Pabappa nouns

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Pabappa does not have a grammatical category for number in the sense that plural nouns take plural adjectives and plural verbs or anything of the sort. Most nouns are lexically unmarked for number, meaning that possimi can mean "flag" or "flags" equally often and both uses are correct. A few nouns can only refer to a singular, mostly words for body parts and familial relations. Many of the body part words have suppletive dual and/or plural forms.

The vast majority of nouns, however, are unmarked for number, and take the suffix -pum to specifically indicate a plural. Pum is not normally used when a number modifier such as pibi "four" is specified; if it were, it would indicate four "pluralities", not four individuals. Thus one can say

Pipipida purpupum poa.
The mayor has votes.
Pipipida purpup pibi poa.
The mayor has four votes.

The plural suffix changes form according to the preceding phoneme.


The suffix always becomes -bum after a word ending in a vowel:

pompada : pompadabum
thorn : thorns
ubi : ubibum
trail : trails
lopo : lopobum
mess : messes
pibiasu : pibiasubum
bridge : bridges

Native Pabappa nouns do not end in -e, but they still obey the change:

bunde : bundebum
anthem : anthems

Rotating consonants

After a word ending in -p, the -p- of -pum merges with the preceding one and thus the suffix appears as if it were -um:

blibip : blibipum
egg : eggs

After a word ending in -s, the suffix becomes -sum:

pododos : pododossum
rich person : rich people

Vowel-chaining consonants

The consonants b n t occur in final position only when a previously existing final vowel -e has dropped out. When suffixes, including the plural suffix -pum, are added to these words, the -e- reappears, and because the new stem thus ends in a vowel, the -pum becomes -bum.

After a word ending in -b, the suffix restores the lost -e- and thus appears to become -ebum:

pumpib : pumpibebum
owl : owls

After a word ending in -n, the suffix restores the lost -e- and thus appears to become -ebum:

blopon : bloponebum
iris : irises

After a word ending in -t, the suffix restores the lost -e- and thus appears to become -ebum. Additionally, the preceding -t- is voiced to -d-:

pubat : pubadebum
leaf : leaves

Regular consonants

After a word ending in -m, the suffix remains -pum:

pumpum : pumpumpum
capital : capitals

After a word ending in -l, the suffix remains -pum:

luppul : luppulpum
fabric, fabrics

After a word ending in -r, the suffix remains -pum:

wapar : waparpum
hoof : hooves

Note that some words ending in the above consonants historically had a final -e that dropped out. Pabappa has regularized nearly all of its nouns, however, and speakers treat these nouns as ordinary regular nouns.

Inflection of the plural marker -pum

Note that this suffix declines irregularly, behaving as if it were -po.[1]


The dual number

Pabappa has a dual-forming suffix, pop. Like the plural suffix -pum, the initial -p of pop becomes a -b when it occurs after a noun ending in a vowel. The other consonant changes listed above for -pum also apply to pop.

Pop has a narrow scope of usage: it is not used simply for any time two of something are present, but only for natural pairs:

Wempabopi pepusa.
My parents are sleeping.

Often, words that take the dual suffix are body parts, but many body parts have suppletive dual forms which are treated below.

Thus, the dual suffix often can be translated into English as "pair", "couple", or "double", but seldom simply as "two". For an ordinary set of two of something, the cardinal numeral for two, pupi, is used:

Pom pampomol pampablem pupi wibiapessim poa.
I have two bottles of wine in my fridge.

Pop can be used for other natural pairs. Originally, the noun by itself meant a couple in the sense of two people in a relationship, either married or dating. It can still be used in this sense, but as Pabappa avoids most monosyllabic words it is more common to hear compounds with more specific meanings such as

Married couple
Engaged couple
Dating couple

and so on.

Pop can also be used for inanimate objects that occur naturally in pairs, or manmade objects such as double doors. Additionally, some words for articles of clothing, particularly those covering the lower half of the body, are made with this suffix, and are rarely used in the singular.

Other numbers

Total number

The total number expresses the concept of English "all", "all of the", etc. It is best expressed by adding the word pompap after the bare stem of the noun being counted:

Parpiba pompap paspamea.
All my children have dark hair.
Wimba pompap sappasa.
All of the ants are moving.

Aside from the limited use of the dual number, there is no special word for "both", one simply uses the equivalent of "all two":

Putar pesapupip pupi pompap tutubi.
The man read both his books.

Another similar concept is the statement of general truths. For this, a different morpheme, ba, can be used:

Puppabu baba[2] popobeba.
Cars generally have wheels.

Expressing indefiniteness

The word soper "specimen, sample" can be used to specify a small number or part of something. It does not specifically mean "one", however.

Pom parobar sopup wobabi.
I bit off a piece of bread.

