Ergatinglish!

Ha ha, suckers! You thought you were going to get a short story today, but instead I’m going to lecture you about made-up future English.

Wait don’t go!

It’ll be a form of English that has evolved ergative-absolutive alignment!

Wait don’t go again!

Ergative-absolutive alignment is…cool?

I got this idea from The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson, and he explains it better than I could:

“The -ee suffix is usually associated with someone who does something, kind of, but we can do better than that. Let’s consider two -ee words: escapee and employee. What is an escapee? Someone who escapes. Now what is an employee? Someone who employs? No, that’s an employer. In fact, an employee is someone who is employed.”

In other words, these sentences all mean the same thing: Albert employs Betty and Betty is employed by Albert and Betty is Albert’s employee.

In the same way, Betty escapes and Betty is an escapee mean the same thing. However, *Betty is escaped is ungrammatical (in modern English) because escape is an intransitive verb (it has no object).

-ee, therefor, is an absolutive suffix. It works for the objects of transitive verbs and the subjects of intransitive verbs. In the same way, -er could be an ergative suffix as in Albert is Betty’s employer.

But wait, there’s more! Escape can become transitive with the addition of fromBetty escapes from Albert, Albert is escaped from by Betty, Betty is Albert’s escaper from, and Albert is Betty’s escapee from.

So that’s English (even if things get a bit sketchy at the end there). But imagine a dialect of English where Betty escapes came to be seen as quaint and funny-sounding, while Betty’s an employee of Albert became standard?

Now it’s just a matter of respelling the words to make the affixing clear:

Albert s-an-employ-er-of Betty=Albert employs Betty 

Betty s-an-employ-ee-of Albert=Betty is employed by Albert

Betty s-an-employ-ee=Betty is employed. Betty works.

Pretty cool, huh?

Here’s a story I wrote for my ESL classes to show students how tenses work in English. Let’s whack the Ergatinglish system against the story and see what pops out. Do a bit of phonetic evolution and…

HeraverapeenaKeree? I mapeenTee only once. Thadza when zasEerov a shark.
ZaspeenaWimee, zasLookee downward, and zasTerov under me.
ZaspeenaFollowerov for ten minutes and I zaspeenaNoticerovital. So 
I zasWimeerum as fast as zasebotaTee. RabeeTee fast too!
Every day people rAskeratu, “Why saverapeenKeree?” and this why: mapeenaThinkerabot sharks constantly.
MabeepeenaTeewov forever. 🙁

What does it say? Need some help? Here are the rules.

Pronouns can be dropped if they are clear from context.

1st position
m(a)- =first person present
r(a)- =second/plural person present
s- =third person present

zas- =first/third person past
her(a)- =second/plural person past

(suffixed to a noun, a 1st position prefix becomes a copula)

2nd position
-(a)ver(a)- =question

3rd position
-abee- =irreal (future or uncertain)

4th position
-peen(a)- =stative
-ebot(a) =abilative

Verbs: (always stressed on the first syllable)
Ker=scare
Ee=see
Wim=swim
Look=look
Follow=follow
Notice=Notice
T=null verb to avoid repetition, similar to English “do”

Antepenultimate position
-(y)er =ergative
-(y)ee =absolutive

Penultimate position
-(w)ov =transitive
-(a)bot =ditransitive
-(a)tu =dative
-(a)rum =ablative

Ultimate position
-ital =negative

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