Jun 08

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Introduction to Trarsani 2: Nouns and Pronouns

Nouns are a good place to start with Trarsani grammar because they are more or less like English ones.  We’ll see that pronouns and numerals both diverge from English a bit, but we still don’t get to anything truly weird that will be a challenge.


General nouns

By “general” we just mean your ordinary, garden-variety nouns. Unlike verbs, there is no way to just look at them and identify them as a noun, other than that if it isn’t a verb, particle, or other obvious part of speech, then it is probably a noun.

There is nothing particularly unusual about them.  Here are a few examples.


Word Roman transcription Translation
kuta ship, vessel
tritsee leg
zanat time


Mee-nouns are equivalent to the addition of -ness or -ship to a word in English, as in “good” becoming “goodness” or “friend” becoming “friendship.”


Root word Transcription Translation Mee-noun Transcription Translation
zhilai good m’zhilai goodness
narai dark m’narai darkness
irai red m’irai redness
seesee friend m’seesee friendship

The textbook pronunciation of the m- prefix is to terminate it with a glottal stop while the lips are still together.  In common speech, however, this is rarely followed.  When followed by a consonant, the m- sound usually just blends into the following consonant, as in the pre-nasalized m- sound in the Lingala word mbɔ́ngɔ (monkey). When followed by a vowel, it is often pronounced as muh-, with a very short -uh sound.  The important thing is to be able to distinguish between m’irai and mirai.

Notice that the m- is set off from the rest of the work by a dot.  This is the only explicit punctuation in Trarsani writing, and can be handwritten as a dash, an oblique stroke, or other glyph.  It is sometimes romantically stylized as humans do in dotting their i‘s with little hearts.


Nee-nouns are getting a little farther away from English experience because although we do similar things, there is no unified lexical process for it.  The n- particle takes another noun, a verb, or an adjective, and creates a noun that is characterized by that other noun, verb, or adjective.  Similarly, we add -er to a verb to make into someone characterized by doing that verb.  Baker, plumber, digger.  Here we have examples from each of those three categories.  In the next installment, we’ll learn that in Trarsani, there is no lexical or syntactic difference between a verb and an adjective, but for now we’ll treat them differently.


Root word Transcription Translation Nee-noun Transcription Translation
aya penis n’aya male
zandarai teach n’zandarai teacher
zhilai good n’zhilai good (thing)

The pronunciation and writing follows the same rules as mee-nouns.

Ritee knows all about nouns

Ritee has no trouble with Trarsani; it’s her native language.

Clarifying mee- and nee-nouns

You might have seen the western, The Good, the Bad, and the UglyGood, bad, and ugly are adjectives in English, but this title uses them as nouns, and we have no problem with the fact.  To do this in Trarsani, which prefix do we use?  Well, we make them nee-nouns.  People characterized by ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ and ‘ugly.’  N’zhilai, n’vidai, u n’buzodai.  If we made them mee-nouns, it would mean, “goodness, badness, and ugliness.”

Another way to think about the two is as near opposites, often as exact opposites.  Take another look at seesee.  The m- prefix turns it from friend to friendship.  Now add a n-, and it becomes that characterized by friendship, or friend.  We’ve gone around in a circle.

Plural forms

In a nutshell, there are no plural forms for nouns, as in Japanese.  In fact, if you understand plurals in Japanese, you basically understand them in Trarsani.  Usually, plurality is understood from the context, but when it’s not, and it’s necessary to know, simply add a number before the noun.  Three pencilMany hair.


Like Slavic languages, there is no normal use of articles.  This is generally insignificant, because even in English, they rarely add useful meaning.  My novel that introduces the Trarsani language, A Hierarchy of Gods, could just as easily have been The Hierarchy of Gods.  I chose the former only because I thought it sounded better.


Ordinary pronouns

Pronouns, however, do  have plural form, just as in Japanese.  However, they share a bit with Hindi in that pronouns are not gendered and instead indicate relative position.  On the other hand a distinction is made between personal (he/she) and impersonal (it) pronouns.


Word Transcription Translation Word Transcription Translation
fei I t’fei we
ka you t’ka you (all)
pree he/she (near speaker) t’pree they (near speaker)
pra he/she (near listener) t’pra they (near listener)
pro he/she (near neither) t’pro they (near neither)
dree this (near speaker) t’dree these (near speaker)
dra that (near listener) t’dra those (near listener)
dro that (near neither) t’dro those (near neither)

The table above shows nominative forms where there is a difference (I/we/he/she), but that’s nominative in the English language.  Possessive and objective usage is exactly the same word in Trarsani, but the difference is indicated by particles.  See part 4 when it comes out for details.

Note that the tee prepended to make the word plural is an elevated letter and not a regular letter separated by a dot.  This is the one case in which a lexical element is rendered by an inflection instead of a particle.


Fee is a one-of-a-kind pronoun.  It’s singular in form, but it refers to two people, specifically a mated couple.  It is only used by a couple referring to themselves.


Word Roman transcription Translation
fee we,us (of couple referring to themselves)

Other pronouns

English has a lot of different kinds of pronouns.  There are relative pronouns (the Who in The Man Who Knew too Much), possessive pronouns (my, mine, her), reflexive and intensive pronouns (myself, themselves).  Trarsani has none of this nonsense.  One of the keys to understanding Trarsani is that virtually all of the grammatical roles are played by particles and not by inflection of words, so none of these special forms exist.  Again, there will be more about this in part 4.


Numbers, at least in Trarsani usage, are invariably nouns, but we look at them here as a separate category because there is quite a bit to say about them.

Writing numbers

Fortunately for humans, Trarsani are also a Population-K species with ten fingers, so not surprisingly, they have settled on a decimal system.


Word Arabic equivalent pronunciation
0 la
1 neek
2 veek
3 seek
4 tarek
5 shen
6 sheb
7 zeek
8 teek
9 ateek

Although it is a decimal system, the numerals are written in the opposite direction, with place value increasing to the right.. For example, 2014, the year I am writing this, is written .

Speaking numbers

Numbers are spoken simply as the numerals are written.  The aforementioned date is tarek-neek-la-veek.  Now when we get to big numbers, we need to stop and think how most humans group them in powers of three, or in more common terms, multiples of 1000 (thousand, million, billion, etc.). The Trarsani do this in multiples of 10,000, powers of four.  Sometimes when it is convenient, Trarsani use the particle ga to separate those units of ten thousand, or simply to represent 10,000.  123,456 becomes sheb-shen-tarek-seek-ga-veek-neek.  The ga is not essential in this case.  An example of using ga by itself to represent 10,000 is 1,000,000: ga-la-la-neek: four zeros, zero, zero, one..

Cardinal vs ordinal numbers

All these numbers are nouns, and arguably neither cardinal nor ordinal.  However, numbers are unique in that they can be applied directly to nouns to assign a count to them without any specific lexical construct to assist them.  Two arms would be simply veek tooree.

For other uses, like “first arm,” we once again have to go to the use of particles as explained in part 4.

Well, that’s enough for this lesson.  I’ll get to part 3, Verbs and Basic Sentence Structure at some time in the future.  If I’ve spelled any of the Trarsani words wrong, please let me know.

Enjoy learning Trarsani!

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