Suvile: Nouns and the Article

in Conlangs

Amazingly enough, I am writing another post, and only a couple of days since the last one! I was working on translations for Suvile yesterday evening, and I reached a milestone: the 1,500th word (not counting compounds or proper names) in the Suvile lexicon! In honor of this, I decided to make a new post, the first of the language’s actual grammar. If you remember, the last post was only about the sounds that make up Suvile words. In this post, though, I’ll show some actual words–specifically, nouns.

Nouns

A Suvile noun is, like its counterparts in most languages, a word representing a person, place, or thing. A man is a noun, as is a house, a dog, the ocean, and an abstract idea like, for example, logic. They’re all nouns, and they all share a common system of grammar in Suvile. This section shows what that system, at its basic level, looks like.

English speakers who have tried to learn another European language will be happy to know that Suvile nouns do not have gender, like those in, say, Spanish. On the other hand, they do have case, like the nouns in Latin or Greek, which can actually be harder to learn. Also, like almost all languages, Suvile distinguishes between singular and plural, though, as we will see, there is more to it than that.

Some examples of Suvile nouns include:

v’l air pav bed duro bottom
di day kayn dog dzon earth
wayr fire taj food laz friend
ap hat dhond house kas king
raz life lun moon nat night
ven sky zhur sun avor top
agu water tl wind so word

Notice that these words, by and large, look nothing like their English counterparts. They do, however, share one quality with those English words: they have no obvious indication that they are nouns. Nothing about the form of the English word house says that it is a noun, and likewise for the Suvile equivalent dhond.

Plurals

Just about the only thing you can really do to an English noun is make it plural (change its number, as linguists would say), so we’ll talk about that now. The biggest complication with Suvile plurals, as opposed to English, is that there are three types of them. First is the common plural, which marks “two or more” of a noun. This is marked by a suffix -el (or -l after a vowel), and it is essentially the same as English -s. Thus:

  • so “word”, sol “words”
  • laz “friend”, lazel “friends”

A second type of plural, called the dual, is used for “pairs” of things. But these are not just any pairs, they must be a matched pair, such as eyes or hands. A later lesson will focus on body parts, which are often used with the dual plural, but for now here are two examples:

  • “eye”, en “eyes”
  • tab “leg”, taben “legs

The third type of plural will seem even less familiar to English speakers. It is the “class” or “collective” plural. This type is used to mean, generally, “all of them” or “the whole thing”. Here are a couple of examples:

  • no “man”, not “all the men”
  • dzon “earth”, dzonet “the whole world”

Any noun can be used with any of the plural forms, though sometimes it might not make much sense. For example, what would “sky” with a dual suffix mean? In practice, however, the regular plural (-(e)l) is used most often, except when referring to pairs of body parts. Someone just learning Suvile could certainly do worse than simply using the regular plural all the time, if they aren’t sure which of the three to use in a situation.

The Article

Except for case, which I will leave for a future lesson, the article is the only other major part of Suvile’s grammar concerning nouns. The Suvile article is much simpler than its plural system, and, in fact, is easier than the articles of English. Instead of two articles (a(n) and the), Suvile only has a single article, i-, which becomes y- before vowels.

The Suvile article is a definite article, which means that it is like English the, in that it makes a noun refer to a specific example of a person, place, or thing, usually one which has already been identified. Some examples:

  • kayn “dog”, ikayn “the dog”
  • t’l “wind”, it’l “the wind”
  • ap “hat”, yap “the hat”
  • agu “water”, yagu “the water”

Essentially, anywhere you would use the in English, you would use i- in Suvile. On the other hand, there is no Suvile equivalent for the “indefinite” article of English. nat can mean either “night” or “a (particular) night”, with the right meaning depending on context. This is much like languages such as Latin or Russian, which have no articles at all.

Conclusion

Nouns are probably the most basic ideas in language, so it seemed obvious to start the series with them. I hope that my style of writing is clearer than I think it is, and I hope that learning about an artificial language is as enjoyable as learning a real one. The next “lesson” will cover another fundamental part of language: adjectives. Until then, I’ll leave you with another example sentence, one which would be familiar to typists everywhere, but which loses its luster when translated:

tip idhul kikul roja oz ikaynir zuls.

(Oh, and for those who were wondering, the 1500th word in Suvile is aezhraen, which means “sergeant”.)