Karkin Navigation

Culture & History

Karkin Language

Karkin Morphosyntax

This is a grammar sketch of Karkin language morphosyntax. Karkin has an agentive-patientive (or semantically aligned) verbal system and with APV word order. It also uses a series of verbal particles that appear as proclitics to determine the semantically motivated lexical category of the verb. It uses nominal and verbal suffixes to mark grammatical role, person, number, degree of pronominal familiarity, and verbal tense-aspect-mode. Plurals are formed by a series of complex morphophonological changes. The language is generally suffixing but not exclusively so.

Verbal System

Karkin has an agent-patient (semantically aligned) verbal system. This means that verbal alignment follows thematic roles of agent and patient, marking voluntary agents on intransitives and involuntary patients on intransitives differently. See below:

(transitive sentence)

cë    -‘ë         pa     cëngi-pa
earth-3sg.pat part dig-1sg.agn
‘I am digging the earth’

(involuntary or experiential intransitive)

si     qteqqhël              -a
part have.muscle.pains-1sg.pat
‘I have muscle pains’

(voluntary or agentive intransitive)

pa    kunī-pa
part scrub-1sg.agt
‘I am scrubbing’

In the transitive sentence, -a is the patient morpheme for the first person singular and pa- is the agentive. Only -pa can be used on an agent of a transitive verb and only -a can be used for a patient of a transitive verb. However, both can be used for intransitives depending on the semantic value and lexical status of the verb. Scrubbing is considered a volitional action, while having muscle pains is considered experiential and involuntary.

All patients of transitive verbs are treated like involuntary intransitives (with the patientive) and all agents of transitives are treated like volitional intransitives (with the agentive marker).

Agentive/Patient Pronominal Verbal and Nominal Suffixes

Suppletive pronominal morphemes: 1st/2nd/3rd persons; singular/plural; familiar/formal; Agent/Patient

-a = 1st sg. PAT.        -xī = 1st pl. PAT
-pa = 1st sg. AGENT       -kī = 1st pl. AGENT

-qsi =2nd sg. familiar PAT  -qsir = 2nd pl. familiar PAT
-qsai = 2nd sg. formal PAT  -qsair- = 2nd pl. formal PAT
-tqha =2nd sg. familiar AGENT.  -tqhar = 2nd pl. familiar AGENT
-psu = 2nd sg. formal AGENT.   -psur = 2nd pl. formal AGENT

-‘ë/-ë = 3rd sg. PAT   -në = 3rd pl. PAT
-i = 3rd sg. AGENT.    -ni = 3rd pl. AGENT

These morphemes function as suffixed markers for agentivity and patientivity for nouns and independent pronouns as well as for verbs. It depends on whether there is a full (pro)noun in the clause or not. If there is a noun or pronoun as agent, the suffix is attached to the noun; if not, then it is used as a suffix for the verb to show the role of the implied pronoun.

A sentence with a full agentive noun/pronoun gets the affix on the noun/pronoun:

nakë-‘ë si siuq
woman-pat part bleed
‘the woman is bleeding’

Compared to a sentence without a full noun/pronoun, where the affix is attached to the verb:

si siuq-ë
part bleed-3sg.pat
‘she is bleeding’

Verbal Particles

All verbs in Karkin are preceded by a verb particle that marks the lexical category of the verb, which are based on semantically motivated lexicalized parameters. There are seven categories of verbs and seven different verb particles. These particles must always precede the verb, no matter what. Sometimes one verb can take more than one particle (though no verb can use two particles at once), depending on the implication the speaker wants to give about the verb. For example, the verb (ki) muŋi ‘dance’ is almost always used with ki, which is a particle for verbs relating to art, leisure, pastimes, or entertainment. But if one is referring to dancing as one’s profession, saying “I have to go dance now” (i.e. I have to go to work now), one might well use pa, which is used with verbs of work or practice. It all depends on context.

Note that in the lexicon, all verbs are followed by their corresponding particle in parentheses, like this: sipxaŋi (ki) – sing

pa is the particle used for verbs of practical or work actions.

puningi (pa) – go fishing
lëngingi (pa) – hook
cëngi (pa) – dig
kunī (pa) – scrub
qilī (pa) – shoot 
kmili (pa) – split, cut in two; divide 

ki is the particle is used for verbs relating to pleasure, art, pastimes, beauty, leisure, and also intellectual or emotional topics.

sipxangi (ki) – sing
shungi (ki) – socialize
maqhti (ki)  -- give
pōngi (ki) – relax
mungi (ki) – dance
cīñungi (ki) – doze
mushnyiː (ki) – apply cosmetics
aqra (ki) – adorn oneself with jewelry
anyë (ki) – wonder, question, contemplate 
rëngi (ki) – be sad, feel sorrow
tuya (ki) – be happy, feel joy
xesi (ki) – bathe 

 is for verbs of motion, whether relating to human movements or non-human.