This can be contracted to -sper and used as a suffix so long as the preceding word ends in a vowel or a coronal consonant. The uncontracted form -soper is used in other cases. When used as a suffix, -s(o)per replaces any other number markers on the noun. Thus, it cannot be used to distinguish between "a piece of pie" and "some of the pies" since the plural marker -pum will not be present.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Cardinal numpa pupi mani pibi pabi nampu[3] nabi pini tassi papi
Ordinal nobom nibam manim pibam pabom nampom nabam pinim tassum papam
Fractional nubi nibor manir pibor pabir nampur nabor pinir tapu papor

Numbers in the teens

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Cardinal nabinum nabini? nabimani nabipibi nabipabi nabinampu nabinabi nabipini nabiptassi

Note that the numerals that start with p- do not change it to -b- when used as a ones digit as one might expect. This is because, historically, the morpheme nabi- was nabip-, and lost its final -p before words beginning with a nasal sound but not before words beginning with b- or p-.

Multiples of ten

Larger numbers are formed by compounds. Below is a table of the first element of the compound for numbers between 11 and 109.

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
nabi- ni- mani- abu-Possibly wrong pasu- nampu- nabu- pinu- tasu-

The affix -op- must be added before the second part of the compound, but the morphemes listed above are shown without it to make the relationship more clear.

Numbers beyond 100

A few sound rules kick in when naming numbers over 100. Below is a table similar to the above, but with 100 added to each number.

100 110 120 130 140 150 160 170 180 190

Note that the entry for 100 is a duplicate of the last entry in the table of multiples of ten.

Body parts

Some words for body parts in Pabappa have suppletive dual or plural forms. Most of these are words for pairs. For example, pep means one hand. Pobop, the dual form, indicates both of one person's hands; and the plural form pepli indicates any number of hands greater than one, including two, regardless of whom they belong to. Thus four people holding hands are linking their pepli, but one person pulling on a tow chain with both of his hands is straining his pobop.

Other body parts are seen as plural by default, and need a suffix to indicate the singular. For example, wopsisi means "teeth", but to say "tooth" one adds the singulative suffix -pa to form wopsisiba. The change of /p/ > /b/ is due to a very common sound rule.

The suppletive duals and plurals are mostly derived from words that are cognate to the singular forms, and were once regular, but diverged over several thousand years into forms that share little in common but the initial consonant. But some forms, especially duals for body parts that occur in pairs, are from entirely different roots.

Table of suppletive and irregular body part plurals

English Singular Dual Plural
hand pep pobop pepli[4]
thumb lapep lapop lapi
lung monta ipop montabum
nipple minep mum mub
buttock pulep pupop pulpum
wing ponep pompop pububum

The dual number is often used in situations where English would expect the singular. All of the duals that do not end in -op are descended from words which acquired a specifically dual meaning over time but previously were either plurals or were indifferent to number.

Unlike most situations where pluralizing an already semantically plural word by adding -pum is considered bad grammar, in the words for body parts, it can be done to show emphasis.

Noun cases

Pabappa's noun cases are similar to those of Poswa, but the patterns are much simpler. The traditional case order in Pabappa (and Poswa) is Nominative, Accusative, Locative, Possessive, Essive, Instrumental. As in Poswa, the essive and instrumental cases are called "side cases" and the others are called "central cases". The essive case is associated with leftward position and the instrumental with rightward position. These can be easily remembered in English because of the coincidental use of -l and -r in most essives and instrumentals, respectively.


The nominative case is the bare form of the noun, with no suffixes.

Use of the nominative case as a genitive in compounds

When two nouns come together to form a compound, both nouns are usually in the nominative case. Despite the predominant word order in Pabappa being SOV, the head noun in a two-noun compound is always the second one. The first noun modifies the second, and is commonly syntactically genitive despite being in the nominative case. This is because Pabappa has no true genitive case, only a possessive case marked by final -s which can sometimes have the broader genitive meaning but only in certain setups such as with definite nouns in dependent clauses.

Compounds of this type abound in Pabappa, and many everyday words were originally two-noun endocentric compounds. Often, these words have been in the language so long that they have been worn down by sound changes and are no longer perceived as compounds.

Use of compound nouns in everyday speech

See also #Derivation of nouns.

Pabappa has a smaller number of noun roots than its close relative Poswa, so Pabappa uses more recently coined compound nouns in everyday speech than Poswa. However, Pabappa has undergone sound changes which have reshaped these compounds to the extent that most Pabappa speakers think of them simply as new, indivisible nouns. Often, semantic change plays a crucial role in forming new words.

For example, even the word for wood, puspa, is a compound of pu "flower" and sepa "tree bark", neither of which are valid words in modern Pabappa. To form puspa, the meaning of the pu word changed from flowers to plants in general, and the meaning of the second changed from bark to wood in general. In turn, a new word for tree bark was coined, pudoplo. Despite also beginning with pu-, this word is not cognate to puspa above; rather, it comes from a compound of a word meaning "wood" and a word for the scales of a reptile.

Although scholars of Pabappa know that words containing the cluster -sp- generally originate from compounds, Pabappa speakers in general do not perceive this word as a compound because neither of its elements is meaningful on its own in the modern language. (A hypothetical speaker unfamiliar with this word might in fact break it down as pus "ocean" + wa "language", provided they were at least aware of the -sw- ---> -sp- sound rule.)

Sound changes

See #Sound_changes_in_nominal_compounds.

Compounding triggers sound changes, though fewer than in Poswa.

