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Luluvo (also spelled Luluwo) is an ergative-absolutive language.



Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p b t d k g
Fricative f v θ (th) s z ʃ (sh) ʒ (zh) x h
Affricate tʃ (ch) dʒ (j)
Approximant l j (y)
Flap r

Note: Palatal also covers the range of Post-Alveolars.


Front Back
Close i u
Open-mid e /ɛ/ o /ɔ/
Open a


a e o
i ai ei oi
u au ou


The vowel nucleus is mandatory. Consonantal onsets and codas are optional. Consonant clusters may not exist, except cross-syllabically. To avoid such clusters, an epenthetic vowel (usually a reduced /ɪ/) may be used. As a rule, diphthongs and codas generally do not co-occur in a syllable.

Codas are devoiced. Consonant length is phonemic in Luluvo; two adjacent identical consonants double its length. Stress usually falls on the first syllable of a word root.


Luluvo verbs conjugate according to a variety of factors:

There are three persons (first, second, and third) and two numbers (singular and plural). The two voices are active and antipassive.

The three moods are:

  • indicative - indicates that something is a statement of reality or a fact
  • subjunctive - used in dependent clauses to discuss hypothetical or unlikely events, as well as to express emotion, opinion, wishes, polite requests, and necessity; also used in conditional sentences for both the conditions and consequences
  • imperative - used for orders and requests; imperative verbs align with the absolutive

The six fused tense-aspects are:

  • present - actions according at the time of speech
  • imperfect - actions continuing in the past
  • future - events occurring in the future
  • perfect - actions completed by the present
  • pluperfect - actions completed by a point in the past
  • future perfect - actions completed by a point in the future

Luluvo is split-ergative; despite the ergative-absolutive distinction, Luluvo verbs are nominative-aligning. This means that transitive verbs agree with the ergative agent, while intransitive verbs agree with the absolutive subject. The only exception is the imperative mood; the imperative always agrees with the absolutive.

Luluvo verbs are categorized into two conjugations, both defined by their present indicative first-person singular ending: the First Conjugation, defined by the ending -au, and the Second Conjugation, defined by the ending -ei.

First Conjugation[]

Indicative mood[]

1st sing. 2nd sing. 3rd sing. 1st plural 2nd plural 3rd plural
present -au -o -e -ach -un -em
imperfect -kau -ko -ke -kach -kun -kem
future -as -os -es -sach -us -sem
perfect -odau -odo -ode -odach -odun -odem
pluperfect -ujau -ujo -uje -ujach -ujun -ujem
future perfect -odas -odos -odes -otsach -odus -otsem

Subjunctive mood[]

1st sing. 2nd sing. 3rd sing. 1st plural 2nd plural 3rd plural
present -ivau -ivo -ive -ivach -ivu -ivem
imperfect -ivak -ivok -ivek -ikicha -ikinu -ikime
future -ivas -ivos -ives -issach -ivus -issem
perfect -ixau -ixo -ixe -ixach -ixun -ixem
pluperfect -ivuja -ivujo -ivuje -ivujach -ivujun -ivujem
future perfect -ixas -ixos -ixes -ivotsach -ixus -ivotsem

Imperative mood[]

1st singular 2nd singular 3rd singular 1st plural 2nd plural 3rd plural
Imperative -age --- (intrans.)

-oge* (trans.)

-ege -achke --- (intrans.)

-unge* (trans.)


Unlike the other inflected forms, the imperative mood always conjugates to the grammatical person of the absolutive argument. In a transitive phrase, the imperative verb aligns with the patient noun; used intransitively, the verb aligns with the subject noun.

For the second-person endings, a distinction is made between transitive and intransitive usages. If the verb is transitive, then -oge and -unge are used for singular and plural, respectively. Otherwise, if the imperative verb is intransitive, with no patient noun (e.g. "Run!", "Go!"), then the standalone verb root is used.

