Phonology[edit | edit source]

The syllable shape in BLSL is: CV(C), and stress always falls on the penultimate syllable.

Grammar[edit | edit source]

Typology[edit | edit source]

Word order: SOV (cf. Syntax)

Alignment: NOM-ACC

Early Bokisig was the language spoken by the people of the Bokisig Confederation, and prescursor to Classical Bokisig; it was an SOV language using nominative-accusative alignment, with an asymmetric case system, split between animate and inanimate nouns, based on postpositions and suffixes. The verbal system heavily relied on converbs, which used switch-reference marking.

Nouns[edit | edit source]

Grammatical number[edit | edit source]

While Early Bokisig nouns have no grammatical gender, there has been the fairly recent development of forming inflected plurals by suffixing different collective nouns (according to semantic criteria) to nouns to make various differentiations in grammatical number.

Before this development, plurals were formed by reduplication of the first syllable, dropping the syllable coda, if any; this is no longer productive. In Early Bokisig, the reduplicated forms that are still used fall into one of two categories:

a)   The reduplicated form may have acquired a new meaning – some examples below: 

Singular noun

Meaning

Reduplicated

Meaning

 

“tas”

“water”

“tatas”

“ocean”

“sum”

“beginning”

“susum”

“reason”

“ʔud”

“thread” / “string”

“ʔuʔud”

“net(work)” / “environment” / “nature”

“ʔodatus”

“gift”

“ʔoʔodatus”

“heritage”

b)   The reduplicated form is used as plural, e.g.:

/ɣuɣ/ = “eye”; /ɣu.ɣuɣ/ = “eyes”

/su/ = “place”; /susu/ = “places”

The innovative and productive number suffixes are listed in the table below: 

Dual ending

Used for:

Original meaning of suffix:

-za

Body parts counted in pairs): ears, eyes, hands, legs etc.

Two

Paucal ending

Used for:

Original meaning of suffix:

-daku

Everything

“a/one hand”

For example: “sot-daku” = “some houses”;

“nam la-daku” = four food-PAUC = “only four portions of food”

Plural endings

Used for:

Original meaning of collective noun that was suffixed:

-sig

Humans, plus some inanimates

Gathering

-te

Herbivorous animals, domesticated animals

Herd

-kat

Dangerous animals

Pack

-em

Carnivorous animals usually not dangerous to humans

Pack

-ɣuz

Most inanimates, in particular those where the individual number is no longer readily quantifiable once they are in a “pile”

Pile

-kom

Plants, inanimates that are either in fixed locations or inanimates that stand upright, plus some other inanimates

forest

-ʔuʔud

Objects of culture and speech, man-made entities, body parts not covered by “za”

Net(work)

-tun

Spiritual entities, abstract concepts, inanimates used by humans in a clearly defined setting

Circle

-no

Inanimates often used kept in containers

Container

Inserting “mɛka(hɛ)” (= “full”) between the root and the plural suffix derived from a collective word is a way to nominally express “the full collection of”, i.e. “all”: 

kasaki-mɛka-sig

sazon

he

priest-full-PL

beard

COP.INAL

“All priests have beards”:

An adverbial way of expressing the same thing would be: 

kasaki-sig

sazon

gabo

he

priest-PL

beard

all.ADV

COP.INAL

“Priests all have beards”

Cases [edit | edit source]

Early Bokisig was an SOV language using nominative-accusative alignment, but without morphological marking of the accusative (nor the nominative case). Its case system was asymmetric to an extraordinary degree, split between animate and inanimate nouns.

Nouns take the following case suffixes:

ANIMATE

INANIMATE

Case

Suffix

Case

Suffix

GENITIVE

alienable

INSTRUMENTAL

du

GENITIVE

inalienable

he

LOCATIVE

DATIVE

o

LATIVE

bo

ABLATIVE

xi

ABLATIVE

mɛʔu

A further important restriction is that only animate nouns can act as agent; inanimate are used with the instrumental postposition "-du", plus either an animate agent or the dummy agent "kiku”, as illustrated by the following examples:

ɣis.te-du

ki.ku

sig-hɛ

sot-mɛ

ɣuɣ.za.lig

pɛlma-mɛ

apple-INSTR

‘DUMMY AGENT’

1PL.EXC-GEN.ALIEN

house-LOC

window

break-PFV

“Somebody broke the window of our house with an apple.”

