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D'ni grammar

The following is an overview of the known phonology and grammar of D’ni, the fictional language used in the Myst games and novels. D’ni is the creation of Richard Watson and belongs entirely to Cyan Worlds, not to me. This overview is an expanded version of an article on Mystlore, to the best of my knowledge taking only the portions of the article that I contributed.  It should not be taken to be exhaustive, and will be updated sporadically.

Last update: October 1, 2017 (ahrotahn)


I will be using a variant of the standard transliteration of D’ni (the Old Transliteration Standard), preferring to leave out unnecessary hs and using ai for the accented ah.

Phonology

Consonants and Vowels

Voiceless plosives: p /p/, t /t/, k /k/, ' [ʔ]

Voiced plosives: b /b/, d /d/, g /g/

Voiceless affricates: ts /ts/, ch /tʃ/

Voiced affricate: j /dʒ/

Voiceless fricatives: f /f/, th /θ/, s /s/, sh /ʃ/, kh /x/, h /h/

Voiced fricatives: v /v/, dh /ð/, z /z/

Nasals: m /m/, n /n/

Tap: r /ɾ/

Lateral: l /l/

Glides: y /j/, w /w/

Vowels: ee /i/, i /ɪ/, e /ɛ/, a /æ/, ' [ə], ah /ɑ/, uh /ʌ/, o /o/, oo /u/

Diphthongs: ay /ei/, ai /ai/, oy /ɔi/

These values for the sounds of D’ni are of long standing among students of the language, based on the English values of the romanizations. The value of /r/ as a tap is confirmed at http://web.archive.org/web/20121110201435/http://www.uruexplorers.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=1795. See also http://cho.cyan.com/rawa/JPGS/DEConvert.JPG

Syllable Structure

The majority of D’ni syllables are of the form (C)(liquid)V(r)(C). The consonants w, y, and h do not occur in codas or complex onsets. Codas also exist of the form nasal-stop (as in umt or mahnshootahvting), and, more rarely, /st/ (as in eest). An anomalous coda occurs in roodsh. /st/ occurs in the onset of stofah, attested in Aitrus’s map, but this may be an error for tsofah.

Geminate consonants do not appear, and when a concatenation of morphemes would lead to a repeated consonant, one is deleted. (So mot-tee becomes motee).

The placement of stress is unpredictable (http://mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=426544#p426544). Stress may fall on any syllable of a two- or three-syllable word (délin, rifóón; éleeahn, paráhno, morokhmór) and may shift when an affix is added (eleeáhnith).

Vowel Reduction

A process of vowel reduction occurs, in which certain monosyllabic morphemes have their vowel replaced by schwa when attached to a following word. These include:
Prepositions of the form Ce. Reduction is obligatory. Before the article re the vowel may drop out altogether. A form terth (te-erth) also appears.
The perfect prefix le. Reduction is optional and has only been observed to occur before a vowel.
The definite article re. Reduction is optional and has only been observed to occur before /r/ or a vowel. When a sequence of two identical vowels would occur, the vowel of re may be reduced (as in r'erem) or deleted (khe-re-elahthtee becomes khrelahthtee).
The conjunction gah. Reduction is optional. Before re the vowel may drop out.
The prefix de 'again'. Reduction is optional.

Apostrophe

The glottal stop and schwa are heavily restricted in position, neither occurring at the beginning or end of a word and in complementary distribution elsewhere, with the glottal stop occurring after vowels and the schwa after consonants. (Both are represented by the same "apostrophe" symbol in the D’ni alphabet.)

See http://forums.drcsite.org/viewtopic.php?p=16654#16654 for information on the apostrophe.

An apostrophe will sometimes appear between two morphemes for uncertain reasons. Some known occurrences are between a noun and a possessive suffix (e.g. vaytsoo'on), between a noun and a preceding ah or re, and between the two elements of a compound (such as doo'shol).

Nouns and Noun Phrases

Noun structure

Overall D'ni morphology is agglutinative and regular.

The structure of a noun is: stem-(plural)-(possessor)

Several noun-noun compounds exist, with the modifying noun either preceding or following the main noun, as in kormahn 'existence book' and hevkor 'word book'. Adjective-noun and noun-adjective compounds may also form new noun stems, as in korvahkh 'linking book' and gahrohev 'great word.'

Nouns may be formed from adjectives with the addition of the suffix (e)th, the vowel being present only when the adjective stem ends in a consonant. The resulting noun may refer to an entity with the property of the adjective, or to the abstract property itself, so that gahroth may mean either "great one" or "greatness." A few nouns are derived from adjectives with the suffix ahth, but the distinction between this and (e)th is uncertain.

