Introduction

Grammatica, tormento de pueritia, es quasi semper inutile.
—Giuseppe Peano, Primo Libro

If we imagine a fictitious language, in which all kinds of grammatical markings are missing [...] we come to the principles of an isolating language —August Dauses, Universality of grammar and grammatical universals

When talking about grammar, many people first think of marking of person, tense, mood, case, number and gender in words, and usage of articles, prepositions and other so called grammar words and the rules that govern them. For many, they are the natural building blocks of grammar and they can't imagine a language without them. The grammar of Pandunia is different. It doesn't have any grammatical markings and there are very few rules that concern specific words.

Structurally Pandunia is an isolating language. In Pandunia, all words are unchanging – they aren't ever inflected, and there are no endings like the plural -s or -es in English. So instead of the form, it is the meaning of words that matters, and their place in the sentence.

These are the reasons why an isolating structure was chosen for Pandunia, the global contact language:

  • Natural isolating languages are not uncommon. They are particularly common in Southeast Asia, Oceania and West Africa.
    • The Chinese languages are isolating. This includes Mandarin Chinese, which is spoken by more native speakers than any other language on earth.
    • Also several other isolating languages are spoken by millions of speakers, such as Vietnamese, Thai, Burmese, Yoruba and Igbo.
  • Spontaneously created contact languages tend to be isolating. This applies also to most instances of pidgin English.
  • It's easier to learn just words than to learn rules and their exceptions.
    • Isolating languages are considered to be generally easier to learn than inflectional and agglutinating languages.
    • Usually learners speak an isolating variant of the target language at first anyway, for example a kind of "broken English".
  • The gap between a beginner and a fluent speaker is more narrow and less obvious for an isolating language than for inflectional languages.
  • It's easier to borrow words in all shapes and forms when the grammar doesn't set any morphological criteria.

This grammar deals with the types of words and word order patterns in Pandunia. However, it's possible to learn Pandunia without reading this grammar, for example with the help of a phrasebook and a dictionary.


Basic Rules

  1. Every word is read as it is written. No letter is silent. Only the lower-case letters are necessary.
  2. The stress accent is on the syllable before the last consonant of the word.
  3. Nouns are unaffected by number or gender. They are neither masculine nor feminine, and neither singular nor plural by default.
  4. When an adjective is placed before a noun, it works as a modifier. When it follows the noun, it works as an adjectival verb.
    • ex. bon pan = Good bread. pan bon = Bread (is) good.
  5. Compound words are made by combining the elements that form them. The main word stands at the end.
    • ex. poste sanduk = mailbox
  6. Sentences with transitive verbs have subject-verb-object word order.
    • ex. mi penta meza. = I paint tables.
  7. A sentence with passive meaning has only a subject and a verb.
    • ex. ta penta. = It is painted.
  8. The object of a transitive verb can function as the subject of the next verb in the sentence. This structure is called the pivot structure.
    • ex. mi bite ti dar pesa. = I ask you to give money.
  9. Pronouns can be left out when they are obvious and redundant.
    • mi kia ti baca pandunia?kia ti baca pandunia? = Do you speak Pandunia?
    • mi bite ti loga tez.bite loga tez. = Please speak louder.

Parts of speech

All words are invariable in Pandunia. There is no inflexion of any kind. That's why the parts of speech depend on the meaning of words, not on the form.

The parts of speech in Pandunia are:

  1. The noun names a thing, a person, an abstract concept or a proper name, ex. stone, table, robot, cat, human, city, london.
  2. The modifier is a word that adds some quality to the thing denoted by another word, ex. good, bad, big, fast.
  3. The numeral is a word that tells the number or amount of things.
  4. The verb denotes an action or an occurence, ex. to eat, to speak, to look and to think.
  5. The particle is a structural or an abstract word, ex. yes, no, but, if.

Nouns

A noun is a word that names a thing. Like all words in Pandunia, nouns are invariant. So the same form is used in singular and plural, in definite and indefinite, etc.

batu - a stone, stones, the stone or the stones
meza - a table, tables, the table or the tables
kursi - a chair, chairs, the chair or the chairs
sui - water

Quite often number and definiteness is known because it was specified earlier or because it is general knowledge. For example, normally the word sole refers to the sun and luna refers to the moon, our only sun and our only moon.

Two or more nouns can be put together to make a compound word. The last word is the most meaningful word in the compound and the words that come before it only modify the meaning.

surya guang - sun light
luna guang - moon light
luna batu - moon stone

An easy way to emphasize plurality is to repeat the noun.

batu batu - stones, lots of stones tara tara - stars, lots of stars

Modifiers

A modifier is a word that adds a particular quality for another word. In Pandunia modifiers come before the noun that they modify.

dai batu - big stone cung batu - heavy stone
dai meza - big table
gau meza - high table bon kursi. - good chair

When a modifier follows a noun phrase, it becomes a stative verb.

batu dai. - The stone is big.
meza gau. - The table is high.

