Virtual Verduria
Kusni Maind  

Old Skourene

Introduction Lenani-LittoralOld Skourene
Verbal Morphology Gender
A tour of the root
ErgativityLexical effects
The four paradigmsAbsolutive Ergative Ergative/Absolutive Reflexive/Reciprocal
Verb prefixesNominalizations
Biconsonantal verbs
Nominal morphology AffixingVowel-changing
Definite formsDiminutives
Other word types Adjectivish things Affixes Associative nouns Participles Descriptive verbs Possessives/Pronouns Avoiding copulation
Syntax Word order
Tense The perfect Other moods Specialized aspects
Verb sequencing Changing arguments Antipassive Other options Logical connectors Reported speech Comparatives
Examples 1. Usṭişum Paurṭuti -- Lazybones’s Puzzle
2. Ṭisutrand -- The Ṭisutran
3. Agedor Skourandul -- Protector of the Skourenes


Lenani-Littoral is one of the major language families of eastern Ereláe. Originally restricted to the Lenani steppe, its speakers invaded Skouras twice, two milennia apart, generating three subfamilies.

The first invasion took place around -50 Z.E., displacing the Mei peoples. The invaders gave the country its name, Skouras, and spread first to the littoral, then to the Mnau peninsula, and then across the southern sea to Gurdago.

(All the letters in Skouras have their IPA values; so the first syllable rhymes with stow, not with scow or sue.)

For more on the history and culture of the Skourenes, see the Historical Atlas of Skouras, or on a lighter note, the Skourene Culture Test.

The second invasion was that of the Tžuro, who originally lived in the eastern half of the Lenani plateau. On fire with the new religion of Jippirasti, they invaded Skouras in the 1600s. Around 3000, the Tžuro state of Jaešim colonized the southwestern portion of Arcél, creating the nation of Fananak.

The invasions serve to classify the languages of the family:

The Littoral speakers left in Skouras after the Jippirasti conquest slowly abandoned their old language for Tžuro; but those who were displaced and the southern regions that were never conquered still called themselves Skourenes, and for centuries maintained the dream of liberating their homeland. The closest they came was under the Čisre Empire in the 2600s; they discovered that the people of the homeland had no wish to be liberated.

The exiles also called themselves the Uṭandal (‘the Strong’), and it’s convenient to use this name rather than Skourenes for the post-Jippirasti Littoral peoples.

The major languages in the family are these; there are also half a dozen minor languages.

     Old Lenani+, Lenani, Karimi, Lumbani
     Babureni+, Šureni, Jaešeni, Fananaki
     Old Skourene+
         Gelihurendi, Šijinti, Uṭandal, Barmundi
         Gurdagor, Didburir

Old Skourene

In Almean studies, the language of Skouras in ancient times (fl. 300-900) is conventionally named Old Skourene (OS), V. bomë šurë. Its own speakers called it kusni maind ‘the language of the people’ or kusnidor ‘our language’ when contrasting it to the languages of other peoples. (More often they referred to city dialects— e.g. (kusni) Iṭiliki ‘the language of Iṭili’.)

Skouras and the littoral were never united under one government— though this was the aspiration of one group or another throughout the period— and the language was thus subject to great regional variation. This document describes the most prestigious variety, the language spoken in the great cities of the Šinour delta— Engidori, Iṭili, and Imuṭeli— in the classical period, Z.E. 300-900.

(The names and areas of the major OS dialects are the same as those of the variants of the writing system, and can be seen on map 827 in the Historical Atlas of Skouras.)

It can be taken as the ancestor of all the modern Littoral languages, east and west, including Gurdagor— though the remoter areas (Rudeŋ, Jecuor, Šiji) preserve some oddities and vocabulary that must date back to sister languages. An example is the name Barmund; it was the equivalent of OS Ṭarmand ‘southern people’.)

Old Skourene has several distinctive features:


Note: This document makes heavy use of Unicode. These characters ṭ ḍ ş ḷ r should match the "retroflex" column in the diagram, while the velar nasal is ŋ.

The phonology is somewhat idealized, being based on reconstruction from modern dialects, borrowing behavior, infuriatingly vague comments from OS grammarians, and the OS writing system. The only really problematic aspect is the exact nature of the third column of consonants. Retroflex is the best guess, but palatal and even aspirated stops are remoter possibilities.

To produce retroflex stops, start with the tongue on the alveolar ridge behind the teeth, and slip it upwards. The tip may end up curled backwards (which is what ‘retroflex’ means). However, it shouldn’t end up on the top of the palate (that’s the place for palatals). If you’re American, your r may be retroflex. If your tongue points upward from its rest position, you’re in business— just move it forward a bit and you’ve got OS and . If your tongue points downward and is pulled into the back of the mouth, you have a bunched r instead.

OS r in the delta dialect was an approximant, but seems to have been a flap in other areas (e.g., it ended up as a flap in Gurdagor).

English t/d/n/s/l are alveolar, with the tongue touching the ridge behind the teeth; make sure you pronounce the OS t/d/n/s/l as dental, with the tongue touching the teeth, for maximum contrast with the retroflexes.

OS had some formidable clusters (e.g. kpasriukka, ŋoknlun). Some of these were subject to assimilation consistently enough that it can be assigned to the OS period:

Other assimilations and dissimilations can be deduced from sound changes in the daughter languages, but their timing is unclear, and it’s best not to assume they were present in OS. On the other hand, it should be recognized that the language as presented here is somewhat idealized, and would probably sound archaic or simply strange in many places to a Skourene.

There is no phonemic retroflex nasal, but n next to a retroflex consonant was very likely retroflexed.

N before g was not velarized; don’t pronounce Engidori as *Eŋgidori.

Any two distinct vowels can be concatenated; but two identical vowels are separated by an inserted r— e.g. a + a = ara.

The general stress rule is that it comes after the first consonant in the root. As this requires identifying what the root is, this will be discussed in more detail below.

Verbal Morphology

OS verbs have several dimensions of variation:

Excluding the verb prefixes, a single verb can easily have over 1100 different verbal forms— with one prefix, over 30,000.

The system is complicated enough that a conjugation utility can be useful.

There are also nominal derivations; indeed, the vast majority of OS nouns are derived from verbs; the non-derived nouns are a small closed class.


We will encounter gender in a few miscellaneous areas: verb affixes, derivational morphology, the possessive suffixes, interrogative pronouns; it’s convenient to explain it beforehand.

OS doesn’t have lexical gender, as in French or Verdurian; it has natural gender, like English. That is, gender isn’t a fact about words, but a fact about referents.

There are four genders, which can be divided into two overall categories, sentients and non-sentients.

Human institutions may vary in gender by context. If they’re being used as shorthand for the people involved, they’re masculine (e.g. gşarali ‘the court’, nladali ‘the school as an institution’). If only the location is referred to, they’re animate (e.g. gşarali ‘the throne room’, nladali ‘the school building’). Cities and countries, however, are always animate.

By our standards, the Skourenes were fairly generous about assigning sentiency or animacy. From their perspective, of course, we are extremely narrow about these things!

Gender is not always expressed; when it is, the distinction made is not always fourfold. Sometimes only sentients and non-sentients are distinguished; sometimes masculine/feminine/non-sentient.

A tour of the root

As in the Semitic languages, most verb roots are triconsonantal, e.g. b-k-ş ‘break’. Different verb forms (as well as derived nouns) are created by placing vowels before, between, or after these consonants, or by adding affixes. For instance, ṭ-l-p- ‘write’ has forms such as these:
ṭelpum it was written
ṭelup I wrote
ṭuloup we will write
aiṭlope they made me write
ṭeilop he was always writing
inṭulup I may try to write
ṭlepa document
aṭelop writer
ṭilap pen
uṭalpas the art of writing
aṭalpi written
gauṭulip you write clumsily
nilṭulrap she can write
Though these look and sound very different to us, they are all standard derivations, easily recognized by an OS speaker as belonging to a single root, and in fact they are all written using the same glyph.

For ease in discussion, it’s convenient to name the positions within the root; we will refer to the three consonants as C1, C2, C3, and the positions adjacent to them as P0, P12, P23, P4. Thus instead of saying “an -a- inserted between the second and third consonants signals a noun” we can say “an -a- in P23 signals a noun”.

Some examples:

P0 C1 P12 C2 P23 C3 P4
e l p u
ai l o p e
l e p a
i l a p
u a l p as
Though Skourene grammarians consider the root to consist of the consonants only, each verb has a characteristic vowel or stem vowel which usually appears in P12— for instance e in ṭ-l-p- ‘write’ or i in k-s-n- ‘hear’. The stem vowel is always one of i e a. It doesn’t always appear, but when it does it’s not predictable from the consonants; it must be learned along with them and is thus best considered part of the root. The citation form of ‘write’ is thus ṭelp-, and ‘hear’ is kisn-.

There are a small number of biconsonantal roots, which will be discussed later.

Now that we’ve defined the positions we can state the stress rule:

Thus ṭélpu, aiṭlópe, ṭlépa, ṭílap, uṭálpas, nilṭúlrap.


OS is an ergative/absolutive language. To understand what this means, let’s look at a pair of related sentences:
The window broke.
The boys broke the window.
Syntactically, we say that the first sentence is intransitive, meaning that it has a subject and no object, and the second is transitive, meaning that it has both. Semantically, we can talk about three possible case roles: English is a nominative/accusative language: Verdurian is also nominative/accusative, with case marked on the noun and verb agreement with the subject; compare
So aknó brisre.
Soî sefoi brisrü so aknám.
In an ergative/absolutive language like OS: Terrestrial ergative/absolutive languages include Basque, Tibetan, Chukchi, Dyirbal, and the Northwest Caucasian languages.

Some sample OS sentences:

Bakşu tostim. The window broke.
Bakoşu tostim immolnimi. The boys broke the window.
Bakoş immolnimi. The boys broke something.
For ease of understanding, and to simplify the glosses, the color scheme above (absolutives in green, ergatives in red) is used throughout this document.
Lexical effects
Many of our verbs can be either transitive and intransitive— break, roll, hang, close, stop, spin, grow, bend, bounce, burn, strengthen, form. The corresponding verbs will not be difficult in OS.

Often, though, we have a pair of verbs where OS has one: rise / raise; fall / drop; die / kill, come / fetch. These will be one verb and one concept in OS; this may take some getting used to. The transitive generally has a causative meaning, though as we’ll see OS has a causative as well.

We also have verb pairs which have about the same meaning, but differ in transitivity: I listened vs. I heard the sound; I studied vs. I learned algebra. These pairs are also single verbs in OS, with our subject expressed in the ergative; if a patient is present it’s as usual placed in the absolutive.

If we have no separate intransitive verb, we use the passive. For instance, we can say The mother nurtures the child but there’s no simple verb for what the child is doing; we have to say The child is nurtured. In OS there is; the child melnu, which has none of the indirectness of our passive.

The four paradigms

In OS a verb can be declined according to one of four patterns:
Absolutive paradigm
With transitive verbs, the absolutive refers to what we think of as the object; with intransitives, to what we call the subject. With verbs like break it’s easy to see that the semantic role is the same— the absolutive is the thing that’s acted upon. With verb pairs like fall/drop it’s easier to be confused; we don’t think of the subject of fall as something acted upon, though by comparison with drop it certainly is. When in doubt, consider whether the English verb can be followed by an object. If it can’t, it’s intransitive, and belongs to the absolutive paradigm in OS.

The absolutive can always be used alone, with no ergative ‘subject’, even for transitive verbs. E.g. Ṭelpum ṭlepa, which we have to translate more verbosely as ‘The document was written’ or ‘Someone wrote the document’.

