Rilin Morphosyntax

This is an overview of the grammar of Rílin, a more or less naturalistic conlang spoken by the Ríli, a smallish grey-skinned species of humanoids.


The verbal system in Rílin is generally agglutinative with some fusional aspects. Verbal alignment is split ergative/absolutive by noun and verb; that is, subjects of intransitives and objects of transitives are marked similarly on nouns, but verbal morphology marks subjects of intransitives and agents of transitives similarly. Verbs are suffixing and are marked for person, number, tense/aspect, mode, and voice. The pronominal system also distinguishes between three degrees of familiarity.

All verb stems in Rílin end in vowels. Most common verbs consist of 1-3 syllables, but longer verbs can be seen less commonly.

All verbs in Rilin end in vowels. This is partially due to the difficulty that would arise with unacceptable consonant clusters involving stem-final consonants and the consonantal tense/aspect markers which must directly follow the stem. Most common verbs consist of 2–3 syllables or fewer. The general rule is that the more common the verb, the more likely it is to have fewer syllables.

Degree of Familiarity in Pronominal Suffixes

All verbs in Rílin are attached with a suffix that indicates all at once person, number, and something referred to as degree of familiarity. The 1st degree indicates that the speaker's relation to the 2nd or 3rd person is the most familiar, the 2nd degree indicates a mid-level of familiarity, and the 3rd degree indicates the relation is the most formal. There is a distinction of degree of familiarity in the 1st person only in the plural (which refers to the other person or persons other than the ego within the 1st person plural). In the 1st person plural there is also a distinction between inclusive and exclusive. Inclusive 1st person plural indicates that the 2nd person is included, and exclusive indicates that only a 3rd person party is included. For the first person only, there is also a distinction between plural (more than two) and dual (two only).

There are many social nuances to the use of all three of the familiarity degrees; the 3rd degree can be used to convey either coldness or high respect; the 1st can be used to show either intimacy or disrespect. The 2nd degree is therefore considered the  “safest” to use in most social situations, except when either the 1st or 3rd is the obvious correct decision, such as when referring to one's spouse or one's national leader.

All these culturally defined usages and implications also depend on the dialect in use. The Sunuli dialect tends to use the 1st degree of familiarity the most frequently, followed by some use of the 2nd, and almost no uses of the 3rd.

Variations in the First Person Plural

There are several ways to say “we” in Rílin. First, there is the exclusive/inclusive distinction. This is a simple concept; what this means is basically whether the speaker (the one using “we”) is including the one they are speaking to (you) or not. Exclusive “we” does not include “you” while inclusive does. “we” = “you and I” vs. “we” = “she/he and I” also contrast with “we” = “you all and I” vs. “we” = “they and I” . To make matters more complex, any of these “we”s can be in any of the three degrees of familiarity, giving in all 12 ways of saying “we”.

Person/Number/Familiarity (pnf) Suffixes

1st sg 2nd sg 3rd sg 1st pl incl w/sg 1st excl w/sg 1st pl inclusive w/p 1st pl exclusive w/pl 2nd pl 3rd pl
1st degree -im -ap -ílími -ípi -ílíni -ípin -ín -apen
2nd degree -- -y -ík -íxymi -íki -íxyni -íkin -yn -íka
3rd degree -- -a -é/-ö -ízami -éí -ízani -éín -an -éla


Pronominal suffixes are originally derived from the full pronoun forms, which are below. These are used in non-subjective positions and take all the same case markers as other nouns.

1st sg 2nd sg 3rd sg 1st pl incl w/sg 1st excl w/sg 1st pl inclusive w/p 1st pl exclusive w/pl 2nd pl 3rd pl
1st degree imi fa lími pi líni pin lin apen
2nd degree -- xy íka xymɪ ki xyni kin xyn íkan
3rd degree -- zana ela zami ei zani éín zanan élan

Tense and Aspect

(Default) Perfective Progressive Conative Habitual Iterative
Past -d- -z- -s- -p- -r- -ʐ-
Present -t- -g- -k- -b- -l- -ʂ-
Future -t-

+ doubling of pnf suffix vowel

+ doubling of pnf suffix vowel
> + doubling of pnf suffix vowel

+ doubling of pnf suffix vowel

+ doubling of pnf suffix vowel

+ doubling of pnf suffix vowel
Above are the suffixes used to mark tense and aspect. Note that both tense and aspect are fused into one morpheme (which is one way in which Rilin is a partially fusional language). Each of the three tenses combines with each of the five aspects, and each tense also has an “aspectless” or default version (default means no aspect is implied in the morpheme).

Below are some descriptions of the uses of the different tenses and aspects.

