Nominal Sentences in Atudab[]


Nominal sentences are the core of Atudab grammar. Not only do they cover the normal role of nominal sentences, they also do most of the work of what, in most languages, are verbal sentences.

The use of nominal sentences is so heavy that there may be whole texts containing no verb at all.

One important point one has to master to be proficient in the language is the difference between nominal sentences (like "This house is mine") and simple nominal syntagms (like "this house of mine"). This difference may be very subtle in some cases, but it is always possible (and necessary) to tell one thing from the other.


We call attribution or attributive function when a noun, adjective, pronoun or other determiner comes together with a noun (nucleus), forming a syntagm, that is, a group of words which can exert a function inside a sentence (like subject or direct object). Examples: "my family", "the whole town", "the new student", "Peter's car" &c.


There are two possibilities for joining two nouns: one conveying the general idea of possession, origin or relationship, the other indicating a receiver, sufferer or beneficiary.


The genitive form indicates a state either as permanent or as resulting from something that happened at some point in the past, which resulted in a change of relationship between two or more entities. It is considered a static case (opposed to the Dative, which is considered a dynamic case). The relationship is generally one of possession, but it may also indicate notions such as being part of or having come from.

The so-called full genitive is indicated by the prefix [te-] (indefinite) or [nɛ̃:-] (definite), simultaneous with the suffix [-ʔi].

It is important to notice that, although in most cases the nouns involved in a genitive relation are definite, having the first syllable nasalized, it is not necessarily so. Definiteness is a separate notion, independent from the genitive case.

Some examples:

First Noun Second Noun Expression Meaning
[ndɾɔ̃:ʔyd nɛ̃:mĩ:beʔi] "the hair of the man", "the man's hair"
[ncɔ̃:həcod nɛ̃:mbɾɔ̃:paʔi] "the father's car"
[tɾixta:pɾɔ teʔihəh]
"new student"
[lnĩ:co: nɛ̃:ndɾĩ:ŋxta:pɾɔʔi teʔihəh] "the name of the new student"
"Todrexta (man's name)"
[mwɔ̃:bab tedi: tetodɾextaʔi] "Todrexta's brothers"
[lnĩ:co: tedi: nɛ̃:mwɔ̃:babʔi tedi:] "the names of the brothers"
[mwɔ̃:bab tedi: tetodɾextaʔi]
"Todrexta's brothers"
[ncɔ̃:həcod tedi: nɛ̃:mwɔ̃:babʔi tedi: tetodɾextaʔi] "The cars of Todrexta's brothers"
[ʔoʔi: tewɔ:ɾhu:tʔi] "an eye of an animal"
[ŋɔ̃:ʔi: tebwɛ: tewɔ:ɾhu:tʔi] "the eyes of an animal"
[ʔoʔi: tedi: tewɔ:ɾhu:tʔi tedi:] "eyes of animals"


The dative form indicates either a change of state or, at least, the intention for such a change. It is considered a dynamic case, opposed to the genitive, which is considered a static case.

The nature of the "change" intended with the use of the dative case may vary. It may refer to possession (conveying the idea of "giving"), of place ("going") or other. It may also refer to secondary effects of an action, indicating an entity that is indirectly affected, either positively or negatively, by the action being expressed.

The dative case is indicated by the prefix [lu-] (indefinite) or [nũ:-] (definite), simultaneous with the suffix [-(ʔ)ət].

Being a "dynamic" case, it is mostly used in sentences. Its use in pure nominal syntagms is shomewhat restricted.

Some examples:

First Noun Second Noun Expression Meaning
[cɔhəcod lujoxɾe:ʔət] "a car (intended to be given) to a son"
[cɔhəcod (teɾycu)]
[ncɔ̃:həcod (teɾycu) nũ:mbwɔ̃:ɲtɾixta:ʔət] "the bus (going) to school", "the school bus"
"people", "nation"
[xɾɛldəwo nũ:mbwɛ̃:nʔət] "a disgrace for the people"
[hodəb tedi: nũ:lnɛ̃:de:dʔət tedi:] "benefits for the children"

Dative AND Genitive[]

The use of a genitive connected to a dative give origin to new expressive possibilities inside nominal syntagms.