Suffixes that derive nouns from a verb stem include:
tahv, which results in a noun expressing either the result of the verb's action or the action itself. Some nominalizations of this kind are identical in form to the verb stem, without any suffix added, such as eder 'rest' and say 'design'.
tahn, which results in a noun expressing the agent of the verb. There is at least one instance of tahn deriving a noun from an adjective: ahrotahn 'outsider' from ahro 'other'.
oth, which when added to an ahl participle seems to result in a noun expressing the patient of the verb. The meaning of oth is somewhat uncertain. Another suffix that may have a similar meaning is ah, as in yimah 'seen.'

Plural number is indicated with the suffix tee.

Pronominal possession is usually expressed with a suffix giving the person and number of the possessor.
First person singular: oy
Second person singular: om
Third person singular: on
First person plural: ot
Second person plural: omee
Third person plural: os
In one anomalous form, tishmoy 'my friend', the final vowel of the stem tishmah has dropped out. (Compare oolbahoy 'my office').

Pronouns

The personal pronouns are as follows. They occur as the object of a verb or preposition, never as subject.
First person singular: zoo
Second person singular: shem
Third person singular: ze
First person plural: set
Second person plural: shemtee
Third person plural: eest

There is a two-way contrast of distance in demonstratives: met 'this' and mot 'that'. The plural of the distal mot is motee; a plural proximal demonstrative is not yet attested.

Negative pronouns are rilrov 'no one' and rildil 'nothing'. Other known pronouns include bivdil 'everything', bivrov 'everyone', and pod 'each'.

Adjectives

The suffix ets produces an adjective when applied to a noun stem. When added to a numeral, it produces an ordinal number.

The suffix et (t after a vowel) also produces an adjective when applied to a noun stem. The difference in distribution and meaning between ets and et is uncertain.

Numerals

The D’ni numeral system is based on the number 5. Distinct stems exist for 1-4 and multiples of 5.
0: roon
1: fah
2: bree
3: sen
4: tor
5: vaht
10: nayvoo
15: heebor
20: rish

Numbers of the form 5x+y combine a reduced form of the fives stem with the ones stem using the conjunction gah. 6=5+1 is vahgahfah, 12=10+2 is naygahbree, 18=15+3 is heegahsen, 24=20+4 is rigahtor.

Powers of 25 are formed with the addition of suffixes.
25: fahsee
50: breesee
625=25^2: fahrah
15,625=25^3: fahlahn
390,625=25^4: fahmel
9,765,625=25^5: fahblo

Combinations of powers of 25 are formed with juxtaposition, so 27=25+2 is fahseebree.

Alternate number stems are visible in the names of the months, featuring vowel alternations that are seen nowhere else: Leefo, Leebro, Leesahn, Leetar, Leevo, Leevofo, Leevobro, Leevosahn, Leevotar, Leenovoo.

Elements of the Noun Phrase

A noun will sometimes appear bare, without any article, demonstrative, or plural or possessive suffix. Frequently this is due to a property of the noun itself, as with proper nouns, but sometimes may be associated with a specific construction.

ken aytrus=okh d'nee
COP[1SG] Atrus=of D'ni
I am Atrus of D'ni.
Rawa, cited by Kh'reestrefah (http://eldalamberon.com/dni_dict.htm)

re-lenah gahth shento-en blo yahr-tee sen f'=toogo
DEF-journey still take-3SG about yahr-PL three on=foot
The journey still takes about three three days on foot.
Aitrus's map

The definite article re and indefinite article erth precede the noun phrase they modify, and are most commonly attached to the beginning of the phrase.

re is used with noun phrases previously introduced and with noun phrases that are assumed to be known and relevant.

Anaphoric:
sekh-en poahnt bonooets b'=rigahsen [...] gormot glahs-en ahrepoahnt
have-3SG saliva acidic to=23 [...] then drink-3SG ?=DEF-saliva
[It] has highly acidic saliva [...] It then drinks the saliva
Aitrus's map

Assumed definiteness:
t=re-bigto iglahrno okh re-kaligo kogloet re-gidtahv
with=DEF-blessing temporary of DEF-council PST-begin-1PL DEF-excavation
With the temporary blessing of the council we began the excavation.
Aitrus's map

erth is used with nonspecific noun phrases and specific noun phrases new to the discourse.

Specific:
met boogin prin gah tromets ko-ken-en fah t=erth-tes mot ko-ken-en ko-hoor-en t=erth-broon ahnotahm
this creature small and winged PST-COP-3SG one in=INDEF-group REL PST-COP-3SG PST-find-3SG in=INDEF-tube lava
This small winged creature was one of a group that was found in a lava tube.
Aitrus's map

Nonspecific:
re-hevo kro-en gah=rees-en gah=eder-en [...] don erth-chir fah
DEF-swarm move-3SG and=eat-3SG and=sleep-3SG in=INDEF-group like INDEF-organism one
The swarm moves, eats, and sleeps [...] as if it were a single organism.
Aitrus's map

There are two somewhat ambigious examples of erth with a plural.

ko-keelah-eet kat erth gahrtahvo-tee khah t=re-ahchah
PST-?-3PL only INDEF gahrtahvo-PL few in=DEF-?
They ? only a few gahrtahvotee in the ?
Gehn's journal

lenah biv kenen tenesh erth=bantee me keelen-tee
journey every COP-3SG simply INDEF-series.PL from step-PL
Every journey is simply a series of steps.
DRC website

It is possible that bantee is treated as singular despite its plural form.

