Overambitious (albeit well-meaning) conlangers often assert that their "lingwa franka nova" will break the glass ceilings that Esperanto could have only dreamt to. Or that they have overtaken Tolkein with their expansive diachronics and bare-minimum conculture. But conlangs don't have to be internationally intelligible or perfectly naturalistic or structurally unambiguous or whathaveyou; sometimes conlangs can be made just for fun. And that's all that Makwa Agal was made to achieve.
I created Makwa Agal (formerly Makwa Igal/Makway, now sometimes shortened to Makwa or Makwage) starting in summer 2017. I wanted the sounds and syntax of Makwa Agal to be relatively accessible to myself as a native English speaker without falling into being a reskinned Standard Average European. Here you will find descriptions of Makwa Agal's phonology, orthography, morphology, syntax and more. Creating and growing Makwa Agal has brought me much fun as intended, and although fun is relative, I hope you have fun learning my language.
Phonology and Romanisation
|Plosive||p b||t d||k g||(ʔ)|
|Fricative||f v||s z||ʃ <c> ʒ <j>||h|
|Approximant||w||ɹ~ɾ <r>||j <y>|
The grand total of phonemic consonant sounds in Makwa Agal comes to 20, but a few funny things happen on top of this:
- The sound /n/ assimilates to the same place of articulation as the consonant sound that follows it on the word-level.
- When two identical nasal sounds come next to each other (/mm/ and /nn/) they are pronounced as if they have a plosive sound before them ([bm] and [dn]).
- The sounds /t/ and /d/ are realised dentally [t̪] and [d̪] and lenite to fricatives [θ] and [ð] intervocalically. Where /t/ or /d/ occur word-finally (ocassionally in loanwords) they may be pronounced as either plosive or fricative.
- The sound /l/ is pronounced as [ɹ] only when it ends a word that comes before a word that starts with /r/.
- The rhotic is a tap intervocalically and an approximant word-initially. When before /ə/, it is realised as [ɚ].
- Word-final voiceless fricatives are written as their voiced counterparts for reasons explained in the orthography section.
- The glottal stop [ʔ] only occurs between two consecutive vowels, unless those vowels form the diphthongs /ai̯/ or /au̯/.
- The sounds /h/ and /j/ fortify to [ç] and [ʝ] before /i/ or before /uCi/ (C being any non-plosive consonant).
|Mid||ə <e> ɚ <re>|
|Open||ai̯ <ay>||a||au̯ <aw>|
The vowel system in Makwa Agal is less complicated than the consonants:
- The sound /ə/ is always dropped word-finally after voiceless fricatives (excluding /h/), nasals, /l/, and /t͡ʃ/. This is inclusive of [θ] and [ð], allowing for word-final <t> and <d>.
- The sound /ə/ is also dropped after /w/ and /j/ when they are part of dipthongs /ai̯/ or /au̯/ respectively.
- The sound /a/ is pronounced as [ɛ] in unstressed syllables.
- The stress of a word falls on the last syllable that isn't /ə/.
Above are the 25 base-letters of the Makwa Alphasyllabary. Consonant glyphs inherently are followed by the sound /a/. To indicate a consonant without a vowel after it, a grave accent is written above its base letter. To indicate a consonant followed by a vowel other than /a/, just write the vowel glyph after it. The one exception letter is<yu> which always indicates the sound /ju/. The letter labeled "a/*" represents the sound /a/ when used initially, but after a fricative glyph it indicates voicelessness (v -> f, z -> s, c -> j). <a> is never written after word-final fricatives since they are unambiguously voiceless. The only punctuation marks are <.> to mark the ends of sentences and <?> to mark the end of questions.
Makwa Agal roots are composed of 2 consonant sounds each. Every root is inherently either a noun or a verb (although verbs can be nominalised and nouns verbalised). The vowels placed into a root determine its syntactic purpose. Nouns are declined for 2 types of nominative cases and 3 types of accusative cases.
|Stem FormListed in dictionaries||daja|
|Nominative AgentActively ensures verb||dajal|
|Nominative ExperiencerTakes part in verb passively||dajul|
|Accusative ThemeUndergoes verb, doesn't change state||tawje|
|Accusative Patient 1Affected by verb||taje|
|Accusative Patient 2Affected and changed by verb||tije|
Noun negation is done with the infix -yu-. Take the root kraza, meaning power or strength. The declension of the Makwa word for "weakness" is:
|Accusative Patient 1||krayuze|
|Accusative Patient 2||kriyuze|
Compound nouns exist in Makwa Agal. The declension pattern for noun only affects the last two consonants of the compound noun. For example, caga (dough) + zakra (ring) means "donut" and is declined like this:
|Accusative Patient 1||cagazakre|
|Accusative Patient 2||cagazikra|
Makwa personal pronouns are distinguished by 3 cases and singular/plural. Subject pronouns are allowd to be left out only in non-relative clauses.
|1st Person||2nd Person||3rd Person|
Genitive constructions in Makwage are done using either ifu or fu between the stem form of a noun (the possessor) and the normally declined noun (the possessee). For example, "vachu wada ifu tarawawpe" = "I see the man's airplane".