shushi (që) – jump 
tpā (që) – fall
nyelyë̄ (që) – bend over 
sungi (që) – sit down 
pëngi (që) – stand up
misë (që) – walk, go forward
xcerring (që) – hold, clutch, grasp onto 

si is for verbs of necessity, basic nature, or involuntary functions

rëqhku (si) – give birth
meni (si) – eat
kpiqhë (si) – sleep
stoplā (si) – mate
lypā (si) – swallow
mngër (si) – chew
tsqë (si) – bite
qtesi (si) – be wounded
torxish (si) – fight
lyinë (si) – drink
hma (si) – urinate
kā (si) – defecate
tqaī (si) – vomit
siuq (si) – bleed
shën (si) – die
pitu (si) – sneeze
lqaqna (si) – cough
xupo (si) – hiccup
hai (si) – feel cold
ōly (si) – feel hot
hōha (si) – be ill
kmuq (si) – have an attack/seizure
qtē (si) – feel pain
shëñ (si) – feel pleasure, enjoy, like
ñëp (si) – itch
stāql (si) – feel stinging
ōlyō (si) – get burned
haiha (si) – get frostbitten
qteqqhël (si) – have muscle pains
sktīhō (si) – have a rash
pqap (si) – burp

ho is for verbs relating to time.

sutë (ho) – begin, start
ngape (ho) – end, finish
qhēlë (ho) – last, endure
qsak (ho) – stop
sutëtë (ho) – restart
tāk (ho) – lapse, take a hiatus
tëtāk (ho) – wait

ja is a default or non-specific verb particle. A lot of common but general verbs use this. 

cū (ya) – look, see
ñō (ya) – do, act
qtël (ya) – become 
qhīcë (ya) – possess
sine (ya) – take 
mxe (ya) – accept, receive
tkōr (ya) – support, be underneath
imū (ya) – remove 
kmaqhtrrë (ya) – count
pqelyë (ya) – bring, deliver; fetch
je (ya) – create, make


There are four tenses that are recognized in Karkin. The present tense is not marked, and the default form of the verb is used for the present. The other three tenses and their markers are as follows.

  • -o directly after verb stem – future tense
  • -ā directly after verb stem – simple past tense
  • -ē directly after verb stem – far past tense (used for story-telling and in comparison to the simple past—cf. French plus-que-parfait or English pluperfect)
The one exception to the ordering of tense markers being directly after the verb stem is with the second component of aspectual circumfixes, which intervenes between the stem and the tense suffix.

im-je-i-ā-ī > injeyāī 
‘she started to make’

Sometimes tense suffixes merge with the final vowel of verb stem 

amla ‘notice’
amla + -ā = amlā- ‘noticed’  

kmaqhtrrë ‘count’
kmaqhtrrë + ē = kmaqhtrrē ‘counted’ 

pqelyë ‘bring’ 
pqelyë + -o = pqelyo- ‘will bring’

Aspectual Circumfixes

Karkin has three circumfixes that indicate aspect on verbs. These circumfixes go around the main verb stem. They are followed by tense and pronominal suffixes. 

inceptive aspect im- + -i – beginning to do an action
prospective lo- + -mo – thinking about or considering doing an action
semelfactive sha- + -ta – single, punctuated action

si im-siuq-i-ā-a (realized as si imsiuqiā)
part inc-bleed-inc-fpst-1sg.pat
‘I was starting to bleed’

ho sha-qsak-ta-ā-i (realized as ho shaqsaktāi)
part sml-stop-sml-pst-3sg.agn
‘she stopped’

ya sha-ghunga-ta-a-i (ya shaghungtāi)
part sml-know-sml-pst-3sg.agn
‘she knew; she found out’

që lo-shushi-mo-ē-tqha 
part pros-sit-pros-fpst-2sg.agn
‘you had been thinking about sitting down’

Valency Decreasing: Turning a transitive verb into an intransitive

There is a special morpheme that is used as a valency decreasing function that effectively reduces a transitive verb (with two arguments) to an intransitive verb with one argument. It downplays or omits the former patient of the transitive verb entirely, when it less relevant or unknown. This is similar to the antipassive is some languages, but the difference here is that the case-marking of the remaining argument does not change with this construction in Karkin.

A typical transitive verb is si meni, to eat.

lyūki-i     pungi-‘ë  si meni 
child-agn fish-pat part eat
‘the child is eating the fish’

The intransitive marker on the verb turns this sentence into an intransitive verb phrase, where the patient is removed or made oblique. 

lyūki-i     (pungi mi) meni-ri
child-agn fish to eat-intr

Or just

lyūki-i     si    meni-ri
child-agn part eat-intr
‘the child is eating’

In the first example, what used to be the patient is now an oblique, as indicated by the postposition mi. In the second example, the former patient is omitted entirely.  The suffix to mark an intransitive verb created from a transitive verb is -ri, which is attached directly at the end of a verb, before any pronominal endings or tense suffixes.  