(This is the most basic verb tense in OS, but the glosses are past tense. Technically this is the perfect mood. We’ll see how to refer to present events later on.)

be heard break fall be lit up
I -e kisne bakşe targe şebre
I-f -et kisnet bakşet target şebret
you-m -a kisna bakşa targa şebra
you-f -at kisnat bakşat targat şebrat
you-du -as kisnas bakşas targas şebras
he -u kisnu bakşu targu şebru
she -ut kisnut bakşut targut şebrut
it -um kisnum bakşum targum şebrum
we-excl -ep kisnep bakşep targep şebrep
we-incl -eg kisneg bakşeg targeg şebreg
you-pl -ag kisnag bakşag targag şebrag
they -i kisni bakşi targi şebri
they-f -it kisnit bakşit targit şebrit
they-ns -im kisnim bakşim targim şebrim
Ergative paradigm
The ergative is used for what we consider the subject of transitive verbs— and those only; the subject of intransitives is put in the absolutive. Again, these forms can be used alone, with no absolutive referent.
listen break drop light up
I -u- kisun bakuş tarug şebur
you-m -i- kisin bakiş tarig şebir
you-f -ri- kisrin bakriş tarrig şebrir
he -- kisn bakş targ şebr
she -ra- kisran bakraş tarrag şebrar
it -ḷa- kislan bakḷaş tarḷag sebḷar
we-excl -obu- kisobun bakobuş tarobug şebobur
we-incl -ou- kisoun bakouş taroug şebour
you-pl -oi- kisoin bakoiş taroig şeboir
they-mf -o- kison bakoş tarog şebor
they-an -ḷo- kislon bakḷoş tarḷog şebḷor
A helpful hint: None of the infixes put a simple -a- or -e- in P23 (-ra- isn’t simple). Forms with either of these vowels in P23 can therefore be confidently identified as nouns, e.g. kisan ‘ear’, ksena ‘(process of) listening’, kessen ‘listening device’.
Ergative/Absolutive paradigm
This pattern corresponds to our transitive verbs with both subject and object expressed. It’s formed simply by combining the two previous patterns: the absolutive endings (the ‘object’) in P4, and the ergative infixes (the ‘subject’) in P23.
object I you-m you-f he she we-excl we-incl you-pl they
me kisine kisrine kisne kisrane kisobune kisoune kisoine kisone
me-f kisinet kisrinet kisnet kisranet kisobunet kisounet kisoinet kisonet
you-m kisuna kisrina kisna kisrana kisobuna kisouna kisoina kisona
you-f kisunat kisinat kisnat kisranat kisobunat kisounat kisoinat kisonat
you-du kisunas kisinas kisrinas kisnas kisranas kisobunas kisounas kisoinas kisonas
him kisunu kisinu kisrinu kisnu kisranu kisobunu kisounu kisoinu kisonu
her kisunut kisinut kisrinut kisnut kisranut kisobunut kisounut kisoinut kisonut
us-excl kisunep kisinep kisrinep kisnep kisranep kisobunep kisounep kisoinep kisonep
us-incl kisuneg kisineg kisrineg kisneg kisraneg kisouneg kisoineg kisoneg
you-pl kisunag kisinag kisrinag kisnag kisranag kisobunag kisonag
them kisuni kisini kisrini kisni kisrani kisobuni kisouni kisoini kisoni
them-f kisunit kisinit kisrinit kisnit kisranit kisobunit kisounit kisoinit kisonit
It may help to have a few specific examples:
kisuna I listened to you (m).
kisobunas We (excl) listened to the two of you.
bakşum He broke it.
şebḷareg It lit us (incl).
terilet You (m) touched me (f).
dirobuşi We (excl) allied with them.
geşorag They ruled you people.
Reflexive / Reciprocal paradigm
This paradigm is used when the subject and object are identical. That is, they express an individual’s action upon himself or herself, or a group’s mutual interaction.
hear oneself break oneself drop oneself light oneself up
I -ei kisnei bakşei targei şebrei
I-f -eṭ kisneṭ bakşeṭ targeṭ şebreṭ
you-m -ai kisnai bakşai targai şebrai
you-f -aṭ kisnaṭ bakşaṭ targaṭ şebraṭ
you-du -aş kisnaş bakşaş targaş şebraş
he -ui kisnui bakşui targui şebrui
she -uṭ kisnuṭ bakşuṭ targuṭ şebruṭ
it -uim kisnuim bakşuim targuim şebuim
they-du -uş kisnuş bakşuş targuş şebruş
we-excl -eip kisneip bakşeip targeip şebreip
we-incl -eḍ kisneḍ bakşeḍ targeḍ şebreḍ
you-pl -aḍ kisnaḍ bakşaḍ targaḍ şebraḍ
they -iri kisniri bakşiri targiri şebriri
they-f -irit kisnirit bakşirit targirit şebririt
they-ns -irim kisnirim bakşirim targirim şebririm
kisnei I heard myself.
kisnai You (m) heard yourself.
kisnuṭ She heard herself.
kisnaş The two of you listened to each other.
kisneip We (excl) listened to each other.
kisneḍ We (incl) listened to each other.
kisnaḍ You all listened to each other.
kisniri They listened to each other.


All the verb forms we’ve seen so far comprise the perfect, which is used for completed action. It generally corresponds to our past tense (e.g. kisun ‘I listened’) or present perfect (e.g. gende ‘I have come’).

There are four other moods. The descriptions below are simply a first approximation; the full usage of the verb is best explained after all the forms have been presented, and I therefore discuss it farther on, under Syntax.

kusne I intend to be heard
kusun I intend to listen
turga You intend to fall
bukş He intends to break (something)
kasne I want to be heard
kasun I want to listen
taurga You want to fall
baukş He wants to break (it)
kosne I’m afraid of being heard
kosun I’m afraid to listen
torga You’re afraid to fall
bokş He’s afraid of breaking (it)
ksne I don’t/didn’t/won’t hear
ksun I don’t/didn’t/won’t listen
trga You don’t/didn’t/won’t fall
obkşu He doesn’t/didn’t/won’t break it
uksne hear me!
uksinut listen to her!
uturga Fall!
ubukş Let him break it!
A negative imperative is formed using the particle gba: gba uksinut ‘don’t listen to her!’


There are three aspects, each dealing with the timing or duration of an event. They are marked by adding a vowel a/u/i just before C2. If the inserted vowel is the same as the stem vowel, insert -r- between them.
kiasne I was heard for a long time
kiasun I listened for a long time
tararga You kept falling
kiusne I began to be heard
kiusun I began to listen
tauga You began to fall
baukş He began to break (it)
şeubru It was lit (e.g. set aflame)
kirisne I was heard over and over
kirisun I listened many times
tairga You fell several times
baikş He kept breaking it
şeibru It was illuminated again and again

All of these may be combined with the moods as well, except for the negative:
mood aspect example gloss
perfect unmarked ṭelup I wrote
durative ṭealup I wrote and wrote
inceptive ṭeulup I began to write
cyclical ṭeilup I often wrote
intentive unmarked ṭulup I intend to write
durative ṭualup I intend to keep writing
inceptive ṭurulup I intend to start writing
cyclical ṭuilup I intend to write over and over
desiderative unmarked ṭalup I want to write
durative ṭaralup I want to keep writing
inceptive ṭaulup I want to start writing
cyclical ṭailup I want to write over and over
metutive unmarked ṭolup I’m afraid I’ll write
durative ṭoalup I’m afraid I’ll keep writing
inceptive ṭoulup I’m afraid I’ll start writing
cyclical ṭoilup I’m afraid I’ll write over and over
imperative unmarked uṭlip write!
durative uṭalip keep writing!
inceptive uṭulip start writing!
cyclical uṭilip write over and over!

Verb prefixes

The meaning of a verb can be altered, nuanced, or made more specific with a wide range of prefixes. In some cases these are identical to standalone verbs or nouns (bol- ‘hair’); sometimes they’re phonetic simplifications (les- ‘water’ / leşṭ- ‘be wet’; mne- ‘walk’ / mend- ‘walk’; tim- ‘cut’ / tins- ‘cut’); yet others are independent lexemes (ŋok- ‘finish’; bau- ‘speak’).

These can be divided into several classes.

The causative ai- is in a class of its own. The ergative paradigm can already be considered a causative of the absolutive, so ai- involves making someone do the ergative action. Compare:
bakşum It broke
bakuşum I broke it
aibakşe He made me break (it)

Aibakşi tostimi molnimil ŋagetorul.
caus-break-3s-3p window-gen-def boys-def potter-def
The potter made the boys break the window.
Note the chain of demotions: the boys go from ergative to absolutive; the window goes from absolutive to genitive (and no longer triggers any verb agreement).

Inanimates can never cause anything.

These prefixes describe the way an action is performed.
prefix meaning example
me- pretense; doubt mekisun I pretended to listen
nil- knowledge, ability nilseatre I know how to swim
in- attempt inkisun I tried to listen
gam- clumsiness gammendu he walked clumsily, he stumbled
ŋre- falsity ŋrenulin he spoke wrongly, he lied
kpa- wrongness kpaguaşreg
We are misruled
he spoke wrongly, he was mistaken
bun- neglect to do, almost do bunḍişinu you overlooked it
ukḷu- despective ukḷuṭiarku he was lurking (ṭirk- ‘stand’)
kus- in a superior way kussemritu she outran him
ru- quickly, urgently rurugnda! come quickly!
ṭis- into pieces ṭisbakşum it broke into pieces
ḍam- completely, wholly ḍamşeabrum it was entirely lit up
ŋok- stop ŋokmende I stopped walking
piŋ- undo piŋgitrum it was destroyed
pum- help pumsaulrat she wants to help clean
min- back mindanteg we went back
mek- here mekuḍriḍum! bring it to me here!
ḍim- there ḍimmenidut? did she walk there?
If the prefix ends in -m, this changes to -u before a non-labial stop: ḍautispum ‘they ripped it entirely up’.

Me- indicates doubtfulness in the absolutive paradigm (mekisne ‘I may not have been heard’), but falseness or fakery in the ergative (mekisun ‘I pretended to listen’).

Associated action
These prefixes associate the action with another action.
prefix meaning example
mne- walk mnemoirmeg we’re walking in a circle
tim- cut tiuḍeḍugu I cut it in half
bau- speech baugime he insulted me (= bit with words)
Associated object
These prefixes associate the action with a particular object.
prefix meaning example
les- water leskeşgut
she drowned
I greet you (= bring you water)
ksa- heat, light ksaşodme
I’m dizzy from the heat
it’s faded (= whitened by light)
ŋol- food ŋolburusug I’m hungry (= lack food)
una- clothing unatisipe he tore my clothes
nos- money nosḍaraḍum I paid for it (= money-took it)
ḍoŋ- baby ḍoŋuslritu! wash the baby!
um- head or face umboŋke I have a headache
bol- hair bolbuldei I’m going to comb my hair
teḷ- by hand teḷgenudum I made it by hand
gan- by foot gantarasgut she was barefoot
Some other nouns may be used as prefixes, especially in nouns or in single lexical items. Derived nouns (see next section) can never be used as a verb prefix.


A variety of nouns can be formed from any verb root. Not every derivation is actually used, but I’ve run a set of verbs (kisn- ‘listen’, ṭelp- ‘write’, gitr- ‘form, create’, kirk- ‘fight’, geşr- ‘rule’, meln- ‘nurture’, meŋl- ‘speak to’, masp- ‘think about, care for’) through all the possibilities to help clarify the meaning of each transform.

