After two such long posts about nominals, it's high time I started writing about the other main class of words in the Moten language: the verb. This post will also describe how to build simple sentences.
The verb is the cornerstone of the sentence in Moten. While the language's pro-drop quality means that you can omit essentially each and every participant of the sentence, the verb is mandatory for a correctly formed sentence. It is thus very important to understand verbal morphology well if you want to read or speak Moten correctly. Fortunately, although it is somewhat unusual, the verbal system in Moten is relatively straightforward. Also, just like nouns, verbs are very regular, with the only surface irregularities being due to the omnipresent morphophonemic rules that kick in as soon as an affix is added to a root.
Anyone speaking a European language and used to conjugate verbs for tense, person and whatnot, is going to be in a world of surprise when looking at the Moten verbs. Indeed, the vast majority of verbs in Moten don't conjugate at all. In fact, it's even worse: the vast majority of verbs in Moten don't even have finite forms, i.e. verbal forms that can be used as heads of sentences (well, actually all verbs do have at least one finite form, but it's very restricted in its use. So let's ignore it for now). The only forms those verbs have are infinite, i.e. they are actually nouns, verbal nouns.
If verbs don't possess finite forms, how can you use them as clausal heads? Well, I did only say that the vast majority of them lack finite forms. I never said that all verbs lacked finite forms. Indeed, there is a category of verbs that do have finite forms and thus can be used as clausal heads. It's actually a very small category since it contains only two verbs: atom: to be, and agem: to have. I call this category of verbs auxiliaries, and you should be able to guess the reason why by now. Yes, that's right: besides being used as fully fledged verbs themselves, the auxiliaries are used to conjugate the other, non-finite verbs, and allow them to become sentence heads. This is done through periphrastic constructions, where the auxiliary is used in combination with a verbal noun.
Besides the distinction between verbs with or without finite forms, Moten verbs make another, overlapping distinction: that of intransitive and transitive verbs. Transitive verbs take a direct object, which is directly influenced semantically by the verb and is always put in the accusative case. Intransitive verbs don't allow such an object. Transitivity in Moten is an intrinsic feature of the verb, and unlike in English verbs are strictly transitive or intransitive and cannot switch between the two categories. For instance, even though one can omit the object of a transitive verb, it doesn't make the verb intransitive. It just makes the verb a transitive verb with an omitted, but still expected (and possibly inferable by context) object.
Transitivity is also important because as I mentioned in the second post about Moten, intransitive verbs indiscriminately take a subject in the nominative case, while transitive verbs can take a subject in the nominative case or with the instrumental prefix ko-, depending on whether the subject is really an agent or rather experiencing the action. This is especially important because verbs can be transitive in Moten while they are not considered as such in English (the converse can also be true).
On that subject, I may as well warn that both auxiliaries are transitive. While it is not surprising of agem, people might find it weird that atom is considered transitive. Yet it is so: unlike in European languages where the equivalent of "to be" is a copula, in the Moten language atom is a transitive verb, its subject can be in the nominative case or use the instrumental prefix, and its object is in the accusative case. I'll talk about it further in the next post about the use of the auxiliaries as fully fledged verbs.
So verbs can be classified as auxiliaries, which have finite forms, and non-auxiliary verbs, which haven't, or as transitive and intransitive verbs. However, in terms of conjugation, the only distinction that matters is that of auxiliaries vs. non-auxiliary verbs. Transitivity has no influence on the conjugation patterns of verbs. But before going further to discuss those patterns, let's first introduce what all verbs have in common: their non-finite forms.
Non-Finite Verbal Forms
In many languages, non-finite verbal forms are half-way between nouns, adjectives or adverbs; and verbs. That is to say, they usually have a nominal, adjectival or adverbial form and use, but still preserve some verbal characteristics, like the ability to take an object (the English gerund can do that: "carrying a present, he went in to join the party"), to be inflected for tense (like the various participles of Russian, Greek or Latin) and sometimes even to take a subject! (like the infamous personal infinitive of Portuguese)
In Moten, things are different: non-finite verbal forms are common nouns, and don't retain any verbal characteristics. In particular, they cannot take verbal complements, but only nominal ones. They can be declined like any other noun, and can take the definite infix if needed. They can even take a plural form, if semantics allow.