This strategy, employing an unnamed dummy agent, here translated as “somebody”, is always used if an inanimate noun is to act as semantic agent. The example also illustrates that locative cases, primarily LOC, but also ABL, are used to express possessive relationships involving inanimate possessors.

Negation suffix[edit | edit source]

In addition to the verbal negation, nouns may be followed by the negative postposition “-” to indicate the scope of negation in more detail.

Tas-du

kiku

mu-he

nuz

sɛ-katma-mɛ

water-INSTR

NEG

‘DUMMY AGENT’

1sg-GEN

friend

NEG-kill-PFV

"It wasn't water that killed my friend"

Pronouns[edit | edit source]

Personal pronouns[edit | edit source]

 

1SG

mu

2SG

dɛx

3SG ANIM

3SG INAM

ki

ʔeʔe*

1PL INC

mu.’nɛ.dɛx

1pl EXC

’sig

2PL

dɛxdɛx

3PL ANIM

3PL INAM

kisig

ʔeʔe*

*Inanimate third person pronouns suffix “du” if they refer to an agent.

Examples:

ʔeʔe

sasa

lohe

sigmɛ

tagosom- munɛdɛx

DEM

language

NEG

difficult

together

learn-JUSS.1PL.INC

"That language isn’t difficult, let’s study together!"

Copulas[edit | edit source]

 There exist various copulas:

Usage

English

Proto-Boksig

he

Inalienable possession

I have big ears

mu dodohɛ mil-za he

1SG big ear-DU COP.INAL

Existential copula (generic statements)

There are no animals on islands.

ʔaleb das sɛ he

island animal NEG COP.INAL

Alienable possession

I have a big house.

mu dodohɛ sot hɛ

1SG big house COP.AL

Existential copula (statements about specific instances)

There are no animals on that island

(ʔe) ʔaleb das sɛ hɛ

(DEM) island animal NEG COP.AL

kun

Noun = noun constructions

I am your father, Luke!

mu dɛx-he bata kun, Luke

1SG 2SG-GEN.INAL father COP Luke

Some further examples:  

(ki)

lum.bo.ki

kun

3SG.ANIM

fisher

COP

He is a fisherman.

 “kun” is the copula for “noun = noun” constructions; personal pronouns are frequently dropped. 

(ki)

ma.hɛ

3SG.ANIM

‘to be strong’

S/he is strong. 

Stative verbs are used for predicative adjectives 

(ki)

mu-he

ki.ʔud.ki

kun

3SG.ANIM

1SG-GEN.INAL

spouse

COP

He is my husband. 

This uses the same construction as the “fisherman” example above. 

(ki)

mu-he

sot

mɛhɛ

3SG.ANIM

1SG-GEN.INAL

house

‘to be located in’

He is in my house. 

A locative verb is employed here – that is, a stative verb that expresses the location “at / inside / near”, with the location as direct object.

Verbs[edit | edit source]

Verb types[edit | edit source]

All Early Bokisig verbs (including the verb-like adjectives) are derived from a combination of a noun and a suffixed dummy verb or copula: 

DYNAMIC VERBS

 

 

STATIVE VERBS

Suffix

Derived from / meaning

Examples

Suffix

Derived from / meaning

Examples

-ma

Dummy verb “to do”; this is simply the primary “catch-all” ending for dynamic verbs

- “lama” = to prepare food; from “la” = “food” [+ “ma” = “do”]

- sama = (archaic) "to speak"; from “sa” = “speech” […]

-

-hɛ

From a copula that is in turn derived from the genitive marker for alienable possession; the two different stative verb types often form word pairs with a difference in meaning*

- “behɛ” = “to be scared”

- “tagohɛ” = “to know”

- “ninhɛ” = “to be cold” (when a person freezes)

- “habhɛ” = AUX for PROG; from “hab” = “middle”

-som

Dummy verb “to take / consume / experience”

- “tassom” = “to drink”; from “tas” = “water” [+ “som” = “consume”]

- “lasom” = “to eat”; from “la” = “food” […]

- tagosom = “to study”; from “tago” = “knowledge”

- “sasom” = “to listen”; from “sa” = “speech” […]

-he

From a copula that is in turn derived from the genitive marker for inalienable possession; the two different stative verb types often form word pairs with a difference in meaning*

- “behe” = “to be scary”-

“tagohe” = “to be wise”

“ninhe” = “to be cold” (of weather, or cold to the touch)

- “habhe” = “to entail something” (connected by ABL); from “hab” = “middle”

Negation [edit | edit source]

The general form of negation is to add the negative particle “” in front of the verb. In addition to this verbal negation, nouns may be followed by the negative suffix “” to restrict the scope of negation in more detail (see above).