Noun compounds that do not voice the initial consonant of the second element are assumed to be attaching to an accusative first element.


The accusative is marked with the suffix -p. It is used for the direct objects of transitive verbs.

Pom timadupup pumapi.
I kicked the ball.

When an object is placed before the subject, there is usually a pause in speech:

Timadupup, pom pumapi.
The ball, I kicked (it).


The locative is marked with the suffix -m. It is used to indicate that something is inside or on top of something.

Ibil pomom[5] blapsablambi pisi.
The fish inside me was tasty.

The locative case can also be used with a sort of inverse locative meaning.

Pepi ampim pisa.
My hand has a coin in it.

This inverse locative is a specific use of a broader meaning of being affected by something. For example, one can say:

Wumpim₁ wibiapam₂ pisi.₃
The field₁ was₃ snowed on.₂


The possessive case generally shows ownership, but in some constructions can be used with a broader meaning typical of languages with genitive cases.

Labloi pippinopos pisa.
The bed belongs to a student.

Head-final compounds of two nouns, where one might expect to see a genitive marker on the first noun, usually omit the genitive marker and place both nouns in the nominative, as in English and many other languages:

Pulupa pibrop.
School library.

However, if the noun which is syntactically genitive is placed anywhere else, or stands alone, the genitive marker is required.

Pibrop pulupas.
Library of a school.
Sisolpablam pilissampa pussos, pansepes, popsus, pontomos pisa.
Astronomy is the study of the sun, moon, planets, and stars.

(The comitative wa "and" is optional in long lists.)

The genitive suffix -s can also show definiteness:

Pom pulupas pibropom talabi.[6]
I went into the school's library. (As opposed to the library of any other school.)


The essive case is used primarily to indicate that something is made from something else.

Pom pambobosop publipil tipelapi.[7]
I picked up a bar of soap.

Nouns in the essive case always end in -l.


The instrumental case has a variety of meanings, but the primary meaning is that something or someone is making use of something else.

Nouns in the instrumental case always end in -r.


Pabappa adds a suffix -i to denote possession of nouns. This causes the deletion of any final vowel:

panna "spoon" : panni "(his) spoon"
poblo "sand" : pobli "(his) sand"
puppabu "car" : puppabi "(his) car"

Nouns ending in the voiceless stop -p will retain the voiceless sound when the suffix is added:

pobap "candy" : pobapi "(his) candy"

However, the few nouns that end with a -t will change it to -d- when the suffix is added: [8]

pamet "park" : pamedi "(his) park"

Nouns ending in other consonants simply add an -i without other changes:

pimblom "wand" : pimblomi "(his) wand"
puibab "name" : puibabi "(his) name"

Note that, because a sequence of two identical vowels always collapses to a single vowel, some words do not change at all:

pampi "soap" : pampi "(his) soap"
pambi "bottle" : pambi "(his) bottle"

Note that since Pabappa does not have person markers integrated with the possession marks, this is merely a base form, and further disambiguation is necessary. The third person was used above for consistency. The person markers -ba and -di are used for first and second person respectively:

Pobapiba papessam pisa.
My candy is in the bowl.
Pobapidi wopsisibap pudampa.
Your candy hurts my teeth.

Third person takes no marker at all, which means that for nouns whose stem ends in -i, there is no difference between the bare form and the third person possessed form. For the most part, this is not a problem, as there is little semantic difference between an English sentence such as The boy grabbed his soap and The boy grabbed the soap, but when necessary, additional words can be added to clarify the difference.

Rather than thinking of adding one set of endings to another ending, some speakers prefer to think of a three-person setup, along the lines of what Poswa uses for both its nouns and its verbs. This system describes the possessive endings as being -iba, -idi, and -i:

pobapiba "my candy"
pobapidi "your candy"
pobapi "his/her/their candy"

This pattern is much simpler than the pattern found in Pabappa's close relative Poswa, even though the affixes are derived from the same original morpheme. For example, the word for wand in Poswa is pimblom, just as it is in Pabappa, but the word for "his wand" is pimblia. The parent form from which Pabappa pimblomi and Poswa pimblia diverged is pimilygwa baba.

Phonological collisions resulting from the possessive noun suffix -i

One consequence of Pabappa's setup is that in Pabappa, words ending in vowels often collide with each other when the possessive affix is added, since it always deletes the final vowel of a vowel-final word. Words ending in consonants do not collide with each other, since the only consonant that changes turns into a consonant that cannot occur word-finally in native words anyway. (By contrast, in Poswa it is words ending in consonants that are more likely to collide with each other, since entire syllables such as -bwom can behave the same as dozens of others.)

For the most part, Pabappa's noun collisions do not result in a great deal of misunderstanding in everyday speech. The sentence

Pom puppibap popempi.
I held up my finger.

Can also mean

I held up my diaper.

The word for finger in isolation is puppu; the word for diaper is puppo. [9] But contexts in which the listener would be unable to recognize the intended meaning are few; the situation can be compared to the English sentences "I held up my rose" and "I held up my rows".

