SENNAN GRAMMAR


1. VERBS

Verbs are generally the first parts of sentences, as Sennan usually follows verb-subject-object word order. So I'm starting with them!

The bare, uninflected form of a verb is not actually used in Sennan, but still exists. They are said to be used in the speech of the gods, and their only use to mortals is for philsophical contemplation. For example, one doesn't tell someone else to "go" or "leave", they will say "be gone", or "you must leave". Context (inflection) brings abstracts into the world.

1.1. TIME-RELATIONAL

From: no "be", and sa "me/I"

Uninflected "[it] is" no'on
Present perfect "I am" nosa
Present continuous "being" no'onode
Past perfect "has been" u no
Future perfect "will be" o no

1.2. SPEAKER-RELATIONAL

From: oaco "to reside/live in", avo "they", -du subject identifier, cnuco "house", -se object identifier

Affirmative "They will live in the house" o oacoavodu a'cnucose
Conditional "If they live in the house" oacomeavodu a'cnucose
Causative "They live in the house due to it" oacomobavodu a'cnucose
Presumptive "They likely live in the house" oacomaavodu a'cnucose
Potential "They might live in the house" oacominavodu

1.3. CONDITIONALS

Conditionals describe events that are true under specified circumstnaces.

And "I work and I am tired." tegosadu cu boandosadu.
Because "I am tired because of it." boandomobsadu.
And then "I work and then I am tired." tegosadu cu noat boanosadu.
If/then "If I work, then I am tired." motegosadu, moboanosadu.
Neither/nor "I neither work, nor am tired." neboanosadu, nenosadu.
Either/or "I either work or am tired." bategosadu baboanosadu.

1.3.1. Counterfactuals

Counterfactuals are marked in English by use of a false past tense to describe a hypothetical scenario, and are closely related to conditionals. Counterfactuals in Sennan do not make use of past tense (ie. "If it were to X...") or any verbs at all, but rather absolutive noun cases (ie. "If there is X...")

For example: the English conditional statement "if we work, the we will be tired" becomes the counterfactual statement: "if we had worked, then we would be tired". In Sennan, this would be phrased: "if there is work, then there is tiredness". The structure is similar to the English idiom "where there's a will, there's a way".

1.3. PAST TENSE

"I was" and "I have been" are the same - there is only a single form of past tense in Sennan.

From: ios "see", aun "we", es "she"

"We saw her" u ioaun esdu [past] see we her[obj.]

To specify when/how in the past the action was, other context needs to be provided. In Sennan, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous forms of verbs, as well as most forms of passive voice don't exist while leaving the subject intact. For instance: "we had been seeing her" would need to be phrased in simple past tense as "we saw her", or provide more information such as "we saw her many times".

"I see her often" ioaun esdu coreba I see her[obj.] repeating[dative plural]

(How this is phrased depends on context; if the action being described is still in progress, its continual nature can be explained by contextualizing that progress. Hence dative additions like "occasionally" or "once per year".)

1.4. PARTICIPLES

In English, participles are verbs used as adjectives: for example, a galloping horse, or a standing stone. Though identical to their usual verb forms, placement within the sentence identifies them as modifiers of nouns.

Sennan has separate verb forms that are used for this purpose.

"The man was tired": u noan bonde
"The tired man": um bondandu
"The man tired": i'andu u bondo

"The woman is working": noes tegode
"The working woman": un tegesdu
"The woman works": i'esdu tego

1.5. CONCRETE vs. ABSTRACT

There are also two infinitive verb forms. -on indicates an active, physical verb, like "to kick", while -os indicates a passive or abstract verb, like "to wonder".

This can also be used to manipulate the meanings of words. For example, "to grasp an idea" would be i'voiundu otsucos, while "to grasp a sword" would be i'orotsatdu otsucon. Other subtleties can be achieved with this, namely insult and sarcasm. "To help" would normally be benemon, but to reference poor or ineffectual assistance, one might instead say benemos. The latter has a distinctly "sounds better on paper" subtext.


2. NOUNS

ex: AVO [singular they]

Nominative avodu "they"
Accusative avodan "them"

Possessive: ------ avoiu/avoio -- "their [arm]"/"their [drink]"
Partitive: ------- avogio ------- "[part] of them"
Origin: ---------- avogan ------- "they of [location]"
Dative: ---------- avogo -------- "to them"

2.1. SINGULAR AND PLURAL

ex: SUM ["day"]

Singulative: ----- sum ----------- "[one]day"
Plural: ---------- sumi ---------- "days"
Collective: ------ sumiun -------- "days [together in a group]"
Dual: ------------ sumieto ------- "two days"
Trial: ----------- sumuambe ------ "three days"

The Three Gods: Oa`Naiorambe

2.2. ARTICLES

Demonstrative (speaker): --------- iomi`- ---- "this"
Demonstrative (listener): -------- iomu`- ---- "that"
Definite: ------------------------ a`- ------- "the"
Indefinite: ---------------------- i`- ------- "a"/"an"
Unknown: ------------------------- ne`- ------ "some-" (as in "somebody", "someplace"; can also imply otherness/something removed from its original context: a "someperson" can reference both a stranger or an unidentified corpse)


