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TLoO: Chapter 10 - An Okotoan Grammar

Posted by Tolkien , in Okotoan Language, linguistics, Bionicle, Matoran Language, Language and Etymology Mar 07 2015 · 747 views

The Language of Okoto

Chapter 10: An Okotoan Grammar


We have reached the end, so let’s go out with a bang, shall we? All of the previous posts have been solely focused on breaking down the small dataset available to us and fleshing out the form and meaning of various words/lexical items, which is basically just vocabulary-building. But if we want Okotoan to be usable in any form, we’ve gotta mix in a bit of grammar at some point, right? Right. The time has come.

Table of Contents:

1. Syntax

2. Verbs

3. Nouns

4. Other

5. Glossary

1. Syntax

There are two primary rules of syntactic composition (and semantic interpretation) that apply very broadly in Okotoan, as follows:

Rule 1. A modifying element placed before the element it modifies receives an indirect/abstract/non-physical interpretation,

Rule 2. A modifying element placed after the element it modifies receives a direct/concrete/physical interpretation.

A couple of specific applications of this rule to note:

Subjects are positioned before the verb. This expresses the concept that subjects are in an indirect/abstract relation to the action of the verb, since subjects can express various concepts, including “causer”, “initiator”, or just “thing about which the verb expresses an action/property” (depending on the verb).

Objects are positioned after the verb. This expresses the concept that objects are in a dirrect/concrete relation to the action of the verb, indicating the entity which is directly affected by that action.

Taken together, this means that the primary word order of Okotoan is Subject – Verb – Object (SVO), very much like English (and a large number of other human languages).

2. Verbs

Verbs are usually formed directly from basic stems (e.g. k- “to do, act”, e- “to originate, begin, exist”).

A subclass of transitive verbs (verbs that require an object of some kind) is formed by the application of a marker -k (derived from k- “to do, act”; blatantly copied from Matoran -kha, which derives from kya “to do, act”). This can lead to related pairs of verbs such as e- “to originate, begin, exist” alongside ek- “to make smthg.; to cause to exist”.

2.1 Subject-marking

Subjects of verbs are marked by suffixes added directly to the verbal stem, indicating the person/number of the subject. Each suffix has two forms, depending on whether the verb stem ends in a consonant or vowel:

1 -e (after consonants) OR -we (after vowels) = “I”
2 -i OR -wi = “you”
3 -a OR -wa = “she/he/it”

Plural: Add the plural marker -to after the suffixes for 1st/2nd/3rd person.

2.1.1 Examples

1. ke I act.” (= k- “to do, act” + -e “1st person”)
2. ketoWe act.” (= k- + -e + -to “plural”)
3. ki You act.” (= k- + -i “2nd person”)
4. kito You all act.”
5. kaShe/he/it acts.” (= k- + -a “3rd person”)
6. katoThey act.”
7. oweI exist.” (= o- “to exist, remain” + -we “1st person”)
8. owiYou exist.” (= o- + -wi “2nd person”)
9. owaShe/he/it exists.” (= o- + -wa “3rd person”)
10. Ekimu owa. “Ekimu exists.”

- The 1st person marker comes from the stem e “making, originating” (the stem o “place, location, point” was also considered, but this would make the Okotoan 1st person marker identical to Matoran!). The 2nd person marker comes from the noun marker -i, which indicates animate individuals, a common implication of the 2nd person in general (you generally address speech to animate, rather than inanimate, things). The 3rd person marker comes from the noun marker -a, which indicates general nouns--things, objects, and people.
- The suffix-variants with -w- that are used after vowels derive from the addition of the stem u “skill, ability”, which covers the semantic domain of “instrument”, as well as “perspective”. This sound was eventually lost after consonants.

2.2 Tense

Tense is marked on verbs by prefixes added directly to the verbal stem, indicating present, past, and future tense. Each prefix has two forms, depending on whether the verbal stem begins in a consonant or vowel:

Present: o- (before consonants), ok- (before vowels)
Past: e- OR ek-
Future: u- OR uk-, w-

4.2.1 Examples

1. Ekimu o-ka. “Ekimu acts.”
2. Ekimu e-ka. “Ekimu acted.”
3. Ekimu u-ka. “Ekimu will act.”
4. Mu ok-owa. “The mask exists.”
5. Mu ek-owa. “The mask existed
6. Mu uk-owa. OR Mu w-owa. “The mask will exist.”

