D'ni grammar

Alphabet[edit]

  • D'NI is the encoding used by the Dnifont typeface, and by RAWA to precisely write D'ni words: pAiferen
  • OTS is the Old Transliteration Standard, the most common way of writing D'ni in the Uru community: Payiferen
  • NTS is the New Transliteration Standard, devised by the first Guild of Linguists to have a 1-to-1 equivalence between D'ni and roman letters[1]: Péiferen
  • LTS is Larry LeDeay's Transliterations Standard[2], with an approach similar to the NTS: Pāiferen
  • IPA is the International Phonetic Alphabet, used by linguists to precisely describe the 'sound' of each letter, usually written between brackets: [peɪfɛɾɛn]


D'ni alphabet
D'NI OTS NTS LTS IPA
' ' ' ' ʔ/ɜ
v v v v v
b b b b b
t t t t t
s s s s s
S sh š sh ʃ
j j j j d͡ʒ
g g g g g
y y y y j
k kh x kh x
K k k k k
a ah a a ɑ
I ai á ī ai
f f f f f
p p p p p
i i i i ɪ
E ee í ē i
e e e e ɛ
A ay é ā e
r r r r ɾ
m m m m m
T th þ th θ
d dh ð dh ð
D d d d d
h h h h h
o o o o o
O oy ó oy oi
c ch ç ch t͡ʃ
w w w w w
u uh u u ə
U oo ú ū u
x ts c ts t͡s
l l l l l
å a æ å æ
z z z z z
n n n n n
D'NI OTS NTS LTS IPA


Both basic letters and numerals are derived from basic shapes[3]:

' v t s j   0 1 2 3 4
y k a f i   5 6 7 8 9
e r m T d   ) ! @ # $
h o c w u   % ^ & * (
x l å z n   [ ] \ { }


Punctuation[edit]

Punctuation appears to be scarce in D'ni texts. We know of three symbols:

. begin sentence   ' apostrophe   ×-× dash

The 'full stop' usage is the really different one, as it is always placed at the beginning of the sentence, not at the end.

The apostrophe is used to separate consonants that cannot be pronounced in succession, and to separate with a glottal stop two vowels which would otherwise blend together[4].

Example:

.Sora b'Sem - ga b'zoo
.shorah b'shem - gah b'zoo
"peace to you - and to me."

Stress[edit]

There isn't a fixed rule for word stress, and it can move when suffixes are attached[5]:

Last syllable Kerahth, Ri'neref, rifoon, morokhpor, D'nee
2nd-to-last syllable pahrahno, eleeahnith, Delin, ooroo
3rd-to-last syllable eleeahn (note the difference with eleeahn–ith)

Numbers[edit]

Main article: D'ni numerals

The D'ni counted in base-25, i.e. they have 25 symbols per digit. But the system is actually simpler, because there are 5 basic shapes for digits from 0 to 5, then each of these is rotated on its side to represent a multiple of 5:

0 1 2 3 4
0 1 2 3 4
roon fah bree sen tor
5 ) % [
5 10 15 20
vaht nayvoo heebor rish

When counting objects, numbers follow the noun they refer to, e.g. kortee sen "three books".

The missing symbols are simply an overlap of two parts, e.g. 17 is 15 + 2. The names of the digits are a shortened form of the base ('vaht, nayvoo, heebor, rishvah, nay, hee, ri) plus gah "and", plus the added number (fah, bree, sen, tor).

fah bree sen tor
0 (0 roon) 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4
5 5 vah–gah 6 6 7 7 8 8 9 9
) 10 nay–gah ! 11 @ 12 # 13 $ 14
% 15 hee–gah ^ 16 & 17 * 18 ( 19
[ 20 ri–gah ] 21 \ 22 { 23 } 24

Example: vahgahbree, naygahtor, rigahsen "seven, fourteen, twentythree"


In our base-10 system, each digit on the left is a power of ten, 10 times greater than the one in the right, e.g. the number 12,345 can be broken down as:

1×104 + 2×103 + 3×102 + 4×10 + 5×1 = 12,345

The D'ni numbering system works in the same way, except the base is not 10 but 25, so 12,345 in D'ni is a far bigger number:

1×254 + 2×253 + 3×252 + 4×25 + 5×1
= 1×390,625 + 2×15,625 + 3×625 + 4×25 + 5×1
= 423,855


We know the names of the first five powers of 25:

255 254 253 252 |
9,765,625 390,625 15,625 625 25
fahblo fahmel fahlahn fahrah fahsee

Each digit is written as the unit plus a suffix that denote the power, e.g.:

4|5 is tor-see vaht
12|21 is naygahbree-see rigahfah


When the value is 0, that digit is simply skipped.


