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The Kala conlang...


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).


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]


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?



Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m (m) n (n) ɲ (ny)
Plosive p~b (p) t~d (t) k~g (k) 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.


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').


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.


There is a limited set of syllables, of the type CV (consonant-vowel), allowed by Kala phonotactics, similar to Japanese or Chinese. Kala phonotactics does not typically allow the onsets of adjacent syllables to be identical, nor both to be labialized or palatalized. (There are a few exceptions to this, such as tata for the informal/familiar form of “father”, etc.) Syllables beginning with /l/ do not occur as the first syllable of a headword (except in loanwords and toponyms).


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

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

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 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/


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. The words of Kala can be divided into two basic functional classes: verbs and nouns as content words, and particles and others as functional. Adjectives exist, but they generally behave like verbs and there are very few adjectives that are not derived from either verbal or nominal roots. The few adverbs that exist fall into the class of particles or are derived from verbs. The most important element of Kala lexemes to keep in mind is that they may function as a verb, noun, adjective, or an adverb based on where they fall in the phrase, and any various endings that may be affixed.


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.


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 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.

  • kuma - bear - a bearkumana - bear-FEM - sowkumata - bear-MASC - boar
  • masa - deer - a deermasana - deer-FEM - doemasata - deer-MASC - stag
  • uma - horse - a horseumana - horse-FEM - mareumata - horse-MASC - stallion


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

Pronominal constructions

The agent and patient pronouns are linked in most constructions. That means that the agent and the patient form one word. This is done with the pronominal patient marking affix -e-.

  • na’eha anya
1s-P.3s see
I see her.
  • kameta motoyek
3pl-P.2s remember-PST-NEG
They didn’t remember you.
  • tametla yohauek
2pl-P.4s have-DES-NEG
You (all) don’t want to have it.
  • nye ta’ena tapya ka
reason 2s-P.1s follow Q
Why are you following me?

Reflexives and Reciprocals

Kala handles reflexives and reciprocals using suffixes that can be added to either the pronoun or the verb. The reflexive suffix added to pronouns is –i, when added to verbs it is –ki, from ki meaning “self; essence”. The reciprocal suffix added to pronouns and verbs is –nku, , from anku meaning “reciprocate; [in] return”.

  • 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.

In order to differentiate non-singular reflexives from reciprocals, -li (“each; every”) can be added – to the subject for reflexives, and to the object for reciprocals. Note however that this construction usually implies that all members of the subject group were actually affected by the action.

  • tanakoli matakiye
fight-AG-each kill-REFL-PST
Each one of the warriors killed himself.
  • kanku ke tanakoli matakiye
3pl.RECP O fight-AG-each kill-REFL-PST
The warriors killed each other [and nobody survived].

Determiners & Demostratives

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


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


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
1s run-DIM-able-PROG-PST-NEG
I was not able to keep jogging.
  • na empahik
1s run-DIM-able-NEG
I don’t jog.
  • na empankoye
1s run-PROG-PST
I was running.
  • na empa’uk
1s run-ABIL-NEG
I can’t run.
  • na empayepak
I couldn’t run.
  • na empahahye
1s run-AUG-REC
I just sprinted.


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’s distinguishing three levels of both past and future time is a unique typological trait. The use of the variations of past and future are not subject to strict grammatical rules and are a question of pragmatics. The recent and immediate markers are most commonly used for near-scope, that is, things which have just happened or will happen very soon. Of the triad tense–aspect–mood this section will only cover basic uses of the marked tense categories, followed by a discussion of complex tense combinations such as past-in-future. Subsequent sections will provide more insight into the morphological marking of aspectual categories; and the following section deals with the morphology of mood marking in Kala. Verbs in Kala are unmarked for present tense, as it is the normal mode of speaking. Besides being used to comment or report on current events, the present tense is also used to make statements of general truth. Also, Kala does not strictly mark its verbs for past tense in narrative discourses (instead the adverbial aye (“it was”) will start the first phrase); verbs may therefore appear as a present-time reference in spite of recounting past events, whether historical or fictional.

