Grammar of the D'ni Language
The grammar of the D'ni language is in some respects incomplete, but we know enough of it thus far to speak and write sentences and phrases that would be fully intelligible to a native D'ni speaker (if such a thing existed).
The intent of this document is to provide a basic reference on the grammar of D'ni. This isn't a lesson on how to speak it; there are plenty of other resources on the Internet if that is your aim. Some linguistics jargon is used here, but the aim is to provide a reference that anyone can pick up and use if necessary.
As a convention, the so-called "Old Standard" is used here for transliteration of D'ni characters. Note also that throughout this document, when transliterating D'ni to Latin characters, words are conventionally written in lowercase. The reasoning for this is that the D'ni alphabet itself does not distinguish between upper- and lowercase characters. Additionally, it is highly recommended that you have a D'ni font installed to properly view it.
Word Order and Punctuation
Articles and Plural Nouns
Changing Parts of Speech
Indicating To What Extent
Properties of Prepositions, Articles, and Conjunctions
In general, adjectives are placed after the nouns they modify (e.g., bishtah pahrah, great tunnel), and they are ordered in terms of "importance" in modification of the given noun.
However, compounds that are formed through the use of adjectives and nouns generally place the adjective first; e.g., gahro hevtee, the "Mighty Words" of Age Writing.
Compound nouns are formed as one would expect: for example, telooknahvah, which is "Surveyors' Guildmaster.".
Punctuation does not terminate a sentence; instead, it is placed at the beginning of a sentence to indicate its start. The character which indicates this is the . character.
D'ni is an inflected language in terms of its verb structure. Verbs are conjugated to indicate tense by the use of adding prefixes to the stem of the verb. Number and person are indicated using suffixes, much like many Romance languages.
The stem of the verb, without affixes, is also the first person singular conjugation.
The suffixes for inflecting a verb for number and person are as follows:
< None > -- First person singular (I)
em - em - Second person singular (you)
en - en - Third person singular (he/she/it)
et - et - First person plural (we)
tE - tee - Second person plural (you/"you all")
Et - eet - Third person plural (they)
The infinitive is formed by prefixing the contracted preposition b' (to) onto the verb.
Example: b'rEs; b'rees, to eat
rees - I eat
reesem - You eat
reesen - He/She/It eats
reeset - We eat
reestee - You all eat
reeseet - They eat
To indicate that the verb carries the intent of being a command (i.e., the imperative mood), use the suffix ah (a). This suffix is used with verbs that have been inflected for person and number. For example, reesemah.
Verbs are also inflected for tense and aspect. The prefixes to do so are as follows:
Ko - ko - past tense
Kol - kol - past perfect tense
KoDo - kodo - past progressive tense
le - le - perfect (completed) tense
Do - do - progressive tense
bo - bo - future tense
boKo - boko - future perfect tense
boDol - bodol - future perfect progressive tense
boDo - bodo - future progressive tense
Note how the more complex forms are composed from the smaller component forms.
For an example, let us go back to b'rees, to eat:
korees - I ate
kolrees - I had eaten
kodohrees - I was eating
lerees - I have eaten
dorees - I am eating
borees - I will eat
bokorees - I will have eaten
bodolrees - I will have been eating
bodorees - I will be eating
D'ni, in general, only has pronouns for the objective cases; i.e., for the accusative and dative cases. These pronouns are as follows:
zU - zoo - me
Sem - shem - you
ta - tah - him/her/it
set - set - us
SemtE - shemtee - you (plural form)
Est - eest - them
An additional note: The particle ah is often prefixed onto or placed ahead of the direct object of the verb. It is a marker that indicates the direct object of a transitive verb. For example: tagemah b'zoo ahrekor, "Give me the book!".
Forming the possessive of a noun, or its genitive, is as simple as tacking a suffix onto the end of the noun. The only suffix that has not been confirmed or seen "in the wild" is that of the second-person plural; either it is the same as the singular or has an entirely different form.
O - oy - my/mine
om - om - your/yours
on - on - his/hers/its
ot - ot - our/ours
(?) - (?) - your/yours (Plural)
os - os - their/theirs
The three articles a, an, and the are represented in the D'ni language by two words that generally serve as noun prefixes:
re - re - the
erT - erth - a/an
The plural of a noun is formed by placing the suffix -tee (tE) at the end of the noun; for example, hev is a single word, while hevtee is multiple words. Note that the objective case pronoun shemtee is simply the plural of shem.
The prepositions are usually used as prefixes placed on the object of the preposition. They come in three forms: unattached, contracted and attached, and attached. An example follows this listing, which shows the full, uncontracted form of each preposition.
be - be -- to
fe - fe -- upon
ke - khe -- for
me - me -- out of, of
ne - ne -- around
te - te -- by/an/at/with
Now, for an example, let us use the word kor, book. Now, "upon the book" can be written four ways:
The third representation would be incorrect. Why? Because, when written as "fe", it is no longer a prefix, it's a standalone word.
The first representation may be correct, but it hasn't been seen in actual use. It'd most likely be the "formal" usage.
The second and fourth representations -- these are more widely used. However, the fourth representation is what's seen most often. One could safely say that this is the "correct" way to write the phrase.
Also, the preposition is often not prefixed when the word does not have an article prefixed onto it.
The word of actually has three representations. The aforementioned te indicates cause and effect or position. Okh (ok) is a word that indicates possession. It can also be used as a suffix, but only when there isn't a modifier between the possessor and okh. Finally, there is tso (xo). This form of of indicates a property or characteristic of an object.
Changing a word from one part of speech to another requires the placement of a suffix on the word root.
tav - tahv - changes it to a noun, i.e., a gerund.
tan - tahn - changes the verb to a noun which performs the action indicated by the verb
al - ahl - creates the present participle, creating an adjective form
ij - ij - creates the past participle, creating an adjective form
ex - ets -- changes it to an adjective
T - th -- changes it to a noun
S - sh -- changes it to an adverb
Note that when using -sh or -th with words that end in a consonant, prefix e onto the suffix such that they become -esh and -eth.
Unlike in English, adverbs are not used to indicate "to what extent" that something is felt in D'ni. Rather, a "numeric" expression is used instead.
The formula is b' + a number. b' means to as indicated above. b'fa(b'fah) means "the least, " or, "to one." b'fahsee is the greatest extent, which means "to twenty-five."
These three types of words can do some pretty interesting things in relation to contracting, prefixing, etc. Here's a short discussion.
When placed in front of re (The), the contracted prepositions (b', f', etc.) are usually attached to the word. Therefore, "to the" becomes bre. Note that there is no apostrophe between the prefix and re. Also, tso is usually used on its own as a word, but in specific cases it can be prefixed onto its object. Example: stofah (Yes, I know that it is spelled wrong, but this is the only example I have found where this appears).
re can be used in different ways, as well. On the Cyan site, you may have seen the word r'erem - The Skill. This shows that re can be contracted as well - if it is truly necessary to do so; it seems to be done if the word starts with e. erth (A/An) can be separated from the noun with an apostrophe or it can be left out.
gah is the only known conjunction; it means "and". It is generally used in place of the comma, prefixed onto the word following it. Take the end of the text on the map that describes the "Small and winged creature, " for instance:
.rehevo kroen gahreesen gahederen....
The swarm moves [and] eats [and] sleeps...
gah can be prefixed onto the word following it in writing. Also, it has been seen as a contracted prefix when in front of the word re - gah re becomes gre.