A Qári Tale: The King and Jafo’s Balls

While the Qáritu were the first people of Adeia to develop writing, true functional literacy was always limited to a few practitioners: scribes, priests and augurs, mainly. The true literature of the people therefore was always oral literature. As well as songs and epic poems, the Qáritu were fond of short aperçus, typically humorous in nature, and often featuring the canny folk-hero Jafo. Here is one such:

Pé qár lentxoli atxe, at lutkár q’at lagitxá iqé he lentxolit.
exist city prone_to_gambling very | DEF king and=DEF palace COP PERL prone_to_gambling-DEF
There once was a city very fond of gambling, the king and his court most of all.

Tafá Jafo txerikxe at qár qéyo so ho selaki at lutkár q’at lutyar x’at ululiqaya.
thus Jafo travel DEF city and 3SG PASS welcome DEF king and=DEF augur LOC=DEF throne_room
And so Jafo travelled to the city and was received in the throne room of the King and the Chief Augur.

A cultural note here: although far from being universal in practice, the Qári ideal of governance is a dyarchy where power is shared by the lutkár, nominally the head of the kitsánu warrior sodality, and the lutyar, who is the chief functionary of the city’s main temple.

Jafo éqi: “Té Lutkár, já lentxi aná.”
Jafo QUOT | lord king | 1SG wager-IRR ALL.2SG
Jafo said, “Lord King, I would make a wager with you.”

At lutkár éqi: “Já xekyu lentximi ná.”
DEF king QUOT | 1SG hear-IRR wager 2SG
“Let me hear your wager,” said the king.

Jafo éqi: “Té Lutkár, já lentxe aná é txa iqé tle kangqa xeliyá kidol ujá fé loqat já qe loqat ná.”
Jafo QUOT | lord king | 1SG wager ALL.2SG COMP AFF COP EQT date new-PL testicle-PL COM.1SG INST wife 1SG and wife 2SG
“Lord King, I wager my wife against yours that my testicles are actually fresh dates,” said Jafo.

At lutkár éqi: “Rá gehixu.”
DEF king QUOT | 1INC agree
“I accept the wager,” said the king.

Jafo ipat padayi kidokura qéyo tláré x’ayeqa at lutkár i senditaye.
Jafo throw disrobe loincloth and.so 3SG stand LOC=eye DEF king REL laugh-ASP
Jafo tore off his loincloth and stood in front of the king, who began to laugh.

At lutkár éqi: “Sol iqé he suyá, sol utut iqé tle kangqa xeliyá!”
DEF king QUOT | 3PL COP PERL hairy, 3PL NEG~NEG COP EQT date new-PL
“They’re all hairy,” he said, “they’re clearly not fresh dates!”

Jafo éqi: “Té Lutkár, toyo itsulo yetot ta itsulo ngeyat.”
Jafo QUOT | lord king | blind_person distinguish meat cow ABL meat goat
“Lord King,” said Jafo, “the blind man can tell the difference between beef and mutton.”

This warrants some explanation: Jafo quotes an idiom which has a meaning something like “appearances can be deceptive”. The implication is that while a blind person can tell beef and mutton apart by their taste, a sighted person may mistake the two solely based on how they look.

At lutkár qayi sitlá kidol le Jafo. At lutyar hagi tyáqaye qéyo Jafo senditaye.
DEF king come taste testicle-PL COM Jafo || DEF augur angry shout-ASP and Jafo laugh-ASP
The king came forward and tasted Jafo’s testicles. The augur began to shout angrily and Jafo began to laugh.

At lutkár éqi: “Ná sendita nye? Loqat ná antxi iqé ujá!”
DEF king QUOT | 2sg laugh Q? wife 2SG now COP COM.1SG!
The king said: “Why are you laughing? Your wife is now mine!”

“Txa Té Lutkár. Lipa já antxi iqé tle ugabat, heyá já yé lentxe m’at lutyar fé ugabe iso é sipa kidol já at lutkár!”
yes lord king || but 1SG now COP EQT wealthy_man | because 1SG ANT wager ALL=DEF augur INST wealth all COMP lick testicle-PL 1SG DEF king
“Yes, Lord King. But now I’m a wealthy man, because I’d already bet the augur everything he owns that the king would lick my balls!”