Kala gloss English
remote past kamahi hinayeha
or -hai
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-IMM I'll bathe soon.
(within the day)
distant future panam opuatliha rain-PL end-DIS The rains will end.
(months from now)

The present tense can show immediacy by using the adverb ima, "now; at this time"; If a temporal adverb is used, the tense suffix may be omitted:

  • ima mita ina - now dog eat - The dog is eating right now.
  • yomaye nam inayesterday 1pl eatWe ate yesterday.
  • anyotli ha huatoyear-FUT 3s move.aboutHe will move next year.
  • semaye kamena ke mita yetaweek-PST 3pl-P.1s O dog give(A) week(s) ago they gave me a dog.

Note that the recent and the remote past tense are not generally marked if the past context is clear, for instance, when a past context has already been established in discourse. This may also happen explicitly by using a temporal adverbial such as yomaye (“yesterday”) or anyoye nye’o (“a hundred years ago”). In the presence of an explicit temporal adverb, redundant tense marking is also dropped subsequently. Like the past tense, the future is often not explicitly marked if the time frame is clear from context or has been clarified with such adverbials as “tomorrow”.

Already”, past in past & past in future; so far, we have only dealt with tense marking from the point of view of the present. However, it is also possible to refer to an event which precedes another event in the past. Kala uses the particle tso ("already; since") to indicate actions that took place prior to the primary tense of the verb. It is most often placed at the beginning of a verb phrase.

  • tso mikelo yetla inaye
already Michael DIST-4s eat-PST
Michael already ate that (before).
  • tso maliya yetla inatli ama nam talatli
already Mary DIST-4s eat-FUT time 1pl arrive-FUT
Mary will have already eaten that (before) when we (will) arrive.


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.

A few aspectual derivations:

  • kuali - drill; bore; dig into → kualinua - cultivate, farm
  • oma – shout; yell → omanua - scream
  • noko – stay; remain → nokonua - survive, be resilient
  • moku – sleep; rest → mokumu – fall asleep
  • yelo – ice → yelomu – freeze; solidify → yelopua – frozen; solid


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.
Attemptative neko ke panya matapya cat O mouse kill-ATT The cat is trying to kill the mouse.
Desiderative otsokai ka'e moli yalaue wolf-red toward forest go-DES Redwolf wants/intends to go to the forest.
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.

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.


Verb clauses in Kala may optionally be marked for evidentiality, particularly if the described event took place in the past and/or when the speaker was not directly involved in it. This set of six verbal suffixes indicating the nature of the evidence supporting a statement. These morphemes are not obligatory; however, the lack of an evidential in a main clause not marked as interrogative or irrealis is usually taken as a sign of pure speculation and thus likely to raise suspicions about the statement's truth.

Kala gloss English
"so-called" * kamahitai taha village-so.called be.big The so-called village is large.
Dubitative [DUB] ha tsakahueke
kam inyake
3s home-LOC-DUB
3pl hunger-DUB
I guess he is at home. lit: He is at home, supposedly.
(It's doubtful that) they are hungry.
Hearsay [HSY] ha inanu 3s eat-HSY She eats (I hear). / (It's said) She is eating.
Visual Sensory [VIS] ke kana kupayenya O chief die-PST-VIS The chief died. and I saw it
Assumptive [ASS] naka hinaho woman be.here-ASS The woman must be here. (I assume)
(also used as "assertive")
Evidential [EVID] nahi nya katso ke punka tsametsi girl for meal O fruit gather-EVID The girl is collecting fruit for dinner.
  • -tai indicates that the speaker thinks what he is referencing is not actually represented by the noun
  • -tsi indicates inferred from physical or situational evidence

It is worth noting that none of the evidentials distinguish between direct and indirect evidence, i.e. they only assert that the relevant knowledge was indeed acquired in the specified way, but not necessarily by the speaker himself. By whom exactly can only be deduced from context.

Derivational morphology

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.


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

Clipped compounding does occur and is distinctive. This clipping occurs consistently in content words, but is usually blocked in functional words and auxiliaries. Syllables are clipped based on euphonic choices but must remain recognizable and retain grammatical functionality.

  • naka – woman & kana – leader → nakkan – chieftess; queen
  • naua – to tie & ualo – bring → naualo – get someone involved in one's trouble
  • uaso – cup; jug; vessel & sitsa – hot; heat → uassitsa – flask; thermos; bottle
  • yasa – wind & sitsa – hot; heat → yassitsa – warm breeze
  • yasa – wind & yesa – peace → yassa – peaceful-wind

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


In Kala, new words can be formed by adding prefixes or suffixes to existing words, or by combining two existing words as a compound noun. It's also possible to reuse adjectives as nouns, and verbs as nouns, without adding an affix.