Regular transitive:

ava   -a           -i           s’ho’onthe-‘ë  pa   shuxtā
father-1sg.poss-3sg.agn river     -pat part cross -past
‘my father crossed the river’

Created intransitive:

Ava   -a           -i     pa    shtuxtë-ri-ā
father-1sg.poss-agn part cross-intr-past
‘my father crossed’

Imperative Mode of Verbs

puningi ‘fish’ > puningika! ‘go fishing!’
qsak ‘stop’ > qsakka! ‘stop!’
suneggarr ‘sit up’ > suneggarrkaǃ ‘sit up!’

Negative imperatives use the negative suffix -she. It comes after the imperative -ka.
qsakkashe! ‘do not stop!’
ēftangikashe qhëm! ‘do not float over there!’


Nominal/Adjectival Copular Phrases

There is an invariable copula for adjectival and nominal copular phrases, which is nya. Historically, this derives from a verb, though it is not considered such now but a particle. Nonetheless, its position still reflects its past as a verb; it comes at the end of the clause, like a verb. There is no case marker on nouns used with nya.

tqhoxa            pinnyu     nya 
tqhox.1sg.poss stubborn is
‘my tqhox* is stubborn’

tqhoxa            tkū               nya
tqhox.1sg.poss young.female is
‘my tqhox is a young female’

*tqhox is a large reptile used as a beast of burden in Elta.

co   kaimī      nya 
this incorrect is
‘this is incorrect’

co   mëla                 nya 
this mother.1sg.poss is
‘this (woman) is my mother’

In tenses other than the present, specialized tense markers are added to the stem nya. Often these markers fuse with nya.

nya + u (future tense) = nyu ‘will be’
nya + a (past) = nyā ‘was’
nya + e (far past) = nye ‘had been’

Aspects do not affect nya (though they used to, back when nya behaved in a more verb-like manner).

Postpositional Copular Phrases

For postpositional copular phrases, there is another particle used, also deriving from a historical verb. This is ti.

shtumë hmal qsō    ti
fiɡhter wall behind is
 ‘the fighter is behind the wall’

Demonstrative Pronouns/Adjectives

There are three degrees of demonstrative, co, qhë, psi. co basically corresponds to “this”, qhë to “that”, and psi indicates something that is even further from the speaker than “that”. It is kind of like “that way over there” (cf. Japanese ano/are). These words can function as adjectives or pronouns.

As determiners:

co puni ‘this fish’
qhë pshulyë’ ‘that sand’
psi nakë ‘that woman way over there’

As pronouns:

co paly nya ‘this is good’
qhë ftolyë nya ‘that is a flower’

As pronouns, these demonstratives take normal agent/patient (3sg) case markers. They do not, however, take any plural marker.

As locatives:

codā ‘here’
qhëdā ‘there’
psidā ‘over yonder’

Ame codā ti
1sg here be
‘I am here’


Standard negation of verbs is accomplished through the negative verbal suffix, -she. This suffix is placed after tense, pronominal, and mode suffixes. 

ki     mungi-ā-pa-she 
part dance-1sg.agn-pst-neg
‘I did not dance’

To emphasize negation of a verb, she is sometimes placed before the verb (but after the verbal particle) as a negative particle. 

ki she mungi-ā-pa-she 
part neg dance-pst-1sg.agn-neg
‘I did not dance’

To negate a single constituent of a clause that is not a verb, the particle ës is used.

ki mungi-ā-pa ës īmvalinje 
part dance-pst-1sg.ag neg joy-adj-adv 
‘I did not dance happily’ (i.e. I may have danced, but it wasn’t happily) 

ës ame ki mungi-ā-pa
neg 1sg.agn part dance-pst-1sg.agnI didn’t dance’ (maybe someone else did) 

In colloquial speech, the above statement might often be rendered as below, using the -she negative on the word as well.

ës ame ki mungi-ā-pa-she
neg 1sg.agn part dance-pst-1sg.agn-negI didn’t dance’

Adverbial suffixes

Karkin verbs can take several adverbial suffixes that modify the meaning of the verb. Historically, they are derived from lexemes such as other verbs or nouns. 

In terms of ordering, these suffixes usually attach right after the tense suffix.