That we can form all these nominalizations doesn’t mean that we should. Proper OS style prefers verbs wherever possible— e.g. “I fight and they cannot stop me” rather than “My fighting technique is unstoppable”. See Avoiding copulation below.

ekusena listening, hearing
eṭulepa the writing process
egutera creation
ekureka fighting, combat
eguşera government, rule
emulena nurture, mothering
emuŋela speaking, (the facility of) speech
emusepa thinking; concern, worry
ksiunna an act of listening
ṭliuppa a writing session
gdiurra the formation of a single object
kriukka a fight
gşiurra a governmental act
mliunna a nurturing action
ŋiulla utterance
msiuppa thought, idea
ukasnas listening skills
uṭalpas writing
ugatrasa pottery
ukarkas the art of war
ugaşras a ‘gubernatorial’ (vs. a senatorial) state
umalnas the art of nurturance, parenting skills
umaŋlas oratory
umaspas logic
ṭlepa document, essay
gdira pot, vessel
mŋela a speech, a discourse
msepa subject, topic
gşera regime, administration
kosnim a sound
ṭolpim text
gotrim the form or shape of something
korkim opponent
goşrim subject (of a ruler)
molnim child
moŋlim addressee, audience
mospim ward, protégé
akeson listener
aṭelop writer
agetor potter, creator
akerok fighter
ageşor ruler
amelon mother
ameŋol speaker
amesop thinker
kessen a recording device, perhaps magical
ṭellep a writing device
getter mold
kerrek a recalcitrant or dangerous machine
meŋŋel a speaking device
messep robot
kisan ear
ṭilap pen
gitar potter’s wheel
kirak weapon
gişar staff (Skourene symbol of authority)
milan breast
miŋal mouth
misap heart (for Skourenes, the organ of thought)
ṭlapali scriptorium
gdarali pottery shop
krakali arena
gşarali throne room, court
mlanali foster home, orphanage
mŋalali auditorium
msapali study, a thinker’s private room
akasni heard
aṭalpi written
agatri formed, shaped
akarki fought
agaşri ruled
amalni nurtured
amaŋli spoken to
amaspi thought about or cared for
ikksen listening
iṭṭlep writing
iggter forming
ikkrek fighting
iggşer ruling
immlen nurturing
immŋel speaking
immsep thinking
If the verb has a verb prefix, form the nominalization, then precede it with the verb prefix. However, the initial u- of the art nominalization, and the initial a- of the actor nominalization, normally migrate before the prefix: uŋremaspas ‘illogic’, amnekerok ‘one who fights by hand’.
The most ancient form of nominalization is to use an complete verb form as a noun:
ḍairḷoḍ they keep bringing it amber
gitra you were formed wax
guṭḷi they will be glad good omen
kusni they will be heard language
Miligenḍi they were summoned; they came (city name)
ḍadnim they are inside intestines
guşouri we rule them hinterland
ṭailuadni they want to keep living in the sea iliu
goşpa it tires you far
nuilmim they will cyclically shine moons
mianum it is always below floor
gairoukum we cyclically sprinkle it cumin
muḍureg we will be whole federation
gidori they protected them military honors
raḍḍoug we have finished harvesting harvest festival
usṭişum (you) solve it! puzzle
This type of derivation remained extremely productive for names, as well as for nonce descriptions: kşigu umḍişnu ‘don’t kill a man who has surrendered’, where umḍişnu is used as a noun, but simply means ‘he surrendered’.

There are also irregular derivations:

maŋ- fear moŋ coward
dem- go upward idma more
ḍed- be a brother ḍod brother
meld- be a sister mald sister
pasn- be a man pisan ten
sirm- crawl surm reptile
Or perhaps the process of derivation went the other way. Some linguists suggest that e.g. ḍod came first, and was turned into a verb.

Biconsonantal verbs

A minority of verbs are biconsonantal. They are conjugated very much like triconsonantal verbs, with some adaptations. In the examples below, four biconsonantal verbs are compared with triconsonantl kisn-.

For biconsonantal verbs, the positions are named P0 C1 P12 C2 P3.

kisn- listen ḍer- rot gim- bite riŋ- sing ŋeḍ- recline
abs (1s) kisne ḍere gime riŋe ŋeḍe
erg (1s) kisun ḍur gum ruŋ ŋud
abs/erg (1s/2s) kisuna ḍura guma ruŋa ŋuda
refl (1s) kisnei ḍerei gimei riŋei ŋeḍei
erg (3s) kisn der gim riŋ ŋeḍ
kisn- listen ḍer- rot gim- bite riŋ- sing ŋeḍ- recline
Absolutive (1s)
intentive kusne uḍre ugme urŋe uŋde
desiderative kasne aḍre agme arŋe aŋḍe
metutive kosne oḍre ogme orŋe oŋḍe
negative ksne ḍoḍre gogme rorŋe ŋoŋḍe
Ergative (1s)
intentive kusun uḍur ugum uruŋ uŋuḍ
desiderative kasun aḍur agum aruŋ aŋuḍ
metutive kosun oḍur ogum oruŋ oŋuḍ
negative ksun ḍoḍur gogum roruŋ ŋoŋuḍ
kisn- listen ḍer- rot gim- bite riŋ- sing ŋeḍ- recline
Absolutive (1s)
durative kiasne ḍeare giame riaŋe ŋeaḍe
inceptive kiusne ḍeure giume riuŋe ŋeuḍe
cyclical kirisne ḍeire girime ririŋe ŋeiḍe
Ergative (1s)
durative kiasun ḍuar guam ruaŋ ŋuad
inceptive kiusun ḍurur gurum ruruŋ ŋurud
cyclical kirisun ḍuir guim ruiŋ ŋuid
With aspects (1s)
Absolutive (1s)
dur + int kuasne uaḍre uagme uarŋe uaŋḍe
incep + desid kausne auḍre augme aurŋe auŋḍe
cycl + metut koisne oiḍre oigme oirŋe oiŋḍe
Ergative (1s)
dur + int kuasun uaḍur uagum uaruŋ uaŋuḍ
incep + desid kausun auḍur augum auruŋ auŋuḍ
cycl + metut koisun oiḍur oigum oiruŋ oiŋuḍ
kisn- listen ḍer- rot gim- bite riŋ- sing ŋeḍ- recline
Process ekusena eḍera egema ereŋa eŋeḍa
Instance ksiunna ḍiurra giumma riuŋŋa ŋiuḍḍa
Art ukasnas uḍaras ugamas uraŋas uŋaḍas
Resulting object ksena ḍrera gmema reŋa ŋeḍa
Patient kosnim ḍorim gomim roŋim ŋodim
Actor akeson aḍeroṭ agemoṭ areŋoṭ aŋeḍoṭ
Device kessen ḍerreḍ gemmeg reŋŋer ŋeḍḍeŋ
Tool kisan ḍiraḍ gimag riŋar ŋiḍaŋ
Place ksanali ḍarali gamali riŋali ŋaḍali
Abs. participle akasni aḍari agami araŋi aŋaḍi
Erg. participle ikksen iḍḍer iggem irreŋ iŋŋeḍ

The biconsonantal verbs are no longer productive; innovated or borrowed verbs are always triconsonantal.

Nominal morphology

Nouns are changed along three dimensions: In addition there are two separate patterns of declension: affixing and vowel-changing.

The citation form— the form you’ll find in the lexicon, and the one the other forms are all built from— is the absolutive singular indefinite.

Noun stress:

Affixing nouns (indefinite)
An affixing noun is one where the root itself doesn’t change; declension is accomplished through prefixes and suffixes.
‘realm’ ‘mother’ ‘wax’ ‘arena’ ‘writing’
sing. abs tebbeḍ amelon gitra krakali ukasnas
erg ittebbeḍ ŋamelon iggitra ikrakali ŋukasna
gen tebbeḍi ameloni gitrai krakaliri ukasnai
pl. abs tebbeḍe amelono gitrar krakalir ukasnara
erg ittebbeḍe ŋamelono iggitrar ikrakalir ŋukasnara
gen tebbeḍu amelonu gitrau krakaliu ukasnau
Vowel-changing nouns (indefinite)
In a vowel-changing verb, declension is accomplished largely by varying the vowels within the root.
‘document’ ‘ear’ ‘sea’ ‘temple’ ‘city’
sing. abs ṭlepa kisan ṭal ṭisu
erg iṭṭlepa ikkisan iṭṭal iṭṭisu ŋeŋ
gen ṭleipa kisain ṭail ṭirisu eŋi
pl. abs ṭlopa kison ṭol ṭusu
erg iṭṭlopa ikkison iṭṭol iṭṭusu ŋoŋ
gen ṭleupa kisaun ṭaul ṭiusu eŋu
How do you know if a noun is vowel-changing or not?
Definite forms
There are two definite forms, close and remote. They are formed by suffixation.
‘writing’ ‘wax’ ‘document’ ‘ear’
base ukasnas gitra ṭlepa kisan
sing. abs ukasnatul gitral ṭlepal kisanul
erg ŋukasnal iggitral iṭṭlepal ikkisanul
gen ukasnail gitrail ṭleipal kirisanul
pl. abs ukasnaral gitraḷ ṭlopal kisonul
erg ŋukasnaral iggitraḷ iṭṭlopal ikkisonul
gen ukasnaul gitraul ṭleupal kiusanul
‘writing’ ‘wax’ ‘document’ ‘ear’
base ukasnas gitra ṭlepa kisan
sing. abs ukasnask gitraŋ ṭlepaŋ kisanaŋ
erg ŋukasnaŋ iggitraŋ iṭṭlepaŋ ikkisanaŋ
gen ukasnaiŋ gitraiŋ ṭleipaŋ kirisanaŋ
pl. abs ukasnaraŋ gitraŋ ṭlopaŋ kisonaŋ
erg ŋukasnaraŋ iggitraŋ iṭṭlopaŋ ikkisonaŋ
gen ukasnauŋ gitrauŋ ṭleupaŋ kiusanaŋ
The close definite form is very similar to our definite article— that is, we can say that ṭlepa = ‘a document’, ṭlepal = ‘the document’.

The remote definite can be seen as an obviative: ṭlepaŋ ‘the other document’.

These can be also seen as demonstratives, and in fact historically that’s what they are: ‘this document / that document’. If you have no specific noun in mind, you can use the generic mam ‘thing, item’— e.g. mamul ‘this one, mamaŋ ‘that one’.

The precise manner of using the definite forms varied by region:

Definite forms were not used with proper names; but some proper names are formed from definite expressions, the best known being Namal, literally ‘The Waters’. (I write ‘the Namal’ in English to reflect this.)
OS had two diminutives. One, expressing mainly smallness, is formed by infixing -ṭi- before the final consonant(s) of the root:
ḍel river → ḍeṭil brook
konşim galley → koṭinsim rowboat
misan grass → misaṭin stubble
surm reptile → suṭirm insect
greḍa house → greṭiḍa hut
The other diminutive expresses affection, and is mainly used for family members, lovers, children’s names and body parts, and small animals. In most cases, one applies the following rules:
  1. Take the accented syllable only (including final consonant)
  2. Change dentals to retroflexes, and velars to labials.
  3. Raise a (if any) to e.
  4. Add a copy of the vowel to the end of the word
aŋesom father → meşe daddy
amelon mother → meḷe mommy
ḍod brother → ḍoḍo
mald sister → meḍe
adenom male lover → ḍene
domim female lover → ḍomo
buttocks → biri tushie

Other word types

Adjectives, more or less

There is not really a class of adjectives in OS. Rather, there are four classes of lexemes that correspond to English adjectives, grouped together here for ease of exposition.
Descriptive affixes
Many common attributes are indicated simply with affixes. There are two subclasses, suffixes (e.g. -eli ‘good’, -naku ‘new’) and infixes (e.g. -iḷt- ‘beautiful’, -uşṭ- ‘red’).
suffix miŋal
-ram great miŋarram ḍerram norşisram ṭisuram dreşaram krakaliram
-sok white miŋalsok ḍelsok norşissok ṭisusok dreşasok krakalisok
-eli good miŋaleli ḍeleli norşiseli ṭisueli dreşeli krakaleli
-naku new miŋalnaku ḍelnaku norşisnaku ṭisunaku dreşanaku krakalinaku
The suffix is added to the citation form of the noun, with these exceptions: Some assimilation, difficult to predict, can be observed, as in ḍerram or Guṭḷ- + -naku = Guṭḍaku.
suffix miŋal
-iḷt beautiful miŋaliḷt ḍeliḷt norşiḷtis ṭisiḷtu dreşiḷta krakiḷtali
-urg dark miŋalurg ḍelurg norşurgis ṭisurgu dreşurgi krakurgali
-ikt cold miŋalikt ḍelikt norşiktis ṭisiktu dreşikta krakiktali
-arṭ green miŋalarṭ ḍerarṭ norşarṭis ṭisarṭu dreşarṭa krakarṭali
For standalone nouns like ḍel and ṭisu, the infix is added after the last consonant.