The most common ending (other than tense, aspect, and modals) is the adverbial ending –n. It is used to mean "similar to ...", "-like", "-ish", "full of ..." or "made of ...", and "pertaining to ..." or "to do with ...".

Here are some common examples:

  • kyo’a - "quiet" → kyo’anquietly
  • enke - "simple" → enkensimply
  • ntahi - "child" → ntahinchildish; childlike
  • putsu - "monster" → putsunmonstrous
  • yoti - "game" → yotinplayful
  • hanya - "nation" → hanyannational
  • kuaha - "science" → kuahanscientific
  • olo - "gold" → olonmade of gold


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



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)


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


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

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


Particles in Kala cover a broad spectrum of what are more accurately called function words. These include adverbs, prepositions (more accurately locative or relative verbs), conjunctions, interjections, onomatopes, and structural particles.


The term “interjection” is used to cover a range of pragmatic, or discourse markers that do not fit well into any other category. This is because many words and expressions have a pragmatic rather than a semantic meaning.

  • a – expresses acknowledgement, agreement, or simply that one is listening
  • e – marks dispreferreds, ends a digression,
  • po – marks a sudden change of topic
  • ya – vocative marker, polite imperative, expresses commiseration
  • yali – excuses jostling or interruptions

These can occur either at the beginning or the end of a sentence.

  • e…nakkan ke ameyo yohatsek
well queen O America have-seem-NEG
Well... America doesn’t really have a queen.
  • ke motsa ya’o…a
O banana five yes
Mm hmm, (you want) five bananas.
  • po…taye katso ka
so about meal Q
Anyway, what about dinner?
  • ya kyo’a…nam tsipue
VOC quiet 1pl late
Hey, shut up, we’re late!


Other common interjections – of course – include curses, vulgarities, obscenities, etc.

  • kotsa – a spiteful person (“bitch; bastard”)
  • kuna – excrete; expel; defecate (“shit”)
  • kyosa – sex; copulation; fornicate (“fuck”)
  • nanka – emphasizing disgust; [interj. of contempt]; (“damn; darn”)
  • tsaya – damn [general invective]

Locative Verbs

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:

  • -hue – in; at; on (general locative)
  • nahe – within; inside
  • nyaue – out; outside of; exterior
  • ma’e – before; in front of
  • pue – behind; after; in back of
  • ua’e – above; over; on
  • tahe – below; under; beneath; bottom
  • ya’e – near; close to
  • uaye – away (from)
  • maye – between; among

The above are used as prepositions, but can also function strictly as verbs.

  • mita tahe yempa ina
dog under table eat
The dog is eating under the table.
  • mita ke yempa tahe
dog table be.under
The dog is under the table.

The suffix -la (from yala “go; walk; travel”) forms an allative (or motive) preposition, expressing movement in the indicated direction, stopping at the position indicated by the locative:

  • nahela topuinto bed
  • pahela ke ana tayoonto your head
  • tsayela tsakaup to the house

The locative/allative pair works like English on/onto, in/into, but in Kala this distinction is made for all locatives: you must distinguish between them:

  • pue’ela kuanugo behind a bush - (motion implied → allative)
  • pue kuanu komahide behind a bush - (no motion → locative)


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.

Basic Sentences

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: mita – “dog”, tlaka – “man”, anya - “eye; see”. The only way to know who is seeing whom is by the order of the words in the sentence. Intransitive (including those of the existential type) clauses in Kala minimally consist of a subject followed by an intransitive verb, giving SV word order.

  • nta’i moku
baby sleep
The baby sleeps.
  • sama nala
sun shine
The sun shines.

Transitive clauses follow a SOV pattern and grammatically require the object particle ke.

  • ona ke matla kuha
mother O stew cook
(The) mother is cooking (the) stew.
  • tasako ke masami yake
hunt-AG O deer-PAU pursue
The hunters are chasing some deer.


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” in interlinears.)

  • mita hikya
dog old
The dog is old.
  • nahi tayo aya
daughter 2s.GEN beautiful
Your daughter is beautiful.

The same phrases can be formed using the copula a, this is grammatical but bulky and jarring.

