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Tsani is a conlang project that tvk has been working on since May 2007. It is the daughter of an unnamed proto-language. The vocabulary is a priori.

Tsani is designed to be strongly head-first. The normal word order is VSO. Role-marking particles and prepositions make the structure of a sentence clear, and free up word order for such things as passive constructions (which, in effect, simply switch word order to verb-patient-agent.)

Tvk designed Tsani as a personal language for journaling. It is designed to reflect his personal aesthetic taste in languages and worldview. It is also designed to be easy to learn and use, and to be easy to understand even out of context. Methods of achieving the former criteria were inspired largely by Toki Pona and some natural creoles; the methods used to achieve the latter criterion were inspired by everything other than Toki Pona. Japanese is also a major source of inspiration, and the creator has described his language as Japanese with backward syntax.

Internal History

Tsani is derived from an unnamed protolanguage. The sound changes involved voicing initial glottalized stops, voicing medial non-glottalized stops, and losing the glottalization distinction. Phonetic glottalization did not persist after phonemic glottalization was lost.

Tsani has a sister-language, Zãi.


Phoneme Inventory

  • Vowels: <a e i o u> /a E i o u/
  • Stops: <p t k d b g ty ky kw> /p t k d b g t_j k_j k_w/
  • Nasals: <m n ng ny nw> /m n N n_j n_w/
  • Laterals/Flap: <l ly lw> /l l_j l_w/
  • Sibilants: <s sh> /s S/
  • Affricates: <ts ks ksh> /ts ks kS/
  • Approximants: <h w y> /h w j/


  • /E/ = [e] word-finally or before [4].
  • /t p k d b g/ may be [t_h p_h k_h d_h b_h g_h] word-initially if not part of a cluster.
  • /t_j/ = [tS] before /i/ or in the cluster <chw> = /tSw/
  • /m n N/ = [m= n= N=] between consonants or word-initially if followed by a consonant.
  • /l/ = [4] before /u/ or /i/
  • /tl/ = [tK]

For ease of reading by speakers of English and other European languages, the Romanization spells the realization [tS] as <ch> and [4] as <r>, even though these spelling changes are not reflected in the native script.


Syllable structure is (C)(C)(s, l)V(n).

The -n coda may assimilate to the point of articulation of the following consonant, if there is one. Otherwise, it remains [n]. If the coda is followed by a vowel within the same word, an apostrophe is inserted between the -n and the vowel to indicate that they belong to separate syllables.

For the purposes of syllable structure, syllabic nasals may be considered vowels. The only constraint is that such a syllable cannot have a coda or have a nasal as its onset.

Legal diphthongs are /ai au ei oi ui/. Of these, only ai is common. The others occur mostly as a result of derivation or in loanwords. In cases where morphology would result in a sequence of vowels that does not form a diphthong, a glide /w/ or /j/ is inserted between them. In cases where the first vowel is /a/, /e/, or /i/, the preferred glide is /j/; if the first vowel is /o/ or /u/, the glide is /w/.

Legal consonant clusters are <tk kt kp tl nt nk np ngk ngt ngp mp mt mk kts ktl chw>. These can all occur initially.

ky, ly, y, ts, ks and s cannot occur before i. kw, lw, chw and w cannot occur before u.


Stress is on the syllable containing the penultimate mora. CV and V syllables are one mora, CVn syllables and diphthongs are two. Secondary stress occurs on alternate syllables; if the final syllable has primary stress, the antepenultimate often receives strong secondary stress. Monosyllabic particles, adpositions, and conjunctions are always unstressed in speech.

Tsani does not have morphemic pitch accent, but the relative pitches of syllables in a word is fairly consistent. In general, stressed syllables have higher pitch than unstressed syllables. Words have a generally descending tone contour, but the lowest pitch occurs on the syllable between the primary and secondary stresses.

Syntax and Grammar

Word order is VSO.

Nominal Morphology

All words that have nominal syntactical function end in -a. (The converse is not true, however.) This makes nouns easy to identify.

In a noun phrase, the order is head, adjectives, genitive(or relative clause).

A noun cannot usually be modified by a genitive and a relative clause simultaneously, as this would cause ambiguity as to whether the relative clause modified the genitive or the head noun. In some contexts where the speaker's intention is clear, it is considered acceptable in informal speech, though never in formal speech or writing. For example,

Ne niya tsaru Amerikai kiporu ka ko mukowan nai.
at this person-exist America-GEN that-protect REL ACC cow-PL 1P-GEN
This is the American man who takes care of my cows.

It's clear that "takes care of my cows" can only modify "the man", not "America."

