A month ago Brian Bourque presented Lortho to the mailing list with a few
questions for feedback. I suggested that someone presenting their language
be a monthly event, and Doug Barton said he would go after me if I went, so
here is me going now. Doug suggested one email for phonology and
orthography, one for history, and one for grammar, but I am only going to
do one for grammar with just a few words given to the other topics, because
I have not dedicated much energy to them. Be forewarned that it is not
short - around 1900 words.

Many thanks,

Kevin William Walker


*The history* of Kokòòssràà is that it is the current form of the language
that I have been working on for at least four years. The phonology, tone,
and alternate intonations based on definiteness are pretty much that old,
genders are not much younger, but most of the rest of the grammar is no
more than two years old. My goal is to make a proto--language that follows
a logic fully comprehensible to me but different than the natlangs I know,
from which I can then naturalize however much it pleases me through
diachronic processes. I imagine it being spoken by inhabitants of Nova
Scotia at least 500 years after the end of civilization as we know it, but
this is less about having any sort of narrative about its speakers and more
just about me not having to research what flora, fauna, and technology I
have to come up with names for.

Phonology voicing distinction in plosives and sibilants.  Coronal
consonants can be dental or retroflex, marked with an r. in writing.
Vowels and consonants can be long or short, marked with duplication in

Syllable structure is CV(n), with the option of no consonant at the
beginning of a word.  Words have a pitch accent on their penult or
antepenult which can be high on any vowel or falling on a long vowel.

Parts of speech as much as possible I have tried to avoid having any word
be restricted to one part of speech - nouns, verbs, adjectives,
postpositions, &c all take the same inflections and are often the same
word.  I rely in this on the identity of a verb with its implicit object -
e.g. one sings a song and to be a song is the same as to be sung, so “song”
is just “be sung” in a different context, likewise “he sings Peggy Sue” is
just “Peggy Sue, his song” turned into a predicate.  I try to find
something for everything, e.g. “to empty something” is the transitivized
verb form of “space.”

Some words are pretty much exclusively nominal in meaning, e.g. mààlee is
technically (v) be a mouse; (tv) make into a mouse; (n) mouse, but I
usually just put the noun use there; ditto for personal pronouns.

I think my favourite word is  ónlree - as a verb it means “appear” and
transitivized “see;” as a noun/adjective it means “appearance;” as a
postposition it marks the indirect object of verbs of showing and
displaying e.g. “we will perform for you.” and as a conjunction it means
“as if.”

Function in a sentence does more to determine the part of speech into which
a word is translated than its definition, but still is not specific to one
kind of translation.  Here are the three different basic functions that a
word can have, with the different kinds of ways they can be translated:

dependent verbs, adjectives, postpositions, adverbs - any word identified
with another word.

head the intransitive subject, the transitive object, the noun of an
adjective, and the antecedent of a postpositional phrase or adverb, and
with respect to a dependent that word with which the dependent is
identified.  Can itself be a dependent of some higher-level head.

oblique a transitive subject, a possessor, the word governed by a
postposition, a causal subordinate clause - with respect to a dependent or
head, anything that conditions without being.

Inherent in a word are its inherent gender, number, aspect, and

Inherent gender is unmarked on a word itself but shows up in agreement, and
is important for grammatical meaning whether the word is used as a noun or
a verb (see below).  The genders are

Masculine men, large animals, larger areas of the body e.g. vììboobee have
a head, head

Feminine women, small animals, smaller parts of the body e.g. kekèèse have
eyes, eyes

Concrete visible, tangible things and acts, e.g. bòòjo eat, food

Abstract sounds, smells, feelings, invisible and intangible things and
acts; tѐѐn be worshipped, god

Locals places, times, groups, numbers, demonstratives, e.g. gáápaa be
gathered, group

***Personality traits, attitudes, personal qualities, states of health, &c,
while definitely masculine or feminine, I have struggled to sex - my idea
right now is to have more general personal qualities be treated as the
opposite sex of the speaker and more specific personal qualities be treated
as the same sex, on the basis of taboo preventing people from knowing
details about those of the opposite sex.  If I go with this I might extend
that to body parts too.

Extrinsic to a word are its agreements in number and gender and person with
its oblique (called “conjugation”), in gender and often number with up to
two of its heads (called”transformation”), and its markation for the
definiteness of any head.

Conjugation marks a word for an oblique conditioning it - he cleans the
floor, his floor, the floor under him, even in serial verb constructions to
identify the action whereby, -for, &c. another action is accomplished (an
example of why it is important for verbs to have genders here), e.g. because
guests were coming.

Conjugations do not vary in form by the word on which they occur, and
reflect person in the case of the 1st and 2nd persons and gender in the 3rd
person.  If person, the marker is the first prefix on the word; if gender,
the last suffix.

1s bo- 2s mii- 1pl gaan- 2pl mii-...-naji

mascs -va fems -ji anpl -naji con -po abs -pi loc -dran inanpl -piipi

Conjugations are also used with the dummy word zá to make pronouns, e.g.
bozá me, zápo it.  Because an intransitive verb is almost always a
dependent and dependents are not transformed for person, a pronoun like bozá
is the only way that person gets indicated for an intransitive verb.

Transformation marks a word for the gender of its head - the woman appears,
I see the woman, the old woman, the woman I saw yesterday, the woman from
the valley, the woman appeared suddenly.  Pretty much every word in a
sentence should agree with something else this way, unless it is the
subject of the sentence or a possessor/agent/&c.