Here is an example of a big number ( #^05!4  = 133,206,529), broken down in its parts:

#^05!4 DG05B4
naygahsenblo 13·255
heegahfahmel 16·254
0·253
vahtrah 5·252
naygahfahsee 11·25
tor 4

An interactive number converter is available here.

Word order[edit]

D'ni is a SVO language, i.e. the subject comes first, the verb follows, then comes the object. The article and the negation precede the noun, adjectives usually follow the noun, and adverbs follow the word they modify[6].


articles – nouns – adjectives – verbs/adj. phrases – objects – adverbs


Modifiers almost never come between the verb and its object. The indirect object almost always precedes the direct object; however, if the indirect obj. is modified by an adjective or adjectival phrase, it's the direct object that comes first. Adverbs can be placed at the beginning of a sentence to modify it entirely, e.g. khahpo "perhaps". Modifying phrases can occur anywhere, but always close to the word they modify. Appositive phrases or vocatives that modify an implied subject appear near to where the implied subject would have been. Dependent clauses precede or follow but never split up the complete independent clause.

Here are a few examples of relatively complex sentences from the Aitrus' Map:

loymaht remishtahtahv robot tso rebishtah ril mahrenten resaytee kahg
"Though the actual construction of the tunnel doesn't follow the original designs,"
relenah gahth shentoen blo yahrtee sen f'toogo
"the journey still takes about three days on foot." ("D'ni Timepiece" text in Aitrus's Map)
.retiwah ... komesen redoyhahtee pradteegahl tor gahro b'fahsee
"The Shaft ... required the four greatest rock-working machines"
t'biv tregahn d'nee gahvaileetee tren b'choylahnay
"in all of the D'ni Empire and a few months to complete." ("Shaft" text on Aitrus's Map)

Articles and plural[edit]

In English one can refer to a specific object (the book) or to a generic one (a book), and of course one can refer to more than one object (the books, some books). In D'ni we have:

Definite: re– "the"   –tee plurals
Indefinite: erth– "a, an"

Examples:

re-kor "the book"; erth-kor "a book";
re-kor-tee "the books"; erth-kor-tee "some books".

Conjuctions and interjections[edit]

gah and
pahm or
roob but
ril no(t)
volah yes

Example:

yim reshokhootahn gah erthchoortahntee roob ril kortee
"I see the instructor and some students but no books".

Note that ril always precedes the word it negates. With lists, gah is repeated[7]: reshokhootahn gah rechoortahntee gah rekortee "the instructor, the students and the books".

Pronouns[edit]

Only the oblique pronouns are known:

sing   plur
1st zoo
me
set
us
2nd shem
you
shemtee
you
3rd ze
him/her
tah
it
eest
them

In the sources, ze appears to be used as the English "her" (possibly "him", too), while tah is used as "it", i.e. with inanimate objects.

Examples:

rilyimem zoo "you don't see me"
reprad pishoen b'set "the rock belongs to us"

Particles[edit]

In D'ni there are more than one word that translate "of", depending on the meaning. The two most common are[8]:

okh: when expressing direct ownership, or describing a quality. Often suffixed.
tso: when expressing association or indirect possession, and where the possessed has greater agency. Often used with –tahn and –tahv words.


