Praseo verbs

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The Praseo verb is highly inflected for tense, aspect, evidentiality, and focus, but it does not have any agreement for person, number, or any other categories. The core inflectional paradigm of the verb is supplemented by a set of particles which indicate mood and politeness.

Throughout this discussion we will use the verb śeśya "to crush, to grind" as paradigmatic.

Morphology and semantics of the verb stem

Most Praseo verbs share a stem with a corresponding noun, and by convention the verb is described as being derived from the noun (though in many cases the direction of derivation is arguably in the other direction, or is arbitrary). All noun stems end with a vowel which indicates the noun class (see Praseo nouns), and this vowel is dropped to provide the root stem from which verbs are derived.

Active verbs, stative verbs, and telicity

Praseo verbs are divided into active verbs and stative verbs. This is a lexical distinction which is not reflected anywhere in the form of the verb stem or its inflection, but it may control which forms of the verb occur and the cases that it governs. Note that the distinction between active and stative verbs is a lexical difference; the semantics of the verb in question may suggest which group it should belong to, but there are verbs which are arbitrarily assigned to one or the other.

Stative verbs are those verbs which indicate a state which the subject is in. Many of these verbs correspond to things which would be adjectives in English. This includes verbs such as yaoya "to be blue" and śeomya "to sleep, to be asleep". Notably, verbs which indicate emotions are always considered stative verbs, and these verbs may be transitive. However, the object of a transitive stative verb occurs in the dative rather than the accusative.

Dusu oalú     saozya.
Bird wolf-DAT fears.

The bird is afraid of the wolf.

Additionally, stative verbs do not occur in some aspects and use a different ending for causatives.

Active verbs are those verbs which indicate an action which the subject undertakes. Active verbs may be transitive or intransitive, and they don't necessarily imply motion or action, but may include any action which is conceived of as an event rather than a state. Typical active verbs are śeśya "to grind" and tsipya "to vomit".

Active verbs are further subdivided into telic and atelic verbs. The telic verbs are those which are conceived as having a duration with a beginning, middle, and end, while atelic verbs are considered unitary and have no internal structure. A typical telic verb is śenya "to stay, remain," while a common atelic verb is ašya "to fall". Atelic verbs are distinguished by the fact that they don't occur in the perfective tense, but only in the preterite.

Aspectual endings

There are five different endings which may be attached to the root stem, which which express four different aspects of the verb.

The simple aspect of the verb is formed by adding -ya to the root stem. This ending triggers palatalization of stem-final velars and affrication of stem-final dentals (see Praseo phonology#Palatalization and Praseo phonology#Affrication).

Noun form Root stem Simple verb form
śutta śutt- śuttsya
zaka zak- začya
tsipa tsip- tsipya

The simple aspect refers to a single instance of an action, without reference to its telicity, distribution, or frequency. It is the most general and most commonly used aspect.

The causative active aspect is formed by adding -ãya to the root stem. This aspectual ending is only used with active verbs.

Root stem Causative verb form
śutt- śuttãya
zak- zakãya
tsip- tsipãya

The causative indicates that the subject caused the object to do the action indicated by the stem. This is a valency-increasing aspect: verbs which are intransitive in the simple or habitual aspects are transitive in the causative aspect, and transitives become ditransitives:

Nioa hapẽo    śeśya.
I    corn-ACC grind.

I grind corn.

Nioa yirẽoa  ma hapẽo    śeśãya.
I    boy-ACC    corn-ACC grind-CAUSE.

I make the boy grind corn.

Note that in the second example above there are two accusative arguments, the second of which is preceded by ma. This is discussed in more detail in Praseo syntax. Additionally, the causative active form of a verb is always considered atelic (instantaneous, event-oriented) even if the simple form of the verb is considered telic.

The causative stative aspect is formed by adding -aša to the verb stem. This aspectual ending is only used with stative verbs, but it is otherwise identical in meaning to the causative active aspect.

Root stem Causative verb form
yao- yaoša
śeom- śeomaša

The causative aspect of the stative verb is treated as an active atelic verb.

The habitual aspect of the verb is formed by adding -oa to the root stem of an active verb. Only active verbs have a habitual aspect, and the habitual form of the verb is necessarily telic. This ending triggers affrication of stem-final dentals.

Root stem Habitual verb form
śutt- śuttsoa
zak- zakoa
tsip- tsipoa

The habitual aspect refers to an action which is repeated, widely distributed, or regular. In the perfective tense it has a meaning similar to the English phrase "used to".

The habitual causative aspect is formed by adding -ača to the root stem of the verb.

Root stem Habitual causative verb form
śutt- śuttača
zak- zakača
tsip- tsipača

The meaning of the habitual causative is a straightforward conjunction of the habitual and causative aspects, and it indicates that someone causes someone else to undertake a habitual or regular action. It is treated as a telic verb, and like the causative active it increases the valency of the verb.

