I have mentioned Serikats a few times on the list before, but searching the archives indicates that the last time I mentioned it was in 2009, so, quick background: Serikats was one of my very early conlanging attempts from back before I really Knew What I Was Doing; its a mildly esoteric language and ended up being more than I could handle at the time, and so has languished in a semi-consistent unfinished state for quite some time. The central idea behind Serikats was that tense would be obligatorily carried on all noun phrases, while case would be indicated by inflections on verbs. Though I did not know it at the time, marking tense on noun phrases is apparently Not Uncommon in western american languages, and the way I did it is actually fairly similar to how natlangs do it, so there's no real problem there. Figuring out how to handle case marking via verbal inflections is much more of a challenge. However, I believe I have had some useful insight that might simultaneously solve the problem of how to make the synchronic system work, and provide a plausible historical explanation for how it came about. Step 1 ("Proto-Serikats") is a fairly normal VSO language (except that I will assume nominal tense already exists at this point) that marks cases by adpositions. Things end up a little simpler later on if there at least exists an adposition for every core argument, even if they are not obligatory (like "by" for demoted subjects in English passives, or "to" for English indirect objects), but I think it still works if some of those are missing. The voice system is then simplified to make use of adpositions even in core arguments- if you want to put something other than the normal, unmarked subject in the subject position, you just *do*, and use the appropriate adposition to signal the change. Original unmarked core arguments either become obligatorily marked, or are re-analyzed as using a null adposition. At this point, the language is similar in style to Gogido or WSL, but with stricter word order. Next, we take advantage of explicit case marking with adpositions to free up the word order. Specifically, we allow fronting of noun phrases for focus / topicalization. As in English, however, relocated NPs that start inside PPs can leave their governing prepositions behind. This leaves bare prepositions sitting around next to the verb, where they are ripe for being incorporated as clitics or affixes. At that stage, if you only allow fronting the subject, then incorporating the left-behind subject prepositions ends up looking a lot like a trigger system. If you only front the object, then nothing special happens- you just end up with dangling prepositions at the ends of clauses, like English. But if it is possible to move both subjects and objects at the same time, two things happen: we can incorporate multiple left-behind bits to get a sort of polypersonal agreement, but we also end up with some serious ambiguity as to which preposition goes with which moved NP. The original design for Serikats matched up verbal suffixes with noun phrases according to their order in the clause, ignoring the position of the verb; that logically works, but it feels very clunky and unnatural. A slightly better option is to associate a specific mapping with each of the three possible verb positions- say, NNV = OSV, NVN = SVO and VNN = VSO (the original basic pattern). English kind of does this with object-focus constructions (e.g., "Him, I like; you, I don't."), which is largely why Yoda speak works. I think I'm going to sticky-note that for a potential sister language. The approach Serikats ends up taking, however, is inserting resumptive pronouns, which again can become incorporated as part of the verbal inflection. This results in a situation where clauses with two 2nd person or two 3rd person arguments with the same number/gender/etc. are ambiguous, but no other combinations are. And plenty of natlangs get along fine with that level of ambiguity. It feels very Salishan to me. If I really wanted to nail it down, I could use that NNV/NVN/VNN pattern system solely to deal with the ambiguous cases... but nah, a little ambiguity is OK. In extended discourse, making use of a lot of conjoined clauses with elided syntactic pivots is likely to eliminate the ambiguity in most cases. Verbal morphology is simplified a little bit if there is at least one null resumptive pronoun-turned-agreement-marker, but that's also easy to arrange. Now it's possible to re-order both noun phrases and the inflections on the verb independently, and it seems to me that that ought to be exploited to fulfil additional pragmatic functions. I'm thinking we end up with a hierarchy of more-to-less subject-like role inflections where any two must occur in one particular unmarked order, and where switching them has some highly marked discourse function (like, say, indicating that a prototypical patient is highly agentive in this case, or that a more-prototypical agent is acting non-volitionally). The relative positions of noun and verb phrases can then be used to indicate contrastive focus and/or topicality. I don't have all the little details nailed down yet, and it will be interesting to see how well I can retrofit this new system onto the existing language with a maximum of reanalysis and a minimum of actually-having-to-change-things (fortunately, the existing corpus is quite small), but I'm feeling pretty happy with the outline so far. -l.