Tense, aspect and mood[edit | edit source]

Tense and aspect[edit | edit source]

Tense and aspect are marked by suffixes on the verb; while the markers, each of which is specific to either tense or aspect, most often occur individually with a verb, they usually encode a specific combination of tense and aspect.

PFV -mɛ => perfective past

IPFV -ka => habitual present

PST -li => past in subordinate clause

IPFV + PST -kali => imperfective past

FUT -bolu => future

Imperative-jussive mood[edit | edit source]

The sole true morphological mood divorced from the tense-aspect suffixes is the imperative-jussive mood, which is formed by suffixing the personal pronoun to the verb, deleting “ma”; only “-ma”-verbs can be used in this mood.

Second person imperatives are straightforward, and simply imply a command to the addressee(s):

ton-dɛx!

sɛ tondɛxdɛx!

help-2SG

NEG help-2PL

“Help!”

“Don’t help!”

sotma

dɛx-o

nolishɛ-ʔul-ʔe

mu-o

mi.mil.’su.mɛ

mɛʔuma-dɛx!

live

2sg-DAT

‘be desirable’-[COND]-DS

1sg-DAT

here

‘go away from’-IMP

“Come with me if you want to live!”*

* Dative doubles as comitative.

By suffixing 1st person pronouns, jussive forms can be formed for the 1st person – with a change in meaning: 

ton-mu

sɛ ton-sig

sɛ ton-munɛdɛx

ton-mudɛx

help-1SG!

NEG help-1PL.EXC

NEG help-1pl.INC

help-1pl.INC

“I hope I can help” / ”I want to help”

“We don’t want to help” / “I hope we won’t have to help”

“We don’t want to help” / “I hope we won’t have to help”

“I hope we can help” / “We want to “help” / “Let’s help”

sot

nilok-dɛx

house

clean-IMP

“Clean (your) house!”

Verbs of motion and locative verbs  [edit | edit source]

Verbs of motion encoding direction are formed by using the dynamic verbal ending “ma”, suffixed onto locative case postpositions (as well as combinations thereof); similarly, so-called “locative verbs” are formed by suffixing the stative endings “” and “he”, respectively. 

Postposition / suffix

Subject moves

Verb of motion

Subject is located

Locative verb (currently / permanently)

LOC

at / inside / around

mɛma

at / inside / near

mɛhɛ / mɛhe

LAT

towards, into, upwards

boma

in front of / on top of

bohɛ / bohe

ABL

from, downwards

mɛʔuma

behind / at the foot of

mɛʔuhɛ / mɛʔuhe

“and”

besides

nɛma

besides

nɛhɛ / nɛhe

INST

through

duma

in the middle of

duhɛ / duhe

LAT+LOC

over

bomɛma

over

bomɛhɛ / bomɛhe

LAT+”and”

on top of

bonɛma

on top of

bonɛhɛ / bonɛhe

[truncated]ABL+LOC

underneath

ʔumɛma

underneath

ʔumɛhɛ / ʔumɛhe

ABL+LOC

on the underside of

mɛʔumɛma

on the underside of

mɛʔuhɛ / mɛʔuhe

A verb for putting something in a specific location can be formed by simply inserting “da” before the verbal suffix /ma/. 

Converbs [edit | edit source]

In Proto-Bokisig, converb suffixes were added to a verb infinitive to express coordinating and subordinating senses. All the converbs have different forms depending on whether the subject argument for the converb is identical to that of the finite verb (same subject, SS) or not (different subject, DS).

Different strategies are employed to differentiate between SS and DS on converbs:

a)    Some converb suffixes have completely different forms; those are most often derived from different case endings, with the SS form being derived from a case restricted to inanimate nouns, and the DS form from a case sufffix for animate nouns.

Example: The causal converb uses “ʔo” from the dative case (only used with animate nouns) and “mɛʔu” from the ablative case (only used with inanimate nouns) endings for the SS and DS endings, respectively.

b)    Other converbs use a base form suffix to express SS, and then suffix the additional DS ending to this base form. This DS ending is identical to the proximal demonstrative adjective “ʔe” (singular; the plural is “ʔeʔe”). It is important to note that the suffix agrees in number with the subject of the finite verb, and not that of the converb itself.

