Syntax

Since Talossan is a Romance language, the rules of constructing a sentence in Talossan are very similar to those in other Romance languages (like Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian). These rules are, of course, slightly different from the rules of constructing a sentence in a Germanic language (such as English, German, and the Scandanavian languages).

There are only a few high-level rules concerning how to construct sentences in Talossan. While there are certainly some wrinkles not covered in this overview, if you just keep these rules given here in mind, you will almost always be constructing good Talossan sentences.

Here are the key differences that an English speaker should keep in mind when creating a sentence in Talossan:

Adjective Position

Talossan adjectives usually follow nouns. This is different from English, in which adjectives almost always precede nouns. For example, where English would say “red house”, Talossan would say casa roxh (which literally reads as “house red”).

There are some common-sense exceptions — numerical adjectives, for example, precede the noun: doua casas (= two houses). Also, if an adjective is to be stressed, or considered more important to convey than the noun, it can then precede the noun, but in general, you will be safest if you remember to position all adjectives after the noun that they describe.

One way to help remember this is that you can imagine the words “which is” or “that is” between a noun and its describing adjective. This makes the sentence seem more properly constructed in English — for example, la casa roxh (= the house [that is] red). This can also be made explicit in Talossan: la casa qi’st roxh is literally “the house which is red”. When this trick (sticking “which is” or something between the noun and an adjective) is used, the adjective becomes something called a “predicate adjective”, which leads to the next point.

Adverbial Position in Predicates

Some other word placements are surprising to an English speaker. Before imagining it as a predicate construction (with “which is” or “that is” or simply “is” helping out), the “noun-then-adjective” order can seem “weirdly” backwards to an English speaker. Once you are constructing a predicate phrase, though (such as “which is red”), you can find that you encounter other differences from English.

This, though, is the fault of English, not Talossan. Consider the English sentences “she is very wise” and “she is wise enough”. Here, “very” and “enough” are both adverbs that are modifying the adjective “wise” in predicate phrases. And yet English has one of them positioned before “wise” and the other positioned after “wise”. In Talossan, the words follow the rules of sentence order much better than in English, and these sentences would be a isch trei saxha (= she is very wise) and a isch aßei saxha (literally = she is enough wise).

“Noise” Words

English has a lot of “noise” words. These must be avoided in Talossan. What do I mean by “noise words”? Well, take the word “do”. English uses this word a lot when it really isn’t needed. For example, “Do you have any apples?” can be said much simpler as “Have you any apples?” Similarly, “I do not know” can be “I know not.” When you really step back and think about it, modern English inserts “do”s and “don’t”s into sentences that really have nothing to do with “doing”. When creating a Talossan sentence, leave all such things out.

Yes, this means that where an English speaker would say “Did you eat the apples?”, a Talossan speaker would say ¿Menxhevás’t els apais? (which is literally “Ate you the apples?”). Again, this is simply an extension of the “Have you any wool?” form of English sentences. Use this form for all Talossan sentences, eschewing the unnecessary “do you”.

In addition to using the forms of “to do” as unnecessary noise (“do you X”, “I don’t X”, “Please don’t X”, etc.), English also uses “to be” as unnecessary noise. For example, in the English phrase “she is going”, there are two active verbs butted up against each other — “is” (a form of “to be”) and “going” (a form of “to go”). When you think about it, the “to be” verb is unnecessary noise — even in English this could be said as simply “she goes”, and this is how Talossan would handle this phrase. (Over)using “to be” and its forms, as is done in English, must be avoided in Talossan.

As another example, consider the English sentence “The coffee is being brewed now”. The word “is” and the word “being” are both forms of the exact same verb, “to be”, and so, when you think about it, that single verb is being repeated back-to-back in the sentence. That is a very English construction that would never happen in a Romance language. Be sure you do not repeat a verb right after itself. Think about another way to say the same thing, and then do that in Talossan.

Use of Present Participles

The word “being” is the worst offender in the category of noise words just discussed (for example, “the hamburgers are being cooked”). And this brings us to the general case of all English “-ing” words — the present participles.

In English, the present participle is used quite a bit. It is used to help indicate a progressive sense of ongoing action (“are being cooked”, “are cooking”, “she is going”), it is used as a gerund (this means that it is a verb being used as a noun, as in “reading is wonderful”), and it is used as an adjective (as in “the swirling wind”). In Talossan, though, it is only used as an adjective.

In other words, whenever you are thinking of using the equivalent of an English “-ing” word (in Talossan, the word-ending is -ind), stop and think. Are you using it as an adjective, to describe a noun (as in “the frustrating problem”)? If not, you are thinking too “Englishly” — do not use the Talossan present participle at all in these cases. Find another way to construct your sentence, so that the present participle is not used. This is usually done by finding the English “noise word” (often “to be” or “to do”) and getting rid of it, then changing your present participle to another form of the verb (thus “she is going” becomes “she goes”). The sentence you come up with will be shorter, simpler, and, well, Talossan, not English.

