Poswa nouns

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Poswa preserves the six noun cases of the parent language with almost no changes in meaning or form, apart from regular sound changes. The possessive has weakened into a genitive when used with definite nouns, however. e.g. teppiopwas mupawabub "the length of the rope". Poswa has not added any new cases; so there is still no dative case and the various uses of the locative case are not distinguished.




Poswa's noun system is very complicated and contains many irregular nouns. However, by comparison to Pabappa and many other languages, the complexity pays off in the form of greater efficiency. Many Poswa nouns are surprisingly long, but their inflected forms are not much longer and in some cases are even shorter. For example, polaputa is the Poswa word for (house) cat, and, at four syllables, is longer than the corresponding word in all of Poswa's neighbors, even the notoriously long-winded Andanese (alaha).[1] Yet, Poswa is a very fusional language, and one can say

Because of your cat!

And still not go beyond four syllables. A single fusional suffix, which also causes the mutation of the stem-internal -t- to -f-, carries the meaning "because of your ..." and keeps the number of syllables the same. Likewise, with a further syllable, one can say

Because of the cat you just got.


Oklahomam pallabis, polaputampi.
On the way to Oklahoma, I turned into a cat.

Because of this efficiency, sentences translated from Pabappa into Poswa usually become shorter after the translation. For example, the primary word for cat in Pabappa is the shorter popsam, but to translate "because of your cat" into Pabappa, one would need to say something like

Popsamidis nim.
Because of your cat.

Which breaks down as "cat your of because", with one morpheme for each English word, and the order of the morphemes completely inverted from English.


Poswa distinguishes between animate and inanimate nouns, but there is no grammatical marker distinguishing the two; they simply must be learned. However, in nearly all cases, the difference follows semantics, so this is not a source of difficulty for students of Poswa.

Body parts, and inalienable nouns in general, inherit their animacy from an implicit "parent noun", and therefore are understood as animate nouns in any context, even if the person whose body they belong to is a corpse or a doll. It is not necessary for the parent noun to be in the sentence if it can be implied from context. Thus the sentence

Wavwub wepuwap baepopebi.
My fingers pressed into the sand.

works because the final -ebi on the verb baepopebi "pressed" indicates that the subject of the sentence is the speaker. Wavwub just means "fingers", but despite not being marked with a possessive ending, inherits its 1st person meaning from the verb. Thus, for example, the sentence Wavwub wepuwap baepopebel means "His fingers pressed into the sand" simply because the verb ending has changed. This pronoun-free setup is the usual manner for talking about sentences where a body part is the subject.

In a very old stage of the language, an infix -a could be inserted into any inanimate noun to make it an animate one. A few doublets still survive, but this infix was never used often and few speakers are aware of its former existence.


Poswa does not have grammatical gender. Nor does it generally have separate forms for male and female occupations as do some of its neighboring languages.

Consonant-based gender system

In very old stages of the language, a gender system based on consonant harmony existed, and this is reflected in a few modern words, such as mumi "wife" and tuti "husband". Poswobs will often say that a word with a lot of t sounds feels masculine, whereas a word with a lot of m or n sounds feels feminine. This has very little importance to the language at present except in the narrow fields of baby names and some types of poetry. Nevertheless, Poswob students are generally taught the historical gender system of their language in school.

Poswa's historical gender system had developed from the Gold gender system, which marked age and animacy in addition to male or female sex, and which also had had a three-way contrast between neuter, unisex, and epicene.

It could be said that Poswa does not have a true masculine gender, but merely marks the presence or absence of femininity. A group of humans with no females would be grouped under the /t/ gender: men, boys, and children of indistinct or unknown gender. A group of humans with some females and some non-females would be grouped under the /p/ gender: humans in general; babies of unknown gender; epicene (but not including neuters). A group of humans containing exclusively females would be grouped under either the /m/ gender (adult women; married women) or the /n/ gender (girls and young women; unmarried women). In all of the above cases, a "group" consisting of a single individual will still be given the same gender predicted by the descriptions.

Note that Poswa's gender consonants describe age as well as sex. The category of "girl" (/n/) is bounded from below by "young children of indeterminate gender" and from above by "adult women; married women". For the lower boundary, children who think of themselves as girls rather than merely children are old enough to be out of the "men, boys, and children" grouping; and on the upper boundary, women that are married or are old enough to be married are out of the "girls" grouping unless they choose to self-identify otherwise. Since there is no masculine gender, men do not go through this process; they remain little boys for their entire lives.

The same /t/ that has historically marked masculinity now also refers to young boys and to children of indistinct gender (i.e. "the crowd of children stood and stared). An adult woman will go with the /m/ sound, and a young girl (or unmarried woman) will go with the /n/ sound. For a group of people containing both females and either men or children of indistinct gender, the default human gender is used, which is /p/. This, in turn, is distinct from the epicene gender, which includes pairings of humans (of any gender) with neuter nouns such as nonliving things and some animals.

Conso	Applies to
-----	----
 p	Humans in general; epicene (but not including neuters)
 t	Men, boys, and children of indistinct gender
 n	Girls and young women; unmarried women
 m	Adult women, married women
 s	Epicene (all genders taken as one, including neuters)
 b	Neuter (nonliving things and animals of indistinct gender)

However, this complex consonant-based gender system is of little importance to learners of Poswa because it has long since become unproductive except in the narrow area of coining baby's names and in some types of poetry. Modern Poswa does not mark gender on its nouns in any way, and to specifically indicate that, for example, a teacher is female, one must use the word for teacher (wivafta) followed by a word meaning "woman" or "female", the choice of which is up to the speaker.

Expressing gender with separate words

In many cases, Poswobs will simply omit gender information that other languages would include. For example, the sentence

Taffum šumwumbwap lavuršebel.
The queen put on her bracelet.

Could just as well be translated as

The king put on his bracelet.
The monarch put on their bracelet.

Or even, because Poswa does not require the speaker to distinguish number:

The kings and queens put on their bracelets.

When the gender is important to the meaning of a sentence, it can be indicated by using copular verbs. These are placed directly after the noun they modify, and often make use of membership contractions:[2]

Pempambom mappa pabubiap pwembwurebel.
The sailor (a girl) steered her ship.
Ifibaba pypwa pižbimuwap wupšebel.
The pirate (a boy) raised his flag.

And so on. Note that these words are not broken off from the surrounding words by a pause in speech, as they generally would be in English. Also, because they are verbs, they cannot take plural markers, and therefore to specify a plural the preceding noun must be marked.

Ifibababum pypwa swa.
The pirates who are boys are sleeping.


Plural suffixes

To pluralize a noun, either -by or -bum is added. The difference between the two is that -by implies separation amongst the individual items being described, whereas -bum implies that they are working together. An animate noun can take either of the two suffixes depending on which meaning is intended; inanimate nouns have a fixed plural form, however, which must be learned by rote.


The -bum suffix interacts with the nouns it modifies, particularly those ending in voiceless consonants, using the same sound rules that other compounds do. For example, the noun pupastos "knife" pluralizes to pupastobum because of a sound rule automatically changing all sb to b. Bappop "profit" changes to bappobum because of a sound rule automatically changing all pb to bb and another one causing the simplification of the second of two geminate consonants in the same word. Lastly, for nouns ending in -y (even an unwritten one), the -ub- --> w rule kicks in (-y- changed to -u in this environment further back in time). Thus, for example, the plural of poty "soldier" is potwum.

Note that some words whose Romanized spelling ends in -s actually end in the phoneme /sʷ/. These words do not lose the final -s when they form plurals because they are instead covered by the rule affecting words ending in labialized consonants. Thus, for example, the plural of vombopas "tapeworm" is vombopaswum.

Loanwords are generally placed into the bum class, making it the more productive of the two.


The -by suffix merges in similar ways, with -wu replacing -wum. It is used to show that the members of the group are treated individually, and can in some cases correspond to English "each, every".

Pluralization reanalysis and plurale tantum

Plurale tantum

Poswa is generally analyzed as having no irregular plurals. Instead, it is said that there are some nouns that occur only in the plural or only in the singular. For example, pambum "army" is historically the plural of the now-rare pame "troop, battalion, concentration of soldiers", which is irregular because the -e- in the middle was deleted through syncope. However, this word has not been re-analyzed as being the plural of *pam because other words pronounced /pam/ already exist. Pambum has not been re-analyzed as being a singular noun either, which means that one cannot say *pambumbum "armies". Thus, pambum is considered to be a noun that occurs only in the plural.

The dual number

Aside from the body parts above, Poswa also has a dual suffix, -pop. This is historically cognate with the dual forms of the body parts, which is why they mostly end in -op.

The dual number is generally used to denote a natural or symmetrical pair. It often corresponds to English "double" or "couple". For example, puvapop means a set of swinging double doors, wempop means a cross shape, and pamapop means an engaged couple.

Though primarily seen as a suffix, pop can appear in any position within a word, as it originated long ago as an ordinary noun meaning a couple. Thus, in modern Poswa, poppiwupa means "wedding", and a pobbem is a treaty between two armies in a war. (This word was shortened by from an earlier pampobbem, where pam- referred to armies.) Popammob is a word denoting a man and woman (or girl and boy) not yet engaged but in a close relationship.

Pop can also be used in an ad-hoc manner in the literal sense of a couple or natural pair, either as a suffix, or a separate stressed word. For example, pappipop means a teenage couple, and bobbupop means a pair of petals, as of those symmetrically arranged on the head of a flower. The Ten Commandments might be called Wipšatia žalapop, with the normal word for ten (wopa) replaced by the word for five (žala) with the dual suffix.

Pop as a modifier

When used with words for people, the suffix pop implies that the speaker is talking about a couple who are married or in a relationship with each other. Though traditionally used for opposite-gender pairs, it is the relationship that is important rather than the gender of the participants:

Tutipop bwawaša.
The two husbands are hugging each other.

This sentence shows that the two men are in love and are married to each other. By contrast, the sentence

Tutivep bwawaša.
The two husbands are hugging each other.

Also describes two married men, but does not imply that the two men are married to each other.

In polygamous marriages, pop can be used if and only if the two people being talked about are in a symmetrical position with each other. For example, one can say

Mumipop poppi parovap laviraba.
The two wives are wearing their wedding rings.

Terms for articles of clothing

Despite living in a cold climate, the Poswobs have historically resisted wearing long pants, instead wearing "blankets" when their natively woven shorts seemed insufficient to protect their people from their cold windy blizzards. Thus, words for pants are often loanwords, and these are perceived as dual nouns even when the foreign word being loaned was a standalone noun in its original language.

One native word for long pants exists, vilvipop, but it originally referred to shorts, as vila (no longer in use) was an early Poswa word for thigh. Some speakers still say vilvipop wilmampum for long pants.

Nouns with suppletive dual forms

See #Body_parts_and_suppletive_plurals.


From nouns that denote crowds or mass nouns, a singulative suffix -ba can be added to denote one piece or one member of it. For example mabem means "soap", and mabemba means "a bit of soap; some soap (to clean with)". Note that this -ba suffix is derived from Bābākiam viba, not ba, and therefore does not collapse the way some other suffixes beginning with -b do; the /b/ remains always a /b/.

Singulatives are also used with certain body parts. For example, šaspa means "hair of the head", but to speak of an individual strand of hair, one would say šaspaba.

Word and morpheme order with numerals

Numerals are separate words, and therefore come after possession suffixes and other nominal inflections in Poswa. They behave as verbs.

Liptiaso mava.
We three kings.

Case suffixes on the noun are not copied onto the numeral:

Pypub fessupwop žažas swombebel.
The boy bought five pineapples.

Number words describing categories and pieces of larger groups

Total number

When describing a category in order to make a general truth, the genitive ending -s can be used. This is an example of its secondary sense of denoting membership in a category rather than possession.

Pepopes prappubiba.
Cars (in general) are heavy.
Pubbaralas pubbuva.
Swans, generally, have long necks.

This construction is succinct, but it can lead to misunderstandings, especially with animate subjects. For more straightforward expression, the standalone number word paža can be added:

Pepopes paža prappubiba.
Cars, generally, are heavy.

"the only"

As a verb, pys means "to find". However it is also a suffix expressing a meaning like English "(the) only". It behaves the same as other number suffixes such as the cooperative plural bum:

Pypurpys waebwom šwa.
The only boy in my class is sleeping.

The possessive form of pys is pypys, which appears in several formations, and often drops its secondary final -s:

I am an only child.

However, when the bare stem -pys is used in a possessive construction, the -s is not dropped because it is needed to attach to the possessive ending:

Popapyša swa.
Her only child is sleeping.

Pys can also stand alone, as a noun of its own, and can be either animate or inanimate:

I just got the only one!
Pys postobbabiba popaba.
The only one wearing a headband is speaking.


The word plel means "only; no more than". It has a different range of meaning than that of pys, and is often found after a number word:

Mio bibi plel.
I only have four bottles.

Note that the morpheme order here is very different from the English translation; a narrow translation into English would be something such as "My bottles are only four (in number)".

Like other number words, it can be used as a suffix rather than a standalone word. Complex sound changes are triggered by this attachment, however, since the resulting compounds have been part of the language for thousands of years:

Mio bippel.
I have only four bottles.

This can be used in contexts where the plain numerals might imply "at least ...".

The series from one to ten with this affix attached is

Numpel, veppel, mavapel, bippel, bappel, nambupel, nappel, bivupel, tappel, tašapel.
Only one, only two, only three, only four, only five, only six, only seven, only eight, only nine, only ten.

Pieces of a larger whole

The word popu describes a specimen or sample from a larger entity. It is indifferent to number, and therefore cannot be used to distinguish between "a piece of pie" and "some of the pies". Because of its meaning, it is often found in the essive-partitive case rather than the accusative:

Ponna popibi pappwebi.
I bit part of the peach. (I will eat the rest of it in a minute.)

