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3. Word types in Pandunia

Introduction

Everybody knows at least two essential units of grammar: words and sentences. In written texts, words are separated by spaces and sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop. However, there are also other grammatical units besides words and sentences.

Grammar involves a hierarchy of grammatical units, which are listed below from the simplest to the most complex.

  1. Morpheme is the smallest part of language with a meaning or function.
  2. Words are made up of one or more morphemes.
  3. Phrases are made up of one or more words.
  4. Clauses are made up of one or more phrases.
  5. Sentences are made up of one or more clauses.

Morphemes don't have any syntactic function in Pandunia. Their job is only to help to build the vocabulary of Pandunia. So the simplest grammatical unit that one usually thinks of in Pandunia is the word.

One of the first things that an typical person notices about Pandunia is that its words don't ever change. Most words in Pandunia have one unchanging form, which does not change according to number, case, gender, tense, mood or any of the other inflectional categories known from other languages. Compare, for example, what happens to the words in the following two sentences in Pandunia and English.

  1. mi love da. – I love him.
  2. da love mi. – He loves me.

In Pandunia, the subject and object simply change places and that's it. All words stay the same, and only their order changes. In contrast, in English, the subject I changes to me when it becomes the object, the object him changes to he when it becomes the subject, and the verb love changes to loves in order to agree with the new subject. Changes like this are called grammatical inflections, and languages that use them are called inflected languages.

Languages with very few grammatical inflections are known as isolating languages. Pandunia is one of those languages that is free from all grammatical inflections, but it goes even futher. Pandunia words are multipurpose words that can be used as nouns, verbs or adjectives without any changes in the form of words. So you don't have to worry about using incorrect forms. This is one of the reasons why Pandunia is easier to learn and more convenient to use than other languages.

What is important is the order of words because grammatical relationships are encoded into the word order, not into words. However, the word order in Pandunia is very natural, so it is easy to learn.

Pandunia is so simple that we don't need specialized or complicated words to describe how it works. That's why all things in this grammar are explained in plain words and basic terms that you have probably already learned in school. And don't worry if you don't remember some of them, all terms are explained when they are met for the first time.

Analytic and isolating

Pandunia is an analytic language. It means that different parts of sentence, like subject, verb and object, are always independent words. Their syntactic relationship is encoded into word order only. Words don't change unlike in synthetic languages, which denote syntactic relationships by inflection or agglutination. Therefore the order of words is very important in Pandunia.

Pandunia is also an isolating language. Grammatical information, like case, gender, number and tense, is not encoded into words by affixation, inflection or any other means. In fact, words don't ever change in Pandunia. So when one wants to express a new meaning or a nuance, one can't do that by modifying the words. The only way to add more details is to add more words. For example, the verb kom ('to come') is changed to the past tense by adding a word that means the past: did kom ('came' or 'did come').

Content words and structure words

A word class is a group of words that have similar forms and similar use in sentences. In Pandunia, word classes belong to two superclasses: content words and structure words. Content words are the words for things in the real world. The job of structure words is to bind content words into meaningful phrases. They have little meaning or only an occasional meaning in the world outside the language.

Content words convey most of information and meaning. You can't say anything meaningful without them, but they don't make any sense without structure words, which are the necessary words for grammar. You need structure words to put content words together into more or less complex sentences. Content words are like bricks of information and structural words are like the mortar that holds them together.

In Pandunia, it is easy to identify structure words because they always consist of only one syllable. Content words, on the other hand, are typically longer. Structure words are best explained in the grammar, whereas content words are translated in the dictionary.

In Pandunia, sentences are held together by a fixed group of structure words. They include pronouns (such as mi 'I' and tu 'you'), determiners (such as un 'a, one' and da 'the') and various grammatical particles (such as the affirmative and negative particles ye and no). Structure words make the syntactical structure easy to see, because they mark out the boundaries between sentence constituents.

Therefore one can know the grammatical structure of a sentence by knowing the structure words only. It doesn't matter does one know any of the content words. It's because the structure words define the structure and the content words define the meaning. For example, consider the following sentence where only structure words are visible and content words are hidden.

░░░░ ░░░░ ye ░░░░ ░░░░ un ░░░░ ░░░░.

Here the structure words ye and un form a certain construction or mold where content words are inserted. The type and placement of the structure words reveals the structure of the mold. Namely, it is the transitive clause construction. It is identified by its three-part structure. First there is the subject (a noun phrase). It is followed by the predicate (a verb phrase), whose beginning is marked here by the affirmative particle ye. It is in turn followed by the object (another noun phrase), whose beginning is marked by the determiner un 'a, one'.

Figure. The transtive construction in three levels.

 ┌─────────┐ ┌───────────┐┌────────────┐
 │ ░░░ ░░░ │ │ye ░░░ ░░░ ││ un ░░░ ░░░.│  WORD LEVEL
 └────┬────┘ └─────┬─────┘└─────┬──────┘
------│------------│------------│----------------------------
┌─────┴─────┐┌─────┴─────┐┌─────┴─────┐
│NOUN PHRASE││VERB PHRASE││NOUN PHRASE│   PHRASE LEVEL
└─────┬─────┘└─────┬─────┘└─────┬─────┘
------│------------│------------│----------------------------
 ┌────┴────┐ ┌─────┴────┐  ┌────┴────┐    CLAUSE CONSTITUENT
 │ SUBJECT │ │PREDICATE │  │ OBJECT  │    LEVEL
 └─────────┘ └──────────┘  └─────────┘

The transitive construction is one of the most common structures in Pandunia. Essentially it consists of following parts:
(det.) + NP + TAM + VP + det. + NP
where det. = determiner, TAM = tense, aspect or mood particle, NP = noun phrase and VP = verb phrase. It can be filled with different content words in order to give different specific meanings for the sentence, as in the table below.

Subject TAM Predicate Det. Object
suka bacha ye kitab un long letre.
The happy child writes a long letter.
yun man ye vize un mei parke.
The young man sees a beautiful park.
meni jen ye van shope un nove haus.*
Many people want to buy a new house.

So the key to decoding Pandunia is to know the structure words and the clause constructions. There is a small and fixed number of both of them, about 40 structure words and less than 10 clause constructions. They form the molds where an endless amount of content words can be inserted in order to say anything that we can think of.

Word classes

Structure words can be categorized into word classes as follows:

  1. Pronouns : words that point to people and things.
  2. Prepositions : words that relate things and actions into circumstances
  3. Conjunctions : words that join phrases and clauses together
  4. Particles : words that indicate temporal, modal and structural relations.

Content words can be classified further into the following word classes:

  1. Nouns : words for things, ideas, places and people.
  2. Adjectives : words for qualities of nouns, such as good, bad, and big.
  3. Adverbs : words that describe degrees of qualities, such as less, more and very.
  4. Numerals : words for numbers and amounts.
  5. Verbs : words for actions and occurrences, such as to eat and to look.

However, the class of a content word is seldom permanent. A word like love ('love') can function as verb, noun or adjective depending on its position in the sentence.

mi love tu. – I love you. (verb)
tu fikre mi se
love. – You think about my *love. (noun)
mi kitab un love letre. – I write a love letter. (adjective)