Examples:

korokh Gen - "Gehn's book" (FMR)
korokh Jimah - "Book of Prophecies" (BD)
erth lenahokh yahrtee sen - "a journey of three days" (DT)
Regolantanteeokh Yahvo - "The Judges of Yahvo" (Koreen)
Telokhsheetemsootahntee - "Guild of Messengers" (RAWA)
Terokh Jerooth - "Tree of Possibility" (RAWA, DLG)
ken Aytruhsokh D'nee - "I am Atrus of D'ni" (RAWA)
trebigto iglahrno okh rekaligo - "with the temporary blessing of the Council" (JS)
rekor oshahnin okh pahtstee oglahn - "the lost book of ancient cities" (RAWA)
kokenen revog miro okh reviduh - "it was the toxic nature of the atmosphere" (GJ)
remishtahtahv robot tso rebishtah - "the actual construction of the tunnel" (DT)
remahrntahn greahreeuhtahn tso dovahot - "the creator and protector of our world" (Gate)
bahreltahn tso dovahtee - "maker of worlds" (Gate)
r'inaltahv tso donetsoet relem - "the [opportunity?] of us producing the ink" (Gate)
remahnshootahv tso erthsev - "the death of an Age" (DLG)
rezuh tso dovah met - "the end of this world" (Dome)
khrekahntinahlothtee b'shento oolintahv tso D'nee - "for the [oppressed?] ones to take [control?] of D'ni" (KG)
bbaykh b'totee rahnahl tso mahrntahvom - "to link to various places of your creation" (AP)
t'khoytahg zuh tsoshem g'bortahom - "with end [result?] about you and your [purpose?] (AP)


To mark possession relative to a pronoun, D'ni uses six suffixes, one for each person and number:

sing plur
1st koroy
my book
korot
our book
2nd korom
your book
koromee
your book
3rd koron
his/her book
koros
their book


Examples:

okh een okh mishtahtahvoy - "of [any] of my construction" (GJ)
te rekoy D'nee keebahem revaht - "in my D'ni [class] you obey the five" (Gehn)
ahroyem be teegtahvom gah bodonahgahem - "you [attend?] to your work and you will be [improving?]" (Gehn)
oonrayot Gen - "our lord Gehn" (Gate, Float)
chevtahvtee b'mahryayshahteeot biv - "thanks to all our [fans?]" (Cyan)
neegesh gopah tomahnahteeomee ... kokeneet t'paychahvo - "merely because your homes ... were in danger" (Orz)
rilbotemahet hevteeos - "we will not [hear?] their words" (KG)


Modifiers[edit]

ets noun → adjective   tahv verb → noun (abstract)
et noun → adjective   tahn verb → noun (actor)
th adjective → noun   on adjective → verb
–(e)sh adjective → adverb   de again, anew

Note that when –esh is attached to a vowel, it loses the "e", e.g. gahrogahrosh, unlike –ets which usually keeps it. The –eth suffix can identify a quality or be used as an epithet, e.g. gahroth "greatness" or "the great one".

The particle –et confers the meaning of "full of" ("thank–ful"), while –ets confers the meaning of a quality ("storm–y"). The latter also forms ordinals: tor "four" → torets "fourth".

Keep in mind the distinction between –ahl and –et: the present part. describes an action that the thing is currently doing, e.g. redoyhah choylahnayahl "the machine in the process of finishing".

The uncommon prefix –on is used with the meaning of "to make adj.", e.g. zithon "to make low" , i.e. "to lower".

A few verbs can also be used as nouns without the –tahv suffix, like eder "sleep" and say "design". No specific rule regarding which verbs can be used as such is known.


Examples:

ahno "water" → ahnoets "watery" (wet)
vokan "birth" → devokan "rebirth" (hope)
gahro "great" → gahroth "greatness", gahrosh "greatly"
mees "speak" → meestahv "speech", meestahn "speaker"

Verbs[edit]

Infinitive[edit]

In English, that is done by putting "to" before the verb, e.g. "to see". In D'ni, it is done in a very similar way: b'yim, "to see"[9] . The D'ni particle can also be used as a preposition, just like in English.

b', b– to

Examples:

b'yim "to see";
b'baykh "to link".


"To be" vs "to exist"[edit]

The verb b'ken "to be" also means "to exist"[10]:

.rekor kenen tomet "the book is here"
.kenen erthkor "there is a book"

Inflection[edit]

In English, only the 3rd person singular is marked, by adding an "–s" to the root. In D'ni all persons are marked differently; for this reason the verb is never preceded by a pronoun (I, you, we, etc.). Note that the 1st person singular is just the root.

sing plur
1st yim
I see
yimet
we see
2nd yimem
you see
yimtee
you see
3rd yimen
he/she sees
yimeet
they see


Examples:

Aytrus ken-en erthseltahn tso sevtee "Atrus is a Writer of Ages";
ken-tee choortahntee "you are students".