Quantifiers, which include biv 'all, every', een 'any', and tren 'a few, some', follow the modified noun but can also be used pronominally. Quantifiers do not co-occur with articles, but the combination can be expressed using a partitive construction, as in the following example from Aitrus’s map.

biv t=re=gahn d'nee
all in=DEF=empire D'ni
All of the D’ni empire

Demonstrative adjectives are identical to the demonstrative pronouns, save that they do not agree in number, so hevtee met 'these words.' They have been observed to either precede or follow the head noun, and do not co-occur with articles or quantifiers.

The particle ah stands at the beginning of a noun phrase, preceding demonstratives and articles, but its meaning is a long-standing subject of controversy. Frequently it is used with direct objects, but there is an example occurring in a locative phrase.

tahg-em-ah b'=zoo ah re=kor
give-2SG-IMP to=1SG ? DEF=book
Give me the book.
Riven (Gehn’s guard, as corrected by Rawa)

ko-hoor-et ah met m'lah
PST-find-1PL ? this lizard
We found this lizard
Aitrus’s map

r'=ahchah te ah sev mot
DEF=? in ? Age that
The ? in that Age
Gehn’s journal

Numerals may stand alone or modify a preceding noun.

Adjectives and relative clauses follow their head noun. An exception is the adjective gahro 'great', which precedes the noun in the definite phrases regahro zeero and regahro tiwah. (It should be noted that gahro also precedes the noun in compound words.)

Two noun phrases may stand in apposition, as in the following examples. (Note the difference in definiteness.)

gen re-mahrntahn g=re'-ahreeutahn tso dovah-ot
Gehn DEF-creator and=DEF-protector of world-1PL
Gehn, the creator and protector of our world.
Riven (gateroom)

votahr-tee-ah gen bahreltahn tso dovah-tee
praise-2PL-IMP Gehn maker of world-PL
Praise Gehn, maker of worlds.
Riven (gateroom)

Prepositions

D'ni makes use of prepositions, many of which consist of a consonant followed by e and undergo vowel reduction when cliticized to the following word.

be 'to' (also used in infinitives and degree constructions)

Destination:
re-lenah b=re-tahleeo
DEF-journey to=DEF-surface
The journey to the surface
Aitrus's map

Indirect object:
tahg-em-ah b'=zoo ah re-kor
give-2SG-IMP to=1SG ? DEF-book
Give me the book.
Riven (Gehn's guard, as corrected by Rawa)

ben 'for'

Duration:
ko-do-ken-en ferem ben tonah b'=rish
PST-PROG-COP-3SG dry for long to=twenty
It was dry for so long.
Yeesha's speech (unused version)

Reason:
chev-et nahvah-ot ben r'-rinaltahv tso do-netso-et re-kor-tee tseemah-en
thank-1PL master-1PL for DEF-? of PROG-produce-1PL DEF-book-PL need-3SG
We thank our master for the ? of our producing the books he needs.
Riven (gateroom)

don 'like'

re-hevo kro-en gah=rees-en gah=eder-en t=erth-tes don erth-chir fah
DEF-swarm move-3SG and=eat-3SG and=sleep-3SG in=INDEF-group like INDEF-organism one
The swarm moves, eats, and sleeps in a group [like] a single organism.

fe 'on'

On a surface:
tool-eet chilesh zith f=re-gahlon
grow-3PL mainly low on=DEF-ground
They mainly grow low along the ground.
Aitrus's map

At a surface:
re-m'lah sekh-en poahnt bonooets b'=rigahsen mot torn-en f=re-prad-tee
DEF-lizard have-3SG saliva acidic to=twenty REL spit-3SG on=DEF-rock-PL
The lizard has highly acidic saliva which it spits at the rocks.
Aitrus's map

In an age:
re-endaytahn-tee le-shufay-eet oolbah-oy fe=sev 233
DEF-builder-PL PRF-finish-3PL office-1SG on=age 233
The builders have finished my office on Age 233
Gehn's journal

Mode of transport:
re-lenah gahth shento-en blo yahr-tee sen f'=toogo
DEF-journey still take-3SG about yahr-PL three on=foot
The journey still takes about three days on foot.
Aitrus's map

inay 'more than'

Comparative:
ko-sofegu-eet zo'e-'os gimit inay r'-ayts'day okho gah=roodsh
PST-fear-3PL loss-3PL immediate more_than DEF-vengeance black and=red
They feared their immediate loss more than the black and red vengeance

khe 'for'