All verbs, including the auxiliaries, have two, and only two, non-finite forms, although the auxiliaries form them differently from the non-auxiliaries. Because C.G. and I were originally influenced by the traditional French grammatical terminology, and didn't feel the need to update the terms when we realised they didn't exactly fit the nature of the words they were describing, those two non-finite forms are called the infinitive and the participle.
The infinitive is a deverbal noun with various meanings:
- It's used as the citation form or dictionary form of the verb. It's in this sense that I've been talking of the auxiliary atom or the verb ipe|laj. It's also in this sense that I can say that jezeti means "to hear" or "to listen". The English infinitive is very different in meaning from the Moten infinitive, but they are both citation forms of verbs. In this sense, the infinitive can be declined if needed, but it never takes the definite infix (it's a kind of proper noun).
- It's also used as a noun referring to the general concept or action meant by the verb. In that sense, it is somewhat similar to English nouns in "-ing" (for instance, |lezuj means "singing, the act of singing", atom means "being, the state of being", and isej means "talking, the concept of talking"), although it needn't correspond only to nouns in "-ing" (for instance, jelej means "sleep", as in "you need eight hours of sleep a day", while agem means "possession, ownership, the state/act of having something"). Used in such a sense, the infinitive refers to the concept outside of any temporal or aspectual context. It's just the abstract concept indicated by the verb. In this sense, the infinitive can be declined as needed, and can even take the definite infix. It cannot normally be put in the plural, but that's only because abstract concepts usually can't.
- Finally, it can be used to refer to a person or object that somehow embodies or facilitates the action or state defined by the verb. This use is more difficult to define. It can be seen as a metaphorical extension of the use of the infinitive as an abstract noun. For instance, a person who talks all the time, or has a natural ability to make speeches and uses it often, can be called isej. In the same way, a hearing aid is normally called jezeti. In that sense, infinitives are declined, can take the definite infix, and can be put in the plural as needed.
In terms of morphology, there are two ways to form an infinitive:
- The auxiliaries form their infinitive by adding the circumfix a- -m to the verb root: from the root to comes atom: to be, and from the root ge comes agem: to have.
- The other verbs form their infinitive by adding the circumfix i- -i to their root. Those affixes trigger the same morphophonemic rules as the genitive suffix -i (naturally, the prefix reacts with the following consonant). For instance, from the root se comes isej: to talk. From elej, you form jelej: to sleep. From lezu you form |lezuj: to sing. And from ja|zin you form ja|zi|n: to give, to receive.
The participle is also a deverbal noun, with a mostly resultative meaning:
- It can be used as a noun referring to the natural, typical object of the action (or subject for an intransitive verb). For instance, from |lezuj: to sing, you get lezuz: song. And from ja|zi|n: to give, to receive, you can form ja|zinuz: gift, present. In that sense, the participle can be concrete or abstract, and is sometimes more restricted in meaning than the verb it derives from. For instance, poltuz: door is the participle of ipolti: to open (intransitive verb, root pol(t)).
- For telic verbs (i.e. verbs with a natural endpoint, like "to come"), the participle can indicate the result of the action. For instance, the participle of juba|si: to come is uba|s: arrival. In that sense, participles are often used adjectivally: poltuz poltuz: open door. For atelic verbs (i.e. verbs that reach their endpoint as soon as they are uttered, like "to sit"), the participle refers more to the resulting state of the action, and is sometimes difficult to distinguish from the infinitive (which refers to the action itself). For instance, from jelej: to sleep, you get elejuz: sleep, the state of being asleep, mostly used as an adjective: mjan elejuz: a sleeping cat.
As with the infinitive, auxiliaries and normal verbs form their participle differently:
- The auxiliaries form their participle by adding the suffix -daj to their root. So the participle of atom is todaj: definition, while the participle of agem is gedaj: possession (the translations are indicative only. It's difficult to give a good translation of those words as they are quite abstract even in Moten).
- The other verbs form their participle by adding the suffix -z to their root. This suffix can trigger morphophonemic changes similar to those of the nominative plural infix -s-, when it follows a consonant:
- -z disappears after s, z, |s or |z.
- The sequence t + -z becomes |s, the sequence d + -z becomes |z.
