The Bengedian language (Bengedian: thi nelanem "this language") is a constructed language I've been working on for some time now and I've decided to be a nice person and share it with you guys.
It's my first serious, linguistically informed attempt at conlanging, and as such I didn't try anything radical with it. A lot of the features in Bengedian will seem very Indo-European-ish compared to some other conlangs. I tried hard to make it complete and usable without turning it into a kitchen sink.
Hope you like it :D
At a glanceEdit
Bengedian is a moderately inflecting, SVO-order language with nominative-accusative alignment.
Nouns inflect for case (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive) and number (singular, plural). There is no grammatical gender, but the endings have partially fused to the noun, creating "declensions" of sorts. Adjectives agree in case and number with their head nouns and inflect like nouns.
Verbs inflect for tense (past, present, future) with four personal endings in each tense (1st singular, 2nd singular, 3rd singular, plural). There are also two non-finite forms: an infinitive/gerund/present participle, and a past participle. Other verb forms (e.g. "person who does" forms, what some grammars call "active participles") are part of the derivational system, not inflection.
Bengedian possesses the following consonant phonemes:
|Stop||p b||t d||k g|
Bengedian's vowels are:
The following allophonic realizations (in no particular order :P) are seen in standard Bengedian:
- Intervocalic voicing of fricatives: siseca "(that which is) stopped" /ˈsi.se.ka/ → [ˈsiˑ.zɛ.ka]
- Fricatives are also voiced when they precede voiced consonants: thu cos da "the number two" /θu ˌkos ˈda/ → [θu ˈkoˑz ˈdaˑ]
- A glottal stop /ʔ/ is inserted between vowels on word boundaries: sa ida "I was" /ˌsa ˈi.da/ → [saˑ ˈʔiˑda]
- The retroflex approximant /ɻ/ becomes a post-alveolar flap [ɽ] between vowels: sre ira "I exist again" /sɻe ˈi.ɻa/ → [sɻe ˈʔiˑ.ɽə]
- Unstressed vowels tend to relax. That is, /a e i o u/ > [ə ɛ ɪ ɔ ʊ]. This does not apply to final syllables.
- Vowels are lengthened in open stressed syllables, and lengthened (slightly less) before voiced consonants.
Stress and intonationEdit
Bengedian, like English, is a stress-timed language; that is, stressed syllables occur at a roughly steady rate.
Bengedian has a movable stress accent. Normally, in words of two or more syllables, the stress is on the second-to-last syllable; when this is not the case, the stress is indicated orthographically, which I transliterate as an ácúté áccént.
Derivational and inflectional endings can change a word's stress placement. Again, when this stress is not on the second-to-last syllable, an accent mark indicates the irregular stress.
Bengedian has two layers of stress: lexical stress (primary) and prosodic stress (secondary). Only primary stress is marked on a word in writing.
Bengedian's general syllable structure is (C)(C)V(r,l,w,j)(C)(C).
These conventions are used here:
- (a, b, c) means either a, b, or c.
- [ Brackets ] indicate an optional thingy.
- + means concatenation.
The following sequences of consonants are prohibited anywhere:
- Two sibilants
- Alveolar stop + /l/
- Geminated (doubled) consonants
The following patterns are permitted in the syllable onset:
- Any single consonant
- Sibilant + voiceless stop
- Sibilant + voiceless fricative
- Obstruent + approximant
- Sibilant + nasal
The following patterns are allowed in the syllable nucleus:
- Any vowel
- (a,e,o) + semivowel
- Vowel + liquid
The following clusters are allowed in the syllable coda:
- Any single consonant except /h/
- Voiceless stop + sibilant or /θ/
- Voiceless fricative + voiceless stop
- Any voiceless obstruent except /h/ or /t/ + /t/
- /b/ or /g/ + /d/
Thus berm, fašt, blečt are valid, but bdačl and scra are not.
Medial consonant clusters are limited to the following patterns:
- Liquid + any two consonants
- Liquid + nasal + [sibilant] + obstruent + approximant
- Liquid + nasal + sibilant + nasal
Bengedian is written using its own alphabet, which though I could put it up, I couldn't show you texts with it cuz there's no font for it (and all the good font-making programs 'COST MONEY...' blech. Or they're for Unix, and Cygwin didn't work for me.) Anyways...
