| Tengkolaku |
|Nouns decline according to...|
|Verbs conjugate according to...|
Classification and DialectsEdit
Written forms are given in (parentheses) when they differ from the IPA. Variant pronunciations are indicated by the tilde (~).
|Stops||p b||t d||k ɡ|
|Approximant||l ~ ʟ̆ (l)||j (y)||w|
Inherently long vowels are marked with a macron. They represent former aa, ee etc.
|High||i ~ ɪ (i)||u ~ ʊ (u)|
|Mid||e ~ ɛ (e)||o (o)|
The original native script for Tengkolaku is a somewhat unwieldy abugida. Initial vowels are signed on the symbol for the standalone inherent vowel, <a>. Only a limited number of syllables can exist in the coda. These finals have their own symbols, and are not written with the symbols for the corresponding initials.
More recently, Tengkolaku is written with the Ol Chiki script, which was originally designed to write the Santali language, a Munda language of India. This script is mostly an alphabet with some abugida like features. It too was derived from an original set of pictograms, and as such is broadly related to the monumental script. Note that the values of the characters as used to write Tengkolaku are not identical to the Santali version. Specifically, the character used to indicate a deglottalized consonant in Santali is used instead to mark a long vowel in Tengkolaku.
The maximal syllable in Tengkolaku is CVS, where C is any consonant and S is any of /l m n ŋ s w j/. Nasals followed by a stop assimilate to it: groups like **/mk/ become /ŋk/, while before /b/ and /p/ only /m/ can occur. The groups /ij, ow/, and /uw/ do not occur, but instead resolve into <ī ō ū> respectively.
/ʟ̆/, a lateral tap, and /l/ exist in regular variation. Usually /ʟ̆/ occurs word initially, unless the previous word also ended in /l/. /ʟ̆/ also occurs between two vowels. Word finally, and in the syllable coda, the sound becomes /l/.
sing OPT deity AG anger POSS Achilles PAT TOP"Sing, o Muse, of the wrath of Achilles."
The grammar of Tengkolaku is generally held together by means of particles, bound morphemes that define the role of words and phrases. Like the English possessive case or clitic, the particles of Tengkolaku operate on the Queen of England's knickers principle: they modify entire phrases rather than attaching at the word level.
Some particles are 'top' particles; these cast the preceding words in a specific grammatical role. In the above sentence, several such function defining particles are in use; wel indicates a verb in the optative mood, while nominals like kel, which indicates that the word it governs is a noun and a do-er; and an, which shows a predicate in the more passive role. Top particles almost always conclude their phrases. Any phrase bound by a top particle is a grammatically independent unit.
Words and phrases defined by these 'top' particles are free grammatical elements. The sample sentence has three main clauses. It can be broken down in the following way:
(ūgu wel)(nisambi kel)(weledi na Akilēs an yi).
Any of these elements may appear in any order without loss of notional content, because each phrase is governed by a top particle that defines its grammatical role:
(weledi na Akilēs an yi)(nisambi kel)(ūgu wel)
(nisambi kel)(ūgu wel)(weledi na Akilēs an yi)
These are the nominals; they make nouns of the preceding phrase.
These particles make nouns of the preceding words or phrases.
Agent kel; agent (inanimate) kamEdit
These two are used similarly. They specify who in the sentence is the do-er, and an the done-to. In the sentence the muse is being asked to sing; the muse is therefore the active subject.
Gender in Tengkolaku is natural rather than semantic, but not quite. All living things, and things that act of their own accord, like the wind, heavenly bodies, clouds, vehicles, and so forth, are all animate. When an inanimate noun phrase is the actor a different particle is used, to call attention to the unusual circumstance.
Kel can be used without an an (patient) phrase to indicate voluntary activity when the object is irrelevant or understood:
Ūgu gau Akilēs kel
sing IMPF.BOUND Achilles AG
means "Achilles is singing (a song)'. A full translation of 'Achilles is singing a song' would in fact be Ūgu gau Akilēs kel ūgu an. Here ūgu acts as both noun and verb; it is verbed by the verbal particle, and nouned by the next particle:
This marks the predicate to kel and kam's subjects. It also marks the subjects of sentences that are cast in a more passive role.