  • mita hikya a
dog old COP
The dog is old.
  • nahi tayo aya a
daughter 2s.GEN beautiful COP
Your daughter is beautiful.


The negative mood [NEG] (always marked finally on the primary verb) is indicated by the suffix –k or –nke (when the last syllable contains /k/). See also: 3.2.3) Mood

  • tahi inyak
boy hunger-NEG
The boy is not hungry.
  • yohuaye ha ke samalo anyak
night-PST 3s O star-PL watch-NEG
She did not watch the stars last night.

In general, contiguous serial verb constructions can only be negated as a whole. Negating one or more of the verbs in the construction separately is ungrammatical.

  • na ke tsakahue nya ina ka’elatlik
1s O home-LOC for eat toward-MVT-FUT-NEG
I'm not coming home for dinner.

However, if there is a modal auxiliary, negation may either take scope over the modal (and thus over the whole clause), or alternatively only over the non-modal part of the serial verb construction:

  • eta tlahapok
P.2s leave-compel-NEG
You don't have to leave.
  • eta tlahamyok
P.2s leave-PERM-NEG
You're not allowed to leave.

In some serial verb constructions, where the middle noun phrase acts both as the object of the first verb and as the subject of the second verb, each verb phrase can be negated separately.


Passive voice emphasizes the process rather than who is performing the action. In Kala this form is called kemi. There are few patterns to help distinguish between active and passive voices in Kala verbs. Using the passive voice is not common in Kala. It can sometimes be used to emphasize what would normally have been the object of the sentence. In order to shift emphasis away from the agent and towards the patient or theme, a transitive sentence can be passivized simply by word order, or using the particle ni (“by”) [PASS].


  • na ke tanum yempahue moheye
1s O plate-PL table-LOC place-PST
I put dishes on the table.
  • na ke topa muntaye
1s O bed rearrange-PST
I changed the bed.
  • ha ke yona yomutli
3s O book read-FUT
She will read the book.


  • ke tanum yempahue moheye
O plate-PL table-LOC place-PST
Dishes were put on the table.
  • ke topa ni naku nayo muntaye
O bed PASS sister 1s.GEN rearrange-PST
The bed was changed by my sister.
  • ke yona ni kola yomutli
The book will be read by someone.

Compound Sentences

Two sentences may be joined together to form a longer compound sentence. Both sentences must be able to stand alone as properly formed sentences. When combined, they simply come one after the other, joined by a conjunction. Common Conjunctions:

Kala meaning example
pa although; even; despite She is here despite my protest.
po so; thus He seems nice so I ate with him.
ku and; also; too I see it and I see you.
ma and; also; too I see it and you.
ua and/or; either You may eat and/or drink.
ue either X or Y You may either eat or drink.
uenke (uek) neither X or Y You may neither eat nor drink.
yema both X and Y I ate both soup and bread.
yo if X then Y; therefore If she comes then we’ll eat.
ehe (me) but ; however I dislike him, but he is my brother.
  • na ina ku ha moku
1s eat and 3s sleep
I am eating and she is sleeping.
  • na ina ehe ha moku
1s eat but 3s sleep
I am eating but she is sleeping.

Note: ku is a clause level conjunction used to join to independent clauses.

  • ta ina ua inu
2s eat and/or drink
You are eating and/or you are drinking.
  • ntahi ke mita anya ma inamya
child O dog see and eat-CAUS
The child saw and fed the dog.
  • ta ina ue inu
2s eat or drink
You are either eating or else you are drinking.
  • ha tala yo na’am hinatlik
3s come therefore 1pl.EXCL be.here-FUT-NEG
If she comes we won’t be here.

Clause-level conjunctions such as ku (“and; also; too”), ua (“or; either; otherwise”), or ehe (“but; however”) are placed clause-initially. Note that these conjunctions (except for ku) can be used to connect noun phrases.

  • tahi tohyo ku nahi pina
boy brave CL.CONJ girl intelligent
The boy is brave and the girl is intelligent.
  • ima kihu saman ehe pakyotlai
now weather sun-ADJ however storm-IMM
Now the weather is sunny, but a storm will come soon.

Non-subject noun phrases are coordinated using the conjunction ma "and" (sometimes "with").

