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Lexical Semantics of a Machine Translation Interlingua
On the Design of an Ideal Language

November 30th, 2010

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12:39 pm - A brief introduction to Nuirn, pt. 12 (Verbs 5: present middle and simple future)

What follows is likely the easiest set of verb paradigms in Nuirn: the present middle and the simple future active.

These are the last verb forms in Nuirn formed from the present infinitive stem.

The present middle

In current Nuirn, the present middle voice of any regular verb is formed by a reliable rule. You drop the final -n from the second infinitive and replace it with -s. This form serves as the conjugated finite form for all persons and numbers, and also as the middle infinitive.

Thus, for our model verbs bruca and brise, "to use" and "to break" respectively, the conjugations go:


brucas ec                                           I get broken, am broken
brucas þú                                          you get broken, are broken
brucas han                                       he gets broken, is broken
brucas hón                                        etc.
brucas þet

brucas uí
brucas í
brucas þey


brises ec
brises þú


Syntax, translation, and usage

The Nuirn middle voice is a versatile and frequently encountered verb form. There are a number of ways to translate it in English:

gets __________ed
is _________ed
becomes __________ed
turns __________ed
_________s itself


As an essentially invariant form, it is usually used in current usage with a full pronoun rather than a clitic. In older Nuirn, it had synthetic foms, a few of which survive, mostly in fixed phrases and fossil forms. The ones that still have some currency are:


-mey, former first person singular: brisemey, "I am broken"
-stan, stón, former third person masc., fem. Forms
-(e)unsaí, former first person plural form: struntunsaí, "we become intoxicated"

With some intransitive verbs, usage requires that the subject be cast in the accusative case rather than the nominative case:

Þórstas mey, "I am thirsty".
Hygec er siùcas mey. "I think I'm getting sick".

Because the pronoun here is not in the nominative, it does not have to appear directly after the finite verb in a main clause, and can wander freely: mey þórstas…..

With verbs referring to weather and similar phenomena, it is used with a null subject:


Reghnas.                                   "It is raining"
Sólas.                                          "The sun is shining"
Standhas, yn ías ecki.              "The traffic is bumper to bumper" (lit. "It gets stood, and it does not get gone.")

As such, it also functions as a general impersonal form. The verb "to be" has impersonal forms: is, "there is", and also bhí (plene, bhíth), which figures mostly in the conjugation of the eventive sequence.


Deponent and defective verbs.

A number of verbs are used chiefly in the middle voice. Weather verbs are one category; there are others, such as baþas "bathe" and rennightheas "wash yourself".

Aian "to say" is an important defective verb. It has two active forms: aiec and aistiú, "I say" and "you say". It has a weak preterit, aidde, which is regular. But the commonest encountered form of this verb is aiteas, an irregular middle voice form that means "it is said".

The simple future

The simple future is easily described. Except in the third person singular, it is a possessed second infinitive. It is only used with pronominal subjects, and as such, they must remain glued to the end of the verb in main clauses:


brucanam                               I will use
brucanaës                              you will use
brucanan                                he will use
brucanón                                she will use
brucanet                                  it will use


brucanavus                            we will use
brucanaí                                 you (pl) will use
brucanay                                they will use


briseneam                             I will break
brisenes                                     …..



The simple future calques English's "I have to…." construction, and is used in similar contexts. It suggests duty or obligation. More general or abstract futures are formed with a variety of auxiliaries, such as the general and colorless sculla and munna, and the somewhat more imperative fáa and gete, which have some of the force of English "shall".

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