Purpose:
ko-tokitu-en kh=re-gitsahth gah kh=re-soygith okh met=bishtah roo kahzee-et n'=re-chay
PST-determine-3SG for=DEF-safety and for=DEF=stability of this=tunnel COMP detour-3PL around=DEF-fault
It was determined for the safety and stability of this tunnel that we would detour around the fault.
Aitrus's map

Reason:
votahr ah'=shem khe=kamrov ken-em
praise ?=2SG for=who COP-2SG
I praise you for who you are.
Atrus's prayer

me 'from', 'of'

Source:
me=d'nee b=re-tahleeo
from=D'ni to=DEF-surface
From D'ni to the surface
Aitrus's map

Composition:
lenah biv ken-en tenesh erth-bantee me keelen-tee
journey every COP-3SG simply INDEF-series from step-PL
Every journey is simply a series of steps.
DRC website

me also occurs in a variety of compounds, listed below.

Verb from Verb+me: shentome 'take from' from shento 'take'
Adjective from Noun+me: tome 'homesick' from to 'place'
Adverb from me+Adjective: megoyoray 'straight out' from goyray 'straight'

ne 'around'

kahzee-et n'=re-chay
detour-1PL around=DEF-fault
We would detour around the fault.
Aitrus's map

okh 'of' (genitive relation; the following list is not exhaustive). May attach to the end of the preceding noun.

Personal possession:
re-timel=okh kaydish
DEF-gallery=of Kadish
The galley of Kadish
Uru (Kadish galley)

Qualification:
erth lenah=okh yahrtee sen
INDEF journey=of yahr-PL three
A journey of three days.
Aitrus's map

Possessor of a property:
kh=re-gitsahth gah kh=re-soygith okh=met=bishtah
for=DEF=safety and for=DEF=stability of=this=tunnel
For the safety and stability of this tunnel.
Aitrus's map

Source or author:
t=re-bigto iglahrno okh re-kaligo
with=DEF-blessing temporary of DEF-council
With the temporary blessing of the council
Aitrus's map

rilte 'without'

tes-ot prin fahets teegtahn-tee ko-do-teeg-eet rilte re=ahreeutahv tsahroo tseemah-ahl
group-1PL small first worker-PL PST-PROG-work-3PL without DEF=protection ? need-PTCP
Our first small group of workers, working without the needed[?] ? protection [...]

se 'at'

te 'in', 'with'

Location within or near: (this example also shows partitive use)
ko-hoor-et ah met m'lah do-tsahv-en t'=fah t=re-gahlpo-tee vogets t=re-tahleeo
PST-find-1PL ? this lizard PROG-live-3SG in=one of=DEF-cave-PL natural by=DEF-surface
We found this lizard living in one of the natural caves near the surface.
Aitrus's map

Partitive:
met boogin prin gah tromets ko-ken-en fah t=erth-tes
this creature small and winged PST-COP-3SG one in=INDEF-group
This small winged creature was one of a group [...]
Aitrus's map

Comitative:
bo-mahnshoo tomet te eest
FUT-die[1SG] here with 3PL
I will die here with them.
Uru (Kadish's note)

Instrumental:
oonray-ot gen le-pahboy-en set te vaytsoo-'on
lord-1PL Gehn PRF-bless-3SG 1PL with presence-on
Our lord Gehn has blessed us with his presence.
Riven (Gateroom)

Agent of a passive clause:
re-tiwah ko-ken-en ko-say-en t'=telook-nahvah gahrten
DEF-shaft PST-COP-3SG PST-design-3SG by=Surveyors_Guild-master Garten
The shaft was designed by Surveyors Guild Master Garten.
Aitrus's map

tso 'of' (Genitive relation. The precise distinction between tso and okh remains unclear.)

Objective genitive:
re-mishtahtahv robot tso re-bishtah
DEF-construction actual of DEF-tunnel
The actual construction of the tunnel
Aitrus's map

Description or partitive (?):
b'=to-tee rahnahl tso mahrntahv-om
to=place-PL various of creation-2PL
To various places of your creation.
Atrus's prayer

Prepositional phrases follow a modified noun and when they occur as an element of a clause, usually occur at its beginning or end. The following sentences suggest that pronominal indirect objects may precede the direct object, while nominal indirect objects follow it.

tahg-em-ah b'=zoo ah re=kor
give-2SG-IMP to=1SG ? DEF=book
Give me the book.
Riven (Gehn's guard, as corrected by Rawa)

yootay-et mahn-ot b'=nahvah-ot gen
?-1PL existence-1PL to=master-1PL Gehn
We ? our existence to our master Gehn
Riven (Gateroom)

Prepositional phrases of the form b'-(number) are used to express degree, ranging from b'fah 'a little' to b'fahsee 'extremely, most'. Numbers greater than 25 can be used for exaggeration. Adjectives, nouns, or entire clauses may be modified in this way.

