Relay 10/R

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Hear the name of the language pronounced

Q'en|gài (*)

Henrik Theiling

Ring S

Sexánqgikhákhà Sàn|ú||káukhàn!u!

|K'eninqgukháu! !Xet'ù||kàun|e!xa?

N|gáiqukhán|ú||káukhàhá ngen|è=xái||kàu||káikháihhá=xaun|a||káuhù. Ngexásèn|ehuikhi||k'én|aikhàu ngáixánuqèn|en|aikhàu ngíniqúihhù ngíq'in|guhhúi n!gíhuixikhà. Ngenqganqgihhúkhun|ú. Ngen|u=xe||ká!k'ahai. N|gáikxúingín|i ngen|u=xaikxàuhai.

!Xesèn|e||kún|e!xan|u? !Xesèn|e||kún|e!xan|u? K'endit'ùikhukhi.

=Káiq'è!xái||k'ékhuhaitutìun|en|akhau ||xekuqéndáu||kíkhi||ké.

Click here to see the text in conscript.

Caution, angry Baby!

Good griefs! What has happened? Yesterday, a young girl came to our pretty house to look after our baby-boy. She did all she could to entertain him: she played with him, sang to him, and much more. But despite of this, the baby attacked her, teared apart his food, and threw the remains out of the window.

What will I do? What will I do? I absolutely don't know. So now I have hidden the event so that the police hopefully cannot ask difficult questions.

Literal translation

Parts not mentioned in the Q'en|gai text, thus those that are added in the English text, are in parentheses (typically pronouns). The parts that are usually not translated because they are redundant in English or grammatically required in Q'en|gai, but not in English, are in brackets (typically evidence affixes).

    1:  Sexánqgikhákhà sàn|ú||káukhàn!u!

        Be careful with respect to [an] angry child!

    2:  |K'eninqgukháu!

        [There is] (instinctive) unexpected scaredness! (=~ Good griefs!)

    3:  !Xet'ù||kàun|e!xa?

        What happened?

    4:  N|gáiqukhán|ú||káukhàhá ngen|è=xái||kàu||káikháihhá=xaun|a||káuhù.

        (Presumably) in order that [she] looks after [our] baby boy, yesterday,
        (I saw myself) [a] girl came to [our] pretty house.

    5:  Ngexásèn|ehuikhi||k'én|aikhàu ngáixánuqèn|en|aikhàu ngíniqúihhù
        ngíq'in|guhhúi n!gíhuixikhà.

        (I saw that) she did all that [is] possible to entertain him,
        namely (I saw) [she] played with him, (I saw) [she] sang for
        him, [and] much more.

    6:  Ngenqganqgihhúkhun|ú.

        (I saw that) despite of this, the child attacked [her].

    7:  Ngen|u=xe||ká!k'ahai.

        (I saw that) [he] teared apart [his] food.

    8:  N|gáikxúingín|i ngen|u=xaikxàuhai.

        (I saw that) [he] threw [the] remains out of [the] window.

    9:  !Xesèn|e||kún|e!xan|u.

        What will I do?

   10:  K'endit'ùikhukhi.
        (My internal state is that) [I] absolutely do not know.

   11:  =Káiq'è!xái||k'ékhuhaitutìun|en|akhau ||xekuqéndáu||kíkhi||ké.

        In order for [the] police not to be able to ask difficult
        things (so I wish), (it is a sequence that) now [I] have
        hidden [the] event.

Note that the romanisation has changed a bit: double consonants (graphemes for ejectives) are now consonant plus apostrophe, because I think it's clearer.


Because the Q'en|gài grammar is so different from English, the text is presumably quite hard to translate without good hints. Therefore, I will give you some grammar, lexicon, the interlinears, and hints for translation.

