yal- corresponds to the preposition qal.

Negation is expressed by suffixes the addition of -pa (negative indicative), -me (prohibitive or negative imperative, which causes -po to drop), or -qol (negative for all other modes). These suffixes come final in the verb complex before the personal endings. Renqila also requires double negatives. Yes-no questions may be formed by appending to the verb the suffix -va', which fills the same slot as the negative suffixes, so the interrogative and negative affixes cannot be combined. After -va', a euphonic -u- is inserted before a personal ending.

Ce- (related to the verb "come") emphasizes an action as being dependent on another action, indicates purpose, and is often used in serial verb constructions.

Qo, vâm, and du

Qo, vâm, and du are verbs with the meaning of "to be". Qo is used as a simple copula, usually when the complement is adjectival. Also corresponding to "be" is du, which has the more limited meaning meaning of "is a(n)", in which there are two nouns, and the first is a representative of the second. Its complement is always a noun. Vâm is used with an existential sense. The verb have has no exact equivalent in Renqila, but there are several paraphrastic expressions. The chief one is vâm ~ vo ~, literally "be to," as in Vâm lio vo-sû, "There is a brother to me," for "I have a brother". Qo and du are invariable, and are proclitic on the complement. Only vâm is inflected, although it takes no suffix for the present tense.

Comparison

In comparing two unequal things, the formula used is "X poY", in which Y is the standard of comparison. When the meaning is "less than", then "X hem Y" is used. The superlative is formed identically to a regular comparative, in which the standard of comparison is "all" X po-ve" or "X hem-ve". Comparisons of equality use the formula "X qo Y".

Relative Clauses

In Renqila, the relative clause follows the noun it modifies, linked to it by a preceding relative pronoun, either to or tol. To is used if the head noun is the agent or subject of the relative clause, and tol if it is the direct object. Objects of prepositions are relativized with tol, preceded by the appropriate preposition. Many speakers place resumptive pronouns in the relative clause, though this colloquial practice prescribed against. is Genitive constructions and comparatives cannot be relativized at all, making circumlocutions necessary. An alternative (and increasingly common) method of relativization involves putting the verb of the relative clause into the passive, reversative, or applicative, so the object is promoted to the subject position.

Constituent Order

In most cases, the structuring of a sentence is V-S-O-PrP. Main clauses with qo and du are SVO; and question words are often fronted to the preverb position (although they may also be left in the position corresponding to their syntactic role). Renqila also allows fronting of prepositional phrases and subjects (i.e., SVO). With the verbal affix ta-, the order is changed to VOS, and the object may subsequently be fronted like a subject, producing OVS. In older forms of the language, SOV subordinate clauses are often found. Thus while Renqila is basic VSO, depending on circumstance, all permutations are encountered except OSV.

Word Derivation

Renqila uses several affixes to form new words from other words. The suffix -ti added to a verb produces a noun of agency. To form nouns incdicating persons inclined to something or who characteristically have a quality, -le is added to a verb or adjective. The prefix ge- and the suffix -qe (related to the historic passive participle) are used to form nouns from verbs, and me- forms adjectives from nouns. The copulas qo and du form adverbs; when no subject is present, the copula and complement are understand to mean "as ~" or "like a ~". In compounds, the descriptive element comes second, and loses its independent tone.

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© 2005 by Damátir Ando