Past, Present, Future — Rílin tenses are straightforward. They can indicate actions taking place any time within the frame of past/present/future. While the suffixes for the past and present are different, the future can only be distinguished from the present by the doubling of the vowel in the following pronominal suffix. This means that in order to create the future (instead of the present), one must use the correct suffix (say, -t-) and double the a vowel in the pronominal suffix (the suffix showing person/number/familiarity (pnf)). So -tík indicates present, while -tíík is future. The vowel that is doubled in those suffixes containing more than one vowel is as follows:
-ílími → -ílíími 'we (you and me)'
-íxymi → -íxyymi 'we (you and me)' (2nd deg familiarity)
-ízami → -ízaami 'we (you and me)' (3rd deg familiarity)
-ípi → -ípii 'we (me and one other person—not you)'
-íki → -íkii 'we (me and one other person—not you)' (2nd deg familiarity)
-éí → -éíí 'we (me and one other person—not you)' (3rd deg familiarity)
-ílíni → -ílííni 'we (you, me and at least one other person)' 
-íxyni → -íxyyni 'we (me and one other person—not you)' (2nd deg familiarity)
-ízani → -ízaani 'we (me and one other person—not you)' (3rd deg familiarity)
-ípin → -ípiin 'we (me and some other people—not you)'
-íkin → -íkiin 'we (me and some other people—not you)' (2nd deg familiarity)
-éín → -éíín 'we (me and some other people—not you)' (3rd deg familiarity)
-apen → -aapen 'they' (must be plural)
-íka → -ííka 'they' (2nd deg familiarity)
-éla → -ééla 'they' (3rd deg familiarity)

The first /i/ in most of these suffixes is technically epenthetic—it exists only to break up an otherwise unwieldly (though not necessarily phototactically illegal) consonant cluster that might occur if the tense/aspect suffix were to be directly juxtaposed to a consonant-initial pronominal suffix. This epenthetic vowel is never the vowel that is duplicated to indicate future tense. Usually, it is the first vowel after that epenthetic vowel, though the notable exception of -éí-éíí (3rd degree familiarity 1st person dual exclusive).

Examples of verbs in the future tense

Besutípii lepenet.
besu-t      -ípii              lepe -n-et

eat  -npst-1du.excl.fut      apple-p-abs
'We will eat apples'

Í   -t     -aapen     vale-et 
see-npst-3p.fut    flag -abs
'They will see a flag'

Myñótaap bí melantsínet 
myñó-t      -aap     bí  melantsín-et
pierce-npst-3s.fut the leather   -abs
'She will pierce the leather'

Zaíkílííni kó dunu zaíŵyla 
zaí-k        -ílííni      kó dunu zaíŵy-la
go-prs.prg-1pl.incl at fourth hour-instr
'We will be going at the fourth hour'

Aspects and their uses

Perfective — The perfective aspect views the event of the verb as a single whole. The action is conceived as a unit, as opposed to in the progressive aspect, where the event is viewed as unfolding or dynamic.

Progressive — Contrasts with perfective aspect; the progressive aspect emphasizes the continuous, dynamic quality of an action that is a process rather than a single event.

Conative — The conative expresses an action is one is “trying” to do, but does not quite complete.

Habitual — The habitual expresses an action that happens many times over a long period of time—a “habit”, like its name implies. “I go shopping once a month.” In Rilin the verb would be in the habitual. In the above sentence, the habitual aspect is emphasized by the qualifying phrase “once a month”.

Iterative — The iterative aspect denotes an action that happens over and over again within a short frame of time. “She beat him with a pan over and over.” This contrasts with the habitual which describes something happening over and over within a comparatively large frame of time, such as would be used in the phrase “She beat him with a pan every Friday.”


There are three distinct voices in Rílin: active (the default), antipassive, and passive. As the active voice is the default, there is no morphological indicator to mark its presence. If there is no voice marker, the voice is active.

The antipassive voice is marked with the suffix –in, a suffix which must immediately follow the tense/aspect marker and precede the pnf suffix. The function of the antipassive voice is to take a transitive verb and make it intransitive. The noun that normally would take the ergative case instead takes the absolutive, and the noun that would normally take the absolutive instead can be (optionally) added as an oblique phrase (cf. the “by” phrases of English passive voice). Some examples are below.
Active: Analap Tsiluas Silinet. 'Tsilu loves Silin' 
Antipassive: Analinap Tsiluet (kó Silinu). 'Tsilu loves (Silin)' 

Active: Gókap lu mías bín tsenet 'The girl is taking the stones'
Antipassive: Gókinap lu míet (kó bín tsenla). 'The girl is taking (the stones)'
Note that the oblique phrase (which is always constructed using the preposition  'toward/to' with the noun in the instrumental/prepositional case), is totally optional. You can just say:
Analinap Tsiluet 'Tsilu loves (someone or something)' 

Gókinap lu míet 'The girl is taking (something/someone)'
The function of the antipassive is to draw focus to what in an active phrase would be the ergative noun, and to downplay what would be the absolutive noun. 