A Qári recipe

Lo sehu áhunu páta yetot he yut engki, lo nijá:
3ind want cook-irr breast cow perl ale sour, 3ind do_that:
If one wishes to cook beef brisket with sour ale, one does like so:

Note that there is no distinct word for ‘if’ in Qári: conditional sentences are formed by placing the verb in the irrealis mood. In this case, we have an indicative condition, so the antecedent has an irrealis verb and the consquent a realis verb.

The use of the perlative preposition he to indicate the style or manner of a dish is conventional and divorced from its normal meaning of ‘through’ or ‘via’: this is similar to the use of à in French.

Qári has two words which can be translated ‘to do’: nijá and olnéda. The first, as used here, is essentially anaphoric: it takes its meaning from an antecedent verb in an earlier clause (here áhu ‘to cook’). In contrast, the verb olnéda could be described as an indefinite pro-verb – it essentially means ‘to do something’: nye Báku olnéda? would translate either as ‘is Báku doing something?’ or ‘what is Báku doing?’

Lo pogebu gexit at páta yetot, qeyo lo áhu fé dangga x’áhit. Dangga yengkitse ta yetot iqé tle kimiye, dangga ta tlifi qát tle bol, qeyo dangga andu tl’udaye.
3ind debone roll_up def breast cow, and_so 3ind cook inst oil loc fire. oil boil-ptcp abl cow cop eqt good-def.inan, oil abl tail sheep cop eqt two, and_so oil sesame eqt bad-def.
One bones and rolls the breast of beef, and cooks it in some fat over the fire: rendered beef fat is best, the fat of a sheep’s tail is second and oil of sesame is worst.

The first clause here provides an example of a serial verb construction. Yes, there is a lexeme meaning ‘to debone’ – in Modern Qári it is not etymologically transparent. However, in Old Qári it derives straightforwardly from the privative prefix pə- and the noun lɨ́gʷbɨ ‘bone’, the latter having a reflex limbe in Modern Qári.

Qári does not distinguish as we do between oil (generally derived from plants) and fat (generally derived from animals), using dangga for both. Also note here the use of the definite form of the adjective as a superlative.

Lo saksu tlo qe kayor, qe kido sayatxe yáyi, qe báruná; qeyo yá xe yetsit roti. Lo apasi qe gorali qe paril qe ledo x’at páta yetot, qeyo apasi x’at okyar.
3ind wash cut and leek-pl and testicle garlic three and sweet_marjoram-pl, and_so place loc jar large. 3ind strew and sumac and kalonji and salt loc=def breast cow, and_so place loc=def vegetable-pl.
One washes and cuts leeks, three cloves of garlic and sweet marjoram and places them in the base of a large jar. One covers the beef with sumac, kalonji and salt, and places it on the greens.

In this section we see Qári’s two words for ‘and’ – qe and qeyo – in action. The former conjoins phrases within a clause: we can see here in chains of multiple phrases qe is placed before each phrase. The latter by contrast conjoins whole clauses. The same distinction between a phrasal and a clausal form is also seen in the pair ke and kiyo, both meaning ‘or’.

An interesting quirk of Qári is that herbs are not considered to be mass nouns as they are in English: rather they are count. To use the singular form báru here would indicate that a whole marjoram plant is used.

Yut engki gori kimi, soye aqitisi xe yetsit saka fé ke dolungé ke doloni he tahi iná, ho ijá m’at páta yetot.
ale sour red good, this.inan grow_old-ptcp.agt loc jar clean inst or mastic or terebinth perl year one, pass pour all=def breast cow.
A good sour red ale, aged for one year in a clean amphora with mastic or terebinth wood, is poured over the breast of beef.

Noun phrases in Qári are not fond of “heavy” adjuncts occurring within the phrase. Instead we see extraposition of a particularly wordy adjunct, using a third person pronoun matching the antecedent in animacy and number as the head.