Ngeongo us Eketol an.
kill PERF Hector PAT
'Hector was killed.' Subjects requiring an need not be marked with the particle in casual speech;
Ngeongo us Eketol.
would only be understood as 'Hector was killed'. To say 'Hector kills (somebody, people)' you make Hector an agent;
Ngeongo gan Eketol kel.
This is an uncomplicated dative particle.
Eketol kel Peliyam nel kekē an bo us.
Hector AG Priam DAT blade PAT give PERF
"Hector gave the blade to Priam."
Topic yi; non-topic menEdit
Unlike the preceding particles, this is not a top particle. This particle is generally free to appear anywhere, and marks focus or points out main or freshly introduced topics and characters. The opening sentence marks the 'anger of Achilles' as a topic. It could be recast as;
Ūgu wel, nisambi kel, weledi na Akilēs yi an.
Moving the topic marker makes Achilles himself, rather than his anger, the focus.
The non topic marker is much less useful. It can be used for rhetorical effects;
Onu men ebo, nenebe men ebo, dalkuma pu no lenu yi lusu ebo.
clothes NONTOP good, house NONTOP good, tear PAUC POSS.INALIENABLE woman TOP most good.
'While clothes are good, and a house is good, a woman's tears are best.' The non-topic marker is also obligatory when multiple third parties are involved:
Emulu mengea an yi utoli eye malo us... Amo sila ēuti ongi kel men li yi an sapengi dekimo us.
"A thin horse (TOP) made himself fat. Along the way a thief (NONTOP) caught him (TOP) to ride." Note how when the pronoun li ('he, she, it') comes into play, the topic marker appears to make it clear that the referent is the horse and not the thief.
Topic marking is entirely different from being either a subject or a predicate. A topic can stand in relation to a sentence that is neither:
Nawngē iki yi, malo uemo gan noytilē do nomengi kel.
"This land (TOP), we use manure for fertilizer."
The "adverbials" of Tengkolaku are all top particles; each of them marks a grammatically sufficient and independent phrase. They handle the tasks that in other languages would be handled by noun cases, prepositional phrases, or occasionally adjectives. As such, they typically cast the words they govern into the role of nouns, but the phrases themselves describe the time, place, manner, or circumstances of the actions or states of the topic, the subject, and any other predicates.
Some of: lidiEdit
Lidi marks a partitive case. It can be used to describe acts involving part of but not all of the people or things it governs: ongi lidi "some of the people"; okuaye lidi "part of the ocean". The resulting phrase can also be made into an agent or patient: Ibusidū gau walobi lidi an, "some of the water was drunk" or "someone drank some of the water".
In, on, at: umEdit
The inessive case; this marks the habitation or location where its subject can usually be found or is associated with: mūboy ongi emulu beu um, "a messenger on a dark horse". (IB 11)
From, out of: ēsEdit
The elative case: marks movement away from the governed root: nenebe ēs, "out of the house". This particle also describes the chief constituent of an object, in English, what it is made out of or made from: ikonu pado ēs, "a ring made of gold". (IB 5)
Into, towards: winEdit
An illative case: this marks movement into the governed word, and similar states such as conversion into: Tengkolaku win tindīgi, "to translate into Tengkolaku".
Near, at: lāEdit
A general locative marker, 'in, near, or at', broader in meaning than um. Apogel lā gangolangu, "its head is in the grass". (IB 10)
From, off of: litaEdit
The ablative case particle. This is much more confined in its usage than the Latin ablative case, and depicts movement away: ailepe gau kitil an temba lita, "it pulled its heart out of the hole". (IB 8)
Onto, reserved for, to: nelEdit
This is the dative particle, also noted as a nominal above. The particle has other, related uses that make it count as an adverbial also: nisambi nel, "devoted to a deity".
As, when: nayEdit
This indicates use in place of, or playing the role of, the word it governs: munlendu nay "as if in flight". It also indicates the time relevant to an action: idu nogo nay "that morning". (IB 1)
Becoming, turning into: ngisEdit
This particle indicates the transformation of one thing into another: idemū ngis "turning rotten".
Using, by means of, with: doEdit
The basic instrumental case. Iki do latiya us gue an, "This way, he avoided death." (IB 13)
With, accompanied by: kongEdit
This marks a comitative case. It is also used of physical appearances: Kipilta yi nemnugayma moybopi kong nos, "I am a hawk with white spots." (IB 5)
Without, deprived of: semEdit
A privative case, identifies things that are absent, lacking, or taken away: diyabul sem, "without money", ēgo sem, "endless".
