Classical Gluonic Topic

Derivational Morphology

Keywords: derivation, suffixes, prefixes, part-of-speech, word building, compound words

Classical Gluonic has a number of strategies for coining words with new meanings or refining meanings using its existing material, including zero derivation, compounding, prefixing, suffixing and infixing (which is what you call it in Classical Gluonic when you insert a suffix between the root and the inflection). This article looks at those kinds of strategies and not at the more phrasal approach to building up meanings, which perhaps the dominant approach in CG overall.

Intra-Class Derivation and Compounding


Full-fledged members of the nominal class, nouns and adjectives, have a blurry line between them and can typically readily zero derive into each other, simply by being used syntactically in a noun-like or adjective-like way. You can say, "Gawmo ivoono'go," "the white dog," or just "ivoono'go," "the white one," where "ivaan," "white," slips between adjective and noun roles based on its position. They are not at all morphologically distinct.

Members of the class with weaker membership, such as classifiers, nominal infinitives and verbal complements, lack some of these abilities - classifiers can't be adjectives and are limited in what can accompany them syntactically when promoted to the head, and nominalised verbal phrases are phrases and can't move freely, compound, or take all the components of a noun phrase. Classifiers, in addition, can violate the rule against compounding with verbs and act as prefixes to derive verbs into nominals.

Pronouns, similarly, cannot be the heads of noun phrases (they much appear alone or as a possessor), they cannot fill an adjective role syntactically, they cannot take derivational affixes, and they cannot participate in compounds.

Nominal Compounding

Full nominals - nouns and adjectives - can compound, and the meaning of the compound can be a noun or adjective depending on how it is used syntactically. Compounds are head first, the reverse of English. The CG equivalent of the "snowman" would be a "mansnow." The most salient element of the compound most responsible for giving it its meaning goes first, not last.

There is essentially no limit to compounding, although in practice, CG doesn't like to compound much, and it much more resembles languages like English and French than German for expressing complex meanings with compounds. Every member of the compound must be a full-fledged nominal, or derived into this class with some derivational morphology.


The verbal class consists of verbs, adverbs and prepositions - things which in Classical Gluonic have verb-like forms and behaviour, such as opaqueness and the potential to take agreement suffixes and objects. These things can compound together in a similar manner to nominals, although they are less inclined to do so over phrasal constructions that CG usually prefers.

Verbal satellites can be viewed as a kind of derivation for verbs, and in fact in certain kinds of derivation they can fuse to the verb, but they are outside the scope of this article for the most part.

Verbals generally can't change subclass - a preposition is a preposition, not a verb, and to get a sense like "to be in" from the idea of "in," a phrasal structure would be needed. Prepositions and adverbs, however, have a blurry line between them and can readily zero-derive or be ambiguous as to which they are.

As with nominals, all parts of a verbal compound word must be composed of members of the verbal class or elements properly derived into the class.

Transitive to Intransitive

There generally isn't a way to directly derive an intransitive verb from a transitive verb, other than the passive and antipassive voices, and object incorporation, about which more below, which reduces the valency of the verb but also fundamentally changes its meaning.

Intransitive to Transitive

Aside from a kind of pseudo-transitivity that can be introduced to intransitive verbs with an applicative, it is possible to create a causative form that interprets the normal subject of the verb as a patient and adds an agent that causes or dictates the intransitive action. This is done by adding the prefix "yq-" to the verb. Example:

Yqmeetasalo garany gawmo.

"The child made the dog sleep."

Derivations Between Classes

Verb to Nominal

There are several ways to get from a verb to a nominal. They all involve adding a heavy, transparent prefix that confers the ability to have shine, and replacing the verbal colour agreement endings with a nominal inflection. Nominals derived this way are full-fledged nominals able to function indistinguishably from natural nominals.

Verb-Role Nominal Prefixes

These function a bit like the -er ending in English, although they're a little different than the "one who does the action of the verb" or "one associated with the action of the verb" sense of English. In Classical Gluonic, this is done by taking the ending for the verb role being nominalised, turning it into a prefix, and strengthening it. There are no black forms, and this derivation is best understood as a kind of verbal paradigm.

Verbal Argument Nominal Prefixes (Bourque in Brackets)
Colour Agent Patient Applicative
Blue suun- (ab-) loom- (pb-) muuq- (lb-)
Red siin- (ar-) leem- (pr-) miiq- (lr-)
Green saan- (ag-) lyym- (pg-) maaq- (lg-)

The Bourque symbols for the nominalising prefixes are actually identical to those for the verbal agreement suffixes, because they are in fact identical in Classical Gluonic writing, it is just the same logogram drawn the size of the full-size syllabic glyph, and you're supposed to know how to "strengthen" it.