Or you could just use our trusty Roman alphabet like I'm doing here. The following letters are used:
A B C Č D E F G H I K L M N O P R S Š T U W Y a b c č d e f g h i k l m n o p r s š t u w y
While this transliteration is for the most part one-to-one, there are some complications:
- The Bengedian alphabet does not distinguish c and k. I do so here to make it easier for Anglophones—that would be you if you're reading this :D-- to make it clear that the letter represents /k/ not /s/ in all cases. I must stress, however that I'm inconsistent with this, and to remember that c is always hard.
- I use the digraph th to represent /θ/ where the Bengedian alphabet uses a single letter.
- I use the letters č and š to represent the phonemes /t͡ʃ/ and /ʃ/ respectively.
Declension of nouns and adjectivesEdit
Bengedian nouns, pronouns, and adjectives decline for case and number. There is no grammatical gender. Adjectives agree in case and number with their head nouns and take the same endings.
There are six "declensions" in Bengedian. Which class a noun or adjective falls into is determined by form alone, depending on the word's final sound in the nominative singular: a consonant, /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, or /u/. The noun and adjective declension is given below, one for each class:
- The nominative and accusative are mostly identical, but nouns and adjectives ending in a consonant take a final -e in the accusative singular.
- The dative singular -e on words in -i.
Certain adjectives do not take the plural endings in -n. These are usually quantifying adjectives that are inherently plural; these include:
- The numbers themselves: guim bermen "five persons"
- Quantifying adjectives: unco bermen "many people", tom bermen "some people"
Verbs are conjugated for three tenses (past, present, future) with four distinct endings in each tense: one for each person in the singular, and one in the plural. The plural verb takes the same ending for all persons; person is not distinguished on the verb in the plural. :-)
In addition, verbs have an infinitive, and four gerund-participles which distinguish voice (active or passive) and aspect (present or perfect). The infinitive ending is -em. The present active participle is usually identical to the infinitive, save for a few irregularities.
Bengedian doesn't have "conjugation classes" per se, but there are certain phonological rules dictating the use of certain variant forms.
- The past tense seems to have a certain element that reminds one of, oh say, Germanic weak verbs for instance. I'll confess to borrowing here :-D
- The participle ending is normally -ec. For verbs with a stem in -c already (the infinitive -em doesn't count as part of the stem), use -eth instead—they mean the same thing.
- For the past tense of verbs whose stems end in a consonant other than t or d, the ed of the past tense becomes a t for voiceless consonants, d for voiced.
Several verbs are irregular:
- Serem "have" has the forms seda, sedat, sed, sedon in the past tense and sum, sunt, sume, sumon in the future.
The indefinite pronouns in the 2nd and 3rd persons are used when the subject's identity is unknown. For example,
- Wa e fašem thu, siset cu thici!
- Whoever is doing that, stop now!
- Tom, siset de thici!
- Tom, stop now!
- To pilired sas donsen! Toneth, astinet cu ke wica the!
- Somebody took my stuff! Someone else, help me catch him!
The demonstrative thu is also used as a definite article.
Relative and interrogative pronounsEdit
These pronouns correspond roughly to English that/which and who?/what? respectively. There are several contracted forms such as:
- kie, from ke e, "which is", and its other forms kea, ket, kemon, keda, kedát, ked, kedón, kum, kunt, kume, kumon
- carke, wac, meaning "when"
- šoke, wašo, meaning "where"
- šuke, wašu, meaning "how"
The relative pronoun ke is also used as a general subordinator, used to mark sentential arguments:
- Loseda ke de e nec.
- I said that you're bad.
Phew, we're all done with the tables, finally. Seriously, do you know how much effort it takes to type one of those things?
Eh, but I digress.
Here is where I cover Bengedian syntax: the types of sentences allowed. I will also cover the semantics of them, that is, what those constructions actually mean.
Basic word order and headednessEdit
Bengedian declarative sentences use SVO word order, just like English.
- Sa sordeda thu dule.
- I closed the door.
As for headedness, Bengedian is largely head-final, aside from having SVO word order.
Other sentence typesEdit
Simple yes/no questions are just indicated with a rising intonation in speech, or by a question mark in writing. There is no syntactic difference.
