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Semantics of Pandunia

Multipurpose words

Pandunia has a solid system of semantics that is based on natural meanings of words and simple logical rules on how to use them in a systematic way. Every word has potentially many possible uses. Words don't belong permanently into any word classes or part-of-speech categories. For example, the word hogo can mean 'fire', 'fiery', 'burning' and 'to burn'. The actual meaning emerges in the sentence context.

The noun meaning, 'fire', emerges when the word occupies the position of a noun in a sentence.

mi vide la hogo. – I see fire.

The adjectival meaning, 'fiery', emerges in adjectival position.

mi vide un hogo kar. – I see a fiery chariot.

The verbal meaning, 'to burn', emerges in verbal position.

mi hogo yo moke. – I burn some wood.

Verb, noun and modifier are created independently from the base word. Therefore their meanings don't depend on each other, for example, the meaning of the noun doesn't depend on the corresponding verb and vice versa. There's no conceptual symmetry that would govern all words.

Semantic categories

Words can be grouped into categories by their real-world meanings. Words that belong to the same category are typically used in the same ways.

Tool words

The category of tool words includes words for things that are manufactured to be used as tools, such as hammer, drill, axe, knife, comb and brush.

  1. Noun meaning: the tool.
  2. Modifier meaning: related or belonging to the tool.
  3. Verb meaning: to use the tool.
Word Noun meaning Modifier meaning Verb meaning
brox 'brush' 'of brush' 'to brush'
kem 'sword' 'of sword' 'to sword-fight, to fence'
defa 'shield' 'to defend, to shield'
kanjar 'dagger' 'of dagger' 'to stab'
hamar 'hammer' 'hammer's, hammerlike' 'to beat, to hammer'

Object words

The base word is some other type of concrete object.

  1. Noun meaning: the object.
  2. Modifier meaning: related or belonging to the object.
  3. Verb meaning: to equip the syntactic object with the thing.
Word Noun meaning Modifier meaning Verb meaning
ite 'brick' 'made of brick' 'to build with bricks'
aure 'gold' 'golden' 'to gild, to cover with gold'

Words for people

The base word is a person:

  1. Noun meaning: the person.
  2. Modifier meaning: related or belonging to the person.
  3. Verb meaning: to send the person to do its characteristic thing to the object.
Word Noun meaning Modifier meaning Verb meaning
patre 'father' 'fatherly' 'to father'
bra 'sibling' 'siblinglike' 'to fraternize'

Quality words

The base word is a quality:

  1. Noun meaning: a concrete instance or an abstraction of the quality.
  2. Modifier meaning: the quality as a description.
  3. Verb meaning: to give the quality to the object.
Word Noun meaning Modifier meaning Verb meaning
hau 'goodness' 'good, well' 'do good, make good, improve'
hure 'freedom' 'free' 'to free, to liberate'

Artifact words

The base word refers to a human-made object.

  1. Noun meaning: the process or result of the action.
  2. Modifier meaning: affected by the action.
  3. Verb meaning: to do the action to the object.
Word Noun meaning Modifier meaning Verb meaning
kitabe 'writing' 'written' 'to write'
fikre 'thought' 'of thinking' 'to think'

Semantic Roles

A verb denotes an event (an action or an occurrence). The event named by the verb involves one or more participants, typically an agent and a patient. It is not always clear what differentiates agent and patient but some prototypical properties can be assigned to them.

A prototypical agent

  1. is involved in the event willingly or on purpose
  2. can feel and perceive
  3. causes an event or a change of state in another participant
  4. is the one who moves another participant
  5. exists independently of the event named by the verb.

A prototypical patient

  1. undergoes a change of state or place
  2. might be non-living
  3. is causally affected by another participant
  4. is moved by or stands still in relation to another participant
  5. might not exist independently of the event.

In the following examples, the agent is marked with superscript A and the patient with superscript P.

jenᴬ dekluze munᴾ. – The personᴬ opens the doorᴾ.

The person opens the door on purpose. The door undergoes a change of state from closed to opened.

jenᴬ vide e arome aranjaᴾ. – The personᴬ sees and smells an orangeᴾ.

The person can perceive the orange with their senses. The orange is a non-living thing.

jenᴬ ame aranjaᴾ. – The personᴬ loves orangesᴾ.

The person can feel. The orange stimulates the feeling of love in the person but it does it just by being there, it doesn't do it on purpose.

jenᴬ mote kursiᴾ. – The personᴬ moves the chairᴾ.

The person is the one who moves the chair. The chair is not self-propelled and it doesn't move by itself.

jenᴬ pas domᴾ. – The personᴬ passes the houseᴾ.

The person is the one who moves and the house stands still.

vafᴬ marche. – The dogᴬ walks.

The dog moves and it is self-moving.

Transitive construction

A transitive construction includes an agent, a patient and a verb. The verb is an activity or another thing, which is applied by the agent to the patient.

Transitive construction:
Agent – activity – patient

In principle, any word can take any of the aforementioned three roles. The agent and the patient are typically words for people, objects or other concrete or abstract things. The activity is typically a word for an action but it can be also an instrument, a role that a person can take, and other things too. Examples of different kinds of activity words include the following: futau 'axe', hogo 'fire', oke 'eyes', ame 'love', hure 'freedom', and matre 'mother'.

In the transitive construction the agent applies the activity to the patient.

  • What happens when you apply an axe to a tree?
  • What happens when you apply fire to a tree?
  • What happens when you apply eyes to a tree?
  • What happens when you apply love to a tree or a child?
  • What happens when you apply freedom to a child?
  • What happens when you apply a mother to a child?

Most things have well-known applications. An axe is made for chopping wood and a hammer is made for hitting nails. Fire is used for burning. Eyes are used for watching. Love is felt for others. Therefore the semantics of the following sentences are easy to understand.

mi futau yo moka. – I chop trees.
mi hogo yo moka. – I burn wood.
mi oke tu. – I eye you. ~ I look at you.
mi ame tu. – I love you.

Freedom is an abstract thing. So how can it be used? If you are in a situation where you can apply freedom to an object, you can probably guess that the object is likely a human object or an animate object, and then you can imagine what freedom does to them.

mi hure damen. – I free them. ~ I liberate them.

The thing called mother is not any different. If you apply a mother to an object, again probably a human or an animate object, you can imagine what the mother would do typically. However, this time the thing between the subject and the object comes with a condition. You can apply any axe to any tree, but you can't apply any mother to any child, can you? There is a natural relation between the mother and the child. The mother is the child's mother and the child is the mother's child. So there is a natural assumption, that the one who applies a mother (or motherhood) is the mother herself.

mi matre mi su ben. – 'I mother my child.'

The meaning of some of these sentences can be unintuitive for some people. It is understandable. Pandunia has its own logic and it can be different than in some other languages. What matters, in the end, is that there is a solid system of semantics in Pandunia that helps all people to understand the meanings of verbs and the roles of agents and patients in the same way – no matter where they come from or what kind of logic their native language follows.