However, the accusative form can be used to emphasize a deliberate action, implying, for example, that the speaker is not intending to repeat the action being described:

Nobellam popupi amnebebi.
I ate some of the icecream. (I'm saving the rest for you!)

A variant of this stem, poppu, survives because of its association with the historically unrelated word poppup "knife". Though not a verb, it often occurs with verbs describing tearing or cutting motions:

Nappo poppupi swawebi.
I tore off some of the toilet paper.

When modifying an animate subject, popu always indicates the meaning "some of" and therefore implies that the subject is plural. Thus one can say

Pwopwa popu pultatiom pappampoša.
Some of the kids are hiding under the staircase.

Numeral words

Numerals from 1 to 10

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Cardinal numba vep mava bibi babi nambwi nabi bivi tašpi bapi nadžar
Ordinal[3] nium vam mavam bibam babom nambom nabam bivam tašpwem pwam nadžbam
Fractional niu[4] vob mavob bibob babub nambub nabob bivob tašpwi pwob nadžobob
Collective numbi vi mavi bibi babi nambwi nabi bivi tašpwe bapi nadžari

Numbers in the teens

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Cardinal nadžar nadžoni nadžopava nadžopibi nadžopabi nadžonamby nadžonabi nadžopivi nadžopafi

(Note that the number 11 is suppletive, as it entered the language at a time when a number word could not be compounded with itself. This rule no longer applies, but the number for 11 has remained even so.)

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
nadž- niž- mav- žab- baeš- namb- nabež- biniž- taf- baf-

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.

The affix -num serves to indicate a number that ends in the digit 1. Thus, the word for 21 is nižonum.

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
baf- bafoni- bafondž- bafomav- bafož- bafopaeš- bafonamb- bafovež- bafopendž- bafopaf-

Note that the entry for 100 is a duplicate of the last entry in the table of multiples of ten. Thus, for example, nadžopabi means 15, but the word for 115 triggers a sound rule, [V]dž[V] --> i[V], that makes the word bafoniopabi.[5]

Use of numbers as nouns and intransitive verbs

The fourth series of numbers, the "collective" series, is used in math and a few other functions. They are etymologically based on the essive case, and are typically used as verbs, as in

I am eight years old.

This word is etymologically wip-el-ab-o.


Possession markers can be placed on any noun, e.g. papwopwa "dog"; papwopio "my dog"; pepwep "knife" ---> pepwetšo "my knife". The stem to which the possession marker attaches is called a popu.[6] These are historically related to the verbal inflections and thus can be mapped one-to-one with them; however, they behave as nouns.[7]

The possessed form of the noun generally corresponds to a noun used with a possessive pronoun. That is to say,

Puriabum wampas
Puriabwa wampas
both mean "the girl's cards", but if the context is clear, the stand-alone word
can be used to mean "her cards" and the word for the girl omitted entirely.

Possession used in isolation

See also Poswa verbs#Verbs of possession.

Poswa does not distinguish between a subordinate clause and a standalone sentence. Thus, for example, the word


Can mean both

My key


I have a key.

If more words follow, as in

Šaliašo puvapwop tallobebi.

It can mean

My key opened the door.


I have a key, which opened the door.

And Poswa speakers would generally consider these two translations to be equivalent. Note that the verb tallobebi "opened" has a first person marker, not a third person marker, because the word for key is marked with the first person possessive affix and therefore behaves as a first person noun. It could thus be said that the truly most appropriate translation of the sentence above is something like

With my key, I opened the door.

The single-word possessives up above are called simple possessives. Complex possessives are those that use separate words describing the action of having something, as is done in languages such as English. See Verbs of possession.

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 Poswa, 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 Poswobs speak of "red book of mine" rather than "my red book".) Below are some sentences glossed with several possible English translations:

Mabevo žufoba!
My soap has some left over.
My extra soap.
I have more soap!

Kuftša papsa.
Her lamp is white.
Her white lamp
She has a white lamp.

Possession modifying a head noun

Another possible translation involves such as this:

Mapo potiambambwa.
The girl with the candy cane.
The girl has a candy cane.

Possession used for pronouns

Note that the rarely used pronouns are also formed this way:

I am speaking.
I, the one who is speaking.
I am the one who is speaking.
My speech.

Is also the word used for "I" in isolation, although it is generally found only in contexts where the use of any other verb would be inappropriate to use any other verb, such as if someone is addressing a classroom and asking "Which one of you is the teacher's pet?"

The second person counterpart of this word is

You are listening.
You, the one who is listening.
You are the one who is listening.
Your listening.

Inalienable nouns and irregular possessives

The citation form of some nouns is identical to its 3rd person possessive form. These nouns can be said to be inalienable. Often, the collision of forms is simply a coincidence; in other cases, the citation form of the noun contains a suffix identical to or cognate with the infix that occurs in all possessive forms; these are usually word for items of clothing, body parts, and the like.

A small number of nouns are inalienable or are irregular in other ways. Instead of mutating the final consonant of the noun and adding a vowel to show possession, these nouns have suppletive possessives which do not mutate the stem or add any suffix to it. The most commonly used of these are words for family relations. For example, the word for "mother" in isolation is mom, but the word for "my mother" is not *mio or *muvio (both forms that might be expected due to regular sound correspondences resulting from the regular consonant mutation) but rather mama, a word entirely unrelated to the root noun.

The possessed forms of inalienable nouns cannot take the suffix -s that shows membership in a class, and therefore they also cannot take the further suffixed forms such as -s-o, -s-ae, etc that show permitted or compelled action. This means that they are higher on the animacy hierarchy than other third-person nouns.


Poswa has no articles or demonstrative pronouns, so distinctions such as English "the dog", "a dog", "my dog", and "that dog" must be made in other ways. Generally, a noun used in bare form at the beginning of a sentence is best translated with the English indefinite article unless context makes it clear that it is referring to a previously mentioned entity. Thus, a sentence pair like English "A horse was asleep in the field. The horse woke up when it began to rain." would be translated with the same word for horse, with no additional affixes, in both sentences. To indicate a "new" horse, most often the suffix -pamy "other, another, different" is placed on the second instance of the noun. This is similar to the distinction between proximate and obviative nouns in some languages, but in Poswa the affix is only used when there would otherwise be ambiguity or likely misunderstanding.

Note that even if an object is "a book", etc, it needs a transitive verb and is considered definite by Poswa. Only "to read books" would be indefinite.

Core noun cases

The traditional case order in Poswa (and Pabappa) is Nominative, Accusative, Locative, Possessive, Essive, Instrumental. The order of the five non-nominative cases can be remembered by their typical final consonants: p m s l b.

Note that the oblique form is not considered a case and appears only when used with certain suffixes.

The first four cases are called central (pubupae waliem), the last two lateral (pubupae fwam). L is left, b is right.


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

Ice cream!

It is usually the shortest form of the word, since it has no suffix, but some of the case suffixes can actually make a few words shorter. For example, the essive form of bivibos "skin" is bivibi. Thousands of years ago, the case suffixes were actually infixes, and in many ways still behave so.

The case marked by the -s suffix is not properly a genitive, but a possessive, which has a more limited scope. Thus, the nominative case can in some constructions take over the role of a genitive, such as noun-on-noun compounds. For example:


Is a simple compound of pwep "one eye" and fwulpu "bandage".


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

Poppel popap mopwebi.
The married couple adopted a child.[8]

Where popa "child" is the object of the sentence and is thus given the suffix -p. (This is one of the words where the vowel does not change.)

Phonetic shape of the accusative

The -p suffix is entirely reliable, even in irregular nouns. Nouns that end in -a -e -o (including the rare diphthong -ae) usually do not change these vowels before adding the -p suffix:

-a -e -o
niapa "shield" ----> niapap
pfopwape "skirt" ----> pfopwapep
mapo "girl" ----> mapop

Nouns ending in -i sometimes change the final vowel to -e and sometimes to -u before adding the -p suffix, depending on which declension they belong to. Most of the time, nouns ending in -i which have another -i- in the first syllable of the word belong to the declension that changes the final vowel to -e.

pippi "juice" ----> pippep
pižbi "flag" ----> pižbep

Some words, particularly longer ones, have a different vowel in the initial syllable but an -i- in an internal syllable and still change the final -i to -e:

wufisti "hunter" ----> wufistep

Some words do not have a second -i- at all and still nevertheless belong to this declension:

nubi "beard" ----> nubep


tuti "husband" ----> tutup
paevi "rigid rod" ----> paevup
mubži "explosion, burst" ----> mubžup

Lastly, some words which one might predict would fall into the first category because they have an -i- in the first syllable in fact belong to this one:

ipi "pine tree" ----> ipup
siti "balance, equilibrium" ----> situp

Usage of the accusative

A noun in the accusative case is usually the object of the sentence, and therefore usually occurs after the subject and before a transitive verb:

Sabas₁ mapop₃ pwuraba.₂
The man₁ is kissing₂ the girl.₃

Where mapo "girl" is the object of the sentence and is thus given the accusative suffix -p.

However, Poswa has fairly liberal word order rules, and the accusative is not always stuck in the middle. In some cases, the object of the sentence may be perceived as more prominent than the subject, and therefore be placed before the subject of the sentence.

Verbal agreement suffixes

If a noun in the accusative case is placed before its verb, the accusative case marker must be additionally padded with a suffix denoting the person and tense of the subject. In essence, the object must show agreement with the verb:

Sapsapa₁ paefam₂ pypappebaba.₃
The woman₂ is slapping₃ the man.₁

Where sapsapa "man" is the object of the sentence and is given the suffix -p, but is also given the additional suffix -(b)a to show his agreement with the slapping his jealous wife is giving him. The suffixes are identical with the last syllable of the verb, but due to a sound rule changing -pb- to -p-, they appear to consist of single vowels. All accusatives end in -p, so the -b- never actually appears. (The sound rule changing -pb- to -p- operated much earlier than a separate rule changing -pb- to -bb-, and is no longer active, but still remains in force in areas of morphology that have not changed for several thousand years.)

Unlike many morphemes, the verbal agreement suffix does not trigger vowel changes in the preceding word. Both

Sabas pawop žiblafebel.
The man tasted the banana.
Pawopi žiblafebi.
I tasted the banana.

Have the same -o- vowel in the word for banana, even though it is in an open syllable in one word but a closed syllable in the other. This situation often triggers a change from -o- to -y-, but in this situation, analogy with a second -o- from an earlier diphthong which resisted the change caused the retention of -o- to be generalized.

Note that because there are no pronouns in Poswa, any sentence with a 1st or 2nd person agent and a 3rd person patient will use the padded form of the accusative unless the verb precedes the noun, which rarely happens.

Exclusion of static nouns from the accusative

By convention, static nouns such as celestial objects, natural landforms, large buildings, and other objects considered impossible for humans to change do not take the accusative case, and cannot be the patient of any transitive verb. Instead, one must use either the #Possessive case or the #Locative.

This trait is a remnant from the parent language, when such sentences were ungrammatical and, with some verbs, actually impossible to express. This is because at the time, the case markers were fused with the noun class markers, and some noun classes did not have an accusative form. Substitution of another case was used instead, but some verbs greatly changed their meaning when governing a case other than the accusative.

Because modern Poswa has lost its noun class markers, it is now grammatical to use any noun, even a static noun, in the accusative case, but its use with certain nouns such as the word for the sun is considered metaphorical.

Abstract use of the accusative

The accusative case is homophonous with the ancient reflexive marker, which was sometimes used to derive abstract nouns from concrete ones. This process is no longer functional, but a small number of words thus formed still remain.

Interaction with animacy

Animate nouns are always marked with the accusative suffix -p. Inanimate nouns, however, can be found without the final -p when they are used as indefinite nouns, allowing finer distinctions of meaning. As described above under #Definiteness, Poswa's uses of the definite and indefinite do not line up well with those of English, and many nouns that in English would be translated as indefinite appear in Poswa as definite. Therefore, even among inanimate objects, the accusative suffix -p is present in the vast majority of uses of the accusative case.

Indefinite nouns for inanimate objects used in an accusative role are often incorporated into verbs to form idiosyncratic compounds, for example potia "to lick candy" and taespep "to prefer to wear skirts". These are similar to the polysynthetic compound verbs but lack an incorporated subject.

Elliptical uses of the accusative

In bars or restaurants, it is common to hear people say a sentence consisting of just the item they want in the accusative case. This is essentially an elliptical way of saying "(Please) bring me a...":

Please bring me some hot chili pepper paste!

However, see Poswa_verbs#Usage_of_inflected_nouns_as_mood_markers for an alternative method of expressing this type of wish.

Physical pain can be expressed with the accusative case and no verb. For example, someone whose foot was injured by a swinging door might say "My foot!" in English, and in Poswa the same expression would appear as

My foot!

With the accusative case showing that the person received the injury rather than causing it.

Double accusative case

A noun in the accusative case, when used elliptically for a phrase whose subject is omitted, can itself be the object of a verb, meaning that the noun will have two accusative case endings stacked together.

Accusative markings on verbal participles

Note that if a verbal participle takes an accusative marker, it collides with the subjunctive form of that verb. For example, popaba means "one speaking", and one can say

Nimpfebi popabap.
I ignored the one speaking.

But popabap is also the 3rd person subjunctive form of the same verb. Generally, prosody and context make the distinction clear. Note that with the word order reversed, yielding

Popabapi nimpfebi.
I ignored the one speaking.

The verb still collides, this time with the abortive mood of the verb instead of the subjunctive. However, in this case, confusion is less likely when the two arguments on the verb are of different persons, as in the example above.