The passive voice is much the reverse of the antipassive.  It is not a voice construction that is used with very much frequency in normal everyday speech by Ríli. Although, this is a voice that may be more familiar to those who are speakers of nominative/accusative languages, as this type of voice is in fact quite rare to be found in an ergative language. In Rílin, the passive voice marked on the verb with –ak, a suffix which must immediately follow the tense/aspect marker. Its function is to detransitivize the verb, but unlike the antipassive, the absolutive-marked noun remains as such; the ergative-marked noun disappears or is demoted to an oblique phrase.
Active: Analap Tsiluas Silinet. 'Tsilu loves Silin'
Passive: Analakap Silinet (pa Tsiluu) 'Silin is loved (by Tsilu)'

Active: Besukap lu lönas bí paíet. 'The woman is eating the berry' 
Passive: Besukakap bí paíet (pa lu lönu) 'The berry is being eaten (by the woman)'

Active: Bälim bémŕaet 'I drink lemonade'
Passive: Bälakap bémŕaet 'The lemonade is drunk' 

Passive voice verbs do not have to have a pnf marker on the end. In these cases, they can be translated as past infinitives quite well:

Ŝéatak 'to be inconvenienced, burdened, troubled'

Ŝéatakim 'I am inconvenienced'


There are two basic modes in Rílin, indicative (for events happening in reality), and irrealis, for verbs describing things that aren't happening but may, or that someone wishes to happen, etc. The uses of irrealis are many and varied. They can be anything from an expression of a wish (“I wish it were (but it's not)”) or subjective opinion (“I think X is Y.”) to a contrafactual conditional (“If it were (but it's not), then X.”). Within irrealis are included command forms or imperatives of verbs, since it is implied with the imperative that the action isn't already taking place. Irrealis is also used with various “modal” verbs (as in English with “should”, “would”, “could”, etc.).

The suffix for irrealis is -ky, or in very formal speech, -kû.
There is no suffix for indicative, since it is the default.

There are two ways of forming the imperative (command form). The most common is the “shortened” version in which –ky is applied directly to the end of the verb stem with no tense/aspect or pnf marker. The other way is to fully conjugate the verb with the t/a and pnf markers. The latter way emphasizes the person implication and the imperative in general (i.e. Do this! vs. You do this now!)

Besu-k         -í. -ky!
eat  -prs.prg-2sg-irr
'you eat now!', 'you better be eating now!' (Note use of progressive present.)
In colloquial speech, the infinitive form of the verb is often used to imply the imperative. This trend is becoming more widespread in modern Rílin.

Order of Suffixes


The order of suffixation on verbs is as follows. 

verb stem--tense/aspect marker--(voice marker)--pronominal marker--(mode marker)

Mode markers, as indicated above, are optional and do not always appear.

Bä-   k          -in        -ap-ky 
'She may be drinking'

Besutiim lepenet. 
Besu-t    -iim       lepe-n-et
Eat  -npst-1s.fut apple-p-abs
'I'll eat applies'

Zuladí íkaet faö. 
Zula-d   -í    íka     -et   fa-ö
loan-pst-2sg money-abs 3s-dat
'You loaned her money'
Note that some of these will not necessarily exist on every verb, but tense/aspect and person/number/familiarity are required for every conjugated verb, except for the shortened version of the imperative or for infinitives (e.g. Ptatap í faet 'He must see it').

Nominal affix order

Order of suffixes on nouns puts the plural marker immediately after the stem and any case markers follow.


'women (absolutive)' 

'mothers (ergative)'
Any derivational morphology on nouns is considered part of the stem to which the above inflectional morphology is affixed.
malímasé 'joyful'
malímasér̂û 'joyful one' 



'with the joyful ones'

The Verb “to be”

The verb “to be” (ŝy) as a copula only exists in non-present tenses, in the irrealis mode, or as an infinitive used alongside another verb. In the present tense, the subject and the predicate (be it adjectival, nominal, or a prepositional phrase) are simply juxtaposed—that is, there is a zero copula in the present tense. Note that neither subject noun nor predicate noun ever take ergative or absolutive case markers when juxtaposed or used in a copular phrase with “to be”. If the verb is put into the irrealis mode, it also appears as ŝy (e.g. ŝyky).
Fa ma imidí 'She is my mother.' 