-pshë- ‘want to X’

ki ēngi-ā-pshë-pa
part renew-pst-want-1sg.agn
‘I wanted to renew’ 

-shëñ- ‘like to X’

ya je-shëñ-kī
part make-like-1pl.agn
‘we like to make’

-srrë- ‘should X’

ya ghi-srrë-i
part come-should-3sg.agn
‘he should come’ 

-jgami- ‘know how to X’

që ēhtun-jgami-tqha
part dive-know.how-2sg.agn
‘you know how to dive’

-lagge- ‘maybe X’

‘he may have rested’ 

-nain- ‘be able to X’ 

ya  cū-nain-pa [cuːnaimpa]
part see-able-1sg.agn
‘I can see’

-sho- ‘unfortunately X’

pa ikkaingi-ā-sho-ī
part burn.down-pst-unfortunately-3sg.agn
‘unfortunately she burnt (it) down’

Interrogative Verbs

Verbs add a particular suffix when in an interrogative clause. The suffix varies depending on whether it is a wh-question or a polarity (yes/no) question. 

The suffix -sa is used for polarity questions. The question clause usually accompanied by a rise in intonation. 

Co wëlēz-i kya mi që tōhu-sa? 
this answer-3sg.agn 1pl loc part be.useful-interr
‘Is this answer useful to us?’ 

Nakë-i ën-ë ya cū-ā-sa?
woman-3sg.agn 3sg-3sg.pat part see-pst-interr
‘Did the woman see him?’

Ën-ë si meni-ā-kī-sa?
3sg-3sg.pat part eat-pst-1pl.agn-interr
‘Did we eat it?’

Shofe-’ë ya sha-pqelyë-tā-tqha-sa?
flag-3sg.pat part sem-bring-sem.pst-2sg.agn-interr
‘Did you bring the flag?’

If there is an assumed answer of “yes” to the question, the -sa suffix is not used, but the tag question marker mi is used instead.

Nefe’-ë ya jo-tqha, mi?
short.skirt-3sg.pat part wear-2sg.agn tag
‘You’re wearing a short skirt, right?’

Ën twahi nya, mi?
3sg wise.person be tag
‘She is the wisewoman, right?’

‘Yes’ (she is)

If mi is used with a negative clause, it is taken to mean that a negative answer is assumed. 

Ën twahi nyashe, mi?
‘She isn’t the wisewoman, is she?
‘No’ (she’s not)

Verbal Affix Order

The order of possible affixes co-occurring on a verb is as follows:

(Verbal particle) + (left component of aspectual circumfix)-(Verb stem)-(right component of aspectual circumfix)-(adverbial suffix)-(tense suffix)-(pronominal suffix)-(imperative suffix)-(negation)-(serial verbal linker)


ki lo-mungi-tqha-ē-mo-she-lë ki sipxangi-ē-she
ki     lo-     muŋi-mo-e:-tχa  -ʃe  -lə    ki   sipxaŋi-eː-ʃe
part prosp-dance-2sg.agn-rem-prosp-neg-lnk part sing-rem-neg
‘you had not considered dancing and singing’ 

As mentioned previously, an instance of a long vowel juxtaposed with a short version of that same vowel is reduced to simple one long vowel. So instead of verb like:

‘she/he did not dig’

The ta- and -ā affixes combine to create -tā, resulting in the following form:


Relative Clauses

The relative clause is pre-nominal, meaning that it precedes the head noun. Karkin has a few relativizers. They do not take any markers besides postpositions that are sometimes applied to twë, unless there is no antecedent or referent. 

twë ‘who, which, what, that’ 
nō ‘when, at which time’ 
gheng ‘how, in what manner/way’  
qëly ‘why, for what reason’  
bviny ‘where, in what place’
zhox ‘how, with what attributes/characteristics’  

twë yoqhī nya nimmë
rel truthful be man
‘the man who is truthful’

twë si siuq nakë-‘ë
rel part bleed woman-3sg.pat
‘the woman who is bleeding’

twë mi nakë-yë cāma-‘ë maqhti-a-ā nya 
rel to woman-pl axe-pat give-1sg.agt-past be
‘those are the women to whom I gave the axe’

twë ya cū-pa nakë-‘ë
rel part see-1sg.agn woman-3sg.pat
‘the woman whom I see’

Notice that postpositions are applied to the relativizer, while agent/pat marking is applied to the precedent noun. 

nō kya nya tsqeri hain nya
where.rel 1pl.be sitting.room cold be
‘the sitting room where we are is cold’	

gheng ën-ë psi nakë-i ālyam-ā co nya 
how.rel 3sg-pat that woman-3sg.agn kiss-pst this be
‘this is how that woman kissed him’

qëly         ki     tuya      -i            kunqā nya
why.rel part be.happy-3sg.agn my.son is
‘my son is the reason why she’s happy’


Karkin has several complementizers. Many are identical in form to the relativizers. 

dū ‘that’
dūgā ‘if/whether’
dūnyë ‘for/that’ 
nō ‘when, at which time’ 
gheng ‘how, in what manner/way’ 
qëly ‘why, for what reason’ 
bviny ‘where, in what place’
zhox ‘how, with what attributes/characteristics’ 

Complementizers allow for entire clauses to act syntactically as patients/agents of a verb. 