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

Bempfo₁ pwaebiom.₂
I'm sitting₁ in my chair.₂

Since Poswa does not have a copula, a noun in the locative case often serves as a predicate by itself, meaning the sentence is verbless:

Tuppi₁ bibwobam.₂
The chicken₁ is in the oven.₂

Since there is no verb, an additional predicate can be added, such as

Tuppi₁ bibwobam₂ bumperul.₃
The chicken₁ in the oven₂ is juicy.₃

While these sentences imply eternal truths, context informs the listener that in cases such as the above, this is not actually true and merely serves the speaker by allowing him to speak a shorter, more compact sentence. Nevertheless, however, it is more common to find words such as these padded by (in most cases) the 3rd person intransitive present tense verbal suffix -ba:

Tuppi bibwobamba bumperiža.
The chicken in the oven is juicy.
Pipi lapwomba.
The sun is in the sky.

Note that, because there are no verbs in these sentences, there is no tense information either, and therefore context must be used to understand the proper meanings.

The locative case can also be used with a sort of inverse locative meaning. This is a very old trait that entered the language when the ancestor of Poswa and Pabappa merged the original two locative cases (marked in Thaoa by -n and ) into one.

Pypub₁ laedžam.₂
The boy₁ has a coin in him.₂

The above literally means "the boy is (in/on) a coin", but the context makes the meaning clear.

This often carries the additional metaphorical meaning of "affected by, afflicted with":

Pwublipos₁ peppubi₂ tšumpiom.₃
The explorer's₁ path₂ is blocked.₃

This could be described as a circumstantial case.

Use of the bare locative case to indicate extended locative meanings

The locative case has an unusually broad range of meaning, including serving as its own opposite. It fills the roles that in many languages are divided among several other cases.

As above, the locative can serve as its own opposite. This is because Poswa's locative arose historically from the merger of two cases with opposite meanings. In Thaoa, these are marked primarily by final -n and , but in Poswa and Pabappa they have both long since fallen together as -m.

When dealing with animate objects, in most cases, context serves to distinguish the various possible interpretations of the bare locative case.

Note that number is often not marked on Poswa nouns, but that the use of a locative case can imply a singular or plural number. A man saying

I am in the woman.

Will in most cases be understood as if he had said "I am among the women" because neither of the two most common interpretations of the bare locative case would make contextual sense unless the listener understood that the number of women the man was "in" was more than one.

Even if it is specifically stated that there is only one woman, most listeners will mentally hear the sentence with a meaning like "I am with the woman" or only occasionally "I am on (top of) the woman".

Examples of extended locatives

One Poswa-speaking space traveler, too bashful to leave the spaceship himself, wrote what he saw in his journal:

Papota pespožam.
The captain is inside our spaceship.
Papota župplubopwem bilombaba.
The captain is landing on the planet.
Papota rumbvom apwa babbamba.
The captain is standing in the red sunshine.
Papota pappies puviusem.
The captain is now suntanned.
Papota pestiebiem babbamba.
The captain is standing among the aliens.[9]
Pestiebiem nwellwaba, papota lalemwam.
Because of the aliens surrounding him, The captain is trapped.

Extended locatives

See Poswa locative verbs.

For finer shades of meaning, the locative case can be followed by an intransitive verb. When indefinite and in some cases when definite, these verbs can be unstressed and therefore perceived to be mere affixes rather than separate words; this is why they have undergone sound changes typical of unstresssed syllables, such as pt > p.

Table of extended locative constructions

Description Bare morpheme Conjugated form
(1st person)
Inessive bam bambo palem may also be used; Pabappa pam
Illative pallo pallwo
Elative pob Pabappa pi < kivu
Ablative (animate) papwa papio
Ablative (inanimate) piepa piefo
Perlative pupa puppo (no Pabappa cognate)
Pertingent (1) pwa pio
Pertingent (2) pip pipwo
Superessive pipi pipibo
Circumessive pol pewo
Translative pa po

Open locatives

A small number of words for furniture, buildings, and open places whose stems end in -m form their locatives by removing that -m rather than adding another one. This goes back to a very old stage of the language when the two inherited "locatives" were still in the process of merging into one. The two locatives often had opposite meanings; one meant "to be in something" and the other meant "to have something inside (oneself)". The coalescence of the two affixes led speakers to reanalyze words ending in -m as being inverse locatives, and therefore formed a new irregular locative case by deleting the -m, even if it was not originally a suffix.

The deletion of the -m did not always restore the original form of the word. This is partly because -m often caused stem changes, and partly because some words ending in -m actually did not contain this suffix in the first place, but simply happened to have stems ending in -m and have a meaning that refers to a place one could sit, stand, or otherwise be stationed. Thus, these locatives always end in an open syllable, giving them their (English) name.

In modern Poswa, the open locative phenomenon has led to the proliferation of many very specific words for sitting, standing, lying down, and so on. For example, the originally neutral word kwaepa "to sit" was extended to form kwaepam "chair", and then later on this word was back-formed to give kwaepa the specific meaning "to sit in a chair". Likewise taesfam "stool, chair too tall for the feet to rest on the ground", which derives from a word meaning "loose, exposed to the air", was back-formed to taesfa "to sit high up, with the feet not reaching the ground". This word was further reanalyzed as being related to tae "toddler, small child", but the resemblance is a coincidence.

Although open locatives can take locative verbs, they have such narrowly defined meaning that they are most commonly used alone.


The possessive case generally shows ownership, but in some constructions can be used with a broader meaning typical of languages with genitive cases. This case is not as common as one might expect because of the frequent use of possession markers on nouns.

Likewise, the weaker genitive meaning of the possessive case is also rare because most environments in which one might expect it to appear are noun-noun compounds, and Poswa simply uses the nominative case for both nouns in such a setup. Nevertheless, a possessive+nominative compound can be used to show definiteness:

Bivombabo aperaeviamap.
I recognize hair color. (As a general concept.)
Bivombabo apes raeviamap.
I recognize the color of (her) hair.

The possessive is also used for abstract concepts. Words describing actions taking place during a period of time are in the possessive case, not the locative case as in many other languages. For example, the word triplet

Pelpies, pappies, porpies.
In the past, the present, (and) the future.

This usage can carry over to verbs; see Poswa verbs#Expressing_tense_and_duration.

Possessive as definite genitive

However, the possessive is used to indicate genitive meaning with definite nouns. Compounding is rarely seen, because if a compound is used, the meaning is indefinite. This is the same distinction referred to above with respect to the accusative. Tongue-twisting words consisting of compounds piled on top of compounds do exist, for entities difficult to describe succinctly that are part of a set and not merely an object talked about in the current situation only. In theory, one could report a burn injury by saying

Posafeži pespolbufežifsapaslampyppafaemwuršate.
I was burned by the shock of the temperature of the cone of the fire of the burning of the fuel of the ship.

But even if such injuries were common, the preferred way to express such a concept in such detail would be to treat each of the nouns as definite, and therefore break up the compound into its constituent parts:

Posafeži pespes bufes žifsas paslias syppas faemwus šate.
I was burned by the shock of the temperature of the cone of the fire of the burning of the fuel of the ship.

Thus, one would rarely speak of pambambaseplatia "sidewalk tile" as a common individual concept, but rather

Pambambases platia.
Tile of the sidewalk.

Possessive as indicating membership

The possessive case can also be used as a "member" case, as in Moonshine. Generally, a verb inflection follows. This is most commonly found where Pabappa would use a copula. Taffum "queen" has the genitive form taffios, and one can say

You're a queen.

Note that the personal verb marker appears directly after the bare -s- rather than taking an intervening verb marker as is found with most other verbs derived from nouns. This is because this is a very old formation and the intervening -b- was deleted and never restored.

Vocative membership

Words of this type with the second person inflection on can also be used as terms of address. Unlike many other societies, Poswobs do not see this as impolite:

Hey, kid!

Many Poswa nouns make use of contractions in this construction, involving both syncope and wet syllables. The agent marker ta undergoes both of these changes, meaning that its genitive form tas contracts to ts- before a suffix beginning in a vowel, and then to a simple t- due to the law of wet syllables. Thus sittuta means "doctor", but one hears

I'm a doctor.
It's a boy!
Wiwebbes, mavase!
Congratulations, you're a mom!

In some sentences, it can correspond to English of:

Pypuppo potias!
I just got the only one of the lollipops!
I just got the only lollipop!

This construction puts pypuppo "I just got the only ..." at the front of the sentence to emphasize it. More commonly, however, such a sentence would be expressed in a single word:

I just got the only lollipop!

See Poswa_irregular_nouns#Membership for more examples of this contraction.

Essive case


The essive case is used primarily to indicate that something is made from something else. Like the locative, it is often used in verbless sentences. The essive case of any noun generally ends with -el, -ul, -i, or -ie.

Wopsivo₁ bwabbu₂ papwul.₃
My jacket₁ is made from the hide₃ of sheep.₂

Thus, it can sometimes correspond to English of, in particular the false possessive. (The unusual English word order here is used to keep the translations from being cut up.)

Sometimes the essive case is followed with an intransitive verb ending, which for the present tense is generally -ba This causes those essives that end in -l to change to -ž-:

Tšepium wiwaweža.
Glue is made from hooves.

Essive as equative

The essive case can also be used to convey a meaning similar to English "as, as a(n)":

Pipome₁ tallošebe₂ pwopwel.₃
You came₂ here₁ as a child.₃

Use of a tense marker here after the essive case marker here is optional, and, with animate subjects, implies that the subject had control over themselves at the time. It will always be intransitive, even if the main verb in the sentence is transitive:

Pipome tallošebe pwopweže.
You came here as a child.

Transitive partitive usage

A third meaning of the essive case is the partitive accusative sense. That is, the essive will substitute for the accusative on the object of a transitive verb, and give it a partitive flavor. Usage of the essive as a partitive is confined to inanimate objects:

Pobbliup,₁ vwambebi₂ pobwupie.₃
Sorry,₁ I ate₂ some of your watermelon.₃

Like the accusative, the essive takes a verbal suffix to agree with the subject if it is fronted to anywhere before the subject is named:

Pobbliup,₁ levobwulbi₂ ... vwambebi₃ wialeb.₄
Sorry,₁ your strawberries₂ ... I ate₃ some of them₂ too.₄

One cannot use this with animate objects, even when the context is clear that it is not being used in its primary function as a true essive:

*Ninselbi₁ vwambebi.₂
I ate₂ some of the salmon.₁

However, objects that inherit their animacy from a host are valid targets after all:

Pallup₁ poša₂ pummatši₃ pippibebel.₄
The white₂ whale₁ bit off₄ part of my leg.₃

Metaphorical usage

When context allows, the essive case can be used metaphorically:

Papwopwa pwafa pumul.
The dog is walking like a human.


The instrumental case has a variety of meanings, but the primary meaning is that something or someone is making use of something else. The instrumental case of any noun always ends with -ob, -ub, -i, or -ie.

Wupwopi₁ numwebi₂ popfob.₃
I wrote₂ the message₁ with a pen.₃
Bimiepi pabwebbi tižifub.
I swept the carpet with my toes.
Pwaebiope mibasebe bapapwupi.
You broke my shield with your hammer.
Twembupie, bubafabi polfawampap.
With a cucumber, I completed the salad.

The instrumental sometimes corresponds to direct objects in English:

Pepopubi papopebi plivompumbi wapfabompapie.
I drove my car home from school.

Where pepopub "using my car" is suffixed with the additional inflection -i to agree with the verb papopebi "I drove".[10]

Instrumental verbs

See Poswa_verbs#Instrumental.

The instrumental case can also be used as a base for forming verbs. When used with words for food, the instrumental case indicates that the agent of the verb is eating that food. The noun is indefinite, and the verb is grammatically intransitive despite its semantic meaning:

I ate an apple.

The verb is intransitive because it is seen as stating a general activity, as though eating apples were as basic as sleeping and breathing. However, the verb will be transitive if a specific object is named:

Fupam₁ tašepi₂ tašibebi.₃
I ate₃ the apple₂ on the table.₁

Another use of the instrumental case is to form verb bases indicating wearing articles of clothing. Using pufaepa "shorts, thigh-length pants", one can say:

I'm wearing shorts.

Extended cases and caselike derivations

Even nouns that are inflected for case can be further inflected for case. Many compound cases exist. For example, a "causative" case is formed by inflecting the instrumental form of a noun with the accusative ending.

For the most part, compound cases behave grammatically identically with their outermost inflection. But exceptions to this general tendency abound, as they very ability to inflect case markers with other case markers relies on the ability of the grammar to treat all cases as if they were the nominative. Unlike the core cases, some compound cases are defective in the sense that they are identical with one of the core cases or with one of the other compound cases. For these reasons, Poswa teachers still consider their language to have six cases, the same six cases the parent language Babakiam had 4500 years ago.


The causative is formed by inflecting the instrumental form of a noun with an accusative ending. Since the accusative ending is regular in all nouns and always ends in -p, all causatives end in -p as well.

Because of the way the case endings stack, the causative is often, but not always, identical to the accusaitve save for the fact that the last consonant in the stem (that is, the last consonant before the final -p) is labialized. If that consonant is already labialized, the labialization is expanded to the syllable-length sequence -uw-.

But in some nouns, the causative form of the word is identical to the accusative case. For example, a consonant followed by an -i- and then another vowel will defeat the labialization due to a sound rule stating wi[V] ---> i[V].

To help keep the senses distinct, the causative is often set off from the rest of the sentence by a pause, forming a clause of its own:

Plebum lappabel, puppiep.
The rain fell down, causing a flood.

Causatives as verb stems

This construction is often used to make verbs. This is done by placing a verbal inflection, generally an intransitive one, after the noun affixes, forming what in many languages would be considered a causative verb. (But Poswa considers noun inflections to be part of the stem, and therefore there is no meaningful division between verbs formed with causative noun inflections and those without.)

I'm making a mess!

Causatives as independent nouns

The causative can also be used to create new nouns. Poswa allows case stacking, which is to say that a noun in any case can be repurposed as a nominative case with a new meaning. Causatives are one of the most frequently used examples of this phenomenon. For example, the formal term for mother is mava, and from this is derived the formal term for father, mavwap.

