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The Kala conlang...

Introduction (soka)

Kala is a personal conlang (actually more of an artlang), based on my aesthetic preferences, not attached to any conworld or conculture. This language draws on natlangs (natural language), other conlangs, and of course imagination. Kala was started in late 2009. The phonemic inventory is based on Classical Nahuatl while the syllable structure and vowels are based on the strict (C)V structure of Japanese, and the presence of prenasalized stops is influenced by Bantu languages. Kala’s grammar was initially based on Japanese but has changed based on influence from several natural and constructed languages. Many – if not most – of Kala lexemes are derived from or inspired by natural languages. A few have been taken from previous projects or constructed languages such as Ajara (a cipherlang from my youth) and Qatama (a conlang that I abandoned several years ago).

Characteristics (tomi)

Kala has two parts of speech. Nouns and verbs are content words, while particles (and others) tend to be only functional. Many content words can be used as both nouns and verbs. The best and most common example would be ina /iːˈna/ "food; to eat". Kala is a context-oriented language. In most cases, the more important elements of a phrase are clustered toward the end of the sentence (e.g. verbs and their modifiers). The less important an element is to the understanding of a sentence, the more likely it is to be dropped. Consequently, many Kala sentences end-up consisting solely of a verb (or adjectival verb); more so in conversation than in written Kala, these short phrases are grammatically correct and natural. Here are some examples:

  • muya ka - /muːja gaː/ - do Q - (What are you) doing?
  • ina - /iːna/ - eat - (I am) eating.
  • tamatse - /tamaːˌt͡ʃɛ/ - good-seem - (That looks) good.
  • ueha ka - /weːɦa kaː/ - want Q - (Do you) want (some)?
  • nyasak - /ɲaːʃak/ - thank-NEG - No, thank (you).

Notice that none of the above contains any pronouns, or nouns. Any contextually understood elements may be omitted unless indispensable. There can be considerable divergence from what is grammatical, and what is acceptably idiomatic. The spectrum of formality and grammatical to idiomatic can be seen in the example below:

  • na’etla muyaye1s-P.4s do-PSTI did it. > [grammatical, formal]
  • etla muyayeP.4s do-PST(I) did it. >> It was done. > [grammatical, formal, passive]
  • na muyaye1s do-PSTI did (it). > [grammatical, informal]
  • muyayedo-PST(I) did (it). > [semi-grammatical, idiomatic]
  • muyye – /muːɟɛ/ – do-PST(I) did (it). > [ungrammatical, idiomatic]

Borrowing (kasu)

See also: Kala etymology

Kala borrows extensively from various natural languages. This is a very small sample of borrowings:

  • patoduck (Anatidae); from Spanish pato
  • kalato speak, talk, converse; from Arabic takallama
  • myontato allow, permit; from Finnish myöntää
  • naI, me; from Arabic ʾanā
  • tsenkaorange; from Chinese chéng
  • uasito take, get, acquire; from Lakota wasichu
  • ato be, exist, yes; from Japanese aru

So, some phrases can contain words from multiple natlangs:

  • ta ke inu uasiye ka
2s O drink take-PST Q
Did you take the drink?

Orthography (moya)

  • Kala conscripts are many and varied. Rather than multiple pages explaining each of them, this page serves as a working list with a consistent example across each script. The most commonly used script is the Hangul adaptation for Kala.

Han Moya

Han Moya is an adaptation of Hangul for writing Kala. It is written horizontally, in lines running from left to right. It can also be written vertically in columns.


  • ㄱㄲㄴㄷㄸㄹㅁㅂㅃㅅㅆㅇㅈㅉㅊㅋㅌㅍㅎ
k nk n t nt l m p mp s ns a ts nts ts` k` tl p` h
/k~g ᵑk~ⁿg n t~d ⁿt~ⁿd l~ɾ m p~b ᵐp~ᵐb s~ʃ ⁿs~ⁿʃ - ts~t͡ʃ ⁿts~ⁿt͡ʃ tsʰ~t͡ʃʰ kʰ t͡ɬ~tl pʰ h~ɦ/

The adaptations of doubled consonants are used word initially to indicate prenasalization. Medial occurrences of nasalized syllables are written across syllables.


  • ㅏ ᅶ ㅐ ㅑ ᅸ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅟ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ
a ao ai ya yao e ye o ao yo ua uai ue u i
/a~a: aʊ̯ aɪ̯ ja~ʲa: jaʊ̯~ʲaʊ̯ e~ɛ je~ʲɛ o~o: jo~ʲo: wa~ʷa: waɪ̯~ʷaɪ̯ we~ʷe: u~u: i~ɪ/
  • This is pronounced /wa/ in Korean because of the order of the vowels; however, because obsolete jamo are difficult to type and look junky as images, in Kala, this is used for /aʊ̯/ when typing. It is rarely seen due to the diphthong itself being uncommon.