Situations in which confusion has arisen have generally resulted in one of the colliding words disappearing from the language. For example, this word pair had originally had a third member meaning "knuckle"; this meaning was too close to puppu "finger" to survive as an independent word, so the speakers resolved it by adding pepta "joint, bending place", creating a new word, puppupepta, for knuckle. (Strictly speaking, this case is a matter of initial f- changing to p-, and nothing to do with collision of possessives, but the analogy is the same.)

Phonetic anomalies

A small number of words in Pabappa end in -ia or -ea. These form their possessives by dropping the final vowel, because the vowel sequences -ii- and -ei- are both forbidden in Pabappa.

amparia "stripe" : ampari "his stripe"
pappia "large ship" : pappi "his large ship"
pastia "dog" : pasti "their dog"
pabradia "dog"  : pabradi "their dog"
pumpia "areola" : pumpi "her areola"
wabia "dance" : wabi "her dance"
ubia "dance of harmony" : ubi "their harmony dance" (this is a doublet of wabia)
tea "sole of the foot" : te "sole of his foot"
pipessea "tree mouse" : pipesse "her tree mouse"[10]

Thus one can say

Pusisa pabupip pumpurnesi.
The pirate steered his ship.

The above list excludes loans. Poswa loanwords often end in -ia, and form their possessives the same way they would if they were native.


A smaller number of Pabappa words end in -iu or -eu. These words form their possessives in the same way. Most are loans, but some are native words.


Words ending in an -i- or -e- followed by any other vowel are always loanwords, and are often proper names which are not commonly used in the possessive form.

Possession used with modifiers

Modifiers such as numerals and adjectives appear in their usual place after the noun they modify; the possessive affix does not migrate to the end of the last word in the phrase. This may seem counterintuitive, but in Pabappa, most of these modifiers are considered to be intransitive verbs, and therefore the morpheme order is the only sensible one. (An analogy with English would be to say that Pabaps speak of "red book of mine" rather than "my red book".)

Publipiba purposa!
My extra soap.
Wunipi papsaba.
Her white lamp.

Disambiguation of possessors

Pabappa's pronouns are not marked for gender, and neither are the possessives. Thus a sentence such as

Pobur pinitarim pupupopip pisibi.[11]
The boy gave his girlfriend her umbrella.

Can also mean

The boy gave his girlfriend his umbrella.

The possessive endings are not marked for number either, so a sentence like

Pobur pinitaribumum pupupopip pisibi.

Is still ambiguous since it can either mean

The boy gave his girlfriends their umbrella.


The boy gave his girlfriends his umbrella.

English faces the same situation in some circumstances, however, as the sentence

Pobur potarim pupupopip pisibi.
The boy gave his boyfriend his umbrella.

Is ambiguous even after the translation.

Archaic use of possessives to mark person on verbs

See Pabappa_verbs#pipapi.

Use of possessives to form verbal gerunds

In poetic speech, Pabappa's nominal possessives can be used to make nouns out of verbs. Note that, because Pabappa verbs in the indicative mood always end in vowels, and nominal possessives always delete all final vowels, for some words, the nominal possessive appears to be attached to the bare stem of the verb rather than its inflected form.

For example, pumpeptum means "to whine, complain", and one can say

Pumpeptumpiba pimmisopom pisa.[12]
My complaining was answered.

Note, also, that this form often collides with an unrelated gerund formed by suffixing pu "deed, action, activity" to the verb stem. This is because a historical sound change caused the -p- to become -b- between vowels, and because the possessive endings delete the -u-.

Pronouns and head markers

The first person singular pronoun, pom, is derived from a word meaning "on me, inside me" rather than just "me". The locative of the first person singular pronoun is thus doubly marked. The second person singular pronoun, mas, is derived from the genitive, thus meaning "your, yours" and its genitive is thus doubly marked.

1s pom
1p pap
2s mas
1s 1p 2s 2p
1s pompo poma
1p papop pama
2s masa massop
1s pop
1p  ?
2s map

For the transitives, the agent is on the leftmost column and the patient is on the topmost row. Thus one can say:

Pompo₁ sipompi₂ blubur.₃
I for us₁ bought₂ milk.₃ ("I bought us milk.")

Where pompo means "I ... us".

Derivation of nouns

The derivation of words in Pabappa focuses mostly on nouns. Many verbs are derived from nouns, but relatively few nouns are derived from verbs. Instead, words for new concepts are formed primarily by compounding preexisting nouns together, or by attaching derivational morphemes to existing nouns.

The agentive

Words for occupations

Words for occupations are formed with the agentive suffix ta. Many are formed from nouns:

pasap "night" ---> pasapta "police(man)"
pipipi "city" ---> pipipida "mayor, leader of a town"
parobar "bread" ---> parobarta "baker"

Some are formed from verbs:

pippinop "to study" ---> pippinopta "student"
patibler "to teach" ---> patiblerta "teacher"
pabla "to nurse" ---> pablada "nurse"

Many of these verbs are obsolete as standalone stems, however, and the derivation of the modern word is opaque:

*pumpubli "to beg, stretch out one's arms and open one's palms" ---> pumpublida "cashier, store clerk"

However, some words omit the ta. These are often words that are three syllables or longer, words that describe temporary states, or words that are compounds of two nouns and thus have the "flavor" of the traditional compound construction.

