Sunday, 24 January 2010

Moten, Part III: Counting

As I indicated in the last post about Moten, in this post I intend to talk in detail about numbers and how to count in the Moten language. I will also talk about counters, a subgroup of common nouns that interact with numbers in a very specific way. I will show how the expressions of date and time are formed, and will finish with a short discussion about the degrees of comparison. Hopefully, this post won't be anywhere as long as the previous one.

Once thing I want to make clear upfront: when I explain the reasons behind some of the constructions I describe, those reasons are to be taken in the context of the internal, i.e. fictional, background of the language. Giving the external reasons would be very boring (they all boil down to: "I thought that was neat" and "it just made sense compared to the rest of the language") and I think that giving some more glimpses into the fiction I built around the Moten language will interest some people.

Let's start with describing the cardinal and ordinal numbers.

Cardinal Numbers

Cardinal numbers are numbers that indicate quantity, or the size of a group. In Moten, as in English, they are the most basic numbers, with other sets being derived from them.

Cardinal numbers in Moten use a decimal system, i.e. one counts in units, tens, hundreds and thousands, as in English. Forming the tens, however, is much easier and regular than in English, French, or any other European language for that matter. In writing, since the Moten system fits them perfectly, I simply use the Arabic numerals to write numbers down.

A Moten cardinal number is a single compound word possibly formed of many elements. In the next paragraphs, I will describe how to build such words, starting with the digits, and carrying on in order of complexity.

The numbers from 1 to 9 are shown here:

digit Moten
1 su
2 eg
3 ima
4 tol
5 vel(d)
6 |sim
7 nege
8 uzab
9 e|nek

10 is geni. The other tens are simply formed by prefixing a digit to geni (sometimes with small morphophonemic changes):

ten Moten
10 geni
20 egeni
30 imageni
40 tolgeni
50 velgeni
60 |simgeni
70 negegeni
80 uzageni
90 e|negeni

To form the numbers from 11 to 99, you simply add the digit after the ten. However, two rules have to be followed:

  • The -ni ending of the tens must be removed.
  • If the digit starts with a vowel, it is dropped.

Here are the numbers from 11 to 19 as an example (all other numbers until 99 follow exactly the same rules):

number Moten
11 gesu
12 geg
13 gema
14 getol
15 gevel(d)
16 ge|sim
17 genege
18 gezab
19 ge|nek

100 is japu. Multiples of 100 are formed like the multiples of 10, by prefixing a digit to it, sometimes with small morphophonemic changes:

hundred Moten
100 japu
200 egapu
300 imajapu
400 to|lapu
500 veldapu
600 |simapu
700 negejapu
800 uzabapu
900 e|nekapu

Forming the numbers from 101 to 999 is as simple as suffixing the numbers from 1 to 99 to the hundreds. The only possible change here is that if the suffixed number starts with a vowel, the -u of the hundred is dropped. Here are a few examples:

number Moten
101 japusu
102 japeg
213 egapugema
324 imajapegetol
435 to|lapimagevel(d)
546 veldaputolge|sim
657 |simapuvelgenege
768 negejapu|simgezab
879 uzabapunegege|nek
980 e|nekapuzageni
999 e|nekape|nege|nek

1,000 is sen, and it is the highest single-root number in Moten. Multiples of 1000 are formed by prefixing a number from 1 to 999 in front of it. This normally doesn't result in any morphophonemic change, except when the prefixed number ends with 2, 5 or 8:

number Moten
2,000 egzen
5,000 vel|zen
8,000 uzazen

Of course, numbers from 1,001 to 999,999 are formed by suffixing the numbers from 1 to 999 to the multiples of 1,000. Here again morphophonemic changes are minimal, with only two cases:

  • If the suffixed number starts with j (i.e. basically any number from 100 to 199), the sequence *nj becomes |n.
  • If the suffixed number starts with n (basically 7 and its derivatives), the sequence *nn coalesces into a single n.

