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Sandhi rules



It's all very well having a conlang full of cool sounding words, but if you don't know how your conlang uses those words to form sentences then you won't be able to express even a concept as simple as "The boy bounced the ball". This is what grammar is for.

As we noted earlier, there are two main types of grammar:

  • Morphology, how words change their forms in different contexts and uses.
  • Syntax, how the arrangement of words in sentences indicates meaning.

Both of these processes are very important for the grammar of your conlang. In this section we will learn more about how to create a good grammar.

Morphology and Syntax[edit]

In the Beginner Grammar section we learned about the terms Morphology and Syntax and talked a little about what they mean, but we didn't really go into much depth. Let's do that now.

Linguists traditionally divide a language's grammar up into two sub-disciplines called Morphology and Syntax. Morphology deals with the way in which parts of words, called morphemes, stems or affixes, can be put together to make new words with new meanings. Syntax, on the other hand, deals with the way groups of words, called phrases or clauses, can be rearranged within a sentence to make a new sentence with a new meaning. The important distinction here is that morphology happens inside words (using word-parts), while syntax happens outside words (using word-groups).

Sometimes it's hard to draw the line between these two sub-disciplines. In Mandarin (a language spoken in China), for example, the word "to eat" is 吃 chi1, like in 吃面 chi1mian4 "to eat noodles". However, 吃 chi1 is not used alone, so "to eat" without any object is translated 吃饭 chi1fan4 (literally, "to eat rice"). It's hard to tell whether 吃面 chi1mian4 and 吃饭 chi1fan4 are phrases with a word 吃 chi1 or new words with a root 吃 chi1.

To be useful, a language's grammar has to be able to express all the kinds of things that a speaker of that language might want to say. Whether the grammar uses syntax or morphology to express these concepts depends on the language. Languages can be categorised by whether they use more syntax (called isolating) or more morphology (called synthetic); for example, English has more syntax so it is isolating, whereas Ojibwe (a North-American indigenous language) has more morphology so it is synthetic.

What's in this section?[edit]

The parts of this section are:

  • Forms: The different ways in which languages can express distinctions.
  • Nouns: Inflecting nouns.
  • Verbs: Verbs and how you use them to build sentences
  • Adjectives & Adverbs: Creating more nuanced meanings
  • Derivation: Turning one kind of word into another
  • Clauses: Building more complex sentences
 Next: Forms