Nominative compounds

Most compound nouns in Pabappa are formed from two nominative nouns which join together to form a new nominative noun. In such a setup, the first noun modifies the second, and therefore the second noun in the compound is the head noun. Usually, the first noun in the compound is syntactically genitive, as the nominative case in Pabappa fulfills most of the duties of the genitive case in most other languages. (The possessive case, marked by -s, has some genitive meanings, but these are primarily restricted to definite nouns, which cannot form compounds.)

SOV compounds

See Pabappa_verbs#Polysynthetic_compounds.

Some Pabappa nouns are formed from verbs that incorporate nouns within them. For example, tansa means "children playing with each other" and is the basis for the word for playground, tansam. Some such compounds incorporate objects as well, and are called tripartite compounds. An example of this is pusoppoba "handcuffs", which breaks down morphemically as ring-hand-restrain, or "ring that restrains the hands". See Polysynthetic compounds for more information.

Folk etymology and reanalysis

Sometimes, the true etymology of a word has been lost to time or is known only to scholars who have studied older writings in Pabappa. Over the thousands of years, many words have been re-analysed and given new meanings. For example, the word


is assumed by most Pabappa speakers to be derived from publip "soap", the understanding being that soldiers at war need to keep a steady supply of soap with them at all times in order to wipe away the dirt that gets all over them while they are outdoors and exposed to the elements. However, the word was originally derived from a verb, publi, meaning "to see clearly", and a noun, wis, meaning a representative for a large group of people. The idea behind this coinage was that soldiers need to see very clearly in order to ensure they do not accidentally run into their enemies. (The change of wis to pis is due to a historical sound rule, no longer active. It is similar to the sound rule that often changes -p- into -b-.)

Deletion of mistaken personal markers

Some nouns ending in the sequences -iba and -idi have had their last syllable deleted, as speakers mistook the bare form for a possessed form. Thus, for example, bobidi "hip" became bobi. However, in words where such a process would lead them to collide with a preexisting commonly used word, the deletion generally did not happen. Thus, for example, pibiba "body" did not become pibi.

Diminutives and abbreviations

Diminutives and words expressing size

There are no diminutives in Pabappa. To express that something is small, either physically or metaphorically, one must simply use words expressing size:

Pompona pemasa parpostaribam pisa.
A small bird is on my shoulder.
Pobur pimiba pappopibap pabusi.
The little boy cleaned my bedroom.

In earlier stages of Pabappa, a suffix -i could be used in a diminutive manner, but it formed definite nouns with specific meanings rather than merely indicating a small version of something. The words it formed were technically compounds, with i being an independent noun meaning "small thing" (earlier "baby"). However, words which had this suffix generally lost it along the way, as the commonest reflex of final /i/ is -e, and Pabappa lost its final /e/ first after vowels, and then after consonants, in two independent sound shifts.

Despite the shifts, Pabappa restored the -i suffix with its original meaning and its original vowel, since speakers' knowledge of the existence of the suffix had remained despite it going silent nearly everywhere. However, the diminutive uffix fell out of use once and for all when the suffix for forming possessed nouns also changed to -i. This possessive -i is derived from an originally much longer affix that got whittled down.

Expressing gender

Pabappa does not have grammatical gender, although it has inherited from its parent language a tendency to associate the labial consonants p b m w with females and the coronal consonants t d n with males. In this situation, the three remaining consonants, l r s, are excluded, but some associations consider l masculine and r feminine, since /l/ is pronounced with the tip of the tongue and /r/ is in many positions pronounced with slight lip-rounding.

Grammar and morphology of nominal compounds

Stress and division of compounds

Compounds in Poswa often correspond to Pabappa compounds made of two separate words, even if they are thought of as a unit by the speakers.

For example, the common word for weather is pubomblap, a compound of pubom "top" and blap "sky". Thus, it means "the sky (on) top". (Not "the top of the sky", which would be *blapubom.) When pronounced as a single word, the commonly perceived meaning is "weather". However, it would still be acceptable in Pabappa to say pubom blap, pronouncing the compound as two separate words, and still intend the meaning "weather". It would merely be more ambiguous whether you were talking about the weather or simply the uppermost visible layer of the sky from which the weather pours down.

In general, the only compounds which cannot be broken up in this way are those in which one element of the compound is ambiguous as a standalone word. The Pabappa word tappibup means "pear (fruit)". This word is a compound because historically the Pabaps considered pears to be simply a kind of apple, namely the pup kind. (Pup was originally an adjective and therefore follows the noun; the change of -p- to -b- is due to a sound rule.) but one cannot say *tappi pup for "pear" because in this compound, the morpheme pup is no longer meaningful on its own, since it occurs with this meaning only in this word.

Most indivisible compounds refer to nouns such as this, where the second noun describes the first; often, this second morpheme was originally an intransitive verb, which functions like an adjective.