Tense and evidentiality

The Praseo categories of tense and evidentiality are always conflated into a single portmanteau morpheme. Praseo distinguishes three tenses: present, preterite, and perfective. It also distinguishes three kinds of evidentiality: affirmative, negative, and reported. These endings do not vary based on the aspect of the verb. The endings for these categories are indicated in the following table:

Tense Affirmative Negative Reported
Present śeśya śeśyatsi śeśyasa
Preterite śeśyalu śeśyara śeśyao
Perfective śeśyaśu śeśyatsiśu śeśyaśao

Meaning and usage of the tenses

The semantic distinctions between the tenses are do not align neatly with English categories. The present tense is the simplest to understand: it is used to indicate all sorts of non-past actions, including future actions and actions which began in the past and are not complete in the present. In the simple aspect, it most closely correlates to the English present progressive.

Nioa hapẽo    śeśya.
I    corn-ACC crush-PRES.

I am crushing the corn.

The preterite tense is used for completed past actions when considered a unitary whole. This is used for actions in the distant past whose duration or internal structure is irrelevant, as well as for all atelic past-tense verbs. It corresponds roughly to the English simple past ("I went") or past perfect ("I had gone").

Nioa hapẽo    nači      śeśyalu.
I    corn-ACC yesterday crush-PRET.

I crushed the corn yesterday.

The perfective tense is used for actions which are completed at the present time, but which have a relevant duration in the past. This corresponds roughly to the English present perfect ("I have gone") or past progressive ("I was going"). When used in isolation, it usually indicates an action which has just completed. However, when used in contrast with a verb in the preterite tense, the perfective tense may indicate simultaneity in a manner similar to the English past progressive ("I was walking (perfective) and a branch fell (preterite)").

Atelic verbs do not occur in the perfective tense; all non-present atelic verbs use the preterite tense.

Nioa hapẽo    śeśyaśu.
I    corn-ACC crush-PERF.

I have crushed the corn. or I have finished crushing the corn.


The affirmative and negative categories are used for information which the speaker personally attests to. This includes all events to which the speaker is a direct witness, but also information which the speaker considers to be beyond doubt. For example, past events which have entered into common knowledge are discussed in the past affirmative, regardless of whether the speaker was a witness to those events.

The reported category indicates that the speaker is giving information which is hearsay, unclear, or uncertain. The use of the reported form indicates that the speaker is not able to personally attest to the information the information, and that there may be doubt as to whether the statement is actually true.

There are complicated social dynamics involved in choosing to relate hearsay in the reported or the affirmative/negative forms. When first relating a piece of second-hand news to a new listener, Praseo speakers will always use the reported form and avoid the affirmative. The presence of a second corroborating source will sometimes suffice to give the speakers confidence to use the affirmative form, but if a third speaker can be found who corroborates the information, then all speakers will switch to the affirmative rather than the reported form. Failing to switch to the affirmative form when the other speakers switch is seen as casting doubt on their truthfulness and may provoke offense. Conversely, switching to the affirmative form too quickly may indicate to others that you are a hasty and untrustworthy person.

Non-native speakers of Praseo are generally encouraged to use the reported form of the verb to discuss events which they don't have direct knowledge of, and to follow the lead of the native Praseo speakers when they switch to the affirmative/negative forms.

Focus marking

Praseo word order is very free, and focus is indicated by moving the focused element to the beginning of the utterance. Nouns do not receive any special marking when they're focused this way, but verbs have an alternation in the vowel of the verbal ending. Generally speaking, the -a of the aspectual ending is replaced with -u, and this vowel is preserved when other endings are added.

For an active verb:

Aspect Unfocused Focused
Simple śeśya śeśyu
Causative śeśãya śeśãyu
Habitual śeśoa śeśu
Habitual causative śeśača śeśaču

Note that the habitual ending -oa here is slightly irregular, as it simplifies to just -u when focused.

For a stative verb:

Aspect Unfocused Focused
Simple śeomya śeomyu
Causative śeomaša śeomašu

The vowel -u is also used when additional tense or evidentiality suffixes are added to a focused verb. The following chart illustrates, and may be contrasted with the chart above showing the unfocused tense and evidentiality markers.

Tense Affirmative Negative Reported
Present śeśyu śeśyutsi śeśyusa
Preterite śeśyulu śeśyura śeśyu
Perfective śeśyuśu śeśyutsiśu śeśyuśao

Object suffixes

Pronominal direct objects are expressed by a set of suffixes which attach to the end of the verb. These suffixes are always the last element of the verbal complex (excepting the modal particles discussed below, which are considered separate words).

Illustrating with the root śeśya:

Meaning Form
crushes me śeśyaoa
crushes us śeśyei
crushes you ( śeśyaśa
crushes you ( śeśyaśi
crushes you ( śeśyaśe
crushes you ( śeśyaśa
crushes him śeśyala
crushes them ( śeśyali
crushes her śeśyale
crushes them ( śeśyala
crushes it śeśyatsu
crushes them (inan.) śeśyatsi

See also Praseo pronouns#Accusative.

Modal particles

Various categories of mood are indicated by utterance-final enclitics known as modal particles. The modal particles are not considered part of the main verb complex, because they don't necessarily adhere directly to the verb. In the event that the verb is moved to the beginning of the sentence for focus purposes, the modal particle remains utterance-final and cliticizes on the preceding word. The modal particles are:

ka - interrogative. Simple yes-no questions are indicated by adding ka to the end of the utterance. Questions which include overt question words don't require ka, but ka may optionally be added for clarity, especially if the question is complex.