re=doyhah-tee pradteegahl tor gahro b'=fahsee
DEF=machine-PL rockworking four great to=twenty_five
The four greatest rock-working machines
Aitrus's map

erth nudah-tahv b'=rish
INDF ?-NMLZ to=twenty_five
Gehn's journal

tsahn bo-taygahn shem b'=fahsee
always FUT-love[1SG] 2SG to=twenty_five
I will always love you exceedingly.
Keta

Verbs

Verb Structure

The structure of the verb is:
(tense prefixes)-(progressive)-(perfect)-stem-subject-(imperative)/(passive)

Verb stems derived from adjectives with the addition of the suffix on may have a causative meaning, as suggested by the following text.

ken-en gor kh=re=zith-ahth-tee b'-ken el-on-ij
COP-3SG time for=DEF=low-?-PL INF-COP high-CAUS-PASS
It is time for the low(?) to be made high.
Uru (Kenen Gor note)

ken-en gor kh=r=el-ahth-tee b'-ken zith-on-ij
COP-3SG time for=DEF=high-?-PL INF-COP low-CAUS-PASS
It is time for the high(?) to be made low.
Uru (Kenen Gor note)

The future prefix is bo. The past prefix is ko. The combination boko has future perfect meaning. kobo, as attested in the following text, has a prospective meaning.

kamrov te=shem-tee voohee bel-en roo tsahnril kobo-l-keebah-en ze
who in-2-PL can claim-3SG COMP never SUBJ-PRF-obey-3SG 3SG.ACC
Who among you are there who can claim that you would never have obeyed her?
Unwritten Kickstarter

The progressive prefix is do. Other uses will be discussed below.

The perfect prefix is l(e). The vowel in this prefix is absent if other prefixes precede it.

Subject agreement suffixes:
First person singular: 0
Second person singular: em
Third person singular: en
First person plural: et
Second person plural: tee
Third person plural: eet

The imperative suffix is ah. Imperatives are not inflected for tense or aspect. There are no examples of passive imperatives.

The passive suffix is ij, discussed further below.

There are a few examples of objects being incorporated into verbs: doo'shol (food-prepare) and the active participle pradteegahl (rock-working).

Non-finite Forms and Nominalizations

Non-finite verb forms include two participles and an infinitive.
The suffix ahl usually produces an active present participle (as in tsoidahl 'glowing'), though sometimes it seems to be resultative (as in nekisahl 'bent').
The suffix in results in a passive participle. Both participles modify preceding nouns.
The preposition be (usually realized as b') results in an infinitive when applied to a verb stem. The vowel drops out when the stem begins with a vowel.

Adverbs

Words expressing mood follow or precede the main verb and include voohee marking potential and yeret marking wishes.

The suffix (e)sh forms an adverb from an adjective. The vowel in this suffix is only present when the adjective stem ends in a consonant. Adverbs of this form follow the verb, but other adverbs are more variable in their placement. Temporal adverbs such as gormot and gorven seem to appear at the start of the clause. Note that, given the scarcity of examples, any generalizations regarding the location of adverbs are tentative.

blo 'about' (precedes numeral)

blo yahr-tee sen
about yahr-PL three
About three days
Aitrus's map

fahm 'far' (appears at end of clause. In our one example, fahm is qualified by a preceding met.)

ril leeahm le-ken-en hoosahtay b'=fahsee okh een okh mishtahtahv-oy met fahm
NEG ? PRF-COP-3SG ? to=twenty_five of any of construction-1SG this far
No ? has been totally ? of any of my construction this far.
Gehn's journal (with e-en corrected to een)

gahth 'still, yet' (precedes or follows verb)

re-lenah gahth shento-en blo yahr-tee sen
DEF-journey still take-3SG about yahr-PL three
The journey still takes about three days [despite differences from the original plan]
Aitrus's map

khahpo re-zunu ril=do-l-gel-en-ij gahth
perhaps DEF-ending NEG=PROG-PRF-write-3SG-PASS yet
Perhaps the ending has not yet been written.
End of Ages Collectors’ Edition

gormet 'now'

gormot 'then'

gormot glahsen ah=re-poahnt
then drink-3SG ?=DEF-saliva
It then drinks the saliva [after the events of the preceding sentence]
Aitrus's map

gorven 'soon'

kat 'only, just' (precedes or follows verb)

ko-keelah-eet kat erth gahrtahvo-tee khah
PST-?-3PL only INDEF gahrtahvo-PL few
They only ? a few gahrtahvotee
Gehn's journal

khahpo 'perhaps' (precedes clause or verb)

khahpo re-zunu ril=do-l-gel-en-ij gahth
perhaps DEF-ending NEG=PROG-PRF-write-3SG-PASS yet
Perhaps the ending has not yet been written.
End of Ages Collectors’ Edition

megoyray 'straight out' (follows verb)

re-poy-tee tsoid-ahl tool-eet megoyray m-re-prad
DEF-bulb-PL glow-PTCP grow-3PL straight.out from-DEF-rock