Many of the nouns which are used as bases for causatives have become obsolete in their original form. For example, the noun pes means "animal horn that is not on top of the head; tusk", and this sense has driven an earlier unrelated word pes out of the language. Previously, the other pes had had a wide range of meanings, including "star in the night sky" (now baesapes) and "cut, split, something separated". The latter meaning produced a new word,


By taking its instrumental form (pipi) and then taking the accusative of that. (The final result may seem to have an extra -w-; this is because the derivations were frozen into the language at a time when the rules for the two steps were different than today in some words. Nevertheless, despite this mismatch, this word still obeys the modern-day method of working backwards by taking the accusative and infixing a -w-, so it is considered a regular derivation. The vowel change is due to an unrelated change.)

Irregular causatives

However, in the early stages of the language, this method of forming causatives was inconvenient because what today are labialized consonants were then consonants followed by a full syllabic vowel and usually an intervocalic -b-. Thus, causatives added one, and sometimes two, syllables to the simple nouns they were derived from. Furthermore, the process was highly unpredictable because some words behaved differently than others. By analogy with a certain subset of nouns, the Poswobs (and the Pabaps, with whom they were still united) evolved a simpler process to form the causatives of some nouns. Despite being simpler, this type of causative was more opaque than the longer form, and some words split apart from their source nouns as the speakers forgot the connection.

Later, the language underwent sound changes that made the older, longer form of the causative only slightly longer than the shortened form, and since it was more regular, it became the dominant method of forming the causative once again. Thus, all words in modern Poswa form their causatives in the "old" way which had nearly disappeared from the language. However, when the old method began to take over, the language retained many of the forms which had been created by the newer, shorter method and treated them as independent nominative case nouns. Thus manyu words have doublets which are very similar in meaning. (This happened around 3400 years ago, where Pabappa and Poswa were still mutually intelligible, but their speakers were politically split and the Poswobs were expanding into areas far from the new border. Thus, some words are found only on one side of the divide.)

For example, the word pupwep "knife" above was formed with the original method, but there also exists a doublet of it, pepup, with the same meaning. And although this is a perfectly good word, one more commonly sees


Which has the intensive prefix po-. This was later reanalyzed as beginning with pop "double, couple, two halves of a whole" because knives commonly are used to split things in half. Often, doublets such as these are driven further apart in form by having one of the words undergo an additional change.


The becausative, sometimes called the circumstantial case, is formed by inflecting the essive form of a noun with a locative ending. It carries the meaning "because of X" and is often the first word in a sentence or clause. Since essive nouns can end in any of four codas (-el, -ul, -i, and -ie), the becausative form of a noun can end in any of four codas as well. However, many learners find it easier to imagine that the becausative is derived by infixing the locative form of the noun rather than by suffixing the essive. Thus, one needs to learn only one rule instead of four.

Because of the way the case endings stack, the becausative is often, but not always, identical to the locative save for the fact that the last consonant in the stem (that is, the last consonant before the final -m) is mutated.

Satšavam, lužwubi.
Because of the snowstorm, I left.

Compare the simple locative form in the sentence

Satšanam babbambo.
I'm standing up in the snowstorm.

However, note that when a consonant is its own mutation, in such formations the locative case and the becausative case will be identical:

Polapufem, paefwas blubutaenio.
Because of your pet cat, I have a meal tonight.
(polaputa "pet cat" --> polapufe "your pet cat" --> polapuful --> polapufem)

Even though the word polapufem can be either the locative or the becausative, the above sentence is readily understood because it would be illogical for the speaker to sit down for a meal while seated on top of the listener's pet cat. When a becausative is used this way, it is usually the first word in the sentence and is set off from the rest of the sentence with a pause (here represented by a comma) in order to further distance it from the simple locative from which it is derived.

Likewise, the very common plural suffix -bum also has its locative and becausative forms the same, because its essive form is -biel, and -b- mutates to itself. Someone waiting for a friend at a park might say:

Pwopwabiem babbambo.
I'm standing up among the children. (I should be easy to spot.)
Pwopwabiem, bužwubi.
Because of the children, I left. (They kept throwing water balloons at me.)

The above two sentences are distinguished primarily by the pause in speech after the becausative word, because, other than that, the meanings of the two sentences could be switched and still make sensible sentences, as one could say

Pwopwabiem, babbambo.
Because of the children, I'm standing up. (I want to make sure you can see me!)
Pwopwabiem bužwubi.
Among the children, I left. (I got tired of waiting for you!)

A small number of verbs occur primarily after a word in the locative case; see Poswa locative verbs.

Adjectives and verbs

If a word in the becausative case is modified by an adjective or even a verb, it is still only the noun that takes the becausative inflections:

Mesufaefibiem tšitiap pumpumbaba, polfata bumiam pallopwafel.
Because of the pigs blocking his path, the farmer couldn't enter the barn.

Dative constructions

There is no dative case in Poswa. Instead, dative meanings are expressed by other constructions, chiefly the above-mentioned #Becausative construction.

Obsolete and little-used morphology

Poswa is a very conservative language, and many educated speakers are aware of the language's past and how it has changed.

Verbal pregnancy

Poswa uses many infixes. Most infixes are one syllable and perform grammatical functions such as indicating repetitive motion or that the agent of the action is doing it unwillingly, but occasionally longer infixes are found. Entire words can be infixed within other words; a word with another word inside it is said to be povopa "pregnant", and the word being infixed is called a pammo "fetus, unborn baby". The word povopa is itself an example of verbal pregnancy, as it has the word pammo infixed inside it, its identity hidden by various sound changes.

Most verbal pregnancies involve the word behaving as the infix being spelled backwards inside the word behaving as the "mother". As a baby inside the womb is generally positioned upside down relative to the mother, these could thus be called "head-first compounds", although some teachers prefer to simply call them "pregnant compounds" since the number of counterexamples is so small.

The infix is always placed right before the last vowel in the oblique form of the mother word; this is the same process that originally gave rise to the noun case affixes.

The origin of the production of pregnant compounds lies more than 8000 years in the past, when the language was almost entirely CV and used frequent reduplication to form new words. By analogy with certain reduplicating forms, and with the help of certain sound changes, some reduplicated words came to appear as if they had backwards infixes of themselves rather than simply being repeated twice. This then expanded by analogy to cover all possible words.

However, verbal pregnancy is rarely used today. The reasons for this are many:

  • Radical sound changes have destroyed the original CV structure of the language, meaning that spelling a word backwards inside of another word is often impossible as it would lead to illegal consonant clusters such as /plp/ at the beginning of a word.
  • The solutions to the above problem involve remembering the old spellings of some words and various applicable sound changes, i.e. remembering that /p/ can change places with /wa/ in some words, are difficult to remember and therefore beyond the reach of everybody aside from scholars.
  • The modern language has more convenient methods of forming new words.

The base p-...-a

Nevertheless, a few recently coined words make use of verbal pregnancy. The most commonly used is also the simplest: the circumfix pa is the "mother", and carries the meaning "having a ...". The word spelled backwards inside the mother is the object being possessed. For example, using the word pase "honey", one can insert the infix -esap- into the mother word to form pesapa "having honey; served with honey". Modern coinages tend to focus on two syllable words with the pattern CVCV, as these are the most easily understood by listeners unfamiliar with each newly coined word.

Verbal pregnancy can be used to form new words. For example, fessupwu means pineapple, and a cultivar of pineapple with particularly rough skin was called the fessupwu pappypa, the spiny-skinned pineapple. However, the word pappypa was little used elsewhere, and speakers came to drop the first word of the phrase. Thus, pappypa emerged as a new word for a type of pineapple, and today has come to refer to pineapples in general, meaning that modern Poswa's fessupwu and pappypa are interchangeable.[12]

This construction is largely redundant with the essive case of nouns, but provides a more precise meaning. For example, the essive case of pase "honey" is pasul, but the phrase blubutaen pasul could equally mean "meal of honey; meal consisting entirely of honey" rather than "meal served with honey". By writing blubutaen pesapa, the reader understands that honey is served on the side or as a topping rather than as the entirety of the meal.

Other bases

Other bases exist, but are rare and typically involve very short infixes being placed inside them. For example lypa means "mostly made of ..." and can take the archaic infix i "tail" to form lypel "squirrel; an animal that is mostly tail". (The a ---> el change is one of many that is familiar even to elementary learners of Poswa.)

Color words are the most common example of verbal pregnancy; see words for colors.


Most circumfixes are addressed above under #Verbal pregnancy. However, there are some circumfixes in Poswa in which the word being surrounded is in its normal form rather than being spelled backwards. Most often the infixed element is actually a verb or verb marker, padded on one end by a content word and on the other by another inflection. See here for an example.

By analogy with the head-first compounds, compounds with circumfixes could be called feet-first compounds since the parent word and its infix are oriented in the same direction. This offers greater flexibility, as the speaker does not have to memorize a special set of sound rules in order to insert new information into the word. However, because of the sound rules that operate on Poswa words in general, these types of compounds actually trigger the same sorts of changes after all, and are therefore less common than the head-first type.

One feet-first compound shell is pa-...-py, "having a large ...". Far back in the history of the language, this was actually a typical head-first circumfix, but through analogy and the use of many similar sounding words (particularly those whose only consonants were p or a syllable-final consonant) it came to be reanalyzed. Note that the final -y is usually omitted in Romanization.

As with head-first compounds, sound changes take place when the central element begins with a vowel. Infixing anna "brain", for example, produces pannap "big-brained", not *pabannap or *piannap as one might expect.

Some words for wildlife are feet-first compounds which can be used both in bare form and with an infix. An example is tapa "salmon, trout". This word can be used on its own and inflects normally for its word shape. But one can also say tabumapa "anadromous salmon", to refer to a salmon that migrates upstream to spawn, differentiating it from those who stay resident in the same body of water. The infix here is a verb, buma "to swim upstream", which appears primarily as an infix but can still, when context permits, be used as a verb in its own right as well.

The pseudopassive -u

In Babakiam, a word could be made into a "passive noun" by adding -u to it. This was redundant with one of the functions of the #Locative case, but had a narrower scope. It is actually etymologically derived from the Gold language dative case, but ceased to function as a case ending when it became vocalized and therefore merged with the nominative forms of many unrelated words.

The pseudo-agentive -a

A "middle" agentive in -a also occurred in Babakiam. This is a duplicate of ta, the word for human, with regular loss of the initial consonant in an intervocalic environment. However, the etymology was quickly forgotten, and speakers not only came to use -a even after consonants, but came to adapt the -a to ancient phonological processes that were well known to the speakers from noun cases. For example, a word ending in -i, when given the pseudo-agentive ending, would not come to end in -ia but rather in , as the speakers were at this time aware of a rule changing any /ia/ in which the /i/ was accented into /ī/. Thus, the oblique forms of nouns were used for attaching this affix.

The main difference between this affix and the ordinary agentive -ta was that the pseudo-agentive was not restricted to specifying the agent of an action, but merely stated that the entity being described had experienced it. Thus, from mas "to give birth" was formed mamā "mother, one who has given birth",[13] but from mei "sword" was formed mebī "sword stabbing victim".

This process is no longer active in modern Poswa, but scholars who are aware of it will sometimes coin new words by changing, for example, words ending in -e (the commonest reflex of Babakiam -i) into words ending in -el (the commonest reflex of Babakiam ).

Noun declension overview

Noun declensions are complicated by the fact that unlike Poswa verbs, Poswa nouns change even the stem when an inflectional suffix is added. That is, there is no "barrier" between the stem and the suffix that keeps the stem mostly intact. Instead of declensional tables, the entire last syllable must be taken into account in order to determine the various forms. Thus it could be said that there is a declension for every syllable. However, with just a few simple rules, the patterns can be easily perceived.

The inflectional tables make more sense to a speaker who is familiar with the concept of oblique stems. The oblique form of a noun often differs from the nominative form, and from the oblique form, all other forms can be predicted in all but the most wildly irregular nouns. One could imagine a future form of Poswa in which the oblique replaces the nominative entirely; however, since the oblique stem always ends in a vowel, almost all words would come to end in vowels. (This is similar to what happened in Palli.)

Regular noun declensions


The commonest noun declension is for nouns ending in -a. Below is the declension of pliopa "waste pail, trash can" (long words are used to prevent the suffixes from infecting the stem). Note that the line marked "(Oblique)" is not a case, but a stem that for some nouns is the same as the nominative, and for others is different. The oblique form of the noun appears in a few other constructions aside from case marking, as well.

For possession, 3rd person is used:

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative pliopa pliofa pliofa
(Oblique) pliopa pliofa pliofa
Accusative pliopap pliofap pliofap
Locative pliopam pliofam pliofam
Possessive pliopas pliofas pliofas
Essive pliopel pliofel pliofel
Instrumental pliopob pliofob pliofob



The declension of bambupae "purse, sealable bag for carrying money" is below:

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative bambupae bambupažo bambupaže bambupaža
(Oblique) bambupae
Accusative bambupaep bambupažop bambupažep bambupažap
Locative bambupaem bambupažom bambupažem bambupažam
Possessive bambupaes bambupažos bambupažes bambupažas
Essive bambuful bambupaži bambupažul bambupažel
Instrumental bambufi bambupažub bambupaži bambupažob
Swombebi baemop povoži, wa waefabap bambupaep.
I bought myself a tube made out of grass and a purse to carry it in.

Note that the rarely used word tae "toddler, child, young person" is regular, and thus follows the same declension pattern as the much larger bambupae. Thus one can say

Tažopi bambupažom pebwebi pwebapfos.
I put my kid into my purse while I shopped.