- The sequence |l + -z becomes lz, the sequence |n + -z becomes nz.
- -z becomes s after a phonemically voiceless consonant.
- In any other case of disallowed cluster, or if those changes would still result in an inadmissible cluster, instead of those changes an u is inserted before -z.
Now that I've handled the verbal non-finite forms, it's time to actually look at what finite forms look like. The two auxiliaries atom and agem are the only verbs with such finite forms, and even then, they only have a very limited set of conjugated forms. In particular, in Moten verbs conjugate neither for person, nor for number. All in all, the auxiliaries only have three different finite forms, arranged in two different contrasts.
The first contrast is between present and non-present. The present is marked by a prefix i- added to the root of the auxiliary: ito: am, is, are; ige: has, have. The non-present is marked by the suffix -k.
The non-present form cannot be used on its own. Instead, it is itself divided in two forms: a realis and an irrealis form. The realis form indicates that the non-present situation or action is known to have happened (or to not have happened, if it's negated) by the speaker, i.e. it's situated in the past. This non-present realis form I normally call the past, and it is marked by the e- prefix added to the non-present form of the auxiliary: etok was, were; egek: had. The non-present irrealis form indicates that a certain situation or action is not known to have happened as the speaker is talking. In Moten, it is used to indicate conditions and I call it the hypothetical. It is formed by adding the prefix pa- to the non-present form: patok: if... be, am, is, are; pagek: if... has, have.
So each auxiliary has only three finite forms: the present (ito, ige), the past (etok, egek), and the hypothetical (patok, pagek).
We've now come to the most important part of this post: the description of the periphrastic conjugations that every verb can use to form the head of a sentence. And I do mean every verb: the auxiliary verbs use those periphrastic conjugations as well, notably when used as fully fledged verbs, to make distinctions that their synthetic forms cannot possibly render.
The principle behind the periphrastic conjugations is simple to understand: use one of the non-finite forms of a verb, and add to it the finite form of one of the auxiliaries. Each verb has two non-finite forms, and can use both auxiliaries, resulting in 4 different constructions (for 12 different nuances of meaning, since each auxiliary has 3 finite forms). But actually, this number needs to be multiplied by 3, because the verbal non-finite form in this construction can be declined to any of the three nominal cases (in the indefinite singular). The result is 12 different constructions, each with 3 nuances of meaning depending on the form of the auxiliary.
As it happens, each verb (except the auxiliaries) can appear in all 12 of these constructions, although depending on their meaning they may use some forms more often than others. As for the meaning of those forms, it is consistent between verbs, but quite varied. Although all those constructions are similar in form, their meaning can vary from aspect, mood (or rather modality) and even voice!
Here follows a description of each possible combination of non-finite form, case and auxiliary:
- Nominative Infinitive + atom: Perfective Aspect
Adding the infinitive of a verb in the nominative case to atom is considered the most basic conjugation of the verb. It simply gives the whole verb the sense of the finite form of the auxiliary, while adding to it a perfective meaning. In other words, the action or situation described by the verb is seen as a whole, a point in time, without internal structure. In the case of a past action, it is completed. In the case of a present action, it indicates a general, universal truth and is used mostly in aphorisms (it is generic, or gnomic). In the case of a hypothetical action, it indicates a general condition that isn't time-dependent and may or may not be fulfilled at any time.
Note that the auxiliaries can never appear in this construction. Instead, they simply use their finite forms directly.
Here are a few examples:
Koga ada|zeaj ka|se ludamun ipe|laj etok: I saw that man in January.
Kobadej tol mo|zun ige: dogs have four legs (mosu: paw, (animal) leg. The use of the instrumental here indicates that having legs isn't a conscious decision from dogs).
Badej juba|si patok, mjean jagi ito: when the dog arrives, the cat always leaves (literally: "if the dog comes, the cat goes", I used the non-literal translation to emphasise the generic meaning of this sentence. Note also how conditional clauses in Moten are not subclauses, but simply juxtaposed main clauses).
