Romanization is indicated by italics.
|Stops/Affricates||p p||b b||t t||d d||ʧ c||ʤ j||k k||g g|
|Fricatives||ɸ f||β v||s s||z z||ʃ sh||ʒ zh||ç kh||ʲɣ gh|
|Nasals||m m||n n||ŋ ng|
|Sonorants||r r||j y|
The grave accent over a vowel in Proto-Sèferi indicated that it had been centralized.
|High||i i||ɨ ì||ʉ ù||u u|
|Mid-High||e e||ɘ è|
|Mid-Low||ɞ ò||ɔ o|
All syllables were
in structure; it is believed that non-phonemic glottal stops preceded vowel-only syllables, although this cannot be verified.
Vowel MutationEditThere were five varieties of mutation in Proto-Sèferi, each corresponding to one of the five "polar" vowels: i, u, e, ɔ, and ɑ. The mutation was used to form several grammatical constructions, and resulted in several irregular forms from later attempts to disambiguate forms made similar by the changes. Mutation-inducing forms shall be indicated everywhere with a + sign.
There were three triggers in Proto-Sèferi: the active trigger, the passive/intransitive trigger, and the ditransitive trigger.
- The passive/intransitive or PI trigger was used for, as its name implies, passive sentences and intransitive sentences. Focus is on the patient.
- The active or A trigger was used for "standard" transitive sentences. Focus is on the agent.
- The ditransitive or D trigger, together with an adpositional, indicates that a phrase contains two objects, one direct and one indirect. It is used for location, possession, and other such adpositional statements, with the focus on the "indirect object" or possessor, etc.
The PI trigger is sometimes called a "transparent" trigger because its forms do not have any base vowels; rather, it adopts the vowel of the syllable it follows. It is an infixing trigger that is inserted after the first syllable of the verb root. In the (intransitive) example
mèshègui seya yelu buco
<(PI trigger-7)>burn VFOC-(ii) sun NFOCa-7+.agent
the sun shines or the sun does shine
the class seven trigger -shV- takes on the vowel è in mègui. The same form and structure, more or less, can be seen in a passive construction:
mèshègui ya rùka jingi yelu cò
<(PI trigger-7)>burn (ii) hand NFOCa-3+.patient sun agent
the hand is burnt by the sun
The four forms of the PI trigger are:
|3, 4, 7||-shV-|
|3 (children), 5||-kV-|
The Active Trigger is sometimes called a "harmonizing" trigger because it induces mutations in every vowel of the root that follows it, bringing every vowel in "harmony" with the trigger vowel. It is a prefixing trigger, used exclusively for active, transitive sentences. An example:
damògoe ya rùka nge yelu buco
(A trigger-7+).burn (ii) hand patient sun NFOCa-7+.agent
the sun burns the hand
Since the A trigger has the potential to cause so much distortion in the form of a verb, clarification is often needed, in the way of adverbs, to make the meaning clearer:
ijomugè damògoe ya rùka nge yelu buco
ADV.heat (A trigger-7+).burn (ii) hand patient sun NFOCa-7+.agent
the sun burns the hand [hotly]
The forms of the A trigger are:
|1, 2, 3 (body parts)||mu+-|
|3, 4, 7 (animals, each)||ve+-|
|3 (children), 5, 7 (spirits)||da+-|
The D Trigger is similar in form to the A Trigger in that it is a harmonizing trigger; however, like the PI trigger, it is infixing. The ditransitive trigger is used to define action or being relative to something or someone; the focus of the phrase is on that something. However, the focus noun must always be followed by a clarifying particle to indicate the nature of the relationship.
mèorogoe ya rùka nge yelu cò yèngì ghaka fai
(D trigger-5+).burn (ii) hand patient sun agent man NFOCb-5+location possessive
the sun burns that man's hand or that man, the sun burns his hand
The forms are:
Verbal Class and Negative ConstructionsEdit
Verbs are divided into two classes based on how their negatives are formed. Class 1 (i) verbs have special affixing negative forms, often irregular in nature:
ekeje selu yèngì goco VS cayèkèje selu yèngì goco
<(PI trigger-5)>eat VFOC-(i) man NFOCa-5+agent VS NEG<(PI trigger-5)>eat VFOC-(i) man NFOCa-5+'agent
the man does eat VS the man does not eat
Class 2 (ii) verbs simply use a special negative verb, which is modified in place of the main verb:
mègui khosho selu yelu buco
burn <(PI trigger-7)>not-be VFOC-(i) sun NFOCa-7+.agent
the sun does not shine
Class also affects the affixes verbs will receive in some tenses, moods, and aspects, but this correlation is subordinate to the negative construction, and is a less reliable indicator of class.
The acting verb in a sentence (including kho) must always be followed by a verbal marker: lu for class i verbs, ya for class ii verbs. The focus marker se- can be prefixed to either to add an affirmatory or declarative meaning to a verb; compare ekeje lu yèngì goco ,"the man eats" (defines his action as eating) with ekeje selu yèngì goco, "the man does eat" (as opposed to him drinking or sitting).