Some nouns ending in -e belong to this declension. It is one of the simplest declensions, but still has some trouble spots in the lower cases. Below is the declension of pute "beaver's tail; snowshoe":

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative pute pufo pufe pufa
(Oblique) pute
Accusative putep pufop pufep pufap
Locative putem pufom pufem pufam
Possessive putes pufos pufes pufas
Essive putul pufi puful pufel
Instrumental puti pufub pufi pufob

Note that the word for snowshoe is more commonly putepapa, a compound of this word and papa "shoe". Putepapa is a hyper-regular word because the -p- does not change to -f- in any forms.


A subtype of the -e¹ declension exists for nouns ending in -ie. These words differ greatly from the -e nouns. However, they all conjugate the same, and thus they are not considered to be irregulars. Below is the declension of wapie "game, competition":

The declension of wapie "game, competition" is below:

Case Free Possessed
1p 2p 3p
Nominative wapie wapwo[14] wapwe wapwa
(Oblique) wapie
Accusative wapiep wapwop wapwep wapwap
Locative wapiem wapwom wapwem wapwam
Possessive wapies wapwos wapwes wapwas
Essive wapiul wapwi wapwul wapwel
Instrumental wapie wapwub wapwi wapwob


Some nouns ending in -e belong to this declension. It is a stem-changing declension, with a different consonant for each stem consonant. Below is the declension of pute "alphabet":

Case Free Possessed
1p 2p 3p
Nominative pute putežo
(Oblique) pufe putežo
Accusative pufep putežop
Locative pufem putežom
Possessive pufes putežos
Essive puful puteži
Instrumental pufi putežub



Many words ending in -i belong to this declension. Below is the declension of plumpi "canal, groove":

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative plumpi plumpo plumpe plumpa
(Oblique) plumpe
Accusative plumpep plumpop plumpep plumpap
Locative plumpem plumpom plumpem plumpam
Possessive plumpes plumpos plumpes plumpas
Essive plumpul plumpi plumpul plumpel
Instrumental plumpi plumpub plumpi plumpob


The second most common -i declension is characterized by words such as ipi "pine tree":

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative ipi ifo ife ifa
(Oblique) ipu
Accusative ipup ifop ifep ifap
Locative ipum ifom ifem ifam
Possessive ipus[15] ifos ifes ifas
Essive ipel ifi iful ifel
Instrumental ipob ifub ifi ifob


A small number of nouns ending in -i belong to this declension. Below is the declension for bluparapi "carrot":

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative bluparapi bluparafo bluparafe bluparafa
(Oblique) bluparafo
Accusative bluparafop bluparafop bluparafep bluparafap
Locative bluparafom bluparafom bluparafem bluparafam
Possessive bluparafos bluparafos bluparafes bluparafas
Essive bluparafi bluparafi bluparaful bluparafel
Instrumental bluparafub bluparafub bluparafi bluparafob

This conjugation is rarely seen. This is partly because it is very similar to the above conjugation, differing only in the first column (the "free" forms) in cases other than the nominative, and partly because two of its columns have merged with each other, creating ambiguity. Most words formerly within this conjugation have been moved to the above i(2) conjugation, and most Poswa speakers will accept a sentence in which a word in the i(3) conjugation is declined as if it were an i(2) word, even if they playfully remind the other speaker of their error.


A few nouns ending in -i belong to this declension. Below is the declension for pippi "juice":

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative pippi pippižo pippiže pippiža
(Oblique) pippe
Accusative pippep pippižop pippižep pippižap
Locative pippem pippižom pippižem pippižam
Possessive pippes pippižos pippižes pippižas
Essive pippil pippiži pippižil pippižel
Instrumental pippi pippižub pippiži pippižob


Some nouns ending in -o belong to this declension. It is one of the simplest declensions, but still has some trouble spots in the lower cases. Below is the declension of pammo "fetus, embryo":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative pammo
(Oblique) pammo
Accusative pammop
Locative pammom
Possessive pammos
Essive pambi
Instrumental pambub


Most words ending in labialized consonants change that consonant to its plain form and add -o- to form the free oblique and -i- to form the possessed oblique. Thus, there is only a single declension for labialized consonants rather than one for each of the many possible final consonants. This is because these words were originally vowel stems.

A small number of words are exceptions to this pattern, but are considered to be irregular nouns rather than forming a declension of their own.


Word-final y, which denotes labialization of a preceding consonant, is often not included in Romanization. Thus the word popip, meaning "sponge", is phonetically /popipʷ/. Thus, even though Poswa considers this word to end in a consonant, its declensions are much more similar to the vowel stems' declensions than those of the other consonant stems.

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative popip popippa popipo
(Oblique) popipo popippa popif
Accusative popipop popippap popifop
Locative popipom popippam popifom
Possessive popipos popippas popifos
Essive popipi popippel popifi
Instrumental popipub popippob popifub

Thus one can say

Šubofi¹ popipom², babob³ blofep.⁴
I stood¹ on a sponge² so³ I could see.⁴


Pwupplibi¹ wutwap² popippub.³
I scrubbed¹ my feet² with my sponge.³

(Popippub is the first-person version of popippob.) Or

Popipo¹ bembviap² lurbibba.³
The sponge inside me¹ fills up³ my stomach.²


Poswa nouns cannot end in a simple /k/ sound. Words that are Romanized with final -k actually end in a labialized /kʷ/, which means they are a subset of the -y declension. There are very few such nouns in the language. Almost all of them conjugate in a predictable pattern, and are not considered to be irregulars. Below is the declension for labak "daytime sky":

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative labak lapio lapie lapia
(Oblique) lapwo
Accusative lapwop lapiop lapiep lapiap
Locative lapwom lapiom lapiem lapiam
Possessive lapwos lapios lapies lapias
Essive lapwi lapie lapiul[16] lapiel
Instrumental lapwub lapiub lapie lapiob

That is to say, the -k becomes a -w- and deletes the previous vowel, and also devoices any consonant occuring before the deleted vowel. This pattern holds for all nouns ending in -k because such nouns could only have come to end in -k if they had had a vowel immediately preceding the -k. Consonant clusters such as -nk- do not exist in Poswa apart from loanwords.

In a few nouns, the change of the final /kʷ/ to /w/ and the resulting vowel syncope has become generalized to the nominative. This produces a noun that ends in -wu. Since these nouns fit into the regular paradigm for nouns ending in -u, they are not considered to be irregulars either. Had the change happened to the word for sky, it would have produced *lapwu.


The declension of pemben "doll" is below:

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative pemben pembebio pembebie pembebia
(Oblique) pembeno
Accusative pembenop pembebiop pembebiep pembebiap
Locative pembenom pembebiom pembebiem pembebiam
Possessive pembenos pembebios pembebies pembebias
Essive pembeni pembebie pembebiul pembebiel
Instrumental pembenub pembebiub pembebie pembebiob


The declension of papapat "snake" is below:

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative papapat papapapo papapape papapapa
(Oblique) papapato
Accusative papapatop papapapop papapapep papapapap
Locative papapatom papapapom papapapem papapapam
Possessive papapatos papapapos papapapes papapapas
Essive papapati papapapi papapapul papapapel
Instrumental papapatub papapapub papapapi papapapob

Thus one can say:

Papapapapa pappipop pypappebaba.
The teenagers are slapping their snakes.

Some words, mostly monosyllabic ones, have an extra -f- before the vowel of the suffix. This -f- was originally present in all such words, but was deleted due to a regular sound change -pf- > -p- that occurred only in unstressed syllables. By analogy, it has carried over to some commonly used monosyllables as well, such as poty, which can mean either "candy" or "soldier".


There is a separate -y declension that holds a much smaller number of words. Below is the declension of pyp "insect, beetle, bug":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative pyp pfwa pfwo
(Oblique) pfwu pfwa pfwu
Accusative pfwop pfwap pfwop
Locative pfwom pfwam pfwom
Possessive pfwos pfwas pfwos
Essive pfwu pfwel pfwu
Instrumental pfwub pfwob pfwub

Because of the coalescence of forms, additional words are needed to clarify the meaning of the words except in the nominative case. For example, one could say:

Pfwo¹ buššom² bipempupaba.³ ¹²³
The beetle (on me)¹ is crawling up³ my thigh.²


The words in the -m class undergo vowel mutation.


Below is the declension of nobellam "ice cream":

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative nobellam nobellio nobellie nobellia
(Oblique) nobellia
Accusative nobelliap nobelliop nobelliep nobelliap
Locative nobelliam nobelliom nobelliem nobelliam
Possessive nobellias nobellios nobellies nobellias
Essive nobelliel nobellie nobelliul nobelliel
Instrumental nobelliob nobelliub nobellie nobelliob


Below is the declension of puppem, meaning "flood, overflow".

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative puppem puppeva puppiae
(Oblique) puppie puppeva puppie
Accusative puppiep puppevap puppiep
Locative puppiem puppevam puppiem
Possessive puppies puppevas puppies
Essive puppiel puppevel puppiel
Instrumental puppie puppevob puppie

Thus, one could say

Tus papwopwabwe mapu, banambi bembaeba puppies napwam baswi?
Did your small dogs enjoy swimming in the flood's deep puddles?


The very common plural suffix -bum has its own declension, differing from both the -m class and the -um class. Below is the declension of wupsibum, meaning "citizens". Note the divergent possessive forms.

For possession, 3rd person is used:

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative wupsibum wupsibwa wupsibiae
(Oblique) wupsibie wupsibwa wupsibie
Accusative wupsibiep wupsibwap wupsibiep
Locative wupsibiem wupsibwam wupsibiem
Possessive wupsibies wupsibwas wupsibies
Essive wupsibiel wupsibwel wupsibiel
Instrumental wupsibie wupsibwob wupsibie

Note, however, that some words ending in -bum are not plurals, and do not fall into this declension category. They are instead generally covered below under the -um category, since even bum ends in -um.


Many words ending in -um that are not plurals belong to this class. Below is the declension of pubum "rose". Note that, even though this word ends in -bum, it is not a plural and does not decline the way the -bum words do.

For possession, 3rd person is used:

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative pubum pubia pubio
(Oblique) pubio pubia pubio
Accusative pubiop pubiap pubiop
Locative pubiom pubiam pubiom
Possessive pubios pubias pubios
Essive pubie pubiel pubie
Instrumental pubiub pubiob pubiub

The plural of pubum is pubumbum, although flowers are often sold in prearranged bouquets and a bouquet of roses would in Poswa be called pubumiobbum, where -iobbum is a general purpose suffix denoting a bundle of sticks or a similar long and thin object.

Thus one would say:

Pimpup plažallap pwosebel pubiub.
The boy gave the supermodel a rose.

Note that there is no dative case in Poswa and therefore mapop "girl" is in the accusative, whereas pubiub "rose" is in the instrumental case. It could be perceived approximately as "the boy gifted the girl with a rose".


The words in the -s class undergo both vowel and consonant mutation.


Below is the declension of puppos "dam, obstacle":

Case Free Possessed(3p) Attached
Nominative puppos puppypa puppypo
(Oblique) puppypo puppypa puppyf
Accusative puppypop puppypap puppfwop
Locative puppypom puppypam puppfwom
Possessive puppypos puppypas puppfwos
Essive puppypi puppypel puppfwi
Instrumental puppypub puppypob puppfwub

Sticky nouns

Essentially, what makes the -s declension category different from all the others is that rather than the -s simply changing to its counterpart š in the oblique and other inflected forms of the word, it changes to match the initial consonant of the word. Thus, the accusative of blebblos "wall" is not *blebblošop but blebblobop. Note that an additional change also takes place both in this word and in puppos above due to other sound changes that took place after the declension patterns became finalized. Nouns with this type of reduplication are sometimes called "sticky nouns" because what appears at the beginning of the word reappears near the end.

The hidden stem consonants

Some learners may find it convenient to think of -s-stem words as having a hidden stem consonant that appears in the oblique and other inflected forms but is assimilated to an -s in the nominative. That is, they would think of the oblique stem blebblobo- or a hypothetical unused nominative *blebblob and then remember to replace the final consonant with an s when using the nominative form by itself. This is not etymologically sound, but since the final consonant in such words always shows up as an -s and never any other consonant, it does help many learners remember the multiplicity of possible forms.

Irregular nouns

See Poswa irregular nouns for a partial listing.

Poswa has many irregular nouns. Most of these are single-syllable nouns whose entire stem changes because the various suffixes placed after it "infect" the stem by causing various sound changes which were never levelled out. For example, the essive case of vwi "wood" is džol, and it is derived from its parent noun by a series of entirely regular sound changes. Many suffixes are descended from infixes, after all, and in the early stages of the language, when it was still known as Babakiam, an infix that changed even the initial consonant of a noun would not have been seen as irregular. Some learners of Poswa find it easier to think of the most highly irregular nouns as if they were suppletive.

Body parts and suppletive plurals

Many words for body parts have suppletive plurals. Poswa nouns in general are not marked for number; the plural suffixes -by and -bum are not required to specifically mark out a noun as plural; they are often used to specify the "type" of plural being spoken about. On the other hand, words for some body parts are specifically used with a meaning specifying number. For example, pep means "hand" (singular), pwop means "hands" (dual), and pes means "hands" (plural). The difference between the dual and the plural in this context is that pwop is used with the meaning "both (of your) hands" whereas pes is used for any number of hands greater than one, without specifying whether they belong to the same person or not. Thus two people shaking hands are touching their pes, but one person pulling on a paper towel dispenser with both of his hands is using his pwop.

Many of these suppletive word families are short words, and are irregular in terms of their noun declensions as well. For example, the accusative form of lwep "thumb" is not the expected *lwetšep but lattšep. In Bābākiam, this pattern was perfectly regular, but it was never regularized as the sound changes destroyed the original pattern. (Note that the word for thumb is more commonly tšolwep, but the accusative of this is still tšolattšep, maintaining the same irregular pattern.)