Word 1 Word 2 Word 3 Expression & Gloss Meaning
"objective", "target"
[pe:pjɔcju nũ:ncĩ:lɛjʔə teʔɛ:tlabyʔi]
"a dispute for (getting to) the objective of a definition"
"a dispute (in order) to define"
[mwɔ̃:leʔal luʔɔpjudʔət tepɔpɾa:heʔi]
"the work for creation of a project"
"the effort for establishing a project"
[nũ:m tedi: luji:tɾo:hʔət tepibeʔi]
"attempts for saving of a person"
"attempts to save a person"


Cardinal numbers are the only class of words which can be attributed to nouns without the linking [te-] prefix. The only restriction is that they must come immediately after the noun to which it is being attributed. E.g.:

  • [pjolca cɔllo] "three words"
  • [ncĩ:pedzɛ pɾodz nɛ̃:ndɾĩ:ŋxta:pɾɔ tedi:] "the four tasks of the students"
  • [lnĩ:co: tedi: tendɾĩ:ŋxta:pɾɔ cixɾu teʔihəh] "the names of the ten new students"
    • (cf.: [lnĩ:co: tedi: teʔihəh tendɾĩ:ŋxta:pɾɔ cixɾu] "the new names of the ten students"; [lnĩ:co: cixɾu teʔihəh tendɾĩ:ŋxta:pɾɔ tedi:] "the ten new names of the students")


To establish a partitive meaning, numerals are used as regular nouns, followed by the genitive form of the main noun. Ex.:

  • [cɔllo tembjɔ̃:lncaʔi tedi:] "three of the words"
  • [pɾodz nɛ̃:ncĩ:pedzɛʔi tedi: nɛ̃:ndɾĩ:ŋxta:pɾɔʔi tedi:] "four of the tasks of the students", "four of the students' tasks"
  • [cixɾu nɛ̃:ndɾĩ:ŋxta:pɾɔʔi teʔihəh] "ten of the new students"


Independent Pronouns[]

From a morphological point of view, the independent pronouns are treated simply as nouns. Examples:


There are prefixed pronominal forms which, at first, convey the same notion as the genitive form of the corresponding independent pronouns.

Singular Plural
1st [ʔe:-] [pɾa-]
2nd [cɔb-] [lɛ:-]
3rd [jɛ:p-] [cɔ-]


  • [ʔe:he:dji:] = [he:dji: te´e:bo:ʔi] "my house"
  • [cɔbwɔhputɾe] = [wɔhputɾe teʔodzʔi] "your courage"

These prefixes are generally used with the definite form of the noun, although the indefinite form may also be used:

  • [ʔe:ŋxɛ̃:dji:] "my house"
  • [cɔbmwɔ̃:ŋxputɾe] "your courage"

Anyway, the indefinite form is required when the idea of "one of my ..." is intended:

  • [ʔe:he:dji:] = [he:dji: te´e:bo:ʔi] "one of my houses"

These pronominal prefixes may assume the function of apparent direct object in pseudo-verbal constructions. Ex.:

  • [ʔe:hob jɛ:pnɛ̃:ŋxɾɛ̃:ncɛ̃:ɲ] "I killed him" (actual meaning in Atudab: "I did his killing"; compare: [jɛ:pndzjɔ̃:m powij teji:dcjɔ:] "His death was sad")


There are no real adjectives in Atudab. In most cases the work of adjectives is done by means of nouns in the so-called "half genitive", that is, the genitive prefix [te-] or [nɛ̃:-] without the suffix [-ʔi] and always with the indefinite form of the noun.

Factors such as definiteness, case and even the presence of other attributes affect only the main noun.