Intervocalic voicing and degemination

Intervocalic voicing

Many Pabappa words begin with the voiceless bilabial stop p-. When such a word is used in a compound after a word ending in a vowel, a phenomenon of intervocalic voicing (wiwiplum mebbamup) takes place, and changes the -p- into -b-. The same process occurs for the less common alveolar stop -t-, turning it into -d-. This is similar to the Japanese process known as rendaku because even though the sound change occurred hundreds of years ago, it is still applied to newly formed compounds. Puda means "door" and puppu means "finger; thing that bends", but one nevertheless says

(Door) hinge.

This process applies to morphemes that are not normally considered standalone nouns. For example, the dual number marker pop becomes -bop after a noun ending in a vowel.

Exceptions to intervocalic voicing

Many compound words disobey the intervocalic voicing rule. These are explained by Pabap scholars as making use of the accusative form of the first word, thus causing a geminate or cluster, which resisted voicing (see below).

But a closer explanation would reveal that the voicing is correlated with the degree of independence of the meaning of the second morpheme. For example, one says pesadappa "lake frog", because this refers to a specific type of frog and not merely a happenstance juxtaposition of two independent nouns. But a word such as wabulatappa "bridge frog" is less likely to voice the -t- because there is no special meaning in this word other than what it inherits from its two component words. Indeed, it is far more common to see words such as these spelled out as two separate words, and stressed accordingly, except in placenames and certain established fields of study where such words are commonly used.

Intervocalic degemination

Intervocalic voicing results from a sound change that happened a few hundred years ago. Around the same time, all intervocalic geminate stops and fricatives became single consonants. Thus, the same process applies to compounds which would otherwise create geminate consonants in the middle of the resulting word.

By contrast to the intervocalic voicing rule above, almost no compounds disobey this rule, because it was never possible to add a -p to an already existing geminate cluster to prevent the sound change. Instead, modern Pabappa geminate obstruents derive from clusters of dissimilar consonants such as /pf/, /sp/, and others that later assimilated into a simple geminate.

Origin of geminate consonants in native Pabappa words

Pabappa has relatively few geminate consonants in native words; the commonest by far is -pp-.


Intervocalic -pp- usually comes from the clusters /pf ff fp/, where the /f/ is in most cases traceable to an early /k/ sound that became /š/ before later becoming labial. More rarely, /f/ arose from /s/. In a small number of words, it arises from a contraction of an earlier sequence such as -papp- or -bopp- in an unstressed syllable.


The only occurrence of -bb- in native Pabappa words arises from Babakiam sequences of /ŋVŋ/; that is, two /ŋ/ sounds separated by a vowel. An example of this is pubbasa "shared among men only".


Pabappa uses metaphors such as metonymy in much the way English does, without the need for additional markers. For example, a military leader can say to another

Poma pontaba.
I'm invading you.

And not launch a military campaign inside the other man. This applies even to statements such as

Mumbai pop numpuba!
The drain is bleeding me!

Where the implication is that some person or other animate force is draining a metaphorical blood from the speaker, just as it would be in English or any other language.


Proper names, especially placenames, are often loaned form surrounding cultures, unlike the nouns and verbs of the remainder of the lexicon. However, because the Pabaps have been living in the same part of the world for more than 8000 years, most placenames in Pabap territory are now taken from native Pabappa words.

Toponymy (placenames)

Metonymy in placenames

One remnant of the noun class system of the Gold language that has persisted in Pabappa is related to its methods of coining placenames. In the Gold language, all placenames, even very common ones, needed to begin with one of the classifier prefixes reserved for inhabitable places. Thus, a town named for its fig trees would always have a name translatable as something like "Town of the fig trees" or the like, rather than just "Fig (tree)". Pabappa maintains this tradition despite having lost its noun class system more than 6000 years ago; apparent exceptions to this pattern are explained below.

Obsolete morphology in placenames

Placenames in Pabappa preserve many otherwise obsolete roots and compound elements. For example, a major city a few miles inland from the south coast is named Pubam. This name originally meant "beaver lake", formed from puba "beaver" and -(t)am "lake". Neither of these words persists in modern Pabappa as an independent element; to say "beaver lake; a lake where beavers live" in modern Pabappa one would need to use a two-word phrase such as blumupum pesa.

Old, long-established placenames are often difficult to analyze even for native speakers, because most of them have undergone the same sound changes that affected everyday vocabulary, and were never reanalyzed as their original constituent morphemes. Since different sound changes occurred in different environments, the same original morpheme could evolve into a number of final forms in Pabappa once it became inseparable from the particular placename it occurred in.

For example, Pabappa has a word, nomor "valley, bottom, dell",[13] which occurs in this form as a free morpheme but is not the most common word for a valley. It also has a number of cognates of widely varying shapes, however. These could be compared to English placename suffixes such as -dale and -ley. That is, speakers of Pabappa recognize them as placename suffixes, but not all speakers are aware of their original meanings. Extreme reduction has often taken place; one of the cognates of nomor has no phonemes at all, consisting of merely an operation that causes mutation of the preceding consonant. This process is one source of Pabappa placenames that at first appear to be metonymic, such as, for example, a town named Wipombi ("Pine Tree") instead of something like Wipombi Nomor, "Pine Tree Valley". However, sometimes a morpheme such as this remains as a single syllable or at least a single consonant rather than entirely disappearing. What remains is usually dependent on the phonological environment of the rest of the word. For example, this same morpheme nomor can appear at the end of a word as any of pa, pi, po, pu, ba, bi, bo, bu depending on the preceding vowels and consonants. (Final -e does not occur in nouns, even in proper nouns.)