The suppletive duals and plurals above are 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.

For example, the suppletive dual form of pwep "eye" is blop. The suppletive form of pumes "hip" is pfop. Both of these words were originally general plurals but came to be seen as duals because they happened to end, for unrelated reasons, in -op, which the dual forms of regular nouns also do. In the case of blop, that word came into use primarily because the old dual form of pwep had merged with the dual form of the word for hand as pwop.

Table of suppletive body part plurals

English Singular Dual Plural (-bum) Plural (-by)
hand pep pwop pes pebby
eye pwep blop pwebbum pwebby
thumb lwep lwop latšes tšoby
lung mombva žubbop mombvabum mombvaby
hip pumes pfop pumbum pumby
leg pummap labop pummabum pummaby
nipple minep mum mies mumby
buttock pulep pwap pres pwabby
cheek pape pappop papebum papeby
wing bonnep bombop bius bomby

The dual number is often used in situations where English would expect the singular. All of the duals that do not end in -op, and some that do, 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 -bum is considered bad grammar, in the words for body parts, it can be done to show emphasis. For example, pes and pebum both mean "hands (plural)" (the -s- drops out due to a sound rule).

Note that names of articles of clothing are often formed with dual or plural suffixes, but that there are few irregulars here because during the time when most of the irregular forms were set into the language, the speakers (then called Pabaps) lived in a warm climate and wore very little.


Some nouns are prone to syncope in their oblique form and forms derived from the oblique. Popip above is regular, as is plapip "holy song, hymn", but some more common nouns such as labal "bed" lose the second vowel in their oblique forms. The declension of labal "bed" is below:

Case Free Possessed Attached
1p 2p 3p
Nominative labal lablio lablie lablia lablo
(Oblique) lablo lablio lablie lablia labaž
Accusative lablop labliop labliep labliap labžop
Locative lablom labliom labliem labliam labžom
Possessive lablos lablios lablies lablias labžos
Essive labli lablie labliul labliel labži
Instrumental lablub labliub lablie labliob labžub

Other irregular nouns

But most irregular nouns are not words for body parts. For example, the locative of the word blem "bottle" is not the expected *blidžem or *bledžem but miam. Similarly, the accusative of blub "milk" is not *blup or *blop or even something like *miop (in the manner of blem above), but blwop. One-syllable words often change their entire form to an alternate stem for case endings. These words are often also irregular with other suffixes such as the "illative", which is not normally considered a case. Thus to say "Pour the milk into the bottle!" one would say Blwop mivwam gwubi! However, note that there is also a specific verb meaning "to pour into a bottle; to bottle" which would yield the more regular-looking sentence Blwop blembwubi! In this sentence, the verb nu "to pour" mutates into bw but protects the "bottle" word from its own mutation. However, like all compound verbs, this one implies an indefinite meaning, and thus sounds roughly like the equivalent English sentence "Bottle the milk!" which one would not normally say to someone sitting with a bottle in front of them.

Most of the irregular nouns can be more easily understood if a second, "oblique", stem is perceived that appears on every case except the nominative, and which declines according to otherwise normal rules. This system works well because, while there are a lot of irregular nouns in Poswa, very few of them are irregular in more than one way. For example, blem behaves chaotically from the point of view of its main stem of blem, but is perfectly normal if one thinks of an alternative stem *mia. Likewise, if blub "milk" is replaced with an otherwise nonexistent *blwu, it too declines regularly according to the patterns expected of such a noun (although since there are two -u classes, one would still not know which of the two patterns to place blub into without already knowing the other forms).

Mistaken identity

Unlike many IE languages, there is no suffix for the nominative case. Thus it cannot be known for certain what case a noun seen in isolation is in. For example, twup means "louse", but it is also the accusative case of twub "urine", which is etymologically unrelated. The accusative of twup is also twup, one of only a few such words in Poswa. Also unrelated is twu "water", whose accusative is twop but which has an instrumental case in twub. Meanwhile there is also the plural suffix -by, usually Romanized as just a -b after a vowel. Thus twub can mean "urine", "using water", or "waters". However the third use is uncommon because water is seen as a mass noun, and would only make sense in a situation comparing, for example, the water quality of several different lakes.

Pronouns and demonstratives

Poswa lacks pronouns entirely. Functions that in English and other languages are accomplished with pronouns are in Poswa mostly taken care of by person markings on the verbs, and to a lesser extent, on the nouns. For example, one can say

I'm combing your hair.

Where the stem of the verb, pampa "to comb (someone's hair)", is combined with the verbal suffix -babo, which indicates a present tense, a 1st person agent, and a 2nd person patient. These affixes are fusional; for example, the past tense form of the same verb is

I combed your hair.
NOTE, when tiem allows, try to reword this section. rightn ow it reads as if the lack of pronouns is a defect in the language that needs to be compensated for with clumsy workarounds. in fact, thogh, it works prefectly.

Verbal constructions replacing pronouns

Languages with pronouns incorporate them in a variety of uses, for which Poswa must use ordinary nouns and verbs. For example, in a classroom where a teacher asks for a volunteer for a class project, an English speaker can say "Me!" and a Pabappa speaker can say Pom! but the Poswob student must use an expression such as

I agree!

And the choice of which expression to use will be different for every situation. This does not bother Poswobs because most Poswobs are not fluent in languages which have pronouns.

Use of membership words to replace pronouns

Another type of word that often corresponds to pronouns in other languages is a noun with a membership affix on, such that it behaves grammatically as an intransitive verb, which often corresponds to adjectives and sometimes even nouns in languages such as English. A host might say:

Mape peffepis pova, pa?
Do you girls want pizza?

Unlike pronouns, membership words give syntactical emphasis on the content part of the word rather than its affix. In the example of mape above, "girls" is more salient to the listener than "you", and a simple rotation of the final vowel could change its meaning into "we girls" or "those girls".

Membership words are mostly used in the 2nd person. Note that number is generally not marked because it is discernible from context.


See Poswa verbs#Demonstratives.

Derivation of nouns

The derivation of words in Poswa focuses mostly on nouns, since nouns are the basic building blocks of the language, and all verbs must be derived from a noun. Words for new concepts are formed primarily by compounding preexisting nouns together, or by attaching derivational morphemes to existing nouns.


Words for occupations

Words for occupations are formed with the agentive suffix ta. Many are formed from words that have independent existence as nouns:

polfa "ripe vegetables" ---> polfata "farmer"
pumpella "bank, treasury" ---> pumpellata "banker, teller, treasurer" (a more specific meaning can be achieved by adding additional words)
teftum "arrow" ---> teftumpta "archer"

Others are formed from verbal roots (which nonetheless are structurally identical to nouns, and may differ greatly in form from the verbs that are derived from them):

blwap "to stick out one's tongue" ---> blwapta "athlete"
pubbae "to see clearly, to judge" ---> pubbaeta "judge"
plos "to suck one's thumb" ---> plosta "wimp, sissy, stereotypical bedwetter"
pwam "to beg, to cup one's hands" ---> pwampta "cashier"
wivav "to teach, educate" ---> wivafta "teacher"
kafam "to forecast, predict" ---> kafampta "prophet"
pim "to steal" ---> pimpta "habitual thief"

Note that, as pwampta and kafampta show, the usual sound rule which would change an unstressed -mpt- cluster into -mp- is ignored here. Also, the parent language's method of changing the consonant in -ta to show the gender of the referent no longer applies; all humans are now given the -t- marker that previously applied to young children.

Some agentive constructions are actually multiple word compounds, often consisting of an object noun in the accusative case followed by a verb and then finally the agentive suffix. If the object noun is inanimate, the accusative case marker is not necessary.

Many sound rules often apply. In all such cases, the resulting compound, no matter its length, is spelled and pronounced as a single word, with stress on the first syllable only:

pute putebu "to notice details in passing" ---> puteputebuta "proofreader"
manwop sae "to wash dishes" ---> manwopaeta "dishwasher" (human)
bom kaša "to govern a city" ---> bomptšata "mayor"

Words for toddlers

Remarkably, Poswa has a variant form of the -ta suffix specifically to denote toddlers and young children: -tae. Since people cannot remain children for very long, words with this suffix are not intended to denote permanent occupations. Occasionally, one might refer to someone with a term denoting something they used to do in the past, much the way one might refer to an adult as a "child prodigy" or "child actor" in English.

However, for the most part, -tae is used to denote present occupations. It is not considered improper to use -ta for children, but using -tae often implies that the child is specifically doing something in a childlike way, or under adult supervision. For example,

Pwopwa, pespol papota.
The child is a spaceship[17] captain.

Implying that the child is a superhero or simply very advanced for his age. But

Pwopwa, pespol papotae.
The child is a spaceship captain.

Implies that the child is either just learning how to fly under parental supervision, or may even be simply pretending to fly, as children often do, and not have a spaceship at all.

While originally this suffix, like the standalone word tae itself, referred only to toddlers, tae has come to refer to bigger and bigger children as the language has evolved. The -tae suffix may even be used for adults, generally with sarcasm, but it still retains its distinct meanings of implying apprenticeship, supervision, or playing "make-believe", and would not normally be used to simply specify a young member of a team as in English expressions such as "new kid".

Unmarked agentives

Some words by tradition do not take the agentive suffixes but still function to denote human occupations. These most often are words of three syllables or more, or compounds whose two elements are not commonly used apart. Many of these words are related to the military. Some examples are:

pempambom "sailor, soldier in the navy", from applying the locative suffix -m to pempamby, an obsolete word for a navy (the modern word is pempambum, whose locative would be pempambiem).
pavy "student, recently inducted soldier", from the use of pavy as a suffix in its own right after other words, substituting for ta. For example, from vulpe "habitat" one forms vulpepav which can either mean "environmental science student; ecology student" or a soldier involved in cleaning up chemical spills and other environmental problems. In traditional Poswob culture, the two roles often overlap. (The omission of the -y is due to the traditional Romanization standard.)
poty "soldier", again from the use of poty as a suffix. Unlike pavy, poty refers to full-time soldiers, and can also be generalized to refer to soldiers in general. For example, a vulpepot would be not a student nor a recently inducted infantryman but a soldier whose main purpose is to protect the environment from chemical spills and fight off invasive weeds and parasites.

Pluralization of agentives

It is standard practice to pluralize words ending in -ta and -tae by removing that suffix before adding the plural suffix -bum or -by.[18] The understanding is that, for example, bum by itself already means "people (working together)" and does not need to be redundantly attached to an agentive suffix denoting people. This -bum obeys the same sound rules here that it does in other positions, so that, for example, wivafta "teacher" becomes wivavwum and blwapta "athlete" becomes blwabbum.

However, this generalization does not apply to the more specific suffixes above which function also as standalone words. For example, the plural of vulpepot would not be *vulpebum, which would in fact simply mean "habitats", but rather vulpepotwum, just as the plural of poty "soldier" is potwum.

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 Poswa. Over the thousands of years, many words have been re-analysed and given new meanings. For example, the word


is assumed by most Poswobs to be related to puvwapwa "sunburn", the idea being that the sun undresses people by peeling off their "clothes" if they don't use a strong enough sunblock. And while the word for sunburn is indeed related to a word describing a peeling motion, the word puvwa for clothes is actually derived, rather plainly, from a phrase in the parent language, puni buba, meaning to cover one's body.

Usage of inflected nouns as new nominatives

Like its neighbors, Poswa often repurposes inflected nouns as new stems in the nominative case.

Accusatives as nominatives

This process is rare, but potentially productive. An accusative used as a nominative creates a word with the meaning of "one who [verb]s" something. It is rare because most words with this meaning are formed from an ordinary nominative compounded with the agentive suffix -ta and because words formed in this way would often be mistaken for ordinary accusatives, which would be confusing for the listener as many sentences would seem to have two nouns in the accusative case.

Nevertheless, this formation can be used elliptically to refer to the object of an imagined sentence in which the subject and verb have both been left out. A man asked to identify his son from a crowd might say

(The one petting) the cat.

However, words of this type cannot be used outside this context and are therefore not dictionary words. However, a few tribal names are formed with accusatives. The Poswobs descend from migrants who left the city of Paba about 4000 years ago. Those who stayed behind are today called the Pabap people. However, this formation is found in only a few commonly used names, most of which are very old. The normal way to form tribal names is to stick -ta on the end of the place from which they originate.

Locatives as nominatives

Many nouns are formed with the locative case. In almost all examples, the intended meaning is not a true locative but rather a metaphorical sense of being affected by something, which can be called the circumstantial case. Many of the stems used in this formation are more commonly seen as verbs rather than as nouns, although strictly speaking, Poswa does not distinguish between nouns and verbs at the root level. For example, the word


Is formed from the locative of potia, a verb meaning "to lick candy". Note that the word for lollipop is often expressed with the longer word potiambum, meaning "potiam held in the hand". This is another example of the same formation, since, although it cannot be used in bare form, the second part of the compound, bum, derives from the locative of babi "hand", showing that the locative can also be used on nouns. Another very similar compound is

Candy cane.

Formed from potia "to lick candy" and babambum "cane". (The first ba- drops out because of a sound rule.)

Some nouns are derived from verbs with oddly specific meanings that contain indefinite subjects or objects or both. For example,


Is the locative form of the verb stem taempos, meaning "children playing with each other". Many such words are so highly specific that they are rarely seen in bare form. These words are called "tripartite compounds".

Possessives as nominatives

The possessive affix -s also serves as an indicator of membership in a class. In bare form, it usually appears at the beginning of a sentence to show that a noun that would otherwise end in a first or second person possession marker will behave instead as a third person noun, because it is acting independently.

Totos tafufes labiepa.
My son is up late tonight.

