The Language Vorlin (2006)

Chapter 5: Verbs

the intransitive suffix -i

The suffix -i is most often used to indicate intransitive activities such as sedi “sit,” lopi “run,” sofi “sleep,” and so forth.

When attached to a noun that names a condition or abstract quality, -i forms a stative verb: guti = is good, rodi = is red.

In general, -i is not attached to nouns which refer to substances, objects, and other tangible things.

the transitive suffix -o

From the point of view of an English-speaking person, the meaning of o varies somewhat depending on the noun (or other root-word) to which it is attached.

When used with a noun that refers to an activity or process, o means “do the process or activity to something.” bev (drinking) + o = bevo (to drink something); mim (imitation) + o = mimo (to imitate).

As an extension of the previous item, when the noun refers to an emotion, o means “feel that emotion toward...” Vorlin is more consistent about this than English and other unplanned languages, so be careful when translating terms of emotion into Vorlin. (Rather than saying “that interests me” or “she makes me angry,” a speaker of Vorlin says the equivalent of “I do fascination to that” or “I do anger to her.”) fob (fear) + o = fobo (to be afraid of, to fear)

When used with a noun that refers to a relationship, o means “have the relationship toward something.” sen (lack, absence) + o = seno (to lack, be without)

the transitivity of nouns

Every Vorlin noun which describes an activity is considered to be either inherently transitive or inherently intransitive. This is very different from English, in which many verbs can switch from intransitive to transitive without any change in form, e.g. one can say “a pile of leaves is burning” or “he is burning a pile of leaves.” The two uses of “burn” in those sentences really have two different meanings, so we should not be surprised to find that Vorlin (and other languages) would use two different words to express them.

Some will say that having to memorize the transitivity of an action-word is an unnecessary burden on the memory, like having to memorize the arbitrary gender of a German noun. However, Vorlin’s approach to this is necessary in order to have predictable derivation of related words from a single root. Furthermore, the memorization process is easier if you learn the actual meaning of a Vorlin noun or verb rather than thinking of it as an encoding of some English word.

The fixed transitivity of Vorlin action-nouns has these noteworthy side-effects:

The -o suffix must sometimes be used in sentences that do not have an explicity stated direct object: ya fajo = I am eating (something).

Many verbs that can either be intransitive or transitive in English are expressed as intransitive or causative in Vorlin. For example, men buk buli = some books are engaged in combustion; ku bulisko men buk = he/she is causing some books to engage in combustion.

Some concepts that are considered intransitive in English are expressed in Vorlin by means of a transitive verb and the reflexive pronoun sig. The English sentence “I took a bath” is translated into Vorlin as ya pe bado sig.


A causative is a verb form indicating that someone causes another entity to do something. Although English does not use affixes to convert existing verbs to causative forms, other natural languages including Turkish, Georgian and Tongan do have this useful feature. Regular formation of causatives has two benefits: it shortens potentially cumbersome phrases, and it reduces the number of morphemes that a student must memorize. Show essentially means “cause to see” and feed usually means “cause to eat,” so if we can form the causatives in a predictable manner from their semantic roots, the mnemonic burden is reduced.

The suffix -sko converts a verb to a causative:

ku lopi. He/she ran.
ya lopisko ku. I made him/her run.
lin mer guti. The language is better.
ti mergutisko lin. You improved the language.

When a transitive verb is converted to its causative form, the argument structure gets more complicated. The “causer” takes the subject’s position in the sentence, and the “causee” (the entity that has been caused to do something) is tagged by the preposition re.

ti vido buk. You see the book.
ya vidosko buk re ti. I show you the book.
kat fajo ful. A cat eats a bird.
ku fajosko ful re kat. He caused a cat to eat a bird. = He fed a cat a bird.


Vorlin’s verbs are not conjugated or inflected to indicate tense. When the time of an occurrence is relevant but not obvious from context, it is indicated by adverbs and adverbial phrases equivalent to yesterday, recently, soon, five years ago, etc.


A phrase that urges or commands someone to do something begins with du. To urge or command someone not to do something, begin the phrase with ne.


Vorlin does not have a single verb corresponding to the English copula “be, is, am, are.” English “be” expresses several different ideas: existence, location, equivalence, membership in a category, etc. Each of these ideas is represented by its own noun-converted-to-verb in Vorlin: haji means “exist,” loko means “be located at...,” etc.

passive voice equivalents

The feeling which English expresses with the passive voice of verbs can be expressed in Vorlin by replacing the subject with man as in man pelo ya, “I got pushed, I was pushed, somebody pushed me.” You might recognize man as the “null pronoun” from the German phrase man spricht Deutsch which means “German is spoken (here).”


The active participle in its adjectival form is created by attaching the suffix -nda to a verb, for example, ganinda ful = (the) singing bird. The suffix -ita is a passive participle: nonvidita diŋ = an unseen thing.

serial verbs

Verbs can be chained together in the following manner: ya vilo hobo libo ku = I want (to) cease (to) love him/her, I want to stop loving him/her. The final verb is either transitive or intransitive, according to its meaning; the initial verb(s) will normally be transitive: ti vilo sedi ma? = do you want to sit down?

Due to the prohibition of parataxis mentioned in chapter 11, Vorlin does not allow us to insert nouns or pronouns into the serial verb phrases; “I want you to sit” should be expressed as ya vilo ke ti sedi instead of *ya vilo ti sedi.

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