Ŝydap ma imidí 'She was my mother.' 

Elan uränûn. 'They are queens.'

Ŝydelan uränûn. 'They were queens.'

Ŝytéíí uränû. 'She will be a queen.'

Ŝyky bere! ‘be good!’

Be ŝytaapen zöxo ‘They won’t be trusting’ 

Be apen zöxo ‘They are not trusting’ 

Ptatap ŝy bere ‘He ought to be good’


Nouns in Rílin are lexically and grammatically divided into two categories: animate and inanimate. Included in the animate class are people and living animals. Inanimate nouns cover essentially all other nouns. Some examples of each category are below.


fa ‘I, me’
la ‘person’
lentí ‘dog’
äjaŝala ‘singer’
anala ‘lover’
ba ‘father’
bír̂ala ‘debtor’
í’a ‘insect’
mabaí ‘oyster’


tse ‘stone’
ídó ‘sight, vision’
mas ‘bed’ 
näsu ‘gums’
nömuŝ ‘vow’
nu ‘fruit’
konu ‘pine tree’
kaí ‘fire’
belä ‘flesh’
There are several examples of non-living entities being put in the animate class in certain contexts. Such entities include certain forces in nature, certain emotions, and certain things that naturally move but are not actually life-forms or at least normally conscious life-forms. Many of these non-living entities may also be classified as inanimate in other contexts. Which class these nouns appear in depends on the intentions and implications that the speaker wants to convey. To speak about the ocean as an animate entity is to personify it in a way—it is more poetic to speak about the ocean as an animate. In more mundane contexts, the ocean is not considered animate.
Bura-t-ap     lu             ólón-et
roll -npst-3s ocean-abs
‘The sea is rolling’
In the above example, taken from a poem, the sea is personified for poetic reasons and used with the animate definite article lu rather than the inanimate .  

There are two different case systems—one for animates and one for inanimates. The case system reflects the major structure of the Rílin verbal system—ergative/absolutive. That is, the subject of an intransitive verb (absolutive case) is treated the same (in marking, etc.) as the object of a transitive verb. The agent of a transitive verb (ergative case) is treated differently.
Namí-et béwu-t-ík. 
Namí-abs chant-npst-3s
‘Nami is chanting.’
Above, Nami (the animate subject) is marked with the absolutive case (-et) because the verb béwu (to chant) is intransitive.
Besu-k         -ík  Namí-as                    bí            tí’é      -et
eat  -prs.prg-3s  Namí-erg    apricot-abs
‘Nami is eating the apricot.’
In the second sentence, Namí (the agent) is marked with the ergative; this is specifically because of the verb (eat) which is transitive (i.e. it has a direct object, the apricot). The apricot (tí’é), is marked with the absolutive because it is the direct object of this transitive verb. 

As can be seen from this system, Rílin is described as a split-ergative language—it is ergative in its treatment of nouns (cases), but not so in its verbal morphology (the same verbal suffixes are used for agents of transitives as well as subjects of intransitives):
Ẃí      -k         -im
‘I’m whistling’

Zäŕedim bí hakŭset
Zäŕe-d-im    bí         hakŭs-et
open-pst-1s door-abs
‘I opened the door’

Animate Case Markers

Absolutive – -et
Ergative – -as
Instrumental/prepositional– -u
Dative – -ö
Genitive – -dí
Possessive – -mu

Inanimate Case Markers

Abs. – -et
Erg. – -es
Instr./Prep. – -la
Dat. – -ö
Gen. – -mí
Poss. – -(ó)
N.B. : With any forms of ‘to be’ (which only has copulas in non-present tenses), no ergative or absolutive case endings are used on nouns. So “It is soft” would be simply Fa ör̂a, not *Faet ör̂a.

The Instrumental/Prepositional Case

This is the case that is generally used when the noun is the object of a preposition. However, it can also be used to fully replace a preposition or to be used as an instrumental-type case (showing the instrument of an action).
Besuzim (na) Namíu. 
Besu-z       -im (na) Namí-u. 
eat  -pst.prf-2s with Namí-instr
‘I ate with Namí.’