At the time of, when: silaEdit
This is a temporal case: it notes specifically the time when or as things happened. Nawngē nenebe om mingea sila, "when he thought about his home country." (IB 16) This is the marker that answers to the purpose of the Latin ablative absolute: pumongumpa sila nos, "when I was a legislator".
Like, as: sikuEdit
This is a comparative case, used to describe something's appearance or action as analogous to another's: kemi siku "magically, like magic".
In the manner of, like a: eyeEdit
Related to the preceding, this identifies things acting or behaving like something else or serving their purpose. It also makes adverbs generally: kiki tu ebo eye, kiki tu mamunu eye. "tie it down well, tie it down firmly." (IB 14)
Up to, as far as: yekaEdit
This notes the goals or limits of motion: Pegu an yi emulu mengi yeka ngia us, "a lord went to his many horses" (and stopped there) (IB 5); amo nali ia nali te yeka "for a long way, for a long time".
About, pertaining to: omEdit
A topical case, denoting the subjects of texts or pictures, and the contents of imagery: nawngē nenebe om mingea, "thinking about his home country". (IB 16)
These are stackable; a verbal phrase may have, for example, a tense marker, an aspect marker, and an evidential marker at the same time. Nenebe lango ba, "I hear there used to be a house there."
Tenses and aspectsEdit
This one translates the nuances of the simple present, with one small difference: while the English simple present can refer to the future, this one looks to the past. It indicates frequent, usual, or customary activities, without suggesting that they are bounded by time. It is similar to the unmarked gnomic tense; but when patients and agents are specified on the noun phrases, the verb must also be marked, and this one is the default if no other verbal marker fits:: Onsa kel ngeongo gan, "tigers kill things;" mango an wamingi gan, "I eat what I like." (IB 3)
Bounded imperfect gauEdit
This is a past or present tense that indicates that the activity described by the word it verbs has a definite start and finish, without regard to whether the activity continues in the present or is confined to the past. Idu nogo nay ongau lā pado ēs seda gau, "In the morning and in the evening I sit on a golden throne." (IB 1) The difference between this marker and the general imperfect gan is that using gau emphasizes that the subject's sitting has boundaries in time: he sits twice a day,but does not remain seated indefinitely. Okuaya lā nungi gau, alo an sapengi gan; "I lie in wait in the sea, and I catch what I can." (IB 3) The two particles are in contrast here: lying in the sea is a frequent but temporary occurrence, while catching prey is a habitual and expected action.
This is the first unambiguously past tense: it indicates an action or state that definitely finished in the past, but that bears some relationship with the present. Ngūemopen us oima dula an, bantis lipu, "when he met the two men, they were afraid." (IB 2) Pilua kel ile us ngigi an, "his wife bore him a son." (IB 5)
Distant past langoEdit
This particle indicates the distant past. What constitutes the distant past is contextual; the distant past of a geologist will differ from that of a historian, and a historian's from a barber's. This is the tense marker for myths and legends: Lenu wintike an mime lango naygi um, "there was an old woman who lived in a shoe."
This is a basic aorist; it expresses that something happened in the past, without specifying whether it is something that has stopped or been completed. Nitutongi no pamus momepi kel ūgu pe udutelī um... Puy no Akaya mengi, ūgu eungi an, "a famous artist sang before them the bitter song of the Return of the Achaeans."
Sili refers to the foreseeable future: pai an bo sili, "(I) will give you help." (IB 2)
Distant future wangEdit
Wang refers to the distant future; it bears the same sort of relation to the simple future sili that lango does to pe in the past. The English phrase "some day" confers its flavor. Bospele an munlendu wang; "some day cars will fly." Pegu men ngigi iki wang yule; "some day that son may be a lord". (IB 5)
Sequence, next oyeEdit
A placeholder tense for indicating the next event in a narrative, oye can best be translated as "next". Lupai an ēliu us; ainga an imupim oye: "A shot rang out; next, the maid screamed."
Starting to emEdit
Em is used to indicate that the speaker has just begun doing something: nei em gau, "I just started working."
Ilusi indicates that the activity being described is no longer the case and has stopped: Deu ilusi, "I used to smoke".
