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|2 - 10*|
|Nouns decline according to...|
|Verbs conjugate according to...|
ʔulili is a language or small language family spoken by the indigenous inhabitants of the island group today known as Sumpa 'ulil in the dominant dialect of Riktas Rammay. Called Hikrakatrazmi ("those who do not have names" or "those who do not exist") or simply 'ulilwus ("people from 'ulil") by the karikuwus (the speakers of Riktas, who more often refer to themselves simply as nu, "people"), the speakers of ʔulili were the only (near-)human inhabitants of the archipelago of Sumpa Rammay prior to the arrival of Riktas speakers from across the western ocean, living in small, semi-permanent villages as stone-age fishers and gatherers.
The islands of Sumpa 'ulil are the largest known in Sumpa Rammay, and have been almost entirely settled by Riktas-speaking agriculturalists in the generations since their migration across the sea, relegating the 'ulilwus to peripheral lands in the rugged island interiors and a few of the smaller outlying islands. The history of interaction between the two peoples has been largely antagonistic, but over the centuries there has been some exchange of goods and ideas between the two as well.
Most significantly, the inland 'ulilwus, unable to practice their traditional maritime lifestyle, long ago adopted agricultural practices and technologies, as well as metalworking techniques and other advanced crafts, from the Riktas-speaking invaders. These practices and tools came accompanied with a sizable body of new vocabulary, and the introduction of foreign words, phonemes, and grammar from Riktas has left a noticeable mark on ʔulili.
ʔulili has had an influence on many varieties of Riktas as well. The prestige "Rammay" dialect first arose in the southern part of Sumpa 'ulil, the most densely populated island group since time immemorial, and the influence of an ʔulili substrate is largely responsible for the presence of ejective consonants and the preference for words ending in open syllables in that tongue.
|Aspirated Plosive||pʰ [b]||tʰ [d]||kʰ [g]|
|Aspirated Affricate||t͡sʰ [ds]||(t͡ʃʰ)||k͡xʰ [gx]|
The allophones /s/ and /ʃ/ are in complementary distribution; /s/ becomes /ʃ/ in medial position between front vowels (/a/ or /i/). Both /t͡s/ and /t͡ʃ/ contrast with /t/ and /ʈ/, but the former occurs only medially before front vowels and the latter occurs only initially before close vowels (/i/ or /u/).
/ʈ/ and /ʈ'/ occur only in loanwords from Riktas, and many speakers pronounce them as /t/ and /t'/, respectively.
ʔulili phonotactics are highly restrictive, allowing only syllables of the form "CV."
In loan words from Riktas that include syllable codas, ʔulili typically inserts an additional vowel to break up the resulting consonant cluster, though the quality of these epenthetic vowels varies somewhat unpredictably depending on the dialect and the particular word, and in some cases consonants are simply dropped, particlarly in word final position or in clusters of identical consonants. For instance, "standard" ʔulili represents the Riktas place name Sumpa Rammay as Sumapa Lamayi (/sumapa lamaji/), and the word Riktas itself as Likutasa (/likutaʃa/).
Nouns in ʔulili are not marked for case and objects are differentiated from subjects primarily through word order, with the former always preceding the latter. Verbs, on the other hand, are quite distinctive, and their placement within a phrase is more flexible. ʔulili word order can therefore be seen as varying relatively freely between VOS, OVS, and OSV, though in everyday speech VOS order is by far the most commonly used.
Nominal morphology in ʔulili is relatively simple, with no grammatical marking for case. However, most nouns are required to take one of ten possible suffixes which mark them for grammatical gender or class. Assignment of noun class markers is highly idiosyncratic; some nouns alternate arbitrarily between more than one possible suffix, while others take on entirely different meanings depending on which suffix is applied, and still others take only the "null" suffix -Ø. Nevertheless, most of these "class-marking" suffixes can be grouped based on the animacy of the nouns they modify, as follows:
|Animacy Class||Associated Suffixes|
|Unmarked||-Ø, -la, -laa, -xa|
|Animate||-sa, -tsa, -ts'a|
|Inanimate||-naa, -ta, -taa|
- -si exclusively marks terms for human body parts and diminutive forms of nouns referring to people, which typically otherwise take an "unmarked" suffix (most often -Ø).
Aside from class markers, nouns may be marked in the plural number, though this distinction is always optional and need not agree with verbal number marking. Indeed, in phrases containing verbs bearing plural affixes like the plural agent suffix -mats'i, it is generally considered ungrammatically redundant for the corresponding noun to also be pluralized.
Plural marking in nouns is accomplished through one of two forms of reduplication. In some nouns, reduplication of the initial syllable of the noun root (or the entire root if it is monosyllabic) marks plurality, as in nenepa-si, "feet" or tsitsilamati-Ø, "rattlesnakes", while in other cases it marks different semantic distinctions, as in kxuukxuula-sa, "river, stream, running water", from kxuula-sa, "potable water". In general, when a noun takes a suffix, the suffix may be reduplicated instead, as in nepa-si-si, "feet", kxuukxuula-sa-sa, "rivers, streams," or kxuula-sa-sa "waters, sources of potable water."
