In a remote valley in the Ural mountains (as if there were any other kind), there lives a fairly isolated society of weavers and yarn makers whose storytellers spin tall tales while spinning thread and weave great sagas while working at their looms. They call themselves the Ro Ta Tora, (“Great Spinners of Yarns”), and they are renowned for miles
around for the quality of their textiles and for the impressiveness of their oratory. The greatest among these raconteur-
(“eldest”), whose complex and beautiful patterns of warp and weft are matched only by the complexity and beauty of the narratives they weave while working. Ro Ta Tora who wish to be counted among the Dores must challenge a sitting member to an epic multi-
Spinning Jenny, a member of the Dores, prepares to defend her position in response to a Poɛ Trisl Æm challenge from a younger raconteur-
The language of the Dores is as rhythmic as the working of looms, and, as we shall see, as cyclic as the spinning of their wheels.
The basic word order for Ro Ta Tora is SVO. Interestingly, the commonly-
Stories are generally told in the present tense, so the regular SVO order is used for present tense. Past tense is indicated by VOS, and future tense by OSV. For example, in the tale of Gyr the King Killer, the hero Gyr dethrones the despot Iŋ I, his son Iŋ II, and finally his grandson Iŋ III, before finally putting that royal lineage to a messy end. In the middle of the narrative, as Iŋ II is led from the Great Hall in chains, the story-
ate Iŋ Gyr Gyr ate Iŋ Iŋ Gyr ate dethrone Iŋ Gyr Gyr dethrone Iŋ Iŋ Gyr dethrone “ Gyr dethroned Iŋ.” “ Gyr dethrones Iŋ.” “ Gyr will dethrone Iŋ.”
This story is a popular one, and the plot is not terribly complex, so the audience knows who is dethroning whom. Thus the lack of case marking in these simplest of noun phrases is not terribly ambiguous. Note that the future and present are indistinguishable for verbs without objects (SV order). Context and time adverbials can be used to resolve any ambiguity.
In standard Ro Ta Tora, pronouns come after the verb, and the standard order is VSO, with one or more optional adverbial phrases after:
ate æn tip ɛnltm dethrone she he mercilessly “ She mercilessly dethrones him.”
In the Prmu Ta Šn story-
Finer shades of past tense can also be indicated by changing word order in sentences with subject and object pronouns. The perfect is formed by moving the verb and subject pronoun to final position, and the imperfect is formed by fronting the adverb:
æn tip ɛnltm ate she he mercilessly dethrone “ She is mercilessly dethroned by him.”
As before, missing constituents can lead to ambiguity. The active and imperfect are conflated in the absence of an adverb, which poses little problem since an adverb is easily added, and there isn’t usually much ambiguity in context. However, without an object
tip ɛnltm ate æn ɛnltm ate æn tip he mercilessly dethrone she mercilessly dethrone she he “ She had mercilessly dethroned him.” “ She was mercilessly dethroning him.”
tnym æn æn tnym swallow she she swallow “ She swallows.” “ She is swallowed.” əðətŋ tip tip əðətŋ regurgitate he he regurgitate “ He regurgitates.” “ He is regurgitated.”
In more complex noun phrases, the standard word order is noun adjective determiner:
re p æd wolf ugly the “ the ugly wolf”
In the Prmu Ta Šn register, the Dores can indicate accusative or dative case and instrumental case by moving the head noun to final position, or by fronting the determiner, respectively:
p æd re æd re p ugly the wolf the wolf ugly “ to/of the ugly wolf” “ with the ugly wolf”
Without an adjective, the instrumental is the same as the accusative/
æbrak æd æbra æd mur murk wolfish the wolf the rake rakish “ to/of the wolfish wolf” “ with the rakish rake”
In standard Ro Ta Tora, noun-
In Prmu Ta Šn, the default ordering, wrl [NP1] [NP2], indicates a genitive relationship: NP1’s NP2. The ordering [NP1] [NP2] wrl indicates that NP2 is for, or used by, NP1. The ordering [NP2] wrl [NP1] indicates that NP2 is made of NP1. The entire compound gets case from both elements of the compound, which must be properly ordered to indicate (or at least not preclude) the correct case.
wrl [Iŋ dr] [vı ʃ] [gı vı] [ta] wrl [tə] wrl [ə bə tan] wrl [NP1] [NP2] [NP1] [NP2] wrl [NP2] wrl [NP1] NN [Iŋ foolish] [head bald] [shiny ball] [polish] NN [fudge] NN [young three goat] “ foolish Iŋ’s bald head”, or “ polish for a shiny ball” “ to/of fudge made of three young goats” “ with foolish Iŋ’s bald head”
Gyr ate [bə Iŋ] [[[tə wrl [bə tan ə]] [æd wsl] wrl] Gyr dethrone [III Iŋ] [[[fudge NNof [three goat young]] [the container] NNfor] wrl [wrl [alzo Iŋ dr] [vı ʃ]]] NNof [NNgen [II Iŋ foolish] [head bald]]]INSTR Gyr dethrones Iŋ III with [[[the container] for [fudge made of [three young goats]]] made of [[foolish Ing II]’s [bald head]]]. “ Gyr dethrones Iŋ III with the three- young- goat–fudge container made of foolish Iŋ II’s bald head.”
For those not familiar with the tale of Gyr the King Killer, let’s just say it didn’t end well for Iŋ II, and it was particularly ironic how the fudge container made of his head was used to dethrone his son. KA-POW! However, it is fair to say that fudge made from a trio of young goats (liquified in a lye-
More research is necessary to unravel the intricacies of this system. Said research will require more and abundant funding.
Claude Searsplainpockets &
Somewhere in the Ural Mountains
|The Lost Lexicographer: Ambrose Bierce, Beelzebub, and Documentary Linguistics
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