Phonology (otonaho)

Consonants (hapu)

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m (m) n (n) ɲ (ny)
Plosive p~b (p) t~d (t) k~g (g) ʔ ( ' )
Affricate ts~t͡ʃ (ts) t͡ɬ~tl (tl)
Continuant s~ʃ (s) l~ɾ (l) h~ɦ (h)
Semivowel j (y) w (u)

The glottal stop is not phonemic but is included in the chart above for completeness. It is only ever intervocalic, meaning it is pronounced between two vowels and/or diphthongs. Where ~ appears, it indicates free variation between phonemes. However, certain sounds change in a predictable way. For example, /h/ becomes [ɦ] when preceded or followed by a front vowel, including when labialized or palatalized. The alveolar affricates are most often /t͡ʃ/ and /t͡ɬ/. The “s” is almost always /ʃ/ unless preceded or followed by a syllable with the onset /t͡ʃ/, in which case “s” becomes /s/. So, sama (sun; star; solar) is /ˈʃaːma/ where sitsa (heat; hot) is /ˈsiːt͡ʃa/ and tsisi (embroider; embroidery) is /t͡ʃiːsi/.

  • Prenasalized: /ᵐp ⁿt ᵑk/
  • Labialized:/pʷ kʷ mʷ nʷ ʃʷ hʷ t͡ʃʷ/
  • Palatalized: /pʲ kʲ mʲ hʲ/

Note: Because of its small phoneme inventory, Kala allows for quite a lot of allophonic variation. For example, /p t k/ may be pronounced [b d ɡ] as well as [p t k], /s l h/ as [ʃ ɾ ɦ], and /t͡s t͡ɬ/ as [t͡ʃ t͡l]; also, vowels may be either long or short.

Vowels (musa)

Front Back
Close i~ɪ (i) u~u: (u)
Mid e~ɛ (e) o~o: (o)
Open a~a: (a)

Kala has five vowels /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/ and /u/. Each occurs in both stressed and unstressed syllables. Phonetic nasalization occurs for vowels occurring between nasal consonants or when preceding a syllable-final nasal, e.g. tsunka [ˈt͡ʃũᵑka] ('bug').

Diphthongs (umomusa)

Phonetically, Kala has only two diphthongs, both falling; [aɪ̯] and [aʊ̯], but there are five syllables that can be analyzed as rising diphthongs; [wa], [we], [ja], [je], and [jo]. The two triphthongs [waɪ̯] and [jaʊ̯] are very rare but should be noted as possible.

Phonotactics (otomato)

Kala words are typically made up of open syllables of the type CV (consonant-vowel) with most words having syllables exclusively of this type. There is a limited set of syllables allowed by Kala phonotactics, similar to Japanese or Chinese.

  • /l/ cannot occur word initially (except in loanwords and toponyms):
lupunan = Lebanon
lupusu = Lupus

Syllables (tloko)

Syllable structure in Kala is typically made up of open syllables of the type CV (consonant-vowel) with most lexemes having syllables exclusively of this type. The exception to this rule are the endings –m (indicating general plural), -n (indicating adverbial or adjectival use), and –k (indicating negative mood). These endings all are word final. In detail a Kala syllable can be analyzed thusly: (N)(C)(u, y)V(a, i) where (N) indicates nasalization, and u and y indicate labialization and palatalization respectively.

Syllable Chart (ualitloko)

the 136 basic Kala syllables
a e i o u ua ue ya ye yo ai ao uai yao
p (m)pa (m)pe (m)pi (m)po (m)pu pua pue pya pye pyo pai pao puai pyao
t (n)ta (n)te (n)ti (n)to tai tao
k (n)ka (n)ke (n)ki (n)ko (n)ku kua kue kya kye kyo kai kao kuai kyao
m ma me mi mo mu mua mue mya mye myo mai mao muai myao
n na ne ni no nu nua nue nya nye nyo nai nao nuai nyao
s sa se si so su sua sue sai sao suai
h ha he hi ho hu hua hue hya hye hyo hai hao huai hyao
ts tsa tse tsi tso tsu tsua tsue tsai tsao tsuai
tl tla tle tli tlo tlai tlao
l la le li lo lai lao
- a e i o u ua ue ya ye yo ai ao uai yao

Syllables such as nsa, ntla, or ntsa can occur but usually only in place names or loanwords. The red syllables above occur infrequently and most often as the final syllable of a word.

Collating Order (pataka)

The collating sequence (alphabetical order) is based on the order established in the Naua script.

Consonants p t k m n s h ts tl l
Vowels a e i o u ua ue ya ye yo

Based on this order, ma would come before ha, etc. Prenasalized syllables are ordered after their non-prenasalized counterparts, i.e. mpa comes after pyo but before ta. To see the collating sequence in action, look through the lexicon.

Stress (otomana)

Stress generally falls on the penultimate syllable, which means that stress is de facto initial in most lemma given that stems are most often (CVCV). Monosyllabic words are not stressed. So;

  • masa - /ˈmaːsa/ >> masako - /maːˈsako/
  • tliyama - /tɬiːˈjama/ >> tliyamalo - /tɬiːjaˈmalo/
  • kam - /kaːm/ >> kamyo - /ˈkaːmʲo/

Morphology (umpu)

Kala is a mostly agglutinative language that makes extensive use of compounding, incorporation and derivation. That is, it can add many different prefixes and suffixes to a root until very long words are formed, and a single word can sometimes constitute an entire sentence.