Modifiers can precede or follow the verb, or they can be placed at the end of the sentence and separated from it by the particle wa.

The direct object of a sentence is preceded by the particle ko.

The genitive is formed with the ending -i. The plural is formed with the ending -n. The genitive plural is formed with the ending -ni.

The plural is not marked on the noun when the noun is modified by a numeral or adogi, which means "many, much."

The genitive has a wider range of uses than does the possessive in English. In general, its function is to allow a noun to function as an adjective and thus modify another noun. Whereas the English possessive -'s can typically only be paraphrased using the preposition "of", the genitive in Tsani can paraphrase constructions with almost any preposition. The exact relationship between the head noun and the genitive noun is determined by context.

Verbal Morphology

All verb roots end in -u. Conjugated verbs do not, since the tense suffixes are derived from adjectives in the proto-language and hence end in -i.

Tsani has three verb tenses: Imperfect, Perfect, and Potential. The Imperfect is unmarked; the Perfect is marked with the suffix -wani and the Potential is marked with the suffix -wachi

The imperfect tense is used for actions which are happening in the present, occur habitually, are generally true, or have not been completed. The perfect tense is used for completed actions or events in the past. The potential is used for actions and events that have not yet occurred.

Verbs are negated by adding the suffix -n. This can be affixed before or after the tense ending, depending on where the speaker wants to put the emphasis. Contrast:




He didn't go




He didn't go

The first example implies that the subject is not likely to complete the action in the future, while the second is "he didn't go, but still might later."

Tsani makes use of serial verb constructions such as niru maru na for "I want to go"

The imperative is formed by preceding the sentence with ai. This is equivalent to "please". In informal situations, or if the second person is of lower status, the Imperfect may be used. In formal situations, or when talking to superiors, the Potential must be used with imperatives.

To ask for an object, ai can be used before a noun.

Yes/no questions are formed by placing the particle mo directly after the part of the sentence in question. The words for "yes" and "no", aya and lo, are used to express the speaker's agreement or disagreement with the statement in question, similar to hai and iie in Japanese.

Other questions are formed using the noun/adjective/verb triplet ma, mi, mu. These words act as a "filler" that is to be replaced by the person answering the question. Word order is not altered for interrogatives. Compare the following questions and answering statements:

Sobuwani mo la ko tyala nai? "Did you drink my milk?"

Aya, sobuwani "Yes, (I) drank (it)."

OR Lo, sobuwanin "No, (I) didn't drink (it)."

Sobuwani la mo ko tyala nai? "Did you drink my milk?"

Aya, na "Yes, I (drank it)."

OR Lo, nanun "No, (it) wasn't I."

Sobuwani la ko tyala nai mo? "Did you drink my milk?"

Aya, lai "Yes, yours."

OR Lo, lain "No, not yours."

Sobuwani ma ko tyala nai? "Who drank my milk?"

Sobuwani na ko tyala lai. "I drank your milk."

Sobuwani la ko ma? "What did you drink?"

Sobuwani na ko tyala. "I drank milk."

Sobuwani la ko tyala mai? "Whose milk did you drink?"

Sobuwani na ko tyala lai. "I drank your milk."

Sobuwani la ko tyala mi? "What kind of milk did you drink?"

Sobuwani na ko tyala poni mukowai. "I drank good milk from a cow."

Sobuwani la ko tyala adogi mi? "How much milk did you drink?"

Sobuwani na ko tyala adogin. "I drank a little bit of milk."

Sobuwani mi la ko tyala? "How (in what manner) did you drink the milk?"

Sobuwani hapi na ko tyala. "I drank the milk quickly."

Muwani la ko tyala? "What did you do with the milk?"

Sobuwani na ko sa, la tsa kuki. "I drank it, you silly person."


The pronouns are:

na (1p)
la (2p)
sa (3p)
owa (topic)
ka (relative)
ma (interrogative)

These are entirely regular in their inflection. Forms of "we" can be created by compounding the pronouns: nala for dual "we", nasa for exclusive, etc.

The common masculine and feminine endings ga and la can also be added to the third-person pronouns: saga "he" and sala "she". However, this isn't normally used, since the Tsan people consider it rude to rely on someone's gender to make it clear whom you're talking about.

Tsani is pro-drop. Often one or more arguments of the verb are completely inferred. The default is usually 3PS (or 2PS for interrogatives in the perfect tense, or 1P dual for interrogatives in the imperfect) unless context suggests otherwise.

The topic pronoun is used to refer to a topic which was previously marked with the particle o. This particle precedes the noun as well as any preposition or other particle that may be associated with it.

