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13. Tenata by Lila Sadkin

Texts | Grammar and Lexicon
Previous (Jeff Burke, Proto Central Mountain) | Next (George Baker, Esperanto)
Alternate Translation (Zack Hart, Gomain)



Sofol tipílifping lopóxomping wafe luces. Sosel rulésuneci losènyujésenlu waxotipwe jistus. Tika sosel ruflínimici ficúnyinlumix watife, tika solèfimcúnyinimi rupílifici watife: "Kili! Sonec rukíliping ximstetipwe. Sopine mupwísalaxami rutími qapwe pinetus."

Sosel fipine ruwèlakèlifutinlínyungci waxotife jistus: "Socúnyinimi rupílifici ngepwe? Lutom!"

Sofol: "Pinetus, socúnyinimi rupílifici, jen lisusimu sopine tingótesami rutju waxotife slatus."

Tin sosel fifol rulínyunguping waxotife: "Sonafi rutjásimimitetil ngepwe?"

"Sonec runyàfatúnolci ngenectipwe?" Sopine rupílifici wanectife slatus, simu sonec rupséngamaci wanectife nectus."

Socùnyinicánkwaci ruxúrinyici fisel wamosfe, niwa sosel rucúnyinimi tiféxosoci kajésenlu wafoloxotife. Kacùlolétamimi, socúnyinimi fisel rupílifici qaseltipwe jistus.
  Smooth English

"The Speaking Stone"

It spoke a long time ago, or so they say. I was walking down at the lake. As I kicked a stone, that living stone spoke.

"Stop! You stop. I do not enjoy that."

I picked it up and asked, "Stones speak? That's not true!"

"It's true, stones speak, but only if I remember it."

And I asked, "How do you live?"

"You are able to listen? I will speak if you agree."

The stone's words happened to make me angry, so I threw the stone into the lake. After that time, stones don't speak to me.
Smooth English Translation of the Proto Central Mountain Text

"The Stone Speaks"

It spoke a long time ago. I walked down at the lake. As I kicked a stone, it spoke. "Stop! I do not like that!" I took hold of it and asked, "Stones speak?" It said, "Yes, stones speak, but I speak only if I remember it." And I asked it, "How do you live your life?" It said, "Will you listen? If you agree I will tell." The words of the stone made me angry, so I threw the stone into the lake. Since then, stones do not speak to me.


Grammar and Lexicon

  • Roots:
    • pilif — speak
    • cunyin — stone
    • poxom — long ago
    • lesune — walk
    • senyu — down
    • jesen — lake
    • flinim — kick
    • kili — stop
    • pwisal — enjoy
    • wela - hand
    • kelifu — lift
    • linyung — question
    • ngotesa — remember
    • tjasim — life
    • nyafa — ability
    • tunol — hear
    • psengam — agree
    • can — word
    • xuriny — anger
    • fexos — throw
    • culo — after
    • letam — time

A root must be preceeded by a function prefix and must be followed by at least one categorical suffix.

  • Function Prefixes:
    • so — actor
    • ti — action
    • ru — recipient/object of action
    • fi — benefactor or malefactor of action
    • lo — location of action (static, action begins and ends here)
    • ka — direction of action (dynamic, this is where the action ends up)
    • mu — auxiliary

Function prefixes work like case, indicating the function that the root serves in the sentence.

The prefix ru- takes special treatment. It can indicate the action in a sentence, especially when there is another word with -fi. In this case, the sentence is closer to one in English that uses "give" or "have." Example: English: 'I give X to Y.' or 'I give Y X.' Tenata: 'I ruX fiY.' "I water the plant." would be translated into Tenata as "I give the plant water." but of course this sounds kind of awkward in English in certain cases.

  • Categorical Suffixes:
    • mi — living
    • ci — human
    • lu — nature
    • ping — event
    • kwa — possession

Categorical suffixes further define the root. A root can take any semantically-relevant categorical suffix, and they can be combined.

Verbal Incflectional Particles:

Verbal inflection forms a separate word, the penultimate or final word in a sentence or clause. They consist of two parts, mood and aspect. There is no tense; time is understood through context.

  • Mood:
    • wa — indicative
    • xim — hortative
    • nge — interrogative
    • qa — negative

Mood is the first part of the verbal incflection word.

  • Aspect:
    • xo — for one's own benefit
    • ste — for another's benefit
    • ti — intentional
    • mos — incidental
    • fe — perfective
    • pwe — imperfective

Aspect appears after mood. One from each group can be used and they appear in this order.

Validity Statements:

A validity statement usually appears at the end of a sentence. It consists of two parts, person and truth, and indicates that person's belief about the truth of the statement. It can be omitted if it is the same as in previous sentences.

  • Persons:
    • sla — the speaker
    • jis — the subject of the sentence
    • lu — as common knowledge
  • Truth:
    • tus — true
    • ces — unknown
    • tom — false

The proroots can also be used in place of the persons in a validity statement.


  • Human:
    • sel — I
    • nec — you
    • tju — she, he, it
    • timi — that
  • Nonhuman (living):
    • pina — I
    • nafi — you
    • fol — it
    • lefim — this

Proroots take a functional prefix but do not need to take categorical suffixes. They can also be used in place of -xo- or -ste- in the verbal inflection to indicate whom the action benefited.

  • Conjunctions:
    • tika — when/as
    • lisu — only
    • simu — if
    • tin — and
    • niwa — so
    • jen — but
  • Information Question Suffix:
    • tetil — how

Reversal Suffix:

The reversal suffix, -x-, can follow anything to indicate a reversal or opposite of its original meaning. For example, the categorical suffix -ci means 'human,' while -cix means 'not human.'

Conjunctions can appear between two roots, or they can stand alone, linking clauses.

Compounding is common in Tenata. A compound word is either a root with a modifier, with the modifier preceeding the root, or a possessed root, with the possessor preceeding the possessed, which is followed by the categorical suffix -kwa to indicate possession.

A typical Tenata sentence has three kinds of words:

  • Functional Prefix + Root + Categorical Suffix
  • Mood + Aspect
  • Validity Statement

They usually appear in this order, though this is malleable.

The accent marks on the vowels in the text mark stress, ´ for primary stress and ` for secondary stress.

Two quick phonological notes:

  • /q/: uvular stop
  • /f/: bilabial fricative
  • /c/: palatal fricative
  • /x/: velar fricative
  • /ny/: palatal nasal
  • /j/: palatal glide

When disallowed consonant clusters appear at morpheme boundaries, the preceeding vowel is reduplicated to separate the morphemes. Example: jesen 'lake' -mi 'living' *jesenmi jesenemi 'lake-living' Essentially, any "spare vowels" can be effectively ignored. All roots and affixes begin with a consonant.

A Note on Translating Validity Statements:

A sentence that has a validity statement with -tus, 'true,' at the end of the statement can be considered ordinary and unmarked. If the validity statement appears in a different position, or if it doesn't use 'true,' it's a more marked form and has more semantic significance.

Previous (Jeff Burke, Proto Central Mountain) | Next (George Baker, Esperanto)
Alternate Translation (Zack Hart, Gomain)

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