Nouns (noma)

Nouns in Kala are inflected only for number. Other relevant distinctions are animacy and possession, but these are not marked on the noun itself. Animacy plays a role both for pronoun choice and for the validity of some syntactic constructions.

Number (uku)

In general the plural suffix is not used when the plurality of the noun is clear from context. For example, while the English sentence "there are three dogs" would use the plural "dogs" instead of the singular "dog", the Kala sentence mita ha'o a "dog three exist" keeps the word mita "dog" in its unmarked form, as the numeral makes the plural marker redundant.

Nouns are marked for number; plural and collective:

  • mita - dog - a dog
    • mitam - dog-PL - dogs
    • tlimita - COL-dog - a dog pack / a pack of dogs
    • tlimitam - COL-dog-PL - dog packs / packs of dogs

When the final syllable of a word contains an m, mp, and sometimes a p the plural marking changes to -lo.

  • yama - mountain - a mountain
    • yamalo - mountain-PL - mountains
    • tliyama - COL-mountain - a mountain range / range of mountains
    • tliyamalo - COL-mountain-PL - mountain ranges / ranges of mountains

The collective plural is marked by tli-, derived from tatli, meaning "group; collection; gathering". It is mainly used to indicate collectives of animals, but can also indicate groups of flora, geographic features, and various other groupings. This is called the collective plural (COL).

Gender (saka)

Gender is not normally marked but can be with the endings -na and -ta to mark the feminine and masculine, respectively or nouns such as naka, tlaka, nahi, or tahi (the woman, the man, the girl, the boy), etc. A gender neutral suffix, -nta may be used when the gender is unknown or ambiguous.

  • uma - horse - a horse
    • umana - horse-FEM - mare
    • umata - horse-MASC - stallion

Pronouns (nkalo)

Kala agent pronouns are often omitted when the person is obvious from context. There are four persons in Kala. The 4th being inanimate, or indefinite. The pronoun na'am is used as the 1st person plural exclusive, meaning "We, but not you." The 3rd person plural is irregular, all other pronoun decline regularly. Pronouns do not inflect for gender; if gender is significant, one can use words like naka, tlaka, nahi, tahi (the woman, the man, the girl, the boy), etc.

Personal pronouns:

  • na - 1st person
  • ta - 2nd person
  • ha - 3rd person
  • tla - 4th person ("it", "one") (used for inanimate nouns)


  • -m - plural
  • -nku - reciprocal (only attaches to plural pronouns)
  • e- - patient
  • -i - reflexive
  • -yo - possessive

Other pronouns include:

  • tlokua - everyone, everybody
  • kola - someone, somebody; whomever, anyone, anybody
  • tlok - no one, nobody
  • nokua - everything
  • nola - something; whatever, anything
  • nok - nothing

Agent Patient Reflexive Possessive Reciprocal
1sg na ena na'i nayo -
2sg ta eta ta'i tayo -
3sg ha eha ha'i hayo -
4sg tla etla tla'i tlayo -
1pl exclusive
2pl tam etam tami tamyo tanku
3pl kam ekam kami kamyo kanku
4pl tlam etlam tlami tlamyo tlanku

Reflexives and Reciprocals (ki ma anku)

Kala has reflexive and reciprocal pronoun forms.

  • na'i sepaye
1s.REFL injure-PST
I hurt myself.
  • ha'i tlela
3s.REFL bathe
She bathes herself.
  • kanku ke onta nayo itsa
3pl.RECP O parent 1s.GEN love
My parents love each other.
  • na'anku amyapak
We (but not you) are not able to like each other.

Determiners & Demostratives (milahani)

The demonstratives can be prefixed to any noun to show deixis. Kala makes a three-way distinction. Typically there is a distinction between proximal or first person (objects near to the speaker), medial or second person (objects near to the addressee), and distal or third person (objects far from both).

  • itla (i-) - this (near me)
  • uatla (ua-) - that (near you)
  • yetla (ye-) - that (over there)


  • imitami - PROX-dog-few - These few dogs
  • yemitampa - DIST-dog-many - Those many dogs (over there)
  • uamitali - MED-dog-each - Each dog (each of those dogs) (near you)

Quantifiers follow the noun that modify.

  • kua (-kua) - all; every; whole
  • oli (-li) - each; every
  • ula (-la) - whatever; any; some
  • mi (-mi) - few; little
  • nke (-k) - none
  • mpa (-mpa) - many; much; a lot
  • maha - more; plus
  • ohi - less; fewer

Correlatives (uatse)

over there
somewhere; anywhere
this person
that person
that person
(over there)
no one
someone; anyone
this much
that much
- kua
all; every
some; any
now, at present
then; at that time
- kuama
sometime; anytime
(kind, type)
this kind
that kind
that kind
(over there)
all kinds
no kind (at all)
some/any kind
(over there)
nothing; none
something; anything
(manner, way)
thus; like this; this way
that way
that way
(over there)
every way
no way
somehow; anyway

Verbs (uati)

Kala relies on analytic serial verb constructions, and can therefore get by with very little verbal morphology. Each verb has at most two possible forms: the active and the stative. Passivity is marked on the subject thus verbs are unmarked and must be analyzed based on surrounding morphology. Active verbs solely denote actions and occurrences and never states in Kala. Stative verbs are the words that modify nouns in an attributive and often adjectival way. They often express a state like a quality or result. Verbs can be marked with several suffixes to add or change meaning. The modals and tense affixes can be added in different order to a verb to create a new meaning; their placement is not always fixed. The negative, adverbial, and plural endings are always final, while other affixes can be varied, but in general they should be ordered:



Verb Stem Size/Importance Mood Aspect Tense Negative
empa -hi -pa -nko -ye -k
  • na empahipankoyek
I was not able to keep jogging.

