PT – and all of its descendants – was highly polysynthetic; it had an extensive TAM marking system, polypersonal agreement, noun incorporation and an open class of proclitics. Almost all the marking was on verbs; while a verb could theoretically contain up to about fourteen morphemes (it's hard to reconstruct based on the inconsistencies surrounding clitics in descendants), free nouns were restricted to only a few suffixes. I'll get to noun morphology later because it's not as interesting. Sources of inspiration are of course this
thread from the old ZBB by Whimemsz, and several natlangs including Berik and Bininj Gun-Wok.
To start with, I'll break down the verb I posted a few days ago. Actually I got that one wrong; the original would read “have the things recently finished breaking those big tree-people by the lake?”. Here's the correct version:
“Have they recently finished breaking the big trees by the lake?”
This can be divided into eleven morphemes; two lexical roots, two clitics and seven suffixes.
The order of these affixes is determined by a slot-based template:
–1.5 adverbial clitics
–1 adjectival clitics
+2 S/O incorporation
+6 S/O agreement
+6.5 S/O gender
+7 S/A agreement
+7.5 S/A gender
I'm not gonna discuss these in a lot of detail, because that would make this post absurdly long. I'll leave the specifics of noun incorporation and the proclitics for another post as well.
PT had a complex split-S alignment system. The complexity revolved around two splits; one in the NP and one in the verb. Verbally PT displayed a tense-based split and nominally a split based on animacy and pronounness. I'll be using Dixon's notation; S for intransitive subject, A for transitive subject and O for object.
The verbal alignment affected the whole of a conjugated verb, including incorporated nouns (which had no morphology of their own anyway). Alignment was shown in two ways in verbs; through agreement and through incorporation. Firstly, verbs showed polypersonal agreement; one O slot and one A slot. Depending on tense, one of these was extended to cover the S role. In the two past tenses, PT showed an ergative alignment and thus conflated S with O; in the two non-past tenses (or when tense was unmarked) S was conflated with A – a nominative-accusative alignment. For example, here's two sentences (without NI) to demonstrate:
"He used to be yellow"
Noun incorporation of the O role reduced the valency of verbs to become intransitive, the O markers were used for the now-intransitive subject in past tense.
Noun incorporation of a noun in the S role was also only allowed in the past tenses.
"The beach used to be yellow"
"The beach is yellow"
When not incorporated into verbs, nouns and pronouns showed three alignment patterns; tripartite, erg/abs and nom/acc. The tripartite was just an overlap of the two other systems, based on two rules.
1: all pronouns (personal and impersonal) and all animate nouns marked the accusative (marked O, unmarked S and A)
2: all inanimate words marked the ergative (marked A, unmarked S and O)
These two rules overlapped with inanimate impersonal pronouns (both personal pronouns were always animate); these used both the nominal ergative suffix and
the pronominal accusative suffix, so they had marked O and marked A, with unmarked S.
PT had two valency-changing operations; an antipassive (ANTIPASS
) and a causative (CAUS
). The antipassive (marked with -dhV
turned transitive verbs into intransitives with an indirect object; this shifted the A slot to an S, and the O to an indirect object X. The main usage of this was to allow noun-incorporation of the subject in the past tense. The causative -wa
was a generic causative.
PT distinguished four tenses, six aspects and five moods. The tense markers are only attested in a few descendants; there was a strong tendency for these to be instead shown through the adverbial proclitics.
These were shown through CV suffixes with an unspecified vowel which echoed the previous vowel of the word. Tense suffixes were optional.
distant past (DIST.P
recent past (REC.P
Six aspects can be reconstructed; habitual, frequentive, stative, inchoative, terminative and discontinuous.
) – referring to an event repeated on several distinct occasions
"The women would gather *yirnidi (a type of fruit)"
) – an event repeated several times but on a single occasion; -rnqa
"The women were gathering *yirnidi (a type of fruit) that day"
) – something which happens for a period of time without change, or something which is always true; -dnhi
"They only have sons"
) – beginning of a new state; -ra
"I'm about to start taking a shit."
) – end of a state; -dnha
"I've just finished taking a shit."
)– a state which is no longer true at the point of reference; -di
. The difference between this and the terminative is that the TERMIN
focuses on the end of an event, while the DISCONT
just implies that an event has ended at some point prior to the frame of reference.
Dlintidliyiwadlirngidi dlagwa gana gngawilinha
dlinti=dliyi-wadli-rngV-di-Ø-Ø dlagwa gana-Ø gngawili-NHa
north=make-hut-DIST.P-DISCONT-3SG.A-ANIM.A PREP hill-ABS hand-ERG
"He built a hut on the hill to the north by hand (but it's no longer there)"
PT distinguished 5 moods; realis (REAL
), optative (OPT
), conditional (COND
), imperative (IMPER
) and interrogative (INTER
). Most descendants merged the optative with the imperative. All modal suffixes were CVCV forms with two identical vowels, apart from realis which was unmarked
The "O" markers were used to agree with an unincorporated direct object, or in the past tenses, an intransitive subject (including the subject of a verb with NI). The "A" markers agreed with all transitive subjects, or outside of the past tenses, with intransitive subjects also. They both agreed for person, number and gender (animate/inanimate).