Here are a few examples:

number Moten
2,007 egzenege
46,120 tolge|simse|napegeni
345,719 imajaputolgevel|zenegejapuge|nek

Powers of 1,000 are simply formed by reduplicating sen. So 1,000,000 is sensen, and 1,000,000,000 is sensensen (higher powers are possible, but rarely used). Those behave like sen itself when it comes to prefixing and suffixing other numbers.

As you can see, cardinal numbers can become very long. But no matter their length, all cardinal numbers are common nouns. They inflect for case and definition (not for number though, they always take singular case affixes) and they can be used on their own or as adjectives. However, when used as adjectives, some cardinal numbers have a peculiar behaviour, in that they typically appear before rather than after the noun they complete. This only concerns short numbers (typically from one to three syllables, although that's not a hard-and-fast rule) and it is always optional (although it's exceedingly rare to see su and eg after a noun). That's why I wrote in the previous post:

And as an exception to the rule that Moten is head-final, adjectives normally appear after the head of the noun phrase.

Short numbers are the exception to that exception. Here are a few examples to illustrate this:

su ka|se: one man.

bazlo imajapu: three hundred towns.

badi japuseju: the 101 dogs (japusu badesi would also be possible here).

tolgeg apa ufsan: 42 great stars (apa: star. If the number was placed after the head noun, this would become: apa ufan tolgeg).

This last example (and the alternative to the third example) illustrates that noun phrases containing a number higher than one are plural in meaning, and must be declined as such if the last nominal of the phrase allows it.

You might have noticed that I never mentioned 0, i.e. "zero", "nought". That's because the Moten language doesn't have a native word specifically for that concept. In general contexts, you can simply use memun: none (or memut: nothing or memik: nobody, depending on context). In more formal, scientific or mathematical contexts, the borrowing zelo can be used. It is considered a common noun, not a numeral, and for this reason it can be declined in the plural.

Ordinal Numbers

While cardinal numbers refer to a quantity, ordinal numbers refer to a rank, to a position in a series.

In English, as in about every other language with ordinal numbers, ranking in a series is absolute: it always goes from the first item in the series to the last one, and always in that order (in English, one can count backwards from the last element by adding the "-to-last" suffix to an ordinal number, but this is uncommon, and the resulting forms are not considered proper ordinal numbers). In Moten, there are only three ordinal numbers with such an absolute meaning. Those are |zaja: first, kuna: last (which is considered an ordinal number in Moten) and difoja: middle rank (it basically refers to the item in the middle of the list, half-way between the first and the last item). All the other ordinal numbers in Moten are relative, i.e. they don't presuppose a certain manner of going through a series. So to indicate a rank, an ordinal number alone (besides the three nouns I already introduced) is not enough. You also need to indicate:

  • The origin of the ranking, which can be the first item, the last item, or any item in between (and needn't be named in a numerical way).
  • The ranking direction, i.e. whether you are going backwards (towards the first item of the series) or forwards (towards the last item of the series) from the origin.

So a rank in Moten is normally indicated by the combination of three parts: an origin, a ranking direction, and a relative ordinal number indicating how far from the origin we are in the series. Of those, the origin and the ranking direction can actually be omitted, when they are clear by context, or simply when the speaker just does not want to specify them. For now though, let's describe each of those parts in order.

The origin can be one of three things:

  • Any of the three absolute ordinal numbers |zaja, kuna and difoja.
  • A cardinal number, indicating an origin based on an absolute scale from first to last.
  • A common noun, which due to semantics or due to context refers to a specific item in a series (it's difficult to give an example here, as about anything can be used as long as context makes it clear that there is a series of ordered items involved).

While the origin is always a nominal, when part of an ordinal number it always appears as a bare stem, with no declension at all.

The ranking direction is indicated by one of two small, invariable particles. Those are |zaj, which indicates backwards counting (towards the first item), and kun, which indicates forwards counting (towards the last item). Those are never added when the origin is |zaja or kuna, since for those the ranking direction is fixed and obvious.