- Fašedat des fašaren?
- Did you do your work?
"WH" questions (to use the English term) are formed by fronting the phrase headed by the queried item. Unlike English, auxiliaries are not inverted:
- Was lengeš de cosedat?
- Whose length did you measure?
- Wa et?
- Who are you?
- O wa de et fašem thi?
- Why are you duing this?
Tag questions are formed using the set phrase e čel?, meaning "is that right?"
- Et Tim, e čel?
- You're Tim, right?
A negated tag question uses the tag nire? (lit. "it doesn't exist"):
- Net Tim, nire?
- You aren't Tim, are you?
Imperatives are formed by placing the subject pronoun after the conjugated verb.
- Siset de!
- Gúon san!
- Let's go!
- Ringua sa!
- Let me leave!
The use of pronounsEdit
Demonstratives and quantifiers always precede their heads; relative clauses come after.
- Sa sordeda thu dule kie yarec yo albeges.
- I closed the door which is made of wood.
And yes, it is indeed possible to say "I closed the wooden door", but that's in the next subheading.
Bengedian is pro-drop; the subject pronoun can be omitted and the sentence remains grammatical:
- Sa sordeda thu dule.
- Sordeda thu dule.
- I closed the door.
The primary copula is esem, meaning "to be". The conjugation of this verb is irregular and is given above.
Esem is also used to express existence:
- E ušwad.
- It is raining.
- Ide bermo andoi thus dumes.
- There was a man in that house.
Esem has the irregular participles:
- Present active esem
- Present passive ec
- Perfect active mur
- Purfect passive ecur
Bengedian's four cases are used as follows:
|Nominative||the dog (bit someone)|
|Accusative||(someone bit) the dog|
|Dative||to, for the dog|
|Genitive||of, by the dog|
The preposition yo "of" may be used in place of the genitive. In this case, the preposition's object is in the accusative:
- Thu Englišes los yo "wadu" e "water".
- The English word for "water" is "water".
- Loson san yo thin edrin!
- Let's talk about this food!
- Dalet de sai da glarcan yo wadu.
- Give me two bottles of water. (i.e. an amount of water equal to two bottles)
Predicatives (objects of the copula) take the nominative case:
- Thu fašec nie rešlač.
- That action is unlawful.
A note on prepositionsEdit
This is under "Case" for a good reason, people.
Bengedian prepositions change their meaning depending on the case of their object.
- When the object of the preposition is in the genitive, it usually denotes location relative to the object:
- Sas dume e am ut thus seutos.
- My house is on top of that hill.
- When the object takes the dative, the meaning is typically that of a direction rather than a location.
- Guet cu ut thui seutoi o wicišem sas dumei.
- Go up to that hill to reach my house.
- Prepositions expressing roles in the sentence, their objects take the accusative.
- Sa uš wicum thu alb tu blate.
- I will cut down the tree with a sword.
Prepositions without objects have adverbial use, expressing direction. They don't inflect for case or number.
- Guet de rom.
- Get out.
Noun phrase orderEdit
A noun phrase in the genitive case can modify another noun phrase, similar to English possessive 's.
- Thus bermos con e er und.
- That man's dog is very big.
The Bengedian genitive ending is a true inflectional affix like in German and Old English, not a clitic like in Modern English. Because of this, certain constructions involving the genitive are possible which are awkward or even ungrammatical in English (the question mark means "awkward" here):
- E predo dus sans.
- ? He's all of our brother. (Though this is syntactically valid (maybe), it is extremely awkward and most prescriptivists would give it a thumbs-down.)
- Thum edrin thus bermos.
- ? The food of the man. (A native English speaker would be more likely to say "the man's food".)
Demonstratives and quantifiers always come before their nouns. Quantifiers are not inflected:
- Thu con "The dog"
- Da conen "Two dogs"
- Dus thum conen "All of those dogs"
Adjectives phrases (APs) can either precede or follow their head nouns.
- Sa sordeda thu lica dule.
- Sa sordeda thu dule lica.
- I closed the little door.