  • yomaye na ke tanka ma pato anya
day-PST 1s O eagle CONJ duck see
I saw an eagle and a duck yesterday.
  • kinti ke tsaka kamyo ma'a yosu sapotle ma siuem muya
squirrel O house 3pl.GEN with moss soft-REL and leaf.PL make
The squirrels make their nest comfortable with soft moss and leaves.
  • ona ma ota kyosanku
mother and father fornicate-RECP
Mother and father have sex.
  • ta ma'a na ke molihuelatli
2s with 1s O forest-LOC-MVT-FUT
You and I will go to the forest together.

Noun phrases can be presented as alternatives to each other with the conjunction ua ("or; other"). This conjunction can be used with both subjects and non-subjects. The conjunction ue ("(exclusive) either X or Y") is used to delimit other nouns from the conjunction phrase.

  • ta ke nasi ua poma inamyo
2s O pear or apple eat-PERM
You may eat an apple or a pear.
  • tsola ue otso itsikua mataye
fox either.X.or.Y wolf PROX-bird kill-PST
It must have been a fox or a wolf that killed this bird.

Contrastive coordination of noun phrases is achieved with ehe ("but; however") (or me more informally) if the noun phrases appear in subject position.

  • yomaye mita'u ehek mitana ke kutsu kapya
day-PST dog-MASC but-NEG O meat receive
The male dog but not the female dog received meat yesterday.
  • na itlaka mek inaka unya
1s PROX-man but-NEG PROX-woman know
I know this man, but not this woman.

Compliment Clauses

Complement clauses, i.e. subordinated clauses acting as a noun (most importantly as the subject or object of a sentence), and are formed exactly like ordinary main clauses, preceded by the particle ke (“topic particle”).

  • nakkan ke eya tekim kamahi hyoka munaye
woman-chief O maybe enemy-PL city-DIM attack worry-PST
The queen was worried that the enemies might attack the village.
  • itomatle ke maliya noyamya
wood-carve O Mary happy-CAUS
Carving wood makes Mary happy.

Complement clauses can also act as the object of a motional/locational verb:

  • ta ke naha ka’elak yatli ke tlohi kuyepak
2s O river toward-MVT-NEG if.X.then.Y O salmon grab-ABIL-NEG
You can't catch salmon if you don't go to the river.
  • kam ka’e tsiua uahe moku ma ina yalayenko
3pl toward lake instead.of rest and eat walk-PST-CONT
Instead of taking a rest and eating, they continued to walk towards the lake.

Since complement clauses behave like nouns syntactically, they may participate in existential constructions as well. Semantically, this indicates that the occurrence of the action described in the complement clause is emphatically affirmed.

  • uala ke yemua tlana masenko
verily O DIST-place person dance-CONT
There is dancing over there. (lit. it's true that people are dancing there)

In addition to the particle ke, Kala possesses a few other words which may fill the same syntactic position under special circumstances. The most common of these appears in the context of reported speech. A couple of other specialized particles have a more limited distribution, appearing mainly in evidential constructions.

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses, i.e. subordinated clauses acting as an attribute to a noun phrase, are marked with the relativizer -tle (or -le if the last syllable has tl). A pronoun referring to the relativized noun is retained within the relative clause:

  • na ke naka amyatle pesoue
1s O woman liked-REL meet-VOL
I want to meet a girl who is friendly.
  • kam tananitle ke teki tlalitli
3pl fight-nice-REL O enemy defeat-FUT
They who fight well will defeat the enemy.

  • naku nayo ke yakokua na tikuyetle inapua
sister 1s.GEN O strawberry-all 1s pick-PST-REL eat-PFV
My sister has eaten all the strawberries that I picked.

If both subject and object of a transitive relative clause are represented by the same pronoun, the relativized noun will be assumed to be the subject of the subclause. In order to relativize the object in such a situation, the subject must be represented by one of the reflexive, or reciprocal pronouns instead, which explicitly refer back to the subject of the matrix clause:

  • aye tanako ke tlaka eha hyokatle mata
past fight-AG O man P.3s attack-REL kill
The warrior killed the man who attacked him.
  • aye tanako ke ha tlaka hyokatle mata
past fight-AG O 3s man attack-REL kill
The warrior killed the man whom he attacked.

Relativization of oblique participants works very much the same way as relativization of subjects and objects, but the repeated pronoun needs to appear inside a prepositional phrase or coverb phrase which shows the role of the relativized noun within the subclause.