Tense (amayo)

Kala has three simple tenses; past, present, and future. Present tense is unmarked. However, past (-ye) and future (-tli) tenses can be modified to include immediate future ("is about to..."), distant future ("will...in a long while"), recent past ("just ..."), and remote past ("...a long while ago"). These distinctions are made with the augmentative and diminutive endings -ha and -hi.

Kala gloss English
remote past kamahi hinayeha town-DIM be.here-REM There was a village here (long ago).
(before the lifetime of the speaker)
past naka mita anyaye woman dog see-PST The woman saw the dog.
recent past ota namyo akyayehi
or -hye
father 1pl.GEN wake-REC Our father just woke.
(action just finished)
present mita tahi yatsi dog boy bite The dog bites the boy.
future naka tahi tlepatli woman boy teach-FUT The woman will teach the boy.
immediate future na tlelatlihi
or -tlai
1s bathe-FUT I'll bathe soon.
(within the day)
distant future panam opuatliha rain-PL end-FUT The rains will end.
(months from now)
  • The present tense can show immediacy by using the adverb ima, "now; at this time":
ima mita ina - now dog eat - The dog is eating right now.
  • If a temporal adverb is used, the tense suffix may be omitted:
yomaye nam ina - yesterday 1pl eat - We ate yesterday.

Aspect (ti'a)

There are four aspects in Kala. The progressive, also called the continuous [CONT], this is used to express an incomplete action or state in progress at a specific time. It is marked with -nko, from nkoso - "to continue; proceed; progress". The perfective aspect indicates that an action is completed [PFV]. It is often translated by the English present perfect (have done some-thing). It is marked with -pua, from opua - "to end; finish; complete". The inchoative aspect refers to the beginning of a state [INCH]. It is marked with -mu, from mula - "to begin; start; initiate". The frequentative aspect refers to a repeated action [FREQ]. It is marked with -nua, from nua - "frequent; often; regular".

Kala gloss English
Continuous na ke niye pukunko 1s O undergarment wear-CONT I am wearing underclothes.
Frequentative tlaka ke apua tlatonua man O song recite-FREQ The man recites the song repetitively.
Inchoative nahi yotimu girl play-INCH The girl begins to play.
Perfective kam inapua 3pl eat-PFV They have eaten.

Mood (toka)

Besides various aspects, Kala also marks moods other than realis: irrealis, imperative, hortative, and negative. These are also expressed by suffixes on the verb and typically follow aspectual marking where it is expressed by a suffix. As is common throughout natural and constructed languages, the indicative mood is unmarked. Subjunctive, conditional, and imperative moods are marked lexically, by various particles, and as such are covered in detail in the “particles” of this grammar.

Kala gloss English
Abilitative na mokuyepak 1s sleep-PST-ABIL-NEG I was unable to sleep.
Assumptive naka hinaho woamn be.here-ASS The woman must be here. (I assume) (also used as "assertive")
Attemptative neko ke panya matapya cat O mouse kill-ATT The cat is trying to kill the mouse.
Dubitative ha tsakahueke 3s home-LOC-DUB I guess he is at home. lit: He is at home, supposedly.
Hortative yalakya walk-HORT Let's go!
Necessitative mita inahe dog eat-NEC The dog needs to eat.
Negative naku nayo hinak sister 1s-GEN be.here-NEG My sister is not here.
Permissive ta ke hina simamyok 2s O here sit-PERM-NEG You are not allowed to sit here.
Precative ke asi yetate O salt give-PREC Will you please pass me the salt?
Preparative tahi mokusue boy sleep-PREP The boy is ready to sleep.
Propositive ta mokune 2s sleep-PROP You should sleep.
Volitive otsokai ka'e moli yalaue wolf-red toward forest go-VOL Redwolf wants/intends to go to the forest.

The negative mood (always marked finally) is indicated by the suffix –k or –nke (when the last syllable contains /k/).

  • mita inayek - dog eat-PST-NEG - The dog did not eat.
  • mita mokunke - dog sleep-NEG - The dog does not sleep.

Adjectives (keyo)

Kala does not have morphologically distinct adjectives. Stative verbs are the words that modify nouns in an predicative and often adjectival way. They often express a state like a quality or result. In the simplest form, the adjective simply appears after the noun, in verbal position. Many statements that would be phrased as adjectival predicates in English are preferably expressed with stative intransitive verbs in Kala, requiring no copula. (For simplicity, such verbs are glossed without “be”.) This leaves open to interpretation many phrases.