At yetsit ho manádiku yá xe ohitsun he ipot tyaka, tayá átitse ho yé tyá.
def jar pass seal place loc dome_oven perl day half, abl.rel bread pass pst remove.
One seals the jar and places in a dome oven for half a day, once the bread has been taken out.

The verb manádiku here refers solely to sealing something up with clay – it is derived transparently from the additive prefix ma- and the noun nádit ‘clay’. To seal a document or similar, one uses the verb kxápiksá, derived from kxápu ‘a seal, a signet’.

Lo kimi et soye le hoda, soye ho kimi apasiru fé ujá ngér.
3ind good eat this.inan com bulgur, this.inan pass good garnish-irr inst sauce grasshoper.
One eats this well with bulgur, if it is garnished well with sauce of locusts.

Qári lacks an overt derivational strategy to convert adjectives into adverbs. Most commonly the equative preposition tle is used, but very high-frequency adjectives can simply be preposed to a verb to denote an adverbial sense.

A few cultural notes:

This recipe is high-class cuisine: it’s definitely élite food. Most urban Qáritu would very rarely have the opportunity to eat fresh meat – dried and preserved meats, cheeses, other dairy products, waterfowl, fish and shellfish are the most common sources of protein in the average diet.

The observant will have noted that the Qári term for “a clove of garlic” is kido sayatxe, and literally means “garlic testicle”. The visual similarity to testicles and cloves of garlic has led to garlic being considered in Qári society to be a food which promotes virility in men and is effectively an aphrodisiac, used to treat impotence. For the kyanátu, the eunuch death-priests, however, garlic is a taboo food: they will not permit it within the death-grounds. As such, it is also taboo in funeral meals.

The three main spices (as opposed to herbs) used in Qári cuisine are paril ‘kalonji’ (Nigella sativa seeds), gorali ‘sumac’ (dried fruits of Rhus coraria) and ngonun ‘cumin’ (Cuminum cyminum seeds). The three are frequently used together, although cumin is considered to be unrefined and so disfavoured by the élite: thus we see in this recipe only kalonji and sumac.

The Qáritu can justly claim to be the first culture of Adeia to invent ale (yut), and they have an extremely broad variety (albeit none that include hops – they drink a lot of ale but would be puzzled by beer). The kind called for in this recipe is yut engki gori ‘red sour ale’. This is very much a special occasion drink – made with roasted wheat, malted barley and fermented not only with natural yeast, but also lactic acid bacteria; and then aged for up to two years. The closest Terrestrial equivalent would be a Belgian lambic or bière rouge. When the Qáritu age their ales for more than a few months, they often add lumps of aromatic woods – often mastic or terebinth as here – not only for the flavour contributed by the resin, but also because of their antimicrobial properties (not that the Qáritu would phrase it like that – they’d just notice that resinated ale doesn’t go nasty while being aged as often as unresinated ale).

Unfortunately, ujá ngér ‘grasshopper sauce’ is not a whimsical name for an otherwise innocuous condiment. It’s literally made out of grasshoppers. They are caught in nets, crushed to death and then liberally salted and left out to dry in the sun for three or four days. They are then ground up to make a paste, which is then fermented in large amphorae for about eight months (half the Adeian year). To make ujá ngér you take some of this fermented grasshopper goo (dit ngér) and water it down with some small beer, mixing in a little chopped herb of choice. The less adventurous could always substitute shrimp paste (dit gixali) – the overall effect is similar, being very umami, a bit sour and a bit fishy.

Qári Drabble: the dead barbarian

Dábu ikótye x’ayeqa já. Só páqeyi ipa yejitxe ma daksa, gehixu qe yepu. Só yá kadu ajá éqi: 

“Yata já, tafá é pé gálir uqa xe yeqxit já?”

Já’m ut áqu ayeqar só, kipa já lutleyó nakni iqaya. Já kangqit qitná éqi: 

“Té Dábu, gálir uqa ut rón xe yeqxit. At txumat xe yeqxit rá ut iqé tle gálir, só hó yéyé ritsá xe qár. Pin xe sityar só hó riná tyama. Txumat-indu iqé tlirá, Té Dábu.”

