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Lesson 17: Possessives

Vocabulary

–tha

Suffix (CP): Possessive, by birth

–the

Suffix (CP): Possessive, for no known or acknowledged reason

–thi

Suffix (CP): Possessive, by chance

–thu

Suffix (CP): “False” possessive (Partitive); also used to mean “about”

–tho

Suffix (CP): Possessive, for all other reasons, including law, custom, etc.

Additional Vocabulary

belid

house

eb

to buy; to sell

ith

light

óol

moon

rosh

sun

Possessive Case

[(Aux) Verb (Neg) CP(–Possessive)–S CP(–Possessive)–Obj | –Ident]

To use the Láadan possessive, you must first decide what sort of “ownership” is involved. Is it because of birth, as with “my arm” or “my mother?” If so, add the ending “–tha.”

Is it for no known reason—for example, a task that you just ended up with somehow, inexplicably, and that is now “your” work? Then the proper ending is “–the.”

Is it a phony ownership, marked in English by “of” but really involving no possession, as in “a heart of stone” or “a collection of books?” If so, use the ending “–thu.”

Is it by luck, by chance? Use the ending “–thi.”

In any other situation, when ownership is due to law or custom or anything not included in the other forms, use the ending “–tho.” You would use “–tho” if you were not certain of the reason but were quite sure there was one and that it was legitimate.


Next, realize that the Possessive will always be part of some bigger Case Phrase. When you say “He stole the jewels of the Queen,” the Object is the whole sequence “the jewels of the Queen,” of which “of the Queen” is only a part. This means that, except for those case categories which have a zero ending in Láadan (Subject and Identifier), you will first add the possessive ending and then the case-marker ending of the larger CP. [...] The Possessive marker will always come before the other ending.


Finally, you cannot add the Possessive markers directly to the name of a person or animal. Instead, you add a pronoun to carry the case ending—like this:

Bíi eril eb le belid withethoth wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

I bought the woman’s house.

Bíi eril eb le belid Méri bethoth wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

I bought Mary’s house.

The sequence “Méri bethoth” is literally “Mary | She + Possess + Object,” you see. You cannot say “Mérithoth” to mean “Mary + Possess + Object.” (Note that this rule does not apply to names of places and of times—only living or once-living beings.)

Examples

In practical terms, what we are doing when we make a Láadan case phrase possessive is inserting the possessor + the possessive ending between the thing possessed and its case ending. This leaves the thing possessed standing alone without its case ending. In the following examples, look for the •; that’s where the possessive content will be inserted.

This may seem awkward at first because English expresses the possessive by stating the possessor first and the thing possessed afterward; arguably, this indicates that the possessor is more important in English while the thing possessed is more important in Láadan.

Báa mehéthe oma•?listen to this sentence pronounced

Are the hands clean?

Báa mehéthe oma netha?listen to this sentence pronounced

Are your (by birth) hands clean?

In the above example pair, “oma” is the Subject of the sentence before it’s made possessive; “oma” is actually “oma” (hand) + “–Ø” (Subject ending). When we insert “ne” (you) + “–tha” (possessive by birth or growth), the “–Ø” remains at the end of the sequence (on “netha”); “oma” now has no case ending at all.

Bíi mebalin ra rul• wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

The cats are not old.

Bíi mebalin ra rul bethi wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Her (by chance) cats are not old.

 

Bíi eril yod babí yu•th wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

A bird ate fruit.

Bíi eril yod babí yu letheth wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

A bird ate my (no known reason) fruit.

In this pair of sentences it’s easier to see that “lethe” [le (I) + –the (possessive, no known reason)] is inserted between “yu” (fruit) and “–th” (Object case ending). The result is that “yu” is left with no endings at all and is followed by “letheth” [le (I) + –the (possessive, no reason) + –th (Object)].