Naturally there can be modifiers on both sides of the noun as well.

dai meza gau. - The big table is high.

Modifiers can modify also verbs. Then they function like English adverbs.

mi bon son. - I sleep well.
ti bon baca pandunia. - You speak Pandunia well.

Numerals

Sometimes it is known from the context how many objects are spoken about. For example, the word surya (sun) normally refers to just one sun because there is only one.

Quantity can be expressed with numerals and other quantity-words. They are put before the word or phrase that they qualify.

un tara - one star
du tara - two stars
sam tara - three stars
cau tara - few stars
poli tara - many stars

un dai meza - one big table
du dai kursi - two big chairs
sam bon kursi - three good chairs

Ordinal numbers come after the word that they modify.

fen un - the first part (part one) fen du - the second part (part two) fen sam - the third part (part three)

The basic number words are:

  • 0 nul
  • 1 un
  • 2 du
  • 3 sam
  • 4 tcar
  • 5 lim
  • 6 sis
  • 7 set
  • 8 bat
  • 9 noi

Greater numbers are simply made by putting one digit after another – exactly like they are written in the universal numerical language of mathematics.

  • 10 un nul or des
  • 11 un un
  • 12 un du
  • 13 un sam
  • 20 du nul
  • 21 du un
  • 22 du du
  • 100 un nul nul or hon
  • 101 un nul un or hon un
  • 200 du nul nul or du hon

Numbers that are greater than 999 may use the multiples from the International System of Units. So for example kilo denotes a multiple of a thousand.

  • 1000 kilo
  • 1 000 000 mega
  • 1 000 000 000 giga
  • 1 000 000 000 000 tera
  • 1015 peta
  • 1018 eksa
  • 1021 zeta
  • 1024 yota

Pronouns

Personal pronouns

Pronouns can substitute thing-words and phrases of thing-words.

mi - I, me
ti - you
ta - he, she, it
mimen - we timen - you all
tamen - they

se - self

Note! The reflexive pronoun se is used for all persons, so it corresponds to English myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves_ and themselves all at once.

mi vide se - I see myself. ta vide se - She sees herself. / He sees himself. mimen vide se. - We see ourselves.

Demonstrative pronouns

Sa is the general demonstrative pronoun. It covers the meaning of both this and that.

The distance to the speaker can be specified by adding words jin (near) and far (far), if needed.

sa - this or that sa djin - this over here sa far - that over there

The demonstrative pronouns work like modifiers.

sa batu. - That stone sa e batu. - That is a stone. sa batu cung. - That stone is heavy.

Interrogative pronoun

Ke is a general-purpose interrogative pronoun. It does the job of English words who, what and which.

ke? - Who or what? ke ting? - What? (Which thing?) ke jen? - Who? (Which person?) ke sat? - When? (What time?) ke yang? - How? (What manner?) ke koz? - Why? (What cause?)


Predicate of state

Normally a sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. In the simplest sentences, the subject is a noun or a pronoun and the predicate is an adjective.

mi bon. - I am good.
sara bon. - Sara is good.
batu cung. - Stone is heavy.

Likewise, it's possible that the subject is a pronoun and the predicate is a noun.

ta sara. - She is Sara. ta batu. - It is a stone.

But when two similar words (that belong to the same part of speech) are put together, it is necessary to separate them. Then the verb e (to be) is used.

ta e mi. - It is me. sa e batu. - That is a stone. batu e ting. - Stone is a thing. jovan e sundar. - Young is beautiful.

To deny something, use the word no before e.

mi no e ti. - I'm not you. batu no e hewan. Stone is not an animal. jovan no e sundar. - Young is not beautiful.

Predicate of action

In predicates of action, the main word in the predicate is a verb (i.e. an action-word).

Active sentences are frequently in the subject–verb–object word order (SVO).

mi yem pingo. - I eat apples.
mi audi musik. - I hear music.
mi vide ti. - I see you.

There is also alternative word order, subject–object–verb (SOV). It can be used only in short sentences.

mi pingo yem. - I apples eat.

SOV and SVO are the two most common word orders by far in the languages of the world. SOV is used in languages like Hindi-Urdu, Tamil, Turkish, Japanese and Korean. SVO is used in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian and Modern Arabic among others.

In passive sentences, the subject is the undergoer of the action and there is no object.

ti vide. - You are seen.
musik audi. - Music is heard.

Passive can be expressed with help of the verb bei.

ti bei vide. - You get seen.
musik bei audi. - Music gets heard.