Tenses[edit]

Like English, D'ni has both simple ("I read") and continuous ("I am reading") tenses, each in simple ("I read") and perfect ("I have read") form.

past present future
simple ko–gelen gelen bo–gelen
she wrote she writes she will write
continuous kodo-gelen do-gelen bodo-gelen
she was writing she is writing she will be writing
perfect kol–gelen le–gelen bol–gelen
she had written she has written she will have written
perf. cont. kodol-gelen dol-gelen bodol-gelen
she had been writing she has been writing she will have been writing

The perfect forms are formed with the simple forms + le, which loses the e when not by itself.

The future perfect has an alternative (and less common) form boko–. It is advisable to stick with bol–.

The progressive forms are formed with the simple forms + do.


Examples:

lehoorem gorahyanoy "you have found my clock"
bo-laysooem tah b'zoo "you will bring it to me"
redoyhah do-mahlahen "the machine is coming"
dol-giden ben pahrtahvotee vahgahfah "it has been excavating for six hours"

Passives[edit]

Only a few, ambiguous rules can be inferred from the sources. In general, the usage is as follow (scheme by Khreestrefah):

Adjectival passives ("-[]" marks a verb to be inflected )
<verb>-in rekor oshahnin okh pahtstee oglahn
"The lost book of ancient cities"
ken-[] <verb>-in to met kenen bahvahnin
"This place is [hidden]"
Passive infinitives
b'ken <verb>-ij kenen gor khrezithahthtee b'ken elonij
"It is time for the lowest ones to be raised"
Present passives
ken-[] <verb>-ij renezetahn kenen k'teshij trelenah
"The reader is entertained by the journey"
Future passives
boken-[] <verb>-ij rilbokenet verenij
"We will not be mollified"
Past passives
kodo<verb>-[] rebishtah kodolahsahen trefilahdh
"The tunnel was sealed at the top"
koken-[] ko<verb>-[] retiwah kokenen kosayen t'telooknahvah gahrten
"The shaft was designed by Surveyors Guild Master Garten"
Perfect passives
dol<verb>-[]-ij khahpo rezuhnuh rildolgelenij gahth
"Perhaps the ending has not yet been written"
Conditional passives
do<verb>-[] khoy hevtee met dohooreet pahl rifoonemah roo ...
"If these words are found then remember that..."
Passive absolutes
<verb>-en sholen te telookahm Aytruhs
"Prepared by Surveyors Guildsman Aitrus"


In short, these are the attested passive forms:

past present future
simple kokenen ko–gelen,
kodo–gelen
kenen gel–ij bokenen gel–ij
it was written it is written it will be written
continuous      ?      ?      ?
it was being written it is being written it will be being written
perfect      ? dol–gelen–ij      ?
it had been written it has been written it will have been written
perf. cont.      ?      ?      ?
it had been being written it has been being written it will have been being written


Notes:

  • A clue to the verb being passive is the absence of a direct object with a transitive verb.
  • The suffix -ij might be required only by verbs not explicitly passive: compare rem'lah kodoreesenij "the lizard was eaten" and rem'lah kodoreesen "the lizard was eating". Where the verb cannot be intransitive, the prefix do- appears sufficient: Aytruhs kododormahdhen (te Gen) "Atrus was defeated (by Gehn)".
  • Passives where the subject is implicit seem to take the ken auxiliary: redoo kodoreesenij te Aytruhs "the food was eaten by Atrus", but *ril bodoverenetij > rilbokenet verenij "we won't be mollified" (lit. "it won't be us mollified").
  • The form koken [en] ko- appears to be a paraphrase of kodo-; it is still unclear if they are interchangeable or if there are cases in which form is preferred.


Participles and moods[edit]

The imperative is expressed with a suffix, while the potential and optative moods are expressed by adding a word after the verb. The imperative can also be used with the 1st plural person ("let's go!").

–ah imperative
v. + voohee potential ("can/could")
v. + yeret optative ("may")
chahn + v. potential ("able to"?)

yeret is possibly a crystallised form from "we wish". "Cannot" is rilvoohee. The additional modifier chahn– "able to" is only attested once, so its precise usage is uncertain.
It appears that voohee precedes the verb either when the phrase supports a subordinate, or when the phrase is interrogative.