The relative ordinal numbers are an open-ended class of numbers derived from the cardinal numbers by adding the suffix -ano. Since adding that suffix can result in non-obvious derivations, I am showing all the possibilities in the following table:

number Moten
1a sano*
2a egano
3a imano
4a tolano
5a veldano
6a |simano
7a negano
8a uzano
9a e|nekano
10a ge|nano
100a japano
1,000a senano

* This form is not usually used on its own (when used, it simply refers to the same item as the origin), but it is added here to show how numbers ending in -su form their ordinal equivalents.

All numbers end with one of those above, so when you know this table you can derive any ordinal number from any cardinal number. This table also shows that relative ordinal numbers, when written in digits, are indicated by adding a to the digits.

The origin, ranking direction and relative ordinal number are put together in this order. In writing they are separated by spaces, and for purposes of declension they are considered separate, i.e. only the last item takes declension marks and/or functional prefixes (ordinal numbers can decline for number as well as for case and definition). For syntactic purposes though, they are considered a single unit, a single common noun that can also be used as adjective. Here are a few examples of valid ordinal expressions:

|zajea: the first one.

kuna eganeo: the next-to-last one (literally: "the second one from the last").

difoja |zaj veldaneo: the fifth one before the middle one.

sen kun ge|naneo: the 1009th (literally: "the 10th one after 1000. This makes sense because the origin is included in the count: it is considered the first item on the relative scale. There is no "zeroth" rank).

kun eganeo: the next one (literally: "the second one after some unspecified origin").

linan badi |zaj imano: a bird, 3 ranks before a dog (the context should make clear which dog we are talking about, and why animals are being ranked).

|zika difoja negano: a mountain, 7 ranks before or after the middle one (this example shows that even when the origin is indicated, the ranking direction needn't be).

Ka|se umpi |zaja moeganedon juba|si ito: the man comes to the second house (this example illustrates how ordinal numbers are declined).

As you can see, Moten ordinal numbers can be translated in many ways, and often correspond to expressions that are not considered ordinal numbers in English.

Other Numbers

Besides cardinal and ordinal numbers, languages usually have ways to express other types of numeral expressions. The most common ones are:

  • Partitive numbers: basically fractions (in English, those are "half", "third", "quarter", and are often identical to ordinal numbers).
  • Multiplicative numbers: those indicate repetition ("once", "twice", "three times", etc.).
  • Collective numbers: those describe groups or entities composed of several parts ("single", "double", "triple", as well as terms like "pair", "quadruplet", "score", etc.).
  • Distributive numbers: those describe dividing and assigning portions ("in pairs", "by the dozen", "one by one", "three each").

As the examples show, those can be expressed using single words (like English "once") or expressions ("three times"). In any case, it's interesting to know how to express them. However, I will deal with fractions later in this post, and with collective numbers in a future post. For now, let's focus on the multiplicative and distributive numbers.

In the Moten language, multiplicative numbers are easily formed: the genitive case has a temporal sense of frequency, so using it with cardinal numbers gives them a multiplicative meaning. They can appear either with or without the functional prefix di-. So "once" is (di)zvuj, "twice" is (di)vegi, "three times" is (d)imvaj, etc.

Distributive numbers are also easy to form: just use the instrumental prefix ko- with a cardinal number. So kosu means "one by one", koeg means "two by two", kojma means "three each", etc.


Enough about numbers. Let's now focus on a special type of common nouns I like to call "counters".

Counters are common nouns, a priori indistinguishable from other common nouns. They don't have any specific shape or feature that can allow one to recognise them compared to other nouns. They behave exactly like any other noun, except when they are counted. When this happens, instead of the cardinal number becoming an adjective, the number and the noun are merged into a single compound noun, with the number at the beginning and the counter at the end. The resulting compound nouns, when declined, can only take singular affixes, and they cannot take the definite infix, even when they are definite in meaning (if an adjective completes such a noun and is declined, it is declined in the plural and/or takes the definite infix as needed by the meaning of the phrase). Moreover, compounding numbers and nouns together may result in some morphophonemic changes, as usually happens in Moten.