Transformation suffixes are complicated.  The agreement suffix does not
mark simply the gender of the head, but the relationship of the head’s
gender to the dependent’s.  If both words are of the same gender, there is
no need for a suffix at all. If I want to say áátralree dantrángòò that
man, i.e. “the man there,” áátralree there has to take a suffix
specifically for a local identified with a masculine, -lree.  Effectively
that suffix specifically means “masculine animate in.”  Five genders thus
leads to twenty transformation suffixes, of which any given word can only
take four.  I don’t want to include the table of those here because I
expect it would be a mess.

These suffixes double as simple derivatives, and a word to which they are
suffixed need have no head explicit in the sentence - áátralrèè functions
just fine for “that man.”  Furthermore, transformation suffixes are an open
class - while every such suffix will communicate transformation from one
gender to the other, there can be multiple more specialized transformation
suffixes for a given pair (or set of pairs) of genders, e.g. -kemaa is good
for deriving locals from animates, but -naansa means specifically “held in
[body part,” e.g. “carried on a shoulder.”

Complex transformation is when a dependent takes two transformation
suffixes - the first for its immediate head, and the second for the
original head, i.e. the head of the whole phrase.  This transformation
triggers the reduction of both suffixes to single syllables and the
shortening of the last two vowels in the word root.  This means that words
can agree not simply with words but with pairings of words like subject
(patient) and predicate, which can be used for predicating adverbs of
clauses, verbs of saying and perceiving of situations, and subordinate
clauses of independent clauses.

Jééniijìì daalradronvoláne lriitradótrovo

ocean(def) blue(dep).LOC>CON word.ABS>CON>LOC

“The ocean is said to be blue”

Ììzrii babbààbàà bòòjosrativa jììngosri

wolf 1SPOSS.IMPERF.wife(def) food(dep).CON>FEM.MPOSS here(dep).LOC>CON>FEM

“A wolf ate my fiancéé here.”

Nominal conjunction is made by making the two conjoined noun phrases into
relative predicates modifying a number.

tráávolanèè kiitaaniivólanèè dróója

sun(dep)(def).CON>LOC moon(dep)(def).CON>LOC two(def)

“The sun and the moon”

Coordinating conjunction at the level of clauses is just done by starting a
new sentence, with a new head named or an old one assumed - because just
about everything carries agreement markers to indicate its relationship to
everything else, there shouldn’t be much need for disambiguating where one
thought ends and the next begins.

Aspect and number are combined into a prefix which is the same for all
genders.  Meanings like polarity and degree are also in the mix here.
Number can be singular or plural.  The plural form is used not only for
multiple individual referents, but also iterative action and reiteration of
the word’s meaning in the same individual, e.g. a polygamist, a man married
multiple times in sequence, and a group of husbands all are homonymous.

Perfect (-/partial reduplication) complete actions and states, e.g.
méédridii “a mountain, on a mountain,” bààbadangoo “husband;” also actions
and states of unspecified completion, e.g. méédridii “which goes up the
hill,” bààbadangoova “he officiates”

Imperfect (a*-/ee-) actions and states progressing towards completion,
e.g. amméédridii
“[going] up the mountain,” abbààbadangoo “groom”

Potential (san-/san+partial reduplication) actions and states that are in
some stable state of incompletion from “not at all” to “almost,” but may
yet come to completion, e.g. samméédridii “turned toward the mountain, not
yet at the mountain;” sambààbadangoo “bachelor”

Negative (ta*-/tee-) actions and states that are nonreal and less real than
you were expecting e.g. tamméédridii “not on the mountain,” tabbààbadangoo

Superlative (la*-/lee-) actions and states that exceed their normal
definition in intensity, be they comparative, intensive, or actually
superlative, e.g. lamméédridii “high atop the mountain, deep in the
mountain,” labbààbadangoo “what a husband!”

*lengthening initial consonant

Definiteness is just marked as a long vowel with falling tone on the final
syllable.  I know there is more to stipulate about how it is used, but I
have no good ideas.  I know pronouns are not marked for definiteness.


Words have a different intonation (usually the accent is moved a mora
forward or backward, but it varies by word) when they are dependent on a
definite word.

Word order is usually SOV at the sentence level, so that the oblique of the
predicate comes first followed by the head and predicate, but subordinate
clauses and noun phrases within that tend to have an order analogous to
OSV, with obliques directly preceding whatever they govern.

Dependents need not follow their heads.  Relative clauses, for instance,
precede their heads but still transform to them.  The rule is that words
precede their heads when they describe them or restrict their meaning and
follow them when they are information being added.  What is transformed to
agree with what is purely a question of what the sentence is about.

Thank you for reading this far.
1.  Is anything non-sensical in this grammar, and if so, why?  I should
probably know that but don't.
2.  Is there an area in which more creativity could be used?
3.  Any other comments?

Some problems with which I struggle:
1.  The dependent-head relationship being about identity breaks down a bit
when it comes to wholes and parts.  As it stands now, in order to say, "I
have a head" I actually say, "I am a head," and if I say "I am two" I can
mean either "I am two things" or "I am one of two things."  Are that
natlangs that deal with this in a similar way?
2.  Having an agreement system like this expands the lengths of words and
sentences quite a bit, because every word stands not only for itself but
for up to three other words related to it.  That side-effect does irritate
me - should I just accept it?
3.  Does the stuff on definiteness have much value, or should I repurpose
it for something else, e.g. obviation, topicalization?  I feel like
definiteness is enough the rule in words rather than the exception that
having an alternate form specifically for agreement with a definite seems

Thanks again.