Ithkuil/Roots and Stems

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Let's take the sentence utalá alala. The root -T- is a demonstrative word for things you can reference by pointing to them; it's declined for stem 3 and used as the verb of the sentence to mean "to be that over yonder". It works with -L- declined for stem 1 to mean 'adult human' in the Thematic case (THM), signifying the theme or content of the sentence which doesn't undergo a change of state. Try to write out various combinations by marking the underposed verb diacritical mark on the other root at the start of the sentence or by changing the extensions on the primary characters to change the stems. Refer to the table below for their meanings.

Root Romanization Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
-L- adult human human child adolescent human
-S- [animate being] [inanimate/abstract entity] [place/geographical location]
-T- this that that over yonder

Now consider the sentences:

  1. analá edxale "the African hedgehog is transferred"
  2. eļmalá edxali "the African hedgehog feels sleepy"
  3. uẓfalá edxalo "the African hedgehog tunnels"
  4. egalá edxalu "the African hedgehog scampers"

The root -N- means a transfer of possession, and it's used as the verb of the sentence. It works with -DX- declined for stem 2 to mean 'African hedgehog' in the Absolutive case (ABS). The hedgehog is given and taken between two unnamed parties, and the usage of absolutive case indicates that it experiences a change of state.

The root -ĻM- is declined into stem 2 to mean "feeling of sleepiness", so as the verb it means "feel sleepy". It works with 'hedgehog' in the Affective case (AFF), signifying the unwilled experiencer of a sensory input, reflex, or emotion such as a sneeze, feeling of being cold, tremble, cringe, yawn, scream, cry of sadness, or wearing of clothing.

The root -ẒF- is declined into stem 3 to mean "tunneling" or "burrowing" or "puncturing" without the focus on material being removed. It works with 'hedgehog' in the Ergative case (ERG), signifying the agent (or if were inanimate, the force) which causes a tangible effect or change of state. This is the complement of the Absolutive case.

The root -G- is declined into stem 2 to mean "rapid ambulation" or, as a verb, "run". It works with 'hedgehog' in the Inducive case (IND), signifying the patient who undergoes the impact of an act initiated by itself, such as talking, eating, or learning.

Let's look at the rest of the Transrelative cases:

  1. annalá gmalä "the African elephant is used for help "
  2. aẓalá gmalëi "the African elephant is seen"
  3. apsalá gmalö "the African elephant enables the occurrence"
  4. egtalá gmalü "the responsibility goes to the African elephant"

The root -NN- in stem 1 means "to help" or "to aid". The root -GM- in Stem 1 means 'African elephant'. The Instrumental case (INS) marks an entity acting as a means utilized by an agent to implement/carry out the effect/impact of an act.

The root -Ẓ- in stem 1 means "to see". The Stimulative case (STM) marks a stimulus which triggers an unwilled affective response or an existential state such as possession (exemplifying toolship, having a cat, containing words).

The root -PS- in stem 1 means "occur". The Effectuative case (EFF) marks an enabler, a party/force that initiates a chain of causal events or who induces another party to act as an agent.

The root -GT- in stem 2 means "to have responsibility". The Dative case (DAT) marks an intended recipient of transference, transmission, or communication, the party to which such is directed.

Here is a summary of the Transrelative cases:

Transrelative Cases
THM Thematic content (a)
INS Instrumental instrument / medium ä
ABS Absolutive patient e
AFF Affective experiencer i
STM Stimulative force / stimulus ëi
EFF Effectuative enabler ö
ERG Ergative agent o
DAT Dative recipient / possesor ü
IND Inducive self-initiated agent u

Roots also take a specification in addition to a stem. So far we've only used Basic (BSC) Specification, but there are also Contential (CTE), Constitutive (CSV), and Objective (OBJ) forms. Let's look at the table for a few more roots:

Root: -G- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic Ambulate The same

as Stem 1, but for rapid ambulation

The same as

Stem 1, but for unnatural or affected ambulation (such as a limp)

CTE Contential Directed movement via ambulation
CSV Constitutive A single iteration of the ambulatory cycle
OBJ Objective The surface one ambulates on (such as the floor)
Root: -M- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic utterance rhetoric phoneme
CTE Contential message rhetorical message the meaning of a phoneme/morpheme?
CSV Constitutive act of communication production of rhetoric utterance of a phoneme
OBJ Objective recipient of communication audience of rhetoric listener of phonetic sound
Root: -Ň- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic writing written composition letter/glyph
CTE Contential written message
CSV Constitutive inscription
OBJ Objective writing surface
Root: -N- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic transfer of possession giving taking
CTE Contential the act of giving/taking (focusing on the item)
CSV Constitutive process of transfer (irrespective of the item)
OBJ Objective object of transfer
Root: -X- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic spaciotemporal size spacial size duration
CTE Contential something with a size
CSV Constitutive volume of space/time taken up
OBJ Objective size of an entity
Root: -Ẓ- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic to see an eye sense of sight
CTE Contential The image one sees
CSV Constitutive The act of seeing
OBJ Objective What is seen

Formatives can shift the default category of Version from Processual (PRC) to Completive (CPT) to indicate a telic form. Stem 1 a becomes ä, stem 2 e becomes i, and stem 3 u becomes ü.