For nouns derived from triconsonantal verbs, the infix is added after C3. When C3 is the last consonant, as in miŋal and dreşa, this looks like the last rule; but compare norşis and krakali. The -is and -ali are sufixes, so the infix must precede them.

Descriptive affixes are applied after case changes and pluralization, but before the definite suffixes. Thus ṭisurram ‘great temples’, tebbeḍiram ‘of a great realm’, but ṭisurramul ‘the great temples’, tebbeḍiramul ‘of the great realm’.

Descriptive affixes can be turned into causative verbs, by prefixing ḍe-. More precisely, in the absolutive these mean ‘become —’, and in the ergative ‘make —’.
ḍemn- blacken
ḍegr- darken, make evil
ḍeḷt- beautify
ḍenk- renew, renovate

Ḍunku Skouras ŋageşor. The ruler will renew Skouras.
Ḍeltut norşis. The girl has become beautiful.

Descriptive affixes can form nouns using the same patterns as the biconsonantal verbs. The common types are:
Associative nouns
These are nouns derived from other nouns, typically to express location or origin. Typical suffixes are -and, -asp, -(a)ro, or -ik:
Skourasskourand Skourene
Guṭḍakuguṭḍakuro Gurdagor
Aksun Axunai → aksunaro Axunemi
Ḍabriŋ Jeor → ḍabriŋik Jeori
Namal → namalasp
west → boḍand westerner
As substantives, they decline and behave exactly like any noun:
isskourand the Skourene (sg. erg.)
ḍabriŋiki a Jeori’s (sg. gen.)
skouranda the Skourenes (sg. abs.)
They can be used to modify a noun, in which case they look to us more like adjectives, especially as in this usage they are not declined by case or number. They appear after the noun:
ŋortim ḍabriŋik Jeori merchandise
eŋ komand an eastern city
ameşodol aksunaro the Xurnese women
The participles are much like the associative nouns, except that they’re derived from verbs. Again, they may be used as nouns; e.g. from geşr- ‘rule’ we form agaşri ‘ruled’ and iggşer ‘ruling’— i.e. ‘subject’ and ‘ruler’.

(The patient and actor nominalizations (goşrim ‘subject’ and ageşor ‘ruler’) are similar, but imply a more permanent or inherent state, which is why they’re often lexicalized as names of titles and classes of people. An iggşer might be someone who finds themselves leading in a temporary or abnormal situation.)

As substantives, the participles are declined normally:

ipplen kind one (sg. abs.)
ipplene the kind ones (pl. abs.)
ŋaḍaltir the beautiful ones (pl. erg.)
And like the associative nouns, the participles can be used as apppositives, without declension:
ageşor ipplen kind ruler (lit., a ruler, a kind one)
The descriptive affixes can be turned into standalone substantives or appositives by taking the absolutive participle of the causative: e.g.
-iḷt beautiful → ḍeḷt- beautify → aḍaḷti beautiful one

ŋaḍalti a beautiful person (erg.)
norşis aḍaḷti a beautiful girl
kennek aḍaski whitewashed wall

Descriptive verbs
Where we would use an adjective, OS often uses a normal verb. E.g. şilp- ‘be fat’:
Şolpe. I’m fat. (metutive)
Şulpa. You’re fat. (intentive)
Şiulpu. He started to get fat. (inceptive)
These verbs can only have absolutive forms. However, they have regular causatives, e.g. aişolrape ŋameloŋŋop ‘My mother is making me fat’.
Possessive suffixes and pronouns
Possession is generally indicated by a special set of descriptive suffixes:
suffix gloss example
-ŋop my (m.) greḍaŋop ‘my house’
-ŋot my (f.) atesoŋŋot ‘my husband’
-goş your (s. m.) aŋesomgoş ‘your father’
-goṭ your (s. f.) nriuddagoṭ ‘your dance’
-san his eŋsan ‘his city’
-sat her teralsat ‘her hand’
-lek its msanalilek ‘its pasture’
-dor our ṭretador ‘our country’
-beş your smepabeş ‘your law’
-sir their sortimşin ‘their clothes’
-lim their (an.) gimagşam ‘their teeth’
Inanimates can’t possess anything, so -lek and -lim apply to animates only.

A noun with possessive is considered definite; the definite and remote suffixes can’t be added to it.

As with any descriptive suffix, these can be turned into causatives, e.g. ḍedr- ‘make or become ours’. Compare:

Ḍedru eŋul. The city became ours.
Dedouru eŋul. We made the city ours.
These verbs have a special nominalization CeCCiCa which functions as a standalone pronoun. These are used for emphasis or for a sense of formality.
s. pl.
1 ḍeŋŋipa I (m.) ḍeddira we
ḍeŋŋita I (f.)
2 ḍeggişa you (m.) ḍebbişa you
ḍeggiṭa you (f.)
3 ḍessina he ḍessira they (m/f)
ḍessita she
ḍellika it ḍellima they (an.)
The patient nominalization produces the generalized pronominals ḍosrim ‘they’ and ḍodrim ‘we’. These are used to express common judgments or behavior; the second, of course, when the speaker approves of them, or wants to contrast Our People (the family, or Skouras) with outsiders or foreigners.

As usual, the absolutive participle can be used as a substantive or appositive: aḍaŋti ‘my (f.)’, aḍabşi ‘your (pl.), etc. These have an emphatic force, so we might think of them as meaning ‘mine, my own’, ‘yours, your own’, etc.

Avoiding copulation
It should be no surprise that, having no true adjectives, OS has no predicative verb either. In effect, you don’t say that something “is” big; you say that it “bigs”; that is, you use the verb riḍ- ‘be big’.

In general, if you find yourself wanting to say that something “is” something, you’re not thinking in OS. Think about how to express the thought using a verb, instead— even if the nouns you want to use exist in the lexicon. Using English examples and sometimes stretching the language:

English style OS style
This is amusing This amuses me
He’s rich He has become rich
My house is here I live here
He is the ruler He rules
I’m happy I rejoice
That’s a lie! You’re lying!
He’s dead, Jim He just died, Jim
We are at war We have begun to fight
My son is worthy I praise my son
She’s ready for marriage She has matured
I’m a storyteller I habitually tell stories
I have orders They ordered me
I am a parent I’m raising children
He’s the Lord’s advisor He advises the Lord
He is naked He undressed
She’s a hottie She attracts me
This is my father Meet my father
I am 24 years old I lived 24 years
That’s a great idea I admire your idea
This is a ‘saddle’ We call this a ‘saddle’
You are a wonder I marvel at you
This is my answer I reply thusly
It is possible to use an appositive construction without a verb: Eŋŋuloşum aŋelot Meŋelandi ‘Eŋŋuloşum is the dictator of Meŋeland’; nilam dlena ‘gold is a metal’. But most nouns are derivatives of verbs and thus can be replaced with verbal expressions: ŋualtu Meŋeland Ŋeŋŋuloşum ‘Eŋŋuloşum commands Meŋeland’.

There is an existential verb tirṭ-, so that one can say e.g. tiarṭu eŋ koimdaraŋu ‘there existed a city in the east’. Gand- ‘come’ is also used existentially. Generally, however, it’s better to use a locative for this; see below.


Quantifiers are a type of descriptive affix, which can be used in several ways.
Root Forms Meaning
-ṭas no, not
ṭosim no one, nothing
ḍusṭas never
-moṭ one
moṭim someone, an individual
-gog other, another
gega another thing, something else
gogim another thing or person
ḍusgog another day, some other time
-bab some, a few
beba something
bobim someone
ḍusbab some day, sometime
-kuş much, many
koşim many people
ḍuskuş many days, often
-doḷ each, every
doḷim everyone, everything
ḍusdoḷ always
In negative expressions, -moṭ can be translated ‘any’: gşutut moṭim ‘I don’t love anyone.’
After a plural substantive, the affixes can be used as separate words with their own descriptive affixes, to indicate the composition of the group, e.g. greḍar babsok kla-babuşṭ ‘the houses, some white, some red’.

The pronouns in -im must be inflected by case: e.g. ibbobim ‘someone (erg.)’.
Other useful expressions of time include aṭi ‘now’ and sas ‘already’.


OS uses a duodecimal system.

The numbers from 1 to 6 are unanalyzable roots; pisan ‘10’ is a variation of pasn- ‘to be a man’, and 7 to 9 and 11 are formed by subtraction— e.g. 9 = 1 [from] 10. Morg ‘12’ seems to be a contraction of mar + ḍog ‘six-two’.

unit x12 x144 12x 1/x
1 moṭ morg geld morg ḍmeṭa
2 ḍog morḍog geldog geld ḍega
3 ded morḍed gelded ruŋ ḍneḍa
4 darṭ morḍart geldarṭ demum ḍreṭa
5 bim morbim gelbim tolkim ḍbema
6 mar mormar gelmar geldroḍ ḍmera
7 depsan morḍeps geldeps ruŋroḍ
8 darg mordarg geldarg demumroḍ
9 mopsan mormops gelmops tolkimroḍ
10 pisan morpisn gelpisn geldram
11 momug mugeld geldruŋ ruŋram
12 morg geld ruŋ demumram

Multiples of ruŋ and higher are simply the multiplier plus the units; e.g. ruŋdarṭ 4*1728, ruŋmopsan 9*1728, demumdarṭ 4*20736; tolkimded 3*248,832.

A multidigit number can be expressed, majestically, by concatenating the full forms of each digit: e.g. 5293 (base 12) = ruŋbim ḷa-geldog ḷa-mormops ḷa-ded.

Numbers follow the noun: ameşod ded ‘three women’. A noun should not be pluralized if it’s followed by a number.
Basic arithmetic expressions:
5 + 2 bim idma ḍog
5 - 2 bim imna ḍog
5 * 2 bim diliri ḍog
5 / 2 bim kunkiri ḍog
There are verbs for the first three ordinals: nikt- ‘be first’, nişp- ‘be second’, nind- ‘be third’. The participles anakti, anaşpi, anandi ‘first one, second one, third one’ are useful. Past this the idiom ‘to come n’ can be used, e.g. gendu bim ‘he came fifth’.

For the first six numbers, there are verbs ‘to make n; divide into n parts’: ḍemṭ-, ḍeḍg-, ḍenḍ-, ḍerṭ-, ḍebm-, ḍemr-. The first six fractions are nominalizations of these verbs.

Further fractions are made by numbering the word tniussa ‘fraction’. e.g. tniussa depsan ‘1/7’, tniussa momug ‘1/11’. A ratio is expressed as e.g. tniussa ded kunkiri darg ‘3/8’.

The Skourenes were well trained for arithmetic; in trading they had to deal not only with currency conversions but different bases, since the Jeori used base 6 and the Axunemi used base 10. They learned the Jeori and Axunašin numbers in order to calculate using these bases.


The most characteristic names are entire one-word sentences, often expressing a prediction for the future, a pious reflection on the parents’ state of mind, or a shout-out to the gods for recent blessings. A sampling:
Name Meaning
Baulunrada she will calm you with speech
Bolbsgu he will not lack hair
Doḷsurriki you (f.) will please them all
Ḍamnualmu he will shine wholly
Ḍodsians he counselled (his) brother
Ḍolbunodu they all will marvel at him
Ḍuaptai you will always make yourself strong
Ḍurunsu he will become rich
Gangşpu his foot does not tire
Geŋmunda you will walk in the forest
Kamopa we expected you
Krolakurilim they will not weaken you, you will weaken them
Kurran she will attract
Kuskurki he will outfight them
Mandaŋoḍu the people want to obey him
Menidep you accompanied us
Mianṭep we are rejoicing
Mneutiḍe you will walk alongside me
Nilşugla you know how to be great
Nosḍururiḍ he will acquire money
Nuiktui he will win many times
Nusrinep you (f.) will take care of us
Pgomu they won’t defeat him
Pilobus we sacrificed
Pualran She will always be kind
Sianisep you continually advised us
Sinatşugla you will be great with the sword
Suŋka you will succeed
Tuşurat we are attached to you (f.)
Ṭalḍaga you were born by the sea
Ṭelpulgag his hand will support you
Umḍultat her face will be beautiful
Uruŋḍep we will begin to rest
Some names (e.g. Mandaŋoḍu and Sinatşugla above) use verbal prefixes which are rare or nonexistent in the rest of the lexicon.

