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Word Formation

The syllable is the basic unit of meaning in Primal.  A syllable is either two letters long (consonant-vowel) or three letters long (consonant-vowel-consonant).  The consonants ,W (w), ,R (r), ,Y (y), ,h (h), and L (l) never end a syllable, though vowels that sound similar to these consonants may.

Syllables ending in ,u (uh) are often slurred together with the following word when spoken, but the individual units are still called "syllables".

A simple word is a syllable appearing all by itself.

A compound word is formed when:

  • A word joins with an affix, as in English "farm" + "er" = "farmer".
  • Two prepositions combine, as in English "in" + "to" = "into".
  • An extended proper noun is formed.  This process is described in the (advanced) Noun Forms lesson.
  • Two or more number words join together, as in English "twenty" + "three" = "twenty-three".  This process is described in the Numbers lesson.

An extended proper noun or a long number may be divided by spaces as if it consisted of multiple words, but it is still considered a single compound word.

Unlike many languages, Primal nouns do not form compound words by joining with other nouns.  Instead, phrases are used to link nouns together.

Words are separated by spaces in writing.  The upswing line does not appear at the beginning of words, except for words beginning with L (l).

Parts of Speech

Words are divided into five parts of speech: noun, verb, preposition, number, and affix.

Nouns represent all kinds of things, such as people, places, and ideas.  Nouns are the fundamental part of speech in Primal.  Pronouns are a special kind of noun that stands in for other nouns, so the meaning of a pronoun depends on context.

Verbs represent an action taken by a noun.  All Primal verbs are "transitive", meaning they can act upon another noun.  Many intransitive English verbs such as "sleep" are actually nouns in Primal.

Prepositions are used to start phrases which link one noun to another noun or verb.  Prepositions describe the relationship between the words they link.

Numbers are a special part of speech.  Numbers modify nouns, verbs, prepositions, and preposition prefixes to describe number and order.

Affixes never appear by themselves; they are only found in compound words.  Affixes are divided into six types, based on where they can appear in a sentence.  This is described in the Affixes section of this lesson, below.

Simple words are the same part of speech as their syllable.  If a compound word begins with a noun prefix, it is considered a noun, as described in the Nouns lesson.  Otherwise, the compound word is the same part of speech as its syllable or syllables, other than affixes.  Numbers that modify a preposition prefix are considered to be part of a compound preposition, while numbers that modify nouns, verbs, and prepositions retain the "number" part of speech.

Sentence Structure

All sentences take the following format, where square brackets indicate optional parts:

SentenceTopic [Predicates] .

  • Predicates are optional.  A noun by itself is a complete sentence in Primal.
  • All sentences end with a ,. (period), which is tacked onto the end of the last word.

Topic:  Noun [Phrases]

  • Sentences in Primal always begin with one noun, called the subject, followed by any number of phrases.
  • The subject is always the first word of a sentence, and it is the only noun not contained in a phrase.  A new sentence begins whenever a noun appears outside of a phrase.

Predicate:  Verb [Phrases]

  • After the topic, a sentence may contain any number of predicates.  Each predicate consists of one verb followed by any number of phrases.

Phrase:  Preposition Noun

  • A phrase consists of a preposition followed by a single noun, called the object.
  • A phrase may contain a verb or a verb suffix instead of a noun, but in this case the verb or verb suffix automatically becomes a noun as if it had been preceded by the nu (nuh, "indefinite") noun prefix.  This is explained in the (advanced) Prepositions II lesson.
  • By default, phrases modify the nearest previous subject or verb.  A phrase can be made to modify a previous phrase's object instead, by using a preposition prefix.  This is covered in the Noun Phrases lesson.

Numbers may follow any noun, verb, or preposition.  In rare cases, numbers may modify a preposition prefix, in which case they become part of a compound preposition.  Number formation follows special rules described in the Numbers lesson.

A compound sentence is a set of consecutive sentences that are linked together with the Yy (yee, "that") pronoun.  This is discussed in more detail in the (advanced) Special Phrases lesson.


Affixes come in six flavors: noun prefix, noun suffix, verb prefix, verb suffix, preposition prefix, and unary suffix.

Noun prefixes appear before nouns as determiners, much like the English words "some" and "the".  Only one noun prefix may appear before a noun, because anything preceded by a noun prefix becomes a noun, even another noun prefix.

Noun suffixes follow nouns to describe uniqueness and other relationships.  Multiple suffixes are allowed.

Verb prefixes appear before verbs to set verb tense and aspect.  Only one verb prefix may appear before a verb.

Verb suffixes follow verbs to describe verb mood.  Multiple suffixes are allowed.

Preposition prefixes appear before prepositions to redirect the targets of phrases to object nouns.  Only one preposition prefix may appear before a preposition.  These are discussed in the Noun Phrases lesson.

Unary suffixes may appear after most kinds of words, even after other affixes, or embedded in compound words.  They modify whichever syllable they immediately follow.

Order and Word Relevance

Whenever multiple words of the same type follow one another, the relevance of the words diminishes as the sentence progresses from left to right (lexical order).  This means:

  • Compound numbers progress from most to least significant digit, just like in modern English.
  • Compound prepositions describe location in lexical order.  "Above-right" means above, then to the right.
  • When a word is modified by multiple suffixes of the same type, the suffixes take effect in lexical order.  "Canine-other-only" means "the only other canine", because "other" comes first.

Whenever multiple words or phrases modify one another in sequence, modification is performed in reverse lexical order, from right to left.  This means a word or phrase is modified by everything that targets it before it modifies its target.  This is relevant when unary suffixes modify other suffixes, and when phrases modify the objects of other phrases.

This order also relevant when considering different types of modifier.  For example, prefixes and suffixes modify a word first, followed by the word's number (for enumerated words), and finally by phrases that target the word.

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