One important feature of Q'en|gài is is lack of a destinction between content word classes. Further, there is no strict difference between clauses and words, so English prepositions are expressed in the same way as English conjunctions, namely by case. (There is no difference in 'Peter goes [to the party].' and 'Peter goes [where people meet]'. Both [] would simply be put into the same 'case', indicating direction: in the first example, the noun phrase 'the party' would carry the case, in the second, the whole phrase 'people meet' would.

Also, coordinations like 'and' are usually not explicitly expressed, but rather implied by juxtaposing words in the same case.


There three principles are helpful to decompose a Q'en|gài sentence:

  • derivation

    Derivation happens inside words:

    A suffix may modify a preceding sub-sequence of a word (there are no derivational prefixes). This is called derivation. The lexicon defines precisely what the derivation means. There are no ad-hoc composites, so the meaning is always clear.

  • saturation

    Saturation happens only inside words in the given text. (Generally, it may happen outside words as well.)

    Saturation is the process of adding agent and patient (the arguments) to a predicate. Since Q'en|gài is fluit-S, there are no global constraints on what a predicate needs in order to be saturated. As a rule of the thumb, predicates without A or P translate as nouns, with only A as intransitive verbs, with A and P as transitive verbs and with only P as adjectives. (This is not generally true, but is a good hint for imagination.)

    Arguments always follow their predicate. The usual order is VOS, i.e. predicate patient agent. In the text below, there is no exception from this normal order.

    Every predicate carries a valence infix to clarify what arguments exist, which are incorporated, and which are free words in the sentence. There are no free arguments in the text below: all are incorporated.

    Valence indicates a) a conceptional valence, indicating what arguments are there by the concept of the word, and b) a syntactical valence, indicating which of the conceptual arguments really occur in the sentence.

    A valence infix is abbreviated as follows: letters A and P indicate which arguments occur conceptually (agent and/or patient). Following these letters, either * follows, meaning the argument is incorporated in the same word, or . follows, meaning the argument is not mentioned in the sentence. For a translation of an unmentioned argument, consider using a 3rd person pronouns (or sometimes simply nothing, depending on the appropriate English verb). No other suffixes will occur.

    If both A and P are followed by *, the order given in the valence is the same order as for the arguments; as mentioned, it is actually always P before A here.

    For clarity, arguments will be additionally marked as agent and patient to make translation easier in the first few sentences (in curly braces).

    The hardest thing is probably to find the boundaries between derivation endings and arguments inside words. These will be indicated by underbraces in most sentences.

  • adjuncts

    Adjuncts may be added to a predicate. There are quite a few cases in which an adjunct may occur. The description is given locally.

    Adjuncts usually precede the modified predicate. However, if the predicate is marked with an 'adjdisloc' marker, some adjuncts will follow the predicate. In the given text, either all adjuncts precede their predicate, or all of them follow their predicate.

All Q'en|gài words carry a case infix. As mentioned, case is the equivalent of prepositions, postpositions, and conjunctions of other languages. Prepositions and postpositions are appropriate translations when a word is translated as a noun, and conjunctions are appropriate when the translation is a verb or clause.

Apart from case, the second mandatory category is mood/evidence. Every word with a non-zero valence, i.e., with conceptual arguments, needs to carry a mood or an evidence marker.


Each word is broken up in three different ways. The first line gives the morpheme in Q'en|gài, the second gives the kind of morpheme, the third a hint of the meaning or function.

The following morpheme kinds will occur:

  • mood or evidence
    Every word that has arguments (agents or patients) must carry a mood or evidence marker. It clarifies the speakers position wrt. the truth value of the given predication.

  • case
    A case infix. Since Q'en|gài is primarily head-marking, agents, patients and predicates are all marked in predicative case. In the case of this text, there are no free agents and patient, therefore, predicative case (PRD) marks predicates.

    Whether a word is agent or patient can be looked up at its the predicate of that clause: the valence infix clarifies the function.

  • class
    Every word carries a class consonant for the main stem. Since the translations of the stems are given, it can be safely ignored here and even should be ignored, since the class might be misleading, since the class assignment is very vague and abstract.