 [dū ki     tuya         -i]        ya  ghunga-pa
that part be.happy-3sg.agn know-1sg.agn
‘I know that she is happy’

 [dūgā    ki    tuya          -i]       ya  ghunga-pa        -she
whether part be.happy-3sg.agn   know-1sg.agn neg
‘I don’t know whether she is happy’

Serial Verbs

Serial verbs are linked by the linker -lë, which is suffixed to the very end of the first verb.

nakë    -i             ki    sipxangi-ā-lë   ki mungi    -ā
woman-3sg.agn part sing-past-lnk part dance-past
‘the woman sang and danced’

If the subject of the second verb is the same as that of the first verb, the second verb remains unmarked for person. 
However, if the subject of the second verb is different, it is unmarked for person.

nakë    -i           nimmë-‘ë      ya         cū -ā    -lë   ki     tuya       -i          -ā
Woman-3sg.agn man-3sg.pat part look.at-past-lnk part be.happy-3sg.agn-past
‘the woman saw the man and he was happy’

Compare with the unmarked second verb, where the subject remains the same:

nakë-i nimmë-‘ë ya cū-ā-lë ki tuy[a]-ā	
woman-3sg.agn man-3sg.pat part look.at-past-lnk part be.happy-past
 ‘the woman saw the man and was happy’


To create verbs from nouns or adjectives, the suffix -ngi is often used. An appropriate verbal particle also appears before the newly created verb.

puni ‘fish’ → pa puni-ngi ‘go fishing’
lëngi ‘hook’ → pa lëngi-ngi ‘catch’


-in is a common adjectivizer for changing nouns to adjectives:

qhoqh ‘flour’ → qhoqh-in ‘floury, powdery’

lyū- (derived from lyūxex ‘quality’) is another adjectivizers. Sometimes it functions in the capacity of a present particle, where otherwise just a verb would be used.

kunī ‘scrub’ (verb)
lyū-kunī ‘scrubbing’ (adjective)

nakë    -i            pa    kunī
woman-3sg.agn part scrub
‘the woman is scrubbing/scrubs’

nakë     lyū-kunī  nya 
woman scrubbing is
‘the woman is scrubbing’


For animate agents of a verb, there is a suffix –i

Note in the example below that double -ii- changes to ī in orthography. 
puningi ‘fish’ (v) → puningii → puningī ‘fisher’
qërëqh ‘hunt’ → qërëqhi ‘hunter’ 
qtūxtō ‘labor in a field’ → qtūxtōi ‘farmer’ 

For some lexical items that end in vowels, an epenthetic -h- is added before the suffix. 

twa ‘weave’ → twahi ‘weaver; wise person’ 

Some uses of the -i suffixes have become idiomatic:

kmëls ‘drag, pull forcefully’ → kmëlsi ‘tyrant, dictator’ 

For inanimate agents of a verb, there is a suffix -oñ (from oñëri ‘machine, contraption’). As the etymology suggests, most of these nouns refer to small machines, tools, etc. 

puningi → puningi-oñ ‘fish trap’

-he nominalization: larger inanimate agentive and other meanings

An alternate inanimate agentive marker is -he. This is used often for objects that are physically larger than -oñ objects, but not always. Often the semantics of these words is more metaphorical and vague, and they are less productive. Sometimes they don’t even act like agentives. It is debatable whether there are actually two –he suffixes—one that is agentive and one that something else. luqh ‘heavy’ + -he = luhe ‘mountain’ shtuxtë ‘cross’ + -he = shtuhe ‘bridge’ hmexta ‘ink’ + -he = hmehe ‘printing press’ sho’ont ‘steal’ + -he = sho’onthe ‘river’ siuq ‘bleed’ + -he = siuqhe ‘knife; weapon’ sxati ‘lover’ + -he = sxatihe ‘sex appeal’ vkā ‘pound’ + -he = vkāhe ‘hammer’ twa ‘weave’ + -he = twahe ‘weaving, woven cloth’

Place nominalization: -nyi

xuxa ‘bake’ → xuxanyi ‘bakery’ lyūki ‘baby’ → lyūkinyi ‘nursery’ sho’onthe ‘river’ → sho’onthenyi ‘riverbed; a place carved out in the earth where a river flows’

“Thing Relating to X” Nominalizing suffix: -‘ën

-‘ën This suffix functions to make a noun out of verbs, adjectives, and other nouns. Its meaning is close to ‘thing relating to x’, where x = stem. kicī ‘blow’ +’ën = bellows lqaqna ‘cough’ (v.) + ‘ën =lqaqna’ën ‘cough syrup’ Sometimes the glottal stop deletes when this suffix is attached to a consonant-final stem. cup ‘spit’ (v) → cupën ‘saliva’