Niśa hapẽo    śeśyaśu    ka?
You  corn-ACC crush-PERF INT?

Have you crushed the corn?

ta - imperative. Adding ta to the end of an utterance with a second-person subject acts as an ordinary imperative equivalent to the English imperative. With first or third-person subjects, the meaning is hortative, e.g. "I must do this" or "I should do this."

Niśa hapẽo    śeśya ta!
You  corn-ACC crush IMP!

Crush the corn!

ri - conditional. Utterance-final ri is used to indicate hypothetical or counterfactual statements.

Nioa hapẽo    śeśya ri.
I    corn-ACC crush COND.

I would crush the corn.

zu - optative. The particle zu indicates the optative, for statements which the speaker desires or wishes for.

Niśa hapẽo    śeśya zu.
You  corn-ACC crush OPT.

I would like you to crush the corn.

ma - potential. The particle ma indicates actions which are possible, potential, or allowed.

Nioa hapẽo    śeśya ma.
I    corn-ACC crush POT.

I could crush the corn.

se - prospective. The particle se indicates actions which are expected, anticipated, or predicted. In many cases it corresponds to the English future.

Nioa hapẽo    śeśya se.
I    corn-ACC crush PRO.

I will crush the corn.

The modal particles are frequently combined to create subtler nuances of meaning. The order of the particles in this situation is not strictly specified, but there is a strong tendency for ka and ta to come first if they occur.

The most common such combination is ka, the interrogative, plus any of the others.

Niśa hapẽo    śeśyaśu    ka  ri?
You  corn-ACC crush-PERF INT COND.

Would you have crushed the corn?

Nioa hapẽo    śeśya ka  ta?
I    corn-ACC crush INT IMP.

Do I have to crush the corn?

Combinations of three or more are also possible.

Niśa hapẽo    śeśyaśu    ma  ri   zu.
You  corn-ACC crush-PERF POT COND OPT.

If only you had been able to crush the corn.


Praseo does not have a separate lexical category for adjectives. Instead, most of the functions which we associate with adjectives are filled by participles of the verb. There are three core participles: the active participle, the passive participle, and the stative participle, which also combine with the aspectual suffixes.

Active and passive participles

Active (as opposed to stative) verbs all have an active participle, while transitive verbs also have a passive participle. These participles exist for all of the aspects of the active verb.

Aspect Finite form Active participle Passive participle
Simple śeśya śeśẽ ("crushing, who crushes") śeśesu ("crushed, which is crushed")
Causative active śeśãya śeśẽi ("who causes to crush") śeśẽisu ("who is caused to crush")
Habitual śeśoa śeśoẽ ("who always crushes") śeśoesu ("which is always crushed")
Habitual causative śeśača śeśačẽ ("who always causes to crush") śeśačesu ("who is always caused to crush")

The participles are not marked for tense or mood. Rather, they take on the tense and mood of the main verb in the sentence. Objects of participles are marked for case in the usual way, and usually come between the noun head (the subject of the participle) and the participle itself.

Yira hapẽo    śeśẽ       śeomya ta.
Boy  corn-ACC crush-PART sleep  IMP.

That boy who is crushing corn has to sleep.

Pronouns may be modified by participles, though the result often requires circumlocutions to render sensibly in English.

Nioa hapẽo    śeśačesu            śeomya zu.
I    corn-ACC crush-HAB.CAUS.PASS sleep  OPT.

I would like to sleep because I always have to crush the corn.

Note here that the habitual causative passive participle śeśačesu contains in it the implication that there is someone who causes the speaker to crush the corn. In the English translation we attempt to capture this with the phrase "I always have to crush".

Object suffixes are not attached to participles; if a pronoun would be the direct object of a participle, a full noun is used instead.

Stative participles

Stative verbs have a stative participle, as well as a causative participle which uses a variation of the active and passive forms shown above.

Aspect Finite form Stative participle
Simple yaoya yaoeo ("blue, which is blue")
Simple śeomya śeomeo ("asleep, sleeping")

The stative participles come the closest to being pure adjectives in Praseo, especially since many of the stative verbs in Praseo correspond to ordinary adjectives in English. In many cases they can be translated as plain English adjectives.

Hapu yaoeo čipú    daya.
Corn blue  jar-LOC is-in.

The blue corn is in the jar.

The causative aspect of a stative verb behaves as an active verb, with an active and a passive participle. These forms are built from the stem of the causative stative aspect.

Aspect Finite form Active participle Passive participle
Causative stative yaoša yaošẽ ("which colors [something] blue") yaošesu ("which is colored blue")
Causative stative śeomaša śeomašẽ ("which puts [someone] to sleep") śeomašesu ("which is put to sleep")
Yira śeomašesu       hapẽo    śeśya ta.
Boy  sleep-CAUS.PASS corn-ACC crush IMP.

That boy who was put to sleep has to crush corn.