preniv 'once again' (precedes or follows verb)

bo-glo preniv re-gahn
FUT-begin[1SG] again DEF-empire
Once again I will begin the empire.
Book of Atrus inside cover

tomet 'here' (precedes or follows verb)

bo-mahnshoo tomet te eest
FUT-die[1SG] here with 3PL
I will die here with them.
Uru (Kadish's note)

tomot 'there'

tsahn 'always, forever' (appears at start or end of clause)

bo-ken-eet t'=zoo tsahn
FUT-COP-3PL with=1SG forever
They will be with me forever.
Uru (Kadish's note)

re-keelen fahets ken-en ten ril'=tsahn
DEF-step first COP-3SG simple NEG=always
The first step is not always simple.
DRC website

tsahnril 'never' (appears at start of clause)

tsahnril kobo-l-keebah-en ze
never would-PRF-obey-3SG 3SG
[...] never would have obeyed her
Unwritten Kickstarter

The gor- and to- adverbs also may be used pronominally.

ken tomet te biv roo mairu
COP[1SG] here with all COMP ?[1SG]
I am here with all that I ?
Uru (Kadish note)

Simple Clauses

Nominal Predicates

Nominal, adjectival, and locative predicate clauses are of the form subject-copula-predicate. The copula is ken, which is inflected like any other verb.

gen ken-en nahvah-ot
Gehn COP-3SG master-1PL
Gehn is our master.
Riven (schoolroom)

met ken-en erth-klay
this COP-SG INDEF-example
This is an example
Aitrus's map

ken chevet
COP[1SG] thankful
I am thankful.
Atrus’s prayer

re=gerahn=okh re ter ken-en t'=nay-on
DEF=?=of DEF tree COP-3SG in=root=3SG
The ? of the tree is in its root.
Uru

ken may be dropped in an abbreviated style used occasionally in Aitrus's map.

do-tsahv-en m=re-prad t=erth-tes mot don erth-chir
PROG-live-3SG from=DEF-rock in=INDEF-group REL like INDEF-organism
Living from the rock in a group that [is] like an organism
Aitrus's map

In existential clauses, the argument whose existence is asserted may precede or follow the verb, apparently showing verb agreement in either case.

korvahkh-tee ken-eet tomet
linking.book-PL be-3PL here
There are linking books here
Kadish's note

loymaht le-ken-eet dhaynoy-tee pahrah t-re-sheegah
although PRF-be-3PL setback-PL great in-DEF-way
Although there have been great setbacks in the way
Gehn's journal

The verb ahnee 'become' also takes an adjectival predicate.

ahnee-tee-ah sifay
become-2PL-IMP wired
Get wired.
Wired

Intransitive and Transitive Clauses

Intransitive clauses have word order subject-verb, and transitive clauses have order subject-verb-object. The indirect object follows the verb, and may fall on either side of the direct object. The verb foosah 'call' takes two objects: the name and the thing named.

The personal pronouns do not occur as explicit subjects of the verb. The subject of an intransitive clause is grammatically identical to the subject of a transitive clause.

Possessive clauses use the verb sek. (In Aitrus’s map the form sekh occurs, but I do not know whether this is normal variation or an error.)

ril=sek-eet re=dhelim b'-poget set
NEG=have-3PL DEF=? INF-rule 1PL
They do not have the ? to rule us.
Kenen Gor note

A number of D'ni verbs can be used either in intransitive or transitive clauses. Usually the transitive clause is a causative equivalent of the intransitive clause, as with reeslo 'be dissolved/make dissolve' in the following examples.

do-reeslo-en re=mahrg melin m=re=prad
PROG-dissolve-3SG DEF=layer outer from=DEF=rock
dissolving the outer layer of the rock
Aitrus’s map

t=re'=irvan-tee […] mot le-reeslo-eet
with=DEF=mineral-PL […] REL PRF-dissolve-3PL
with the minerals […] that have dissolved
Aitrus’s map

Passive Voice

There are several passive constructions in D'ni. The progressive prefix do may in certain cases mark a distinction in voice, rather than aspect.

re=bishtah ko-do-say-en
DEF=tunnel PST-PROG-design-3SG
The tunnel was designed
Aitrus’s map

Frequently do- passives are reinforced with the suffix -ij, as in the sentence below.

khahpo re=zunu ril=do-l-gel-en-ij gahth
perhaps DEF-ending NEG=PROG-PRF-write-3SG-PASS yet
Perhaps the ending has not yet been written.
End of Ages Collectors’ Edition

Another passive construction involves the use of ken as an auxiliary verb preceding the main verb. The two verbs usually take the same inflection for tense, aspect, and subject. Modals and the negative word ril modify ken, rather than the main verb. If the agent appears, it is expressed in a prepositional phrase headed by te.