Abstract Nominalization: -hle

This is a derivational suffix that usually applies to nominal or verbal stems. The result lexemes are abstract actions, qualities, or conditions. tskoi ‘friend’ → tskoihle ‘friendship’ fūarrdarr ‘fog’ → fūrrdarrle ‘fogginess’ ghel ‘long’ → ghelhle ‘length’ hain ‘cold’ → hainhle ‘coldness’ rëqhku ‘give birth’ → rëqhkuhle ‘birth’ je ‘create’ → jehle ‘creation, work’ ghunga ‘know’ → ghungahle ‘knowledge’

Superlative and Comparative Adjectives

nyex ‘weak’ → nai-nyex ‘weaker’ → nanai-nyex ‘much weaker’

nyex → nyex-ut ‘(the) weakest’ → nyex-utu ‘really the weakest by a lot’

nyex → nyex-dë ‘less weak’ → nyex-dëda  ‘much less weak’

nyex → nyex-pwë ‘(the) least weak’ → nyex-pawa ‘really the least weak by a lot’


ckal ‘bitter’ →nai-ckal ‘more bitter’ → nanai-ckal ‘much more bitter’
→ ckal-ut ‘the most bitter’ → ckal-utu ‘really the most bitter by a lot’        

ckal-dë ‘less bitter’ → ckal-dëda ‘much less bitter’
→ ckal-pwë ‘least bitter’ →ckal-pawa ‘really the least bitter by a lot’

Negation of Adjectives

Some adjectives can be negated by the replaced of the first syllable (if multisyllabic) with shë-. 

kōxlu ‘full’
shëxlu ‘empty’

If the adjective stem is monosyllabic, shë- is added before the stem.

luqh ‘heavy’
shëluqh ‘lightweight’ 


Postpositions function similarly in Karkin as they do in many languages, but in Karkin they are notably few. There are six main postpositions that constitute most of the usage in the language. 

mi – to, toward, at, in, on, with
tai – from, of, away from, out of
tīshë -- around, surrounding 
qsō -- behind
nye – under
huna – in front of

mi is also used as a genitive particle.

Postpositions can combine to create new meanings:

nakë mitai ‘moving to and from the woman’
nakë taitai ‘far from the woman’

nakë nyehuna ‘concerning/about the woman’
nakë mitīshë ‘for the sake of the woman’
nakë taiqsō ‘with regard to the woman’

Postpositions can also combine with other words to create new postpositions.

qëmi ‘because’ + mi

nakë qëmimi ‘on account of the woman, due to the woman’

dvīl ‘energy’ + mi

nakë dvīlmi ‘thanks to the woman’

shtuxtë ‘cross’+ mi

oqshoda shtuxtëmi ‘across the torso’

The Genitive Construction

In Karkin the genitive marker is attached to the head noun. The genitive noun usually comes after the head noun in a clause. The marker used is mi, which is also used in other contexts as a postposition (see above). 

ta’en mi kunīpany 
lady  gen bath
‘the lady’s bath’

puni mi qahë
fish gen house
‘the fish’s home’

The genitive can express many kinds of relations between two nouns. This includes but is not limited to:

Possession: Possessing, owning, or having something. E.g. ta’en mi kunīpany. The lady has the bath.

Quality: One noun has the quality of another. E.g. pyotir mi qahë, junk GEN house = a messy house. The house has the quality of junk.

Material: This is similar to the quality genitive, except it relates to physical quality rather than abstract. E.g. qsta’ën mi lelunyi, glass GEN. house = a house of glass (i.e. a house made of glass). 

Location: E.g. takuri mi yamul ‘the bay of the Takuri’. This can be thought of as relation by merit of location.

Pronominal Possessive Adjectival Suffixes

In order to express a possessive relationship wherein a pronoun is the possessor, there is a series of suffixes, each corresponding to a person/number/degree of formality, which attaching to the possessed noun. The suffix indicates who the possessor is, and gives no further information about the possessed noun.

1st p. sg. – -a ‘my’
2nd p. sg. fm. – -i ‘your’
2nd p. sg. frm. – -iː ‘your’ (formal)
3rd sg. – -ə            ‘his/her/its’

1st p. pl. – -iː     ‘our’
2nd pl. fm. – -ai  ‘your’ (plural, formal)
2nd pl. frm. – -ai ‘your’ (plural, informal)
3rd pl. – -iː          ‘their’

mël ‘mother’ → mël-a ‘my mother’
                         mël-ë ‘his/her mother’
                         mël-i ‘your mother’

puni ‘fish’ → puni-a ‘my fish’
                → puni-ë ‘his/her fish’

qahë ‘house’ → qaha* ‘my house’
                        qahë̄ ‘his/her house’
                        qahë-i ‘your house’

rëqhnë’ ‘daughter’ → rëqhnë’-a ‘my daughter’
                              rëqhnë’ë ‘your daughter’
                              rëqhnë’-ī ‘our daughter’