Tense, Mood, and AspectEdit
Proto-Sèferi had two broad tense categories, future and non-future, differing in conjugation strategy. However, the two sets were broken into separate remote and proximate categories, leaving five tenses in total: distant future and near future, and present, near past, and distant past.
The present tense is uninflected, and is mostly regular; the other two past tenses are also quite regular as well. The future tenses display higher degrees of irregularity, however.
In addition to tense, Proto-Sèferi had four moods: the Realis, Irrealis, Imperative, and Interrogative. The Realis mood is the standard mood, indicating actions that are true and do occur. The Irrealis indicates that actions are supposed, desired, or imagined, but not necessarily untrue (the negative constructions see to that). The Imperative mood indicates commands; however, it also has a jussive connotation that gives it less force than would be expected. The Interrogative mood is used to pose questions and to express an utter lack of certainty in a statement; in the latter respect, it can act as the intermediary indefinite mood between the realis and irrealis.
Aspect in Proto-Sèferi refers to five additional forms a verb may take - the absolute, iterative, continuative, habitual, and perfective. It is expressed periphrastically, in a manner similar to the negative for class 2 verbs.
The Present Tense is the unmarked form of the verb, and is thus not easily sorted into the future/nonfuture dichotomy of Proto-Sèferi. However, the mood and aspect systems of the present tense are more closely linked to those of the past tenses than of the present tenses, and in any case the Lesù appeared to have considered the Past and Present to be interrelated.
Near Past TenseEdit
The Near Past Tense is used for events or actions that occurred recently. As a past tense, the Near Past is formed by adding a "transparent" suffix to the verb, which will always be the last element of the verb, should an infixing trigger also be present.
mèshèguingi seya yelu buco
<(PI trigger-7)>burn.NP.R VFOC-(ii) sun NFOCa-7+.agent
the sun shone or the sun did shine
The forms for the Near Past Tense (Realis) are as follows:
†Some class ii verbs take class i endings at times, and will be marked as (ii*) when given. There is no easy way of knowing when a ii* verb will take class i endings, so that information will also be provided.
Distant Past TenseEdit
The Distant Past Tense is used for actions that took place quite some time ago. The Distant Past is formed in a manner similar to that of the Near Past, by adding a syllable between the onset consonant and transparent vowel of the Near Past suffix.
mèshèguingayi seya yelu buco
<(PI trigger-7)>burn.DP.R VFOC-(ii) sun NFOCa-7+.agent
"the sun shone'' or "the sun did shine"; "the sun once shone."
The forms for the Distant Past Tense (Realis) are:
|i, ii||-khayV †|
†The transparent vowel takes its form from the last element of the verb, and not the preceding a as one might be led to believe.
Near Future TenseEdit
The Near Future Tense is used for events that are imminent or incipient, and have yet to occur. The Near Future tense was historically formed by prefixing the verb with a mutation-inducing u+; however, the u vanished for unclear reasons, leaving a floating u-mutation in its wake.
mìshìguì seya yelu buco
<(PI trigger-7)>burn.NF.R VFOC-(ii) sun NFOCa-7+.agent
"the sun will shine (soon)"
The Near Future (Realis) is identical for class i and ii verbs alike:
Distant Future TenseEdit
The Distant Future tense describes events and actions that are to occur eventually, sometime far from the present. Like the Near Future, it makes use of an absent mutation-inducing vowel.
shumòshògoe seya yelu buco
<(PI trigger-7)>burn.DF.R VFOC-(ii) sun NFOCa-7+.agent
"the sun will shine (one day)"
The forms for the Distant Future Tense (Realis) are as follows:
The infamous irregularities of the future tense tend to arise when the future-tense verb in question also bears a mutation-inducing trigger; the lost u and o mutations can cause double occurrences of mutations that are usually unpleasant to try to predict in real time.
Fluid Nominal ClassEdit
"Fluid nominal class", in the context of Proto-Sèferi, refers to a way of marking nouns with the verb and particles to specify the definition; the classes are "fluid" in that they are not intrinsic properties of a root, but are assigned to words to clarify their meanings. The system helps to greatly reduce the number of roots, since the same form, when placed in two different classes, can have two wildly different meanings.
The eight classes of Proto-Sèferi were, in essence:
|1||Tools, handheld objects, food, drink||te+/she+|
|2||Plants, fungi, insects||bu+/zu+|
|3||Small terrestrial animals, children, body parts, diminuitives||ji+/ye+|
|4||Large terrestrial animals, vehicles||go+/gha+|
|5||People, personification (rarely; only marked on the verb)||go+/gha+|
|6||Landforms, buildings, trees, natural structures||te+/she+|
|7||Fish, aquatic life, birds, pterosaurs, spirits, abstractions, liquids, gases||bu+/zu+|
|8||Cities, unknown objects, catch-all category; disparagement||bu+/zu+|
Classes were indicated by the verbal trigger, as well as being marked by focus affixes on particles modifying the noun.