  • mita inya - dog hungry
    • The dog hungers.
    • The dog is hungry.
    • The hungry dog.
    • A hungry dog.
  • tsaka ketlahi - house red-DIM
    • The house is a little red.
    • The light-red house.
    • A pale red house.
  • taki saua - coat wet
    • The coat is wet.
    • The wet coat.
    • A wet coat.
  • umalo tahaku - horse-PL big-extreme
    • The horses are extremely large.
    • The very big horses.

Comparison (nisa)

In Kala the concepts of comparative and superlative degree of an predicative adjective (verb) are merged into a single form, the elative. How this form is understood or translated depends upon context and definiteness. In the absence of comparison, the elative conveys the notion of “greatest”, “supreme.” The comparative is made by using the augmentative or diminutive ending on the verb.

  • tsaka hayo ke nayo tahaka
house 3sg.POSS O 1sg.POSS big-AUG
His house is bigger than mine.
  • ke mauam tayo yanaha
O flower.PL 2sg.POSS yellow-AUG
Your flowers are the most yellow.
  • iyapo ke tsaka tayo pakoha
PROX-building O home 2sg new-AUG
This building is newer than your home.

Equivalence (hisa)

Equivalence is indicated with either kue (as, like), or mya (as...as).

  • tsaka hayo kue nayo ketla
house 3s.GEN as 1s.GEN be.red
His house is red like mine.
  • tsaka hayo mya nayo ketla
house 3s.GEN as.X.as 1s.GEN be.red
His house is as red as mine.

Like verbs, adjectives can be used as nouns. For example, aya means "beautiful", but ayako means "a beautiful one" or "a beauty." An adjective can be made into an abstract noun by adding -n (-ity, -ness, -ship, -hood). In this way aya becomes ayan, meaning "beauty". This can also be used with nouns: ona (mother) becomes onan (motherhood).


In a relative clause, the verb has the suffix -tle (or -le if the final syllable contains /tl/) added to it. The order of the words in relative clauses remains the same as in regular clauses. The use of participles in Kala is rather different than in English and at first sight is difficult to understand. This is mainly due to the fact that the relative pronouns who, what, which, where are not used in Kala as in English.

  • yalapa - to be able to walk produces: yalapatle - who/which/that can walk
  • yalapak - to not be able to walk produces: yalapanketle - who/which/that can't walk

This nominalizes the verb in some cases, and makes it possible for it to be either the subject or the object.

  • na ke tlaka nya inama talatle unya
1sg O man for eat-time come-REL know
I know the man who is coming to lunch.
  • ke naka patlole pako
O woman sweep-REL young
The woman who is sweeping is young.

The relative suffix is most often in the final position. In some cases, it may be followed by the negative -k.

  • itsaka na sutahuetle
PROX-house 1sg reside-LOC-REL
This is the house in which I live.
  • itsaka na sutahueyetlek
PROX-house 1sg reside-LOC-PST-REL-NEG
This is the house in which I did not live.

Adverbs (pusa)

Adverbs tell us when, how, why or where the action happens. They modify a verb, a noun, an adjective, another adverb or a complete sentence. They also can provide us information about manner, quantity, frequency, time, or place. Kala does not have morphologically distinct adverbs. Adverbs can be formed from all adjectives (or stative verbs) by adding -n to the root. Since this rule is regular, it is not generally indicated in grammatical examples or in the lexicon.

  • aya - beautiful >> ayan - beautifully
  • tama - good >> taman - well
  • poyo - rich >> poyon - richly
  • tsipue - slow >> tsipuen - slowly (this can also be marked on the main verb with -tsue)
  • tlaki - fluent >> tlakin - fluently

Many adverbs (mostly temporal) do not derive from verbs:

  • yomaye - yesterday
  • iyoma - today
  • yomali - every day
  • kuama - always
  • ima - now

Temporal adverbs always precede the phrase they modify.

  • yomuali na ka'e hakyo yala
morning-each 1s to school go
I go to school every morning.

Other adverbials can be marked on the verb.

  • ona kamyo ma'a siku kupayetsua
mother 3pl.GEN with accident die-PST-almost
Their mother almost died in the accident.

Prepositions (tatse)

Kala does not have prepositions (or postpositions) as a distinct part of speech. Instead, many locative verbs can be used as adpositionals, in which case they precede the noun they modify. There is one general locative (-hue) which is affixed to nouns (and occasionally verbs) to indicate the sense of “at; in; on”. Here are some common verbs used as adpositions:

  • pahe - against; touching
  • pa'e - apart from; other than; except for
  • paye - beyond; exceeding; farther than
  • pue - after; back; behind; rear
  • tahe - below; beneath; under
  • ka'e - to; towards; at [moving toward]
  • kaye - around; encircling; surrounding
  • mahe - around; approximate; close to
  • ma'a - with [accompanied by / furnished with]
  • ma'e - before; in front
  • maye - between; among
  • nahe - in [located inside of]; internal
  • nyaue - outside of; exterior to
  • sahe - across; opposite; other side
  • saye - along; following [a line]
  • hue / -hue - at [in the same location as] [LOC]
  • tsa'e - across; through
  • ua'e - above; over / on
  • uaye - from [moving out of or away from]
  • ya'e - near; close to
  • yomo - to the right of
  • yoso - to the left of

  • na ke ito yamahue anyapa
1sg O tree hill-LOC see-ABIL
I can see a tree on the hill.
  • ntahim nyaue tsaka yoti
child-PL outside.of house play
The children are playing outside of the house.