  • ikamahi ena nasayetle
PROX-city-DIM P.1s be.born-PST-REL
This is the village in which I was born.
  • ke taku tlakayo na tlayayetle nya teki matapua
O brother man-GEN 1s wed-PST-REL by enemy kill-PFV
The man whose brother I married has been killed by the enemy.
  • iyoma ke yomatle ta’ena nya uapa talaue
today O day-REL 2s-P.1s for visit come-VOL
Today is the day on which you want to come and visit me.

In case a relative clause would contain only the subject and an intransitive verb phrase, speakers of Kala are likely to use an attributive construction instead. If the attributed verb phrase contains more than one verb, all of them need to appear in the attributive form.

  • na ke nahi amyan pesoue
1s O girl like-ADV meet-VOL
I want to meet a girl who is friendly. (lit. a friendly girl)
  • kola sima ke ina kapyatli
AG-INDEF sit O food receive-FUT
Anyone who is sitting quietly gets food.

Note that both relative clauses and attributive constructions tend to be avoided when they refer to the subject of a sentence. Instead, the semantically ‘attributive’ verb describing the subject is treated syntactically as forming a sequential or simultaneous event together with the main verb of the sentence:

  • tahi pina ke kema unya
boy smart O task understand
The smart boy understands the task.

Adverbial clauses

Kala has several different ways to express adverbial elements – adverbial suffix, adpositional phrases, serial verb constructions, and full-scale adverbialized subclauses. For most types of adverbials, more than one of these methods can be used. Because an adequate description of this gets rather lengthy, and because it presupposes an understanding of how serial verb constructions work in Kala, it is described in a later section of this document. Adverbial constructions which are valid constituents typically appear near the beginning of a sentence, with adpositional phrases preceding subclauses, but they may be topic-fronted for emphasis. If several adverbial constituents of the same syntactic type are present, they are generally ordered place → manner → reason → purpose → result → time.

Copular Sentences

The copula a (to be; exist; yes) is not used as it is in English. It is primarily used to affirm Yes/No questions. ta inaye ka (Did you eat?) a (Yes.) However, it can be used to add emphasis or nuance to a descriptive phrase. In an adjectival predicate the verb [to be] is not normally used.

  • ha kiha
3s tall
She is tall.
  • tomua nya itsaka yasue
rent for PROX-house cheap
The rent for this house is cheap.


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

Polar questions

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.
  • ta ke tlo’o anyaye
2s O elephant see-PST
You saw the elephant.
  • mita ina ka
dog eat Q
Does the dog eat?
  • ta ke tlo’o anyaye ka
2s O elephant see-PST Q
Did you see the elephant?

Content questions

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
2s 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 2s 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 2s Q
Who are you?
  • to kihu ka
manner weather Q
What's the weather like?
  • itla ka
this Q
What is this?
  • to taku tayo ka
manner brother 2s.GEN Q
How’s your brother?

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

kanyo 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-GEN 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 INDEF dog eat Q Which dog eats?


In Kala the concepts of comparative and superlative degree of an 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.”

  • tsaka hayo ke nayo tahaka
house 3s.GEN O 1s.GEN big-AUG
His house is bigger than mine.
  • iyapo ke tsaka tayo pakoha
PROX-building O home 2sg new-AUG
This building is newer than your home.
  • ke mauam tayo yanahu
O flower.PL 2s.GEN yellow-EXT
Your flowers are the most yellow.
  • mitala ke yetlam hikyahi
dog-INDEF O DIST-4pl old-DIM
Some dogs are less old (younger) than others.

When comparing the amount of involvement of several participants in a transitive verb, an appositional construction is used with competing subjects, and complement clauses are used with competing objects:

  • tsaneya ke ona pa’e naku hayo itsaha
Jane O mother other.than sister 3s.GEN love-AUG
Jane loves her mother more than her sister does.
  • imukuhi ke asua uahe tleno telaniha
PROX-blade-DIM O leather instead.of timber cut-nice-AUG
This knife cuts leather better than it cuts wood.

Indirect Objects

Kala verb phrases have only a single object slot. As a result, the recipient of a ditransitive clause needs to be introduced with the help of an adverbial preposition. The same strategy is also used to introduce other participants in oblique roles.