re=tiwah ko-ken-en ko-say-en t'=telooknahvah gahrten
DEF=shaft PST-COP-3SG PST-design-3SG by=surveyors:guild:master Garten
The shaft was designed by Surveyors Guild Master Garten.
Aitrus’s map


Subject marking on the main verb may not be necessary, as in the following sentence, where the main verb lacks a subject suffix.

met yishah ko-ken-en ko-pazgo [...]
this planet(?) PST-COP-3SG PST-fund
This planet(?) was funded [...]
Riven soundtrack

The passive suffix ij may also be used with the ken construction, in which case it is the only inflection present on the main verb, as in the example below.

ril=bo-ken-et veren-ij
NEG=FUT-COP-1PL ?-PASS
We will not be ?
Uru (Kenen Gor note)

Negation

ril is the negative particle. It precedes the word it negates.

Complex Sentences

Do- Forms

Verbs prefixed with do may be used in an adverbial clause, whose subject and tense need not agree with those of the main clause.

ko-hoor-et ah=met=m'lah do-tsahv-en t'=fah t=re=gahlpo-tee vogets
PST-find-1PL ?=this=lizard PROG-live-3SG in=one in=DEF=cave-PL natural
We found this lizard living in one of the natural caves.
Aitrus’s map

volah tes-ot prin fahets teegtahn-tee ko-do-teeg-eet rilte re=ahreeutahv tsahroo tseemahahl ko-neetsahvay-eet tanuth iglahrno
yes group-1PL small first worker-PL PST-PROG-work-3PL without DEF=protection ? need-PTCP PST-suffer-3PL ? temporary
Yes, our first small group of workers, working without the protection ? needing, suffered temporary ?
Gehn's journal

There are also instances of a verb prefixed with do acting as the head of a nominalized clause following a preposition. As the following example demonstrates, perfect inflection is not carried over from the main clause.

oonray-ot gen le-pahboy-en set te do-tahg-en b'=set ah r'=raiway b'-bahrel re=kor-tee
lord-1PL Gehn PRF-bless-SG 1PL by PROG-give-3SG to=1PL ? DEF=procedure INF-make DEF=book-PL
Our lord Gehn has blessed us by giving us the procedure to make the books.
Riven (Gateroom)

Infinitives

The infinitive form of the verb may modify a preceding noun or serve as the non-finite complement of a preceding verb. When left implicit, the infinitive’s subject is identical with the subject of the preceding verb. Infinitival clauses tend to express purpose and phase.

re-kooahn t=re-kleft preniv le-glo-en b'=rem
DEF-stream in=DEF-cleft again PRF-begin-3SG to=flow
Once again the stream in the Cleft has begun to flow.
Uru (Yeesha)

Some verbs may take both a noun phrase as object and a following infinitive as their complement, in which case the subject of the infinitive is identified with the subject of the preceding verb in some constructions and the object in others.

Subject:
ko-mes-en re-doyhah-tee [...] gah=vailee-tee tren b'=choylahnay
PST-require-3SG DEF-machine-PL [...] and=month-PL few to=complete
It required the machines [...] and a few months to complete.
Aitrus's map

Object:
oonray-ot gen le-shokhoo-en set b'-tahgahm biv
lord-1PL Gehn PRF-instruct-3SG 1PL INF-know all
Our lord Gehn has instructed us to know all.
Riven (Survey Island)

In some infinitival clauses, the preposition khe precedes the subject. Pronouns in this position are apparently preceded by the definite article.

ken-en gor kh=re=set b'-mahlah winis
COP-3SG time for=DEF=1PL INF-come ?
It is time for us to come ?
Uru (Kenen Gor note)

The following example shows a passive infinitive, in which only the auxiliary verb takes the infinitive prefix.

ken-en gor kh=re=kahntintahn-tee b'-ken shentome-ij
COP-3SG time for=DEF=?-PL INF-COP take:from-PASS
It is time for the ? to be taken from
Uru (Kenen Gor note)

Complement Clauses

The finite complement of a verb is introduced with the word roo, although this is apparently not obligatory. Finite complements tend to be utterance and knowledge clauses.

bo-tahgahm-eet roo ken-et ril=voohee ahtmay-ij
FUT-know-3PL COMP COP-1PL NEG=can ?-PASS
They will know that we cannot be ?
Uru (Kenen Gor note)

tahgahm-em tsahn bo-taygahn shem b'=fahsee
know-2SG always FUT-love[1SG] 2SG to=twenty-five
You know I will always love you exceedingly.
Riven (Keta)

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses are introduced by mot or, in one case, roo (though the relativizer is not obligatory if the modified noun is the object of the relative clause) and follow their head. Within the relative clause there is a gap in place of the head noun.