- Accusative Infinitive + atom: Imperfective Aspect
The opposite usage to the perfective aspect is the imperfective aspect formed using this construction. Here, the action is viewed as ongoing, habitual, repeated, or in any case as having some internal structure. While the perfective describes mostly momentary actions, the imperfective describes situations. In the present, it describes a currently ongoing or progressive action, or a general habitual action. In the past, it can be used to indicate habitual actions (including former habits, as is done in English with the expression "used to"), or actions whose length in time is important. In the hypothetical, it is used to describe a condition whose ongoing fulfilment will eventually have a consequence (it's often used in warnings).
Here again, auxiliaries never appear in this construction. They use their finite forms instead, and thus don't distinguish between the perfective and the imperfective aspect.
Here are a few examples:
E izunluda|n etok: (I) used to live here (or possibly "(I) was living here" if this sentence is setting up a situation).
Bdan ipelda|n ito: I'm watching you (imagine a mother saying that to her child. Depending on the intonation, it could be endearing or it could be a warning!).
Ba |negdin patok, Poldisun istudu|lun ige: if you keep doing (that), I'll call the police (Polis: police is a borrowing from French and considered a proper noun, hence it is declined without article; istu|l: to summon, to call, to bring).
- Genitive Infinitive + atom: Strong Situational Modality
Although the words used here might seem a bit daunting, the situational modality is simply about indicating how the "world" (i.e. whatever the speaker is talking about at the moment) ought to be. It deals with concepts of necessity, command, advice, desire, etc. In Moten, the strong situational modality indicates necessity and/or commands, and corresponds closely to English "must" and "have to".
Here are a few examples:
Poltejuz ipoldvi etok: The door had to open (modalities can be used with inanimate subjects).
Ga et jagvi ito: I must leave now (literally: "I have to go now", jagi can mean both "to go" and "to leave").
Ba |negvi patok, et neg!: If you must do (it), do it now! (the use of the nominative here implies that the subject is not only obliged to accomplish the action, but also actually wants to. This can indicate exasperation from the speaker)
- Nominative Participle + atom: Perfect Aspect
While the perfective aspect deals with an action as a whole, a point in time, and the imperfective aspect deals with the internal temporal structure of an action or situation, the perfect aspect actually doesn't deal with the action at all. Instead, it deals with its result, its consequences. When or how long the action lasted isn't important (unlike the English perfect, which is also used to indicate actions that started in the past and are still carrying on), as the attention is focussed purely on the result of that action.
Here are a few examples. To make it clear how the Moten perfect aspect differs in use from the English one, I have translated those examples without using an English perfect, but using a construction that fits better their meanings:
Ka|seden eksaz etok: I knew the man (literally: "(I) had met the man", jeksaj is a verb meaning "to touch" or "to hit", but also "to meet (by chance)").
Vigvej |zugeo aguz ito: She is away because of work (literally: "(she) has gone because of self's job", go: job).
Motenku|ledun vajaguz patok, |laga gebez ige: If you know Moten, you can speak to me (literally: "if (you) have learned Moten, (you) can speak to me", with ivajagi: to learn, to study and igebezi: to speak, to talk. I will talk about names of languages in a future post).
- Accusative Participle + atom: Weak Situational Modality
While the strong situational modality indicates necessity and/or commands, the weak situational modality indicates advice, polite requests, veiled threats and wishes or desires. It corresponds to "should" or "ought to". In the hypothetical, it can be used to translate unfulfilled wishes ("if only"). Also, somewhat related to its meaning of advice, this construction is also used to indicate permission ("may", "be allowed to"). The distinction between advice, request and permission is normally clear by context.
Here are a few examples:
Umpej zunludazun etok: You should have stayed home.
Et agduzun ito: You may go now.
Bdan ezde|sun patok!: If only I had listened to you! (since conditional clauses are not subclauses in Moten, this could also be translated as: "I wish I had listened to you!". These sentences usually refer to wishes of the speaker, not of the listener or a third party)
- Genitive Participle + atom: Middle Voice
While aspects and moods (or modalities) can change the meaning of a verb, they don't change its nature. A transitive verb will stay transitive, while an intransitive verb will stay intransitive. And the verb's arguments will not change their relationship with the verb depending on aspect or mood. Voice is different: its main role is to change the nature of the verb and its relationship with its arguments. For instance, in English the passive voice reduces the number of verbal arguments by one (i.e. it converts transitive verbs into intransitive verbs) and the object of the verb becomes its subject.