  • ka’e – to; toward [Dative]
  • ma’a – with; using [Instrumental] / with; together [Comitative]
  • mue – without; lacking [Abessive]
  • nya – for (the benefit of) [Benefactive] / by [Passive]
  • -hue – at; in; on [Locative]


Dative participants can be marked with ka’e (“toward; to”), nya (“for; by”), or be syntactically indicated.

  • ntahi ke ina ka’e mita yeta
child O food toward dog give
The child gives food to a dog.
  • katiko nya ntakum tsani
old-AG for sibling-PL tell.story
The old man recites a story for the siblings.
  • ikema nya ena enke
PROX-task for P.1s easy
This task is easy for me.
  • teki ke kama na’amyo tanyaye
enemy O village 1pl.EXCL.GEN destroy-PST
The enemies destroyed our village.


Instrumental participants can be marked with ma’a (“with; using”), nya (“for; by”), or be syntactically indicated.

  • ona ke ntahi ma’a tlimu nohya
mother O child with blanket wrap
The mother wraps the child in a blanket.
  • tsani nya ntaha moyapua
PROX-task for P.1s easy
The story has been written by the elder.


Comitative participants are marked with the preposition ma’a (“with; together”), and anticomitative (or abessive) participants are marked with the preposition mue (“without”).

  • na ma’a amyako nayo ke masa tasa
1s with friend 1s.GEN O deer hunt
I'm hunting deer with my friend.
  • ha ke naha mue ta ka’elaye ka
3s O river without 2s toward-MVT Q
Did she go to the river without you?


Locative participants can be marked with a variety of adverbial prepositions, most typically -hue (“at; in; on”). See also: 5.1) Locative verbs.

  • taku nayo ke poti patlahue patsi
brother 1s.GEN O goat field-LOC herd
My brother is herding goats in the field.
  • nam tlatsahue masetli
1pl fire-LOC dance-FUT
We will dance near (at) the fire.

Semantic Fields and Pragmatics

Kala, like all languages relies on the relationship of meanings instead of meanings in isolation. Additionally, morphemes tend to have a range of meanings that exist on a spectrum. A morpheme often can only be defined by its relationship to other morphemes within an utterance, or to other words of a similar semantic field.

One example would be in discussing temperature. Of course there is a system of degrees, but that is a quantitative statement, a qualitative statement would be more relative and open to interpretation.

How to express temperature

English divides temperature into "hot, warm, cool, cold", while Kala has just sitsa, tlolo, and manka. However, these can be expanded to be more specific;

  • manka – cold
  • tlolo – cool; warm (mild)
  • sitsa – hot; heat

Using the augmentative -ha and the diminutive -hi adds even more nuance to expressing temperature. mankaha (or mankampa, mankahu) being the coldest, and sitsaha (or sitsampa, sitsahu) the hottest means that tloloha is closer to sitsahi and tlolohi is closer to mankahi. This means that tlolotso (mild-middle) is likely how someone would describe their ideal temperature.

  • ya iyoma kihua tlolotso!
VOC PROX-day fine.weather mild-middle
Oh, how today’s weather is so mild!

Of course, some meanings do exist in a binary state;

  • asa - alive / kupa - dead

Meanings may also be divided into non-linear semantic space — e.g. color, social classes, directions, parts of the body, time, geographical features.


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
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

Kala math is fairly basic and relies on particles and verbs to express functions. Notable is the use of the copular a to express the result of an equation.

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

  • ta’o ma ya’o ke ka’o a
two and five O seven COP
2 + 5 = 7
  • ka’o ma ta’ok ke ya’o a
seven and two-NEG O five COP
7 - 2 = 5

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. Division uses 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.

  • ka’o ma tita’o ke uema’o a
seven and multiple-two O fourteen COP
7 x 2 = 14
  • hata’o ma tisa’ok ke ma’o a
thrity-two and multiple-eight-NEG O four COP
32 ÷ 8 = 4

Writing system

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.

  • 까바 - nkapa - alcohol; liquor / 단가 - tanka - eagle; hawk; falcon
  • 감바 - kampa - Cheers! / 쁘라 - mpula - lamp; lantern; light


  • 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.


  • 어하 거 거하 가먀터 하요 마아 타감 뱌사하먀여
eha ke keha kamyatle hayo ma’a tlakam pyasahamyaye
[eːɦa kɛ keːɦa kamʲaːt͡ɬe haːjo maːʔa t͡ɬaːkam pʲaʃahamʲaːjɛ]
P.3s O body stun-REL 3s.POSS with man-PL be.popular-AUG-CAUS-PST
Her bewitching body made her very popular with men.