  1. Arţtulawá ulhiliolu wiosaḑca Iţkuil.
  2. Ärţtulawá ulhiliolu wiosaḑca Iţkuil.

Sentence 1 is processual ("My cousin studied the Ithkuil language") while sentence 2 is completive ("My cousin learned the Ithkuil language").

Configuration & Affiliation

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Where we have seen -l- there is now a different Ca value. This Complex affix is initially built from several Configuration and Affiliation values. Configuration values come under three plexities indicating how many units a noun or verb is made of: Uniplex, Duplex, and Multiplex. Uniplex (UPX) Configuration simply refers to one instance of a formative. It is left unmarked. The Multiplex Configurations have three forms of separability: separate (MSS), connected (MSC), and fused (MSF). These take the values t, k, and p respectively. Duplex (DPX) Configuration takes s and will be discussed in later lessons. Configuration works in conjunction with Affiliation, whose values are Consolidative, Associative, Coalescent, or Variative. The default Consolidative (CSL) Affiliation means that the member(s) have no clear function or purpose. Associative (ASO) Affiliation means the members have the same clear function. Coalescent (COA) Affiliation means the members have distinct functions which further a greater goal. Variative (VAR) Affiliation means the members share opposing, maybe contradictory functions. ASO, COA, and VAR Affiliations prefix l-, r-, and ř- respectively onto a non-UPX Configuration. Parenthesized forms in the table below indicate use of standalone Affiliations with the default UPX Configuration. This means the functions or purposes are directed in the components of the root which define the resulting behavior in the gestalt unit. The default form -l- indicates CSL Affiliation, UNI Configuration, as well as M Perspective.

Affiliation Configuration Perspective
Consolidative [ø] Uniplex [ø] Monadic (l) [ø]
Associative (nļ) l Separate t Agglomerative (r) r
Coalescent (rļ) r Connected k Nomic (v) w
Variative (řļ) ř Fused p Abstract (j) y

Using the stems: asvala - tree, apsala - event, & anlala - hand, some examples include:

asvata - woods/forest, asvaka - stand of trees, asvalka - coppice/orchard, asvapa - entangled grove, asvarļa - tree used for something in various ways, asvařļa - tree used for all sorts of things

apsarļa - synergy, apsata - a set of occurences, apsařta - a set of unrelated occurrences, apsaka - a chain/string of occurrences, apsapa - a web of occurrences, apsařpa - a conflicting situation

anlasa - two hands [DPX], anlalta - hands (for high-fiving), anlaka - hands bound together (e.g. with handcuffs), anlarļa - hands complementing each other, anlařļa - hand working in opposition

The formatives we've seen so far use Stative function, but oftentimes verbs result in a change of state, so they are marked for Dynamic (DYN) function. BSC a becomes u, CSV e becomes o, and OBJ i becomes ö.

We introduce the carrier shortcut adjunct:

3. inunļû hlü :oliver:

Here are the appositive cases:

The Possessive case (POS) marks circumstancial or alienable possession (my pear, my chair).

The Proprietive case (PRP) marks recognized alienable possession/oversight (my cat, my hat).

The Genitive case (GEN) marks inherent/intrinsic inalienable association (my brother, my weight).

The Attributive case (ATT) marks experienced association (my intellect, my pain, my health)

The Productive case (PDC) marks a creator or originator (my song, my daughter).

The Interpretative case (ITP) marks the context through which things are considered (my town, my team).

The Originative case (OGN) marks a source or native origin (French food, garden herb).

The Interdependent case (IDP) marks a tandem, complementary, mutually dependent, reciprocal relation (team leader, river water, truck driver).

The Partitive case (PAR) marks the content of a container or number (box of socks, water cup, clown quartet).

