Praseo syntax

Word order

Praseo word order is very free, and the order of phrases within a sentence is almost entirely conditioned by discourse constraints rather than syntactic requirements. The order of words within noun and verb phrases is somewhat stricter, but even there relatively few unbreakable rules are encountered.

Generally speaking, Praseo word order is head-first or right-branching.

Within the noun phrase

Noun phrases are typically head-first, meaning that the noun which heads the phrase will be the first element in the phrase. Markers for case and number and deictic prefixes are attached to the noun itself, and so don't enter into considerations of word order. There are only two kinds of additional non-morphological modifiers which can be attached to a noun: possessives and participial phrases.

Notably, Praseo lacks prepositional phrases in noun clauses; as in classical Latin, prepositional phrases are only allowed at the sentence level. Additionally, there is no lexical class of adjectives, as the role of adjectives is filled by stative participles.


Genitives are marked on both the possessor and the possessum in Praseo, with the possessum treated as the head. The possessum is marked with the construct case (regardless of what syntactic role it plays in the clause) and usually comes first, while the possessor is marked with the genitive case and usually follows the possessum. In the case where the possessor is reduced to a pronoun, the pronoun is indicated with a pronominal suffix.

čihei     enzande
hand-CONS sister-GEN

(my) sister's hand

Praseo disfavors chains of genitives such as "my mother's sister's husband", except when the second possessive element is a pronoun. In this case, word order is used to establish who owns what, with each construct-case noun possessing the noun immediately in front of it:

čihei     enzeiśa
hand-CONS sister-CONS-your

your sister's hand

When a genitive occurs modifying the same head as a prepositional phrase or a participle, then the genitive possessor is moved before the possessum:

enzande    čihei     jilašesu
sister-GEN hand-CONS burnt

the sister's burnt hand

Participial phrases

Participial phrases fill many of the roles played by adjectives and relative clauses in English. As a rule, the participial phrase follows the noun which is its head. The head of the noun is the nominal "subject" of the participle.

The simplest participial phrases are those which are formed with a stative participle, which is functionally similar to an adjective.

śu   yaoeo
coat be-blue-PART

the blue coat

Participles formed from transitive verbs may take objects, which are case-marked as they would be for a transitive verb. The object of the participle is usually between the head noun and the participle, though either order is possible (as illustrated below).

yira hapẽo    śeśẽ
boy  corn-ACC crush-ACT_PART

the boy crushing corn

dusu saozeo    rakuśu 
bird fear-PART hawk-DAT

the bird that fears the hawk

Ditransitive participles formed from causatives follow the same rules as above, though in this case there is a preference to disambiguate by putting the verb between the two object arguments.

enze   yirẽoa  śeśẽi           me hapẽo
sister boy-ACC crush-CAUS-PART    corn-ACC

the sister who makes the boy crush corn

Within longer and more complex participial phrases such as the one above, word order will largely be driven by discourse constraints, as discussed below for sentence-level word order.

Within the verb phrase

The verb phrase in Praseo is simpler than the noun phrase, for the reason that almost all morphosyntactic information in Praseo is present morphologically on the verb. There are only two important word order constraints.

All else equal, verbs precede their objects.

Yira śeśya hapẽo.
boy  crush corn

The boy crushes corn.

The modal particles necessarily come at the end of the sentence, which means that the verb's object (or anything else) may come between the verb and the model particle(s).

Yira śeśya hapẽo ta  ka.
boy  crush corn  IMP INT

Does the boy have to crush the corn?

Within the sentence

As discussed above, Praseo is head-first by default. What this means is that the sentence-level word order defaults to the following:

  • Subjects precede predicates
  • Verbs precede objects within the predicate

This in turn means that the default word order in SVO. However, only a fraction of all attested sentences actually use this word order, because in practice sentence-level word order is largely driven by discourse considerations.

For discussing discourse in Praseo, we define the following two terms: focus is the part of the utterance which represents new information or contrastive information; that is, information which has not previously been asserted in the context of the sentence, or information which contrasts with the shared background beliefs of the speaker and hearer. The topic is the part of the utterance which represents background information or non-contrastive information, that is, information which has already been introduced or which is unsurprising within the shared beliefs of the interlocutors. Any syntactic element (subject, object, or verb) may occupy any discourse role.

The basic word-order rule for Praseo is that focus comes at the beginning of the utterance, and topic comes at the end. Topics are frequently reduced to pronouns and may be omitted entirely when the intent is sufficiently clear, while focus elements tend to be full noun phrases.

What follows is a short example conversation with commentary on the various word-order strategies which the participants use.

A: Enzeiśa           tezẽ      nioa hutsyaśu.
   Brother-CONS-your hunt-PART I    see-PERF

A: I saw your brother hunting.

A begins the conversation by putting the brother in the focus position. The brother is in the construct case, as it's occurs with the possessive suffix -śa, but implicitly it's the object of the verb hutsya "to see".

B: Matsyulu   patsẽo        ka?
   Catch-PRET something-ACC INT

B: Had he caught anything?

B responds by putting the verb matsya into the focused position at the beginning of his question, because the catching is the primary event of interest. Note that occurring in the focus position, the verb undergoes the mutation of the vowel of the aspect ending, as described here. The brother, who was the focus of the preceding statement, is here the topic and doesn't occur overtly at all.

A: Basẽo     yata.
   Quail-ACC only

A: Only a quail.

A responds with the quail, the answer to B's question, in the focus position, marked with the accusative case. The implied verb here is matsya "to catch", as in the previous sentence, but that verb is now part of the topic and is omitted as being obvious from context.

B: Nila eolya    nihaši  se.
   He   be-upset tonight PRO

B: Then he'll be unhappy tonight.

Here B puts his brother back in the focus position, but since his identity has already been established he is referred to merely with a pronoun. The relative ordering of the verb eolya "be unhappy" and the adverb nihaši "tonight" is indifferent, but the prospective modal particle se must come at the end of the sentence.