If a word’s default form already ends with a sound that is the same as one of the possessive suffixes, there is no change in the word in the possessive form, or the vowel may become long

kunqā ‘son’ → kunqā ‘my son’
qtirrda ‘wheel’ → qtirrdā ‘my wheel’
puni ‘fish’ → punī ‘our fish’

Some final vowels are replaced entirely by the possessive suffix vowel.

qahë ‘house’ → qaha ‘my house’

-ai may reduce to -i after a lexical item ending in /ai/, which then gives way to the sequence /aiː/.

pkai ‘flower bud’ → pkaī ‘your flower bud’ 

Note: This is does not apply to genitive constructions with a full head noun (something other than a pronoun implied).  For these cases, see the full section on genitive constructions.

Independent Personal Pronouns

Pronouns are usually only used as an object of a transitive verb or postpositional contexts. Sometimes a pronoun is used for emphasis of an agent. 

1st sg. – ame                     1st pl. – kya
2nd sg. fam. –  qhu              2nd pl. fam. – qhuli
2nd sg. form. – qa              2nd pl. form. – qi

3rd sg. – ën                        3rd pl.– ënen

These pronouns will take agent/pat. markers as all other nouns. 

ënen-në ya cū-pa
3pl-pat part look.at-1sg.agn
‘I’m looking at them’

ën-i ame-a ya cū
3sg-agn 1sg-pat part look.at
‘He/She looks at me’


There are three types of pluralization processes in Karkin, each with a corresponding semantic value. The “regular” plural indicates from two to infinite multiples of something. This plural is formed via the following morphophonological rules:

For words that have a final consonant:

[-cont] → [+cont] / __#
[+cont] → [+voi] /__#
shusut ‘nail’ → shusus ‘nails’
qos ‘bit’ → qoz ‘bits’

ta’en ‘woman’ → ta’ez ‘women’

Note above that voicing in words that undergo rule (1) does not change. So since /n/ is [+voi], it turns to a similarly [+voi] continuant of the same place of articulation, /z/. In Karkin phonology, nasals are not treated as [+cont].

Below is a chart of which consonants change to which in plurals.
Labials: Alveolars: (Alveo)
Velars: Uvulars: Glottals:
-p → -f
-b → -v
-m → v
-f → v
-v → -v
-w → -w
-t → -s
-d → -z
-n → -z
-s → -z
-z → -z
-r → -z
-l → l
-c → -sh
-j → -zh
-ny → -zh
-sh → -zh
-zh → -zh
-y → -y
-ly → -ly
-k → -x
-g → -gh
-ng → -gh
-x → -gh
-gh → -gh
-q → -qh
-gg → -rr
-ñ → -rr
-qh → rr
-rr → -rr
' → h
h → h
More examples:

qtīn ‘fork’ → qtīz ‘forks’
rëqhnë’ ‘daughter’→ rëqhnëh ‘daughters’
tqhox ‘large domesticated reptile’ → tqhogh ‘large domesticated reptiles’
tany ‘wrist’ → tazh ‘wrists’

With words ending in a vowel, the suffix -jə is used.

sxati ‘lover’ → sxati-yë ‘lovers’
kasshi ‘grain’ → kasshi-yë ‘grainsʼ 
ftolyë ‘flower’ → ftolyë-yë

Dual Number

Karkin has a dual pluralization system, but it only applies to nouns that appear in twos in nature, such as eyes, feet (from a humanoid perspective), etc. It also applies to things that usually come in pairs, such as parents, twins, shoes, etc. Some of these items can grammatically take normal plurals, but it is far more common to see them with a dual.

The formation of the dual is created via initial reduplication. The copy direction is right to left. If the first syllable is consonant-initial, then the first syllable’s onset and nucleus are copied; if it is vowel-initial, the nucleus of the first syllable and the onset of the second syllable are copied.

vcū ‘eye’ → vcūvcū ‘eyes’
tōn ‘foot’ → tōtōn ‘feet’
hmat ‘hand’ → hmahmat ‘hands’
qërr ‘breast’ → qëqërr ‘breasts’
mnix ‘hip’ → mnimnix ‘hips’

ērmu ‘heel’ → ērērmu ‘heels’
orāyqhee ‘kidney’ → ororāyqhe ‘kidneys’

Group Plural

The third and final type of pluralization in Karkin is called the group plural. It is used to indicate multiple items, in groups of three or (usually) more. It is most commonly used for large groups.

shu ‘person’ → shuxi ‘(large group of) people’
ni’ ‘insect’ → ni’nyi ‘group of insects’
nakë ‘woman’ → nanyikë ‘group of women’
sixpa ‘song’ → sixshipa ‘group of songs’
qosaci ‘reptile’ → qo’isaci ‘group of reptiles’

The rule for group pluralization is to insert -Ci- after the first syllable, where C=the first consonant of the first syllable, but one place of articulation back. If there is no onset for the first syllable just -i- is placed after it.