  • val
    A valence infix. This marks whether agent and/or patient are given in the sentence, and which arguments the predicate has.

  • degree
    A degree, which modifies the directly preceding word constituent. There are vague, course-grained, fine-grained, and integer degrees. The lexicon entry will give the meaning.

  • stem
    A lexicon entry carrying content information. Note again that there is no formal distinction of verbs or nouns. However, the valence carries much of the class information of other languages.

Brackets below the words will show what is derivation. Sometimes, special translations are given under these brackets, because some derivation is lexicalised.

Sentence 1 (headline):

  s          e    xá        nqg        i     khá           khà
  mood       case stem      class      val   stem          degree
  imperative PRD  adjdisloc dissonance A.,P. pay-attention very

      PRD= predicative case: marks predicates (and in other texts than this
           one: free agents and patients, but that's irrelevant here).

  s       à    n|ú   ||kaú khà    n!u
  class   case stem  stem  degree stem
  animate TOP  child young very   angry

      TOP= topicative case: to be translated roughly as 'concerning _' or
           'with respect to _'

  NOTE: This probably translates as an idiomatic construction in English.

Sentence 2

  |kk      e    n        i     nqgu  khaú
  evidence case class    val   stem  degree
  instinct PRD  sentient A.,P. scare unexpected

  This is an exclamation, an interjection, that is, again, highly
  idiomatic on most languages.  Try to be innovative! :-)

Sentence 3

  !x            e    tt        ù   ||kaù n|e  !xa
  mood          case class     val stem  stem stem
  interrogative PRD  spacetime P*  past  p3no which?

  Vocab in more detail:
     ||kaù   - to happen in the past
     n|e     - 3rd person reference (~pronoun) to something not
               mentioned before in the text.  May also refer to
               entities or to full clauses, not only to entities.
     !xa     - derivational ending asking for the thing it
               is suffixed to.

Sentence 4

  n|g      aí   q       u     khá        n|ú   ||kaú khà    há
  evidence case class   val   stem       stem  stem  degree stem
  hearsay  ALL  harmony P*,A. look-after child young very   male

      ALL-allative case: used to indicate three things:
             - spatial:  translations: 'to', 'to where ...'
             - temporal: translations: 'up to'
             - notional: translations: 'to', 'in order to ...'

  ng         e    n|       è     =xaí   ||kaù ||kaí khaí   ...
  evidence   case class    val   stem   stem  stem  degree ...
  perception PRD  movement P*,A* arrive past  day   one    ...

      Vocab detail:
         ||kaù - past tense (from: 'to happend in the past'):
                 when modified by a period: that amount of
                 time in the past.  The period may in turn be
                 modified to indicate the length of the period.

  hhá   =xau   n|a    ||kaú hù
  stem  stem   stem   stem  stem
  house pretty person young female
  \_____/      \____________/
  {pat}        {agt}

      NOTE: Pay attention to the evidence: when perception evidence
            is used, 1st person speaker is indicated, so it is
            very likely that things mentioned in the text will
            need a 1st person possessive pronoun in the translation.

Sentence 5

  ng         e    xá        s       è     n|e  hui         khi    ||kké n|ai khaù
  evidence   case stem      class   val   stem stem        degree stem  stem degree
  perception PRD  adjdisloc animate P*,A* do   some-amount 100%   able  p3   
                                               \______________/         \____/
                                                \_________________/     {agt}
      Vocab detail:
          ||kké     - derivational meaning: (the) _ that can be done
          n|aikhaù  - 3rd person reference: the 'expected' degree shows that
                      an argument referred to is the same argument position as
                      in this clause (here: agent).  (Without this degree,
                      it could have any function where it occurs.)

  ng         aí   xá        n        u     qè        n|e  n|ai khaù
  evidence   case stem      class    val   stem      stem stem degree
  perception ALL  adjdisloc sentient P*,A. enjoyable do   p3   expected
                                           \_________/    \____/
                                           'entertain'    {pat}

  ng         í    n        i     quí  hhù
  evidence   case class    val   stem stem
  perception ESS  sentient A.,P. play COM-3p

     ESS- essive case: translatable as 'as, like' as in
          'I work _as_ a programmer'.  Here, it is used on a
          whole clause, so a conjunction is need in the
          translation.  This adjunct gives an example for
          the general action mentioned before above.