Another way to help explain Láadan possessives is to note that in the English “A bird ate my fruit,” the Object isn’t simply “fruit,” but the phrase “my fruit”. It consists of four grammatical elements: I + Possessive (= “my”) | Fruit + Object (= “fruit;” the Object marker is transparent in English). In the corresponding Láadan Object phrase “yu letheth,” the same four elements are present, just in a somewhat different configuration: Fruit | I + Possessive (no known reason) + Object. The Object ending occurs at the end of the phrase because the whole phrase is the Object, not just the noun.

Bíi them le itheth [ith•th] wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

I need light.

Bíi them le ith roshethuth wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

I need the light of (no real ownership) the sun.

 

Báa thi Másha ana•th?listen to this sentence pronounced

Does Marsha have the food?

Báa thi Másha ana lezhethith?listen to this sentence pronounced

Does Marsha have our (by chance) food?

 

Bíi Thíben sherídan [sherídan•Ø] wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Steven is a nephew.

Bíi Thíben sherídan letha wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Steven is my (by birth) nephew.

Notice that the Identifier case here—and the Subject in the next example set—have those “null surface form” case endings. So the possessive phrase has no apparent case suffix

Bíi rabalin woshane worul [worul•Ø] wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

The furry cat is young.

Bíi rabalin woshane worul lethe wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

My (no reason) furry cat is young.

Bíi rabalin woshane worul Ána bethe wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Anna’s (no reason) furry cat is young.

Notice, in the third of this set, that the name of a living or one-living person or animal doesn’t take suffixes directly. We must insert the pronoun "be" following the name and apply the suffixes to the pronoun instead.

Also notice that, in this example set, the speaker knows or acknowledges no reason why this cat should belong either to me or to Anna; that’s why she chose to use the possessive suffix “–the.”

Báa áya dala [dala•Ø]?listen to this sentence pronounced

Is the plant beautiful?

Báa áya dala bebáatho?listen to this sentence pronounced

Whose (other valid reason) plant is beautiful?

Did the word “bebáatho” confuse you? In a wh-question, the item of information being requested is represented by “bebáa” with various case endings. Here, the item of information being requested is “whose” or “owned by whom:” “bebáatho.”

To Recap

There are two key concepts to be internalized in dealing with the possessive in Láadan. First, we must realize that what in English is called a “case phrase” consists in Láadan of a noun or noun phrase with a suffix denoting its case. So, the Object in a sentence consists of a noun plus the suffix “–th.” In exactly the same way, the Subject or the Identifier in a sentence consists of the noun and a “null” or “zero” suffix. Linguistically, there is a suffix there, but it’s invisible (a linguist would say it “has a null surface form”). The same applies to relativized verb-and-noun pairs; the case ending goes on the noun.

Second, the possessive becomes a part of the case phrase by being inserted between the noun and its case ending. This leaves the noun without an ending of its own; in this situation, linguistically speaking, the noun does not have an endingnot even one with a “null surface form.” The ending for the possessive case phrase is now on the possessive wordthe entire phrase, not just the noun, fulfills the case rôle.

Exercises

Translate the following into English.

1  

Bíi eril néde den onida letha leth wáa.listen to this sentence pronounced

2  

Bíi eril duyod rul ebalátho babí denáthoth wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

3  

Báa be wolaya womazh bebáathi?listen to this sentence pronounced

4  

Báa owahul ana omáthe?listen to this sentence pronounced

5  

Bíi áya ith roshethu, óolethu, i ashethu wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

6  

Bíi thal ra dadem mudathu wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Incorporate the Láadan for the English noun phrase into the sentence; translate the sentence into English before and after.

7  

Bíi mebalin thul wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

the child’s parents

8  

Bíi eríli bel wohada wohothul dimeth wáa.listen to this sentence pronounced

container of soil, no real ownership

9  

Báa eril dom áana héena?listen to this sentence pronounced

their (many of them) heart-sibling

10  

Bíi nédeshub doth sherídan wohóoha wohomideth wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Anna’s niece

11  

Báa aril bédi naya berídan netha áwitheth?listen to this sentence pronounced

whose baby

12  

Bíi Láadan dan wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

language of women (by gift)

Of course, in #10, you didn’t try to add the possessive suffix directly to Anna’s name. We don’t do that in Láadan; instead we follow the name with “be” and add the suffix(es) to the pronoun.

