Conlang Relay 15/Kélen

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by Sylvia Sotomayor

The Text

se jawāññerañ

se jatākken mo majjārien cī; la sāeþ ānen jaxūnīke honahan wā; la sāeþ ānen jexīma wā ānen sawūrri āñ ēmma; wā sexe jatawāla ien jajāra jaxūnīke wā; ñaxxa honahan jarāka jarāeλa ja sexe jakīña; ewaþ ñaxxa jajāra jaxālāja jatēnnen nā ñe janaren; wa majjārien pa anākexa nā; ñi sāeþ sarāoλa ñi sāeþ sarāeλa; se jawāña ien pa sāeþ sasōnne jāniþa; se jawāña ien la jawāra nā; ñaxxa jāŋŋeren nā ā majjārien ānen jakēwīke pē hōkēñ; wā ñaxxa jarāka jāniþa jē nā;

Smooth English

The Riddle

Give attention to the dancers. They are without any kind of plan. The are without music except for their own voices. They have not studied a pattern of the dance. They each make any kind of weaving step they wish. And yet they make the most harmonious and graceful dance of all. None of the dancers have more agility. They make turns, they make weavings. It seems they have one mind. It seems very easy. How do the dancers each make so much beauty with so little effort? They do not make each merely one step.


[Preposition] agent marker
[N] agility, dexterity
[Preposition] with
ānen ... ēmma
[Modifier] except ...
ānen ... wā
[Modifier] without ...
[N] singleness, oneness, unity
[Postposition] reflexive marker and emphasis marker
[N] beauty
[Mood] commissive, polite imperative
[Conjunction] and yet, but
[N] music
[Pronoun] any kind of, some kind of
[Interrogative Pronoun] how?
[Preposition] renames the object of SE
[Inanimate Relative Pronoun] that, which
[Pronoun] everything, all
[N] dance
jē nā
[Clause-Level Modifier] merely, only, just
[N] work, labor, effort
[N] wish, want, desire
[Preposition] goal or beneficiary marker
[Postposition] more, much, many, very
nā ñe
[Preposition] more than, greater than
[Postposition] few, little, some
[N] erratic or weaving motion, motion without an intended direction
[N] a step
[N] a turn, motion in a direction different from a previous direction
[Pronoun] 3rd Person Plural, they, them
[N] mind
[N] attention
[N] close study, learning
[N] grace, controlled motion
[Postposition] no, not, none
[Clause-Level Modifier] not, no, none (emphatic)
[N] easiness
[N] seeming, appearance
[N] contradiction, paradox, riddle
[N] voice
[N] harmony
[N] pattern, plan

Grammar & Syntax

OK. Here is the fun stuff.... First, there are no verbs. Instead, there are 4 relationals, each of which appear in the text. The four relationals are LA, PA, NI, and SE.

LA [object] states that something exists, generally in a state or location

LA [object1] PA [object2] states that object1 exists and contains object2 as a part or attribute

PA [object1] [object2] is the equivalent of above

NI [object] states that something has come into existence, or changed its state or location

SE [object] states that something exists with a source and/or a beneficiary/recipient/goal

LA and SE can inflect for tense and aspect

NI and SE can inflect for person. When NI inflects for person, that person is the agent of the change in existence, state, or location. When SE inflects for person, that person is either the source or beneficiary, or both.

LA is used for simple statements. NI is used for motion as well as what I said above. SE is used for transactions, such as giving/receiving, and for speech and experiences.

It's really not that complicated.

Forms of relationals that appear in the text:

LA + non-past
NI + non-past + 3rd person plural
NI + non-past + unidentified or reflexive agent
SE + non-past + unidentified source + unidentified beneficiary/recipient
SE + non-past + unidentified source + 3rd person plural ben/rec
LA + negative


Now on to the Nouns.

There are (in this text) 4 prefixes:

for abstract nouns (ideas, qualities)
for inanimate nouns (things, places, instances of an abstraction)
for animate nouns (people, people with a given quality)
for obligatorily possessed in the 3rd person nouns

Then there are the suffixes:

for non-plural
for plural inanimates and collective animates
-ien with some initial root consonant reduplication (if applicable)
for plural animates

Note: animates are collective when considered as a single group and plural when considered as a bunch of individuals. Pronouns follow this pattern by using a paucal inflection for the collective group of any size, and plural for a bunch of individuals of any size.

Nouns in juxtaposition with the same inflection refer to the same entity. Otherwise, they follow a whole-part pattern or a general-specific or a animate-inanimate pattern.

Obligatorily possessed nouns mess with the system a bit. They can be considered the equivalent of inanimate nouns.

See also