The BG Language Creation Guide

#10: Syntax

To build sentences, you must answer questions about word order and other syntactic constructions. Answer the following questions. Make sure you give glossed examples for each. Remember to use all the morphology you have established so far. for example, if you said that you mark present tense or that verbs agree with subjects, you have to do that. If you have used phrases or whole sentences in earlier sections, you may change your mind at this point. However, do remember to go back and change those examples to avoid inconsistency in your final write-up.
  1. Do you have articles? Note that the "best" answer to this question is a bit of a cop out. Each language which has definite articles follows different rules and has different details for their use. So, while it is true that both English and Spanish have definite and indefinite articles, there are places where Spanish uses the definite article where English does not. Creating a new set of rules for when to use definite articles is beyond the scope of this project. Languages without articles have different mechanisms for showing definiteness and for marking topics. Those are also beyond the immediate scope of this project. So, with an acknowledgement that we are taking the easy way out, choose one of the possibilities below, and be prepared to stick with it:
    • The language has no articles.
    • The language has a definite article and no indefinite article. Create it and describe its allomorphs if any. The definite article works the same way as the English one does.
    • The language has an indefinite article and no definite article. Create it and describe its allomorphs if any. The indefinite article works the same way as the English one does.
    • The language has both a definite and indefinite article. Create them and describe their allomorphs if any. They work the same way as the English ones do.
  2. What is the order of subject, object and verb in the language? (this was determined in step 6, if there are no changes, just repeat that here. Translate and gloss the following sentences to demonstrate once again.

    As you translate the first sentence, notice that you do not have the verb that precisely corresponds to 'light'. Translation is not just a matter of plugging words like puzzle pieces from one language to another. Ask yourself what the sentence means and choose words from your language that will convey that meaning. Work with what you have: do not create new words each time you come upon a tricky bit of translation. You can translate this sentence in several different ways with the verbs you made in step 6.

    • We lit a fire.
      (Line 29 from final Translation.)
    • We do not eat fish.
      (Line 12 from final translation.)
  3. How normal is this word order in the context of languages of the world? (consult a reputable source.)
  4. To indicate location and other relationships, do you use prepositions, postpositions, prefixes, infixes, circumfixes or suffixes?
  5. What are your words (or affixes) for the following:
    • toward
    • away (from)
    • on (meaning on top of)
    • under
    • in
    • out
    • near
  6. Translate and gloss the following to demonstrate.
    • near the river
      (part of line 4 from final Translation).
    • in the tree
      (part of line 3 from final Translation).
  7. Look back to Step 8. What is the order of noun and adjective? Are there exceptions? What kind of exceptions are there? Translate and gloss the following to demonstrate. (Note that you did this in step 8: if there are no changes, simply reuse those here).
    • long river
    • big trees
  8. Based on what you know about typology and universals, how do your choices of word order rules fit (numbers 2 4 and 6 above) together? Do they contradict one another or are the relationships as expected? consult the help file with this step and/or a reputable source for this answer.
  9. Coordination: make words for
    • and
    • or
    • but
    • because
  10. Write and gloss the sentences below:
    • We eat seeds and xx (Fill in the name of a vegetable here).
      (Line 14 from final Translation).
    • We do not eat fish or birds.
      (Part of lines 12 and 13).
    • We swim a lot, but we do not drink the water because fish swim in it.
      (lines 8, 9 and 10 from final Translation).

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Updated 4/2/2010