It's impossible to make an exhaustive list of counters, but I'll give here examples of the most common ones:

  • fokez: person. A few examples: sufokez: (the) one person, egvokez: (the) two people, velvokez: (the) five people (I will not show "(the)" any more, but all the following examples can be definite as well as indefinite).
  • sponda: small animal (basically any animal smaller than a human being). A few examples: velzbonda: five small animals, e|neksponda: nine small animals, japususponda: one hundred and one small animals.
  • kit: large animal (basically any animal larger than a human being). A few examples: egit: two large animals, uzagit: eight large animals, getolkit: fourteen large animals.
  • gom: day (more exactly: "the period from sunrise to sunset"). A few examples: egom: two days, |simgom: six days, e|nekom: nine days.
  • dod: evening, night (strictly: "the period from sunset to sunrise"). A few examples: toldod: four nights, uzadod: eight nights, e|nektod: nine nights.
  • jos: part, piece. A few examples: egos: two parts, to|los: four parts, ge|nos: ten parts.
  • zi|sun: degree, (game) point. A few examples: velzi|sun: five degrees, uzazi|sun: eight degrees, japuzi|sun: hundred points.
  • lugen: word. A few examples: tolugen: four words, negelugen: seven words, senlugen: one thousand words.
  • pav: digit. A few examples: supav: one digit, velbav: five digits, uzabav: eight digits.

Also considered a counter, although it is semantically slightly different, is tul: part, piece, fraction. By itself, it's basically a synonym of jos. However, when counted, it forms the fractions (if you want to count parts, jos is the only way). For instance, egdul means "half", toltul means "quarter", and uzadul means "eighth". Those compounds can be counted as well (like any common noun. They are still restricted to declining in the indefinite singular though): eg imatul: (the) two thirds.

This last construction is actually not restricted to tul. Any number-counter compound can be used as a common noun itself and can be counted as well: ima egvokez: (the) three groups of two people.

Counters as Classifiers

If you've studied East Asian languages like Chinese or Japanese, you've probably heard of classifiers, little words that show a conceptual classification of the referent of a noun, and which are used mostly when counting. For instance, in Japanese, numbers cannot quantify nouns by themselves. They must first be combined with a small word before they can complete nouns. For instance, if you want to count cars, you need to add 台 (dai, a classifier for mechanical devices) to the number (so "two cars" is 車二台: kuruma nidai i.e. "car two-classifier").

Well, as it happens, in the Moten language you can optionally use counters in a similar construction. Basically, when you count a non-counter noun, instead of using a plain cardinal number, you can use a compound number-counter as an adjective (the restrictions on declining such a compound are still valid in this use). The only condition is that the counter used must be semantically related to the referent of the noun (and even then, the speaker can play with semantics for reasons of metaphor, joke, insult, etc.). For instance, when counting men, you can use the fokez counter, and say ka|se egvokez rather than eg ka|se for "(the) two men".

While it is an optional construction, it's actually quite commonly used with short numbers, especially to count animate nouns, i.e. nouns referring to people or animals. It's also typically how fractions are used with nouns, as long as the fractions are not themselves completed by a numeral (if they are, the thing counted is put in the genitive case, and the fraction itself becomes the head of the noun phrase). For instance, "half a town" is bazlo egdul, while "two thirds of a town" is bazluvoj eg imatul.

Expressions of Date and Time

Before I start this section, I want to add a small disclaimer: expressing dates is strongly culturally based. Not every culture uses the same calendar, and even those that do do not necessarily give the same names to its constituents. Even time expressions vary widely between languages. As for Moten, you have to remember that it is the native language of an amnesiac, with no recollection of his life before he was found in the countryside of Belgium. As a result of his particular situation (a boy with no recollection of his past except his language), C.G. remembers words he feels are related to the expression of time and dates, but without a clear idea of what they exactly mean. However, he can remember neither words for naming the days of the week (not even a word for "week"), nor words for naming the months of the year (he does remember a word whose meaning seems similar to that of "month", so we decided to use it as such). Nonetheless, C.G. still remembers very well how all those terms are used grammatically. So what we did was collect all the words he could remember that were related to expressions of time, and shoehorn them in the Gregorian calendar (and in the 24-hour system). We also created neologisms for day names and month names. The result is a system he feels is syntactically correct, even if the Moten speakers may actually be using a very different kind of calendar, wherever those people might be.

