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Verbal Morphology

Finite verbs

A simplex verb consists of a verbal stem and up to four affixes. The position of the verbal affixes is shown in the next table:


















































The verb stem

Every verb has one stem. Depending on whether the verb ends in a consonant or in a vowel, the suffixes take a different form. There is no apophony in Denden, in contrast to some other Charyan languages, such as Eastern Colloquial or Archaic Charyan.

As noted with the nominal case adpositional particles, there is some doubt as to the status of the modifying elements. The aspectual verbal suffixes can equally be taken as semi-independent coverbs, much like the Chinese resultative verb compounds (Li and Thompson, 1989: 54-70).

The order of suffixal slots in the finite verbal complex gives indications of the nature of the elements. The attitudinal/modal qualifiers are clearly more derivational in nature, no matter how productive these affixes are The fact that they are placed before the tense suffixes is easily explained by their derivational nature as opposed to the paradigmatic status of the tense affixes. If one takes the aspectual suffixes as developed out of coverbs, then their place in suffixal slot three, as opposed to a place closer to the verbal stem, which is more usual for affixes, is logical, too.


Negation marker

<ta->WNEGWeak negation
<tautau->SNEGStrong negation

The morpheme <ta- ~ tau ~ tautau-> (NEG) has three forms, expressing three degrees of strength of negation. It is the sole prefix used in the finite verb. The weakest form, <ta-> WNEG exhibits two types of phonological alternation. In contrast to the strong negation markers, the initial dental of the prefix of weak negation <ta-> WNEG is voiced after a voiced final or a vowel in the preceding element. The vowel of the prefix of weak negation <ta-> WNEG assimilates to the vowel of the verb stem:

/da da.karinze/He didn't come in
/Rumat tu.qureray/Rumat isn't good-looking
/Charya de.qendoramoi Matirai/Charya won't win victory over Matrai

Denden is intolerant of hiatus, and a glottal stop is inserted between the prefix of negation <ta- ~ tau ~ tautau-> (NEG) and vowel-initial verb stems:

/zinahama tau?afranini/Grandmother doesn't travel anymore

Usually, Charyan authors reflect the vowel assimilation in their spelling, but not the backwards voicing assimilation, and this practice is continued here.

The weak negation <ta-> WNEG indicates controvertible negation and is semantically incompatible with the certainty attitudinal suffix <-ju> CRT. Witness the following dialogue between a street whore and a prospective customer:

.   (whore) Aia! Yadiriy!    Li sera   qenan tu.suru.men?
            Hey! Young_woman Q  2fsHGH sex   WNEG.want.AFF
            Hey, pretty! Wouldn't you like to make love with me?
    (woman) Delai lyna,  do    suru.ju. e.sera      yenu cyun sui  ga  te.sui?
            girl  pretty 1sMGH want.CRT poss.2sfHGH cunt very dear NOM WNEG.dear
            Pretty girl, I do want to. Isn't your cunt very dear?
    (whore) Tautau.sui! Beru najan.li ke,  beru yerdat.li ke
            SNEG.dear   one  kiss.DIM only one  gift.DIM  only
            Absolutely not dear! Only one little kiss, only one little gift.
    (woman) Ni    te    najan.zi, yerdat.zi jerat.men
            1sAFF 3sAFF kiss.AUG  gift.AUG  give.AFF
            I'll give you a big kiss and a large gift.

As can be seen from the preceding dialogue, the weak negation prefix <ta-> WNEG is also used to form yes-no questions. The English translation isn't any too accurate. Note especially the play with honorific and affective pronouns, diminutives and augmentatives and affective attitudinal qualifiers.

The weak negation <ta-> WNEG can also be used to indicate a negated phrase where the negative situation is the normal one, and where the positive situation would be out of place. In these cases it indicates a kind of certainty, by emphasizing the obviousness of the negative. The speaker and hearer are aware of the fact that the non-negated situation is impossible, that the negated situation is obvious - so obvious and inevitable in fact, that it must be indicated by the weak negation, because, if it were negated with the strong negation it would admit the possibility of the the un-negated situation.