Teatiim faet ó tula tímbemí. 
Tea-t     -iim      fa-et    ó        tu-la        tímbe-mí
cut-npst-1s.fut 3s-abs loc shape-instr triangle-gen
‘I’ll cut it in the shape of a triangle’

Jûítap fau pa zósérala. 
Jûí    -t     -ap fa-u       pa zöséra              -la 
doubt-npst-3s 3s-instr by trustworthiness-instr
'She doubts his trustworthiness' 

Sótatap ukau fadí pa xarala
Sóta    -t    -ap uka          -u         fa-dí  pa xara      -la
believe-nst-3s companion-instr 3s-gen by strength-instr
‘She believes in her companion’s strength’ 

Ẃybadakap tañ nöet pa sé nölau. 
Ẃyba-d -ak   -ap  tañ      nö-et    pa sé        nöla-u
read -pst-pass-3sg dist book-abs by prox
‘That book was deciphered by this scholar’

Zaízapen ka bí jenla. 
Zaí-z       -apen ka bí                 jen-la
go-pst.prf-3p    at day-instr
‘They went during the daytime’

Butŝíózík (pa) ítäla.
Butŝíó   -z       -ík  (pa)     ítä-la. 
be.killed-pst.prf-3s by arrow-instr
‘He/she/it was killed by an arrow.’

Dative Case

This case marks indirect objects of verbs.
Gadim bín lepenet Namíö. ‘I gave the apples to Namí.’
It also can be used with the preposition ŝít, meaning ‘for, for the benefit of, for the sake of’.
Píŕódim séet ŝít Namíö. ‘I did this for Namí.’

Genitive vs. Possessive

The genitive and possessive cases are similar but not the same. The genitive refers to something to which the head noun is generally related. The possessive marks something that the head noun actually has ownership and/or direct control over. While one has an association with one’s sibling or one’s city, one does not usually own them, so the genitive would be more appropriate in describing these relationships. When it comes to something like one’s body parts or physical property, however, the possessive is perfectly suited. In general, if you have control over something and own it, it is possessed by you. But if you are related to it, and you and it are equal entities on the same plane, the relationship should be described using the genitive case. 

There is a great deal of subtlety involved, however, when distinguishing when to use one or the other case. Children, for example, are referred to by their parents in the possessive only when they are babies or younger children. Once they reach an age of about 10-12 years, it’s generally considered appropriate to use the genitive. Thus the distinction between genitive and possessive can have social implications as well. For example, it would be considered very rude and creepy to refer to one’s lover or spouse using the possessive. But likewise, it would be considered odd to refer a pet goldfish in the genitive.
Lentí imi-mu
dog  1s-poss
‘My dog’

Anala   imi-dí
partner 1s-gen
‘My partner’

Lymí fa-mu
baby 3s-poss
‘His/her/their baby’

Ma       fa-dí
mother 3s-gen
‘His/her/their mother’


The regular pluralisation of nouns in Rílin is created with –n or -en (for words ending in vowels and consonants, respectively). The plural suffix precedes the case markers on a noun.
Mémsenla laíkin
méms-en-la    laíkin 
year  -p -instr past
‘in previous years’ 

Béky vy kuŝtûnet!
bé  -ky   vy       kuŝtû-n-et

cook-irr some squash-p-abs
‘Cook squashes!’
Some irregular plurals include:
-y on some common nouns such as mas (bed), bun (foot), and im (eye).
masy ‘beds’
buny ‘feet’
imy ‘eyes’
Other common irregular plural is –(i)k. this is often used with nouns denoting people.
ma ‘mother’ → mak ‘mothers’


There are two articles in Rílin: the definite article (corresponding roughly to English ‘the’) and the partitive article, meaning roughly “some (of a whole or group)”. 

Unlike other adjectives and modifiers in Rílin, the articles must agree in number with the noun they are modifying. The pluralization is regular, being in –n. 

Articles always precede the noun they are modifying, as well as any other adjectives that may be placed before the noun (usually adjectives follow the noun they modify, but there are exceptions to this rule).

With the definite article, there are two different forms, one for animates and one for inanimates. For animates, there is lu with a plural of lun. For inanimates there is  with a plural of bín.

The partitive article is vy and its plural is vyn. These forms can be used for animates and inanimates alike. When vyn, the plural partitive is used, it means a group of some units out of an even larger group.
vy mula ‘some water’
vy fí ‘some wine’ 
vyn díjen ‘some boys (of a larger group)’ 
vyn lepen ‘some apples (out of a larger group)’ 

bí lepe ‘the apple’
bín lepen ‘the apples’

lu dele ‘the sister’
lun delen ‘the sisters’	
lu ma ‘the mother’
lun mak ‘the mothers’

Word Order and Syntax

Word order in Rilin is considerably free, largely due to the case system. Neutral order, however, is generally VSO, though SVO is common as well.