Gyámo dábu sendita netqi. Já tlehali luseti nédir éqi: 

“Nédir! makura Té Dábu fé ésiyatxe xeli! Só inápér he gálir!”

My father sat down opposite me. He raised a cup of beer to his lips, nodded and drained it. 

“My son, why is there a dead barbarian in my bed?” he asked me, carefully. 

I could not look him in the eyes, instead I toyed with the edge of my mat. 

“Honoured father,” I began hesitantly. “There is no dead barbarian in your bed. The man in your bed is not a barbarian, he was born here in the city. He died in his sleep last night. He is you, honoured father.”

The ghost of my father smiled at me and disappeared. I called to my slave: 

“Slave! Wrap my father in a different shroud! He looks like a barbarian!” 

With interlinear glosses and some commentary:

Dábu ikót-ye x’ayeqa já. Só páqeyi ipa yejitxe ma daksa, gehixu qe yepu.
father sit-asp loc=eye 1sg || 3sg raise cup beer all mouth | nod and swallow
My father sat down opposite me. He raised a cup of beer to his lips, nodded and drained it.

The verb ‘to sit’ is ikópér, derived from ikó ‘session’ and –pér, a suffix deriving stative verbs. This suffix is itself derived from a now-obsolete verb pér ‘to exist’, which had a highly irregular animate aspectual form tye. The suffix is productive enough that this has not been lost to analogy.

Só yá kadu ajá éqi: “Yata já, tafá é pé gálir uqa xe yeqxit já?”
3sg put ask all.1sg quot || son 1sg | why sr exist barbarian dead loc bed 1sg
“My son, why is there a dead barbarian in my bed?” he asked me carefully.

Two things of note here: direct speech is introduced with the invariant quotative particle éqi. It derives, unsurprisingly, from the Old Qári *ɨkʷtṇ ‘it is said’.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, the interrogative tafá ‘why’ is always followed by a subordinate clause, introduced with the subordinator é.

Já’m ut áqu ayeqa-r só, kipa já lutle-yó nakni iqaya.
1sg=appl neg see eye-pl 3sg | but 1sg fondle-asp edge cushion
I could not look him in the eyes, instead I began to fiddle with the edge of my mat.

A cultural note: the Qáritu believe that it is incredibly unlucky to look into a dead person’s eyes. This is the first hint that all is not as it seems.

Já kangqit qitná éqi: “Té Dábu, gálir uqa ut rón xe yeqxit. At txumat xe yeqxit rá ut iqé tle gálir, só hó yéyé ritsá xe qár. Pin xe sityar só hó riná tyama. Txumat=indu iqé tlirá, Té Dábu.”
1sg hesitate say quot || hon father | barbarian dead neg lie_down loc bed || def man loc bed 2sg neg be eqt barbarian | 3sg pass pst~pst bear loc city ||yesterday loc night 3sg pass sleep die || man=that be eqt.2sg | hon father
“Honoured father,” I began hesitantly. “There is no dead barbarian in your bed. The man in your bed is not a barbarian, he was born here in the city. He died in his sleep last night. He is you, honoured father.”

Note that Qári is not overly generous with possessives. We’ve established that the bed belongs to the narrator’s father, there’s no need to keep on referring to yeqxit rá ‘your bed’.

Again, culturally, it would be unusual for most Qáritu to refer to one’s own father with the honorific prefix unless you were offering him ancestral prayers. Among upper-class Qáritu, however, this would be entirely normal speech.

Gyámo dábu sendita netqi. Já tlehali luseti nédir éqi:
soul father smile disappear || 1sg summon order slave quot
The ghost of my father smiled and disappeared. I called to my slave and ordered him:

“Nédir! makura Té Dábu fé ésiyatxe xeli! Só inápér he gálir!”
slave || dress hon father inst kilt new || 3sg resemble perl barbarian
“Slave! Wrap my father in a different shroud! He looks like a barbarian!”

The verb inápér ‘to resemble’ has an unusual case frame, with the thing resembled taking the perlative preposition he where the equative tle would be logically expected. I offer no explanation for this beyond it being weird.

