Ithkuil/Roots and Stems

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Pronunciation[edit]

Ithkuil has several sounds that do not exist in English. Moreover, it also distinguishes between some sounds that are not distinguished in English, although they occur in English. Also, some familiar sounds are written in an unfamiliar way. Below is a short pronunciation guide to the sounds encountered in this lesson

Vowels[edit]

Front Central Back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
High î (ü) ü û
Mid-High i u
Mid ê ö ë ô
Mid-Low e o
Low a â
Symbol IPA Character Audio Description
a [a] Ithkuil-topextens02.jpg
Like the a in Spanish or Italian.
â [ɑ] Ithkuil-topextens04.jpg
Like bath in British English.
e [ɛ] Ithkuil-topextens07.jpg
Like in bed.
ê [eː] Ithkuil-topextens08.jpg
Like a long version of the first part of ate.
ë [ə] Ithkuil-topextens11.jpg
i [I] Ithkuil-topextens09.jpg <Note: Pronounced as a short î below at the end of a word>
î [iː] Ithkuil-topextens10.jpg
Like in sea.
o [ɔ] Ithkuil-topextens05.jpg
Like in short in non-rhotic accents.
ô [oː] Ithkuil-topextens06.jpg
Like a long version of the first part of boat.
ö [ø]
[œ]
Ithkuil-topextens17.jpg
Ithkuil-topextens16.jpg
Like in French feu or neuf.
u [ʊ] Ithkuil-topextens12.jpg
Like in pull.
û [uː] Ithkuil-topextens13.jpg
Like in pool.
ü [ʉ]
[y]
Ithkuil-topextens15.jpg
Ithkuil-topextens14.jpg
Like book in Highland Scottish.
Alternatively, like in French du or German über.
- [æ] Ithkuil-topextens15.jpg
Used for transliteration.
- [ɯ]
[ɨ]
Ithkuil-topextens18.jpg

Used for transliteration.

The diphthongs ai, ei, ëi, oi, öi, ui, au, eu, ëu, iu, ou, and öu are monosyllabic. They have the final vowel pronounced as a short î or û, rather than i or u. All other vowel pairs are disyllabic. To mark these as disyllabic conjuncts a grave is written over the second vowel, unless it is stressed, in which case the accent becomes an acute.

Below is the word 'life' declined into 12 cases.

tal tâl tol tôl tel têl
Oblique Possessive Ergative Attributive Absolutive Genitive
Content Temporary alienable possessor Agent Affective inalienable possessor Patient Inherent inalienable possessor
töl tël tül til tul tîl tûl
Effectuative Vocative Dative Affective Inducive Proprietive
Enabler Direct address Recipient Experiencer Self-initiated agent Official alienable possessor

Consonants[edit]

Handwritten consonants
Symbol IPA Character Audio Description
b Ithkuil-cons-b.jpg
c Ithkuil-cons-c.jpg
c’ Ithkuil-cons-c-ejct.jpg
Ithkuil-cons-c-asp.jpg
ç Ithkuil-cons-c-cedilla.jpg
č Ithkuil-cons-c-hacek.jpg
č’ Ithkuil-cons-c-hacek-ejct.jpg
čʰ Ithkuil-cons-c-haceck-asp.jpg
d Ithkuil-cons-d.jpg
dh Ithkuil-cons-dh.jpg
f Ithkuil-cons-f.jpg
g Ithkuil-cons-g.jpg
h Ithkuil-cons-h.jpg
j Ithkuil-cons-j.jpg
k Ithkuil-cons-k.jpg
k’ Ithkuil-cons-k-ejct.jpg
Ithkuil-cons-k-asp.jpg
l Ithkuil-cons-l.jpg
ļ Ithkuil-cons-l-cedilla.jpg
m Ithkuil-cons-m.jpg
n Ithkuil-cons-n.jpg
ň Ithkuil-cons-n-hacek.jpg
p Ithkuil-cons-p.jpg
p’ Ithkuil-cons-p-ejct.jpg
Ithkuil-cons-p-asp.jpg
q Ithkuil-cons-q.jpg
q’ Ithkuil-cons-q-ejct.jpg
Ithkuil-cons-q-asp.jpg
r Ithkuil-cons-r.jpg
ř Ithkuil-cons-r-hacek.jpg
s Ithkuil-cons-s.jpg
š Ithkuil-cons-s-hacek.jpg
t Ithkuil-cons-t.jpg
t’ Ithkuil-cons-t-ejct.jpg
Ithkuil-cons-t-asp.jpg
ţ Ithkuil-cons-t-cedilla.jpg
v Ithkuil-cons-v.jpg
w Ithkuil-cons-w.jpg
x Ithkuil-cons-x.jpg
xh Ithkuil-cons-xh.jpg
y Ithkuil-cons-y.jpg
z Ithkuil-cons-z.jpg
ż Ithkuil-cons-z-dot.jpg
ž Ithkuil-cons-z-hacek.jpg
Ithkuil-cons-glottalstop.jpg

Roots[edit]

Roots are Ithkuil's most basic semantic units, the things that one could find in an Ithkuil dictionary such as the Ithkuil lexicon. All Ithkuil formatives are derived from a limited number of roots. Each root consists of a consonants cluster of 1 to 5 consonants. There are approximately 3,600 roots, of which just over 900 have been assigned meanings. Although they are allowed, no five-consonant-cluster roots have been assigned meanings.