Many of these take the motive suffix -la.

  • mita ke tsaka nahelaye
dog O house go.into-PST
The dog went into the house.
  • taku nayo ke ito ua'ela
brother 1s.GEN O tree go.up
My brother is climbing the tree.

Particles (peya)

Conjunctions (penku)

Words and phrases may be coordinated in Kala with the following words:

  • pa - although; even though; even if
  • ku - and; also [clause level]
  • ma - and; also; too; as well
  • ehe / (me) - but; yet; however
  • impo - therefore; as a result; so; consequently; thus
  • ua - or; other; else
  • ue - either X or Y
  • uenke / (uek) - neither X nor Y
  • yatli - if X then Y
  • yema - both X and Y
  • yetli - if it were not; if not X then Y >> X yatli Y
  • ha'ena itsa ehe hinak
3s-P.1s love but be.here-NEG
She loves me but is not here.
  • aye na tala ku matsu
PST 1s come CONJ conquer
I came, I conquered.

Interjections (nita)

There are a few particles, usually appearing at the beginning of the sentence, with a pragmatic meaning. These typically precede phrases they modify.

morpheme indicates gloss example
a acknowledgement, agreement, or that one is listening yes; hm mm; yeah a ta inaue
Mm hmm...You want to eat.
e filler or pause during conversation uh, er, well e na uamek
Well, I'm not sure.
yali excuses jostling or interruptions excuse me yali itla tayo ka
Excuse me, is this yours?

Derivational morphology (umpuyota)

Because Kala has only two main parts of speech (content and functional words), new words formed by derivation should be analyzed based on context. Functional words can rarely be used to form new words, but this is typically to form extensions of functions, or new functions.

Compounding (tlisamila)

New nouns are usually created through head-initial compounding, using both nominal and verbal stems as the second, dependent element of the compound. The resulting lexical entries usually behave as single phonological words, which, however, have four full syllables: kuatlatloha "grass snake". Compounding of more than two elements is not common.

  • kayapusu - "earthquake" > kaya - earth + pusu - vibrate
  • asuaseka - "leather" > asua - skin + seka - dry

There are also numerous affixes used to form new meanings. A few examples are;

  • tiyasu - "bakery" > tiya - bread + -su - market; shop
  • onyomo - "school" > onyo - learn + -mo - place; location
  • kuhasa - "kitchen" > kuha - cook + -sa - room; chamber
  • pyetampu - "egg-shaped" > pyeta - egg + -mpu - shape; form

Derivation (yota)

Verbalization (uatimya)

Causative verbs (as well as achievement verbs) can be formed from other verbs by adding -mya (from muya - "do, make, cause") or -la (from ela - "become; change into; turn into"). This type of derivation is fairly common; however, verbs created in this way are syntactically defective and tend to appear only in serial verb constructions.

  • tinamya - "bend" < tina - be bent
  • pitamya - "hollow out" < pita - be hollow; void
  • enomya - "annoy, bother" < eno - be angry
  • tsipuela - "slow down" < tsipue - be slow
  • kyolola - "speed up" < kyolo - be quick

Intensive verbs can be formed from other verbs by adding -mpa (from mpa - "many; much; very"), or more commonly -hu (from kyohu - "be drastic; extreme; aggressive").

  • ketsahu - "dismiss, reject, repudiate" < ketsa - doubt
  • amyampa - "fall in love with" < amya - be fond of; like; prefer (of people)

Adjective-like stative verbs which name an associated quality may be formed from nouns by -n (from no - "thing" (-ish, -ly, -ous)).

  • timan - "be cruel, be bloody" < tima - blood
  • amyan - "be welcoming, be hospitable" < amya - be fond of

Nominalization (nomamya)

Agentive (ko)

Nouns referring to a human subject of a verb (usually in a habitual sense) can be formed with the agentive suffix -ko (from ko - "individual; person"). This suffix changes to -tlo when a velar stop is present in the preceding syllable.

  • kitlako - "craftsman" < kitla - create; invent; make-up
  • sutako - "inhabitant (of)" < suta - live; reside; dwell; inhabit; settle
  • yekatlo - "unmarried young adult" < yeka - be separate, be on one's own
  • makatlo - "musician" < maka - music; play ~; tune
  • tsaniko - "storyteller" < tsani - recite, tell (a story)

Instrumental (mayo)

Instrument nouns and names for tools and other inanimates can be derived from verbs or from other nouns by adding the suffix -nyo (from mayo - "device; equipment; tool").

  • hitanyo - "atlatl (spear-thrower)" < hita - throw; cast; expel
  • amonyo - "handle (for carrying)" < amo - transport; carry
  • kusunyo - "clasp, brooch, fibula" < kusu - squeeze
  • toponyo - "lock" < topo - door; gate

Locative (mo / hue)

Location nouns can be formed from both nouns and verbs by several suffixes. These indicate specific places where either something happens, or something resides there are a few affixes which modify both verbs and nouns.