Besutík lu díjeas bí lepeet. 
besu-t    -ík lu    díje-as    bí lepe-et
eat. -npst-3s the boy-erg the apple-abs
‘The boy eats the apple’

Lu díjeas besutík bí lepeet.
lu díje -as besu-t     -ík  bí lepe-et
the boy-erg eat-npst-3s the apple-abs
‘The boy eats the apple.’

For oblique arguments in other cases, there is even more freedom. But the most common placements are as follows: Dative noun phrases generally follow the direct object absolutive noun phrase. Prepositional phrases are usually placed after the verb. Nouns in the genitive or possessive case generally follow the head noun (i.e. the possessed thing/thing related to). Adverbs usually follow the verb, adjective, or other adverb that they are modifying, as do adjectives with the noun they are modifying.

lemwa-t     -íík      éruí
die     -npst-3s.fut eventually
‘He will die eventually.’

meríóna íka-mu qûr̂          ẃy zynä
kitchen 3s-poss too.much small just
‘Her kitchen is simply too small.’  

dele imi-dí lön kyílesé
sister 1s-gen woman intelligent 
‘My sister is an intelligent woman.’

There are, however, exceptions to this rule: one is, as is stated above, the articles, which precede the noun they modify. Others include certain adjectives, many of which are common in use:

bere ‘acceptable, good’ … ‘fa bere ma’ = ‘She is a good mother.’

ueki ‘fun, nice’ … ‘äjaŝky tañ ueki äjaet’ = ‘Sing that one fun song.’
ẃy ‘small’ … ‘tañ lu ẃy hyn qawynmu imidí’ = ‘That’s my neighbor’s little baby.’

bur̂ ‘large; powerful’ … ‘ynítap bur̂ qatnaíet’ = ‘He has a large office.’  

zynä ‘simple, mere’ … ‘gan fa zynä mabaí’ = ‘But it’s just an oyster.’

mara ‘great, grand; whole’ … ‘fa mara ŕíqä’ = ‘It’s a great festival.’  … ‘besudík bí maɾa lhŭxöet’ = ‘He ate the whole roast pepper.’ 

ynu ‘very’ (adv.) … ‘fa ynu ör̂a’ = ‘It’s very soft.’


There are various types of negation in Rílin. First, there is the distinction between clausal negation (negating an entire sentence or phrase) and individual negation (negating an individual word). Sometimes the line between the two is unclear and it becomes possible to use either form, though the connotations and emphasis of each usage is different. 

The clausal negation be is placed before the entire clause. When this negative is used, the entire clause or phrase is negated.
Äjaŝaté béwäet Ifinŝedí 
äjaŝa-t  -é   béwä-et    Ifinŝe-dí
sing-npst-3s hymn-abs Ifinŝe-gen
‘She is singing a hymn of Ifinŝe.’

Be äjaŝaté béwäet Ifinŝedí
be  äjaŝa-t   -é   béwä-et    Ifinŝe-dí
neg sing-npst-3s hymn-abs Ifinŝe-gen
‘She is singing a hymn of Ifinŝe.’
With the individual negation, the word following the negative particle ga is what is being logically negated. For practical purpose, this often leads to the same basic meaning. However, the emphasis here is greatly changed. 

While ‘Be äjaŝaté béwäet Ifinŝedí’ simply means ‘She isn’t singing a hymn of Ifinŝe’, ga can be used in various positions to negate various parts of the affirmative clause.
Ga äjaŝaté béwäet Ifinŝedí  ‘She is not singing a hymn of Ifinŝe (she is reading one).’

Äjaŝaté ga béwäet Ifinŝedí  ‘She isn’t singing a hymn of Ifinŝe (she is singing an aria about her).’

Äjaŝaté béwäet ga Ifinŝedí ‘She isn’t singing a hymn of Ifinŝe (she is singing a hymn of Dema).’

So the position of ga determines what exactly it being negated, which in turn determined what the emphasis of the negation is.


Nóíty lepeet? 
noi   -t     -y    lepe-et
want-npst-2s apple-abs
'Do you want an apple?' 


Nóíty kó butŝíótapky?
nóí  -t      -y    kó butŝíó.   -t      -ap-ky  
want-npst-2s that be.killed-npst-3s-irr
'Do you want him to get killed!?'


Comparatives and Superlatives of Adjectives

Formation of the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives is generally regular.