- The present-marker comes from the stem o “place, location, point”, specifying “(current) temporal location”. The past-marker comes from the stem e “making, originating”, specifying “temporal origination”. The future-marker comes from the stem u “skill, ability”, via metaphorical extension from “ability” to “possibility”, and eventually to “temporal possibility; future”.
- The prefix-variants with -k- that are used before vowels derive from the addition of the stem k- “action”, under the assumption that, at an older stage in the language, tense was marked by a second “placeholder” verb (k-) which then fused with the primary verb stem.
- Interesting: We can construct an alternate etymology for the name Okoto using a verbal template instead of a nounal one. The complex ok-o-we-to would translate to “we exist/remain” (ok- “present tense”, -o- “to exist, remain”, -we- “first person”, -to “plural”), and according to basic assumptions about sound change, it would undergo eventual phonological reduction along the following lines: okoweto > okoueto > okouto > okoto.
- Also interesting: An alternate etymology for the name of Ekimu presents itself. The sentence eki mu would translate to “you acted (with respect to) masks”, with eki deriving from e- “past tense” + k- “to do, act” + -i “2nd person”, plus an object mu “mask(s)”.

3. Nouns

Nouns can be formed directly from basic stems (e.g. u “skill, ability”) as well as by the addition of derivative suffixes such as -a “general noun” and -i “animate noun”.

Nouns can be marked for plural number via the suffix -to, which is attached directly to the noun-stem.

Nouns can also be marked for possession by the addition of a set of independent markers for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person possessors, which are placed before the noun which is possessed, expressing that the noun bears a concrete relation to the possessor.

1 we “mine” (pl. weto “ours”)
2 wi “yours” (pl. wito “yours”)
3 wa “hers/his/its” (pl. wato “theirs”)

If the possessor is another noun (rather than just a pronoun), it is placed before wa, followed by the possessed noun: [possessor] + wa + [possessed].

Lastly, nouns can be marked to express various spatio-temporal properties (location, movement, instrumentality, etc.). These markers can be expressed as affixes (suffixes/prefixes) or as independent words (prepositions/postpositions), as desired. Since, in most cases, they express direct/concrete/physical relationships, it is suggested that these markers be placed after the nouns they modify (not an absolute rule!).

o “in, at, on (position)”
e “from, out of, before (origin, startpoint)”
u “by, with (instrument)”
mo “to, toward (endpoint)” (< m+o, lit. “completion+location”)
omo “after, following; outside” (< o+mo, lit. “location+endpoint”)
wo “through, via, across” (< u+o, lit. “instrument+location”)
owo “during (process); like, as” (< o+wo, lit. “location+process”)

3.1 Examples:

1. eki-to “maker-s
2. kuta-to “hoarder-s
3. oko-to “land-s
4. we okomy land”
5. wi tayour group/hoard”
6. wato mutheir mask”
7. Ekimu wa muEkimu’s mask”
8. oko-o in/at/on (the) land”
9. ta-e from/out of (the) group/hoard/collection”
10. tu-u by/with mastery” OR u-tu, because tu ends in a vowel
11. toa-motoward (the) master/hero” OR mo-toa
12. oko-omo outside (the) land”
13. oko-wothrough/via/across (the) land”
14. e-owoduring (the) making”
15. wato oko-to mo “toward our land-s”

- Interesting: Example 3 above offers an interesting alternative etymology for the word Okoto; one that is appropriate, considering that Okoto is divided into multiple regions or “lands”.

4. Other

4.1 Expressing Negation

Negation (i.e. “not”) is normally marked on verbs by the prefix um-, which is added before the prefixes marking tense. (This prefix is derived from a combination of the stems u “possibility” and m- “covering; completion”, yielding a sense of “completion” or “limitation” of possibility, i.e. “no possibility, negation”).

Alternately, negation can be marked by addition of the independent morpheme uma “nothing, never” (< um-a “negation+thing”) placed before the verb.

4.1.1 Examples

1. Umeke “I did not act.”
2. Uma eke “I did not act. / I never acted.”
3. Makuta umokewa “Makuta does not originate/begin.”
4. Makuta uma okewa “Makuta does not originate/begin. / Makuta never originates/begins.”