THM Thematic a POS Possessive ai
INS Instrumental ä PRP Proprietive au
ABS Absolutive e GEN Genitive ei
AFF Affective i ATT Attributive eu
STM Stimulative ëi PDC Productive ëu
EFF Effectuative ö ITP Interpretative ou
ERG Ergative o OGN Originative oi
DAT Dative ü IDP Interdependent iu
IND Inducive u PAR Partitive ui

4. exelá tala eňirkei

Root: -DN- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic name designation/reference label
Root: -TT- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic size volume duration
Root: -ŇV- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic jollity/delight happiness jubilation/joy
Root: -D- Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3
BSC Basic gathering meeting/congregation conference

We introduce Effect:

Referential NEU BEN DET Referential NEU BEN DET
1m, I/me l r ř 2p, y'all n t d
2m, you s š ž ma, (s)he m p b
mi, it z ţ pa, they ň k g
pi, these/those f v Mx (Mixed) c č j

5. üttulâ hlö :ňwiën\: me šü

6. aňvalô sali :maria: dajëi ilare

Framed verbs change the stress from ultimate to antepenultimate (third-to-last).

7. i olf ažfalêu sei

8. ičřa, arkyalogái ri

9. enoliehá lowez ubalü

10. eňolá lowüp äsale :ánanas:

The use of Absolutive on the direct object is not necessary, but emphasizes the fact that the verb (which has Dynamic Function) applies to the direct object as well as the subject and indirect object.

11. žval agzjalá řeu uţtä’la mü’le

12. airkšaliá su žalüšhâ

13. li ážyalëi fxalogëi ša’i

14. bal kriwith

15. ukcíl waẓpoi za

16. zal ukcilui waẓpoi ẓa

17. ekcík anžala ẓa

18. yuivla lua

19. maliá wadna mü

20. eřkalá mü úxeula wes :ánanas:

21. aphwala alala empaluňa

Although it's not frequently used, the starting vowel of a formative can be o, indicating a stemless formative, using stem 0.

Function and Specification are shown through primary characters by various extensions, as well as Context shown in the table below. All formatives so far have used Existential Context, but there are also Functional and Representational Contexts for literal and metaphorical emphasis.

These sentences require addressing external junction


+ Function

BSC Basic a ai ia
CSV Constitutive e ei io
OBJ Objective i eu
OBJ + Dynamic ö ou öë
CSV + Dynamic o oi öä
BSC + Dynamic u ui


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Existential context marks, Functional context marks, Representational context marks, Amalgamative function marks .

Scoping order: root ← stem/specification ← function ← Ca ←Context


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Below is the table of Referential consonants. m stands for monadic, or singular. p stands for polyadic, or plural. i stands for inanimate. a stands for animate. Mixed (Mx) stands for a combination of inanimate+animate (mi+ma/pi+ma/mi+pa/pi+pa). Provisional (PVS) stands for an uncertain reference. Obviative (Obv) stands for a 4th person reference. Reduplicative (Rdp) stands for a repeated instance of a reference. If pronouncable, you can put Perspective onto referentials.

Referential NEU BEN DET Referential NEU BEN DET
1m, I/me l r ř PVS, who/whatever ll rr řř
2m, you s š ž 2p, y'all n t d
mi, it z ţ ma, (s)he m p b
pi, these/those ẓ / ļ f v pa, they ň k g
Mx (Mixed) c č j Rdp (Reduplicative) th ph kh
Obv(iative) mm nn ňň G: -v-/-tļ- N: -ç-/-x- A: -w/-y


To greet someone after noon, you say:

attaleřjêi - good afternoon, attalêi - hello, attalöřjêi - good dusk/twilight (around 20:00), attalüřjêi- good evening/night (around 22:00)

If you’re in Russia, those last two are earlier in the winter and later in the summer of course (other way around if you’re in Antarctica). Follow the salutation with (or šü to include the meaning of "good") when addressing a 2nd person monadic audience. There's a separate affix to use for antemeridian periods of the day:

wattuřcêi - good noon, wattořcêi - good morning, wattiřcêi - good dawn/daybreak (around 6:00) wattäřcêi - good madrugada (around 3:00)

Again, those last two are later in the winter and earlier in the summer the further north you are. Other way around in the southern hemisphere.


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adnalá sa mma - what is your name?

ophwalá sa mmoi - where are you from?

e ophwalá sa mmi’a - where do you reside?


You may have noticed that the loanword "Ithkuil" should be pronounced as two syllables, but at the beginning we showed how it is pronounced with three. This goes to show that you can pronounce diphthongs as disyllabic conjuncts if you want, although it is not recommended.

In later lessons we also encounter the voiceless forms [ɾ̥], [m̥], and [n̥].


