The Art of Conlanging

Chapter 8: It's What You Do

Grammar, Part Three: Verbs

Sorry for not updating in forever!

Anyway, verbs are pretty complex creations, much more so than nouns. This is because nouns are pretty specific things. When you say, "apple", there is no doubt in your mind what is meant. Now, you can add details, sure, but an apple is an apple. However, with a verb you want three details in addition to the generic verb: tense, aspect, and mood. In English, these cannot be accomplished in one word, but might take up a whole sentence. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's define each thing:

Tense: This is the "when" of the verb. The three obvious choices are past, present, and future tenses. However, sometimes these aren't always distinct. Take English: "We leave." (present) and "We leave tomorrow." (future). Because of this, some people would say that English has two tenses: past and non-past. But that just confuses things!

Aspect: This says whether the action was a one-time deal or an ongoing action. Some languages, such as Klingon, leave tense completely to adverbs (like "we leave tomorrow" above).

Mood: The hardest to describe. So I'll let Wikipedia do it for me: it is the relationship between the verb to reality and intent. Commands form one mood in the English language (called the imperative) while questions form another (called the interrogative). Those are only two moods, and obvious ones at that. But you get the idea.

Intransitive vs. Transitive

These are categories for verbs. It is important because it is one way you can make your language stand out: how it handles them. Transitive verbs are ones that need a direct object: for example, you can't just say, "I struck." without something even implied for an object. You have to say "I struck gold" or whatever. (In the context of a fight scene, it would make sense, however to say "I struck" :)

Intransitive verbs, however, doesn't take a direct object. Verbs like "sleep", "run", "walk", etc. don't need a direct object.

In Lemildian Ohotian, intransitive verbs are marked with the ending -a while transitive verbs have the subtly different ending -รข. (The indicates it is a "weak a", which will become silent if followed by vowel in the next syllable.) The idea is that the final a doesn't want to compete with the object if it starts with a vowel :)

This is one rather simple way of utilizing the transitive vs. intransitive thing. Many natural languages are much more freaky than Ohotian in this area ;)

Anyway, that's all I'm going to talk about for now! Chao!

Next Chapter: A Tense Situation (Part IV of Grammar! Looking at verb tenses)