Say calls attention to the fact that something is done over and over again: Deu say, "I smoke."
Nodo points out the effect of the described action: deu nodo, "because of smoking". The resultimg phrase can be used as a description as well as a predicate; in other words, it can function as an adverbial as well as a verb phrase.
Negations and questionsEdit
Emphatic negation ilulEdit
Tag question expecting ‘yes’ eyaEdit
Tag question expecting ‘no’ inaEdit
Goal, purpose po Edit
Polite request insalaEdit
Supposition, estimate keEdit
Used to mark estimates of quantity, quality, distance, and the like. Nantedel pileski ke, "the fish seem fresh"; Inglis eye 'mapa ngapulu peo te' sangku dula ngapulu te ke, "in English 'forty-five degrees' is around a hundred and twenty."
Possibility, ability yuleEdit
The syntax of Tengkolaku is basically isolating. Particles, not inflections, govern and bracket the grammatical functions of the roots, and indicate the grammatical functions of the words. Generally descriptive words ("adjectives") follow the "nouns" they modify. Since every lexical word can potentially be marked for categories like tense, scare quotes are necessary.
Unlike in English, where number is marked on each noun, and all that is not marked as plural is marked as singular, number is not a mandatory grammatical category and need not be specified on a noun phrase. There are three categories of grammatical number in Tengkolaku: the unmarked singular; the paucal, which denotes a few of something (particle pu), and the full plural (particle mengi) which is used for more than a few. These particles follow the word they modify and appear before any nominal or adverbial particles, with the exception of the topic marker, which is free to mark single words or whole phrases. The difference between paucal and plural is contextual, and varies with what is being counted. For groups of people the boundary is somewhere between six and twelve, but again, context is important: the paucal of a group of warriors (gaueluko pu) is probably more than the paucal of a group of game players (ape ongi pu).
The paucal can be applied to mass nouns: walobi pu, "a bit of water". So can the plural, but in that context it changes its meaning somewhat: walobi mengi, "different kinds of waters." For "a lot of water", use the intensifier affix: ana walobi.
Tengkolaku does not formally mark grammatical genders, nor does the language use separate personal pronouns for men and women. When the gender of a human being or animal needs to be spelled out, they can be marked with the words popem, "man, male" or lenu, "woman, female." However, Tengkolaku contains a number of genderlike distinctions. None of these are grammaticalized and all are contextual.
The first, noted above, is the use of kam instead of kel with inanimate agents: ilenoy kam iki an dilopede tinde, "a rock made me fall," panga kel iki an dilopede tinde, "my sister made me fall."
Somewhat trickier is:
Alienable and inalienable possessionEdit
There are two possessive particles in Tengkolaku: na for general possession and no for inalienable possession. Both particles work rather like English "of"; they intervene between the name of the possessed item, which comes first, and the possessor, which follows the particle: nenebe na panga, "the sister's house."
The difference between them is contextual and not grammaticalized. Canonical inalienable possessions include things like:
- Your name
- Your reputation
- Your life story
- Members of your family
- Your family's home
- Your home town
- Your personality traits
- Your body parts
Canonical alienable possessions include:
- Property that you own
- Movable objects
- Your thoughts and emotions
For example, my hair is ordinarily inalienable: peki no iki. When my hair is cut off, it becomes peki na iki; it is no longer attached to me and I can get rid of it.
Pronouns and their avoidanceEdit
The personal pronouns of Tengkolaku are not a special class of words. They are treated like other ordinary nouns, with the slight graphical difference that paucal and plural markers directly attach to them in writing.
The pronouns are:
- 1p. nos, paucal nospu, plural nomengi
- 1p. inclusive, no singular, paucal nosupu, plural nosumengi
- 2p. su, paucal supu, plural sumengi
- 3p. li, paucal lipu, plural limengi
The inclusive first person pronouns are the 'we' that includes the person spoken to. The 'we' that excludes those people is the simple first person paucal and plural. Note also that special forms exist in the singular where a reflexive meaning is intended: nonos 1st person 'I / myself'; susu 'you / yourself', and liyi 'he/she/it ... himself/herself/itself'; these forms are almost always patients, and are used when a reflexive meaning is needed.