     COM- comitative case: translatable as 'together with _'

     Vocab detail:
         hhù - derivational ending indicating an incorporated
               adjunct (a special case): a 3rd person reference
               in comitative case.

  ng         í    qq            i     n|gu hhuí
  evidence   case class         val   stem stem
  perception ESS  communication A.,P. sing BEN-3p

      BEN- benefactive case: translatable as 'for', 'to the
           advantage of _'

  n!g   í    hui         xi   khà
  class case stem        stem degree
  value ESS  some-amount more very

Sentence 6

  ng         e    nqg        a     nqgi   hhú    khu    n|ú
  evidence   case class      val   stem   stem   degree stem
  perception PRD  dissonance A*,P. attack CAU-3p not    child

      CAU- causative case: translatable as 'due to _', 'because (of) _'
           with a suffixed negation marking, the reasoning
           is negated, so this is contrary to what is expected.
           ('anti-causative case')

Sentence 7

  ng         e    n|       u     =xe  ||ká    !kka hai
  evidence   case class    val   stem stem    stem stem
  perception PRD  movement P*,A. pull destroy eat  thing
                                 \____/       \____/

     Vocab detail:
         -||ká  - derivation: to destroy by _
         -hai   - derivation: the patient of _

Sentence 8

  n|g           aí   kxuí ngí   n|i
  class         case stem stem  stem
  distribution  ALL  hole watch out

     Vocab detail:
         -n|i  - derivation: (the) outside of _

  ng         e    n|       u     =xai  kxaù   hai
  evidence   case class    val   stem  stem   stem
  perception PRD  movement P*,A. throw remain thing

Sentence 9 (repeated once):

  !x            e    s       è     n|e  ||kú   n|e  !xa    n|u
  mood          case class   val   stem stem   stem stem   stem
  interrogative PRD  animate P*,A* do   future p3no which? p1
                                   \____/      \____/

     Vocab detail:
        -||kú  - derivation: future tense
        n|u    - 1st person reference

Sentence 10

  kk        e    nd           i     ttuì khu    khi
  evidence  case class        val   stem degree degree
  intuition PRD  intelligence A.,P. know not    100%

     Note: Mind the evidence.

Sentence 11

  =k       aí   qq            è     !xaí ||kké khu    hai   tu        ...
  mood     case class         val   stem stem  degree stem  stem      ...
  optative ALL  communication P*,A* ask  able  not    thing difficult ...

  tiù         n|e  n|a    khau
  stem        stem stem   degree
  be-in-order do   person unspecified

      Vocab detail:
         -tiùn|en|akhau - this is probably a lexicon entry

         -n|e  - derivation: make _ (to be true/to happen)
         -n|a  - derivation: the agent of _
         -khau - derivation: 'unspecified' degree may be used to
                             mark collective number

  ||x        e    k           u     qé   ndaú         ||kí    khi    ||ké
  evidence   case class       val   stem stem         stem    degree stem
  conclusion PRD  information P*,A. hide be-completed present 100%   event

      Vocab detail:
         -ndaú - derivation: perfective aspect
         -||kí - derivation: present tense
         -khi  - derivation: when used on a tense, this indicates
                 absolute time (usually, time is relative to
                 context in Q'en|gài)

Text in conscript


(Click here to see the same text in the same script in two different fonts)

© Jan van Steenbergen, Henrik Theiling, 20 Sept. 2004