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Noun Phrases

All phrases consist of a preposition followed by a noun, called the object.  Phrases are used to modify both nouns and verbs.  In Primal, phrases perform roles similar to many different parts of speech in English.

Phrases, by default, modify the most recent previous subject or verb.  The word a phrase modifies is called the phrase's target.  Preposition prefixes can change a phrase's target to the object of another phrase, which allows phases to modify other phrases.

This lesson covers the use of phrases to modify the subject, and the use of a preposition prefix to allow phrases to modify objects in other phrases.  The prepositions su (suh, "containing") and  suj (suhch, "member-of") will be covered in depth both here and in the lesson on Verb Phrases.  Learning to use these two prepositions correctly is the most difficult task for English speakers to master in basic Primal, so this lesson is essential!

Modifying Subjects

In English, nouns are modified with adjectives, but Primal has no "adjective" part of speech.  All "adjective" words in Primal are actually nouns: sleep, green, anger, softness, speed, etc.  However, in Primal, nouns are not allowed to modify other words directly.  The modifier must appear as the object of a phrase following its target.

The preposition su (suh, "containing") is the most common word in Primal.  This preposition says, "my object is a characteristic or member of my target".  Consider this example:

  • The red dog barks:  RuRcf su Hix WSf. (r'ruof s'khhihsh warf, "this dog containing red bark-verb.")

The object, "red", is a characteristic of the target, "dog".  "Red" modifies "dog" as the object of the su Hix (s'khhish, "containing red") phrase.

The preposition suj (suhch, "member-of") is the converse form of su (suh, "containing").  It indicates the reverse relationship: that the target is a characteristic or member of the object.  For example:

  • The tail of the dog moves about:  RuWo suj RuRcf WP. (r'wo suhch r'ruof wair, "this tail member-of this dog move-like.")

Here, target "tail" is a member of object "dog", even though "tail" remains the subject of the sentence.  Since the target "tail" is a member of the object "dog", suj (suhch, "member-of") defines the appropriate relationship.  Note that, "The tail of the dog moves around." could also be translated, "The dog's tail moves around."  The prepositions su (suh, "containing") and suj (suhch, "member-of") indicate an extreme form of possession, where one noun is literally a part of another noun.  The Prepositions lesson describes additional possessive prepositions.

Whether to use su (suh, "containing") or suj (suhch, "member-of") is often confusing for new speakers.  Try to think about which concept is contained within the other.  If the object is the characteristic or member, use su (suh, "containing").  If the target is the characteristic or member, use suj (suhch, "member-of").  Usually, su (suh, "containing") is the correct choice.

Besides su (suh, "containing") and suj (suhch, "member-of"), the prepositions most useful for modifying a subject are those that specify location, possession, and comparison.  These describe the state of the subject just before, or as, action occurs:

  • I, who am above you, approach: Wy xy Yw JET. (wee shee yooh jelts, "me above you approach.")
  • My dog helps: Rcf mwj Wy kam. (ruof moohch wee kam, "dog owned-by me help.")

Sentences Without Predicates

Many Primal translations of English sentences lack predicates entirely.  There are five cases where Primal translations have no verb: exclamation, predication, simplification, identity, and membership.

1) Exclamation.  An exclamation is a single noun by itself, so translation is simple.  Exclamations are short, verb-less sentences or responses such as Wr. (wur, "Yes.") or Wy. (wee, "Me.").  Remember the period: ,.

2) Predication.  In English, a verb may be required to link an adjective with a subject.  Primal does not require this.  Consider the sentence, "The dog is red."  In Primal, this becomes: RuRcf su Hix. (r'ruof s'khhihsh, "this dog containing red.")  The Primal phrase for "The dog is red." is identical to "The red dog."  In English, the verb "is" links the subject "dog" to the adjective "red", but in Primal, a verb is not necessary.

3) Simplification.  If the meaning of a sentence would be clear from the preposition alone, and verb tense is not required, the verb can be dropped to simplify the sentence.  The object of the verb directly modifies the subject.  Consider the sentence "I go to the store."  In Primal, this can be simplified to: Wy pw Rulgf. (wee pooh r'lohwf, "me to this store.")  A verb for "go" is not necessary, because the preposition is clear enough on its own.  If a verb were added after "store", the sentence would translate to, "While headed to the store, I (verb)".