Second Conjugation[]

Indicative mood[]

1st sing. 2nd sing. 3rd sing. 1st plural 2nd plural 3rd plural
present -ei -o -ai -ech -un -im
imperfect -kei -ko -kai -kech -kun -kim
future -is -os -es -sech -us -sim
perfect -odei -odo -odai -odech -odun -odim
pluperfect -ujei -ujo -ujai -ujech -ujun -ujim
future perfect -odis -odos -odes -otsech -odus -otsim

Subjunctive mood[]

1st sing. 2nd sing. 3rd sing. 1st plural 2nd plural 3rd plural
present -ivei -ivo -ivai -ivech -ivu -ivim
imperfect -ivik -ivok -ivek -ikiche -ikinu -ikimi
future -ivis -ivos -ives -issech -ivus -issim
perfect -ixei -ixo -ixai -ixech -ixun -ixim
pluperfect -ivuji -ivujo -ivuje -ivujech -ivujun -ivujim
future perfect -ixis -ixos -ixes -ivotsech -ixus -ivotsim

Imperative mood[]

1st sing. 2nd sing. 3rd sing. 1st plural 2nd plural 3rd plural
Imperative -ige ---(intrans.)


-ege -echke --- (intrans.)



Valency reduction[]

The antipassive voice removes the patient argument of a sentence and promotes the heretofore ergative agent to the absolutive case. In essence, the antipassive takes a transitive verb and makes it intransitive. The prefix for forming antipassive verbs is "pit-". For example, choi pitvashodem means "they committed murder".

The passive is formed by the prefix "tal-". The passive voice deletes the ergative agent and turns the absolutive patient into the absolutive subject. The verb then conjugates according to the new subject. For example, choi talvashodem means "they were killed".


Luluvo does not use infinitives. The infinitive as used in English is expressed as either a subjunctive verb ("I want that I write") or a verbal noun ("I want the writing of a book"), usually placed before the main verb.


The adjectival participle is formed by the suffix "-la" after the conjugated third-person singular form of the verb. The adverbial participle is formed by the suffix "-umi" after the verb stem (no conjugated ending). The adverbial participle furthermore serves as a verbal noun, declining likewise as a noun.


Sentences are negated by the adverb jak, placed usually before the verb. For example, "they do not arrive" is choi jak nenim.


Luluvo nouns (as well as adjectives and articles) decline to two genders (masculine and feminine), two numbers (singular and plural), and eight cases. The eight cases are:

  • absolutive - indicates patient of a transitive verb and subject of an intransitive verb; serves as the lemma, or citation form, of the noun
  • ergative - marks the agent of a transitive verb
  • dative - marks an indirect object or the recipient of an action
  • ablative - indicates movement away from something or the cause of the action
  • genitive - marks a noun as possessing another noun, or being the origin of something
  • locative - indicates location; often used alongside relational nouns
  • instrumental - indicates that the noun is the instrument or means by which an action is achieved or accomplished
  • allative - indicates motion towards the noun; also used with relational nouns


Five declensions exist for all Luluo nouns, with the first and second declensions being the most common and the last (fifth) being the least. Singular and plural endings are indicated on either sides of a slash. Only the fifth declension does not possess a plural form.

First (masc.) Second (fem.) Third (masc.) Fourth (masc.) Fifth (fem.)
absolutive zhunu / zhunoi lile / lilai ayotho / ayothoi muka / mukau chata / chatai
ergative zhunus / zhunis liles / lilisa ayothos / ayothiso mukas / mukusa chatas / chatisa
dative zhunup / zhunip lilep / lilipa ayothop / ayothipo mukap / mukupa chatap / chatipa
ablative zhunumu / zhunim lileme / 'lilima ayothomo / ayothimo mukama / mukuma chatama / chatima
genitive zhunulu / zhunil lilele / lilila ayotholo / ayothilo mukala / mukula chatala / chatila
locative zhunuku / zhunik lileke / lilika ayothoko / ayothiko mukaka / mukuka chataka / chatika
instrumental zhunut / zhunit lilet / lilita ayothot / ayothito mukat / mukuta chatat / chatita
allative zhunufu / zhunif lilefe / lilifa ayothofo / ayothifo mukafa / mukufa chatafa / chatufa

Personal Pronouns[]

Pronouns decline to number and case. The first- and second-person pronouns do not decline for gender. In the table below, absolutive and ergative forms are shown.