Although nouns in ʔulili do not decline for case, they may take one functional suffix in place of their normal class marker: -pii. Nouns ending in -pii denote "one who is characterized by" or "one who makes," similar to the English agentive ending "-er." For instance, ʔulili-pii can mean "intelligent person", "orator", "confidence artist", or "speaker of the ʔulili language," from ʔulili, "intelligent, eloquent, or beautiful speech", while ʔalili-pii means "gossiper" or "storyteller," from ʔalili, "gossip" or "story." As with noun class markers, -pii can be reduplicated to indicate plurality, as in ʔalili-pii-pii, "gossipers" or ʔulili-pii-pii, "ʔulili speakers (used as an ethnonym)."
-pii can also be applied to geographical terms or place names, in which case it produces a term describing a person from that place. For instance kxuukxuula-pii-pii, "river people" or "people from the river(s)."
Verbal morphology in ʔulili is highly polysynthetic, with a large inventory of potential affixes marking a wide variety of grammatical and semantic distinctions. Of these, a verb may only take one prefix, and the suffixes may be grouped into a number of categories (here labelled sequentially from A to O) based on their position in relation to the verb root and to each other.
Most verb roots in ʔulili describe a relatively vague or generic action, such as k'a, "to hit", which is made more specific through the application of an instrumental prefix indicating how the action is accomplished. ʔulili regularly uses 20 instrumental prefixes, though not every root can be meaningfully paired with every prefix, and each can express a range of different meanings. Each is defined below according to the sense in which it is most frequently used.
|fa-||with the sole of the foot||faʈʰakxi-, to crush underfoot|
|fi-||with the toes or nose||fik'a-, to kick|
|tsa-||with a sudden movement, by stealth||tsak'a-, to hit someone from hiding|
|tsu-||with fire, heat, or light||tsuts'a-, to burn|
|tshi-||by holding the handle of something||tshiluuʔuu-, to steer (e.g. a ship)|
|tsha-||with a long object moving lengthwise||tshahaʈʰi-, to jump up and down|
|tshu-||by pulling||tshuluuʔuu-, to row|
|ʈa-||with the hand/palm||ʈaluuʔuu-, to paddle|
|ʈu-||with the finger||ʈuta-, to feel with fingers|
|ʈi-||by gravity, by falling||ʈits'a-, to fall and break|
|ha-||with a swinging motion||hax'u-, to throw a knife, axe, etc, and have it penetrate something|
|hi-||with the (whole) body||hik'a-, to tackle|
|ma-||with the lips, snout, or beak||mak'a-, to kiss briefly, to peck|
|mi-||by encircling (with arms, lips, by sewing)||mita-, to taste|
|mu-||by a moving object detached from the subject||muluuʔuu-, to travel by boat (as a passenger)|
|pha-||with the end of a long object||phax'u-, to harpoon|
|phi-||with the side of a long object||phix'u-, to slice|
|phu-||by blowing||phuluuʔuu-, to sail|
|xa-||with the teeth||xaʈʰakxi-, to crush between one's teeth|
|si-||by water, licking, sucking||sits'a-, to kiss passionately|
Class "A" Suffix: Plural AgentEdit
The suffix -yi marks the verb as being performed by more than one subject, as in sits'a-yi-, "they kiss passionately."
Class "B" Suffixes: Essive and TerrestrialEdit
The suffix -mV, where "V" represents the vowel in the preceding syllable, marks the "essive" form of a verb, indicating a steady condition or state or action in a delimited area. When the verb root already denotes an unmoving position, then the essive indicates that this position is on something up off the ground. For example, ʈʰakxi-mi- means "crushed" or "in a continuous state of being crushed."
The suffix -tsV specifies an action as taking place on or otherwise involving the ground, as in ʈits'a-tsa-, "to fall to the ground and break."
Class "C" Suffixes: Semelfactive, Inceptive, Plural Act, Plural MovementEdit
The "semelfactive" suffix likewise takes the form -tsV, though context usually prevents ambiguity in this case. This suffix serves most often to indicate that the described action is performed only once, but with verbs of motion it can also indicate that a motion is starting or that the direction of the motion is "away." For instance, fik'a-tsa- means "to kick once," while phuluuʔuu-tsuu- can mean "to sail away" or "to start to sail."
The "inceptive" suffix -yitsi indicates that an action is just beginning, as in ʈaluuʔuu-yi-yitsi- "they start paddling."
-wV marks the action as either being performed on multiple objects or performed multiple times with respect to a single (or unspecified) object, as in mak'a-wa-, "to kiss briefly more than once" or "to kiss more than one object briefly."
-hVtV indicates movement by plural subjects or of plural objects, as in tshahaʈʰi-hiti-, "they jump up and down."