The shortest units of time are daj: hour, pele: minute and funa: second. They are counters, and can be used to indicate durations:

egdaj: two hours.

velbele: five minutes.

tolpele opa uzavuna: four minutes and eight seconds (opa is a conjunction meaning "and").

They can also be used to indicate the time of day. Time is always indicated using the 24-hour system, and the origin is at midnight (basically, one indicates the time of the day by telling how much time passed since midnight). Hours and minutes are added in that order, and Moten doesn't use expressions like "quarter to" or "half past":

|simdaj: six o'clock (in the morning).

ge|simdaj: four o'clock (in the afternoon).

ge|simdaj (opa) velbele: five past four in the afternoon (opa is optional in this construction).

ge|simdaj (opa) imagenipele: half past four in the afternoon.

ge|simdaj (opa) tolgevelbele: a quarter to five in the afternoon.

In such a system, one needs to be able to express "zero hour", to be able to tell the time between midnight and one o'clock. In Moten, you use the special expression medaj: midnight:

medaj genipele: ten past midnight.

It is a simple compound of the indefinite prefix me-: no, and daj (I'll show in a future post how counters can form compounds with more than just the cardinal numbers). This word, like the number-counter compounds, can only be declined in the indefinite singular. Note however that while daj, pele and funa can be used to indicate both time of day and durations, medaj can only be used to indicate time of day. For durations, the only possible way to indicate "zero hours" is daj memun: no hour.

Time of day is commonly abbreviated using digits. Naturally, when writing in the Moten language it's usually done as well. The way to do it is quite simple, and reminiscent of French: write down the number of hours, followed by d for daj, followed by the number of minutes. If you want to add a number of seconds as well, add p after the minutes, followed by the number of seconds. This is all written without spaces:

15d20: 3:20PM.

0d5p15: 12:05:15AM.

Note that the minutes don't take a leading 0 when written in digits (and are normally totally omitted when they are equal to 0). The same is true of the seconds.

The next expression of time is siza: day. While it is grammatically a counter, siza, unlike gom, cannot (normally) be used to indicate durations. Rather, siza refers to a calendar day, seen as an indivisible unit, and is used only to indicate dates.

As I mentioned before, C.G. cannot remember any native Moten name for the days of the week. Rather than borrowing them from French, we decided to create compounds based on siza to name them. The resulting neologisms are shown in the following list:

  • kelsiza: Monday (kel: moon).
  • a|siza: Tuesday (at: fire).
  • vonesiza: Wednesday (vone: cold water).
  • ibosiza: Thursday (ibo: air).
  • seno|ziza: Friday (senod: earth).
  • apasiza: Saturday (apa: star).
  • emesiza: Sunday (eme: sun).

As for the word "week", we also created a neologism for it: negesizdan (in a future post I'll explain how this one was formed).

Unlike their English equivalents, they are considered common nouns and can take the definite infix (except when used in a date expression, see below).

I already mentioned that siza is a counter, but added that it cannot be used to indicate durations. So what are its combinations with numbers used for? Simply put, they indicate the day of the month. Rather than being numbered using cardinal or ordinal numbers, in Moten the days of the month are numbered using a number-siza compound. For example:

susiza: the 1st of the month.

egziza: the 2nd of the month.

vel|ziza: the 5th of the month.

genisiza: the 10th of the month.

imagesusiza: the 31st of the month.

To translate the concept of "month", we reused the term mune, whose actual meaning C.G. can't remember exactly (he is convinced that this word is used to cut the year in shorter periods of time, so it felt OK to do so). Mune is a counter, and unlike siza can be used for dates as well as for durations. When naming the twelve months of the year, C.G. and I went a bit overboard with our creativity. Not only we allowed the first twelve number compounds with mune to be used as names for the months (from sumune for January to gegmune for December), we also created a second set of month names, using more picturesque compounds that don't all end in mune. Those are:

  • ada|zaj: January (literally "year's beginning", with ada: year and |zaj: beginning).
  • kelemune: February ("winter month", kele: winter).
  • zoba|saj: March ("spring's beginning", zobat: spring).
  • ibomune: April ("air month").
  • zobatmune: May ("spring month").
  • emelogzaj: June ("summer's beginning", with emelog: summer, itself a compound of eme: sun and log: season).
  • ememune: July ("sun month").
  • atmune: August ("fire month").
  • o|nigzaj: September ("autumn's beginning", o|nig: autumn).
  • senodmune: October ("earth month").
  • vonemune: November ("water month").
  • adakun: December ("year's end", kun: end).

