The Language Vorlin (2006)

Chapter 9: Compounding and Opposites


Technically, any word consisting of more than one morpheme can be called a compound; for example, guti consists of a noun and a verb-suffix and might reasonably be classified as a compound. However, the text that follows deals with multi-noun compounds.

In the formation of compound words, the most significant root-word comes last, and is preceded by its modifiers. For example, ful (meaning “bird”) and hus (“house”) combine to form fulhus (“birdhouse,” which would normally be interpreted to mean a man-made dwelling-structure for birds); ful plus gan (which means “song”) produces fulgan (“birdsong,” the song of birds) or ganful (“songbird,” a bird associated with singing). Generally speaking, the final noun indicates the broad concept, and the preceding noun(s) modify or restrict its meaning; together they create a single lexical unit that can eventually (through ongoing usage) come to acquire a very specific denotation.

The exact relationship between the items in a compound is somewhat variable (e.g. fulgan means “the singing which is done by birds,” and ganful means “a bird whose most note-worthy characteristic is singing.”). I know there are some ambiguphobes (people having an unusually strong dislike of ambiguity) who object to this variability. However, this is how compounds work in the human languages to which Vorlin is most closely related. Furthermore the number of variations is not as large as some ambiguphobes claim. For example, if a two-noun compound ends with a noun that describes a transitive action, it’s a safe bet that the first noun is the object (or “patient” if you like) of the action; other patterns of predictability are evident.


The opposite meaning of a word (if a binary opposite would make any sense) can be formed by adding the prefix kan-. Thus guta means “good” and kanguta means “bad,” fula means “avian” (pertaining to birds) so kanfula would be a nonsense word and would not be used in normal communication. Do not equate kan- with English “un-.” There is nothing equal to kan- in English, although it is somewhat similar to contra- in the medical term “contra-indicated,” and anti- in “anti-matter.”

Some commonly-used root-words have been given separate opposites. For example, mala has the same meaning as kanguta. These opposites prevent monotonous over-use of kan- and increase the brevity of common words.

The intensive, moderative, and attenuative particles can be added to bi-polar items in order to express finer gradations of meaning; the resulting words usually do not have exact equivalents in English: gutoza has a meaning similar to English “excellent,” gutemza = “moderately good,” and gutiza = “slightly good, not bad but not wonderful.”

To indicate unary opposites and/or simple negation, use non as a prefix: nonfula tir = non-avian animal(s); nonguta = not good (but not necessarily bad).

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