Main Noun Noun in Adjective Function Phrase Translation
"(the color) black"
[hebɔ tewahpju:] "a black shoe"
[ŋxɛ̃:bɔ tewahpju:] "the black shoe"
[ŋxɛ̃:mɔ̃: tewahpju:] "a/the black shoe" (accusative case)
[ʔocja tetjehy] "an intelligent boy"
[labdzja teʔodo:bpɔ:w] "modern clothes"
"anthem", "hymn"
[wupʔu teʔopodz] "national anthem"
[jy:dcod tedɛ:pju:] "a long spear"
"ship", "aircraft"
"(outer) space"
[tjexɾed tepɾy:] "space ship"
[tjexɾed tepɾy:]
"space ship"
[tjexɾed tepɾy: tepɾolto] "a fast space ship"


There is a type of relative clause that can be considered a sub-type of the NOUN + ADJECTIVE construction. It uses the relative pronoun [hy:] to build a structure similar to a noun in the "half genitive" form. The body of the relative clause comes between the [te-] prefix and the [hy:] pronoun. Ex.:

  • [cɔdɔbu tepocɔbhob ŋɑ̃:ŋxmbwɛ̃: hy:] "a tree that/which I planted"
  • [mĩ:be tepoʔe:hob mbɾĩ:n hy:] "the person I've seen"

Although this is not the traditional form of a relative clause, being rarely found in writing, it is becoming popular in the spoken language.


The constructions discussed above correspond exclusively to phrases, that is, elements that are used to create sentences, not sentences themselves.

In Atudab, however, even simple nominal syntagms are potential statements. If a phrase like e.g. "a message for you" is issued, it is implied something like "there is a message for you" or "I've got a message for you" or "You've got a message" or "They sent you a message".

Anyway, the language does possess verbal constructions, and, although simple nominal constructions can be used instead of fully elaborate sentences, the expressive possibilities of the language are the same as in any Earth language.

In its current state, [atudab] has only two verbs which, in a sense, are opposite: [hob] implies that its two arguments are completely distinct entities, while [wij] implies a complete or at least partial identity between its two arguments. While [wij] corresponds to our linking verbs "be" or "become", [hob] may comprise meanings such as "make", "do", "go", "get", "have", according to the nature and relationship between the entities represented in its arguments (subject and object).

Morphologically, [hob] requires its second argument (the "object") to be fully nasalized, thus establishing the complete difference of identity between subject and object. On the other hand, [wij] does not establish such a difference, and its complement must be in the same state as the subject. Compare:

  • [dɛbɾucjo jɛ:pwij dɛbɾucjo] "violence is (only/simply) violence"
  • [dɛbɾucjo jɛ:phob nɛ̃:mbɾũ:ncjɔ̃:] "violence generates/produces/brings violence"

An astonishing feature of [atudab] emerges from this state of things. Since [wij] requires a complement in its normal state and [hob] requires its complement to be fully nasalized, the presence or absence of nasalization may serve as the indication of which meaning is intended. This leads to the possibility of completely omitting the verbs whenever context makes it clear which meaning is intended. So, it is possible to have sentences like:

  • [dɛbɾucjo dɛbɾucjo] "violence is (only/simply) violence"
  • [dɛbɾucjo nɛ̃:mbɾũ:ncjɔ̃:] "violence generates/produces/brings violence"

This means that, unless really needed to avoid some kind of misunderstanding (e.g., with monossylabic nouns in which the definite form is the same as the accusative form, or when time or other purely verbal indications are necessary), verbs can be omitted and actually are omitted in most sentences.

In this article we will focus on the sentences with the verb [wij].

Copula (wij)[]

As stated above, [wij] establishes some kind of identity between the entities represented in its arguments, the subject and the complement (or predicate). While the subject must be always a noun (or a pronoun, which is by all means considered a substitute for a noun), the complement may be:

  1. a noun, be it in the nominative, genitive or dative case;
  2. a half-genitive noun functioning as an adjective
  3. a pronoun

Remember that, if the verb carries no extremely necessary information about time, person or aspect, it can be omitted.