Yes, I realise that they're not very inventive. Moreover, they are strongly Northern hemisphere-centric. But then again, C.G. and I were only 15 when we invented them. Grammatically speaking, they are common nouns just like the weekdays, and behave the same way (they can take the definite infix when necessary, except when used as part of a date expression).

The two sets of months names, while nominally interchangeable, are not totally so in actual usage (that's to say, in the way C.G. and I speak the Moten language). Basically, we tend to reserve the use of the numbered months for dates, while the other set is used in other contexts. The exceptions are the months January, March, July and December, for which we almost always use the words ada|zaj, zoba|saj, ememune and adakun, even in dates. Don't ask me why that is, it just evolved naturally from our usage patterns.

Finally, the word for "year", as you saw above, is ada. Like mune, it's a counter, and can be used for dates as well as durations. To name a year, just take its number in the Gregorian calendar, and add ada to it:

sujada: the year 1.

sene|nekapunegege|simada: the year 1976.

egzenge|nada: the year 2010.

Naturally, those compounds can get very long, so it's common to write the year in digits, followed by ada without a space: 1ada, 1976ada, 2010ada.

Now that we have all the elements of a date, actually naming one is easy: just coordinate all those elements together, with an optional opa between any two elements. Element order is similar to what is done with hours: the biggest unit always comes first. In this case, it means the normal order is year, month, day. Abbreviating dates is also similar to what is done with hours: write down the number of years (normally always 4 digits) followed by a, then the number of the month (with no leading 0) followed by m, then the number of the day (without leading 0 either). When the number of the day is used alone, without any indication of month, an s is added to the digits. Here are a few examples:

1976a3m25, sene|nekapunegege|simada (opa) zoba|saj (opa) egevel|ziza: the 25th of March 1976.

9m11, e|nekmune (opa) gesusiza: the 11th of September.

14s, getolsiza: the 14th.

Dates and times of day can be put together simply through coordination. When such an expression is abbreviated, an s is put between the day number and the hour:

1m24s3d10, ada|zaj (opa) egetolsiza (opa) imadaj (opa) genipele: the 24th of January at 3:10AM.

The weekday name can also be added to the date. However, this results in a small change in the way the date is formed: the day number is replaced by a cardinal number (i.e. siza is removed), and the weekday name must follow it directly. It's not allowed to use opa between the day number and the day name:

1m24 emesiza, ada|zaj (opa) egetol emesiza: Sunday the 24th of January.

This example also illustrates how the month names and weekday names don't take the definite infix when they are used in a date, despite being semantically definite in that case.

Degrees of Comparison

After such a long post on numbers and related categories, it's time to call it a day. I want to finish by talking about the degrees of comparison, as this will conclude most of what you need to know about nominals.

The degrees of comparison relate mostly to adjectives, where they modify the intensity by which the quality described by the adjective applies to the completed noun. However, even in English the degrees of comparison can apply to nouns as well, where they have a quantitative rather than qualitative meaning. For instance, you can use "more" with both adjectives ("more interesting") and nouns ("more food", "more apples"). In the Moten language, this is a general truth: since adjectives and nouns are not separate categories of words, the same degrees of comparison can apply to any noun that semantically allows it, whether it's used as head of a phrase or as adjective. Whether their meaning is quantitative rather than qualitative is then only a function of how the noun is used in the sentence.

