Wenja Grammar: Plurals & Animacy

In languages like English, there is usually a way to differentiate singular nouns from plural nouns.

Wenja, Wenjas

bear, bears 

leaf, leaves 

BUT fish, fish

In Wenja, plural nouns look exactly the same as singulars.

Winja = Wenja, Wenjas 

hars = bear, bears 

balya =  leaf, leaves 

payska = fish, fish

However, if a plural noun is the subject of a verb, in special circumstance you’ll see the plural marked on the verbs. To understand when, you must first understand animacy.

Wenja speakers view the things within their world as either living (animate) or non-living (inanimate). For the Wenja, anything animate has a soul.  Animate nouns are people, spirits, gods, and animals. Inanimate nouns are objects, such as rocks, weapons, and food.
The key point is that Wenja only use endings on their verbs when the subject is animate. The only things that can be inanimate would be in the 3rdperson. For the 3rd singular, since there is no verbal ending in the paradigm for animate subjects, the verb will look the same whether the subject is animate or inanimate. So, the only difference you would need to worry about would be for the 3rd person plural subjects:
3rd person plural subjects:

Mara harha.                        The apples rest.                  (Inanimate) 

Chwan harharsh.              The dogs rest.                      (Animate)

3rd person singular subjects:

Mara harha.                          The apple rests.                (Inanimate) 

Chwan harha.                       The dog rests.                    (Animate)

6 thoughts on “Wenja Grammar: Plurals & Animacy

  1. Reofive says:

    I really like the fact that the animate aspect of the subject influences the conjugation of the verb in Wenja. But if this proto-PIE had no morphological plural, how did plural come to appear in PIE? And what about the three genders?

  2. Andrew Byrd says:

    We actually asked the creative team about this – the consensus was that trees are viewed to have spirits. So, Darwa patarsh "Trees fall."

  3. Andrew Byrd says:

    Well, this reflects a good deal of creative license on our end. There's no evidence that plurals *didn't* exist in proto-PIE, though given the nature of the creation of inflectional (affix-based) systems, it's likely that at some point those suffixes derived from stand-alone words, as we strive to do in Wenja. That said, what we lay out above does correspond to some reality in PIE — it seems that neuter (inanimate) plural subjects were paired with singular verbs. This is the "tá zóa trékhei" (literally, the animals runs) rule, where in Greek we'd expect tá zóa trékhousi (the animals run).

  4. Reofive says:

    I see. But once again, what about the genders? If this proto-PIE had none, what was the process that led to the categorization of all of the nouns into masculine, feminine and neuter, as in PIE?

  5. Andrew Byrd says:

    It's possible (but not assured) that PIE only had two genders, animate & inanimate, as we see in Anatolian, with the feminine gender being a later creation. For this reason, we started with the notion that gender in Wenja wasn't marked per se, but there is the animate / inanimate distinction as discussed above. The idea is that this grammatical distinction would actually lead to a real morphological one.

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