This type of statement establishes an identity between an entity, represented by the subject, and another entity or an entity class, represented by the complement. If the complement represents a class, it may be omitted. If the complement represents an instance, that is, if it establishes that two individuals are actually a single entity, the verb must be used.

In the case of an indefinite subject, the difference between using and omitting the verb determines whether the subject refers to an unspecified individual (using the verb) or to a whole class of individuals (omitting the verb). In the latter case, the use of the definite or indefinite form of the complement changes according to the intended meaning.

Subject Complement Sentence Translation
"that man"
"my father" (individual)
[pyʔmĩ:be (jɛ:p)wij ʔe:mbɾɔ̃:pa]
"That man is my father."
"that man"
"a teacher" (class)
[pyʔmĩ:be ((jɛ:p)wij) cjɛ:jəbpɾɔ]
"That man is a teacher."
"that man"
"my teacher" (class)
[pyʔmĩ:be ((jɛ:p)wij) ʔe:ncjɛ̃:jəbpɾɔ]
"That man is my teacher (=one of my teachers)."
"that man"
"my teacher" (individual)
[pyʔmĩ:be (jɛ:p)wij ʔe:ncjɛ̃:jəbpɾɔ]
"That man is my teacher (=the only teacher I have)."
"the butler"
"a murderer" (class)
[ŋɑ̃:cjohpɾɔ ((jɛ:p)wij) xɾatpɾuhpɾɔ]
"The butler is a murderer."
"the butler"
"the murderer" (individual)
[ŋɑ̃:cjohpɾɔ (jɛ:p)wij ŋxɾɑ̃:npɾuhpɾɔ]
"The butler is the murderer (which we've been trying to find out)."
"a butler"
"a murderer" (class)
[ʔacjohpɾɔ ((jɛ:p)wij) xɾatpɾuhpɾɔ]
"A butler is a murderer (i.e., all butlers are murderers)."
"a butler"
"a murderer" (class)
[ʔacjohpɾɔ (jɛ:p)wij xɾatpɾuhpɾɔ]
"A butler is a/the murderer (i.e., we know that there is a murderer among us and that he is a butler)."
"a butler"
"the murderer" (individual)
[ʔacjohpɾɔ (jɛ:p)wij ŋxɾɑ̃:npɾuhpɾɔ]
"A butler is the murderer (i.e., we know that one of the butlers is the murderer)."


This construction states that the quality expressed in the complement is one of the attributes of the subject. Use or omission of the linking verb is irrelevant to meaning.


Considering that in [atudab] a pronoun is regarded as a special class of nouns, there is no difference between this type of sentence and the NOUN is NOUN type.

The only difference is that, when a personal pronoun is the subject, there are two options:

  1. the pronoun is used and the verb is omitted (even if an individual identity is meant);
  2. the pronoun is omitted and the full form of the verb is used.

Subject Complement Sentence Translation
"your father" (individual)
[ʔe:bo: (ʔe:)wij cɔbmbɾɔ̃:pa]
[ʔe:bo: cɔbmbɾɔ̃:pa]
[ʔe:wij cɔbmbɾɔ̃:pa]
"I am your father."
[xɾuʔod tehodəb]
"a good idea" (class)
[ncɛ̃: ((jɛ:p)wij) xɾuʔod tehodəb]
"This is a good idea."
"a murderer" (class)
[wepɾob ((jɛ:p)wij) xɾatpɾuhpɾɔ]?
"Who is a murderer?"
"the murderer" (individual)
[wepɾob (jɛ:p)wij ŋxɾɑ̃:npɾuhpɾɔ]?
"Who is the murderer?"


This type of construction is rarely used, and generally has the same meaning as the revers construction (PRONOUN is NOUN).

Conjunctions (and, or)[]

The use of coordinating conjunctions like "and" and "or" is limited, in most languages, to the formation of nominal syntagmas only. Except for the eventual use in titles, constructions of the type NOUN and NOUN or NOUN or NOUN are generally not standalone, being suitable to be used only as a composite subject or object inside a sentence.