For example, for /ʃu/, the onset of the first syllable is ʃ, so the same consonant one place of articular back is /x/. This plus –i- is –xi-, so this is the syllable inserted.

shuxi → shu + xi
ni’nyi → ni’ + nyi
nanyikë → na + nyi + kë
sixshipa → six + shi + pa
qo’isaci → qo + ‘i + saci  

If there is no directly corresponding consonant one place of articulation back (i.e. it doesn’t exist as a phoneme in Karkin), some adjustments are made:

haqtë ‘measurement of land’ → ha-hi-qtë ‘many measurements of land’

So since there is no consonant further back that /h/, /h/ is just reused in the -Ci- infix.

A similar effect happens with ly: 

lyaqh ‘lick (n.)’ → lya-lyi-qh ‘many licks’

Syntax and Word Order

General word order is APV. That is, agent-patient-verb. To emphasize a certain constituent, it is often moved to the front. 

nakë-i hmol-‘ë pa qtīnggi 
woman-3sg.agn wall-3sg.pat part split
‘the woman is splitting the wall’ (agent-patient-verb)

kunqā        -‘ë         si      haih[a]      -ā
son.1sg.poss-3sg.pat part get.frostbite-past
‘my son got frostbitten’ (subject (pat./involuntary)-verb)

kunqā-i                   ki    mungi-ā
son.1sg.poss-3sg.agn part dance-past
‘my son danced’ (subject (agent/voluntary)-verb)

Nouns precede adjectives, except for a few categories of adjectives, as well as some very common adjectives. A few examples are shown below.

Special adjectives that come before the noun:

Demonstrative adjectives:
co ‘this’
qhë ‘that’
psi ‘that (unseen/over there)’

russhe ‘dark’
kërë ‘grey-blue
kūm ‘red’
ōpzhū ‘light green’

Words describing physical shape:
ptōx ‘round’
sōng ‘flat’
tkor ‘square’
tqūn ‘pointed’

kānë ‘big’
liuly ‘little’
tāxnë ‘gigantic’

Common adjectives:
shxok ‘bad’
paly ‘good’
qsūw ‘strong’
hain ‘cold’
ōlyën ‘hot’

fë̄ly ‘three’
‘arra ‘ten’
qainy ‘seven’

But otherwise adjectives follow the noun, as below:

shu        shëñin
person delightful
‘a delightful person

Adverbs function in a similar fashion to adjectives, being that they usually follow the word they modify except for very common adverbs, which precede the modified constituent instead.

Common adverbs that precede the modified constituent:
tengë ‘badly’
muny ‘well’
tō ‘a lot, much’
mīvë ‘a little’
dāwqi ‘often’
shāwqi ‘seldom’
kīm ‘soon’
qëlmi ‘later’
hmēsi ‘sometimes’
shumye ‘always’
qolyū ‘still’
kaiye ‘never’

Negative adverbs, such as kaiye ‘never’, are used with negated verbs. 

kaiye ho ngape-i-she
never part end-3sg.agn-neg
‘it never ends’ 

Derivational morphology to create adverbs from adjectives varies. A common set of suffixes are -le and -je, which are the most productive of these types of suffixes. -le tends to suffix to other liquids /r/ and /l/. When this happens, the final /l/ of an adjective will delete, as seen below. Final /r/, however, remains intact.

klulal ‘clear, transparent’ → klulal + -le → klulale ‘clearly, transparently’ 
jur ‘long (in duration of time)’ → jur + -le → jurle ‘for a long time’ 

Adjectives that do not end in liquids /l/ or /r/ tend to take -je:

īmvalin ‘joyful’ → īmvalin +-je → īmvalinje ‘joyfully’ 
kai ‘correct’ → kaije ‘correctly’
nyex ‘weak’ → nyexje ‘weakly’ 

Some other adjectives (without final liquids) use -ckō as an adverbializer. 

pta’aqha ‘difficult’
pta’aqha-ckō ‘difficultly’ 

Most of the adjectives that take -ckō are more than two syllables.

Words other than adjectives can also be made into adverbs, typically by the reduplication of the final syllable. 

qail ‘fire
qail-il ‘in a way like fire, in a fiery way’ 

cāma ‘axe’
caāma-ma ‘in the manner of an axe’ 

If the final syllable of the word has a complex coda, only the first consonant of the coda will be repeated. 

qats ‘trap’
qat-qats ‘deceptively’ 

qhëzhint ‘face, front’
qhëzhin-zhint ‘openly’