The Moten language doesn't have a passive voice. However, it has a middle voice (also called mediopassive voice). With transitive verbs, it makes them intransitive by removing their object. Since the verb has become intransitive, the subject must be in the nominative case, even if it originally was introduced by ko-. In terms of meaning, with transitive verbs the middle voice is mostly reflexive or reciprocal (i.e. it is equivalent to using vike or tel as object of the verb). But it mostly indicates that the action is done for the subject's own sake, or that it is somehow internal to the subject. It can also indicate that the subject accomplished the action without external help, on their own. In those senses, the originally transitive verb in middle voice could logically take an object. But since the middle voice makes a transitive verb intransitive, that object cannot be directly added as an accusative noun phrase. However, just as the English passive voice allows one to reintroduce the original subject of the verb as an optional argument introduced by "by", the Moten middle voice allows one to reintroduce the original object of the verb as an optional argument introduced by ko-.
One peculiarity of the Moten middle voice is that it can be used with intransitive verbs as well. Since it doesn't affect the subject of a verb, there is no reason why it couldn't. With intransitive verbs, the middle voice doesn't change the number of arguments of the verb (an intransitive verb stays intransitive), nor does it change the subject of the verb in any way. The only thing that the middle voice does in this case is to indicate that the action is done for the subject's own sake, for their own benefit, or that it is somehow internal to the subject. It can also be used to indicate that the action was accomplished without external help or influence.
Here are a few examples:
Poltejuz poldvuzi etok: The door opened by itself (this is a typical example of an intransitive verb used in the middle voice).
Ka|se |le|ledon (kozanej) opluvezi ito: The man gives it (the ring) to the woman for his own sake (in Moten, the thing given is always the object of the verbs joplej and ja|zi|n. So when they are used in the middle voice, this object has to be removed from the sentence and can only be reintroduced with the instrumental prefix).
Monvuzi patok, umpedin ipelda|n ige: If you turn around, you'll see the house (literally: "if (you) turn (your)self, (you) will see the house", imonuj: to turn something (around)).
- Nominative Infinitive + agem: Causative Voice
While the middle voice can be seen as "internal" (it focusses on the subject, indicating that it is acting on itself, for its own sake, within itself or by itself), the causative voice is strongly "external". It is used to indicate that someone (or something) is forcing someone or something else to accomplish an action or undergo a situation. It is equivalent to English expressions like "make someone do". However, it is a true voice, rather than a special expression.
The causative voice can be used with both transitive and intransitive verbs, but it behaves slightly differently between the two. When used with an intransitive verb, that verb becomes transitive. The original subject of the verb becomes its object (in the accusative case), while the causer becomes the subject of the verb. When used with a transitive verb, the verb remains transitive, its object remains in place, and the original subject is replaced with the causer. The original subject can then be expressed as an oblique argument introduced by the functional prefix ko- (so it is closest in form to the English expression "to have something done (by someone)").
Here are a few examples:
Daa, ga umpedin izu|lebi egek!: Hey, it's me who cleaned the house! (izu|lebi: to clear up, to (become) clean, is a strictly intransitive verb, unlike its English equivalent. So to refer to someone cleaning something, you have to use the causative voice)
Tina luden koga izgeboj ige: They make me work on this room (literally: "they have this room worked on by me", so the original subject is now an optional argument, izgeboj: to work on, to suffer from).
Kolos |lezuj pagek, ga jagdin ige!: If you make him sing, I will leave! (adding the first person pronoun here strengthens the sentence, similarly to using the full auxiliary in English rather than it's abbreviated form)
- Accusative Infinitive + agem: Prospective Aspect
The perfective aspect describes an event as a black box seen from outside. The imperfective aspect opens that black box and looks at what makes it tick. As for the perfect aspect, it is not interested at all in the black box itself, but in the hole in the roof caused by the fallen black box. When describing aspects this way, it becomes easy to show what the prospective aspect means: it simply indicates that the black box has not fallen yet.