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Perspective is considered after Affiliation and Configuration. It scopes after these Ca categories. The default Monadic (M) Perpsective means that the configurative entity is singular. Agglomerative (G) Perspective refers to "some" (one or more) instances of the entity. Nomic (N) Perspective refers to the entity as a collective or archetype tied to no specific instance, such as mankind, the noble dog, it rains, or they sing in general. Abstract (A) Perspective refers to the entity as a concept dissociated from spacetime, such as adulthood, writtingness/writtenness (everything involving writing/being written), or bigotry towards women, and it is useful for unrealized verbs such as constantly worrying about being late, coldness in winter, or singing in general. Note that women, being late, and winter use Nomic in these examples. G, N, or A Perspective can be tacked onto the categories it scopes over with -r, -w, and -y respectively. Parenthesized forms in the table below indicate use of standalone Perspective.

We will go over the other Ca tables in later lessons, including the allomorphic substitutions. When all (read: both) categories are at their default, the form in parentheses l is used. The default Extension form is Delimitive (DEL), meaning the entirety of a formative. It scopes after Configuration and Affiliation conjugate, but before Perspective.

Vv M G N A
Stem 1 wa wai wia yuä
Stem 2 we wei wio yüä
Stem 3 wu wui wiä yua
Stem 0 wo woi wöä yuo

Associative Cases

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The Applicative case (APL) marks

The Purposive case (PUR) marks

The Transmissive case (TRA) marks

The Deferential case (DFR) marks

The Contrastive case (CRS) marks

The Commutative case (CMM) marks

The Comparative case (CMP) marks

Comparison cases are replaced by the SCL affix (Standards for Comparison for use with Levels)

The Considerative case (CSD) marks

APL Applicative ia / uä FUN Functive ao
PUR Purposive ie / uë TFM Transformative
TRA Transmissive io / üä CLA Classificative eo
DFR Deferential iö / üë RSL Resultative
CRS Contrative CSM Consumptive
TSP Transpositive uö / öë CON Concessive öe
CMM Commutative uo / öä AVR Aversive oe
CMP Comparative ue / ië CVS Conversive öa
CSD Considerative ua / iä SIT Situative oa

The Functive case (FUN) marks the manner of something.

The Transformative case (TFM) marks

The Classificative case (CLA) marks

The Resultative case (RSL) marks

The Consumptive case (CSM) marks

The Concessive case (CON) marks

The Aversive case (AVR) marks

The Conversive case (CVS) marks

The Situative case (SIT) marks

Some roots have a related meaning in their interpretation as an affix (using a type-2 character).

Affix -s


+a +e +i +ëi +o +u
via language via writing via publication via electronic medium via formal sign language via non-linguistic vocalizations

alpalas - say being proud

amales - write being proud

amalis - publish being proud

amalëis - message being proud

amalos - sign being proud

amalus - vocalize being proud

Affix -t


+a +e +i +ëi +o +u
this that the previously mentioned [head] that [+head] this [+head]

atlalata - this movement

atlaleta - that movement

atlalita - the previously mentioned movement

ágala lu atlalëitao - that I walk in the manner of the movement

ágala lu atlalotao - that I walk in the manner of that movement

ágala lu atlalutao - that I walk in the manner of this movement

Affix -x


+a +e +i +ëi +o +u
too small small mini just the right size large too large

aktalax - too short of a past

aktalex - a short past

aktalix - a somewhat shorter past

aktalëix - a decently long past

aktalox - a long past

aktalux - too long of a past

Affix -l


+a +e +i +ëi +o +u
but/still besides aside from excluding not even exclusive to

aţtalá li talala - I know, but there's this (despite the aforementioned)

aţtalá li talela - I know, but there's also this (in addition to the aforementioned)

aţtalá li talila - I know, ignoring this for a moment (not taking it into account)

aţtalá li talëila - I know, excluding this (completely not taking it into account)

aţtalá li talola - I don't even know this (expectation it should be included)

aţtalá li talula - I know exclusively this (only applying to it)

I speak Ithkuil - mul esavä iţkuil

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I speak the language

mal esavä iňgliš (English), fřansé (French), espanyól (Spanish), doič (German), italyano (Italian), esperanto (Esperanto)

I speak the language associated with the people/land

mal esavaḑcä iňgliš/iňglënd (English), arab (Arabic), báňali (Bengali), espanya (Spanish), hàn (Chinese), hu (Wu, in zaňhe Shanghai or sëucöü Suzhou), hindu (Hindi),

wusaḑca luzófono (Portuguese) rasiya (Russian) nihon (Japanese) pënjabi (Punjabi) maraţi (Marathi) télugu (Telugu) türkler (Turkish) hanguk (Korean) fřans (French) doič (German) vietnám (Vietnamese) tamil (Tamir) /üt (Yue) urdu (Urdu) jowo (Javanese) italya (Italian) melayu (Malay)

sleepy, pierce, oversight, help, responsibility


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