In English, the degrees of comparison are formed mostly with adverbs (although short adjectives use suffixes like "-er" and "-est" for some forms). In Moten, they are formed exclusively through prefixes and circumfixes. The various affixes and their meanings are:

  • Intensifier/excessive:
    • Prefix pen-: very (much), much, many, a lot (of), too, too much, too many.
    • Prefix len-: not very (much), (a) little, (a) few, too little, too few, not enough.
  • Comparative:
    • Prefix pe-: more, ...-er.
    • Prefix ne-: as, as much, as many.
    • Prefix le-: less, fewer.
  • Superlative:
    • Circumfix pe- -no: (the) most, (the) ...-est.
    • Circumfix le- -no: (the) least, (the) fewest.

Naturally, those affixes trigger specific morphophonemic rules:

  • The e of the prefixes pe-, ne- and le- behaves exactly like the definite infix -e-.
  • The n of the suffix -no behaves like the accusative suffix -n, although the presence of a following vowel means that u needn't be inserted as often as with -n.
  • The n of the prefixes pen- and len- also behaves like the n of the suffix -no, but of course only when preceding rather than when following a consonant.

When added to nominals, those affixes bind tighter than the functional prefixes, but less tight than the case affixes. In other words, the order in which affixes are added to a nominal stem is: (functional prefix) (degree of comparison prefix) stem (with possible infix) (case suffix) (degree of comparison suffix). Here are a few examples to illustrate the use of those affixes:

Koba umpi pepludegun ige: you have a smaller house (pleg: smallness, agem: to have. Notice how the subject is marked with the functional prefix ko-, indicating the subject didn't actively choose to own a smaller house).

Kolenvone zunla luden izu|lebi ige: (I) clean this place up with a little water (Actually, as it stands, it could also mean: "a little water cleans this place up". This sentence will make more sense once I've written the next post on Moten. For now, just know that izu|lebi: "to become clean" is an intransitive verb, and that using the auxiliary agem rather than atom makes intransitive verbs transitive).

fokez peodejuno: the youngest person.

You might have noticed that I call the pen- and len- prefixes both intensifier and excessive. Indeed, depending on context, penodun can both mean "very young" or "too young". It might seem strange not to make such a distinction, but it's not unknown (Modern Greek doesn't make that distinction either).

In English, you can modify the comparative of equality with multiplicative numbers ("twice as tall") or fractions ("half as bad"). The possibility exists in Moten too, except that only multiplicative numbers can be used, and only the comparatives of superiority and inferiority can be modified by them (never use a multiplicative number with a comparative of equality in Moten, it's just incorrect). Since the multiplicative numbers are simply the cardinal numbers in the genitive case, they can modify nominals without a problem, and are placed in front of them:

imvaj pebontu: three times as slow (literally "three times slower", with bontu: slow).

vegi lelinsan: half as many birds (literally "twice fewer birds").

In English, it's possible to intensify or limit further the meaning of the degrees of comparison. For instance, one can say "a little more water", "much less time", "very very big" or "very big indeed", and in a more limited fashion "the very best". The Moten language allows equivalent constructions: the prefixes pen- and len- can be added to nominals that already feature degree of comparison affixes. However, this is restricted to the intensifier and the comparative. You can't form expressions like "the very best" in Moten (at least not this way). Here are a few examples:

lenpevone: a little more water.

penpenodun: very very young (or: "very young indeed").

When you use the degrees of comparison, you usually want to indicate what you are comparing something to (for instance, you want to say "he is taller than his father", "she's the prettiest of them all"). Unfortunately, to form such complements in Moten you need to know about grammatical structures that I haven't introduced yet. Since those structures can't be explained in a few lines, and would only confuse you right now, I won't explain how to form the complements of comparison yet. I'll come back to them in a future post.

What's Next

OK, I guess I have to apologise again: this post's ended up as long, if not longer, than the previous one. On the bright side, this concludes our trip through the morphology and syntax of nominals. Next time, I'll finally show you everything you need to know about the Moten verbs, and I will spend some time explaining the syntax of independent clauses. I won't promise that the next post will be shorter than this one. However, at the end of it you should be able to form simple sentences, so reading it shouldn't be in vain.

Once again, if you have any remark, comment or question, don't hesitate to use the comments to express yourselves. Your input is more than welcome.

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