If you do a bit of research, you will find that the prospective aspect is often described as indicating that an event "is about to" happen. That's not exactly true in the Moten language. In Moten, the prospective aspect shows that an event hasn't happened yet but "is going to" happen. It doesn't have any shade of immediacy. It is the closest Moten has to a future tense (and indeed, in earlier descriptions of the language I described it erroneously as a "future"), but it is different in that it doesn't allow one to indicate when the event will happen. In a way, you can see it as the opposite of the perfect aspect: while the perfect aspect focusses on the result of an event, the prospective aspect focusses on its origin. It says that based on the present situation, the described event will naturally follow. For this reason, it is often used in sentences that follow a condition. If you want to describe a true future event and date it, you need to use the perfective present instead (or the imperfective present for a habitual or continuous event in the future).
When used with the present, the prospective aspect indicates an event that will happen as a consequence of the present situation or event. With the past, it just says that the event will happen or will have happened as a consequence of a past action (it does not say anything about whether the event actually happened before the time of the utterance). And when used with the hypothetical, it indicates a condition that hasn't been fulfilled so far but may be so in the future.
Here are a few examples:
Jagdin egek: (He) was going to leave (it can also be translated as: "(he) will have left", depending on context and whether the expected outcome actually happened).
Monvuzi patok, umpedin ipelda|n ige: If you turn around, you'll see the house (no, there is nothing wrong in reusing examples!).
Ba |negdin pagek, Poldisun istudu|lun ige: From now on, if you do that (on purpose), I'll call the police (using the prospective hypothetical indicates that the condition didn't exist in the past, but will now exist as of the utterance of this sentence).
- Genitive Infinitive + agem: Strong Epistemic Modality
While the situational modality is about how the speaker thinks or believes the world ought to be, the epistemic modality is about how the speaker thinks or believes the world actually is. It deals with the concepts of certainty, probability and doubt. In English, the same modal verbs are often used to mark situational and epistemic modality, while Moten has different constructions for them.
The strong epistemic modality indicates near certainty or at least reasonably high probability that the situation or action actually happens or happened. It corresponds mostly to the English modal verbs "must" or "should" or to sentences with an adverb like "probably". When used with the hypothetical, it forms conditions that are or will probably be fulfilled, a distinction that can be difficult to capture when translating into English.
Here are a few examples:
Lezuz ludosun |lezvuj egek: (They) must have sung that song.
Gvaj ge|sem Filansi izunluvaj ige: My father is probably in France (Filansi is a borrowing from the French language, modified only to fit the restrictive phonotactics of the Moten language).
Jagvi pagek, gdan stul!: When you leave, call me! (although the use of "when" in the translation presupposes certainty, the Moten sentence itself only presupposes probability, i.e. it is probable that the person will leave, but not certain. This type of conditions is difficult to translate in English without paraphrasing)
- Nominative Participle + agem: Capacitive Mood
The capacitive mood is used to indicate that the subject has the immediate capacity to accomplish the action, i.e. both the knowledge of how to accomplish the action, and the immediate opportunity to do it. It corresponds roughly to the English "can" and "be able to", but differs in that those two can also indicate skill without any immediate opportunity to use it (a use that makes them equivalent to "know how to", a meaning the capacitive mood in Moten lacks). It is distinct from both permission (indicated using the weak situational modality, see above) and potentiality (indicated using the weak epistemic modality, see below).
Here are a few examples:
Ot ga lezuz egek: I was able to sing (this turn of phrase implies that the speaker not only had the ability to sing, but also the immediate capacity to do it).
Motenku|ledun vajaguz patok, |laga gebez ige: If you know Moten, you can speak to me (here using the capacitive mood is justified in that there is both knowledge -if the condition is true- and opportunity -the speaker can speak Moten too, obviously-).
Neguz pagek, et neg!: If you can do it, do it now! (yes, I'm starting to run out of ideas for examples. But this does the job)
- Accusative Participle + agem: Weak Epistemic Modality
While the strong epistemic modality indicates strong probability or near certainty, the weak epistemic modality indicates mere possibility or even low probability. It corresponds mostly to English "may" and "might" (or to the adverb "maybe"). It can also indicate potentiality ("can" as in "it can happen sometimes"). And when used with the hypothetical, it forms unlikely or counterfactual conditions.
Here are a few examples:
Kolos semdutun ezeduzun egek: He/she might have heard something (using semut instead of tamut indicates that the speaker has no idea what that "something" may be).