Given names

The Pabap given name system is very complex; every child is given six names at birth, some of which may change several times throughout their life.

Acronyms and abbreviations

Proper nouns in Pabappa are often abbreviations of longer phrases. To a lesser extent, some common nouns can be abbreviations as well. Generally, these are well-established compound words that are so long as to be inconvenient in everyday speech, at least among people who commonly use them. For example, most people would say purpol manapi for "elder-care hospital", but a resident in one who talks about their home a lot may refer to it as a purpanapi. The process of such abbreviations is described below.

Pabappa does not have true acronyms because there is no tradition of giving names to the letters of the alphabet, and because the language has been written with several different alphabets over time, including syllabaries, such that the same phrase could be abbreviated in several different ways.

Instead, abbreviations are based on the spoken word. The dominant form of abbreviation involves combining:

  1. From the first word: the first syllable plus the onset of the second;
  2. From any medial words: the vowel of the first syllable plus the onset of the second;
  3. From the final word: the entire word except for the onset of the first syllable.

This process can be understood most simply with a two-word abbreviation. For example, pipipi means "city" and pissalam means "election". Thus one could say

Pipissalam passibeba.
The municipal election is important.

But when a three-word compound is used, the morpheme in the middle is abbreviated because it is no longer the final word in the compound. Adding pansabumpa "committee, group of advisors working together" produces

Pipissansabumpa pumpellas mimpiba.
The municipal election committee is discussing the treasury.

Thus, it could be said that the first morpheme in the word has its trailing end bitten off, the last morpheme in the word has its leading end bitten off, and any morphemes in the middle lose both ends but retain their central -VC(C)- sequence.

Abbreviations usually do not contain monosyllabic morphemes except as the final morpheme in the word. For example, using the word blol "country, nation", one could form an abbreviation blolissalam for "national election", but this is not used because it differs by only a single letter from the unabbreviated form blolpissalam and has the same number of syllables.

Likewise, it is rare to see a monosyllable in the middle of an abbreviation. Starting with pipissansabumpa "municipal election committee" above, one could replace the middle morpheme, pissalam, with wap "water", to create an abbreviation describing a municipal water committee.

In the resulting word pipapansabumpa, the word for water is again only one letter shorter than it would be had the word been spelled out in full form. Nevertheless, such words are sometimes encountered, particularly in three-word compounds wherein the second word in the compound is more closely tied to the final word than to the first word. The above is a good example of this; a water committee is something found in many cities and other locations, whereas "municipal water" is not a tangible object that spawns committees and other related things that belong to it. Thus words like pipapansabumpa do exist.

Loanwords and foreign terminology

Pabappa has many loanwords from Poswa but prefers not to take loanwords from any other languages. Although historically the Pabaps have been better educated than the Poswobs, far more Poswa words have entered Pabappa than the other way around. Because the Pabaps have many Poswobs living in their territories, objects and ideas previously unfamiliar to both the Pabaps and the Poswobs are often introduced to both peoples at about the same time, and the Pabaps generally let the Poswobs create the new word for it. Pabappa's smaller phonology adapts well to Poswa's by simply merging various sounds together.

However, there are some words for modern technology for which Pabappa has natively created its own replacements, rather than using a loan from Poswa:

Pabappa English etymology
puppabu car, vehicle for transporting humans seat vehicle (as opposed to freight vehicle)[14]
pompepap oscillating fan, floor fan to oscillate (reflexive)

Word division in loanwords from Poswa

Word breaks are inserted in Poswa loanwords whenever a recognizable morpheme boundary is present, even if all of the morphemes so separated are loans:

Pipapi pepappo.
Hard hat.



Most nouns ending in -a belong to this declension. It is one of the simplest declensions. Below is the declension of pompada "thorn":

Case Free Possessed(1p) Attached
Nominative pompada pompadi
Accusative pompadap pompadip
Locative pompadam pompadim
Possessive pompadas pompadis
Essive pompadel pompadil
Instrumental pompador pompadir
Apida madasassupusi pompador.
The beautician piled up her hair with thorns.


Most nouns ending in -i belong to this declension. It is one of the simplest declensions. Below is the declension of petiti "rose":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative petiti
Accusative petitip
Locative petitim
Possessive petitis
Essive petitil
Instrumental petitir
Pom ababibabi, wa potaribas petitip podobi.
I bent down, and gave my girlfriend a rose.


Most nouns ending in -o belong to this declension. It is a split-vowel declension. Below is the declension of poblo "sand":

Case Free Possessed Attached
Nominative poblo pobli
Accusative poblop poblip
Locative poblom poblim
Possessive poblos poblis
Essive poblil poblil
Instrumental poblir poblir
Wappabiba poblil pisa.
My castle is made of sand.