In [atudab], however, this is different. The expressive possibilities of constructions of the type NOUN and NOUN, NOUN or NOUN, NOUN or not NOUN, are vast, according to the general principle of the language of relying above all in nominal constructions.

Pru "and"[]

With verbal notions, the conjunction [pɾu] "and" generally expresses a current state, without much regard as to the process which led to such state. "Current state" means a state which is current to the moment referred to in the context, not necessarily the present moment. This is one of the ways of having an indefinite direct object. When used to indicate future, this construction gives the idea of something whose realization is regarded as certain, undoubted. It can also be used to create structures with the formula:

X and Y = there is Y despite of X

in which case it may also be translated as "but".

First noun Second noun Phrase Gloss Meaning
[ʔocja pɾu jɛ:pɻnĩ:ʔi:j] "a boy and his pet" "A boy has a pet."; "A pet belongs to the boy."
[ʔe:bo pɾu ʔe:mĩ:ncteɾ] "me and my decision" "I have a decision to take.", "I have taken a decision.", "It is up to me to decide."
[jopɾɔleɾpɾɔ pɾu jɛ:pmɛ̃:dah] "the sailor and his death" "The sailor died.", "The sailor is dead."
[pɾɔtɔb nɛ̃:ncɛ̃:xɾɔjdjɛpɾɔ]
"arrest of the thief"
[ɲɛ̃:ŋxtapɾɔ pɾu mbɾɔ̃:tɔb nɛ̃:ncɛ̃:xɾɔjdjɛpɾɔʔi] "the policeman and the arrest of the thief" "The policeman arrested/is arresting the thief."
[pji:p tejɛ:pncɔ̃:ŋhəcodʔi]
"washing of his car"
[mĩ:be pɾu mbjĩ:m tejɛ:pncɔ̃:ŋhəcodʔi] "the man and the washing of his car" "The man is washing his car."
[pji:p tecɔhəcodʔi]
"washing of a car"
[mĩ:be pɾu jɛ:pmbjĩ:m tecɔhəcodʔi] "the man and his washing of a car" "The man is washing a car."
[tjobwa: lupɔbɛ:ʔydʔət]
"solution for a problem"
[ʔe:bo pɾu ɲɔ̃:bwa: nũ:mɔ̃:bɛ:ʔydʔət] "me and the solution for the problem" "I am going to solve the problem.", "I will surely solve the problem."
[hopəh pɾu pɾaɲɔ̃:ʔuhwal] "rain and our travel" "We are travelling despite the rain." (also: "we travelled despite the rain")
[tɾɛ:dzo pɾu ʔodz jɛ:pndɾĩ:wmnɑ̃:] "love and you leave her" "You are leaving her despite the fact that you love her" = "You love her but you are leaving her" (also: "You love her but you left her.")

cjɔ "or"[]

The conjunction [cjɔ] "or" may be used to build a whole "if" clause with the formula:

X or Y = if not X then Y

First noun Second noun Phrase Gloss Meaning
[hopəh cjɔ pɾaɲɔ̃:ʔuhwal] "rain or our travel" "If it does not rain, we are going to travel." (also: "if it didn't rain, we would have travelled")
[tɾɛ:dzo cjɔ ʔodz jɛ:pndɾĩ:wmnɑ̃:] "love or you leave her" "If you don't love her you have to leave her."

Lor "or not"[]

The conjunction [loɾ], translated as "or not", is used in a manner similar to that of [cjɔ], but with a different meaning:

X or not Y = if not X then not Y = if X then Y

First noun Second noun Phrase Gloss Meaning
[hopəh loɾ pɾaɲɔ̃:ʔuhwal] "rain or not our travel" "If it does not rain, we are not going to travel." = "If it rains we are going to travel." (also: "if it didn't rain, we would not have travelled", "if it rained we would have travelled")
[tɾɛ:dzo loɾ ʔodz jɛ:pndɾĩ:wmnɑ̃:] "love or you don't leave her" "If you don't love her then you must not leave her." = "If you love her, then you must leave her."

Predicate vs. Attribution[]