A little bit of Lisnäit – 3: Nouns

In my previous post about Lisnäit, I mentioned that most nouns were made up from triconsonantal roots. The others are mostly compound words which I will explain in further posts.

Every Lisnäit root has three different stems with different though related meanings. These stems are distinguished by the pattern used for inserting vowels or diphthongs in the otherwise consonant-only root. Apart from indicating the stem, these vowels mark many important aspects of the word, such as whether it is a noun, a verb or an adjective, and grammatical information like number and case (nouns) or tense (verbs).

Lisnäit noun examples derived from each stem. The first vowel (which provides information about grammatical number) is remarked in red while the second one (which accounts for case) is in blue. Despite the fact it's phonetically a vowel, ï's aren't taken into account,

The first vowel or diphthong (in red in the image above) has two important functions, the first of which is to indicate whether the word is a noun or a verb. A given Lisnäit word can be said almost-undoubtedly identified as a noun as far as it first vowel is either ä (not to be confused with a, which is used for verbs ), äi, e, ei, i, ia, or äe.

Their second function is to indicate grammatical number. Unlike English which only contrasts singular vs plural, there are 7 numbers in Lisnäit, each marked by a particular vowel or diphthong:

Vowel/Diphthong Meaning
ä Singular, a single simple object
äi Simple plural, more than one not-necessarily related object
e Collective, a group of objects with a noticeable relation.
ei Plural collective, many groups of related objects.
i Holistic, many objects as elements of another thing.
ia Plural holistic
äe Inclusive, every object (either in the world or in a certain area)

For example, consider the word wäsra, eye (singular, one eye). It’s plural form, wäisra would mean eyes, as in English, but they shouldn’t be assumed to have any relation such as belong to the same person. Should we want to mean ‘a pair of eyes’, the collective form wesra would be used instead. This wouldn’t mean exactly the same than “two wäisra“, the latter could also mean ‘an eye from someone and another from other person’. Furthermore, if you were speaking about spiders, chances are that the world wesra would be used not for ‘2 human eyes’ but for ‘8 spider eyes’.

Collective plural weisra would be ‘many pairs of eyes’ (or many groups of eight eyes belonging to many nice [/sarcasm] arachnids). Ten people would not be said to have 20 wäisra (though its completely grammatical) but 10 weisra.

Holistic plural is much more complex to explain. It’s used for groups of objects which compose something else. This could be better explained using the word räman, ‘person’.  It’s holistic form riman means something like society. Societies could be said to be composed of people (räiman) but are not barely a group of people (reman). There’s something else, thus the holistic form is used instead. As insects have compound eyes made of several tiny eye-units known as ommatidia (as I’ve just read at Wikipedia), they could be said to have wiasra, things composed of eyes which are (somehow) something else.

On the other hand, Inclusive is much more easily defined as all objects of a given sort. If you wanted to refer to all the eyes of the ten people I mentioned before, you wouldn’t say 20 wäisra nor 10 wesra but simple wäesra.

The second vowel (or diphthong) plays a similarly important part: it marks the case (the role in the sentence) for each noun. Lisnäit nouns decline for 12 cases (three times more than German but still fewer than Finnish and way more fewer than Quechua).

Vowel Case Vowel Case
a Intransitive au Ablative (see notes)
ä Nominative/Agentive äi Referential
e Dative (to, for) ei Allative (towards)
i Accusative/Patientive ia Instrumental (with, by, using)
o Genitive (from) ou Possessive
u Locative (in) ui Temporal locative (when, while)

Notes:

  • Lisnäit morphosyntactic alignment is tripartite (something unusual amongst natlangs and slightly more common among conlangs). This means that nouns are inflected differently depending on whether they are the subject/agent of a transitive verb (nominative case), the object/patient of a transitive verb (accusative case) or the subject of an intransitive verb (intransitive case).
  • Words are typically in the intransitive case when listed in a dictionary.
  • Unlike many European languages, there’s a clear distinction between genitive and possessive cases in this conlang. Whereas genitive case is used solely to indicate origin (akin to English preposition from), possessive is used to mark ownership.
  • Lisnäit’s ablative case doesn’t imply motion away from the object as ablative does in most languages. Instead, it’s used as sort of a “wild-card case” for most prepositions, postpositions and affixes. Its name was influenced by Latin’s ablative case, which also often worked as Lisnäit’s. The original meaning (motion away from something) is conveyed in this conlang by the genitive case instead.
  • Allative indicates motion towards a place or something. For example, if you’re heading to Rome, you’d be goind Aroma’ei (‘to Rome’, proper nouns will be explained in further posts). It complements with genitive case: Aroma’o (genitive case) means ‘from Rome’.
  • Instrumental case indicates the way something is done. Thus it can often be translated as with but only in the sence of ‘by using X’, not  ‘along with’. For example, if someone gave his son a letter and told him to hand it to someone else, he could be said to have sent the message tïnäsia, “by using his son” (instrumental case). If then, he walks with his sons, he would be walking tïnäsaub “with his son” (this other “with” is made by adding a suffix -b to the word in ablative case).
  • Not surprisingly, temporal locative is most often used with nouns related to time such as the words for ‘year’ and ‘night’. It can also be used with not-so-expectable words, however. For instance, the word Senawï “snow” temporal locative senui, means something like ‘while there was snow / while it was snowing’.
  • Referential case means ‘as for X’. It’s one of the less used cases, along with temporal locative.

In addition, nouns can take a number of prefixes and suffixes, or form compound words. All of that will be eventually explained in future posts. This is all for now. See you!

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Posted on 2011/08/19, in English, Lisnäit (en). Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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