Essives as nominatives

The name of the alphabet, Pompatobbie, is formed from the essive case of the -bum plural of pompatop "syllabic letter". Although this word simply means "syllabary", the syllabaries of Poswa and its neighbors freely borrow each other's letters, and thus the speakers of each of these languages consider themselves to be using the same syllabary, and therefore that there is only one syllabary in use.

Instrumentals as nominatives

Diminutives and abbreviations

Diminutives and words expressing small size

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

Pombonna bempa popstabomba.
A small bird is on my shoulder.
Pypub pisimiba parobiop swombebel.
The little boy bought me a beer.

A few words are used metaphorically when the intended meaning is not restricted to physically small size.

Bamba biviba swa.
The cute baby is sleeping.

Augmentatives and words expressing large size

Likewise, there are no true augmentatives in Poswa. The commonest word for large size is bupwa "large object", which in its third person intransitive verbal form (which functions like an English adjective) appears as bupia.

Pwabo, pawabe bupia!
Wow, your banana is big!

Another word for large size is fampem, which primarily describes people and originates from a word describing the act of bending down (as an adult to a child):

Fampem sašaepop pumpumbaba.
Somebody big is blocking the door.

Another word is sap, which conveys the meaning of "round, large, soft".

Paefam sapwa.
The woman is pregnant.

An older term is samma, which originally referred to a generic size measurement but today describes anything that has a lot of appendanges, a lot of features (as of a machine), or a lot of accessories.[19]

Metonymy and abstract concepts

Metonymy and metaphors

Poswa 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

I'm invading you.

Without leading a military expedition inside the other man. Instead, the men are standing metonymically for the armies they represent. This applies even to animacy-violating statements such as

Šiži numbwaža!
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.

Words for abstract concepts

Like other Gold languages, Poswa lacks atomic root words for abstract concepts such as love and beauty. Instead, these concepts are expressed by attaching derivational suffixes to roots denoting a verb or a concrete noun to which the abstract concept belongs. For example, the verb root for "to love" is žam, but the noun meaning "love" is žadžanna. Most such words end in -nna, which was originally -m-na in Babakiam.

A less common method of forming words for abstract concepts is to attach the reflexive suffix -p to the bare stem of the verb. This is mostly found in very old words which are not commonly used as reflexive verbs, and therefore do not become ambiguous when taking this suffix. The use of the -p suffix is not productive in modern Poswa.

Words for emotions

Words for emotions are usually formed from the oblique stem of their verbal form, coupled with the suffix -ava. For example, žam "to love" yields žadžanna "love", and wiby "to hate" yields wibava "hatred". The possessive forms of these words are, irregularly, formed by changing the -v- to -b- and then adding the vowel for the person marker. Thus wianos wibabo means "my hatred of oranges". However, unlike English, Poswa generally translates expressions like this using a verb rather than a noun, producing clauses with meanings that could be translated narrowly as "my hating of oranges", and so on.

Methods of word formation

Coining new words tends to focus on nouns, since the stems of verbs are treated as nouns. Poswa borrows very few loanwords from its neighbors, and most foreign concepts thus can be described with native words.

Descriptive compounding

Noun-noun compounds

Like its neighbors, Poswa allows two indefinite nouns to pair with each other and form a new noun in a single word. Both nouns are usually in the nominative case, since the nominative can express genitive meaning.

Unlike many of its neighbors, however, Poswa does not have nominal classifier suffixes that cannot be used alone and drop out when compounds are formed. Rather, all nominal morphemes are simply considered nouns, and all of them are unbound, meaning they can be used alone or in a compound. In this respect, Poswa somewhat resembles English, and is easy to understand.

Most compounds consist of two morphemes pronounced as a single word.

Proper nouns are considered to always be definite nouns, and thus cannot be made into compounds. Thus, for example, the boy's name Babžawiam cannot appear in a compound such as *Babžawiampafapwup "Babžawiam's hairstyle", even if his hairstyle was very well-known.

The agentive suffix -ta

Ethnonyms for unfamiliar places are formed using the agentive suffix -ta, the same affix used for professions. Some familiar placenames that have been part of the language for hundreds or thousands of years have unique forms; for example, the people of the empire of Raevi are called Raeva; those living in Paba are called the Pabap people.

Noun-adjective compounds

Many words can be formed by adding descriptive modifiers to a head noun. These words often correspond to adjectives in English. For example, pompa means thunder, but since this is homophonous with other words, often one hears instead of pompamimpo "loud thunder". This means that many words for basic concepts in Poswa are four syllables long. Other examples of this type of word formation include:

First element meaning Second element meaning New word meaning
pompa thunder mimpto loud, noisy pompamimpo thunder
levo strawberry bampfos heart-shaped levobampos strawberry
polap cougar, wildcat suta domesticated animal polaputa (pet) cat
blam clothed palwes in summer blamplwes genitals; private parts
bivi skin bos soft bivibos (human) skin
pam wine bop simple, not complex pambop (grape) wine

Note that in the examples above, Poswobs still understand the meanings of each morpheme since the second morpheme is still used as an independent word (despite sound changes). It is similar to the situation with English cranberry: English speakers understand that the "berry" part of the word adds little to the meaning, and one can in English speak of "cran-apple juice" and other such creations.

Likewise, in Poswa, only the first morpheme of the compounds above appears in many compounds derived from them. Thus at a bar one can say

Šos nobellam levobampi?
Can I have strawberry ice cream?

Note that levobampi is the essive case of levobampos. This sentence works well, but this person would be just as easily understood if they chose instead to say

Šos levonobellam?
Can I have strawberry ice cream?

Making a single word using only the meaningful part of the word for strawberry. Note that here, the nominative case is used because this is a simple noun-on-noun compound.


Likewise, the word for lightning is not *pompamimpopuppum which would be etymologically "loud thunder light", but pompapuppum, "thunder light". (Puppum refers specifically to a narrow beam of light, and thus is different from many other words for light.)

Inflection of compounds

Note that compounds behave identically, for the most part, with the head noun rather than its modifier. However, words ending with -s typically decline by replacing that -s with the first consonant of the second element in the compound, meaning that its inflected forms are the same as they are when that element is an independent word:

Blamplwepepi niappi!
Protect your private parts!

Noun-verb compounds

There is no firm division between adjectives and verbs in Poswa; the term "adjective" merely serves to give the English speaker an easier way to learn the difference between different types of verbs. Essentially, Poswa's adjectives are a subset of verbs that are both intransitive and unmarked for tense and person. This makes them easy to form compounds with. However, there are also nouns that are formed from true verbs.

First element meaning Second element meaning New word meaning
ifi pirate, sailor baba to care for babies ifibaba pirate (captain)
tae toddler(s) mušos to play with one another taempos children playing with each other

Some of these compounds are opaque to speakers of modern-day Poswa, and are learned as if they were indivisible units. Ifibaba came to mean "pirate" because pirates who were taking over somebody else's ship would need to seek out all of the babies and young children on board the ship they were invading because it was the pirate captain's job to provide them with milk and soft foods in order that none of them would go hungry.

Taempos, meaning "children playing with each other", is used in the formation of other nouns such as taempom "playground".

Subject-object-verb compounds

Some Poswa nouns are actually complete sentences with just the verb endings removed. This could be classified as a type of polysynthesis. Unlike the subject-verb compounds above, SOV compounds generally show transitive action, and are commonly used as verbs. However, because all verbs have a stem which behaves grammatically as a noun, they are nonetheless grouped with the other compounds as nouns. These can thus be called tripartite nouns.

Polysynthetic compounds are generally used metaphorically, with a different subject than might be expected from a literal reading of the morphemes in the compound.

Despite the description of the words as SOV compounds, all three elements are grammatically considered nouns and thus can take ordinary noun inflections. Thus, for example, the final element in the word for flea means "jumper", not merely "jump".

Many of these words are very old, and make use of short, sometimes even subsyllabic, morphemes that no longer have any independent use in Poswa as standalone words. For example, the early Poswa verb bi "to kill" has disappeared from the language as a standalone verb because it coalesced around 3000 years ago with a verb meaning "to lick". Poswob military generals soon had a difficult time winning battles, and many released their soldiers to devote time to more pleasurable pursuits. However, bi used with the meaning "to kill" is still found as the third element in some SOV compounds.

Structure of SOV compounds

Inanimate agents

The structure of SOV compounds is fixed to the SOV word order; they are not like the language as a whole where morphemes can trade places in order to emphasize one over another. Moreover, each of the three elements of the compound is a separate part of speech. However, when an inanimate entity is placed in the subject slot, its meaning is often syntactically passive; and when not, it implies an unmentioned animate agent. For example, wiwi "spear" appears in the subject slot of the verb wiršebbi "to fish (with spears)", but this construction implies an unmentioned human agent who is holding the spear he uses to fish.

Nevertheless, even these constructions follow the same basic pattern as the others, since a human catching fish with a spear can be said to "catch fish like a spear".

Active and passive nouns

SOV word formation is fairly complicated because each noun has separate forms for use as an active element and as a passive element. Generally these involve sound changes occuring in unstressed syllables (where the passive element usually is) but not in stressed syllables (where the active element always is, at least partly). Thus, the passive noun is generally shorter than the active noun, and is sometimes compressed into a subsyllabic element.

For example, the general purpose word for soap is mabem, and that is what it would be as an active element in a polysynthetic compound. However, as a passive element, it is vem because of a sound change that caused all mab[V] --> v[V] in unstressed syllables. Vowel shifts also occur; a common morpheme for "hand" is py when active but pi when passive. However, some words defy these rules because they were formed from rarely used words after those sound shifts had already taken place, and the speakers did not automatically apply the sound rules that "should have" taken place.

For example, one series of compounds is formed from pib "man" + yma "woman" plus a verb. This implies that the man is an active partner and the woman a passive partner in whichever activity is being referred to. The two morphemes cannot simply be switched to produce a word beginning with a stem such as *ymapib because pib means "man" only in the active position and yma means "woman" only in the passive position. Instead, the stem used to denote a woman acting upon a man is umaf-, formed from uma "woman" (active) and f(y) "man" (passive).

Active and passive sound shifts

Passive nouns undergo sound changes that do not affect active nouns. This is because they can only occur in unstressed position.

the /u --> y --> i --> e/ chain shift

A chain shift of /u/ --> /y/ --> /i/ --> /e/ affects passive nouns. The changes happened in the opposite order of the arrows, making it a pull chain rather than a push chain. Thus, for example, the noun pila "cohort, partner" appears as -pela- in some words where it is used as a passive noun. Examples of the other two changes are rarer because the vowel /y/ was rare to begin with and because when /u/ changed into /y/ that /y/ usually soon disappeared.

contraction of [V]b[V] sequences

[V]b[V] contracts by causing consonant mutation (for words where the first vowel is one of /a e i/) or labialization (for words where the first vowel is one of /o u y/) in passive nouns. This is, as above, because they are always unstressed.

Extraordinary shifts

Occasionally, an active noun will undergo some of the sound changes above assigned to passive nouns. This is because even SOV compounds can themselves be used as the second or higher-order element of a larger compound, and then later these contracted forms reinterpreted as standalone nouns. This has occurred sporadically with ordinary words, as well.

Accusative marking of passive elements

Note that the accusative ending -p on the object is often not present; this is because, if the passive partner is inanimate, the OV portion of the word can be parsed as an SV compound in which the inanimate subject is grammatically active but syntactically passive. However, if the passive partner in the compound is animate, it will take the -p.

Examples of tripartite SOV compounds

Below is a table of some tripartite compounds found in Poswa. Parentheses indicate parts of morphemes that are alternately present or absent depending on the phonetic shape of the preceding element (even if a separate word).

meaning Passive
meaning Verbal
meaning New word meaning
pepup knife po fruit papsa cut pepuppopapa to prepare a meal
pappi child, teenager bop a kind of baby toy mušop to play paffompop a very childish person
wiwi spear; trident šul fish bi to kill wiršebbi to go fishing
bwap penis pep vagina bana to create pleasure bwappepwana to have (penile-vaginal) sexual intercourse
py hand bwap penis bana to create pleasure bwabbana a man masturbating
py hand pep vagina bana to create pleasure pypepwana a woman masturbating
šul fish še ice te to break open šišti to behave as a fish breaking through ice; launch a surprise attack
lara legs bana to create pleasure labana to have sexual intercourse
py hand lara legs bana to create pleasure pwabana to masturbate
py hand vem soap i bubbles; lather bvwemi to bathe; to lather up with soap
uma woman uma woman bana to create pleasure umbvana lesbian[20]
uma woman yma woman bana to create pleasure uvvana lesbian
mom mother be baby, young child byba to talk down to someone; to disagree mombebbwa to talk as a mother does to her children; to scold; to teach a child by correcting their mistakes
pib man fy man bana to create pleasure pipfwana gay man[21]
su sun šap snow in to make disappear sušpen to melt
tipa flea pusta leg masa to jump, leap tippostampa flea?????
tipa flea lara leg bužae to jump, leap tiplabwae flea
ta adult be baby pleb to seize; abduct tabeppeb to kidnap
po soldiers bop peaceful (people) vas to break, wreck pobbas war; to kill helpless people
bwap penis twup to hurt someone; to create pain bwaptwup to rape
bwap penis ma womb su to penetrate bwammas to impregnate someone; become a father
ma womb be baby bi to kill mabbi to have a miscarriage; spontaneous abortion
ma womb be baby papsa miscarriage, abortion mappapa to have a miscarriage or abortion
pib man yma woman bana to create pleasure pimbvana heterosexual male
uma woman fy man bana to create pleasure umpfwana heterosexual female
fos bear narop deer mia hunt fongomia a bear that hunts deer
buse ring fop both hands džoba to trap, tie together busfobioba handcuffs
babi hand (as a whole) bivi body, skin be to hit, strike babbe to punch someone
py palm of the hand pape cheek pe to hit, strike pypappe to slap someone in the face
py palm of the hand p(t)ap buttocks (dual) pe to hit, strike pupappe to spank someone; to punish or humiliate
pam DNA (special use of "formula, mixture") top cell (special use of "animal scale")[22] fu to change state consciously, to break out pampopu virus
pam DNA (special use of "formula, mixture") žatu room, chamber fu to change state consciously, to break out pambatwu virus
pa mouth, lips m(um) breast, nipple p(a)ti to suck, sip up repeatedly pampi to suckle, drink milk (said of babies)
poty candy biba to lick potia to lick candy
tae children mušos to play with one another taempos children playing with each other
pi worm aba palm of the hand su to penetrate; bite plabas hookworm, nematode
babi hand(s) i tail (used metaphorically for long hair) mu to pull on babem to pull someone's hair
my sword šep fish su to penetrate; bite pwep triactinomyxon
pam formula containing alcohol plabas hookworm, nematode pep to crush, smother, smear pampaspep (hand) sanitizer

Use of SOV compounds as verbs

Despite being described here as SOV compounds, these words are grammatically nouns so long as they are left uninflected. To use them as verbs, the typical verb inflections used in ordinary verbs must be applied.