Examples:

.tahgemah b'zoo ah rekor! "give me the book!"
.ederet voohee? "we could rest"
.edertee yeret ahgo "may you sleep well"
.oshahn rilvoohee "I cannot lose"


Potentials and optatives can be combined:

.gelen voohee "she could write"
.gelen yeret "may she write"
.chahnchooren b'gel "she is able to learn to write"
.chooren voohee b'gel "she could learn to write"
.chooren yeret b'gel "may she learn to write"
.kamrov voohee belen roo gelen voohee "who could claim that they could write?"
.belen yeret roo gelen voohee "may she claim that she could write"


The –ah suffix also appears to be used as a superlative, e.g. zithahth "the Least", from zith "low" + ah + the adjective-to-noun -th suffix (see below).

The present and past participle are formed with suffixes, and usually act as adjectives.

–ahl present partic.
–in past partic.


The past participle should not be confused with the passive form -ij, although the differences between the two are not completely understood[11].

Adverbs[edit]

Adverbs normally follow the word they refer to, unless that word is modified by adjectives or other words. A few adverbs are composite, e.g. tomet is to "place" + met "this".

met(ee) this (these)
mot(ee) that (those)
gormet now
gormot then
tomet here
tomot there
preniv again


Examples:

yim shemtee preniv gormet "I see you again now"
kortee tomet, kortee tomot "books here, books there"
tahgahm kor met "I know this book"
tahgahm met kor prin "I know this small book"


Note that mot can also be used as a relative pronoun: rekor mot gelen "the book that he writes"; however, when referring to personal nouns ("who"), kamrov should be used: reshokhootahn kamrov yim "the instructor (who) I see"[12].

met and mot are singular when used as adjectives (khoy hevtee met/mot dohooreet "if these/those words are found"), but plural when used as pronouns (kokeneet pekay be motee/metee "they were [similar] to those/these").


blo about
gahth still / yet
gorven soon
kat only / just
megoyray straight out
tsahn always / forever
tsahnril never


Examples:

.kenen torinai gahth teDelin "it is still cold in Delin"
.megoyray mreprad "straight out from the rock"


Adverbs can be negated by prefixing them with ril' "not" (note the apostrophe):

.rekeelen fahets kenen ten ril'tsahn "the first step is not always simple"


"Never" can be expressed with tsahnril:

.rekeelen fahets kenen ten tsahnril "the first step is never simple (lit. simple never)"

but can also be expressed by negating the adjective[13]:

.rekeelen fahets kenen ril ten tsahn "the first step is never simple (lit. not-simple always)"


Prepositions[edit]

be to
te in / of / with / by
se at / towards
khe for[14]
fe on
me from / (made) of
ne around
ah (marks object)
ben for (duration or equal exchange)

The e is often substituted with an apostrophe, or omitted altogether in front of an article, with which prepositions often combine, e.g. be–b'– ; be+re–bre– . This usually doesn't happen with me– and ne– . With lists, prepositions are repeated: treshokhootahn trechoortahntee gahtrekortee "with the instructor, the students and the books".


Examples:

.kenen ahnoets teTetsonot
"It's humid in Tetsonot"
.ben yahrtee sen
"for 3 days";
.chev ah shem ben rekor
"I thank you for the book"
.kenen gor khezoo b'glo
"it's time for me to begin"
.neredovah
"around the world"
.meD'nee bretahleeo
"From D'ni to the surface"


The precise usage of ah is uncertain; from the sources, the following rules can be inferred[15]:

Use ah Do not use ah
in independent and dependent clauses, regardless of the verb form;

when the relationship between the verb and its object involves a physical encounter;
when a usually intransitive verb takes a direct object;
when a pronominal direct object is present to receive the address.

when the nature of the relationship bet­ween the verb and its object is more abstract;

when ril negates the semantic value of the verb;
when the direct object is pronominal (i.e. either an objective pronoun or a noun with a possessive suffix) and not present to receive the address.