Class "D" Suffixes: Directionals, Directional-InchoativesEdit
ʔulili verbs may take one of several suffixes indicating where the action described by the verb is directed, which are summarized below:
|-makʰa||in from here, south or east from here|
|-mat'a||in here, in to here|
|-ʔakʰa||out from here, north or west from here|
|-ʔat'a||out here, out to here|
|-ʔalat'a||down here, down to here|
|-ʔilit'i||up here, up to here|
Two other directional suffixes, -ʔip'ikʰi (away, up from here) and -ʔala (down from here) may also mark the inchoative aspect, indicating the beginning of an action or state of being. When they are used in this sense, they may follow other directional suffixes, with the exception that they may never be duplicated. For instance, muluuʔuu-ʔip'ikʰi-ʔala- means "to begin to travel away from here by boat."
Class "E" Suffixes: Reflexive and ReciprocalEdit
The "reflexive" suffix -yits'i indicates that the subject of the verb is also the object, as in tsuts'a-yi-yitsi-yits'i-, "they begin to burn themselves."
The "reciprocal" suffux -muts'u indicates that multiple subject are performing the described action toward each other. When combined with the plural subject suffix, the verb indicates that multiple pairs or groups of individuals are performing an action reciprocally. For instance, sits'a-muts'u- means "to kiss each other passionately," while sits'a-yi-muts'u- means roughly the couples/groups kiss each other passionately."
Class "F" Suffix: CausativeEdit
The "causative" suffix -hakʰa indicates that the subject is causing the object to perform some action. For instance phix'u-yits'i-hakʰa- means "to cause (another) to cut himself/herself/itself."
Class "G" Suffix: LocomotoryEdit
-wanamarks the "locomotory" aspect, an unusual construction that indicates that a subject is moving while performing the action described, similar to the English phrase "to go along (doing something)." A directional suffix may be used to specify the direction of movement, in which case it is placed after the locomotory suffix instead of in its normal position. For example, tsʰahaʈʰi-wana-ʔip'ikʰi- means "to go away jumping up and down."
Class "H" Suffix: DurativeEdit
The "durative" suffix -tsini indicates that the verb takes place for a fixed (usually short but not instantaneous) period of time, similar to English phrases ending with "for a while." For instance, tshuluuʔuu-yi-tsini- means roughly "they row for a while."
Class "I" Suffix: DistributiveEdit
The "distributive" suffix -ʔiwa indicates that an action takes place at different places or moves around in a random manner. For instance, phuluuʔuu-yi-tsini-ʔiwa- is roughly equivalent to the English phrase "they sailed around for a while," not to be confused with phuluuʔuu-yi-mulu-tsini-, "they sailed around (something) for a while."
Class "J" Suffix: DefunctiveEdit
The "defunctive" suffix -ts'ini is used to mark an action performed by one that is now dead. Because of a widespread taboo against speaking the names of the dead, the subject of a verb marked with -ts'ini is usually not otherwise indicated. -ts'ini may also be reduplicated to indicate that an action has taken place "for (many) generations." For instance, phix'u-yits'i-ts'ini- means "the dead person cut himself/herself," while tsuts'a-ts'ini-ts'ini- means "to burn for many generations."
Class "K" Suffix: NegativeEdit
-tʰi indicates the negation of a verb, as in mita-tʰi-, "to not taste."
Class "L" Suffixes: First Person Object, Remote PastEdit
The suffix -wi indicates that the action is being performed toward the speaker, as in fik'a-tʰi-wi-, "to not kick me."
-t'i indicates that the action took place in the remote past, and carries the implication that it has not, could not, or would not happen now or again. For instnace phuluuʔuu-yi-t'a-t'i- means "they used to sail here (but don't anymore)."
Class "M" Suffixes: Evidentials, Admirative, Energetic, Imperatives, Futures, Absolutive, AdverbializersEdit
In one of the most conspicuous cases of linguistic diffusion between Riktas and ʔulili, the two languages share a common set of suffixes marking evidentiality. It seems most likely that these were borrowed by ʔulili speakers in incorporated into their already highly flexible system of verb morphology from Riktas, rather than the other way around. Evidence for this comes from the fact that ʔulili makes fewer evidential distinctions than Riktas, and that all verbs in Riktas are required to take an evidential suffix, whereas these inflections are always optional in ʔulili.
The evidential suffixes used in ʔulili are summarized on the following table:
|-tu||hearsay||I have heard that, I've been told that|
|-ka||inferential||(based on the evidence I have seen) I think that, I predict that, I plan to|
|-ki||non-visual sensory||I hear/smell/taste/feel that, I have a feeling that|
|-wa||visual/direct||I see/have seen that, I know for certain that|
The "admirative" suffix -ni carries somewhat different shades of meaning depending on which evidential suffixes it follows. After -ka, -ki, or -wa it typically expresses surprise at becoming aware of the marked verb. However, when the speaker is not literally seeing (at least in his or her own estimation) that the verb accurately describes what is taking place, -ni is usually used sarcastically to refute an assertion made by another. When used following the hearsay evidential -tu, it expresses that the speaker is reporting what he or she has been told, but has doubts about its veracity. Finally, when no evidential suffix is used, -ni can be used to convey any of these three meanings, depending on the context.
The "energetic" suffix -ʔama is used to assert that the speaker strongly believes the truth of what he is saying, and to emphasize the importance of the statement. It is almost never used in conjunction with an evidential suffix.