Stems and pattern[edit]

The meaning of roots (which could be found in a dictionary) are rather abstract. The first step in deriving words from roots in Ithkuil is prepending a vowel to the root. This is where the meaning becomes more concrete.

There are three stems associated with each root. Each stem comes in three patterns, one holistic and two complementary ones. Holistic stem 1 typically refers to the most general manisfestation of a root, whereas holistic stems 2 and 3 typically refer to more specific manifestations associated with the root. Each holistic stem has two complementary stems associated with it, which refer to the complementary concepts related to the holistic stem. The specific meaning of complementary stems depends somewhat on the root. Two examples are given in the tables below:

Holistic stem 1 Holistic stem 2 Holistic stem 3
nuclear family member
(a)mm-
male nuclear family member
emm-
female nuclear family member
umm-
Complementary stems Complementary stems Complementary stems
parent
omm-
child
âmm-
father
ömm-
son
êmm-
mother
îmm-/ûmm
daughter
ômm-
Holistic stem 1 Holistic stem 2 Holistic stem 3
higher-order animal lifeform
(a)q-
human
eq-
non-human higher-order animal lifeform
uq-
Complementary stems Complementary stems Complementary stems
male higher-order animal lifeform
oq-
female higher-order animal lifeform
âq-
(human) male
öq-
(human) female
êq-
male non-human higher-order animal lifeform
îq-/ûq-
female non-human higher-order animal lifeform
ôq-

Vocabulary[edit]

Wherever necessary, the meanings of the holistic stems 2 and 3 and complementary stems are specified. Keep in mind that all formatives carry verb-like and noun-like meanings, regardless of whether one is specified.

-pʰ- = branched and/or leaved plant (i.e. tree or bush)
Holistic stem 1 Holistic stem 2 Holistic stem 3
branched and/or leaved plant
(a)pʰ-
leaf
epʰ-
bark
upʰ-
Complementary stems Complementary stems Complementary stems
wood
opʰ-
seed
âpʰ-
root
öpʰ-
flower
êpʰ-
branch
îpʰ- / ûpʰ-
sap
ôpʰ-
-rr- = cat
Holistic stem 1 Holistic stem 2 Holistic stem 3
cat
(a)rr-
male cat
err-
female cat
urr-
Complementary stems Complementary stems Complementary stems
wild cat
orr-
bred/domesticated cat
ârr-
wild male cat
örr-
bred/domesticated male cat
êrr-
wild female cat
îrr- / ûrr-
bred/domesticated female cat
ôrr-
-by- = dog
Holistic stem 1 Holistic stem 2 Holistic stem 3
dog
(a)by-
male dog
eby-
female dog
uby-
Complementary stems Complementary stems Complementary stems
wild/feral dog
oby-
domesticated/pet dog
âby-
wild/feral male dog
öby-
domesticated/pet male dog
êby-
wild/feral female dog
îby- / ûby-
domesticated/pet female dog
ôby-
-kl- = water in natural motion
Holistic stem 1 Holistic stem 2 Holistic stem 3
(a) flow (of water)
(a)kl-
sprinkle, shower
ekl-
free-falling water, cascade, pour
ukl-
Complementary stems Complementary stems Complementary stems
water component of flow
okl-
channel component of flow
âkl-
water component of sprinkle/shower
ökl-
trajectory component of sprinkle/shower
êkl-
water component of cascade/pour
îkl- / ûkl-
trajectory component of cascade/pour
ôkl-
-ż- = day/night
Holistic stem 1 Holistic stem 2 Holistic stem 3
day, 24-hour period
(a)ż-
sky
eż-
degree of sunlight
uż-
Complementary stems Complementary stems Complementary stems
daytime
oż-
nighttime
âż-
daytime sky
öż-
nighttime sky
êż-
daylight
îż- / ûż-
natural darkness
ôż-

Exercises[edit]

Practice pronouncing the sounds described in the Pronunciation section, both by imitating the sound files and by pronouncing the various stems encountered in this lesson.

Take the roots from the above vocabulary section and prepend the vowels to derive their holistic and complementary stems the same way as in the examples. What do these mean? (answers)

Syntax[edit]

Because Ithkuil overtly marks the semantic roles of the words in a sentence, word order (syntax) can be free, except for verbal adjuncts, which must be right next to the verbal formative they are associated with. Ithkuil uses this freedom to mark discourse-related information: if something is old or new information.

The topic is the subject that has been established to be about which the speaker has been asked to provide information. The topic therefore refers to the previously mentioned items.

The focus is the new information provided by the sentence, i.e. why the sentence is uttered.

Topic and focus do not required a full discourse to become relevant, but can exist within a lone sentence. In this case the background information is implied.

Ithkuil's word order is topic–focus–verb–else. Therefore, if there is no topic or focus, the verb will appear sentence-initially and any participants to the verb will follow it. The verb can be identified because it usually has suffixes and/or adjuncts associated specifically with verbal formatives (see the previous lesson). In some cases, however, it is not possible to use word order to identify the topic and focus of the sentence. Ithkuil has specialized suffixes to disambiguate such cases.

Exercises[edit]

Identify the topic and focus in the following cases:

Determine the order in which those elements will appear in an Ithkuil sentence:

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