3. PRONOUNS

3.1. GRAMMATICAL PERSON

1st PERSON

I/my: ------------------------------- sa/-sa-

2nd PERSON

you/ your: -------------------------- to/-to(r)-
You/Your: --------------------------- teuo/-teu(o)-

3rd PERSON

By gender:
He/his: ----------------------------- an/-an-
She/her: ---------------------------- es/-(o)es-
They/their (sing., ambiguous): ------ av/-av(o)-
They/their (sing., intersex): ------- ne/-nen-
It/its (sing., inanimate): ---------- tin/-tin-
They/their (pl. inanimate): --------- titin/-titi-

By class/job:
Magic worker/clergy: ---------------- be/-be(c)-
Artisan: ---------------------------- eue/-eue(n)-
Warrior: ---------------------------- som/-som(o)-

By race:
Faithful: --------------------------- moca/-moc(a)-
Spirits: ---------------------------- aon/-ao(n)-

By group:
We/our: ----------------------------- sae/-sae/sai-
They/their: ------------------------- aran/-(a)ran-

4th PERSON/OBVIATIVE

Append -te(n)- to any third-person pronouns

ex: "They went and spoke to them."
---- er rante u no cu u seno randu
---- [to them[obj, 4th] went and spoke they[sub, 3rd]]

ZERO PERSON

Add va, ``it is`` at the end of the clause

REFLEXIVE

-self: ----------------------------- -des
-Self: ----------------------------- -(e)nden


4. ADJECTIVES/ADVERBS

Adverbs and adjectives are treated as a single grammatical category and all end in -de.

Tall ------------ satde (`fastly`)

"The plant is tall": satde solandu va (informal: `fastly [the]car [it is]`) - noti satde a`solandu (formal: `it is fastly the car`)

"The red car": imode solandu (informal: `redly [the]car`) - noti imode a`solandu (formal: `it is redly the car`])

"The red car goes fast": olo satde imode solandu (informal: `goes fastly redly the car` ) - oloti imode satde a`solandu (formal: `it goes fastly redly the car`)

If it is established that a specific car is being referenced, `solandu` can be left out entirely in informal speech. Words modifying verbs directly follow the action, and words modifying nouns come before.

4.1. ADJECTIVE MODIFICATIONS

We modify adjectives to elaborate on the strength and nature of the adjective. For instance, "fast", "faster", and "fastest". In English, we make use of other words to modify adjectives ad adverbs as well, such as "very" or "less".

Humorous ------------------ dnande

Un-: ---------------------- nudnande ('unfunny')
-less: -------------------- iudnande ('humorless')
-ful: --------------------- iildnande ('humorful'/'very funny')
Possibility: -------------- ocidnande ('humorable')
-philic/-phobic: ---------- miednande/otodnande
Weak/Strong: -------------- eendnande/dndnande ('sorta funny'/'very funny')

To make an adjective strong in Sennan, simply repeat the first syllable one extra time at the beginning of the word. Of course, in slang, the first syllable can get repeated as many times as the speaker wants in order to emphasize the strength of the adjective. ("Dndndndndndnande!", for example. It's impossible to take this sort of thing too seriously, though.)


5. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

5.1. WORD CONSTRUCTION

Sennan is, generally, a synthetic language, which means that it generates grammatical units by sticking several elements together to make individual words. English, on the other hand, is an analytical language, which means has lots of separate, usually short, words to construct grammatical meaning.

Sennan has lots of analytical and inflectional elements and is therefore not highly synthetic, and doesn’t typically create long, complex words. (Unlike languages like Nahuatl, which can create words that translate to entire sentences complete with subjects, objects, adjectives, and verbs.)

However, some complexity is normal, and one will need to learn how to tease these words apart in order to be able to understand their meaning. Generally, verbs and nouns are the most complex, with nouns inflecting for number, person, and relation, while verbs are inflected for tense, person, and gender.

Most of these units will themselves be very simple sentences with a noun and a verb. For instance, cnosa means “I’m here”, or nudeieue means “the artisan doesn’t fight”. But there’s far more parts of speech that need to be juggled and identified than that!

5.1.1 Case: Subject and Object

Word order is very rarely fixed in Sennan (see section 5.2.4 for the primary exception.) In English, subject and object are often identified by sentence structure and pronoun forms: “I help Alex” vs. “Alex helps me”. Even if we eliminate pronouns and only use names, word order dictates what is happening to who: “Sky helps River” vs. “River helps Sky”.

Sennan, however, often makes use of identifying suffixes for subject and object:

-du  subject
-se  object

So in Sennan, one can say “Sky-du nerenavo River-se” or “River-se nerenavo Sky-du” and have them both mean “Sky helps River”.

They’re used to define clauses as well. “River knows me, but Sky does not know me” can become:

In a redundant sentence like this, one can even leave out the second object altogether, similar to “River knows me, but Sky doesn’t”:

5.1.2. Indirect Object

Indirect objects are marked as neither subjects nor objects and sometimes even possess the “zero article”, va. Indirect objects must always be possessed or accompanied by an article, such as a'- "the", or ian'- "all".