Despite its general lack of inflection on the verb, Tengkolaku is emphatically a pro-drop language. Pronouns are not used where they can be omitted without ambiguity. Generally it's assumed that the person who is talking is speaking of her own opinions, feelings, and perceptions. Etiquette dislikes especially the first person singular pronoun, thought to be particularly obscene; it's considered presumptuous and egotistical to be carrying on about me, me, me all the time. The second person pronouns have another social complication: there exist a haughty variant sutan used to address subordinates, and a humble version sumide used to address social superiors. Which to use among these several variants is a minefield that is frequently avoided by paraphrase.
Nos is used freely in storybook and mythic contexts, especially when dealing with anthropomorphized characters: Yaitu pado ēs mu te yi nos, "I am the golden eagle with golden wings." (IB 3)
Pronouns can also be avoided by using pointing words as proxies. Iki, "here", corresponds to the first person; dito, "there", to the second person, and semili, "yonder", to the third person. Iki and dito are often used instead of nos and su if the context makes the references otherwise clear. Second person referents can also be referred to by their titles, occupations, and the like:
- Kuli alo na aka?
what want POSS friend
"what does the friend want?"
Statements without agents or patientsEdit
It is possible to make meaningful statements in Tengkolaku without either agents or patients. Tense, mood, and aspect need not be specified in these statements, either, though they can be. These statements will be simple declarations of description, existence, mental state, and the like.
The unmarked tense in Tengkolaku is called the "gnomic" tense. To claim that the gnomic tense in Tengkolaku expresses 'timeless truths' makes it sound like it's a much bigger deal than it is. Rather, statements unmarked for tense, aspect, or mood are that way because they represent continuous, habitual, proverbial, and similar statements which need no such specification.
The unmarked case is the "appositive" case, which translates into English by expressions like 'here is a' or 'this is a':
- Maung adamu.
"The cat is big".
- Ongi ikule.
"People are strange." For "that person is strange" resort to a pointing word:
- Ongi dito ikule.
person that strange
Tengkolaku does not need or use a copula. Simple concatenation of two roots can be read as describing one in the context of the other. Pointing words can be added:
- Iki maung adamu.
here cat big
"This is a big cat", or, more idiomatic in English, "That's a big cat."
- Iki nenebe.
"Here is the house."
Negation may be added:
- Onsa lu gengaki.
tiger NEG bird
"A tiger is not a bird."
This unmarked tense is unavailable in statements that have agents or patients; in that situation the unbounded imperfect with gan must be used. When a sentence has an agent or a patient, those words have been definitely cast in the role of 'noun', so the word serving as a verb must likewise be specified.
Statements with verbals and adverbialsEdit
Just about any root in Tengkolaku that will support the ideas expressed in them can have tense, aspect, and mood added to them. While some stems may well seem verb-like and others less so, the lexical words themselves do not have these grammatical categories inherently and may take verbal particles.
- Nenebe us.
"It was a house / It used to be a house."
- Iki nenebe us.
here house PERF
"There used to be a house here."
- Iki nenebe wang.
here house FUT.DIST
"Some day there will be a house here."
All of the verbals and adverbials are available for use in these kinds of statements. The particles can moreover be stacked, Generally, adverbials follow immediately after the words they govern, while verbals follow them and modify the whole phrases.
- Onsa siku tu!
tiger LIKE JUSS
"Be like a tiger!"
- Iki nenebe wang ba.
here house FUT.DIST HEARSAY
"I hear that some day there's going to be a house here."
- Idemū ngis lango sau.
rotten TURN PAST.DIST EXPERIENCED
"I know it turned rotten long ago."
These sorts of sentences can also include the topic marker. If multiple third parties are involved, topic and non-topic marking is still mandatory. The topic marker can also be used to call attention to the most important bits:
- Ilul ngodam tu, oka yi lā.
NEG.EMPH sleep JUSS snake TOP LOC
"Don't fall asleep, there are snakes about."
Statements with patients onlyEdit
If a verb phrase in Tengkolaku has one argument, in almost every case the subject of the verb phrase will be a patient. Patients are marked with the particle an. The scope and use of the patient marker is quite broad. Subjects are marked as patients even when their relation to the action in the verb phrase is that of voluntary initiator:
- Enlilna an imemi win ngia gau.
queen PAT city TOWARDS go IMP.BND
"The queen went towards the city."