The relative pronoun is used inside relative clauses. The antecedent of this pronoun is always the noun being modified by the relative clause.

Other Constructions

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses are formed by prefixing ki- to the verb and using the relative pronoun ka. Word order is not altered within the subclause. Ka can be left out of the subclause if the verb is intransitive or the relative pronoun is the agent of the sentence with all other arguments explicit. The relative clause must also modify the last argument of the independent clause in order for omission of the relative pronoun to be possible.

There is an added complication - in the development from the proto-language to Tsani, medial stops were voiced, but medial glottalized stops were left unvoiced (and un-glottalized). By contrast, initial glottalized stops were voiced and un-glottalized. Because of this, prefixes in Tsani (at least ones that were productive during the transition period) cause a switch in voicing on initial stops. Thus:

p b -> b p

t d -> d t

k g -> g k

For example:

Pemu na wa ne kalada. "I sit in a tree."

kalada kibemu na wa ne ka. "the tree that I sit in"

Deguwani la ko latsa. "You wrote a book."

latsa kiteguwani la ko ka "the book that you wrote"

This doesn't apply to when consonants are in clusters; for example:

Ktuwani kuna ko sa. "The dog bit him."

kuna kiktuwani ko sa "The dog that bit him."

More examples:

Maru ne nomuwena i tsaga. "The man goes to the market."

tsaga kimaru ne nomuwena i ka "the man who goes to the market"

tsaga kimaru ne nomuwena "the man who goes to the market"

nomuwena kimaru tsa ne ka "the market that the man went to"

Maruwani ne nomuwena Kename so tsaga. "Kename and the man went to the market."

tsaga kimaruwani ne nomuwena Kename so ka. "The man that Kename went to the market with."

Tsani can even do some things that are not possible in English:

Sekyanu nai so tsai shi Kename. "Kename is a friend of mine and that person's."

tsa shi kisekyanu nai so kai Kename. *"that person who Kename is a friend of me and"

The Passive Voice

In passive constructions, the "object" (really the semantic agent) is preceded by the particle i, whereas the "subject" (semantic patient) is optionally marked with ko.

Maktaruwani Peteri ko niya. "Peter sent this."

Maktaruwani niya i Peteri "This was sent by Peter."

Derivational Affixes

Verb Roots

(mtu "eat")

  • mtuwa "eating (gerund)"
  • mtuwi "eating (active participle)"
  • mtukshi "eaten (passive participle)"
  • mtupi "able to be eaten, edible"
  • mtuwabi “able to eat”
  • mtusoi “liking/wanting to eat, hungry”
  • mtuwena “place for food”
  • mtusha “eating utensil”
  • mtudu “start to eat”
  • mtoiksa “bone-eater” from mmtu + o + iksa "bone"
  • imtu “re-eat, eat again”

Noun Roots

(saba "house")

  • sabai “of a house”
  • sabachi “house-like”
  • sabanu “to be a house”
  • sabaru “there is a house”
  • sabayu “to make a house”
  • sabantu “to become a house”
  • sabaheyu “to give a house”
  • sabena “place for a house”
  • sabala “great house”
  • sabachwa “little house”
  • sabakwa “town”
  • sabakwi “which is the house”

(egoya "wood")

  • egoyadi “made of wood”

Adjective roots

(kawi "big")

  • kawiya “big thing”
  • kawinu “to be big”
  • kawiyu “to make big”
  • kawintu “to become big”
  • kawika “bigness”
  • kawiksa “size”
  • kawiri “bigger”
  • kawimi “biggest”
  • kawishi “too big”


  • Topic: o
  • Agent (when normal word order is broken): i
  • Patient: ko
  • Instrument: chi

Example Sentences

Chiruwani tyo saba tsa.
watch-PERF from house man.

"The man watched from the house."

saba kichiruwani tyo ka tsa.
house that-watch-PERF from REL man.

"The house that the man watched from."

Tleru na ko yabiya ele deguwa ko kwaila.
need 1P ACC yellow-thing for draw ACC sun

"I need something yellow to draw the sun."

Niru na ko ktana egoyadi ele ktakuwa shalatsan nai.
want 1P ACC spear wood-made_of for kill-GER enemy-PL 1P-GEN

"I want a wooden spear to kill my enemies."

Kiyu mo la ko tyela?
hear ? 2P ACC water

"Do you hear water?"

Higu na ko menwa kshi. Agoguwachi keshi runwachwan.
have 1P ACC egg three hatch-POT maybe duck-DIMIN-PL

"I have three eggs. Maybe ducklings will hatch."