All adjectives ending in either a consonant or one of the following vowels form a comparative with :

-í -i -é -e -ö -u -ŭ -y
nari 'clean' > narió 'cleaner'
mím 'cute' > mímó 'cuter'
All adjectives ending in the following vowels form a comparative in -wû:

-a -ä -ó -o -û
ŭŝtû 'frustrated' > ŭŝtûwû 'more frustrated'
All adjectives ending in consonants have a superlative form in -ä:
kis 'slender' > kisä 'most slender'
All adjectives ending in vowels have a superlative form in -nis:
ture 'soft' > turenis 'softest'

There are a few exceptions to these rules. Several very common adjectives have irregular comparatives and superlatives that are suppletive (unpredictable).

bere 'good' > pró 'better' > bä 'best'
bíqû 'bad' > bu 'worse' > qä 'worst'
ẃy 'small' > nymma 'smaller' > nímyma 'smallest'
bur̂ 'big'> gaŝ 'bigger' >kûŝû 'biggest'
dä 'late' > däp 'later' > dämpa  'latest'

There are also negative comparative and negative superlative forms for adjectives, which correspond to English “less X” and “least X”. All adjectives have regular formation for these:

myí 'smooth' > bemyí 'less smooth' > behemyí 'least smooth'
ɡäste 'difficult' > beɡäste 'less difficult' > beheɡäste 'least difficult'
ueki 'nice, good' > beueki ([bɛwɛkɪ]) 'less nice' > beheueki 'least nice'

All adjectives form negative comparatives and superlatives this way.

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses in Rílin are created with relative pronouns and juxtaposition.

Ítim lu lönet. 
í-    t-im lu lön-et

see-npst-1s the woman-abs

‘I see the woman’

Lu lönas bäkík vy fíet. 
lu lön    -as      bä-k   -ík vy     fí-et

the woman-erg drink-prs.prg-3s some wine-abs

‘the woman is sipping some wine’

Ítim lu lönet laas bäkík vy fíet. 
Í    -t   -im lu  lön     -et    la   -as     bä    -k     -ík    vy     fí-et

see-npst-1s the woman-abs who-erg drink-prs.prg-3s    some   wine-abs

‘I see the woman who is sipping some wine’
In this way, one clause is effectively embedded in another, functioning within it, in this case, as a patient. 

The pronouns must take case markers just like full nouns. So in the above example, the antecedent of the relative pronoun in the relative clause is the agent of that clause, therefore the ergative marker is used. But the antecedent (the woman) is functioning as the patient of the entire clause (in which the relative clause is embedded), so lönet ‘woman’ is in the absolutive case.

Relative Pronouns:

la ‘who’
laí ‘why’
xûs ‘how; what attribute(s)’
kóí ‘how; in what manner/by which means’
ba ‘what’
nó ‘when’
lhö ‘where’

Interrogative Clauses

There are two ways in which indicative statements can be transformed into interrogative clauses.

Yes/No Questions

In order to form a yes/no question from an indicative clause, the interrogative particle can be positioned after the main verb in the predicate. If there is no verb in the clause, the particle is placed at the end of the predicate adjective, noun, or prepositional phrase.

kraíña-p            -ík  fys          -et
bite    -conn.npst-3s blow.dart-abs 
‘She tried to bite a blow dart.’

kraíña-p            -ík  lä       fys  -et? 
bite    -conn.npst-3s Q blow.dart-abs
‘Did she try to bite a blow dart?’

Uken veske
U.     insane
‘Uken is insane.’

Uken veske  lä?
U.     insane Q
‘Is Uken insane?’
In the last two examples, there is no verb, so  comes after the adjective veske, which functions as the predicate. 

In more casual speech,  can be omitted. In the Lunauli dialect,  is often put at the end of the clause or utterance, rather than after the main verb or predicate.


Formation of so-called wh-questions (questions formed by words that in English usually begin with wh-) is done by using a variety of interrogative pronouns and adjectives. These are incidentally identical to the relative pronouns/adjectives discussed above.

    Formation of wh-questions (questions formed by words that in English usually begin with wh-: ‘what, which, where, when, why, who, how?’) is done by using a variety of interrogative pronouns and adjectives. These are identical to the relative pronouns/adjectives discussed above.

    la ‘who?’
    laí ‘why?’
    xûs ‘how?; what attribute(s)?’
    kóí ‘how?; in what manner?/by which means?’
    ba ‘what?’
    nó ‘when?’
    lhö ‘where?’

    These pronouns are fronted to the beginning of the interrogative clause. There is no use of the interrogative particle in a wh-question clause.

    Baet Ukenas besukík?
    ba   -et    Uken-as besu-k           -ík?
what-abs Uken-erg eat-prs.prg. -3s

    ‘What is Uken eating?’
    Ukenas besukík vy míelûmuet.
    Uken-as besu-k         -ík vy         míelûmu-et.
U.    -erg eat -prs.prg-3s some marzipan-abs

    ‘Uken is eating some marzipan.’
    xûs íka? 
    how 3s

    ‘How is she?’
    íka ynu bíqû. 
    3s very  troublesome

    ‘She’s very troublesome.’