Tengkolaku does not, strictly speaking, have a passive voice. Rather, if a word with potential transitive meaning appears in a phrase with only a patient, the English passive voice can be used to translate the resulting sentence:
- Kondili us nenebe an.
build PERF house PAT
can be rendered in English as either "A house was built" or "Someone built a house." Specifying an agent in sentences like these are one of the few situations where a personal pronoun is required by the grammar:
- Kondili us nenebe an nos kel.
build PERF house PAT 1p AG
is the only entirely unambiguous way to say that "I built the house," claiming personal credit for its construction. Etiquette, not grammar, prefers the construction:
- Kondili us nenebe an iki kel.
build PERF house PAT HERE AG
using the word iki, "here", instead of the first person pronoun, which is considered rather abrupt in tone.
In colloquial speech, the marker an can be omitted in statements that only have patients. As noted above, Eketol ngeongo us can only mean "Hector was killed", not "Hector kills". If an agent is marked in the sentence, the use of the patient particle an becomes mandatory.
Statements with agents onlyEdit
These are used very infrequently. Ordinarily a sentence whose verb construction is paired only with an agent is ill formed. As noted above, if the underlying idea is intransitive, its subject is a patient without regard to the subject's voluntary action.
There is a limited case for the use of agent-only statements. They appear when the expected objects are obvious or irrelevant, and usually appear with the verb phrase marked as the unbounded imperfect, meaning usual, habitual, customary, or expected actions:
- Onsa kel ngeongo gan.
tiger AG kill IMPF
would be best rendered into English as "Tigers kill things."
Statements with agents, patients, and maybe benefactivesEdit
All parties must be marked as agent or patient in statements whose verbal component is meant to be transitive.
- Imemi an kondili gau enlilna kel.
city PAT build IMPF.BOUND queen AG
"The queen built a city." Note here that it is the particles, not the order of the specific components, that define the grammatical role of each participant. The several components could appear in any order without changing the notional meaning. However, the favored places for topic marked participants is at the head, or failing that, at the end of the sentence.
- Enlilna yi kel imemi an kondili gau.
- Enlilna kel kondili gau imemi yi an.
Dative and benefactive phrases may occur anywhere in the sentence as well, provided only that they stand independent of the agent and patient nominal phrases:
- Enlilna kel imemi an kondili gau ungi nel.
"The queen built a city for the king."
The Latin double accusative does not have a counterpart in Tengkolaku. Instead, other adverbial particles, particularly ngis, win, or ēs, are used for its purposes. Like other adverbials, these phrases must be associated with the words and phrases they modify:
- Ungi kel pegu ngis emuli an malo us.
king AG lord INTO horse PAT make PERF
"The king made a horse a lord."
Tiwi Alaku kel lē an adamu mibi us, bo us Peni yi an, impa gang ile an, mingea kel Li an, lu gue nodo, site lotanu ēgo sem an dabi wang.
Since God AG world PAT large love PERF gave PERF son TOP PAT one times born PAT believe AG Him PAT not die ever but alive end without PAT hold FUT.DISTANT
A chant against global warmingEdit
Takoma kam ngospu tu ngoyo an, pome tu te.
Lawalakulu an ngodam tu, nungi tu.
Masama kam ngospu tu ngoyo an, pome tu te.
Lawalakulu an ngodam tu, nungi tu.
Ambulu Kay kam ngospu tu ngoyo an, pome tu te.
Lawalakulu an ngodam tu, nungi tu.
Wayisti kam ngospu tu ngoyo an, pome tu te.
Lawalakulu an ngodam tu, nungi tu.
Uytāku kam ngospu tu ngoyo an, pome tu te.
Lawalakulu an ngodam tu, nungi tu.
Pado kam ngospu tu ngoyo an, pome tu te.
Lawalakulu an ngodam tu, nungi tu.
Takobiya kam ngospu tu ngoyo an, pome tu te.
Lawalakulu an ngodam tu, nungi tu.
Mauna Loa kam ngospu tu ngoyo an, pome tu te.
Lawalakulu an ngodam tu, nungi tu.
The Irk Bitig is an Old Turkic book of omens told as simple folktales. It has been translated into Tengkolaku.
A bilingual version in both Old Turkic and Tengkolaku, in the Gökturk and Ol Chiki based scripts, is now available.