Like all verbs, despite being syntactically transitive, the verbs are grammatically intransitive when used in a general sense with no explicit object. Thus one says

I'm fishing.


Džampapo wiršebbibabo.
I'm fishing for lampreys.
I'm pulling your hair.

Note that the many words ending in -bana syncopate this to -bv- when forming their verbs, but the words ending in -wava change it only to -wav-.

Use of SOV compounds as nouns

These words are also used to form nouns. For example, the stem sušpen "to melt", plus the word šy "season", forms sušpenyš "spring".

Nested SOV compounds

Nested compounds are rare because most SOV compounds that are short enough to be convenient to use in a larger compound were created at a time when they were much longer. Thus, they would not have been able to use the words available at that time that have become very short in modern Poswa.

Nevertheless, some short morphemes are in common use in modern Poswa after all. Many of these are recent coinages that other languages would replace with abbreviations; for example plabas "hookworm" appears as pas in the words for hookworm treatments, and the sound changes that lead from plabas to pas are regular, and are part of Poswa's grammar, so they are familiar to all fluent speakers.

Nested SOV compounds nearly always place the inner compound in the object slot, thus creating an S(SOV)V compound. The inner word does not change its S component to use O morphemes even though by being infixed it becomes unstressed; the word is treated as an indivisible whole.

Sometimes, SOV compounds can appear the second element of a noun-noun compound. This is not considered to be a nested compound because it doesn't involve putting one word inside another. These compounds obey the same sound rules expected from other compounds, and depending on the age of the compound, may involve sandhi and syncope.

Modern SOV compounds

Modern compounding

Polysynthetic compounds consist largely of morphemes that have gone extinct in all other contexts because they have so many homophones. For example, the word bvwemi "to lather up" above was formed from morphemes that have become py + vem + i today. None of these words is used as a standalone form with the meanings they have in this compound. However, Poswobs know the meanings of these morphemes and do not generally need to look up the meanings of compounds like this in a dictionary unless they have become so compressed by sound changes that even the already sound-changed morphemes they are made of are no longer recognizable.

If the word above were remade with modern standalone morphemes whose meanings match those of the shorter morphemes above, it would produce a word such as pep + mabem + pwar ---> pemmabempwar. Thus, the use of otherwise obsolete morphemes continues in the modern language.

Choice of morphemes

The choice of morphemes in some of the words above may seem out of place even in a characteristically bluntly worded language like Poswa. For example, bwaptwup "rape" is made up of bwap "penis" and twup "to hurt someone" rather than being a euphemism. But this is partly explained by the fact that the morphemes used in words such as these are not used independently as standalone words of their own; the shortest unambiguous word for penis in modern Poswa is noppupu. Bwap is not in use as a standalone noun with any meaning except as the accusative case of bwa, a word for "store, shop, place of commerce" that is itself not normally used except as the final element of a compound describing which type of store is being spoken of.

Likewise, if it were re-created with modern standalone morphemes, the word bwammas "to impregnate, become a father" would be something like


Verbless SOV compounds

Some SOV compounds are missing the verb. They are often called verb-absent compounds to point out that they are specifically missing a verb rather than simply being ordinary compounds of two nouns. These were mostly formed around 3000 years ago. Before this time, the sound changes necessary to make the word distinct from an ordinary compound of two nouns had not yet taken place; after this time, a change in the grammar made the use of verbs mandatory. Because the ability to create this type of word relied on a change in the grammar that happened after the split from Babakiam but before the modern stage, it is unique to Poswa; neither shared genetic heritage nor cultural osmosis allowed this feature to appear in neighboring languages.

Verb-absent compounds are able to express verblike compounds without a verb because the subject and object they use are such that only one verb is commonly used with such a pair, and can be implied without being stated. Thus, these compounds consist of two nouns. They are not confused for ordinary noun-noun compounds because the passive partner in the noun pair undergoes the same sound changes that it would in an SOV compound. Nevertheless, these compounds are rare and many speakers do not realize that they are even compounds.

E.g. "to man-woman "

OSV compounds

Poswa does not have true OSV compounds, but many SOV compounds have an inanimate noun as the first element, and an animate noun in the object slot. Since animates dominate inanimates no matter the word order, these compounds are treated as if they were ordinary SOV compounds.

However, they are more versatile in their OSV-like form than they would be in their ordinary SOV form. Thus for example one sees pupambam "rock for sitting on", not *papumbam, which is grammatical but unusual in that an inanimate noun is tied to the verb "sit" rather than the (inalienably) animate noun pa "buttocks, hips".

Often, OSV compounds are formed by adding a new element to the beginning of an existing SV or SOV compound. For example, taempom means "playground, play area for kids" and bempom means "den, nursery, play area for babies". But by adding the otherwise obsolete element rute to the beginning of each word, one can form new words: ruttaempom "children's toys", and rufempom "babies' toys". Rufempom is in fact the most common word for toys in general in modern Poswa, as rute fell out of use due to many of its inflected forms colliding with other words.

Note: how to express "sun hidden by moon"? Both are animate.

Note: tartempom , which has SOV word order, is more likely.

Morphemes fusing indefinite subjects and objects

A small number of morphemes in which indefinite subjects and indefinite objects have fused exist. These generally result from sound changes that occurred long ago, in some cases more than 6000 years ago, and thus were already thousands of years old when Poswa split off from Pabappa. They are relics of the even older species system found in the Gold language, which was preserved in its fully functional form only in the Andanese branch, which went extinct around 4500 years ago. However, before the species system died out from the Gold branch, it had begun to diverge somewhat from its original purpose and not all SO compounds are compounds of two species. Nevertheless, the commonest SO morpheme by far is


Meaning that the word that follows the fap prefix is an action with a human agent and a human patient. This is a compound of ta, the nominative case of the original language's word for human, with tap, the accusative of that same word.

Acronyms and abbreviations

Acronyms generally do not exist in Poswa, not even the syllabic type of acronym that is more common in language with syllabic alphabets. Abbreviations are rare as well, but have been part of the language for thousands of years.

Most abbreviations are proper nouns. For example, a popup store in a mall that repairs broken cellphone screens might call itself Pampobyva, from pampappep "cell phone" and bobyva "hospital".


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.

Onomatopeia and expressive words

See Poswa_phonology#Onomatopoeia_and_expressive_words.

Loanwords and foreign terminology

See Modern terminology in Poswa and Pabappa.

As above, Poswa takes in very few loanwords from its surrounding cultures. Most of the loanwords it does have are nouns, and it could be argued that all loans are nouns because every Poswa verb has a stem that functions as a noun, even if it is rarely used as such. The language is flexible enough with its native vocabulary that a Poswob speaker on modern Earth could say

Pampappo₁ tuneba.₂
My cellphone₁ is ringing.₂

Where the word for cellphone is literally "pocket" (pampa) + "my voice" (-ppo) and the word for "ring" is the same as the word for bell. The word for cellphone in isolation would be pampappep.

More abstract concepts can be similarly adapted. Poswobs worried about pupipup mebbampap (global warming) will write their baesanobbum (governments) hoping to get their pistientam (legislature) to do something about it.

Loanwords from Pabappa

Although as above, Poswa prefers to create its own words rather than borrow from other languages, most of the loanwords that do exist are taken from Pabappa. Pabappa has a simple phonology, but it uses its phonology more freely than Poswa uses its larger one, because Pabappa's grammar is also simple, and noun declensions are always straightforward. By contrast, with each new word, Poswa speakers have to worry about which of the many possible noun declension patterns the new word should fit into.

Phonetic adaptation of Pabappa loanwords

Some Pabappa words cannot be borrowed directly into Poswa because they end with consonants that do not have a noun declension pattern assigned to them. For example, the Pabappa word parobar "bread" cannot exist as such in Poswa because Poswa does not allow word-final -r (words like nadžar which are spelled with final -r in Romanization actually end in -rʷ, which is pronounced simply as [w] in syllable-final position). Poswa considers labialization to be distinctive enough that words are not generally borrowed with unexpected labialization. Thus the word for bread in Poswa is not *parobar (even with final -rʷ) but parobo, since Poswa speakers know that in Pabappa, final -ar behaves in many ways like final -o.

Representation of vowel sequences

Poswa does not allow true vowel sequences; the written sequences ae ia ie io iu are pronounced in the standard dialect as falling diphthongs. When these sequences occur in loanwords from Pabappa, they are borrowed as the corresponding Poswa diphthongs. Additionally, Pabappa ai, which is far more common than Pabappa ae, is also borrowed as ae in Poswa.

Other vowel sequences are broken up by inserting approximants. For example, Pabappa toa "letter, note, message" would be towa in Poswa if it were borrowed. After a high vowel, -wi- is inserted instead; Pabappa matea "foot" would be matewia in Poswa (pronounced /mateja/). However, neither of these words appear in Poswa aside from elements of proper names borrowed from Pabappa.


Words ending with -b in Pabappa always result from a word-final -e dropping out. Although the preceding consonant at that time was -v- rather than -b-, Poswa borrows these words with word-final -be, showing that the added -e is only there in order to fit the word into a recognizable Poswa noun declension pattern rather than to restore the older form that the word had had in Pabappa. Thus one hears


Rather than *wappab or *wappave or any other form.

The consonant /d/ does not exist in standard Poswa, and /d/ in Pabappa loans is replaced by /blʷ/, which in some Poswa dialects in Pabappa's territory is pronounced as a voiced linguolabial stop. Occasionally, /v/ is chosen instead, generally if the word comes to Poswa through dialects spoken further north where Poswa's own /v/ sound has changed to a voiced interdental fricative /ð/. That is to say, these Poswobs hear Pabappa's /d/ as a /ð/, and the rest of the Poswobs hear the adopted /ð/ as a /v/. However, /blʷ/ remains the more common choice, as seen in words such as piblwapale (a large bath towel intended to protect the body from injury by sand and grass) and blwupub "silly, chaotic" (a boomerang loan from an earlier Poswa džufub).

Morphological assimilation of Pabappa loanwords

Words taken in from Pabappa that contain recognizable Poswa morphemes in a different form have those morphemes replaced with their native equivalents. This process is usually originated by Poswob people living in Pabappa's territory rather than the much rarer opposite. Some examples of such changes are:


da (agent suffix) --> ta. The Pabappa alternation between -da and -ta is regularized by using Poswa's native -ta in all contexts. Thus for example

pipipida ---> pipipita "mayor"
laparada ---> laparata "sponsor, contributor"
partosanada ---> partosanata "leader of a coup"


  1. This will almost certainly change, though, to a longer word now that I realize that alaha does not have its classifier prefix on.
  2. These are from mapo and pypub respectively.
  3. Note: the blue thetmatic dictionary is WRONG. I seem to have infixed a -u- in all forms. My "massive reworking" of the number system thus changed very liuttle.
  4. was "nie"
  5. -vež- could change to -vž-, along the lines of the než ---> ndž change.
  6. soppu --> popu because it often followed laššum "word".
  7. It might actually be -ia, not *-io. If it's -io it is a late borrowing from a different part of the inflection paradigm so as to prevent confusion with the -ia that also marks out the third person possessive, and also by analogy with that very -ia which, if it were a verb, would correspond to a first person form in -io.
  8. Note that Poswa distinguishes between pwopwa "child, young person" and popa "child, descendant". The two words are not related, but their similar phonetic forms have influenced speakers' associations.
  9. Pestie for "alien" is a compound of pes "star" and tidži "alien, foreign".
  10. Normally one would expect pepopibi here, following a well-known u > i shift, but this would merge with the essive.
  11. Earlier had pepwep; this would be correct if and only if the word were taken from a compound such as poppepwep where it was unstressed all along.
  12. These two words are actually cognates, looking back several thousand years, but the speakers no longer realize this.
  13. The actual word bases were kas and kakā, but they were changed by the then-functional consonant-based gender system.
  14. check this. fapa tuŋi a bau ---> wap(t)yvo, which should yield wabvo
  15. Only if analogy wins out; the sound changes alone would have produced ipis.
  16. Analogized from *lapial.
  17. The word for spaceship here is coined in imitation of a scholar who would know ancient Poswa words that had fallen out of use; neither pes "star" nor pol "ship" are in use in modern Poswa.
  18. This is a problem with agentives that are based on nouns. e.g. polfabum "vegetables" could according to this mean "farmers". Perhaps instead -fum could work.
  19. Note: originally wrote "soma", but the protoform *sauma has been replaced by analogy with sapuma.
  20. The grammatically proper form would be umbvanas since there is no accusative ending on the second uma. However, this -s was removed by analogy with the many other words ending in what was at the time -bana.
  21. See the note above for "lesbian".
  22. One might expect a word whose meaning is closer to "room, chamber, enclosed area", as animal scales are made of many cells, but the basic concept intended here is "anatomical feature".