    Complement Clauses and The Complementizer

    Like relative clauses, complement clauses consist of one clause embedded within a larger matrix clause. The embedded clause functions either as the patient or agent within the matrix clause. The complementizer is the “link” that connects the two clauses. In Rílin, the complementizer is .

    Nóítim kó ŝydapky díǵe. 
    Nóí   -t    -im         kó  ŝy-d  -ap -ky  díǵe.
want-npst-1s       that be-pst-3s-irr satisfied
    'I wish she had been satisfied.'
    (Also note use of irrealis here; it is common in expressing a wish or opinion with a complement clause.)
    Sótatim kó íka mím.
sóta-t-im kó íka mím
think-npst-1s that 3s cute

    'I think she's cute.'

    The Causatives

    There are various ways of forming causatives in Rílin. Some causatives are totally different lexical items, like the words for ‘die’ and ‘kill (i.e. ‘cause to die’)’: lemwa ‘die’, zansa ‘kill’. There is no morphological similarity between these words, but the latter could be analyzed as the causative of the former. These are examples of lexical causatives.

    lemwa 'die'
    zansa 'kill'
    besu 'eat'
    míŝi 'feed'
    zaí 'move, go'
    ɡiswó 'make move, replace'

    Then there is the causative prefix, which changes an intransitive verb to a transitive verb.

    laí 'come'
    xalaí 'bring, make come'
    zaryxía 'rust'
    xazaryxía 'renounce'

    As can be seen in the above example, the synchronic connection between the intransitive and the transitive version of a given verb are not always the same and are not always obvious.

    Bound Derivational Morphemes

    There are a number of these types of morphemes. They typically either change the part of speech of a word or some nuance of semantic quality.
    For some morphemes beginning in vowels, the final vowel of the stem (it if has one) may be deleted before the suffix is added: béwu ‘chant’ → béwä ‘hymn’
    abstract quality (adj → n; n → n)

    These suffixes have the same meaning but tend to be distributed based on the phonotactics or phonological bases. Sometimes a single stem can even take both or either.

    tenepít ‘drunk’ → tenepítra ‘drunkeness’ 
nari ‘clean’ → naridó ‘cleanliness’
naŝyté ‘discover’  → naŝytédó ‘discovery’

    n → adj

    mura ‘water’ → murasé ‘easy, convenient’

    n/v → adj
    -xo (‘x-ful’)
    -baí (relating to x, showing qualities of x)

    nere ‘give’ → nereí ‘generous’
    kypnaí ‘desert’ → kypnaíbaí ‘desert-like, arid’
néísa ‘wit’ → néísaxo ‘witty, clever’

    adj → n

    aŝta ‘pretty’ → aŝtar̂û ‘pretty person; something that is pretty’

    This suffix is like -la (see below) but it can be used for animate nouns as well as inanimates. 
    n → n
    -p(i) (thing made from X)
    Sometimes this suffix causes morphophonemic changes, as in the example below.

    kot ‘wool’ → kopi ‘woolen good(s)’
    v → n 
    -ra (gerund) 
    -ky (instance of v)
    -s (thing related to v)
    -ä (that which has been v’d) 
    -ja (cute little thing(s) relating to x)
    n → v
    -a, -í
    -mé (make x, give x)
    kyíla ‘life’ → kyílamé ‘resuscitate’ 
    n/v/adj → n
    -naí (place of x)
    -la (agent/person related to x)

póky ‘hide’ → pókynaí ‘hideout’
nyí ‘sew’ → nyíla ‘taylor’
    adj → adv

psínuí ‘malicious’ → psínuí ‘maliciously’
    mó- (“hidden” x) 
    -hV “emphasis” (the vowel V here is usually identical to the preceding vowel in the word)
    -lo “emphasis”

    Reflexive Pronouns

    When the patient of a verb refers to the same argument that is the agent, there is a special suffix added to the pronoun to indicate that it is a reflexive pronoun: -s. This always comes directly after the pronoun and before any case marker.

    Ítap faet. 'He sees him (someone else).'
    Ítap faset. 'He sees himself.'
    Beŕusík íkaet. 'She was protecting her (someone else).'
    Beŕusík íkaset. 'She was protecting herself.'
    The reflexive morpheme is not used with the first or second persons, for the obvious reason that there is no need for distinction between the first/second person and itself.
    Intensive pronouns are formed by simply adding the intensive particle na after the pronoun.
    Bädim faet imias na! ‘I drank it myself!’