Subject-and-Verb Positioning

Without the “noise words”, then, let’s go back to the way we are left with to ask questions. “Do you have any wool?” becomes “Have you any wool?” and, as we discussed, this is the model that all questions should use. This does indeed mean that a direct English translation would seem awkward to an English speaker — for example, “Eat you any eggs?” and “Submit you the essay?” — but yes, awkward-seeming or not, this is how Talossan questions should always be formed, on the “have you any” model.

If you think just a bit on that, you soon realise that we can draw a key distinction in Talossan between the way a question is formed and the way a non-question is formed. This, again, can be seen in English. Notice the position of the subject pronoun “you” in the following two example phrases:

  • Are you sick?
  • You are sick.

Here we see that when creating a question, even in English, the subject (in this case, “you”) comes after the verb (in this case, “are”) and when creating a positive statement of fact, the subject (“you”) comes before the verb (“are”).

This is a very solid general rule in Talossan, and one that might help you remember to follow the “Have you any wool?” model of noiseless question-phrasing. While there are things you can do (in both languages) to a positive-sentence to turn it into a question without changing the word order (for example, “is it true that you are sick?”), in general, questions are phrased with the verb first, and the subject second, and positive statements are phrased with the subject first and the verb second.

Negation

One common use of the “to do” “noise” in English is to negate a sentence, as in “I don’t know”, “You don’t say”, etc. If you follow the rule to eliminate the “to do” noise word and go straight to the verb in question here (“know” and “say” in those two examples), you may be wondering how to negate the sentence.

The answer is easy. The Talossan word non (= no or not) is what you use for this, and it is placed immediately before the verb. If you like English “noise”, you can think of non in these cases as identical to English “don’t” or “doesn’t”, etc.

For example, éu säp means “I know”, and éu non säp means “I know not” (or, for fans of English “noise”, “I don’t know”).

Combination of the Verb with the Subject

One thing we haven’t discussed yet is verb conjugation, which is the way in which a verb changes when used for specific subjects and tenses. For example, in English, the verb “to be” conjugates as “am” when used for the present tense and a subject of “I” (as in “I am afraid”), and it conjugates as “was” when used for that same subject in the past tense (“I was afraid”).

English has some rules of conjugation (for example, the present participle conjugation is typically formed by adding “-ing”, and the past participle is formed by adding “-ed”), but really, English has a great many irregular verbs (such as “to be”) whose conjugations don’t follow any rules common to other English verbs. Talossan has its own small set of irregularly conjugated verbs, but not nearly as many as English has.

In Talossan even more than English, the form of the verb is enough to convey also the subject of the verb.

Let’s use the conjugations of the English verb “to be” for another example here. Although the forms “are”, “was”, and “were” are used for multiple different subjects (for example, “you are here”, “we are here”, “I was proud”, “he was awesome”, “you were wrong”, “they were right”), the word “am” is only used for the subject “I”. Which means that, really, every time you see the English word “am”, you know for sure that the subject of the sentence is “I”. In English, the subject is almost always given, although if you think about it, it need not be. For example, although you never would hear someone say “Am wrong?” instead of “Am I wrong?”, nor would you hear an English speaker say (except in very casual speech) “Am going to the store” instead of “I am going to the store”, the fact is that you could do so, without any loss of information. (The prototypical example of this omission of the subject is the childish argument “Am not!” “Are too!”)

In Talossan, almost all verbs are like “am” in this case. Anytime you see any Talossan verb in a form that ends in -éu, you are seeing a word, like English “am”, that is built exclusively for use with the subject “I” (which, in Talossan, is éu).

And “I” is not the only subject like this. For example, if you see a verb in Talossan in a form ending with -ás, you have a word that is built exclusively for use with the subject “you”.

That said, you can omit unnecessary subjects in Talossan — and construct sentences such as “Am not!” and “Are too!” whenever the subject is obvious by the form of the verb. It is not required to leave the subject out, though; in point of fact, omitting it is not seen as often in Talossan as it is in other Romance languages. This could be one of English’s many influences on Talossan, in the same way that you see “I am” much more often than simply “Am”. Making the subject explicit may also be done to increase its importance and emphasis in context. That is, both éu menxhéu and simply menxhéu both unambiguously mean “I eat”, and both are commonly seen.

As discussed, questions and statements are modeled on the “Have you no clue?” and “You have no clue” model, such that the position of the subject of the sentence (either before or after the verb) helps to indicate whether the sentence is a question or a statement. (In writing, the question-mark also helps too; sure.)

