The BG Language Creation Guide

#10: Syntax: Writing Help

Sarah: is this page even necessary now?
  1. Definiteness. In English, the definite article is 'the' and the indefinite articles is a or an. The plural of 'the' is 'the'. The plural of 'a' and 'an' is 'some'. You may choose free function words or an affix to denote definiteness or indefiniteness. If you have a free function word, note where it is placed. If you have an affix, also note if it is a prefix, suffix, infix or circumfix. Same goes for the indefinite. Here are a few ways to phrase this
    • In languagename, definiteness is marked by a free function word placed before the noun. (Example).
    • Definiteness is expressed by a bound suffix attached to the noun.
    • There is no marker of indefiniteness, but the definite article is a free function word placed after the noun.
    • Definiteness is marked by an inflectional prefix on the noun. this prefix has two allomorphs: xxx is used before nouns which begin with a consonant and xx is used before vowel-initial forms.
    • The definite article varies with the noun class of the noun it modifies. Thus, nouns from class I take xx, nouns in class II take xx and class III nouns take xxx.
  2. Subject Object Verb order. We generally abbreviate these and here are the six possibilities in order of their ordinariness: SOV SVO VSO VOS OSV OVS. Your choice here is used adjectivally to describe the language like this: English is an SVO language. Japanese is a SOV language.
  3. You might say: Languagename uses postpositions to express location and similar adverbial information. (Then give examples.) Remember that these are generally either free function words (as in English), or inflectional affixes (as in Turkish. If they are free function words, they are prepositions, postpositions or circumfixes. If they are bound inflectional affixes, choose between prefix, suffix, circumfix or infix. If the form has more than one allomorph, be sure to mention that and mention how one knows which allomorph to use.
  4. Noun and adjective. You should say either
    • Adjectives precede the nouns they modify or
    • Adjectives follow the nouns they modify or
    • if you have a split system with some adjectives coming before and some after, describe that.
  5. Typology: You can say: language xx (choose one:
    • is a head-initial language
    • is a head-final language
    • is a fairly consistent head-initial language
    • is a fairly consistent head-final language
    • is a language in which there appear to be controdictions in word order patterns. ( then give examples).
    Whichever of the above reflects the reality of your language, discuss it further. Describe your choices of verb/object order, noun/adjective order and preposition/postposition and to what extent they are congruent with one another: either all head-initial, all head-final or some combination.

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