Simultaneous CVB “(ʔe[ʔe])” (derived from conjunction “” = “and”) [edit | edit source]

/tagoki-sig

donam-ɣuz

toɣoma-nɛ

xilsɛhɛ-ka-li/

student-PL

‘wax tablet’-PL

write-CVB

quiet-IPFV-PST

“The students were quiet while writing on tablets.” 

/tagoki

toɣoma-nɛ-ʔe

tagohu

xilsɛhɛ-ka-li/

student

write-CVB-DS

teacher

quiet-IPFV-PST

“While the student was writing, the teacher was quiet.” 

/tagoki

toɣoma-nɛ-ʔe-ʔe

tagohu-sig

xilsɛhɛ-ka-li/

student

write-CVB-DS-PL

teacher-PL

quiet-IPFV-PST

“While the student was writing, the teachers were quiet.” 

As the DS marker derives from the demonstrative “ʔe(ʔe)”, which referred to the following noun phrase (i.e. the argument of the finite verb) it agrees in number with the argument of the finite verb. 

The imperfective aspect combined with the adverb /kalu/ (“always) expresses “every time / whenever” – however, /kalu/ can also be dropped and the interpretation left to context: 

(/kalu/)

/sumhebat

pisom-nɛ-ʔe

mu

ɣiɣsom-ka/

(always)

Sumhebat

NEG

smile-CVB-DS

1SG

see-IPFV

“Whenever I see Sumhebat he is not smiling” = “I’ve never seen him smile”.  

Sequential CVB “kusmɛ(ʔe[ʔe])” (derived from “kus-mɛ” = one-LOC = “at first”)[edit | edit source]

saɣop

tassom-kusmɛ

John

katma-mɛ

king

drink-CVB.SEQ

John

kill-PFV

“After drinking, the king killed John.” 

saɣop

tassom-kusmɛ-ʔe

John

kat-mɛ

king

drink-CVB.SEQ-DS

John

kill-PRFV

“After the king drank, John killed him.” 

saɣop

tassom-kusmɛ-ʔe

kat-mɛ

king

drink-CVB.SEQ-DS

kill-PRFV

“After the king drank, he was killed (or rather, ‘somebody unnamed killed him’).”

CVB for indirect speech and some other subordinate clauses: “sa” (SS) / “saʔe[ʔe])” (DS)[edit | edit source]

 

The converb form does not specify the tense of the reported sentence; adverbs of time may be inserted right before the converb form to make this clear, including the most generic forms “li” for the past and “bolu” for the future.

 

dɛxdɛx

ɣiɣsom-li

saki

kos

mimilsumɛ

bolu

ʔalsom-saʔ-e

(mu)

tagohɛ

2pl

see-PTCP.PST

person

bread

here

FUT

buy-CVB.QUOT-DS

(1sg)

NEG

know

“I don’t know whether the person you guys saw yesterday will buy bread here” 

This converb can also be used for other subordinate clauses: 

Mu

ʔemɛka

kuʔihɛ-sa

hulɛhɛ

1sg

today

‘be alone’-CVB.QUOT

‘be disappointed’

“I’m disappointed about being alone today”

 

There are special constructions using “sama” (an archaism for “to say”) in the first person jussive mood for saying that somebody wants or needs somebody to do something. Since the first person jussive is formed by suffixing the personal pronoun (1SG or 1PL) to the verb, the different-subject (DS) marker is not used on the converb in those cases.  

dɛx

ku

mu-he

mog-sig

katma-sa

sa-mu

2SG

one

1SG-GEN.INALIEN

child-PL

kill-CVB.QUOT

say-1sg.JUSS

“I hope to say that you [will] kill [or: have killed] one of my children”

= “I need you to kill one of my children.” 

dɛx-hɛ

sot

nilokhɛ-sa

sa-mu

2SG-GEN.AL

house

be.clean-CVB.QUOT

say-1SG.JUSS

 

In the past, there is a difference between the perfective and imperfective aspect; the perfective aspect means that the person unsuccessfully tried to do the thing in question.

mu

dɛx

xitma-sa

sa-mu-mɛ

1SG

2SG

hate-CVB.QUOT

say-1SG.JUSS-PFV

"I (unsuccessfully) tried to hate you"

Causal CVB “ʔo” (SS)/“mɛʔu” (DS) (from DAT and ABL case, respectively) [edit | edit source]

The converb expressing a causal relationship uses the suffixes for the dative case (if used as a case ending, this is restricted to animate nouns) and the locative case (normally only used with inanimate nouns); the former is used if the subject of the converb is identical to that of the finite verb, and the latter if there is a different subject.

dɛx

saɣop

saxɛmma-ʔo

sixmɛ

katma-mɛ-bolu

2sg

king

insult-CVB.SS

soon

die-PFV-FUT

“As you have insulted the king, you will soon die.” 