If the subject of your sentence is a pronoun (such as “I”, “you”, etc.) instead of a noun (such as “John”, “the teacher”, “Australia”, etc.), then the pronoun, when used in a question (so that it is following the verb), gets “smushed up against the verb”. We have seen this in action already, and here are a couple examples to refresh your memory.

Take the sentences “You are crazy” and “Are you crazy?” The Talossan translation of the first one is straightforward: tu isch fol (= you are crazy). But when creating the second one, the question, the word tu (= you), not only gets moved to behind the verb, but then gets “smushed into it” (in this case, the “smushing” is only in writing, and shown by a hyphen), and we get ¿Isch-tu fol? (= are you crazy?).

That example is an illustration of the simplest form of “smushing” the subject pronoun — simply hyphenating it — to the verb. However, this only happens (for the subject tu) when the conjugated verb is irregular, such as isch (a conjugation of estarh, which is “to be”). So isch is much like the English word “is”, which (since you can’t tell from looking at it) only an English speaker would know is a form of the verb “to be”.

The vast majority of Talossan verbs are regularly conjugated, though, unlike estarh (= to be), which has that rather unexpected form isch. But estarh isn’t irregular in all of its conjugated forms — we can simply change the tense of our example sentences and see the other, more common, form of “smushing” in action. The English sentence “You were crazy” is translated to Talossan as tu estevás fol, and the English question “Were you crazy?” becomes ¿Estevás’t fol? Notice here that the pronoun tu got “smushed” into the verb by becoming ‘t right up against it.

Position of the Object Pronoun

Just as adjectives being positioned after nouns seems “backwards” to an English speaker, another area of a Talossan sentence that an English speaker sees as being “backwards” is the position of the object of a verb. In English, the object is positioned after the verb, as in “I love it”. But in Talossan, the object is moved before the verb, and we have éu en améu (which, when read literally, is “I it love”).

This rule applies only to pronouns, not to fully-specified nouns. While it is less improper in Talossan than in English to say éu dal cervieþa améu (literally, “I [the] beer love”), it is much more common to phrase such a sentence as it is phrased in English: éu améu dal cervieþa (= I love [the] beer).

But when it comes to pronouns (like “it” and “me” and “them”, etc.), your first thought when constructing a Talossan sentence should be to put them before the verb (but after the subject). Thus éu lor améu (= I love them) and os noi ament (= they love us).

A few of the object pronouns will “elide” with (that is, drop their final letter and then “smush” to the front of) a verb that they accompany, if and only if that verb starts with a vowel. The ones that do so are me (= me), te (= you), both lo and la (= him and her), and se (= myself/yourself/himself/etc./etc.). For example, noi t’ament (= we love you), instead of noi te ament. Similarly, tu m’amás (= you love me) and tu s’amás (= you love yourself).

However, object pronouns do not always precede the verb. In two specific cases, they can appear after the verb, and “smushed” up against it using hyphenation. These cases are when the verb is in the infinitive form or the imperative form. The infinitive form is the English “to X” form of the verb, and the imperative form is the form used for ordering someone to do something. For example, éu volt menxharh-en (= I want to eat it) and ¡Menxhetz-en! (= Eat it!)

Introduction of the Noun

Finally, one important thing to remember when constructing a Talossan sentence is that nouns (with the sole exception of proper names) are lonely without an article or some other part of speech introducing them.

Articles (words like the English “a”, “an”, and “the”) are discussed in more detail on another Webpage, but the important thing to note here is that when you are constructing a Talossan sentence, and you’re about to use a noun, and it is not preceded by an adjective, then your first thought should be to choose and use an article to introduce it.

English omits articles almost as a rule. In English, you see a great many nouns out and about without any article to chaperone them. This is simply not done (much) in Talossan.

In general, do not ever use a Talossan noun unless the word before it is an article (like “a” or “the” or “some”), or a non-predicate adjective (for example, a possessive adjective like “my” or “their”, or a demonstrative adjective like “this”, “that”, “these”, or “those”).

For example, the English sentence “I collect bottles and cans” would be translated into Talossan as colectéu dals boteglhas es dels biduns (literally = I collect [the/some] bottles and [the/some] cans). Here we see that each Talossan noun (both “bottles” and “cans”) gets an accompanying article (dals or dels, which both mean “some amount/number of”).

Although proper nouns do not need such introduction, when they are described by an adjective, they are typically introduced (just as in English). For example, while el Patritz isch aicì (= the Patrick is here) is not proper (and would reflect a hyperadherence to the rule of noun introduction), you would say el Patritz sloþ isch aicì (= the lazy Patrick is here). And in Talossan, placenames also often are accompanied by articles where they are not in English. Where English would say “I live in Japan”, Talossan would say vivéu in el Cipangu (= I live in the [country of] Japan).