Dhaqan Grammar

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Referencearrow.png Main Article: Dhaqan Languages

The Dhaqan languages are nearly isolating. Tongman has optional past tense marking, but aside from that, there is no real morphology. Tyannese has a system of noun classes with classifier particles (which could be considered morphological) that function as numeral classifiers, among others, but with a very small number of classes that seem more typical of Bantu languages than of Sinitic languages. Syntax, on the other hand, is rather similar to classical Chinese.


Tyannese noun classes

Tyannese classifies all nouns as belonging to one of ten classes that mostly seem to be derived from Bantu noun classes. Class membership is somewhat fluid, however, as nouns can be reclassified to (slightly) alter their meaning or associations. Unlike Bantu, there are no separate classes for plurals. In Tyannese all nouns are number neutral.

# kinds of "things" classifier origin of classifier (hypothetical and mostly controversial)
1 human beings  (m̊u) Bantu class 1.
2 plants  (shang)
3 animals and spirits  (ling) Bantu class 5.
4 natural phenomena and objects, undesirable people, collective nouns, times  (feng) Possibly from Bantu words for "storm".
5 diseases, undesirables, dirty/bad things  (má) Bantu class 6.
6 body parts (except arms and legs), tools, cultural phenomena and obejcts, artefacts, outstanding people (polite)  (xi) Bantu class 7 or 8.
7 long/thin things, arms and legs  (lhú) Bantu class 11.
8 flat things, sheets  (bang)
9 abstracts, locations, areas  (daa)
10 general things (childish to use if other option)  (to) Possibly from Bantu words for "thing".

functions and uses of classifiers

Classifiers have three different functions:

  1. obligatory suffix to a numeral (see below);
  2. topic marker;
  3. (slightly) changing meaning or associations of a noun.

An example of (3) would be using  (má) after a person's name, which is very insulting; or using  (bang) after the word for book, indicating that it is more like a brochure.


In Tyannese, numerals normally follow the noun they refer to, and are always followed by a the appropriate classifier. If a numeral precedes the noun, it is followed by 之 xhǝ (a genitive-like modifier particle). This, however, sometimes changes the meaning. In many cases choosing a different classifier also changes the meaning.

書本4 — xu·bhen zǝ·xi — four books

書本400 — xu·bhen zǝ·bhai·bang — 400 very thin books (or brochures)

400之書本 — zǝ·bhai·bang zǝ xu·bhen — a 400-page book

桜2 — ying aa·to — two cherries

2之桜 — aa·to zǝ ying — a pair of (connected) cherries

桜2 — ying aa·shang — two cherry trees

2之桜 — aa·feng zǝ ying — two portions/boxes of cherries

numerals and classifiers in Tongman and Butyang

Tongman does not have numeral classifiers. Tongman numerals always precede the noun they refer to and are effectively adjectives. In Butyang, both the Tyannese and Tongman systems are used, but the Tyannese system with numeral classifiers is much more common.

The other uses/functions of the Tyannese noun classes are identical in Butyang. Tongman only uses classifiers (as suffixes) to mark changes in meaning.

Tongman verbal morphology

Tongman verbs have past tense marking, which is obligatory in past tense sentences in which the past is not otherwise marked (by means of "yesterday", for example). Verb stems that end in a vowel get the suffix - (-t); stems that end in a consonant get the ending - (-ta). (See adverbs for tense marking in Tyannese and Butyang.)


All Dhaqan languages have the exact same basic syntax (i.e. phrase order), but there are some differences in the details. Any part of a sentence can be omitted if context makes sufficiently clear what is intended.

Within noun phrases adjectives precede nouns (and adverbs C precede adjectives). In Tongman, numerals are effectively adjectives (and thus precede nouns) and are (normally) unmarked. In Tyannese, numerals have a classifier suffix and follow the noun they apply to. In Butyang both systems occur, but the Tyannese seems to be more common. (See also Tyannese noun classes.)

phrase order

  1. topic
  2. adverb A
  3. agent/subject
  4. adverb B
  5. verb
  6. patient/object
  7. oblique argument
  8. sentential particle


The subject, object, or an oblique argument can be moved to the front of the sentence to stress that sentence part. In Tyannese, the topic is marked with the classifier; in Tongman, the topic is optionally marked with  (to). Butyang generally follows Tyannese grammar here. In all languages, oblique arguments retain their identifying particles (in first position).