-mo (from mo - "location; place; site"). This suffix is used to form the general idea of where something happens or resides.

  • tanamo - "battlefield; boxing ring; wrestling mat, etc." < tana - fight; combat
  • uelomo - "bicycle-place; bike path; bike rack, etc." < uelo - bicycle; bike
  • inamo - "eat-place; dining room; restaurant" [This can also mean food-place; pantry, etc.] < ina - food; eat
  • onyomo - "learn-place; school" < onyo - learn; study

-su (from suku - "market; shop; store"). This suffix is used to specify a business where items are produced and/or sold.

  • tiyasu - "bread-shop; bakery" < tiya - bread
  • inasu - "food-market; grocery store; restaurant" < ina - food; eat
  • uelosu - "bicycle-shop" < uelo - bicycle; bike

-kyo (from hakyo - "college; school; university"). This suffix is used to specify a location where students learn. This can also be used to indicate a school of thought, or ideology.

  • tanakyo - "dojo; martial arts training academy; etc." < tana - fight; combat
  • kuhakyo - "culinary-school; chef’s academy" < kuha - cook; prepare food
  • tsiyakyo - "liberalism" < tsiya - freedom; liberty
  • ya'akyo - "medical-school" < ya'a - medicine; drug; cure

-sa (from sala - "chamber; room; section"). This is more specific than -mo and used primarily for spaces inside buildings.

  • kuhasa - "cook-room; kitchen" < kuha - cook; prepare food
  • mokusa - "sleep-room; bedroom" < moku - sleep; rest
  • inasa - "eat-room; dining room" < ina - food; eat
  • onyosa - "learn-room; classroom" < onyo - learn; study

Diminutive (ahi)

Diminutive nouns and endearment terms can be formed from verbs and other nouns by adding the suffix -hi (from ahi - "few; small"). This becomes -ki after a syllable that contains a glottal fricative.

  • mukuhi - "blade" < muku - knife
  • umahi - "foal" < uma - horse; equine
  • mitahi - "puppy" < mita - dog; canine
  • ohuaki - "indulgence" < ohua - luxurious; extravagant

Augmentative (taha)

Augmentative nouns can be formed from verbs and other nouns by adding the suffix -ha (from taha - "big; large; grand"). This becomes -ka after a syllable that contains a glottal fricative.

  • kamaha - "city" < kama - village; town
  • ohaka - "dislocate one's jaw" < oha - yawn; open one's mouth
  • mosaha - "epic; novel" < mosa - book; letter; scroll
  • tiniha - "hurricane" < tini - spiral; whorl

Honorific (otaka)

Honorific nouns can be formed from other nouns by prefixing o-.

  • omasa - "stag" < masa - deer; cervine
  • okama - "capital" < kama - town; village

Syntax (teyeto)

Kala has an extremely regular grammar, with very few exceptions to its rules. Sentences are made up of one or more phrases. Each phrase consists of a verb (optionally followed by modifying particles) and a subject (optionally followed by modifying particles). The subject, if understood, can be omitted at the end of an utterance: pana ("It is raining.") pana! ("Rain!") An utterance can be anything from an interjection to a story.

The basic structure of a Kala sentence is: AGENT--PATIENT--VERB (or SOV)

The agent is the person or thing doing the action described by the verb; The patient is the recipient of that action. The importance of word order can be seen by comparing the following sentences:

  • mita tlaka anya
dog man see
The dog sees the man.
  • tlaka mita anya
man dog see
The man sees the dog.

In both sentences, the words are identical, the only way to know who is seeing whom is by the order of the words in the sentence.

The use of the object marker ke indicates the recipient of the action.

  • naka ke mita itsa
woman O dog love
The woman loves the dog.

Kala lacks morphological adjectives and instead uses predicative verbs.

  • ke tsaka taha
O house be.big
The big house / The house is big

Kala lacks morphological adverbs, verbs modified with the adverbial ending -n tend to precede the verb phrase they modify.

  • tsumun nam yokone
cautious-ADV 1pl swim-SUG
We should swim cautiously.

Kala lacks morphological prepositions and instead uses locational and relational verbs.

  • mita ke yempa tahe
dog O table be.under
The dog is under the table.

Clauses (teye)

Relative clauses (or adjective clauses) function like adjectives. Relative clauses follow the noun or noun phrase that they modify:

  • naka ke na itsatle te ameyo
woman O 1s love-REL from America
The woman (that) I love comes from America.
  • mayo ke na kitlayetle muyak
tool O 1s create-PST-REL do-NEG
The tool (that) I built doesn't function.
  • na ke ta yani unyak / na ke yani tayo unyak
1s O 2s mean know-NEG / 1s O meaning 2s.GEN know-NEG
I don't understand what you mean.

Subordinate clauses rely on conjunctions and other particles.