re=m'lah sekh-en poahnt bonooets b'=rigahsen mot torn-en f=re=prad-tee
DEF=lizard have-3SG saliva acidic to=twenty-three COMP spit-3SG at=DEF=rock-PL
The lizard has highly acidic saliva, which it spits at the rocks.
Aitrus’s map

met ken-en erth=klay stofah t=re=gilo-tee bahronet ko-lon-et
this COP-3SG INDEF=example of.one of=DEF=plant-PL phosphorescent PST-discover-1PL
This is an example of one of the phosphorescent plants we discovered.
Aitrus’s map

ken tomet te biv roo mairu
COP[1SG] here with all COMP ?[1SG]
I am here with all that I ?
Uru (Kadish note)

Interrogative pronouns (listed in the appropriate section below) introduce relative clauses without a head noun. Such a relative clause may be embedded inside a prepositional phrase, as in the following example.

ril malo-et-ah me kamto ko-mahlah-et
NEG forget-1PL-IMP from where PST-come-1PL
We must not forget from whence we came.
Exile (Releeshahn book)

Such a relative clause may also modify a preceding pronoun, as in the following example. Note the use in this construction of okhze rather than the possessive suffix -on.

r'ayts'day [...] okhze kamrov ko-foosah-eet re=bahreltahn hahzah gah=trel
the-retribution [...] of=3SG who PST-call-3PL the-god white and=blue
The [...] retribution of her whom they called the White and Blue God.
Unwritten Kickstarter

Focus may be placed on a noun phrase by using a cleft construction of the form kenen NP [mot VP].

ko-ken-en re=vog miro okh re=vaidu mot ko-poogo-en
PST-COP-3SG DEF=nature toxic of DEF=? REL PST-?-3SG
It was the toxic nature of the ? that ?
Gehn’s journal

Other Complex Clauses

A concessive clause introduced by loymaht may follow or precede the main clause.

loymaht terelin ril ko-do-bahrel-en re=bishtah ko-do-lahsah-en t=re=filahdh te=flin teeget
though contact NEG PST-PASS-make-3SG DEF=tunnel PST-PASS-seal-3SG in=DEF=top in=order working
Though contact wasn’t made the tunnel was sealed at the top in working order.
Aitrus's map

The word gopah introduces a clause expressing the cause of a state of affairs, following the main clause.

tsahnril kobo-l-keebah-en ze neegesh gopah tomahnah-tee-omee gah=mooden-tee-omee gah-tsotoy-tee-omee ko-ken-eet t'=paychahvo
never would-PRF-obey-3SG 3SG.ACC merely because home-PL-2PL and=fortune-PL-2PL and=child-PL-2PL PST-COP-3PL in=danger
[Who] never would obey her merely because your homes and fortunes and children were in danger.
Unwritten Kickstarter

The word gatah followed by the preposition be introduces a noun phrase expressing a cause. An adverb may fall between gatah and be.

ril leeahm le-ken-en hoosahtay b'=fahsee okh een okh mishtahtahv-oy met fahm gatah chilesh b=re=vog wotsah okh r'=ahchah te ah sev mot
NEG ? PRF-COP-3SG ? to=twenty_five of any of construction-1SG this far due mainly to=DEF=nature harsh of DEF=? in ? age that
No ? has been greatly ? of any of my construction this far, due mainly to the harsh nature of the ? in that age.
Gehn's journal

Conjunctions such as gah 'and', pahm 'or', and roob 'but' link two independent clauses. The same conjunctions are used for joining noun phrases and prepositional phrases, standing between the coordinated items. gah may attach to the following word, and can connect multiple items, gah being optional before all but the last element of the list.

re-hevo kro-en gah=rees-en gah=eder-en t=erth=tes don erth=chir fah
DEF-swarm move-3SG and=eat-3SG and=sleep-3SG in=INDEF=group like INDEF=organism one
The swarm moves, eats, and sleeps in a group, as if it were a single organism.
Aitrus's map

gormot glahs-en ah=re=poahnt t=re'=irvan-tee t=re=gilo-tee gah t=re=chir-tee prin mot le-reeslo-eet
then drink-3SG ?=DEF=saliva with=DEF=mineral-PL with=DEF=plant-PL and with=DEF=organism-PL small REL PRF-dissolve-3PL
It then drinks the saliva along with the minerals, plants, and small organisms which have been dissolved.
Aitrus's map

Imperatives and Interrogatives

Imperatives occur with first person plural and second person subjects.

Polar questions are identical in form to declarative sentences.

ken-en ahtsoo
COP-3SG ready
Is it ready?
Riven (Keta)

Interrogative pronouns appear at the beginning of their clause. They include dho 'how' and kam 'what', with compound forms kamrov 'who', kamto 'where', and kamfah 'which'. dho seems to be used to refer to the degree of an adjective or the adjectival complement of ken, though most of its occurrences are in a text (Atrus's prayer) that remains grammatically obscure in many places.

[dho] ken-em
how COP-2SG
How are you?
Book of Ti’ana
(The original text has thoe in place of dho, but this is likely a nonstandard transliteration.)
Tags: d'ni, myst
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