4.2 Questions

Two types of questions (“interrogatives”) can be formed: Yes/No-Questions (“Did you get the mask?”) and WH-Questions (“What did you get?” “Where did you get it?” “Who are you?”, etc.).

- Yes/No-Questions are formed simply by the addition of rising intonation at the end of a sentence (similar to English, Spanish, and numerous other human languages).

- WH-Questions are also formed via rising intonation, but coupled with a special set of interrogative (pro)nouns derived from the base-form at- (a combination of the stems a “thing, object, person” and t- “non-specificity”, hence “non-specific thing/object/person”).

ata “who/what”
atomo “where”
atowo “when”
atowe “why”
atu “how”

The element ata should be placed before or after the verb based on whether or not it corresponds to the subject or object. All of the other elements are adverbial in nature and can be placed basically anywhere in the sentence.

4.2.1 Examples

1. Ekimu eka? “Did Ekimu act?” (Yes/No-Q)
2. Ukeki mu? “Will you make the mask?” (Yes/No-Q. Verb = ek- “to make smthg.”)
3. Ata ekeka mu?Who/what made the mask?” (WH-Q)
4. Ekimu ekeka ata?What did Ekimu make?” (WH-Q)
5. Atomo Ekimu ekeka mu?Where did Ekimu make the mask?” (WH-Q)
6. Ekimu ekeka mu atowo?When did Ekimu make the mask?” (WH-Q)
7. Ekimu atu ekeka mu?How did Ekimu make the mask?” (WH-Q)

4.3 Commands

An imperative (command) is constructed by using the bare form of the stem, without any tense-marking, in combination with the 2nd person suffix -i. Negative imperatives are formed by adding either the negative prefix um- to the stem or by placing the independent negative element uma “nothing, never” before the verb.

4.3.1 Examples

1. Eki mu! “Make the mask!”
2. Ki! “Do it!”
3. Uma ki! “Don’t do it!”
4. Ewi! “Begin/originate!”
5. Umewi! “Don’t begin/originate!”
6. Owi! “Exist! / Be!”

4.4 Complex clauses

4.4.1 Coordinating Conjunctions

These independent morphemes are used to join together elements of the same type (e.g. nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs, clauses with clauses) in a symmetrical fashion, such that both elements are independent (“coordinated”).

omo “and, plus” (< o+mo, lit. “location+endpoint”)
me “but, except” (< m+e, “separation, exception”, lit. “completion+origin”)
ome “or” (< o+me, lit. “location+separation/exception”)
we “for, because” (< u+e, lit. “instrument+origin”)

4.4.2 Subordinating Conjunctions

These two morphemes are used to join together elements (usually clauses) in an asymmetrical fashion, such that one element is subordinate or dependent upon the other element. Respectively, they are used to turn a full clause into the object of a verb or into a modifier of a noun (a relative clause).

mo “that” = Complementizer. This morpheme attaches to verbs, indicating that a following clause is the object (or “complement”) of said verb.

ata “that” = Relativizer. This morpheme attaches to nouns, indicating that a following clause is a modifier of the noun.

4.4.3 Examples

1. Makuta omo Ekimu okowato ekimuto. “Makuta and Ekimu are Mask Makers.”
2. Ekimu okeka, me Makuta otaka. “Ekimu makes, but Makuta hoards.”
3. Okeki, ome otaki? “Do you make, or do you hoard?”
4. Makuta ekoka ekimu, we ekeka muto. “Makuta was a Mask Maker, for he made masks.”
5. Okike-mo Ekimu weka mu. “I want Ekimu to make the mask” (lit. “I want that Ekimu will make the mask.”)
6. Mu-ata Ekimu ekeka... “The mask that Ekimu made...”
7. Ekimu okika-mo Makuta uma weka mu. “Ekimu wants Makuta to not make the mask.” (lit. “Ekimu wants that Makuta will not make the mask.”)