.   Madir ka  sera   karinzu.zu. Ta.paisa.hau, ta.paisa.hau!
    miss  TOP 2fsHGH enter.DEL   WNEG.wait.IMP WNEG.wait.IMP
    Miss, will you please enter (a bit). Don't you wait, don't you wait!
.   e.dos      garon yo    basulo ta.ga,   dos   na ta.lazaz.
    poss.1pMGH house INESS bath   WNEG.NOM 1pMGH so WNEG.rich
    In our house there isn't a bath, we're not that rich.

The expectations are against a bath being in a private house that belongs to normal people. The negation prefix <tau-> NEG indicates normal negation:

.  (Son)    Sero  Hamal lya  tau.yalir rezet. Yadiri         yalir.
            1sHGH Hamal GOAL NEG.bring bread  younger_sister bring
            I won't bring the bread to Hamal. Let younger sister bring [it].
   (Mother) Tau.shun.hau! Yim yalir.hau!
            NEG.lazy.IMP  now bring.IMP
            Don't be lazy! Bring it now!
The negation prefix <tautau-> NEG indicates strong negation and often co-occurs with the certainty attitudinal qualifier <-ju> CRT:
.   Sero  tautau.arat cendla tayr
    1sHGH SNEG.afraid dark   TEGI
    I'm absolutely not afraid in the dark!
.   Aia, Bulandin!   Do    tan Chazalla tirhera  tautau.kisen.j.ur!, dentan.e
    Excl magistrate! 1sMGH TAN Chazalla necklace SNEG.steal.CRT.PT1  say.RPT
   "Oh, your honour! I certainly didn't steal Chazalla's necklace!", she said.

Double negation

Denden negation is a complex semantic field, especially as concerns the interaction between inherently negated subjects and negated verbs. Negated subjects obligatorily take negated verbs. For example, the expression 'Nobody loves me', must be rendered as 'Nobody doesn't love me'. In Denden:

*   turantos sero  luan.
    nobody   1sHGH love.
    Nobody loves me.
.   turantos sero  tau.luan
    nobody   1sHGH NEG.love
    Nobody loves me.

Matt Pearson (Conlang, 20 July 1999), analyzing the negation prefix <tau-> as an 'irrealis or negative mood marker', has suggested that this is an agreement phenomenon, where the prefix <tau-> agrees with the derivational negative prefix <tu-> in turantos 'nobody', analogous to the double negative constructions in Tokana:

Maybe the <tau-> prefix is really some sort of irrealis (or 'negative mood') marker, rather than a true polarity marker. That's how I understand double negation in Tokana, anyway:
           Me     tunton euimoti
           me.ABS nobody FOC-love-NEG
           "Nobody loves me"
Here, the suffix "-oti" is really a sort of 'negative agreement' marker, which indicates the presence of negation somewhere else in the sentence (here, the quanifier "tunton"). This suffix is sometimes mistaken for a negative marker, however, since it frequently occurs without any other over indication of negation in the sentence:
           Me     uimotiko
           me.ABS love-NEG-you.ERG
           "You don't love me"
Here, I would argue, "-oti" is indicating the presence of an 'invisible' marker of negation. (This is similar to person/ number agreement morphology on verbs identifying the features of a null subject pronoun in 'pro-drop' languages like Italian.) In fact, this invisible negative morpheme may be optionally expressed as an overt preverbal particle, "tu". Thus the above sentence can be paraphrased as:
           Me     tu  uimotiko
           me.ABS NEG love-NEG-you.ERG
           "You don't love me"

However, in sentences without an overt negative subject, there isn't an optional negative particle, like in Tokana Me tu uimotiko, and the negative prefix in Denden is different from all other verbal affixes in that it is a prefix, instead of a suffix. The modal affixes/attitudinal qualifiers all occur in the first suffixal slot. The lack of such an optional extra negative particle to fill out sentences with a positive subject and a negated verb makes the agreement theory more difficult to support.

Ed Heil (Conlang, 20 July 1999), mentioning Fauconnier, noted that Denden 'verbs must be marked with a negation marker to be used in negation spaces at all', to which Nik Taylor (Conlang, 20 July 1999). replied that this was merely another way of saying that redundant negation is obligatory in Denden, a position with which I agree.