  • seko saye puani nahayo yalaye ma ke tsa’eto omoye
scorpion along bank river-GEN walk-PST and TOP across-way think-PST
A scorpion was walking along the bank of a river, wondering how to get to the other side.
  • haye seko ke tsola anyaye
sudden scorpion TOP fox see-PST
Suddenly, he saw a fox.
  • seko nya tsa’e naha amo ua’e muta tsolayo kanyoye
scorpion for across river carry on back fox-GEN ask-PST
He asked the fox to take him on his back across the river.
  • tsola kye ak na’eta amo yatli ta’ena kute nuesitli
fox IND.SP COP.NEG 1SG-P.2SG carry if.X.then.Y 2SG-P.1SG sting drown-FUT
The fox said, “No. If I do that, you’ll sting me, and I’ll drown.”
  • seko kye na’eta kute yatli nam nuesitli
scorpion IND.SP 1SG-P.2SG sting if.X.then.Y 1PL drown-FUT
The scorpion assured him, “If I do that, we’ll both drown.”
  • tsola pue omo nkataye
fox after think agree-PST
The fox thought about it and finally agreed.
  • ya seko ua’e muta tsolayo uayaye ma tsola yokomuye
VOC scorpion on back fox-GEN climb and fox swim-begin-PST
So the scorpion climbed up on his back, and the fox began to swim.
  • me tsa’etsohue nahayo seko ke tsola kuteye
however across-half-LOC river-GEN scorpion TOP fox sting-PST
But halfway across the river, the scorpion stung him.
  • tsola ike sunu ke sila hayo yeno ka’e seko muka kye nye ta’ena kuteye ka ima ta nuesitli
fox while poison TOP vein 3SG.POSS fill toward scorpion face IND.SP reason 2SG-P.1SG sting-PST Q now 2SG drown-FUT
As poison filled his veins, the fox turned to the scorpion and said, “Why did you do that? Now you’ll drown, too.”
  • seko kye na’i ke to nayo tlinapayek
scorpion IND.SP 1SG.REFL TOP way 1SG.POSS stop-able-PST.NEG
“I couldn’t help it,” said the scorpion. “It’s my nature.”


See also: Lexicon, Kala thematic lexicon, and Kala etymological lexicon.

A small sampling of Kala lexemes.

  • pa - although; even though; even if
  • pa'a - be well-ordered; regular; organized
  • pina - be clever; intelligent; wise
  • punka - fruit; fruit tree
  • mpana - wide; broad; extensive; vast; width
  • tanko - group; organization; team
  • tepe - conceal; cover; shield; shelter
  • tiku - extract; withdraw; pick-up
  • tona - tuna
  • ntela - interact; interplay; interrelated
  • kanyo - question; ask; raise a question
  • kemu - experience; undergo
  • kinyo - intervene; get involved
  • kona - dress; skirt
  • kunye - moon; lunar; satellite
  • kuya - green; foliage; verdant
  • nkanu - short [in height and from end edge]
  • makua - iron; press; smooth out
  • menka - cotton
  • mosukua - Moscow
  • mutla - be absolute; unconditional
  • napo - turnip
  • ne - indirect object particle
  • nota - lie; be in horizontal position; horizon
  • nyalo - call; number; telephone
  • sahe - across; opposite; other side
  • sipanya - Spain
  • sokyo - helium
  • suama - sew; seam; mend; stitch
  • hasu - conjecture; guess; supposition; assumption
  • hilo - plaza; public square
  • hueta - testicle
  • tsame - accumulate; collect; gather; cluster
  • tsemu - jam; marmalade
  • tsitli - farm; ranch
  • tsuto - be curly-haired
  • tlato - recite rhythmically; chant; intone
  • tlehe - esteemed; honest; candid; sincere
  • tlokua - everybody; everyone
  • ato - that way [over there]
  • atsa - disc; rotate; wheel
  • esue - fail; lose
  • ila - sail; fly; navigate
  • otso - wolf; lupine
  • ulo - crop rotation
  • uatli - inferior; of lower quality
  • uetsi - dispirited downcast [idiom]; in low spirits
  • yatso - ferment; brew; make honey; liquor
  • yopi - mail; post [office]