Noun phrases can also be used as names; these are less likely to be unique.

Name Meaning
Anakti first one
Anesodram great hunter
Apelog sustainer
Bika silver
Greḍakos fine house
Guṭḷi good omen
Ikkren beautiful one
Ksenilam like gold
Ḷordis dancer
Maḍaṭiŋ jewel
Nreşuşta rose
Riuŋŋa song
Teralepṭ strong hand
Ḍişaneli good eye
Ḍodeli good brother
Ḍonsim rich man


Word order

OS permits a good deal of variation, but it is largely modifier-last.

The default sentence order is VAE (verb-absolutive-ergative):

Kisni asenoso ŋageşorul.
listened-3s-3p advisor-pl governor-def
The governor listened to his advisors.
Pragmatically, placing a constituent earlier than its accustomed position expresses surprise, hearsay, or distance: Asenoso kisni ŋageşorul, for instance, could be translated “I hear that the governor listened to his advisors.” A complete reversal (Ŋageşorul asenoso kisni ) could be interpreted, “His advisors— take it as you will, I’m just sayin’— the governor listens to them.”

Modifiers to a noun (e.g. numbers, genitives, appositives) follow it.


Curiously, there is no verb form whose primary meaning is an imperfect or present tense. For this the other moods or aspects must be used, or analytic expressions.

As a slightly jocular summary, we might say that OS asks three questions of any action in order to assign the tense:

The perfect
The rules are somewhat complex; let’s start at the easy end— with past actions. If an event occurred in the past— and it’s completed, not still in process— it’s normally expressed in the perfect.
Kirouki. We fought them.
Gauşte I fell in love.
Melrane ŋameşodul. This woman raised me.
Meŋlut tosgitul. Someone spoke to the naked woman.
By a slight exaggeration the perfect can refer to events which the speaker assures us are nearly complete: gendut ‘she’s coming’, ṭelpe ‘I’m just finishing writing.’
The other moods
The perfect contrasts with all the other moods— that is, the intentive, desiderative, metutive, and imperative all normally imply that the action is incomplete, ongoing, in the future, or unreal. These may refer to past, present, or future activity. All are associated with a mental state: All three moods may be used in place of the perfect when it’s desired to emphasize someone’s emotional state. E.g. in a past context you’d normally say dante ‘I went’; but if you wanted to emphasize that you were leaving on purpose you could say dunte ‘I intended to go’, without necessarily implying that you didn’t succeed.
Specialized aspects
The perfect in the durative, inceptive, and cyclical aspects is not restricted to past events:

Verb sequencing

OS has no relativization and, in effect, no way of making complex or compound sentences except for concatenation. Rather, the OS speaker simply strings verbs together until the desired meaning is achieved. Particles called connectors (shown in this section in blue) help clarify the relationships between referents and clauses.

(It could also be argued that the connectors are all subordinators. Since they include simple concatenation and all have the same syntactic form, it’s simpler to consider them akin to conjunctions.)

The simplest case is where two or more verbs share the exact same arguments. They can simply be concatenated, using the clitic ḷa- (aḷ- before a vowel):

Nemratut ḷa-lenradut ḍogimsat ŋamelonul.
lift-3sf-3sf and-comfort-3sf-3sf baby-her mother-DEF
The mother picked up and comforted her baby.
The conjoined verb can also be moved after the object:
Nemratut ḍogimsat ŋamelonul ḷa-lenradut.
lift-3sf-3sf baby-her mother-DEF and-comfort-3sf-3sf
The mother picked up her baby and comforted it.
Changing arguments
If the arguments change, the new ones can simply be supplied after the second verb.
Lenradut ḍogimsat ŋamelonul ḷa-naḷraşu atesonsat.
comfort-3sf-3sf baby-her mother-DEF and-praise-3sf-3s husband-her
The mother comforted her baby and praised her husband.

Nemratut ḍogimsat ŋamelonul ḷa-naḷşut ŋatesonsat.
lift-3sf-3sf baby-her mother-DEF and-praise-3s-3sf husband-her
The mother picked up her baby and her husband praised it.

In the first example, we know that the second verb should have an ergative argument and none is supplied: it’s assumed to be the same as the first verb’s (i.e. ‘mother’). The same goes for the second example and its understood absolutive argument (i.e. ‘baby’).

What if the a referent’s role changes between sentences? First and second person arguments cause no confusion, of course; one can string together almost any number of predicates with no confusion:

Guşutat ḷa-guşrite ḷa-nuḷuşat ḷa-daunumat.
love-INT-2sf-1sm and-love-INT-1sm-2sf and-praise-INT-2sf-1sm and-sex-DESID-2sf-1sm
I love you and you love me and I praise you and I want to sleep with you.
Referents of differing genders are also clear:
Meŋralu ḷa-kisnut ḷa-dantu ḷa-benkut.
speak-INT-3sf-3s and-listen-INT-3s-3sf and-go-3s and-stay--3sf
She spoke to him and he listened to her and he went and she stayed.
Ergativity leads to some unexpected implications, if you’re used to a nominative-accusative language. For instance:
Serḍu aŋeşoṭul ŋanesonul ḷa-sepu.
hit-3s-3s thief-DEF watchman-DEF and-go-3s
The watchman hit the thief and he left.
The person who left is understood to be the thief, not the watchman. Sepu requires an absolutive argument, and there’s nothing to indicate that case roles changed, so it gets the first verb’s absolutive.
The antipassive
If it’s desired to have the watchman leave, the first sentence can be put in the causative. This is a transformation which demotes the original ergative to the absolutive, and the absolutive to the genitive. If we see a causative without an ergative causer— implying that it’s used only for its case demoting effect— we can call it an antipassive.
Aiserḍu aŋeşoṭil anesonul ḷa-sepu.
CAUS-hit-3s thief-GEN watchman-DEF and-go-3s
The watchman hit the thief and left.
Again, the unstated argument of the second verb is assumed to be the absolutive of the first verb, but now this is the watchman.
The antipassive may also be used on the second verb:
Serḍu aŋeşoṭul ŋanesonul aḷ-aiŋiriştu romimil.
hit-3s-3s thief-DEF boy-DEF and-CAUS-steal-CYC-3s noble-GEN-DEF
The boy hit the thief who was robbing the noble.
Aiŋiriştu lacks an explicit absolutive, so it’s understood as referring to the most recent absolutive, the thief. (Without the antipassive, the thief would be the one robbed!)
Other options
If a verb is missing an argument and none of the previous arguments fit it, we try loosening the case roles. For instance:
Ŋişṭum ŋiraşul ŋaŋeşoṭul ḷa-sepu.
steal-3sin-3s money-DEF thief-DEF and-go-3s
The thief stole the money and left.
As usual sepu requires an absolutive argument; but it can’t be ŋiraşul ‘the money’, because that’s inanimate. Its argument is therefore taken to be the thief, demoted from ergative to absolutive.

If it’s not possible or not desired to change case roles to make everyone match up, the clitic ge- (g- before a vowel) can be used instead; this has the same meaning as ḷa- but explicitly suspends case role expectations. E.g::

Serḍu aŋeşoṭul anesonul ge-sepu.
hit-3s-3s thief-DEF watchman-DEF plus-go-A3s
The boy hit the thief and he (the boy) left.
There’s nothing explicit that tells us that the boy is the absolutive of sepu; but we can deduce it from the fact that no other argument was supplied, and ge- was used.

Often we want to introduce a referent in one clause, typically as an absolutive, and focus on it in the next, typically as an ergative. This is done using the topicalizer kau- (kam- before a vowel).

Bilobutu Ṭisutrand kau-nankep.
find-1p-3s Ṭisutran topic-cheat-3s-1p
(Lit.) We found the Ṭisutran; as for him, he cheated us. We found the Ṭisutran who had cheated us.
The pragmatic effects of kau- and ge- are similar— both revise the case matching process— but kau- is more specific; its referent is always one explicitly present in the preceding clause.

In both cases, the most natural English translation is with a relative clause; the ge- example above might also be translated The boy hit the thief, who left. Still, in OS there is no formal process of relativization— that is, the use of a pronominal element referring explicitly to a preceding referent.

Logical connectors
Connectors help clarify the relationship between clauses:
prefix before vowels meaning
ḷa- aḷ- and (concatenation)
kla- kaḷ- or (disjunction)
ŋa- aŋ- but (contrast, surprise)
nsul- nsul- therefore (logical effect)
kru- krum- because (logical cause)
ṭou- ṭom- for (purpose)
gre- grel- for (exchange)
aṭi- aṭiḷ- when, while (at the same time as the main action)
mur- mur- until, before (end time of the main action)
de- nd- since, after (beginning of the main action)
aḷde- ḷand- then, next (sequence in time)
nen- nen- as (metaphor)
şiu- şim- only, except (limitation on main action)
ṭas- ṭas- except; (after negatives) not even, including
laŋ- laŋ- there (introduces an event at a mentioned location)
kau- kam- topicalizer (promotes previous absolutive)
ge- g- case reset
Some examples:
Gauşrutu kru-paralnet.
incep-love-1sf-3s because-dur-kind-3s-1sf
I fell in love with him because he was kind to me.

Ḷilirde mur-nemtut aşebort.
cycl-dance-1px until-rise-3sf sun
We often danced until the sun rose.

Dirinmet şiu-tesnet.
cycl-sex--3s-1sf only-marry-3s-1sf
(Lit.) He had sex with me only (when) he married me.
We had sex only once we were married.

Ŋa-bakşeip ṭou-ḍelnum sekketsan.
but-break-refl-1px purpose-assist-3s-3sin taxes-his
However, we divorced for tax reasons.

The difference between ‘since’ and ‘after’ (and ‘until’ and ‘before’) is expressed by verbal aspect (perfect vs. durative). Compare:
Bedre de-sepat. / Beadre de-seapat.
wake-1s after-leave-2sf / dur-wake-1s after-dur-leave-2sf
I woke after you left. / I’ve been awake since you left.

Ḷiardeg mur-ḍusnemtu. / Ḷirdeg mur-ḍusmentu.
dur-dance-1p before-sunrise / dance-1p before-sunrise
We danced until dawn. / We danced before dawn.

A more sophisticated sentence, from the examples:
Saŋkum psiukkasan nsul-mindntu -inbuştu boiḍunru nen-bşti ḍodrim.
successful-3sns expedition-his therefore-back-go-neg-3s but-attempt--int-travel-3s westward as-dur-go-neg-3p us-people
(Lit.) His expedition was successful / therefore he did not return / but tried to travel westward / as people do not go
His expedition was so successful that he did not return, but decided to travel farther west than anyone had gone.
This way of putting sentences takes some mental adjustment; but on its own terms, it’s as simple and expressive as English. It’s something like pointillistic painting: there are more and shorter brushstrokes, but the resulting picture is no less complicated.
Reported speech and thought
OS has no formal notion of sentential subjects or objects; this too is handled by sequenced verbs. For instance:
Korlu molnimul kau-nulnum.
metu-sicken-3s boy-def topic-tell-3s-3sin
Lit. The boy sickened / he said it
The boy says that he is sick.
The two conjoints can just as well be reversed:
Nulnum immolnimul ḷa-korlu.
tell-3s-3sin boy-def and-sick-3s
The case roles must be handled according to the usual rules. Here, for example, the boy is the absolutive of kirl- ‘be sick’ but the ergative of neln- ‘tell’. In the first sentence kau- is used to promote him from absolutive to ergative; in the second the demotion is automatic since no other argument is possible.

