Wenja Grammar: the Copula & Stand-Alone Pronouns

To Be or Not to Be?  (In Wenja, usually not.)

In English, we make use of a form of the word to be, also known as the copula, to connect a noun with another word that gives more information about that noun (also known as the predicate), be it another noun, an adjective, or a prepositional phrase.

We are linguists. 

He is tall. 

I am on the phone. 

In Wenja, however, you rarely ever use a spoken copula.

Winja marwa.       Wenja (are) dead.

Da chamsha!        Da (is) ready!

You will only use a copula in extremely formal contexts. In these cases, you’ll use a variant of the word hasa plus the necessary endings.

Takkar hasam.                I am Takkar.  (proclamation)

Salwa marwa hasarsh!   They are all dead!   (proclamation)

Recall from the post on Wenja verbs that when the verb endings indicate who is doing the action, there is no need for a stand-alone pronoun. For example, if the subject is 3rd person singular, the verb indicates this and no pronoun is needed (Sasa. ‘He sleeps.’).

Since in a zero-copula sentence there is no verb to link the subject with the predicate, there are no verb endings to indicate the subject. It is here that stand-alone pronouns will appear.
The pronouns are as follows:

1st person
2nd person
3rd person
ø  (sa)

Note that the 3rd person singular pronoun (he/she/it) is usually not used. It is assumed from the context of the conversation that whatever you are referring to is understood, so it is not needed. We do this sometimes in English: See that bear over there? Young.

Yuwanka.                                (He/She/It is) young. 

Also, if the object is 3rd person singular, the meaning can be understood from context as well. That is to say, if we’ve been talking for an hour about a bear who is being a nuisance and wreaking havoc on our village and I say the sentence Gwanam! ‘I kill!’ you know that I’m talking about the bear and not you, or the villagers, or someone else.  If it is not so obvious who I’m talking about, I can use the pronoun sa for emphasis (Sa gwanam! ‘I kill THAT!’).
Notice too that there is only one form of the pronoun sa, whereas in English we have three: he, she and it. That means when Wenja are referring to any person, animal or thing, it is always the same pronoun sa (or they leave out the pronoun completely), regardless of gender. This could reflect their world-view that all creatures are an equal part of the universe, and their egalitarian society that does not show a gender hierarchy. Or it could just be a coincidence. There are many languages, like Turkish, that do not make a distinction in gender in their pronouns.
Here are some sentences that show the pronoun (or no pronoun) plus zero-copula structure in Wenja:

Mu Wenja.                              I (am) Wenja.

Ta Udam.                                You (are) Udam.

Izila.                                        (He/She/It is) Izila.

Sa Udam.                                That one (is) Udam. 

Mas lasiwa.                             We (are) weak. 

Tan chlawta.                            Y’all (are) loud. 

Say shnar-hadan.                     They (are) cannibals.

2 thoughts on “Wenja Grammar: the Copula & Stand-Alone Pronouns

  1. Reofive says:

    Out of sheer curiosity: how would you say "linguistics" and "linguist" in Wenja?

  2. Andrew Byrd says:

    Hah, that's a tricky one. Well, "dangwa" is the word for "tongue; language", and "tangayan" is the word for "thinker" (Urki the Thinker = Tangayan Urki). But "Dangwa-tangayan" sounds weird. There's another verb 'mani', the source of the men- in mental as well as the min- in mind. So, we could devise a word "Dangwa-manin" (= "Language-thinker"), with an abstract noun "Dangwa-manti" (= "Language thinking/thought"). Of course, there would be no linguists in Primal anyhow — folks like me would have been eaten long ago by a sabretooth. 😀

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