English: This is the first of a series of short lessons in Sambahsa. The idea is to gradually build up a working knowledge of this language, a few minutes at a time. I hope by doing this I will be able to write literature in Sambahsa in 2011. My literary language for 2010 remains Lingwa de Planeta.
Summario in Interlingua: Un lection parve in Sambahsa.
Resuma in LdP: Syao Sambahsa leson.
Without further ado, let's learn some Sambahsa. First up, a tricky beast called the nasal infix. In order to conjugate Sambahsa verbs, you must be able to recognise a nasal infix. Don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds, and fortunately it doesn't involve inspecting the contents of your nose.
A nasal infix is a nasal consonant (“n” or “m”) present in the final syllable of the stem of a verb, where:
(1) that syllable is unstressed; and
(2) an “e” immediately follows or precedes the infix; and
(3) the “e” is also preceded or followed, respectively, by one or more consecutive consonants; that is, the “e” is surrounded by consonants which are immediately adjacent to it.
In other words, you can recognise a nasal infix by looking at the last three to six letters of the stem of a verb. If these consist only of a consonant (or consonantal cluser) followed by “e” followed by another consonant (or consonantal cluster), and at least one of the consonants is either “ n” or “m”, then the syllable contains a nasal infix.
Diagramatically, where “____” represents the start of the stem of the verb and “-” represents any consonant or consonantal cluster, this means any of the following patterns:
____-en ____-em ____ne- ____me- ____-en- ____-em- ____-ne- ____-me-
Here are some examples of verb stems which contain nasal infixes. The matching patterns which allow us to immediately recognise the nasal infix are underlined (that is, the syllable containing the infix):
Strictly speaking, since one of the criteria for recognising a nasal infix is that the syllable to which it belongs is unstressed when pronounced, you must know the rules of Sambahsa pronunication before you can recognise a nasal infix. In practice, however, as long as the verb stem ends in a consonant you can ignore the rules of pronunciation and simply rely on recognising the patterns above.
Why do we need to recognise nasal infixes? Because verbs containing a nasal infix are conjugated slightly differently to other verbs. This is the only reason we care about nasal infixes.
Okay, so how does Sambahsa conjugate its verbs anyway?
Let's take a look...
Conjugation: Present Tense
|Suffix||Rule||Verb Stem |
|First Person |
|-m||if the verb stem ends with a stressed syllable ending in a vocalic sound, then suffix the stem with -m||gnah |
(to be born)
(I am born)
|-o||if the verb stem ends with a stressed syllable ending in a consonantal sound, then suffix the stem with -o|| |
if the verb stem ends with an unstressed syllable, then do not add any suffix to the stem at all; (note: io, the personal pronoun, must be used in this case because there is no visible conjugation)
(1) first remove the “e”; and then
(2) if the syllable now contains “ss” or “s” between two consonants, remove the “ss” or “s”.
For example, the verb stem supressem contains a nasal infix. First we apply the nasal infix rules above, removing the “e” and removing the “ss”, which leaves us with suprem. Second we choose the correct suffix according to the above table, which is -o (since suprem ends with a stressed consonantal sound). The final result is supremo. Obviously you need to know the rules of pronunciation to know this. We will cover those later.
Although all this might seem complicated at first, it soon feels very natural, very human, very much like a natural language but more regular and less difficult.
This should not be surprising: the system reflects the presumed practice in Proto-Indo-European and also the current practice in some modern Indo-European languages; more importantly the system is exceedingly concise without losing precision.
This conciseness comes in two ways: firstly, there is no need to use a personal pronoun for the subject of the verb (one normally omits the pronoun, as in Spanish; thus “Io supremo.” and “Supremo.” have exactly the same meaning, “I supress.”); secondly, verbs containing a nasal infix may actually become shorter when conjugated. It feels natural and efficient to shorten them in this way.
Essentially one can think of Sambahsa as an easier, but far more lexically diverse, French or English (much easier and far more concise but still retaining similar power and expressiveness as those two great languages).