Direct speech can be handled the same way—

“Korle,” ge-nulnum immolnimul.
metu-sicken-1s and-tell-3s-3sin boy-def
Lit. I sickened / the boy said it
“I’m sick,” the boy said.
—but it may be explicitly signalled using the pronouns mamul (if the verb of speaking comes first) or mamaŋ:
“Korle,” ḷa-nulnum mamaŋ immolnimul.
metu-sicken-1s and-tell-3s-3sin that boy-def
Lit. I sickened / the boy said it
“I’m sick,” the boy said.
The case-resetting connector ge- is no longer needed, because both arguments to neln- are now explicit.
One of the most useful connectors is nen-, which introduces a comparison. The prototypical case involves a full verb phrase:
Nuasni goşrimi ŋageşorram nen-mualranit molnimi ŋamelon.
dur-care-3s-3p subject-pl ruler-great as-dur-nurture-3s-3p child-pl mother
A great ruler cares for his subjects as a mother nourishes her children.
If the verbs and arguments are identical (or can be made so), the conjoined verb can be omitted, and nen- attached to the noun instead:
Nuasdi goşrimi ŋageşordor nen-ikkuḷiŋ.
dur-hunt-3s-3p subject-pl ruler-our as-lion
Our ruler preys on his subjects like a lion.
The same connector is used for comparisons of equality:
Şulpu ageşordor nen-gerrek.
int-fat-3s ruler-our as-pig
Our ruler is as fat as a pig.
Inequalities are indicated with the adverbs idma ‘more’ and imna ‘less’: e.g. Şulpu ageşordor idma nen-gerrek ‘Our ruler is fatter than a pig’.

Superlatives are expressed the same way, with the addition of -doḷ ‘every’:

Ḍoansum Engidori idma nen-eŋdoḷ. Engidori more as-city-every
Engidori is the richest of cities.


Simple location is expressed using the locative verb daŋ- ‘be in a place’. The location itself appears in the genitive and is placed immediately after the verb. Statements of the location use the verb as the principal predicate— using the durative for permanent states of affairs.
Daraŋum ḍeilul eŋul.
located-dur-3sin river-gen-def city-def
The city is on the river.
For present, temporary situations, the intentive is the most appropriate form:
Udnu msapalirisan aŋesom.
located-int-3s study-GEN-his father
Father is (presently) in his study.
The locative expression may simply be dropped into another sentence, normally after the nominal arguments:
Ŋulsum roz ŋaŋesom udaŋ msapalirisan.
eat-int-3s-3sin apple father located-int-3s study-GEN-his
Father is eating an apple in his study.
Locatives are essentially sequenced verbs without an explicit connector. The case roles must match the main verb— here, for instance, udaŋ takes an ergative 3s subject, matching ‘father’. Locative verbs have the peculiarity that they may take either absolutive or ergative arguments, without a change of meaning. (If you’re not sure what verb form to use, it’s always safe to have it match the main verb.)

(It wouldn’t be incorrect to say udnum msapalirisan with an absolutive 3s-in subject; this would match ‘apple’. This would focus attention on the apple; we might translate the sentence Father is eating the apple (that’s) in his study.)

Directions and short common geographical terms are prefixed to the verb; in effect the combined verb becomes an adverbial. E.g. koimdaraŋu ‘in the east’, geiŋdaraŋu ‘in the forest’, ṭaildaraŋu ‘at sea’. (I’ve used the durative 3s form for these to emphasize the commonality; but they must agree with their subject in case and person.)

Motion toward is expressed using the verb ner- ‘move (toward)’; motion away using sep- ‘depart’, using the same rules as daŋ-.

Unrep eŋil. Uspep şoḷmimil.
move-int-1px city-gen-def / leave-int-1px ship-gen-def
We’re going to the city. We’re leaving the ship.
Again, short words can be prefixed: koimnearu ‘eastward’, soupseapu ‘from the mountains’.

There are no prepositions in OS; instead, there is a set of more specific locative verbs, such as:

dem- be above
men- be below
telk- be on top of
ḍadŋ- be inside
kart- be before
sipt- be after
dird- be in front of
taḍ- be next to
didm- be far from
gerd- be between
saln- be in the middle
marm- be around
geḍl- be beside
Deictic locatives include:
luḷ here
ḍumak there
If you have (in our terms) a pronominal object, it can be expressed using the absolutive suffixes— e.g. utuḍat ‘I am next to you (f.)’,


An instrument can be indicating using a genitive expression immediately following the verb:
Suruḍu ṭeḷḷeki ukḷuṭorkimul.
intent-hit-1s-3s shovel-gen lurker-def
I’ll hit the villain with a shovel.
Some verb prefixes can be instrumental— e.g. teḷ- ‘by hand’. If an appropriate prefix exists, use it in preference to the above construction: teḷsuruḍu ‘I’ll hit him using my hand’.

It’s bad form to use an instrumental derived from the main verb— e.g. ṭiḷuk ṭeḷḷeki ‘I dug using the shovel’, utnisum tennesi ‘cut it using the knife’. Though these sentences are fine in English, they sound redundant in OS; the instrumental can simply be omitted.
A measurement is a type of instrumental:

Siatmum mneida darg greḍal.
dur-measure-3sin pace-gen eight house-def
The house is 8 paces long.


Duration and position in time are also indicated with a genitive noun phrase after the verb. (That is, in form they’re measurements, thus instrumentals.)
Benkep ḍuis darṭ daŋep eŋi.
stay-1pex day-gen four located-1pex city-gen
We stayed in the city for four days.
(For time clauses (‘after’, ‘before’, etc.), see Logical connectors above.)
(For indefinite time expressions (‘always’, ‘now’), see Quantifiers above.)


Yes-no questions are formed by adding -si after the verb, or after the element being questioned.
Ḍariḍum-si rilar?
bring-2s-3sin Q kindling
Did you bring kindling?

Ŋurşum koṭinşim-si?
int-buy-3s-3sin rowboat Q
He wants to buy a boat?

A specific item that’s being questioned is often fronted: Koṭinşim-si ŋurşum? This expresses a certain skepticism: “Is it really a boat he wants to buy? / He wants to buy a boat, are you sure?”
The word ‘who/what’ varies by gender and case. It’s used with 3s verb forms, agreeing of course with the verb.
abs erg. gen.
masc. abeg ŋabeg abegi
fem. abegis ŋabegis abegiri
non-sentient bogim ibbogim bogimi

Ŋalsum şresa ŋabeg?
desid-eat-3s-3sin cake who
Who wants cake?

Guşitut abegis?
int-love-2s-3sf who-f
Which girl are you in love with?

Ḍerḷagu aŋetotul ibbogim?
make.evil-3sin-3s trader-def what
What made the trader evil?

Şagḷaḍ rark abegi tellak riummai?
shit-3sns dog who-gen on-3sns carpet-gen
Whose dog shit on the carpet?

Salitum bogimi mianum?
clean-2s-3sin what-gen floor
What did you clean the floor with?

The verb sepk- asks what someone is doing: Supik? ‘What are you doing?’ It can be very usefully expanded with the logical connectors:
Ukḷubunriku ḍodgoṭ tou-supriku?
intent-annoy-2sf-3s brother-your.sf for-intent-what-2sf-3s
(Lit.) You’re annoying your brother because of what-are-you-doing?
Why are you annoying your brother?
There are two special locative verbs: sadŋ- for questioning location, and senr- for questioning direction or destination:
Ḍişinu ṭailuadnil sadiŋu? Senru?
see-2s-3s iliu-def where-2s-3s / whither-3s
Where did you see the iliu? Where was it going?
One can ask about times with the connectors mur-/de-; but the usual method is to question a possible time: Dunta ḍustaḍ-si? ‘Are you going tomorrow?’ Danta pastdim-si? ‘Did you go last year?’ (From a query about whether something happened at a particular time, it’s not a long jump to a request that the correct information be supplied.)

The verb sakş- asks about the quantity or extent of something: Sukşum koṭinsimul? ‘How much is the boat?’

As manner is not grammaticalized in OS, there is no standard way of asking how something was done. If you want to ask (say) ‘how did the prisoner escape?’, you will have to rephrase: where is the prisoner? why is he not here? who allowed it, the prisoner escaping?


As noted under Morphology, the negative applies to all the other moods: it negates the perfect, the intentive, the desiderative, or the metutive.
Şbourum riullal.
neg-light-1p-3sin fire-def
We didn’t light the fire.
Or, I won't light the fire. Or, I don't want to. Or, I fear to.
To negate an imperative, however, the particle gba is used with the ordinary imperative: gba ukḍibe ‘don't lie to me!’

The negative words listed under Quantifiers, including the negative suffix -ṭas, must be used with the negative mood:

Gndu ṭosim. Klte ḍusṭas. Ŋlisum ṭagṭas.
neg-come-3s nobody / neg-sleep-1s never / neg-eat-2s-3sin fish-none
No one is coming. I never sleep. I won’t eat any fish.
Negative questions are formed according to the standard rules for questions:
Gnidum-si unaŋellemgoş? Aḷde-bsigum-si?
neg-bring-2s-3sin Q blanket-your / then-neg-lack-2s-3sin Q
You’re not bringing your blanket? You won’t miss it?
Ṭas- is also used as a logical connector. If the preceding verb is positive, it excludes a case from the main action; we can translate it ‘except’:
Guḍobuli ageşorodor ṭas-aŋeloto.
support-1pex-3p ruler-pl-our / not-dictator-pl
We support our rulers, except dictators.
If the preceding clause is negative, however, ṭas- simply gives a more specific case, and we can translate it ‘not even’:
Nnobuki skouranda ṭas-Guṭḷeliki.
neg-cheat-1pex-3p Skourenes / not-Guṭḷeliki We do not cheat Skourenes, not even people from Guṭḷeli.


Example: 1. Usṭişum Paurṭuti -- Lazybones’s Puzzle

The Skourenes had no schools; children were taught at home, largely by observing or participating in the paperwork of the family business: inventory, making change, weighing, currency conversion, accounting, correspondence.

However, it was felt that puzzles and games developed the mind, and there were many collections of these. This one, unsigned, dates from Engidori from about Z.E. 650.

Paurṭut means ‘lazy (child)’, and is a nickname rather than a given name. We find him in other anecdotes and stories as well; he is something of a folkloric character. Though usually disdained for his laziness, he is sometimes admired for finding clever ways to avoid work.

Looking at the numbers, remember that OS uses base 12, not base 10.

Ṭou-piraṭ naurranim Ippaurṭut giurra morḍog ḷa-ded, ḷa-satramim diḷaig moṭ.
for-game / incep-desid-want-3sf-3pin cube 24 and-3 Lazybones / and-desid-measure-3sf-3pin finger-gen one
Feminine forms are used, implying that Paurṭut is a child (of either sex).
For a game, Paurṭut wanted 27 cubes one finger’s width each.

Nirranum giurra ḷa-satmum diḷaig ded ḷa-ḍetşum.
have-3sf-3sin cube / and-measure-3sin finger-gen three /
OS resists reifying colors and other qualities. ‘Blue’ exists only as a suffix -toş and a verb detş- ‘be(come) blue’.
He had a cube measuring 3 fingers, which was painted blue.

Tinrasum giurral aḷde-niurranim giuṭirra morḍog ḷa-ded; ḷa-nulidum daŋum goḍlimi babtoş kla-babburn.
cut-3sf-3sin cube-def / then-have-3sf-3pin cube-dim 24 and-3 / and-know-2s-3s exist-3pin side-pl- some-blue or-some-wooden
The idiom noun-pl quant-x kla-quant-y, where quant is a quantifier, gives the composition of a group in terms of qualities x and y. We’ll see this again below with ḍega ‘half’.
He cut the cube into 27 cubes; but of course some sides were blue, some were wood color.

Ḍeutraşim giuṭirraḷ şiu-goḍlimmoṭ giurraudoḷ. cube-dim-pl-def / only-side-one cube-pl-gen
He began painting the cubelets blue, one side of one cube at a time.

De-ḍetraşim goḍlim morg ŋa-delrad ḷa-nilaukşim goḍlimi giurraudoḷ ḍegatoş kla-ḍegaburn. side twelve / but-decide-3sf desid-suffice-3pin side-dim-pl cube-pl-gen-each half-blue or-half-wooden
But after painting 12 sides, he decided that it was sufficient if each cube was half blue and half not.

Saukşim goḍlimi ḷa-ḍtraşim?
how.many-3pin side-pl /
How many sides does he still have to paint?