4) Identity.  This is the English use of a verb to express equality between two nouns.  In Primal, the preposition QCJy (dthauw-jee, "similar-to maximal"), meaning "identical", is used.  English, "We are a group," becomes:  vuWy QCJy WGv. (v'wee dthauw-jee wohlv, "plural me similar-to maximal group.")

5) Membership.  To indicate that a noun belongs to a classification, English often uses a linking verb, as in "All wolves are canines."  In Primal, su (suh) and suj (suhch) are used instead:

  • This person is a mammal: Rufr suj nunGD. (r'fur suhch n'nohldz, "this person member-of indefinite mammal.")
  • "Canines" includes all wolves: nuWcf su nuWG. (n'wuof s'n'wohl, "indefinite canine containing indefinite wolf.")

Note that the direction of the membership is dictated by whether su (suh, "containing") or suj (suhch, "member-of") is used.  Also, when referring to a general concept, idea, or classification, remember to use nu (nuh, "indefinite").

Modifying Objects

Sometimes, you will need to modify the object of a phrase with another phrase.  This is a common situation, because many simple concepts in Primal are expressed as phrases.  For example, the color "orange" is Hix su nO (khhihsh s'nall, "red containing yellow").  This becomes a problem if we try to say, "the orange ball".  See this mistranslation:

  • The red-and-yellow ball: RukSq su Hix su nO. (r'karth s'khhihsh s'nall, "this ball containing red containing yellow.")

Why did this happen?  By default, "red" and "yellow" both modify the subject, "ball".  What we want is for "yellow" to modify "red" to make "orange", and then for this new color to modify "ball".  To accomplish this, we need to redirect the word that "yellow" targets from "ball", to "red".  Preposition prefixes can do this.  Preposition prefixes cause phrases to modify the objects of other phrases, by redirecting their phrase's target:

Preposition Prefix Pronounced Meaning New Phrase Target
xu (shuh) phrase The most recent object.
Xu (zhuh) both The default target, plus ALL previous objects.

The prefix xu (shuh, "phrase") causes its phrase to target the object of the previous phrase.  Here, then, is the correct translation of, "The orange ball," in Primal:

  • The orange ball: RukSq su Hix xusu nO. (r'karth s'khhihsh sh's'nall, "this ball containing red phrase containing yellow.")

"Yellow" modifies "red" to make "orange", and this modifies "ball".  Notice that each object considers its modifiers before making its modifications.  In this way, the process of modification proceeds from right (less important) to left (more important): "red" is first modified by "yellow" before it modifies "ball".  Careful use of xu (shuh, "phrase") allows any object to be modified exactly once, while the subject can be modified unlimited times.

The prefix Xu (zhuh, "both") is rarely used.  It causes a phrase to modify the default target (the previous subject or verb), but also to modify all objects between itself and the default target.  Here is a cleverly simplified translation for, "The orange-and-yellow ball," in Primal:

  • The orange-and-yellow ball: RukSq su Hix Xusu nO. (r'karth s'khhihsh zh's'nall, "this ball containing red both containing yellow.")

Here, "yellow" modifies both "red" and "ball".

Preposition prefixes may appear only when the current phrase is preceded by another phrase.  A preposition may take at most one prefix.  If more specific targeting is needed than xu (shuh, "phrase") and Xu (zhuh, "both") can provide, a process called selective phrase targeting can be used, as described in the (advanced) Special Phrases lesson.

Implied Words and Contractions

On occasion, phrases may contain implied words.  An implied word is an unspoken word that is assumed by context.  Implied words are discussed in detail in the (advanced) Prepositions II lesson.

Two prepositions in Primal, xuj (shuhch, "phrase+member-of") and Xuj (zhuhch, "both+member-of"), are called contractions.  These prepositions are also discussed in the (advanced) Prepositions II lesson.

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Primal > Tutorial > Basic > Noun Phrases

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