ʔiʔaguhiz

nuɣehe-mɛʔu

saɣop

xiʔo

nuɣehɛ

plant

NEG

red-CVB.DS

king

REFL

annoy

“Because the plant isn’t red, the king is angry.”

CVB for an action interrupted by another action (that of the finite verb): “kanɛ” (SS)/ “kanɛʔe[ʔe]” (DS) (from IPFV + “and”)[edit | edit source]

dɛxdɛx

John

ʔalsom-li

kos

lasom-kanɛ

mu

tagosom-mɛ

2pl

John

buy-PST

bread

eat-CVB

1sg

notice-PRFV

“While you were eating the bread bought by John, you (suddenly) noticed me.” 

Mu

kos

lasom-kanɛ-ʔe-ʔe

bomsama-mɛ

1sg

bread

eat-CVB-DS-PL

shout-PRFV

“While I was eating bread, some people started shouting.” 

CVB for manner/means: “xi” (SS) / “du” (DS) (from ABL (for animates) and INSTR, respectively) [edit | edit source]

 

tignima-xi

nɛki

tun-kom-mɛ

boma

run-CVB.INSTR

RECIPROC

circle-PL-LOC

‘move towards’

“They are chasing each other in circles.” 

dɛx

tonma-du

mu

xiʔutasma-mɛ

2sg

help-CVB..INSTR.DS

1sg

succeed-PRFV

“With your help, I succeeded!” 

If used with stative verbs, this is often equivalent to what would be an adverb in other languages:  

maz

zizhe-xi

maz.som-mɛ;

sun

warm-CVB.INSTR

shine-PRFV

“Then the Sun shined out warmly”.

 The fact that switch reference is marked on the converb allows dropping pronouns fairly liberally: 

ma.hɛ-du

mu

samduma-bolu

strong-CVB.INSTR.DS

1sg

kick-FUT

“Somebody (unnamed) will kick me hard!”

Adversative converb “agubo” (SS) / “kanɛʔe[ʔe]” (DS) (from “into the wind” / IPFV + “and”, respectively)[edit | edit source]

 NB: The DS form is identical to that of the converb for one action interrupted by another. 

dɛx

sa-tun

milsom-agubo

sasom

2SG

word-PL

hear-CVB.ADVERSATIVE

NEG

listen

“You hear the words, but do not listen.”

                                                                                                           

podez

zihin

utma-agubo

mahe

fruit

tooth

damage-CVB

‘be healthy’

“Fruit damages teeth, but is nonetheless healthy”.

lishɛ

la

ʔut.he-kanɛ-ʔe

mu

ʔe

lasom-ka

sweet

food

‘be unhealthy’-CVB-DS

1SG

3SG

eat-IPFV

“Even though sugary food is unhealthy, I eat it all the time.”

Converb for purpose ““ (SS) / “bo” (DS)[edit | edit source]

  

mu

nuz-ʔo

sama-hɛ

ki

boma-bolu,

puhɛʔul

ki

mu

sa-hɛ

boma-bolu

1SG

friend-DAT

speak-CVB.SS

3SG.ANIM

‘go to’-FUT

or

3SG.ANIM

1SG

speak-CVB.SS

‘go to’-FUT

“I will visit my friend, or he will visit me.”

NB: “go to somebody in order to speak (to them)”, expressed converbially, is the standard way to express “visit”. Similarly, “to meet” (not coincidentally!) is expressed by “speak-CVB.SS RECIPR ‘go to’”: 

mu

nuz-nɛ

sama-hɛ

nɛki

sotsig-bo

boma-kali

1SG

friend

speak-CVB.SS

RECIP

village-LAT

‘go to’-IPFV

“A friend and me always used to meet up in the village.”

NB: The place where the meeting takes place is in the lative case.

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