The answer to the puzzle is morg ḷa-ded.

2. Ṭisutrand -- The Ṭisutran

This is a little parable from the writer Ḍodsians, who was born in Iṭili around Z.E. 410. The variety of OS literature is so great that I can’t say that it’s typical, but it does include many of the literary tropes that were popular in Skouras: a merchant hero, a little adventure, a little sex, a little understated moralism. It’s somewhat unusual for Ḍodsians himself, however; he devoted his considerable energies to a deadly earnest series of works on political philosophy and the history of the wars against Ṭisuram. But later centuries remember him only for his one thin book of stories (including this one), which he wrote for his children.

The first woman is obviously an iliu (ṭailuadni). These were fairly well known to the Skourenes— it was easier to get to the iliu enclave north of Feináe than to Axunai. However, this area was not exotic enough to form the basis of a cautionary fantasy; Ḍodsians therefore places her far to the west, past where the known world ended in Luduyn. There actually is an iliu enclave on the southern coast of Ereláe, in Jagai, though it’s unlikely that Ḍodsians actually knew this.

Syntactic notes are placed after the glosses and before the translation. If a mood is not named, it’s perfect; e.g. “and-bring-3s-3pns” should be taken as the perfect “and he brought them”.

Şuḷm boiḍudaŋ iṭṭisutrand ḷa-ḍarḍim kirok ḍiran ḷa-şketa ḷa-sortimikos ḷa-ŋartim ḷa-ḍaurḍim reller ḷa-bika ḷa-ḍairḷoḍ.
int-sail-3s west-gen-locate-3s Ṭisutran and-bring-3s-3pns weapon-pl and-tin and-wine and-clothes-pl-fine and-trade-3s-3pns and-bring-incep-3s-3pns spice and-silver and-amber
OS does not have double accusatives; it can’t directly say ‘he traded X for Y’, but ‘he traded X and brought Y.’
A man from Ṭisutra sailed to the west, bringing weapons, tin, wine, and fine clothing, which he traded for spices, silver, and amber.

Saŋkum psiukkasan nsul-dntu unru Ṭisutrai aŋ-inbuştu boiḍunru nen-bşti ḍodrim.
successful-3sns expedition-his therefore-return-neg-3s int-go-3s Ṭisutra-gen but-attempt--int-travel-3s west-go-3s as-dur-go-neg-3p us-people
The generalized ḍodrim ‘people’ can be taken here as meaning ‘we Skourenes’.
His expedition was so successful that instead of returning to Ṭisutra he decided to travel farther west, beyond the lands that anyone knows.

Neru ṭretai mirḍok aḷ-ekurenairam ŋa-barasgi mandimi— ŋa-maraspum mur-girput ameşod, kau-kuarran nen-illenis ḷa-şuagluṭ nen-ikkuḷiŋ, ḷa-karaḷraşim tişaptoş ḷa-bul kau-şeabrim nen-riulla.
come-3s land-gen remote and-beauty-gen-great / but-dur-lack-3p people/ but-dur-think-3s-3sin / until-encounter-3s-3sf woman / topic-dur-int-attract-3sf as-goddess / and-proud-3sf-refl as-lion / and-had.inalienably-3sf-3pin skin-blue and-hair / topic-dur-glow-3pin as-fire
The woman does not possess her skin and hair like she does her house; she enjoys the use of them. These are two different verbs in OS, nirn- and kalş-.
“Without people” is— like almost everything else— a subclause, literally “though it continually lacked people.”
He came to a remote land of great beauty, yet empty of people, or so he thought till he encountered a woman, lovely as a goddess, proud as a lion, with blue skin and hair the color of fire.

Srratim sortimi şiu-sirat ḷa-maḍaṭiŋ.
wore-neg-3sf-3sns clothes except-belt and-jewel-pl
She wore no clothing except a belt and jewelry.

Gauştut ogpu ḷa-ŋirimput ṭou-tasnut.
incep-love-3s-3sf wait-neg-3s / and-cyc-beg-3s-3sf / for-desid-marry-3s-3sf
Ogpu is literally ‘he didn’t wait’; without a connector, it’s an adverbial— “at once”.
He fell in love with her at once, and begged her to become his wife.

Şmrapu ŋa-inmindaintu ḍusdoḷ inneirum luiṭ laŋ-daraŋut ḍaradnut greiḍaḍarkos ḷa-ŋirimput.
neg-consent-3sf-3s / but-back-attempt-cycl-go-3s day-every go-3s meadow-gen / there-dur-reside-3sf dur-inside-3sf house-gen-stone-fine / and-cyc-beg-3s-3sf
She refused, but every day he returned to the meadow where she lived in a fine stone house, and pleaded with her.

Oŋlsu ŋiraş ḷa-ḍeandum ŋiraşul ḷa-ḍaurḍum kru-garaştut.
eat-neg-3s / and-dur-scorn-3s-3sin money and-acquire-3s-3sin / because-dur-love-3s-3sf
He did not eat, and he scorned the riches he had won, he was so enamored of her.

Dedimu ḍaḍḍut, ŋa-nelranum aḷ-udni ṭreitasat ḷa-gba utrlum nilam ḷa-gba unuşṭ ḷa-gba udunmut ameşod şiu-tosnissan.
after-long soften-3sf but-say-3sin-3sf / and-imper-reside-3p land-gen-her / and-not imper-touch-3s-3sin gold / and-not steal-3s / and-not sex-3s-3sf woman except-wife-his
The reported commands are simply expressed as imperatives.
Finally she relented, but she said that they must live in her land, and that he must never touch gold, nor steal, nor make love to any woman but his wife.

Şamput agaṭḷi kru-ḍadŋ ṭreital ḍuşnum nilammoṭ, aḷ-adaŋimoṭ şim-ameşodtoşul, aḷ-greḍamoṭ şim-aḍasni.
agree-3s-3f glad-part / because-inside-3s land-gen-def neg-see-3s-3sin gold-one / and-resident-one except-woman-blue-def / and-house-one except-hers
He gladly assented, for in this land he had seen no gold, nor any inhabitant but the blue woman, nor any house but hers.

Aḷde-dinmut, ḷa-ŋaraktim molmsat idma nen-ameşoddoḷ ṭaildoḷ, ḷa-deanḍim milonsat idma, ḷa-niadpum medsat idma.
then-sex-3s-3f / and-dur-warm-3pin lip-pl-her more as-woman-every world-gen / and-dur-soft-3pin breast-pl-her more / and-dur-active-3s body-her more
The particle idma stands in for the whole repeated nen- clause in the last two comparisons.
Then she made love to him, and her lips were the warmest of any woman in the world, her breasts the softest, her body the liveliest.

Daraŋi taraḍi past geld ḷa-ḍspi ḍusṭas kau-ŋsomi molnimi.
live-dur-3p together-dur-3p year 144 / and-age-neg-3p never / topic-sire-neg-3p-3p child-pl
They lived together for one hundred years, never aging, and having no children.

De-past geld ḷa-ḍus baurukpu ṭisutrandul.
after-year 144 and-day incep-desid-wander-3s Ṭisutran
After a hundred years and a day, the man from Ṭisutra felt the urge to wander.

Mendu goşpa sepu greiḍasan, de-bakpu ḍus mar aḷ-aibiltum greṭiḍitsai kau-telkum saip.
walk-3s far leave-3s house-gen-his / after-wander-3s day six / and-caus-find-3s hut-small-gen / mountain-gen
He walked far from his house, and after a week’s travel he came to a small hut on a mountain peak.

Diardut greṭiḍai bararḍut ameşod taraḍut riullai.
dur-front-3sf hut-gen / dur-sit-3sf woman / fire-gen
Before the hut a woman sat before a burning fire.

Karalraşum buldimşalg ḷa-ḍug nilaim ḷa-tişap ḷa-şeabrum nen-maki; ḷa-tirṭum degasat reḍirimuşt; ḷa-ḍamkearnut.
dur-have.inalienable-3sf-3sin hair-long-brown and-eye-pl gold-gen / and-skin and-glow-3sin as-wheat / and-made-3sin robe-her linen-gen-red / and-wholly-dur-attract-3sf
She had long brown hair and golden eyes, and skin the color of wheat; her robe was red linen; she was altogether lovely.

Serratim merrem nilaim, ḷa-moŋa ḷa-merreme miḍaim nilaim, ḷa-serratum bolḍellet nilaim ḍadnim burul.
wear-3sf-3pin circlet gold-gen and-earring-pl and-circlet-pl wrist-gen gold-gen / and-wear-3sf-3sin crown dur-in-3sin hair-pl-gen-her
She wore a gold necklace, golden earrings and bracelets, and a gold crown in her hair.

Nelnum, “Ḷa-nuarrinum nilam nen-mukrişum, nsul-ḍuansat!”
say-3s-3sin / and-desid-have-2sf-3sin gold as-int-that.extent-2sf-3sin / therefore-int-rich-2sf
Makş- ‘to be to an extent’, when it qualifies another verb, takes the same verb form. We may translate ‘ have gold to the extent you do.’
“You must be a rich woman indeed to have so much gold,” he told her.

“Şuş!” ḷa-nelranum. “Mekoakşum nilam nen-ukḷumisan.
pff / and-say-3sf-3sin / here-metut-dur-spread-3s gold as-weed
“Pff! It is as common as weeds in these parts,” she told him.

Surrutum nilamdoḷul kla-piŋurrunum naurinum, şiu-nd-uḍriḍum dlenal nuilmimi nen-searitum mneṭa-gre-mneṭa.”
int-wear-1sf-3sin gold-all-def / but-int-un-have-1sf-3sin int-incep-have-2s-3sin / only-after-imper-bring-2s-3sin metal-def moon-gen / as-dur-wear-2s-3sin weight-for-weight
Literally, “I wear all this gold, I give it / you take it, after you bring metal of the moons, as you wear it, weight for weight.”
“I will give all I wear for its weight in the moon-metal you are wearing.”

Bika gre-nilam— dildum ḷa-mnegḍlum!
silver for-gold cheap-3sin / and-neg-pass-3s-3sin
Silver for gold— this was a bargain he could not pass up!

“Ukmripe,” ḷa-delnum.
imper-wait-2sf-1s / and-say-3s-3sin
“Wait here,” he said.

Minbiştu şolmimisan ḷa-teḷḍarḍum bikakuş ḷa-patku ḷa-teḷḍarḍim ḍairḷoḍsanbab ḷa-reller.
back-travel-3s ship-gen-his / and-gather-3s-3sin silver-much / and-whim-3s / and-gather-3s-3pin amber-gis-some and-spice
He travelled back to his ship, gathered much silver, and on a whim gathered some of his amber and spices as well.

Aḷde-mnebiştu ḍuis mar neru greṭiḍitsai ameşodi.
then-walk-travel-3s day-gen six / move-3s hut-small-gen woman-gen
Then he walked the week’s journey back to the woman’s hut.

Ḍimgendu ḷa-suanrar uatraḍ riullai.
there-come-3s and-intent-dur-cook-3sf / fire-gen
When he approached, the woman was cooking on her fire.

Pirsut aṭi-ḍişranu, ḷa-paurragim mombik giṭḷut ḷa-ḍarḍim.
smile-3sf / when-see-3sf-3s / and-incep-inspect-3sf-3pin thing-pl-silver / delight-3sf / and-bring-3s-3pin
She smiled when she saw him, and looked with delight at the silver items he had brought.

“Kearnim nsul-bundu atesoŋŋot,” ḷa-nelranum.
beauty-3pin / therefore-intent-marvel-3s husband-my.f / and-say-3sf-3sin
“My husband will be amazed at their beauty,” she said.

“Sunrurum aṭi ŋliussasan, kla-kumpu.”
intent-cook-1sf-3sin meal-his / but-int-delay-3s
“I am cooking his dinner now; but he is delayed.”

Sigum plesa ṭisutrandul ḷa-saranrum ḷa-ḍeskum şliuppai ḷa-sigum nen-punspiutta, nsul-ḍamŋolbausig.
smell-3s-3sin beef Ṭisutran-def / and-cook-3sin / and-white-3sin fat-gen / and-smell-3sin / as-procession / therefore-wholly-incep-hunger-3s
The man smelled the cooking beef, white with fat, fragrant as a temple festival, and was overcome with hunger.

