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7. Sabasasaj by Alex Fink

Texts | Grammar | Vocabulary
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Khukadaltaih jambu gi igu khulinsin, pagih luasuuta withjaumuh sabi ir.
Ausuuuil, mimiuriai withjaumuh sabi ir.
Puanaa talas tuhiuni, mimiuriai withjaumuh sabi ir.
Danta bathainnu ba liwdau kharapaphinus mu mia thiiuni, withjaumuh sabi ir.
  Smooth English

I sit by the side of the stormy sea, whose broken-to-pieces waves have gone away.
There is some good in this, that the wilful waves have gone away.
All of this was my dream, that the wilful waves have gone away.
Overcome with emotion, I mean to see it again one last time, that the waves have gone away.



There are some (morpho)phonological alternations to watch out for; these are the ones the romanisation reflects.

  • Intervocalic voicing: at many junctures, _p t k_ become _b d g_ between vowels.
  • Coda lenition: _p(h) t(h) k(h) b d g_ become _s s h w r j_ in a coda.
  • Aspirate dissimilation: when two of _ph th kh h_ appear as successive consonants the former becomes _p t k 0_.
  • /s/ absorption: _sp st sk_ can become _ph th kh_.

The syntax of Sabasasaj is throughgoingly head-final. Verbs and nouns follow their arguments (and the distinction between the two classes is thin); adpositions are postpositions; determiners follow their complements.

The arguments of a verb or noun may be nouns or nominalized verbs or pronouns, or finite verbs; in the last case the interpretation can be context-dependent, though often it's clear. There are no pure morphological markers of subordination.

Explicit arguments need never appear. When they do appear, they're taken as referring to participants which receive third person agreement markers. The particle _mu_ following an argument means it instead refers to a first or second person participant (or one marked by a nominaliser, but that's not the case in this text).

Parts of a clause can be right-dislocated for focus. In this particular text it's somewhat unclear whether certain clause combinations are results of focus dislocation or simply two successive clauses in parataxis.

All verbal stems are bipartite. In the lexicon I list the two parts separated by a hyphen. The shape of the verbal complex, which is often more than one word as written, depends on its tense/aspect category. Both the main categories, continuous and perfect, appear here.

In the continuous, a verb entered in the lexicon as c1-c2 looks like [particles] [preverb]-c1-[directional]-agreement-c2

In the perfect it instead looks like [perfect marker]-c2 [particles] [preverb]-c1-[directional]-agreement

As a non-final verb in a serial construction c2 is omitted altogether: [particles] [preverb]-c1-[directional]-agreement. Two verbs in a serial construction are to be taken as describing the same event.

Spaces correspond to orthographic spaces, hyphens mean there's no space.

The particles, preverbs, directionals, and perfect markers all appear in the lexicon below.

Preverbs serve to classify or specify either an argument of the verb or an adjunct of some sort, especially a body part instrument.

Directionals esseitially serve to spatially ground an action or state, i.e. provide a path or location. The inward _s(a)_ and outward _i_ directionals sometimes amount, respectively, to first and second person recipient or goal. They also have more metaphorical uses, some of which I haven't decomposed.

There is a selection of perfect markers with different semantics as well.

There are two core grammatical relations, the subject and object. Both are entirely head-marked, i.e. shown by the verb; nouns do not inflect for case. Among transitives, the general rule lining up grammatical with semantic relations is:

If the more prototypically animate participant (the A) is an agent, respectively an experiencer, it gets subject, respectively object, marking, and the other participant (the O) gets the other marking.

As for intransitives, the alignment is underlyingly split-S -- if the S is controlling it is the subject, otherwise the object. However, this pattern is obscured by intransitive uses of transitive verbs in which one argument is dropped; such dropping, of any one argument of a transitive verb, can happen freely. When an argument is dropped the grammatical relation of the surviving argument remains the same.

Agreement morphemes occur in the order [subject]-[object]. I've only tabulated the person/number/class combinations that occur in the text. Parenthesised material only appears where demanded by rules of syllable structure.

3sg inan.ud(a)

An agreement marker must appear for every core argument of the verb, whether or not these arguments are expressed again elsewhere in the clause. In the event that there's no subject and a first or second person object, the nom slot is filled with an _i_ (to distinguish this from the case of no object and a 1 or 2 subject). Certain verbs specify their own material instead of this _i_. This is the material that appears in brackets in the lexicon (eg. a verb with first component _khu[l|di]_ is _khul_ normally but _khudi_ with a 1 or 2 obj and no subj).

The nominaliser only takes the form _ta_ as the object when there is no subject; it's _a_ in every other case.

When the nominaliser (which might also be called a relativiser or participle marker) appears, the verbal complex as a whole refers to the argument which it appears as. So for example we have:

  • _thi-u-n-i_ 'I see it'
  • _thi-a-n-i_ 'something that I see'
  • _thi-u-a-i_ 'something that sees it'

Most nouns in Sabasasaj are derived from a verb using either nominaliser or another, and possibly some other morphology. No inflection or derivation of the noun proper occurs here.

A habitual or iterative form of the verb is derived by reduplicating the first CV of the first component.

The meaning of the null adposition _gi_ is determined by the directional appearing in the verb or noun commanding it:

  • _jambu gi aa-n-bi_ 'I am in the sea' (_aa_ 'inside')
  • _jambu gi ug-in-bi_ 'I am outside the sea' (_uk_ 'outside')




Glosses of verbs include an indication of their argument selection: (tr) transitive, (S) or (O) intransitive taking an argument in the specified grammatical relation.

Some of these forms are morphologically complex, and I haven't broken them down further than is illuminating. (Just so you know.)

  • -pi exist, be at, go (O) (yes, the first component is empty; requires a directional or a classifying preverb)
  • au-il be favourable, pleasing, good (S), deem so (tr)
  • bas-innu be last, final (O)
  • dan-as be one (O)
  • jambu sea, ocean
  • khuka-ih crash, move violently
  • khu[l|di]-ku sit down
  • lua-ih break (tr; O)
  • miuri-i be wilful, obstinate, uncontrollable (S)
  • pak-us be powerful, forceful (S), deem so (tr)
  • tuhi-i dream (tr)
  • thi-i see (tr)
  • withjaumuh (water) waves (mass noun)

Other Words

Category labels: (adv), adverb; (det), determiner; (p), postposition; (prn), pronoun; (.), particle; (.v), particle in the verbal complex.

  • ba (p) when, during, in (the circumstances)
  • gi (p) (null postposition)
  • liwdau (adv) (ever) again
  • mia (.v) (volitive), want to, intend to
  • mu (.) (reference to non-3rd person argument)
  • puanaa (prn) this (fact or situation)
  • talas (det) all, every


  • khara (pref.) eye, (metaphorically) mental or emotional faculties

Perfect Markers

  • i (the semantically emptiest perfect marker)
  • pak with (often destructive) force
  • s(a) inward; until / so that it's gone


  • dal all over
  • i ahead, out or away in a single direction
  • nsi at or along the linear boundary of
  • [s|phi] inward, toward oneself
  • suu out in many directions, apart; (in some idioms) in part

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