5. Glossary:

Basic Stems:

Note: The meanings of these stems are slightly expanded from those outlined in Chapter 9, and a few additional stems have been added.

a |stm.| “thing, object, person”
e |stm.| “making, originating; origination; past” (< *i-)
i |stm.| “animacy, intentionality”
iu |stm.| “sensation, feeling, sight, knowledge” (< *i-u)
k- |stm.| “acting, doing; action”
ko |stm.| “solidity, solid-ness; ?ice”
m- |stm.| “covering; completion; past”
o |stm.| “location, place, point; specificity; existing, remaining; present”
t- |stm.| “plurality, mass; non-specificity”
u |stm.| “skill, ability; instrument, perspective; possibility, future” (< *p-)


-a |aff.| “general noun (thing, object, person)”
-i |aff.| “animate noun”
-k |aff.| “transitive verb (verb taking an object)”
-o |aff.| “general adjective (property, attribute)”


ata |n.| “thing, object”
ati |n.| “person, individual”
ati-ota |n.| “community, society”
atu |n.| “crafted object, product; (piece of) art”
atuki |n.| “crafter, producer” (< *atukui)
ea |n.| “beginning, start, origin” (< *eo-a)
eki |n.| “maker” (< *ekui)
eki-atu |n.| “crafter, artisan”
ekimu |n.| “mask maker” (< *eki-mau)
ga |n.| “liquid, non-solidity; variety, variability, change; activity, movement; water” (< *k-a)
gali |n.| “(ocean) tide, current; cyclicity, reactivity; humor, comedy; lit. ‘generation of variability/change’” (< *ga-li, see le |n.|)
ianu |n.| “darkness; blindness; lit. ‘restriction of sensation’” (< *iua-nu)
iawo |n.| “light; sight, vision; lit. ‘endurance/unrestrictedness of sensation’” (< *iua-po)
i(w)a “sensation, feeling; discovery, knowledge, understanding” (< *iua)
ka |n.| “(an) act, deed”
ki |n.| “agent, causer, actor” (< *kui)
ko |n.| “solidity, solid (substance), rigidity; structure, arrangement; ice” (< *k-o)
kopaka “snow-drift, blizzard; slickness, slipperiness; lit. ‘wandering/drifting of ice’” (< ko-paka)
ku |n.| “action”
ku-ata |n.| “tool, weapon; appendage (arm, leg, hand), manipulator; lit. ‘thing/object of action’”
kuta |n.| “hoarder” (< *kuita)
la |n.| “diffusor, generator; teacher, elder; seed; lit. ‘thing of dispersal/growth/generation’” (< *le-a)
le |n.| “diffusion, dispersal, circulation; generation, growth; jungle, plant-life; air, wind; lit. ‘multiplicity of origins’” (< *te < *t-i)
leo |n.| “(a) generation, stage, step, link; lit. ‘point of dispersal/growth/generation’” (< *lea-o)
lewa |n.| “chaos; lit. ‘freedom of generation/growth’” (< *le-pa)
ma |n.| “covering, mask”
makuta |n.| “mask hoarder” (< *mau-kuta)
moka |n.| “protection, safety”
moko |n.| “house, building, roofed dwelling-place; lit. ‘solid/stable covered-location’” (< m-oko)
mu |n.| “mask” (< *mau)
nu |n.| “restriction, limitation, boundedness; earth, ground; rest, sleep, inactivity; ability/perspective related to covering” (< *m-p)
o |n.| “place, location, point”
oga |n.| “body of water; lake, pond”
ogato |n.| “ocean, sea”
oki |n.| “inhabitant, dweller” (< *okoi)
oko |n.| “land, place, home, region”
okoa |n.| “city, town” (< *okoua)
okoto |n.| “great land/place/home” (< oko-to)
oku |n.| “constructed landmark, monument, temple” (< *okou)
ola |n.| “tree, plant” (< *ole-a)
ole |n.| “forested area; group of trees/plants”
oleto |n.| “jungle, forest”
oma |n.| “end, finish, completion” (< *o-uma)
oni |n.| “miner, delver, cave-dweller; hermit, meditator” (< *onu-i)
onu |n.| “underground, below-ground; refuge, resting place”
onua |n.| “underworld, the deep; silence, rest, meditation” (< *onui-a)
onuto |n.| “cave-system, subterranean world”
opo |n.| “above-ground, surface”
opoto |n.| “plain(s), overworld”
ota |n.| “network, system, arrangement, organization; team; lit. ‘group/collection of points’” (< *otoa)
otaga |n.| “volcano”
otagato |n.| “volcanic region”
otaki |n.| “organizer, networker; lit. ‘agent of network/systems’”
pa |n.| “possibility, potential; freedom, autonomy” (< *p-a)
paka |n.| “wandering, drifting; journey” (< *paki-a)
paki |n.| “wanderer, rogue; lit. ‘agent of possibility/autonomy’”
po |n.| “endurance, fortitude, strength; stone, rock; lit. ‘existing/remaining related to ability/perspective’” (< *p-o)
ta |n.| “hoard, group, collection” (< *toa)
ta |n.| “plurality; expansion, proliferation, consumption; fire, burning; lit. ‘multiplicity of things/objects’” (< *t-a)
taga |n.| “magma; lit. ‘liquid fire’”
to |n.| “largeness, greatness”
toa |n.| “master, hero” (< *toua)
toa-ota |n.| “Toa Team; team of heroes/masters” (< ota-toa)
tu |n.| “mastery; lit. ‘skill of greatness’” (< *tou)
tu |n.| “versatility, adaptability, application, usefulness” (< *t-u)
tua |n.| “tool, device, instrument, implement; lit. ‘versatile/useful object’” (< *tuoa )
tula |n.| “innovator, leader; lit. ‘teacher/elder of adaptability/versatility’ (< *tulea)
tulaga |n.| “protector, preserver, caretaker; lit. ‘leader related to/against change/variability’”
u |n.| “skill, ability; possibility”
uma |n.| “nothing, absence”
uwa |n.| “time” (< *upa)