An example paradigm is given below:

di    luan do          desh     luan do           *turantos luan do
2sMGH love 1sMGH       everyone love  1sMGH        nobody   love 1sMGH
You love me            Everyone loves me           Nobody loves me

di    tau.luan do     ?desh     tau.luan do        turantos tau.luan do
2sMGH NEG.love 1sMGH   everyone NEG.love 1sMGH     nobody   NEG.love 1sMGH
you don't love mei     Everyone doesn't love me    Nobody loves me

di    taluan do        desh     taluan do          turantos tau.taluan do
2sMGH hate   1sMGH     everyone hate   1sMGH       nobody   NEG.hate   1sMGH
You hate me            Everyone hates me           Nobody hates me

Attitudinal suffixes


In earlier publications the category of attitudinal suffixes termed 'modal' suffixes, but since only the imperative, optative and irrealis suffixes really are forms modality, another term was clearly needed. Matt Pearson (personal communication) suggested the term attitudinal suffixes, which fits the category rather more neatly.



The imperative suffix <-hau> IMP is used to command and exhort, and can be used both for first and second person subjects. According to Palmer (1986: 111), this means that the Denden imperative also includes a jussive meaning, even though there is a separate optative:

.   Do    chay   gedelafan.hau him 
    1sMGH really leave.IMP     now 
    I must really leave now

.   E!   Sembot! Dan    faiwe kenta.hau!
    Hey  Sembot  2smMGH begin work.IMP
    Hey, Sembot! You begin working!
.   Seri   bachanza.hau hod  e.rai      tan randa
    2smHGH chop.IMP     head poss.3sLGH TAN body
    You chop his head of his body!

After vowl-final final verb stems it is realised with an initial glottal stop /?au/. Imperative forms do not occur together with tense markers, but can co-occur with the delimitative aspect, which is formed by reduplication of the last syllable of the verbal root. In that case the meaning is that the task must be carried out with some vim and speed.

.   E!   Yai   pihin.hau.hin weyas
    Hey! 2pLGH pick.IMP.DEL  fruit
    Hey! You go and pick that fruit quickly!

In contrast to other Charyan languages, like Northern Colloquial, Denden doesn't have a separate adhortative mood, and the imperative can also be used in an adhortative sense, without being impolite.

.   XXXX

Imperatives are negated with one of the negative prefixes:

.   Di    tau.karan.hau him. Veroi wau   ka, karan dinray ga  
    2pMGH NEG.come.IMP  NOW  Veroi ADESS TOP come  allow  NOM
    agaran.hau karan.hau. Tau.durure.hau
    ask.IMP    come.IMP   NEG.hesitate.IMP
    You don't come now. When you're near Veroi ask if you're allowed
    to come and come. Don't hesitate.


.   Seri   wŁwish.do tan do?
    2smHGH dance.OPT TAN 1sMGH
    Will you dance for me?


.   Ni    te    qishen.men geshe
    1sAFF 2sAFF write.AFF  letter
    Dearest, I lovingly write you this letter.


.   Klondan.dan qarnak.yara tan dance  lod
    farmer.p    fuck.DSP    TAN vermin like
    Farmers fuck like vermin.


.   Do    tan Pantumatar hales.ju
    1sMGH TAN Pantumatar trust.CRT
    I trust in Pantumatar.


.   Pantumatar! Rayun.zo sero, sero  angulan.zo!
    Pantumatar  help.FLT 1sHGH 1sHGH beseech.FLT
    Pantumatar! Help me, I beseech you!




<-lei>PT3Historical preterite
<-tai>PT2Distant preterite
<-ur>PT1Near preterite
<-e>RPTRelative preterite
<-moi>RFUTRelative future

Denden shows both a metrical and a relitive contrast in its tense system. The third preterite is used to indicate what happened before the birth of the speaker, the second what happened during his lifetime, the first is used for occurrences that have just happened, with a margin of about a week, and for what has happened only just now.

The present tense is unmarked for tense, and can also be used for past and future.

The future tense is used to indicate occurences that happen about a week past now.

Historical preterite

<-lei>PT3Historical preterite

Distant preterite

<-tai>PT2Distant preterite

Near preterite

<-ur>PT1Near preterite

Relative preterite

<-e>RPTRelative preterite



Relative future

<-moi>RFUTRelative future















Adverbial particles


<yindad> ~ <yindrad> able to


<jinudra> possible


<yuhau> have to, must


<tubu> unlikely to


© 1999 Boudewijn Rempt - Optimized for Lynx