At elejduzun ige: Maybe I'll sleep then (the future here is implied through the use of at: at that time, then).
Ga agduzun pagek, ipenluda|n ige: If I left, they would wait (for me) (ipenlaj is a transitive verb meaning: to wait for, to await, to expect. This sentence could, depending on context, also indicate an unlikely future condition: "if I were to leave, they would wait for me", or a counterfactual one: "if I had left, they would have waited for me". Moten does not have separate constructions for those).
- Genitive Participle + agem: Desiderative Mood
The desiderative mood is used to show that the subject is not actually accomplishing anything, but wants or desires to. Because wanting or desiring can (normally) only be a voluntary action, when the verb is transitive, the subject is always in the nominative, even when a translation in English uses an experiencing verb rather than an active one (see the first example below). It is used only when the subject wants to accomplish something themselves. To indicate that the subject wants another person to accomplish something, the desiderative mood needs to be combined with the causative voice (see further in this post).
Here are a few examples:
Lomedin pelvazi egek: (I) wanted to see (my) maternal grandparent (lomin means literally "maternal grandparent": in Moten, grandparents are not specified by gender, but by whether they are the parents of the father or the mother. As in English, this sentence can also mean "I wanted to meet my maternal grandparent". It's even the most common way to say it, since jeksaj can only refer to unintentional meetings).
Filanzdin mune kun eganeo agvuzi ige: (They) want to go to France next month (here, the order of the phrases is meaningful, as putting mune kun eganeo: "next month" first could have meant: "next month, they will want to go to France". With the word order as it is, the first meaning is more likely).
|Laga gebvezi pagek, gdan stul!: If you want to talk to me, call me!
This was quite a lot of information, and it might be somewhat overwhelming. So here is a summary of the different combinations of auxiliary, non-finite form and case, and their meanings. I don't mention the auxiliary forms here as their effect is minimal, and the resulting table would have been unwieldy.
|nominative infinitive||perfective aspect||causative voice|
|accusative infinitive||imperfective aspect||prospective aspect|
|genitive infinitive||strong situational modality||strong epistemic modality|
|nominative participle||perfect aspect||capacitive mood|
|accusative participle||weak situational modality||weak epistemic modality|
|genitive participle||middle voice||desiderative mood|
As you can see, there seems to be little structure in the way Moten assigns meaning to the different forms, except for the modalities. It is a mystery how such a system could have evolved in the language.
Compound Periphrastic Conjugations
As indicated in the previous section, the auxiliaries can also be conjugated periphrastically (expect for the perfective and imperfective conjugations. The auxiliaries simply use their finite forms and don't distinguish those two aspects). Naturally, one may wonder then whether auxiliaries conjugated periphrastically can in turn be used as auxiliaries in a periphrastic conjugation. The answer is a qualified yes. It's qualified, because not all combinations of periphrastic conjugations are allowed.
Basically, while one can combine aspect and modality together, or voice and mood (for instance), aspects are mutually exclusive, as are modalities (at least when they are of the same kind). The perfective aspect is the most restrictive: it can never be used in a compound periphrastic conjugation. That's because all conjugations except the aspects have a perfective meaning by default.
Other forms are more liberal and can be used together in compound periphrastic constructions. However, even then, one needs to beware of the order of the constructions, as it is meaningful, and even if a compound periphrastic conjugation is possible in a certain order, it might not work when the forms are put in another order.
Here are a few examples to illustrate what I mean:
Komotenku|leju gebez agdemun ige: (I) will be able to speak Moten (the verb igebezi itself is in the capacitive mood, while the auxiliary agem is in the prospective aspect. The opposite order wouldn't be meaninful).
Bdan ipelda|n todvaj ige: (I) want to keep seeing you (the verb ipe|laj is in the imperfective aspect, while the auxiliary atom is in the desiderative mood).
Bdan pelvazi agdemun ito: (I) am wishing to see you (here the order of the imperfective aspect and the desiderative mood are switched, resulting in quite a different sentence, both in form and meaning).