Serial verbs

All action-words (verbs) that come one after another are activated by the subject. There can be two, three or even more action-words in series.

  1. mi go dom. - I go home.
  2. mi ken go dom. - I can go home.
  3. mi vol ken go dom. - I want to be able to go home. (Lit. I want can go home!)

Pivot structure

When the predicate has an object, the object can begin a new predicate. This is called the pivot structure.

mi vol ti yem sabzi. - I want (that) you eat vegetables.

In the example above, mi vol has ti as its object. At the same time, ti functions as the subject of the following predicate, yem sabzi. So ti is the pivot of the sentence.

Pronoun dropping

In certain types of expressions the pronouns get dropped for brevity. This is done especially in commands and requests.

mi bite ti lai. - I ask you to come.
bite lai! - Please come! (Literally: Request come!)


Affirmation and negation

Particle ye is affirmative and no is negative. Ye affirms the existence of something, whereas no denies it.

mi e jen. - I am a person.
ta e un nova meza. - It is a new table.

Such sentences can be simply negated with no.

mi no e jen. - I'm not a person.
ta no e nov meza. - It's not a new table.

The word no is used for denying anything. It affects always the next word.

mi vide ti. - I see you.
mi no vide ti. - I don't see you.
mi vide no ti ama tamen. - I see, not you, but them.

The particles ye and no are used for answering questions.

kia ti vide mi? - Do you see me?
ye. (mi vide ti.) - Yes. (I see you.)
no. (mi no vide ti.) - No. (I don't see you.)

Modifier particles

Particles ge and de are used to mark possession and modification. Ge connects the modifying word or phrase to the modified word. De works in the opposite direction. It connects the modified word to the modifier.

Possession

The modifier particle can be used for any possessive noun or pronoun.

With regards to possession, ge works like apostrophe-s ('s) in English.

maria ge mama - Maria's mother
mi ge bet - my house
mi ge papa ge bet - my father's house

De works like "of" in English.

mama de maria - the mother of Maria bet de mi - the house of mine
bet de papa de mi - the house of the father of mine

Attribution with adjectives

Another way to use these particles is to connect an adjective or other words with a noun. It gives us more information about the noun, and the particle makes it clear in which end the main noun is.

Normally the adjective is before the noun in Pandunia. It can be placed after the noun with the help of de.

nov bet - new house
bet de nov - house of new

The modifier particles are useful for creating complex adjectives that consists of two or more words.

roza rang ge lab - rose-colored lips
sama rang ge yen - sky-colored eyes

Or in the opposite order:

lab de roza rang - lips of the color of the rose
yen de sama rang - eyes of the color of the sky

Relative clauses

Also relative clauses are created with help of the modifier particles.

Here de has a similar role as English relative pronouns which, that, who and whom.

ta e man de mi vide. - He is the man that I saw.

It's possible to construct relatives clauses with ge too. Then the relative clause precedes the noun that it modifies, and ends with the particle ge. This structure doesn't exist in English, so there isn't a word-for-word translation for it.

ta e mi vide ge man. - *He is the my seen man.

If the relative clause is missing a subject but contains an object (i.e. if the verb is transitive), the main-clause noun is the implied subject of the relative clause.

mi vide man de yem pingo. - I see a man who eats apples.
mi vide yem pingo ge man. - I see an apple-eating man.

Prepositions

Prepositions of place and time

Pandunia has three prepositions of place and time.

  1. na - location or moment (in general): at, in, on, during
  2. ze - origin or beginning: from, since
  3. do - destination or end: to, till, until

Prepositions are not used as frequently in Pandunia as in English. In many phrases, the verb says enough alone.

mi lai dom. - I come home.
ti sit kursi. - You sit (on) the chair.
ta lala sofa. - S/he lies (on) the sofa.
matci nata daria. - Fish swim (in) the sea.
djang nik marce dau. - Warriors march (on) the road.

A preposition begins a prepositional phrase. In a simple prepositional phrase the preposition is complemented by a pronoun or a noun phrase.

mi na hotel. - I'm in the hotel.
mi son na hotel. - I sleep in the hotel.
mi son ze cam do suba. - I sleep since evening until morning.
mi safar ze london do paris. - I travel from London to Paris.

Prepositions can be complemented also by a verb phrase. Then they refer to time.

mi deng ze ti go. - I have waited since you left.
mi deng do ti lai dom. - I wait until you come home.
mi deng na ti son. - I wait while you sleep.