1st person 2nd person 3rd person masc. 3rd person fem.
singular da (das) faho (fahos) cho (chos) che (ches)
plural akoi (akiso) vau (vusa) choi (chiso) chai (chisa)

The third-person pronouns are declined for gender. There is no neuter third-person pronoun, so the pronoun of any inanimate, non-human noun depends on its grammatical gender, i.e. a feminine noun would be referred to by cha in the absolutive case. Thus cho and cha can mean "he" and "she" respectively, as well as "it," depending on context.

Reflexive pronouns[]

Reflexive pronouns are used alongside reflexive verbs to express that the subject and object of a transitive verb are the same. A distinction is made between introverted reflexives (verbs that are inherently reflexive, e.g. "to wash (oneself), to perjure") and extroverted reflexives (verbs that are not usually reflexive but are used as such, e.g. "to kill oneself, to love oneself"). The pronoun ka (4th or 5th declension, depending on gender) is used for the introverted, whereas kale (2nd declension) is used for the extroverted as well as to put emphasis on an inherent reflexive.

Placed right after the subject in the same case, the pronoun kale is also used as an intensive pronoun.


Adjectives must agree with the nouns they modify in number, gender, and case. The masculine and feminine forms of an adjective decline identically to the first and second declensions respectively. Adjectives generally follow the nouns they modify, as well as any definite articles.


The comparative and superlative are formed by the adverbs fuf and jai respectively.

In sentences, the standard to which a comparison is being made has the same declension as the word it is being compared with. These sentences make use of the conjuction som ("than"), used in the format "X is comparative som Y," where Y is the standard. When comparing a part to a whole, the partitive genitive case is used.


Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. An adverb is indeclinable and precedes the verb or adjective it modifies.

Most adverbs are formed from adjectives by attaching the ending -i to the adjectival root. For example, adaju ("quick, fast"; feminine form: adaje) becomes adaji ("quickly").


Definite Article[]

Definite articles indicate that its noun is a particularly identifiable to the speaker because it is either uniquely specified or previously mentioned. A definite article precedes the noun it modifies. It is declined according to the noun.

The definite articles are shu and she for masculine and feminine; they follow the first and second declensions respectively.

Indefinite Article[]

The singular indefinite article is identical to the numeral thau ("one").

The plural indefinite article, masculine thayo or feminine thaya ("some"), also serves as the existential adjective and partitive article. They follow the 3rd and 5th declensions respectively.

Table of Correlatives[]

The demonstratives izu and lohu, like adjectives and definite articles, follow the noun. Other determiners, like numerals, precede the noun. All pronouns are declined.

Query* Proximal Distal Existential Elective Universal
Determiner baki izu / ize lohu / lohe thayo / thaya sone fila
Person bakta isto/ista lauto/lauta thayoto/thaita sonto/sonta filata
Thing bakmu izmu/izme laumu/laume thayomu/thaime sonme filame
Out of many bakzo / bakza izzo/izza lauzo/lauza thayozo/thaiza sonzo/sonza --
Place bakku isku lauku thayoku sonku filaku
Source baklu izlu lauklu thayoklu sonlu filaklu
Movement bakfu isfu laukfu thayokfu sonfu filakfu
Time bakthi isti lauthi thayothi sonthi filathi
Manner bakde izde laude thayode sonde filade
Reason baxen izxe lauxe thayoxe sonxe --


The basic numerals are:

  • jana - zero
  • thau - one
  • mas - two
  • utu - three
  • lab - four
  • volo -  five
  • xam - six
  • mina - seven
  • teth - eight
  • aiku - nine
  • gos - ten

Numerals usually precede the noun, but may follow it dialectically or in poetry. All numerals are indeclinable. Numerals after 10 are formed by stacking numerals into compounds. The 'tens' numerals after 10 are:

  • mazgo - two
  • utugo - three
  • labgo - four
  • vologo -  five
  • xamgo - six
  • minago - seven
  • tetgo - eight
  • aikugo - nine

Larger numerals include:

  • pela - hundred
  • konan - thousand
  • amanto - million

For example, 1,230,879 would be thau amanto, mas pela utugo konan, teth pela minago aiku.

