Classical Gluonic Topic

Coverbs, Nominal Infinitives and Verb Phrase Complements

Keywords: verbs, coverbs, nonfinite, mood, infinitive

Nonfinite verbs are a bit strange in Classical Gluonic, but share an underlying concept and structure. In simple terms, to make an infinitive form of a verb, you pull out its subject agreement suffix. However, the suffix cannot simply be removed, and has to go somewhere. That somewhere is a coverb or the complementiser, so an infinitive always exists in a context of a complex, finite verb form or a nominalised verb form.

Identifying the Subject Agreement Suffix

The subject agreement suffix is the agent suffix of an active voice, transitive verb, or the sole coloured agreement suffix of a passive, antipassive or intransitive verb, whether that happens to be the agent or the patient form. So in the example:


The subject is the suffix "su," and that is the element that is pulled out to make the infinitive, "kwajlo." The infinitive of a transitive looks like a patientive intransitive.


Where regular verbs in Classical Gluonic are an open class, coverbs are a small, closed class. These special verbs can function as regular intransitive verbs (generally obligatory patientive), but also have the special ability to form complex verb phrases with the infinitive of a regular verb. They often do the work of conveying grammatical mood, and are very reminiscent of English modal verbs like "can" and "must." Their functions don't perfectly overlap with mood, though, and they aren't the only way that mood gets conveyed.

To make the complex verb phrase with a coverb, the subject suffix that is pulled out of the main verb attached to the coverb. The structure looks like this for each of the verbal patterns:


[adverb(s)] ... coverb-agent [adverb(s)] ROOT-patient-[applicative] [adverb(s)] ... [adverb(s)] [SATELLITE]


[adverb(s)] ... coverb-patient [adverb(s)] ROOT-agent(black)-[applicative] [adverb(s)] ... [adverb(s)] [SATELLITE]


[adverb(s)] ... coverb-agent [adverb(s)] ROOT-patient(black)-[applicative] [adverb(s)] ... [adverb(s)] [SATELLITE]


[adverbs] ... coverb-agent|patient [adverb(s)] ROOT-[applicative] [adverb(s)] ... [adverb(s)] [SATELLITE]

Basically, for active transitive verbs the agent always moves to the coverb while the patient remains behind, for passives and antipassives the remaining coloured agent or patient moves to the coverb while the black suffix remains behind, and for intransitives, the sole argument suffix moves to the coverb.

Note that adding a coverb creates a new position that adverbs can sit in between the coverb and the main verb.

As an example, we will use the verb "rraalo," "to be able." Let's assume that we are mid-conversation and all the noun phrase referents have been mentioned, so colour clitics are not needed. The sentence, "The child can throw the ball" can be expressed as:

Rraalosu kwajle gorano veppehe.
able-AGT.BLUE throw-PAT.RED child-SG.ABS.BLUE ball-SG.ABS.RED

The passive would be:

Rraalole kwajyq veppehe.
able-PAT.RED throw-AGT.BLACK ball-SG.ABS.RED
"The ball can be thrown."

An intransitive example with an applicative, "The dog can sleep through the night," would be:

Rraalolo meetama gawmo hyyloy.

A lot of grammatical structures we will encounter, even such basic things as verbal negation, will be managed using coverbs.

In terms of structure, noun phrases can also move into the positions between coverbs and verb. A very common pattern is for the subject to move into that position, which tends to emphasise it in a contrastive way. The first example could be rewritten:

Rraalosu gorano kwajle veppehe.
able-AGT.BLUE child-SG.ABS.BLUE throw-PAT.RED ball-SG.ABS.RED

This has the same meaning, but might idiomatically contrast the child against an agent that can't throw the ball.

Coverbs can "stack." More than one coverb can be used in sequence, with the meaning of one considered to apply to the next in a chain. The "pulled-out" suffix attaches to the first coverb, and the remaining suffix(es) stay attached to the main verb, with the intermediate coverbs having no suffixes.

Nominal Infinitive

Using the complementiser "po" with a verbal agreement suffix, an infinitive expression can be formed. "Po" declines/conjugates as follows (its black form is considered to be the same as its blue form):

Infinitive Declension and Conjugation of Complementiser "Po"
Colour Complement Agentive Infinitive Patientive Infinitive
Blue po poq pon
Red pe peq pen
Green py pyq pyn

Nonfinite verb phrases with "po" are formed much like coverb phrases, but the removed agreement suffix goes through the additional step of being turned black. The colour of "po" itself agrees with the noun phrase it modifies, or else can be assigned arbitrarily if itself acting as an argument to a verb. Infinitive phrases being used as arguments to other verbs do not have the ability to take a colour clitic, and their colour is just chosen without beinfg explicitly declared.

There are a number of uses for these phrases, which we will come to in turn, but one example for illustrative purposes is that when they modify a noun phrase, they express purpose, intent or expectation. Take the following example:

Meetalo gorano poq kwajle veppehe.
Meeta-lo guran-o po-q kwa-jle veppe(h)-e.

"The child to throw the ball is sleeping."

"Po" is pulling the subject out in its black form, "-(y)q," marking this as an infinitive. If "po" were used without pulling out the subject, it would serve to introduce an entire finite verb phrase as the subject of another verb.

Verb Phrase Complements

To make an entire finite verb phrase into an argument of another finite verb, a normal verb phrase, which can have any complexity desired, but must have at its core a finite verb phrase, the phrase is preceded with the particle "po." The complement phrase can be assigned any arbitrary colour - a colour clitic cannot be used with it to emphasise its colour assignment. The resultant phrase is noun-like, in that it can be an argument of a verb, but it cannot directly modify a noun or be modified by another nominal.

There is a tendency for complement phrases functioning as an argument to a verb to be fronted in a sentence. A simple example, assuming all the nouns have already been introduced:

Py meetalo gorano swaasely ssii.

"I know that the child is sleeping."

This example shows the fronting of the complement phrase.


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