Nelnum, “Aḷ-uḍşinim, ḷa-ḍauruḍim riullamna aḷ-gneka aḷ-şreta aḷ-gairoukum.”
say-3s-3sin / and-imper-see-2sf-3pin / and-bring-1s-3pin pepper and-salt and-coriander and-cumin
“Look, I’ve brought pepper and salt and coriander and cumin,” said the man.

“Uḍbriḍim udriŋim ŋolḍreinagoṭ, aḷ-uŋlrus utuḍat.”
imper-add-2sf-3p imper-inside-2sf-3p stew-gen-your.f / and-imper-eat-1s
“Add some of them to your stew and let me eat with you.”

Şamrapu, ḷa-ḍamsanrar rellerisan, ḷa-ŋelos toḍ.
agree-3sf-3s / and-wholly-cook-3sf spice-gen-his / and-eat-3p together-3p
The instrumental is expressed as a genitive immediately following the verb.
The woman agreed, and finished cooking with his condiments, and they ate together.

“Bunruda,” ḷa-nelranum. “Udnum ḍerreḍugoş bogimgog?”
int-marvel-1sf-2s / and-say-3sf-3sin / int-inside-3s bag-pl-gen-your what-other
Note that the ‘other’ quantifier can be added to the interrogative pronouns.
“You are a man of wonders,” she told him. “What else is in those bags of yours?”

Ḍişnum ḍairḷoḍul adarbi aḷ-aŋarni kau-şeabrum nen-aşeboṭir kla-nilam kla-riulla.
show-3s-3sin amber-def and-polished and-murky / topic-dur-glow-3sin / as-sun-dimin or-gold or-fire
He showed her the amber, polished, translucent, some glowing like little suns, some like gold, some like fire.

“Narrunim momu,” ḷa-nelranum.
desid-have-1sf-3p thing-pl-def / and-say-3sf-3sin
“These things I desire too,” she said.

“Ŋa-barasrugum nosḍreḍadoḷ ṭas-mamul.”
but-lack-1sf-3s payment-all / except-thing-def
“But I have no payment to offer but this.”

Aḷde-tasratum degasat ḷa-barraḍim terolsan telk-milonsat.
then-open-3sf-3sin robe-her / and-put-3sf-3pin hand-pl-his on-breast-pl-her
And she opened her robe and placed his hands on her breasts.

Ḍişranum şampum, ḷa-dinmut ḍiurakuş taḍut riullaisat.
offer-3sf-3sin accept-3s-3sin / hour-gen-many beside-3s-3sf fire-gen-her
The lack of connective on şampum binds it closer to the previous verb, making it an aspect of a single action: “she offered + he accepted”
He accepted her gift, and they made love beside her fire for hours.

Aḷde-teḷḍarḍum nilam ḷa-nirranum, aḷde-mindantu ḍuis mar neru greiḍasan; sararkum ŋriuttasan ḷa-maraspum triulla meulmsat.
then-gather-3s-3sin gold / and-give-3sf-3sin / then-return-3s day-gen six / house-gen-his / dur-please-3s-3sin sale-his / and-dur-remember-3s-3sin touch lip-gen-pl-her
Afterward he gathered up the gold she gave him, and returned the week’s journey to his own home, pleased with his trade, and still feeling the taste of her lips.

Aṭi-mindantu ŋa-barasgum greḍaḍar ḷa-barasgut tosnissan ṭas-bol ṭas-ganbeta.
when-return-3s / but-dur-lack-3sin house-stone / and-dur-lack-3sf wife-his / not-hair / not-foot-sign
‘Lack’ is effectively negative, so ṭas- reinforces it rather than introducing an exception.
But when he returned, there was no stone house, nor any sign of his wife, not even a hair or a footprint.

Kussiptum minmaspum ḍamşmiuppasan.
out-after-3s-3sin remember-3s-3sin promise-his
Too late, he remembered his promise.

Ŋa-terlum nilam, ḷa-ŋiştum ŋliussa gogimi, ḷa-dinmut tosnisgog.
but-touch-3s-3sin gold / and-steal-3s-3sin meal other.person-gen / and-sex-3s-3sf wife-other
But he had touched gold, and stolen another man’s meal, and slept with the man’s wife.

Mspu idmaṭas, kru-ḍamterlim past geld de-basgim, ḷa-targu ḍumak ḷa-keşgu.
neg-think-3s more-not / because-wholly-touch-3s-3pin year 144 / after-miss-3s-3pin / and-fall-3s there / and-die-3s
The middle section is literally “Because the 144 years completely touched him, after they missed him [before]”.
This was his last thought, for the hundred years which had not touched him now swept over him in a minute, and he fell down on that spot dead.

3. Agedor Skourandul -- Protector of the Skourenes

This is an extract from a bit of propaganda written in the late 790s by a senator from Meŋeland, extolling the dictator of the city, Eŋŋuloşum, perhaps the greatest general produced by ancient Skouras. He had won fame just a few years before by his successful assault on Guṭḷeli— ending a brutal twelve-year war, and ending as well Guṭḷeli’s attempt to create an empire over Skouras.

The imperial idea was in the air— the Jeori emperors Toma:un and Suma:un had recently conquered half of the Ezičimi states, and it was not long before Axuna would begin its march to empire. (Toma:un appears in the text in its Old Jeori form Tamon.) The Skourenes knew the Jeori well— they were longtime trading partners and rivals, and were frankly considered a little backward. Skourene ships were bigger, faster, and more powerful; Skourene armies were hardened by centuries of war. The right man in the right city could surely surpass the Jeori achievement.

Eŋŋuloşum seemed to many— certainly to everyone in his hometown of Meŋeland— to be that man. In 795 he supported the rebellion of Iṭili against Engidori. Engidori sent an army to punish him; he ambushed it along the Gerredtar, the south road, and cut it to pieces. A few years later he attacked Papliopagimi and whipped it and Engidori again.

The passage is written in the dialect of Meŋeland, not that far from the delta standard, but with a few peculiarities, e.g

There are a number of spelling differences, which have been regularized, as they are inconsistent, and highly ambiguous due to the nature of the writing system. Some of them point to some phonetic simplifications (e.g. kau- is often written ka-); it’s also notable that Guṭḷeli is written Guṭḷei, a presentiment of the Uṭandal spelling Gudlai.
Pagmu tebbeḍram ŋu-Tamon boṭşinkos Ḍabriŋi ḷa-pamdi ḍabriŋikil.
conquer-3s-3s empire-great Toma:un king Jeor-gen / and-benefit-3s-3p Jeori-pl-def
Pamd- ‘help’ is a regionalism; the delta standard is ŋeml- ‘benefit’.
Toma:un, the ruler of Jeor, conquered a great empire for the Jeori.

Det-gandu abeg nen-kuḷiŋaŋ kau-pamdi skourandal?
fut-desid-come-3s who like-lion-that / topic-benefit-3s-3p Skourene-pl-def
The connector kau- promotes the absolutive subject of ‘come’ into the ergative subject of ‘benefit’.
Who will be a similar lion among the Skourenes?

Det-ŋasmeg ŋu-abeg ḷa-det-ḍarmeg ṭou-mandram?
fut-desid-raise-3s-1p who / and-fut-desid-make.great-3s-1p purpose-people-great
The first verb has the connotation ‘raise as a father’; the agent form aŋesom, in fact, is the word for ‘father’.
Who will raise us into a great nation?

Nalunu Eŋŋuloşum-su, kau-pagmu Guṭḷeli, ḷa-ṭuḍu Iṭili, ḷa-ḍamrelu Engidori?
desid-refer-1s-3s Eŋŋuloşum-Q / topic-conquer-3s-3s Guṭḷeli / and-free-3s-3s Iṭili / and-destroy-3s-3s Engidori
Literally, ‘Do I want to refer to...?’; this is comparable to our rhetorical ‘Is it not...?’
Ḍamrel-, literally ‘wholly burn’, is another regionalism; the standard is piŋgitr- ‘destroy’.
Is it not Eŋŋuloşum, the conqueror of Guṭḷeli, the liberator of Iṭili, the destroyer of Engidori?

Inkirku-su ŋu-ṭretamoṭ? Pagmu-su ŋu-ŋelotmoṭ?
resist-3s-3s-Q city-one / defeat-3s-3s-Q general-one
Has any city resisted him? Has any general defeated him?

Det-baunaraludu-su agedorram skourandul?
fut-desid-dur-name-1p-3s-Q protector-gen Skourene-gen-pl-def
Will he not be called the Great Protector of the Skourenes?


Around 100, the city of Iṭili established a trade route with Gotanneli, and from the Ezičimi the Iṭiliki learned the concept of writing and the mechanics of the Axunašin logosyllabary.

Neither logographs nor a syllabary fit Old Skourene. Individual lexical forms were too numerous to create separate glyphs for, while lexemes (e.g. kisn-) were too broad. And the formidable syllable clusters and diphthongs of OS (e.g. bgiuşşa, ḍspi) made a simple syllabary impossible.

The solution was a mixed system: each word was represented by a logograph representing the lexeme, plus a syllabic representation which merged all the consonants. E.g. ṭuloup ‘we will write’ would be represented by a logograph ṬLP and syllabic glyphs $u-$o-u$, while ṭlepa ‘document’ would use the same logograph plus syllabic glyphs $$e-$a. The syllabic representation need not specify the actual consonants, since these are implied by the logograph.

The logograph was known as a peşşep ‘signifier’, the syllabic representation as a triutta ‘spelling’. The word derives from the convention that one could say a triutta out loud by using t for all the consonants—— e.g. tu-to-ut for the first example above. A cluster was represented by tr, so the second example was spelled tre-ta.

A single syllabic glyph is a triuṭitta. The full set of triuṭittar is shown at right. (There are no three-consonant glyphs; if necessary, just ignore the extras: ḍspi is spelled tri.)

Peşşepe are written right to left. The triuttar are written normally written right to left underneath them, but they’re also sometimes written to the left of the peşşep, top to bottom. A Skourene would read the first line of the chart at right as u-o-i-e-a!

The samples are shown in color because the prototypical medium for the Iṭilik script is painting (as that for Chinese characters is brushwork, while medieval European calligraphy, and thus our typography, are based on writing with a bias-cut quill). Handwritten symbols at first closely matched the painted versions, but over the centuries were simplified and stylized much faster.

There were something over 700 peşşepe; but less than half of these were completely independent graphemes. Symbols could be combined to create a peşşep, or adapted from a similar-sounding root: e.g. the glyph for nals- ‘fly’, a picture of a hawk, was used for naḷş- ‘honor’ as well, with the addition of a ribbon (i.e. a mark of honor).

Geographical names, especialy foreign ones, were something of a problem. For some old borrowings glyphs were devised; e.g. that for Skouras was a stylized picture of a river (also used for ḍel ‘river’), plus some stylized hills. For newer borrowings the usual expedient was to borrow a word with the same consonants; e.g. Aksun uses the glyph for kisn- ‘hear’, with a special initial triuṭitta that indicates that the word is a toponym.

By the way, the representation of Skouras, tro-u-ta-at, illustrates two fine points in writing triuttar:

Other cities adopted the Iṭilik system, but felt free to change the actual glyphs, in order to make it harder for outsiders to read one’s accounting or trade secrets. The result was a plethora of alternate scripts, one for each major city and its colonial empire.

By historical accident, from about 700 to 1000 Skouras was dominated by three different cities all using variations of the script of Guṭḷeli: Guṭḷeli itself, Meŋeland, and Kuḷiŋibor. This therefore became the standard script in the littoral; in Skouras proper, the Iṭilik script was the standard (to a somewhat lesser extent).

After the Tžuro invasion, most of the variants were removed from competition. Gurdago— yet another variant of Guṭḷeliki— had simplified its script; this influenced but did not replace the standard script in the littoral. This modified script is the ancestor of the modern Uṭandal and Gelihurendi scripts.


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