This placement affects the semantics of adjective coordination. Compare English "the big and colorful ball" versus "the big ball and the colorful ball" (though it could be argued that the latter is actually a coordination of NPs). Bengedian makes the same distinction, albeit using different construction:
- Thum alben unden at álbecoren
- The big and green trees (the trees that are both big and green)
- Thum unden at álbecoren alben
- The big and green trees (the big trees and the green trees)
The Bengedian verb phrase shares many similarities with the English verb phrase.
Direction words that modify verb objects always come before the verb, e.g. am loem "to look at".
Structure of the verb phraseEdit
The verb phrase is structured as follows.
Below is the pattern for verb phrases. Read it as follows:
- All affixes (with a hyphen) apply to the following verb (without a hyphen). So [-ur -em fašem] produces fašemur "having been done".
- ( Parentheses ) mark optional stuff.
- A slash / inside a group separates choices.
- Words in ALL CAPS are not expressed morphologically (or, if you prefer, expressed as a null morpheme).
Here's the pattern:
- Verb-phrase := (wis CONDITIONAL) TENSE (modal (-ur) / serem -ur) (-em esem PROGRESSIVE -em) (esem -ec) verb
Breaking it downEdit
- The conditional is marked with the particle wis "would". (Excuse the frivolity of the example, please.)
- Wis faša mos donsen ole ne ma iwer.
- I would do more things if I wasn't asleep.
- Modal verbs serve a similar purpose to English. But unlike in English, modal verbs are conjugated for person and number.
Modal auxiliaries include:
- canem "to be able", equivalent to our "can, could"
- norem "to have to", equivalent to our "must, should"
- lufem "to want, desire"
- The perfect aspect is expressed using the perfect active participle of the next verb after the modal. If there is no modal, the verb serem "have" is used:
- Lufa fašemur he al thui ke wica dadeš.
- I want to have done it by the time I turn twenty.
- Seret fašemur des fašnon al thie?
- Have you done your work yet?
- The progressive is marked with the verb esem "to be", like in English.
- Ma clodem thui plešoi.
- I'm walking to the market.
- The passive is marked using esem as well. Just like English.
- E sisec?
- Is it finished?
Verbs are negated using the particle ne. The copula em may optionally contract with ne:
- Na sisec.
- Ne ma sisec.
- I'm not done.
- Nide thu bermo.
- Ne ide thu bermo.
- It wasn't that man.
- Thi con nie sas.
- Thi con ne e sas.
- This dog isn't mine.
A note on participlesEdit
The passive participle in -ec, though I call it a "past participle" by analogy with English, actually carries little, if any, implication of past tense at all; in most uses, it actually signifies present tense. Its primary meaning is that of the passive voice:
- Im tu funec thus blatičes kindes, thu funtu cacted.
- In being played with by the aggressive child, the toy broke.
The active participle in -em is used in a similar fashion to the present participle in English.
A present participle can be made perfect using the suffix -ur:
- Im šritemur hes loseca, thu šritom nuspired unco donsen.
- In having written his book, the author learned many things.
The infinitive in Bengedian has the ending -em, identical in form to the gerund and present active participle. Indeed, Bengedian may be considered to have only two forms of the verb in -em: the present active participle, and the "gerund-infinitive".
It is considered the verb's citation form:
- Thu los "esem" e fašlos this nelanes.
- The word "esem" is a verb in Bengedian.
Infinitive clauses are preceded by the subordinator o, "for", used like the English to.
- Sa fašora thiš o wicem plestun.
- I work here (in order) to earn money.
The gerund in Bengedian takes the ending -em, identical in form to the infinitive and present active participle.
- Šritem losecan e fun.
- Writing books is fun.
The Bengedian passive voice is formed by:
- Putting the subject in the genitive case
- Inverting subject and object
- Using em+participle in the verb phrase.
Thu lumi ide edec thus bermos. that apple be-3s.PRET eat-PART that-GEN.Sg man-GEN.Sg "That apple was eaten of that man" The apple was eaten by the man.
Ke and subordinationEdit
The relative pronoun ke is used to mark sentential clauses. Sentential clauses are a syntactic feature of language that allows an entire sentence to be treated as a noun. This is similar to the English use of the word "that" as in
- He said that your breath stinks.
A sentential argument in Bengedian is treated just like a regular noun, so it is possible to attach a demonstrative or quantifier to a sentential argument just as with a regular noun.