Examples:

.tahgemah b'zoo ah rekor
"give me the book!" [physical encounter]
.ril glahsemah reahno
"don't drink the water" [negation]


Quantifiers[edit]

D'ni express these in a peculiar way, by using a numerical scale ("to 2", "to 20")[16]. The attested quantifiers are:

b'bree b'rish b'rigahsen b'fahsee
a little very, so highly maximally

Examples:

.tahgahmem tsahn botaygahn shem b'fahsee
"you know, I will always love you, to the greatest extent"
.reahchah kenen wotsah b'bree teMinkahtah
"the climate is a little harsh in Minkata"


W-words[edit]

kam kamrov kamto [ kamgor ] dho kamdol
what who where [when] how why


Examples:

.dho kenem?
"how are you?"
.votahr ah'shem khekamrov kenem
"I praise you for who you are"


Time[edit]

Main article: D'ni time

A D'ni year is approximately as long as an Earth year. A D'ni day however is about 30 hours long. The day has more subdivisions than hours, minutes and seconds:

hahr = 10 vaileetee = 290 yahrtee = ~year
vailee = 29 yahrtee = ~month
yahr = 5 gahrtahvotee = 25 pahrtahvotee = 30h 14′
gahrtahvo = 5 pahrtahvotee = 25 tahvotee = 6h 3′
pahrtahvo = 5 tahvotee = 1h 13′
tahvo = 25 gorahntee = 14′ 30″
gorahn = 25 prorahntee = 35″
prorahn = 1,35″


Months[edit]

1 Leefo Apr. 21–May 27
2 Leebro May 28–July 3
3 Leesahn Jul. 4–Aug. 8
4 Leetar Aug. 9–Sep. 14
5 Leevot Sep. 15–Oct. 20
6 Leevofo Oct. 21–Nov. 26
7 Leevobro Nov. 27–Jan. 1
8 Leevosahn Jan. 2–Feb. 7
9 Leevotar Feb. 8–Mar. 15
10 Leenovoo Mar. 16–Apr. 20

In leap years, the dates can move a day before, e.g. leefo would be on Apr. 20–May 26. The variability is included in the following table.


Holidays[edit]

New Year Leefo 1 April 20/21
The Common Library Opened Leefo 12 May 4/5
Second Feast of the Maker Leebro 20 June 20/21
The Fall of D'ni Leesahn 8 July 12/13
The Day of Dancing Leetar 21 September 2/3
Writers Guild Founded Leevot 9 September 24/25
First Arrival of the Great King Leevot 12 September 28/29
Third Feast of the Maker Leevofo 18 November 11/12
Coronation of King Kerath Leevofo 27 November 22/23
Lost Book of Birenni Found Leevobro 12 December 10/11
First Feast of the Maker Leenovoo 10 March 26/27
Day of the Circle Leenovoo 18 April 6/7

Guild nomenclature[edit]

The full name of a Guild is tel–okh–______–tahn–tee, literally "Guild of ______ers". This name is almost always shortened by omitting –okh–, –tahn–tee and often shortening the verb itself. Examples: telokhseltahnteetelsel.

There are two ways to identify a member of a specific guild: one is using the Short Name + ahm, the other is obtained by omitting telokh– and –tee from the Full Name.

Examples: telselahmseltahn.

A Guild Master is the Short Name + nahvah. Example: telselnahvah.

A Grand Master is the Short Name + nahvah pahrah. Example: telselnahvah pahrah.

References[edit]

  1. "The New D'ni Transcription Standard", Guild Of Linguists Homepage, accessed September 6, 2020.
  2. "D'ni Fonts and Transliteration Characters", The Lost Library of D'ni, accessed September 6, 2020.
  3. "The connections between the D'ni letters and the numbers", Guild of Linguists Homepage, accessed September 6, 2020.
  4. "Use of Apostrophes", A First Survey of the Facts for Writing D'ni, accessed September 6, 2020. Archived from the original on May 6, 2005.
  5. larryf58, "Comments on the Pictorial Dictionary?". Myst Online forums. August 11, 2017.
  6. "Word Order", A First Survey of the Facts for Writing D'ni, accessed September 6, 2020. Archived from the original on May 6, 2005.
  7. "Parallelism", A First Survey of the Facts for Writing D'ni, accessed September 6, 2020. Archived from the original on May 6, 2005.
  8. "Possession and Forms of 'of'", A First Survey of the Facts for Writing D'ni, accessed September 6, 2020. Archived from the original on May 6, 2005.
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