Note: Because all verbs require the addition of prefixes and suffixes indicating tense and person/number, I have used the notation “-stem-” to distinguish verbs from other entries.

-e- |v.| “to originate, begin, exist; to be (stative)”
-ek- |v.| “to make/create smthg.”
-ewo- |v.| “to go; lit. ‘to move away’” (see -wo-)
-ga- |v.| “to vary, change; to flow”
-i- |v.| “to intend, decide”
-ik- |v.| “to cause, initiate”
-iuk- |v.| to find, discover; to seek out; lit. ‘to know intentionally (abstract)’” (see -uk-)
-k- |v.| “to do, act”
-ki- |v.| “to want, wish, desire”
-ku- |v.| “to change/become different, alternate, vary”
-kuk- |v.| “to affect, influence, apply; to change smthg., manipulate”
-le- |v.| “to disperse, spread, circulate; to generate, manifest”
-lek- |v.| “to engender, spawn”
-li- |v.| “to speak, say; to transmit, convey information” (see -le-)
-m- |v.| “to complete, finish, establish”
-m(i)k- |v.| “to stop smthg.; to end, cut off”
-mowo- |v.| “to come; lit. ‘to move toward’” (see -wo-)
-nu- |v.| “to restrict, limit; to rest, sleep”
-o- |v.| “to be in/at location; to exist; to be (stative)”
-ok- |v.| “to put/place smthg. (location); to locate, specify”
-om- |v.| “to arrive; to end, finish, complete”
-om(i)k- |v.| “to bring smthg.; lit. ‘to make arrive (with)’; to accomplish, achieve”
-t- |v.| “to grow, increase, become larger”
-tak- |v.| “to collect, group, amass, hoard”
-uk- |v.| “to know, think; lit. ‘make possibility/perspective’”
-uki- |v.| “to see, observe; lit. ‘to know intentionally (concrete)’” (see -uk-)
-wo- |v.| “to move”


eo |adj.| “first, initial” (< *eo-o, see ea |n.|)
galo |adj.| “reactive; cyclic; humorous, comedic”
go |adj.| “variable, changeable; flowing, watery” (< *gao, see ga |n.|)
ko |adj.| “active, eventful” (< *k-o)
ko(o) |adj.| “solid, stable, firm, concrete; frozen, icy” (< *ko-o)
kopako |adj.| “slippery”
lewo |adj.| “chaotic”
lo |adj.| “dispersed; growing” (< *le-o)
mo |adj.| “covered, separated; completed, finished; distant”
no |adj.| “restful, sleepy”
omo |adj.| “last, final” (< *oum-o, see oma |n.|)
pako |adj.| “lost, direction-less”
po |adj.| “above, over; unrestricted, free; resistant, strong”
to |adj.| “great, large; plural, many”
towo |adj.| “masterful, heroic; brave, courageous” (< *touo)
wo |adj.| “skillful, competent, capable”

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