5.1.3. Agent and Recipient Nouns

Agent and recipient nouns are marked by the same subject/object identifiers. Because subjects are often agents and recipients are often objects, a word like otaiadu means both “one who hunts [SUBJ]” in the generic sense, but also “hunter” as an agentive noun, while otaiase means “one who is hunted” or more simply "the object of the hunt".

In specific situations, most notably where subject/object roles are semantically but not grammatically reversed, both identifiers are used. For instance, to translate “the hunted becomes the hunter” you would say:

-Duse combines both subject/object identifiers, but it’s the final suffix -se that conveys its place in the sentence, while still maintaining “the hunted”, a’otaiase, as the grammatical subject. Likewise, -sedu makes the recipient noun the subject.

5.1.4. Politeness

Sennan doesn’t place an enormous emphasis on politeness – specificity is considered the better social ideal. (This is why there are so many different kinds of articles and pronouns.)

That said, politeness exists, and it’s sometimes warranted. Here are the three rules around politeness:

5.2. DECONSTRUCTION

The only good way to start getting a feel for how to deconstruct an inflected word is to take a look at how its done. Here are some examples and how they break apart into their constituent components.

5.2.1. "She will possibly not be buying very much."

toton[it] buys

totoesshe buys

o totoesshe will be buying

o nutotoesshe will not be buying

o nuocitotoesshe will possibly not be buying

o nuocitototoesshe will possibly not be buying very much

Broken down:

[o] [nu][oci][to][toto][es]

o: future perfect verb inflection
nu-: "negative" prefix
-oci-: "possibility" prefix
-to-toto-: reduplicative itensifier prefix (functionally the adverb "much") + root verb
-es female third-person singular inflection

5.2.2. "The soldier was busy at their station."

sodon[it] it is busy/working

sodosomthe soldier is busy

u sodosomthe soldier was busy

u sodosom ioithe soldier was busy at

u sodosom ioi somo'io iandanthe soldier was busy at their station

6. A Note on Divinities

7. Pronunciation

I’ve tried to keep orthography as simple and uncluttered as possible! No fancy diacritics, weird IPA symbols, or other marks that would be difficult for the English-speaker to parse. I’ve also kept vowel notation just as streamlined as it is in written Sennan to make for easier reading.

7.1. Consonants

Consonants in Sennan are pretty much what they say on the tin.

Consonants don’t create diphthongs when next to each other, and their individual sounds are intended to be preserved, even if that means adding an ejective “space” between two consonants. For instance, with cno’on, beware the tendency to turn /kn/ into /gn/. Sharpen the /k’/ to keep it separate from the /n/.

7.2. Vowels

Reading vowels is a bit harder. Consider iii for instance: this is pronounced ee-yee. Likewise, uu is woo. (Uuu or oowoo is not really permissible.) Though not a real word, it can be useful to practice with clusters of sounds like aioiaouue, which would be pronounced eye-oy-ow-oo-weh.

7.2.1. "I"

The Sennan "i" plays double duty. Not only is it /i/, but it's also /j/. In written Sennan, /j/ is indicated with a diacritic mark (·) that can appear above or below other letters that it modifies. So for instance, iii would typically be written with the /j/ diacritic above the vowel in the syllable it participates in. So i-yi is correct while iy-i isn't.

The sounds it creates are:

Unless followed by another vowel, two ii will always produce "yi", never "iy".

7.2.2. "U"

The "u" also plays double duty, as both /u/ and /w/. In writing, the /w/ sound is marked with a (-) diacritic in the same way as /j/. It also follows the same rules of pronounciation: uu will always be "wu" and never "uw".

The sounds it creates are a little more limited due to phonetic rules:

The reason au makes "aw" is because "ow" is written ao.

eu and ou are not permitted sounds and do not appear in Sennan. However, iiu, "ee-yu", and ouu, "o-yu" are allowed.

7.2.3. Length

Sennan, you'll note, is written with two "n"s - this indicates that the "n" is to be pronounced twice as long as usual. So instead of, say, the /n/ in the word "tuna", it would be more like "penknife", or /nː/.

Notation for long consonants, though not common, is written by simply doubling the letter in both Sennan and English translation. Because English pronounces some double vowels as a completely different sound altogether, oo and ee, specifically, are written as "e'e" and "o'o". A very slight /j/ or /w/ sound is permitted while pronouncing these long vowels. aa is not part of modern Sennan, and only appears in a few very old words or place names.

7.2.4. Permitted and Prohibited Sounds

There are a few phonetic rules that Sennan follows that you'll notice just by looking at the wordlist. For instance, "r" and "l" are rare consonants, and are only allowed to appear between vowels in the middle of words. "R" has some very rare exceptions, Aogaur's name being one of them! "V" is another rare consonant, and only appears at the beginning of the particle va. Here's a brief guide on how to put words together to make sure they follow the phonetic rules.

However, let's be real... Sennan is a language made for a comic and was never truly meant to be spoken by anybody! So however you want to pronounce the consonants is fine by me.