- Thu ke sa edéda thu bunec lumi e nec, carke sreloa hei.
- That I ate the rotten apple is bad, when I look back on it.
- Iron guim ke sa ededa.
- *There were five of that I ate. (i.e. five instances/occurences of the fact that I ate)
There are several ways in Bengedian to derive one word from another "base" word:
This is the most common form of derivation; Bengedian has a large array of derivational "prefixes" and "suffixes" (which actually behave like infixes to some extent).
A derivational affix is simply appended onto the base at or near the end. The following rules apply:
- If a "suffix" begins with a vowel, then it's inserted after the last consonant: plešo "market" > plešomo "something that's found at a market"
- If a "suffix" begins with a consonant, then it goes after the last vowel: con "dog" > cotun "leash"
- If a "suffix" begins and ends with consonants, then it goes after the last vowel.
- If the word ends in a consonant, then said vowel is reduplicated after the derivational morpheme: los "word" > lonusos "etymology"
- If a "prefix" ends with a vowel, then it goes before the first consonant: clam "round" > šuclam "around something"; uwa "sheep" > udiwa "wool"
- If a "prefix" ends with a consonant, then it goes before the first vowel: rog "heavy" > relog "very heavy"
Some more examples:
- šrit "write" : šritom "writer" : šritec "text" : šritor "dictionary"
- ples "trade" : plešo "market" : plestu "money" : plésadir "economy"
- piclo "star" : piclito "white dwarf"
Derivations on verbs are affixed to the stem, (that is, the bare verb without any endings. The infinitive ending -em, while considered part of the verb's citation form, is not considered part of the stem.) So:
- irem "to exist" : inerem "to die" : ineryem "to kill".
The copula em "to be" has the irregular stem es:
- esom "someone who is"
But, as with all systems, nothing is perfect. You'll notice that 2 out of the 3 examples for ples "trade" didn't follow the rules I laid out above. It is true that those words predate the rules I came up with, but all naturalistic languages, constructed or not, should have some quirks, no?
Snarky comments aside, there are some irregular derivations; for example:
- By regular rules, the nominalizing "suffix" šo, meaning "place associated with X", should go before the s in ples "trade" giving plešos, but this is not the case. The "suffix" went on the end instead, giving plešo "market". The two sounds /s/ and /ʃ/ have assimilated into /ʃ/.
A lot of words can be converted between two parts of speech by zero derivation:
- donad "group, category" (noun) : donad "to classify" (verb)
- dols "to sit" (verb) : dols "chair" (noun)
- wadu "water" (noun) : wadu "to douse" (verb) : wadu "wet" (adjective)
- ut "up" (noun) : ut "to rise" (verb) : ut "high, tall" (adjective)
- rog "load" (noun) : rog "heavy" (adjective)
This is a very rare method (and not even a method per se, but a phonetic by-product of other methods) and the rules governing it are very, very complicated. It shares some aspects with Indo-European ablaut; for example, certain syllables tend to reduce to a sort of "zero grade" if the resulting cluster is phonotactically valid:
- soc "rock" : scund "boulder"
Bengedian, much like English and all Germanic languages for that matter (I personally get kicks out of those super-long German compounds :-D), allows compounding. Compounding is the process by which multiple free morphemes (or compounds) join together into a single unit. A compound is grammatically a single word. Examples of compounds in English include "blackboard", "jumprope", "textbook", "Spongebob".
Bengedian compounds are usually head-final, but can be head initial sometimes, and can be in any of the following patterns:
- direction+verb: rinserem "to take away, steal, confiscate" from rin "away from", serem "to have"
- direction+noun: ampucem "to breathe" from am "on, in(to), at", puc "air"
- verb+verb: nuspirem "to learn" from nus "think", pir "to take"
- noun+noun: álbecor "green" from alb "tree", cora "color"
- verb+noun: wicwaduec "beverage" from wic "take", wadu "water", -ec verbal noun/past participle
- noun+verb: loydal "sun" from loy "light", dal "to give"
- adjective+noun: yalome "gold" from yal "yellow", ome "metal"
Long words are often phonologically reduced when compounded.
A few words have variant combining forms:
- nus "think" has the variant stem nud
- yar "make" has the variant forms yan and y