This is a grammar of Tnwerméy Wa, hereafter sometimes abbreviated to simply Tnwerméy or referred to as ‘Sammish’ /ˈsæmɪʃ/ or occasionally ‘Muddish’ in English, a fictional language isolate. The name of the language is a derivation from the verb tnwer, meaning to pack or strengthen with mud, and the nominalizing derivational suffix -mé, meaning ‘person of’ or ‘person who does’, which is then pluralized. Wa is itself a Tnwerméy word meaning ‘language’. Taken wholly, the name means ‘language of those who strengthen with mud’. I started assembling data on Tnwerméy Wa during the end of the summer in 2017 and have since maintained, updated, and revised all the information contained herein on a regular basis. As by-products of this work, I am also producing a basic English-Tnwerméy dictionary, a collection of texts and a practical grammar for students.
This grammar contains an analysis of the Tnwerméy Wa language, starting from a brief characterization of the language and its speakers, then going on to phonology, morphology, syntax, discourse organization and semantics.
Every chapter of this grammar, as in the manner of a grammar of a natural, real-world language, includes a presentation of the ‘facts’ of the language interwoven with arguments for their analysis within a typological framework. No attempt has been made to separate pure ‘description’ from theoretical interpretation.
Tnwerméy Wa is neither predominantly synthetic nor predominantly analytical. On the one hand, it features a wide range of affixes and infixes that produce both basic semantic changes as well as perform complex grammatical functions, such as voice infixes or possessive affixes. On the other hand, Tnwerméy Wa also features a great number of uninflectable conjunctions, adjectives, adverbs, and particles. Tnwerméy Wa is predominantly agglutinative as opposed to fusional, as morphemes rarely encode more than one meaning simultaneously.
Tnwerméy Wa has sixty-three consonants and two vowels. There is a series of ejectives, prenasalized stops, prestopped nasals, and almost every consonant, excepting only five, has a labialized form. Tone is phonemic, and is realized in ways typical of both a contour tone system and a register tone system. Phonological processes such as fortition, lenition, and w-metathesis operate within a morpheme and across affix boundaries. Syllable structure is (C1)V(C2)(N), where C1 comprises all consonants, V comprises all vowels, C2 comprises, in approximate order of most common to least common, /j/, /ɾ/, /p/, /w/, /t/, and /k/, and N comprises /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/.
Open word classes are verbs, nouns, and derived adjectives and adverbs. Underived adjectives and adverbs form a semi-closed class. Closed classes include particles, demonstrative and non-demonstrative deictic terms, and pronouns, as well as the blank term áy, which forms a closed class of its own. Pronouns in Tnwermey Wa feature a clusivity distinction in the first-person plural and an animacy distinction in all third person pronouns.
Nouns in Tnwerméy Wa are both derivationally and inflectionally simple. For the vast majority of nouns, there are no possible inflections. Tnwerméy nouns divide into three subclasses by their number marking. The first category, animate countable, is the only subclass of nouns that at their simplest forms can inflect for plurality. The second category, inanimate countable, forms a subclass of nouns that cannot be inflected for plurality without the use of derivational affixes that specify as to the form, quantity, etc., of the inanimate referent. The third category, uncountable, comprises nouns that can neither be counted nor inflected under any circumstances. Case marking is performed through the use of particles.
Tnwerméy Wa distinguishes alienable and inalienable possession. Both alienably and inalienably possessed nouns are marked through the use of affixes, although the specific semantics and realization varies depending on which subclass of noun the possessed noun in question belongs to.
Tnwerméy verbs are far more synthetic than Tnwerméy nouns, able to a take a range of affixes that specify as to mood, aspect, and tense. Most notably, Tnwerméy verbs in almost all circumstances must mark for voice through the use of infixes. There are six voice infixes in Tnwerméy Wa: Active I, Active II, Passive, Instrumental, Locative, and Benefactive. Each of these voices is realized both in the infixing itself as well as in the rearrangement of arguments throughout the clause and in case marking. Active I refers to the voice marking for active intransitivity. Active II refers to the voice marking for active transitivity. The different voices are complex and often can produce meanings beside their primary meaning. For example, Active I when used with an adjective produces an inchoative reading. Active II, used in conjunction with the nominative particle, produces a nominalized ‘doer’ form of the verb.