More precise expressions of place and time are expressed with a preposition + a place word + de.

na dur de - for the time/duration of
mi deng na dur de ti son. - I wait for the time when you sleep.
na lok de - at the place of
mi deng na lok de ti toka. - I wait at the place where you left.
na cia de - under, below
un waf lala na cia de meza. - A dog lies under the table.
na men de - on the surface of
un mau lala na men de meza. - A cat lies on the table.

Similar meaning can be expressed also with compound words.

un mau lala na meza men. - A cat lies at the tabletop.

In addition, a preposition can be followed immediately by a verb.

dur - to last, to take time mi deng na dur de ti son. - I wait during you sleep.

Prepositions of manner

Preposition bi indicates means. It corresponds to English prepositions with and by (by means of). The meaning of bi is very broad. Often it is followed by another word that defines the meaning more precisely.

mi kat pan bi kati. - I cut bread with a knife.
mi kat pan bi yung kati. - I cut bread by using a knife.

Prepositions ka indicates manner or style. It corresponds to English prepositions like, than, as and as if.

mi sap pandunia ka guru. - I know Pandunia like a master.

Ka relates the verb or the adjective to a point of comparison. In the above example loga (know-how) is the verb and guru (master) is the point of comparison.

Ka is also used when adjectives are compared.

ban e min dai ka papa. - The child is smaller than the father.
opa e sem dai ka papa. - Grandfather is as big as father.

Ka relates the adverbs of comparison – mas (more), min (less) and sem (same) – to the point of comparison, which is papa (father) in the examples above.

List of compound prepositions

na ante before. na bada after.
na tcen in front. na pitce behind.
na cia under, below. na gau over, above.
na djin near. na long far away. na visin beside, next to.

Tense, Aspect and Mood

Mood

Mood particles indicate what the speaker thinks about s/he says in relation to the listener. Mood particles are commonly used in many languages. East Asian languages, including Chinese and Japanese, use famously sentence-final particles.

In Pandunia, a mood particle modifies the subsequent word, or the whole sentence, when the mood particle is the last word in the sentence.

The particle plus (also) is a good example because it functions much like in English.

ta yem bir plus. - S/he drinks beer, also.
ta yem plus bir. - S/he drinks also beer.
ta plus yem bir. - S/he also drinks beer.
plus ta yem bir. - Also s/he drinks beer.

Note! Also adjectives can modify the subsequent word or the entire sentence.

mi bon kitaba buk. - I write well books. mi kitaba bon buk. - I write good books. mi kitaba buk bon. - I write books well.

However, mood particles can modify all kinds of words, including pronouns and numerals, which adjectives can't modify.

Tense

In Pandunia, tense can be expressed with time words and time phrases if needed. The general time words are gon (past), nun (present) and futur (future). They function like adjectives and adverbs, so typically their place is before the verb or at the end of the sentence.

mi ha mau gon. - I had cats in the past. ama mi no ha mau nun. - But I don't have cats now. munkin mi ha mau futur. - Maybe I have cats in the future.

Note! Verbs are not conjugated. So the verb ha stayed the same in all tenses in the examples above.

Naturally time words are used only when they are necessary. Usually it is enough to mention the time just once at the beginning of the text and not in every single sentence, if the tense doesn't change.

Other Topics

Hierarchy of Word Types

Spoken language is a flow of sounds which constitute words. Written language, in the case of Pandunia, is a flow of letters from left to right, which constitute words. So every expression is essentially a sequence of words. However all words are not equal. There is a hierarchy of words. The verb is the structural center of a sentence and other words are directly or indirectly connected to it.

Each sentence can be drawn as a tree diagram, where the central words are above and the dependant words are below. For example the sentence mi vide ti (I see you) can be pictured as a tree as follows.

mi vide ti.

   vide
  ┌─┴─┐
 mi   ti

Adjectives and numerals point to their head word, the noun.

mi vide sam jovan jen.

   vide
  ┌─┴──┐
 mi   jen
       |
     jovan
       |
      sam

The hierarchy of word types in Pandunia from the more to the less central is as follows.

  1. Conjunctions: i, u
  2. Connectors: ge, de
  3. Coverbs (prepositions): na, do, ze, bi
  4. Verbs
  5. Nouns and pronouns
  6. Tense, aspect and mood particles
  7. Numerals
  8. Adjectives

The following example shows how the scope affects the final position of words in the tree hierarchy. For example, although i is in general higher than koz, here its scope is only to connect yusef and sara. Ze koz de is at the top, because it connects the two sub-phrases.

yusef i sara vol darsa pandunia ze koz de ta e bon dunia baca.

                     ze koz de
           ┌──────────┴──────────┐
          vol                    e
      ┌────┴──────┐           ┌──┴──┐
      i         darsa        ta    baca
  ┌───┴───┐    ┌──┴────┐            |
yusef   sara       pandunia       dunia
                                    |
                                   bon