  • eya ta ke mpeka inaye yatli ta pasala
maybe 2s O toad eat-PST therefore 2s nauseous-become
If you ate the toad (which you might have), you might get sick.
  • naye na tasa ke masa okyohue anyaye
while 1s hunt O deer clearing-LOC see-PST
While hunting, I saw a deer in a clearing.

Questions (kanyo)

There are two types of questions: Polar, those which may be answered "yes" or "no," and those which require explanations as answers.

Polar Questions (pa'ekanyo)

Any statement can become a polar question by adding the interrogative particle ka at the end of the sentence.

  • mita ina
dog eat
The dog eats.
  • nta'i moku
baby sleep
The baby is sleeping. / The baby sleeps.
  • ta ke tlo'o anyaye
2SG O elephant see-PST
You saw the elephant.
  • tekatlo eta ke ya'a yetaye
heal-AG P.2SG O medicine give-PST
The doctor gave you the medicine.
  • mita ina ka
dog eat Q
Does the dog eat?
  • nta'i moku ka
baby sleep Q
Is the baby sleeping?
  • ta ke tlo'o anyaye ka
2SG O elephant see-PST Q
Did you see the elephant?
  • tekatlo eta ke ya'a yetaye ka
heal-AG P.2SG O medicine give-PST Q
Did the doctor give you the medicine?

Content questions (no-kanyo)

Questions that give a list of possible answers are formed like polar questions, with the conjunction ue ‘or’ introducing each alternative (which must appear in the form of a noun phrase).

  • ta ke nkapa ue maya inuue ka
2SG O beer or.EXCL water drink-VOL Q
Do you want to drink beer or water?
  • uala ta ke sinka mataye ue empa ma koma ka
truly 2sg O lion kill-PST or.EXCL flee CONJ hide Q
Did you really kill the lion, or did you run away and hide?

Open content questions are most easily formed with the correlatives, such as ko ‘person’, mo ‘place’, to ‘manner’, etc. These correlatives always appear clause-initially:

  • ko ta ka
person 2sg Q
Who are you?
  • itla ka
this Q
What is this?
  • to kihu ka
manner weather Q
What's the weather like?

The other type contains a question word and is followed by ka:

Kala gloss English
object ke mita ina ka O dog eat Q What does the dog eat?
person ko ina ka person eat Q Who eats?
possession koyo mita ina ka person-POSS dog eat Q Whose dog eats?
manner to mita ina ka manner dog eat Q How does the dog eat?
place mo mita ina ka place dog eat Q Where does the dog eat?
reason nye mita ina ka reason dog eat Q Why does the dog eat?
time ama mita ina ka time dog eat Q When does the dog eat?
amount uku mita ina ka amount dog eat Q How much/many does the dog eat?
which ula mita ina ka any dog eat Q Which dog eats?

Numbers (uku)

Kala uses a base 10 number system. The basic numbers are as follows:

Kala number English Kala number English Kala number English
ye'o 0 zero tsa'o 6 six nya'o 500 five hundred
na'o 1 one ka'o 7 seven tle'o 103 (one) thousand
ta'o 2 two pa'o 8 eight mue'o 104 ten thousand
ha'o 3 three sa'o 9 nine kye'o 105 (one) hundred thousand
ma'o 4 four ue'o 10 ten nte'o 106 (one) million
ya'o 5 five nye'o 100 (one) hundred hue'o 109 (one) billion

Forming Larger Numbers

  • uena'o - eleven / 11
  • taue'o - twenty / 20
  • nyeka'o - one hundred seven / 107
  • hanyetauetsa'o (long form) / hatatsa'o (short form) - three hundred twenty six / 326
  • tsatletauema'o - six thousand and twenty four / 6024

Long form numbers are used in formal situations, including financial transactions, especially involving large sums. Short form numbers are used in everyday speech and when calculating basic math.

Other Number Forms

Kala number English ordinal multiple fractional
na'o 1 one kina'o
ueta'o 12 twelve kiueta'o
twelve times
a twelfth
54 fifty four kiyama'o
fifty fourth
54 times
a fifty fourth
nyetsa'o 106 one hundred (and) six kinyetsa'o
106 times
a 106th
katle'o 7000 seven thousand kikatle'o
seven thousandth
7000 times

Math Operations (kuto)

Kala math is fairly basic and relies on particles and verbs to express functions.

Addition uses ma (and; also). There is no specific order to the numbers in the phrase/equation.

  • ha'o ma ya'o ke pa'o a
3 and 5 O 8 COP
Three plus five is eight.

Subtraction uses ma (and; also) and a negative form of the smaller integer. There is no specific order to the numbers in the phrase/equation.

  • tsa'o ma ya'ok ke na'o a
6 and 5-NEG O 1 COP
Six and five-less is one.

Multiplication uses ma (and; also) and a multiple form of one of the integers. There is no specific order to the numbers in the phrase/equation.

  • ha'o ma tima'o ke ueta'o a
3 and multiple-4 O 12 COP
Three times four is twelve.

Division uses yeka (divide; separate; partition), or ma (and; also) and a multiple-negative form of one of the integers. There is no specific order to the numbers in the phrase/equation.

  • tama'o ma ha'o ke pa'o yeka
24 and 3 O 8 division
Twenty-four divided by three is eight.