Rethinking telicity and aspect in Qári

Recently, I’ve been reading the second edition of Semantics by Kate Kearns. I recall skimming through the first edition while still at university, but I’ll confess that not much stuck back in 2008. Chapters 8 and 9, on Aktionsarten and tense and aspect respctively, have made me reconsider what I’ve been doing with aspect and telicity marking in Qári.

I’ve been uneasy about this for a while, and this unease has grown as I’ve created more and more sample sentences for my Lexember entries (a post summarising Lexember 2020 is forthcoming!) – up until now, I’ve been using the telic markers –ye and – with verbs to indicate that the telos or endpoint has been reached (almost like a perfective marker, to be honest).  Essentially, I have been morphologically marking what is semantically the least marked property. This is dumb.

So, taking some inspiration from “inverse number marking”, I’ve come up with a system which I feel is at once more realistic and more elegant. Commentary, as always, is highly welcome.

Continue reading “Rethinking telicity and aspect in Qári”

Relative clauses in Qári

Why yes, I did spend NYE conlanging, why do you ask? Here’s some details on an aspect of Qári clausal syntax which was not covered in the previous post, and which I thought would be more complex than it actually was.

Qári only permits the subject of a subclause to be relativised. That is to say, in a construction such as I whipped the boy₁ [the boy₁ kicked the dog], only the boy can be relativised, not the dog:

Já sokiksáye at sagya [i yeqajeye at qénó].
1sg whip:tel def boy [act kick:tel def dog]
I whipped the boy [who kicked the dog].

Note how the active voice marker i, optional in main clauses, is obligatory in subclauses.

As the attentive reader will no doubt recall, Qári is possessed of a wealth of strategies to promote arguments to the status of subjecthood. Thus, to express I whipped the dog whom the boy kicked, the verb in the subclause takes the passive voice:

Já sokiksáye at qénó [hó yeqajeye at sagya].
1sg whip:tel def dog [pass kick:del def boy]
I whipped the dog [who was kicked by the boy].

The same applies with ‘oblique’ arguments. Consider the sentence He conquered the city₁ [you sent the army to the city₁] – here the city is promoted to the subject of the relative clause by means of the applicative voice:

Só jalaye at qár [á geduye at kitsánára ná].
3sg conquer:tel def city [appl send:tel def army 2sg]
He conquered the city [to which you sent the army].
(Note here also the resurfacing of VOS word order.)

Note, however, that only core oblique arguments can be promoted to subject: adjuncts cannot. Thus I burnt down the house in which the boy kicked the dog cannot be expressed in Qári by means of a relative clause. Rather a coordinate clause must be used (note also the use of the anterior tense marker ):

Já áxeyó at áda, qeyindu at sagya yé yeqajeye at qénó.
1sg burn:tel def house | and_there def boy ant kick:tel def dog
I burnt down the house, and there the boy had kicked the dog.

So far, we have only looked at relative clauses which qualify a noun phrase in the main clause which is not a subject. When relative clauses qualify main-clause subjects, the constructions are broadly the same, with the only difference being that the voice marker is preceded by the relative marker é:

At kitsánu [é i jalaye qár] pálebuye at txumatu.
def warriors [rel act conquer:tel city] castrate:tel def men
The warriors [who conquered the city] castrated the men.

At txumatu [é hó pálebuye at kitsánu] kyá qár.
def men [rel pass castrate:tel def warriors] inhabit city
The men [whom the warriors castrated] inhabited the city.

Wise words

Ut sása samitki ladaját heyá i kináye axi ná só fé quyáyó átitxe xupi uná, kyeyó xupiye átitxe hó utxe áhu-áhu qeyó pulat ngaya xiná, qeyo pulat ngaya xe ladaját.

neg strike semantron shaman because rel.act pay-tel.an heart 2sg 3sg inst carry-tel.inan bread sweet com.2sg, but_then sweet-def.inan bread pass neg.ant cook~cook and_so red-def.an cheek loc.2sg and_so red-def.an cheek loc shaman.