For example, compare normal order:


Nguéi · tú · xu bhen.
Nguéi · reads · a/the book(s).

with a similar sentence with topic marking (xi, in this case):


Xu bhen · xi · Nguéi · tú.
a/the book(s) · [] · Nguéi · reads.

which puts emphasis on what Nguéi is reading; or


Nguéi · m̊u · tú · xu bhen.
Nguéi · [] · reads · a/the book(s).

which emphasizes that Nguéi is the one reading.


Three kinds of adverbs are distinguished:

  • adverbs A modify the sentence (or clause) as a whole;
  • adverbs B modify the verb;
  • adverbs C modify an adjective.

Adverbs of type A are generally indicators of time and/or location. In general, adverbs B are more adjective-like.


Shuóng rǝ · Nguéi · zu · tú · gben · qhiǝng n̊án · xu bhen.
Yesterday · Nguéi · quickly · read · very · difficult · book.
Yesterday, Nguéi quickly read a very difficult book

In which:

  • 昨日 shuóng rǝ (yesterday) is an adverb A;
  • zu (quickly) is an adverb B; and
  • gben (very) is an adverb C.

The same (Tyannese) sentence in Tongman:

    

Gesøter · Nguéi · xunel · leista · seiya · tsuirii · buc.
Yesterday · Nguéi · quickly · read · very · difficult · book.
Yesterday, Nguéi quickly read a very difficult book

In which  (leista) is past tense of  (leis), "to read". Strictly speaking no tense marking is necessary in this sentence, however, because the adverb A  (gesøter, "yesterday") already specifies the past.

In Tyannese, there are a few very general temporal adverbs that occur in B position rather than as adverb A. For example:


Nguéi · qáng · tú · xu bhen.
Nguéi · past · read · a/the book(s).
Nguéi read the book.

This phenomenon almost certainly derives from German influence: German auxiliary verbs (and the past tense suffix) became adverbs B in an early Tyannese-German creole, and these were later replaced by Sinitic variants (with the standardization and sinification of Tyannese in the 19th century). Most common after 嘗 qáng is 將 qhiang which indicates the future.

oblique arguments

Oblique arguments are identified by means of a particle (or preposition) in phrase-initial position.

argument type Tyannese Tongman Butyang
indirect object 與/与* ngǝ́  an 与* ng
instrumental/comitative 於 ǝ́  mii 於/ ǝ


  • 与 is the simplified Chinese character of 與. This is one of very few Chinese character simplifications adopted in Kwang Yung although in print almost always 與 is used. In written Butyang, however, the simplified version seems much more common. If 與/与 occurs within a noun phrase (rather than at its beginning) it is the connective "and". See also below.
  • In some Butyang variants the Tongman particles are used instead, but this is relatively uncommon.

Because of its two functions as indirect object identifying particle and as connective, 與/与 is potentially ambiguous if it occurs as a connective in an object phrase. For example. the following sentence


Nguéi · dhǝ qhiao · xu bhen · ngǝ́ · khua.

has two possible meanings, depending on whether 花 means "flower" or is the name of a woman, Khua. In the first case, the sentence should be translated as:

Nguéi gives a book and a flower.

to someone contextually specified. 遞交 dhǝ qhiao means "to give"; 書本 xu bhen means "book".

In the second case, the correct translation would be:

Nguéi gives a book to Khua.

(Of course, in either case, it could also be the book or plural books, etc.)

In practice, this kind of ambiguity is very rare. It should also be noted that it can only occur in Tyannese and Butyang, as in Tongman the connective is  (un), and thus easily distinguished from the particle/preposition  (an).

sentential particles

Sentential particles change the (grammatical) nature of a sentence: from affirmative to question, for example, or from whole sentence to clause in a larger sentence. In the latter case the particle is really a connective.

(more to be added)