#12 has a “trick question” component: “ownership by gift” is one of the meanings included in “–tho” (possessive: all other reasons, including law, custom, etc.).

Translate the following into Láadan.

13  

The insect feared the strength of (no real possession) the animal.

14  

The green leaves of the plant are not fragrant.

15  

Whose hair will the worker be able to braid?

16  

Is the peace-maker’s (no reason) pearl extremely safe?

17  

Did you clean the clothing of (by chance) the dancer’s granddaughter?

18  

The education-specialists recorded your (few of you) speech.

Did you successfully form a word in #17 for “to clean” as distinct from “éthe” (to be clean)? We have the prefix, “dó–” (cause to); so “dóhéthe” would be “to cause to be clean” or “to make clean” or simply “to clean.”

And in #17, were you able to form the word for “dancer?” If “to dance” is “amedara” then “one who dances” or “dancer” would be “amedarahá” [amedara (to dance) + –á (doer)].

Also in #17, we see our first “multiple possessive” in the phrase “clothing of (by chance) the dancer’s granddaughter.” The clothes are the Object of the sentence and belong to the granddaughter; the granddaughter, in turn, “belongs to” the dancer. An illustration might be in order:

budeth [bud•th]

“Clothing” as an Object would be “budeth.”

Clothing + OBJ

 

bud

hóowithethi•th

“Granddaughter’s (by chance) clothing” as an Object would be “bud hóowithethith”—remember that the Object suffix moves to the end of the phrase (after the Possessive suffix).

Clothing

Grandchild + Possess:chance + OBJ

 

bud

hóowithethi

amedaraháthath

The entire phrase “clothing of (by chance) the dancer’s granddaughter” (still an Object) would be “bud hóowithethi amedaraháthath”

Clothing

Grandchild + Possess:chance

Dance + Doer = Dancer + Possess:birth + OBJ

In #18, did you have any trouble with the word “speech?” If we simply use “di” (to say; to speak; to talk) as a noun, it would mean “saying/speaking/talking” or “speech.” This word does not refer to “a speech” meaning “an address given before an audience,” but rather “speech” meaning “speaking, in general.”

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Answers

1  

My (by birth) family wanted to help me.

2  

The baker’s cat tried to eat the assistant’s bird.

3  

Whose (by chance) red car is it?

4  

Is the teacher’s (no known/acknowledged reason) food extremely warm?

5  

The light of (partitive) the sun, the moon and the star(s) is beautiful.

6  

The picture of (no ownership) the pig isn’t good.

 

7  

The parents are old.

Bíi mebalin thul háawithetha wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

The child’s parents are old.

8  

Long ago, a laughing grandmother took/brought a container.

Bíi eríli bel wohada wohothul dim donithuth wáa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Long ago, a laughing grandmother took/brought a container of soil.

9  

Did the heart-sibling remember to sleep?

Báa eril dom áana héena benetho?listen to this sentence pronounced

Did their (many of them) heart-sibling remember to sleep?

10  

A niece intends to follow the weary horse.

Bíi nédeshub doth sherídan Ána betha wohóoha wohomideth wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Anna’s niece intends to follow the weary horse.

11  

Will your aunt promise to care for the baby?

Báa aril bédi naya berídan netha áwith bebáathath?listen to this sentence pronounced

Whose baby will your aunt promise to care for?

12  

Láadan is a language.

Bíi Láadan dan withetho wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

Láadan is a language belonging to women.

 

13  

Bíi eril héeya zhub do midethuth wáa.listen to this sentence pronounced

14  

Bíi mehaba ra mewoliyen womi dalatha wa.listen to this sentence pronounced

15  

Báa aril thad boóbin halá delith bebáathath?listen to this sentence pronounced

16  

Báa yomehul nem shonáthe?listen to this sentence pronounced

17  

Báa eril dóhéthe ne bud hóowithethi amedaraháthath?listen to this sentence pronounced

18  

Bíi eril meri ehomá di nezhethoth wáa.listen to this sentence pronounced

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