Most nouns ending in -u belong to this declension. It is one of the simplest declensions. Below is the declension of wupsu "winner's stand, rostrum":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative wupsu wupsi
Accusative wupsup wupsip
Locative wupsum wupsim
Possessive wupsus wupsis
Essive wupsul wupsil
Instrumental wupsur wupsir


Most nouns ending in -p belong to this declension. It is one of the simplest declensions. Below is the declension of palpap "deciduous tree":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative palpap palpabi
Accusative palpapap palpabip
Locative palpapam palpabim
Possessive palpapas palpabis
Essive palpapel palpabil
Instrumental palpapor palpabir

Thus one can say

Pinidiba₁ pibim₂ tatupsaba₃ palpapap₄ pumpurblupi₅ blapam₆.
My girlfriend₁ climbed₃ up₂ the tree₄ outside₆ my window₅.[15]

Note that in this sentence, the word order is SVO, rather than the more common SOV, because the focus of the predicate is on the girlfriend's climbing the tree rather than the fact that it was a tree she climbed.


Most nouns ending in -m belong to this declension. Below is the declension of narpellum "ice cream":

Case Free Possessed Attached
Nominative narpellum narpellumi
Accusative narpellumup narpellumip
Locative narpellumum narpellumim
Possessive narpellumus narpellumis
Essive narpellumul narpellumil
Instrumental narpellumur narpellumir

Thus one can say

Pom₁ narpellumibap₂ pasapsumul₃ pobumpi₄, pannasumir₅.
I₁ ate₄ my strawberry₃ ice cream₂, with my spoon₅.


Many nouns ending in -s are recent loanwords from Poswa. Exceptions are generally one-syllable words and comnpounds whose final element is monosyllabic, or words that previously ended in -se and lost the -e without further losing the -s. Below is the declension of tepumas "wasp, hornet":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative tepumas tepumasi
Accusative tepumasap tepumasip
Locative tepumasam tepumasim
Possessive tepumasas tepumasis
Essive tepumasel tepumasil
Instrumental tepumasor tepumasir

Thus one can say

Pom₁ tepumasas₂ popusip₃ pepapasi₄ papapomir₅.
I₁ slapped₄ the hornets'₂ nest₃ with the palm of my hand₅.


The -l declension is more complicated than most in Pabappa. Below is the declension of piripel "middle, center":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative piripel piripi
Accusative piripip piripip
Locative piripim piripim
Possessive piripis piripis
Essive piripil piripil
Instrumental piripir piripir

Thus, all words ending in -el behave as if they ended in -i. This behavior holds also for -il.


The -r declension is more complicated than most in Pabappa. Below is the declension of tompomor "mattress":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative tompomor tompomi
Accusative tompomup tompomip
Locative tompomum tompomim
Possessive tompomus tompomis
Essive tompomul tompomil
Instrumental tompomur tompomir

Thus, all words ending in -or behave as if they ended in -u. This holds also for -ur.

Irregular nouns

See Pabappa irregular nouns.

Pabappa has a small number of irregular nouns, mostly derived from recently lost final sounds in the nominative which are still represented in the other cases. However, most such words have been regularized over time. There were three sound shifts that deleted word-final phonemes: first, word final -y was deleted (this phoneme is no longer present in Pabappa in any position). Much later, final -s was deleted in most words, but survived in monosyllabic words and some others that were analogized based on the monosyllables. Lastly, final -e was deleted in most words, but changed to -i in others. This final shift created a new category of words ending in final -s.


See Pabappa verbs.


  1. Tentative!! I'm just sick of "-pumum" etc and I think the Pabaps are too.
  2. Assumes verbal ending -ba.
  3. Blue spreadhseet has "nampul".
  4. Earlier said peple.
  5. if analogy kicks in, else parbum
  6. Uses locative for direct object; this would work in Poswa but is tentative in Pabappa.
  7. Might be wrong. Poswa can do this, because it marks the acc to agree with the verb.
  8. This is because -p was usually an -f at the time, and the sound change f --> b was impossible. On the other hand, nouns ending in -t were originally vowel stems.
  9. alternate form exists: pupipo.
  10. Perhaps it would be better to have pipipea.
  11. Both the verb for "give" (pisi) and the inflection on the word for girlfriend are probably wrong. I could write this sentence more confidently in Poswa than I can right now in Pabappa.
  12. The "problem" is not whether these forms collide with verbs, but whether they collide with simply attaching the ending to the stem of the noun, which in a language like Pabappa would be nearly certain to be analogized to the general case. Since the only example where this happens would be for verbs ending in -s, and verbs ending in -s are rare, I think this could work.
  13. Original form bemuu, but the reduced form nuu was more common even in babakiam.
  14. Literally, this is actually "butt vehicle" but the word for buttocks is shorter than any word for seat and would not be seen as a vulgarism.
  15. Originally used boyfriend and wrote:
    I can't find the etymology for "boyfriend" right now. I really need to start writing these new coinages down in the dictionary. Po can mean "diaper", but I'm pretty sure that's not what I was thinking of (and it would have produced postar anyway).