In principle, one could even compound three or more conjugations, but as you can see, most of the time, those constructions are already too long and feel a bit stilted even when compounding only two conjugations, and a native speaker of Moten will not use them often in everyday speech (and even in writing they are avoided when possible). They often sound pompous and overly precise. The only compound periphrastic construction that is commonly used even in colloquial speech is the combination of the desiderative mood and the causative voice, which is a common way to translate expressions of the type: "to want someone to do something". Basically, in the Moten language this is translated as "to want to make someone do something". Here is an example:
Tina luden koga izgeboj gedvaj ige: They want me to work on this room (literally: "they want to make me work on this room". Note that this is the only correct order of conjugations for this expression: the verb in the causative voice, and the auxiliary in the desiderative mood).
Imperative and Hortative
When I started discussing about verbal classes at the beginning of this post, I mentioned that all verbs had at least 1 finite form, but I then ignored it completely. It's time to set the record straight and explain what I was referring to.
All verbs, whether auxiliaries or not, can appear as bare stems. That form is limited to independent clauses (it cannot appear in subclauses), and it cannot be used by the auxiliaries in periphrastic conjugations (i.e. the auxiliaries can only appear in it when they are used as full verbs). It is used to mark commands, orders and exhortations. Just like any other verbal conjugation, it can be used in any person. So it corresponds both to the imperative mood ("do!") and to the hortative mood ("let me/him/her/it/them do!", "let's do!"). And unlike the English imperative mood that normally never allows a subject to appear, the Moten form accepts subjects just as readily as any other conjugation. Naturally, subjects can just as easily be omitted thanks to Moten's pro-drop nature.
There's not much more to say about imperatives in Moten, so I'll just show a few examples here:
Ludamun ja|zin!: Give me that! (the recipient of the action is inferred by using the verb ja|zi|n rather than joplej here)
Telga ag!: Let's go! (here telga is simply the subject of the hortative verb)
Ba gdan penla!: You, wait for me! (using a subject here makes the imperative more forceful and somewhat rude. Subjects of transitive verbs in the imperative are normally always in the nominative, as it makes no sense to ask or order someone to do something they are not in control of)
We've finished our trip through the verbal morphology and syntax (well, nearly, as you will see in next post). To conclude, I will describe how simple sentences are formed. This post has been full of them, so you should have no problem understanding this section.
A simple sentence is a sentence that contains a single, independent clause. in Moten, it's exactly equivalent to saying that the sentence contains a single conjugated verb (however complicated that conjugated verbal form may be). And since Moten is aggressively pro-drop, that's all a sentence needs to contain. However, since sentences containing a verb and only a verb are a bit over-simplistic, I'll focus here on the structure of simple independent clauses containing noun phrases in addition to a verb.
The main rule governing simple sentences is that those are strictly verb-final. The verb must always be the last thing in the sentence (basically, it ends the clause), and any noun phrase must be placed before it.
Beyond that, word order (or at least phrase order, as word order in noun phrases is quite strict as well) is very free. Since noun phrases are declined for function in the sentence, you needn't reserve a special place for the subject or the object of the sentence. So while I often describe Moten as a SOV language (i.e. using the order Subject-Object-Verb in simple clauses), and indeed neutral simple sentences will often take this shape, it's by no means the only possible word order, and OSV sentences (as well as SV and OV) are just as likely to be produced.
While word order is quite free, it is by no means unimportant. There are two "special" places in a simple sentence: the beginning of the sentence, and the slot directly in front of the verb. The beginning of the sentence is used to indicate its topic, i.e. (to simplify) "what the sentence is about". It represents the context of the sentence, old information the sentence adds new information to. The slot directly in front of the verb, on the other hand, marks its focus, basically the new information introduced by the sentence. Those slots can be filled in by any noun phrase, or left empty at the discretion of the speaker, when context makes clear what is meant. When taking these word order rules into account, one can say that the Moten language is topic-prominent (or focus-prominent), although the topic and focus are neither overtly marked nor always present.
That's all you need to know to start writing simple sentences. This post has been full of examples, so I'll let you check them again so you can try and discern the topic-focus structure behind them.
OK, that's enough for now (after all, this post has been nearly two years in the writing!). We've made good progress, but there's just a little bit more to say about verbs. This I'll do in the next post, where I will write about the use of the auxiliaries as fully-fledged verbs. I will also introduce subclauses and the dependent verbal forms. And I guess that should be enough. See you next time!