To understand how these work, take the verb "kwaj," "throw," which is transitive and can take an applicative, one to whom something is thrown. Here is how the nominals derived from this would be interpreted, assuming blue forms (the required n > q assimilation in front of k is refected in the Sanderson notation):

  • suuqkwajo: thrower
  • loomkwajo: throwee/thing thrown/thing for throwing
  • muuqkwajo: catcher/recipient

The black, opaque verbal part can never take shine, and the fact that the nominalising prefixes are superheavy ensures this will always be the case.

Verbal Quality Nominalisations

It is also possible to derive a nominal that means the general quality of the verb or else has a more vague and flexible interpetation based on the verb. This is done by prefixing any of the eighteen classifiers to the verb. The most common one is "VEN," ABSTRACT. A tremendous amount of subtlety and ambiguity is possible with this system, but a simple example can be shown using the verb "KWAj" again - in the blue, "voonkwajo" could mean "throwing in general," or "the act of throwing."

Notice that the vowel in VEN is lengthened to make the syllable superheavy and pull the stress, since "kwaj" is superheavy and would take the stress if VEN weren't strengthened. The verbal root must never be stressed in such a derivation because it is opaque and cannot shine.

Nominalisations of Complex Verbs

Complex verbal structures with coverbs and satellites can also be nominalised. The only adverbal element that can be pulled into the derived nominal is the satellite, no others can join. All of the elements are compounded. The assembled nominal has the following structure:

prefix-coverb-[coverb...]-main verb-satellite

A simple example can be pulled together form "ki rralo kwaj," "to not be able to throw." In the blue, the following means "that which is not able to be thrown," or "unthrowable" as an adjective:


This compound would have a secondary stress on "kwaj." If there were a satellite, it would go after "kwaj" and before the "-o-" inflectional ending.

Nominal to Verb

There are two main mechanisms to make a verb from a nominal - object incorporation to make an intransitive derived verb from a transitive verb, and adding a causative prefix to such a construction to make it transitive.

The verbs "ZÉ," to get or become, and "SJON," to make or do, are often seen in these types of constructions.

Object Incorporation

A sensible patient of a transitive verb can be incorporated into the verb to demote the object from being topical and referenceable and to create a new verb with a new meaning that is derived from its parts but which can deviate significantly in meaning. The incorporated object must be a single-word noun phrase head.

Using "kwaj" again, think about "ball throwing" as a general activity and not a description of a specific action performed on specific balls. The "ball" part could be incorporated into "kwaj" to create an intransitive verb describing this general activity. The way this works is that the black root, without the inflection or any suffixes or clitics but optionally with prefixes and infixes, is suffixed to the verbal root. For "kwaj," this would allow you to say:

Kwajveppesu gooranuu'go.

"The children are ball-throwing."

Such constructions always absorb typical patients and so tend to take agentive endings, but are proper intransitive verbs and can also take a patientive ending instead to indicate an involuntary or unintended action. Another way that this incorporation process makes a genuinely new word and breaks the connection to the root is that any applicative that may have worked with the root may no longer operate or may have a different meaning - for example, the applicative of "kwaj," the recipient of a throw, would not work for the object incorporated form.

Note that object incorporation is not a fully productive process, and derivations with incorporated objects tend to be accepted idioms. You cannot use this process to coin words and rely on being understood. As a learner, you should generally only try to use compounds like this you see or hear attested.

The most productive type of incorporation, perhaps, is to incorporate the noun into the verb "sjon," to make or to do. This tends to derive intransitive verbs. An incorporated object verb like "sjonveppe," for example, could idiomatically pertain to any number of possible actions involving balls, or just metaphorically connected to balls.

Adjective to Verb - Get-Adjective and Make-Adjective

This encompasses the idea of an object acquiring the quality of an adjective, as in the English suffix -en, as in "whiten," "lengthen," etc., but more productive, and the idea of an agent making an object take on these qualities, for example, by painting or stretching it. Both of these forms are managed by incorporating an adjective into the verb "zee," to get, and to get the idea of making something take the quality of the adjective, add the causative prefix yq-.


Zeehivaanle veppehe.
get-white-PAT.RED ball.RED-SG.ABS.RED

"The ball whitened."

Yqzeehivaansule gorano veppehe.

"The child whitened the ball."

The first assumes nothing about how the ball whitened, and in particular if anyone was responsible - perhaps it was left in the sun. Whereas the latter states the child is responsible, but still doesn't specify actually how, perhaps the child painted the ball.

Derivations to Refine Meaning

These derivations typically use prefixes, infixes or suffixes to further refine the meaning of some independent word. This section will be built out over time. Where some derivation  is particularly complex, it will be pointed to its own separate article.

1. Augmentative and Diminutive

The augmentative (expressed the idea of something being "big" or "more" somehow) and the diminutive ("small" or "less") is made with two infixes. It can be applied to any full fledged nominal.

Augmentative and Diminutive Infixes
Type Sanderson Bourque
Augmentative (AUG) -jan- -JAN-
Diminutive (DIM) -win- -WIN-


Aalemi gajmwine iveene.

"The doggie/puppy is white."


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