Ordinal Numbers[]

Ordinal numbers indicate position in a sequential order and act as adjectives. Ordinal numbers are formed by the suffix -su (feminine: -se). The only exception is thau, which has two ordinal counterparts, thausu and kenu ("first, primary").


The majority of Luluvo postpositions are relational nouns. Such relational nouns include:

  • shu gaiju - above, top of
  • shu nita - below, under
  • shu echa - inside
  • shu vesu - outside
  • she zhane - near
  • she gupa - between, at the center of
  • she chena - behind, after
  • she hona - before, in front of
  • shu tivo - beside
  • shu lamu - for, because of (lit. "reason, cause")

These relational nouns function by being possessed, governing the genitive case.

Other postpositions are indeclinable, but similarly govern other cases. The postposition kaz is used with a dative case to mean "for, directed at."


Conjunctions connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. Conjunctions are indeclinable.

  • mau - and
  • zhut - or
  • roza - but
  • yin - so
  • zhai - for, because
  • dai - if
  • yoi - whether


Luluvo has a basic verb-final word order; the word order is usually SOV. The order of the subject and object may be reversed, however, as Luluvo utilizes a topic-comment structure which places the topic (be it subject or object) before the other noun, the comment. It is thus more useful to describe Luluvo as having a topic-comment-verb order. In poetry and colloquial speech, however, the grammatical cases allow Luluvo to have a highly flexible word order.


Questions are formed in situ; the word order of a sentence is not reversed when changed into a question. For yes-no questions, the sentence-final particle tu is used, while interrogative determiners are used for other questions.

Relative Clauses[]

The relativizer that connects the relative (adjectival) clause with the noun phrase is identical to the distal demonstrative lohu; it declines according to the gender, case, and number of the antecedent (noun of the main clause). The relativizer is placed before the main clause.


  • adaju - adj
    • quick, fast, rapid
  • ayotho - n, m
    • house
  • batahei - v
    • to act, do
  • chata - n, f
    • girl, female
  • dokau - v
    • run, go
  • felei - v
    • to bark, shout
  • fichu - post
    • for
  • girau - v
    • shine, glow
  • hosho - n, m
    • dog
  • itei - v
    • to play, frolic
  • jasa - det
    • no, none
  • jasta - prn
    • nobody, no one
  • kenu - adj
    • first, primary
  • lile - n, f
    • small boat, vessel
  • lusha - n, m
    • sun
  • muka - n, m
    • boy, male
  • palona - n, m
    • bird
  • senira - n, f
    • conscience, morality
  • suna - prn
    • each other
  • thovau - v
    • to sing, chirp
  • toch - adv
    • should, ought to
  • thumei - v
    • breathe
  • xefu - n, m
    • wind, breeze
  • zesu - n, m
    • child, young person
  • zhau - v
    • to be, exist
  • zhunu - n, masc
    • human, person

Example text[]

  • Birds sing.
    • Palonau thovem.
    • bird-pl
  • Children play.
    • Zesoi itim.
    • child-pl
  • The dog barks.
    • Shu hosho felai.
    • the-masc dog bark-3rd.sing
  • The sun shines and the wind blows.
    • Shu lusha gire mau shu xefu thumai.
    • The sun shines and the wind blows.
    • the-masc sun shine-3rd.sing and the-masc wind blow-3rd.sing
  • You should sing that.
    • Lohu fahos toch thovivo.
    • that-masc you-erg should sing-2nd.sing.subj
  • Should you sing that?
    • Fahos lohu toch thovivo tu?
    • you-erg that-masc should sing-3nd.sing.subj query
  • The child ran quickly.
    • Shu zesu adaji dokke.
    • the-masc child quickly run-3rd.sing.impf