Adjectives and Adverbs
To form adjectives, you just take the the root consonants of a noun root (ex: gaya = "joke") without changing any of the inherent vowels (gaya = "funny"). Adjectives go before the nouns they modify unless they are colours or numbers in which case they go after the noun. Adverbs are formed by adding and m after the adjective (gayam = "funnily"). Adverbs go before the verb they modify.
Verbs come in two classes in Makwa Agal: i-verbs and u-verbs. Whether a verb is an i-verb or a u-verb is inherent to its root and must be memorised, and some roots mean entirely different things when treated as one class vs. the other ("nukyez" = "to help" while "nikyez" = "to study"). There is a third, pseudo-class of verb called an "a-verb". An a-verb is a verb that is derived from a noun root. Verbs conjugate for affirmative/negative, two aspects, and the person of the subject.
|1st Person||_ _i||_ayu_i||_ _u||_ayu_u||_e_||_eyu_|
Word-final e is dropped in many cases based on phonotactics. Here is an example of a conjugation table for the u-verb muchez meaning "to kiss":
The unique thing about Makwa verbs is that they are actually all trivalent; that is, they all accept 1 nominative argument and 2 accusative arguments. For example, the root kraha, is an u-verb root. The word kruhez means "to trade x for y". Verb phrases go in Subject-Verb-Object-Object order, so a sentence like "kil krihisa rach kyan." means "I traded a flower for money".
Verbs can be nominalised by changing their ending from "-ez" to "-(a)sa". More specific nominalisations can be crafted using the prefixes "van-", "man-", and "san-". These form nouns based on the prototypical subject, first object, and second object of a verb.
|zufez||to kill x with y|
|sanzufasa||means of killing|
In Makwage there exist three conjunctions used for arranging noun phrases: "bi", "di", and "gi". Conjunctions "bi" and "di" correspond to the English words "and" and "or" respectively, and are used between noun phrases as such. The conjunction "gi", however, is used to skip over a verb's first object when it's not necessary information to communicate. This appears in the common phrase "bitusa gi awn..." meaning "I am ... years old". The first object is the mother/birthgiver which is non-essential information in stating how old you are.
The words "mibez" and "chutez" correspond to the concepts "more" and "less" respectively, but both are verbs and are therefore used differently than in they are in English. The verb structures for them are "to be/do x more/less than y". So "kil mabi hawd le." means "I am faster than all you". Another example is "fal chute gay ki" meaning "they are less funny than me".
Makwa Numbers work in base-10. Each digit 1-9 is assigned a syllable, and each power of 10 up to 109 are assigned a syllable. To form numbers you put the syllables of the digits 1-9 you need in order and the syllable of the amount of zeros you need when necessary.
Yes-no questions are simply statements said with a falling intonation [↘] (whereas regular statements are said with a rising intonation [↗]). "Wh-questions" are created by using the interrogative pronoun "ra". It is used along with related forms ral for nominative, ri for accusative, and ru for genitive. An example of this is "ral nuve?" which means "who did (it)?". An example of "ra" being used in an adjective-y way is "lil entiz rach ra?" which means "which flower did you touch?". Note that "ra" comes after the word "rach" meaning flower; "ra" always go after what it is being used as an adjective for. Furthermore, "ra" can be used to mean "how" when the regular adverb ending "-m" is attached to it ("ram nihe...?" = "how do you say...?").
In two-verb constructions such as "I want to eat", the second verb is used right in place of the first object of the first verb and is left in its infinitive form ("kal bafu culez" = I want to eat). The suffix "-ti" is added to infinitive verbs being used as nouns to indicate that they do not open another clause. An instance of where this distinction is useful is in the phrases "tayubu zufez mawkwe" and "tayubu zufezti mawkwe". The first one translating to "I don't like to kill the fun" and the second to "I, for fun, dislike killing".
When the subject changes between clauses but the nominative argument either isn't present or doesn't begin the clause, the relativiser particle "lala" must be used ("eyuha lala wengi dawch" = "I don't care that you're sweaty").
Paralleling derivational prefixes "van-", "man-", and "san-" there are the three compound relativisers: "van lala", "man lala", and "san lala". They differentiate the content being relativised from the whole clause to either the nominative argument, the first accusative argument, or the second accusative argument respectively and can never occur without "lala".
|fakwi lala bure.||I know they are (somewhere).|
|fakwi van lala bure.||I know who is (somewhere).|
|fakwi man lala bure.||I know where they are.|
|fakwi san lala bure.||I know what they're there for.|
Commands and Requests
Formality in commands can be conveyed on three different levels. The most informal/casual way of stating a command is just by saying it as a question (with a falling intonation). A semi-formal way to express commands is to preface the command with "lacu li lala...", with the most formal way to say a command being by starting it with "lacu gi lala...".
|Informal||lenkwi lad ki?|
|Semi-Formal||lacu li lala lenkwi lad ki.|
|Formal||lacu gi lala lenkwi lad ki.|