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So I have a burgeoning conlang that I've been playing around with, still stuck on the word portion (it has been several months). But every now and then I can take a little breather and work on some sentence structures. Today is one of those days.

It turns out, I have boiled words down to one or two syllable words (which gives about 150k possibilities before compound words take shape). But there are 42 words which just seem special for some reason, and I have made them into the only 2 letter words in the conlang:

bo,you
da,here
de,of
di,there
do,i
du,by
fa,this
faya,these
fi,that
fiya,those
fe,than
fu,sure
ga,ouch
go,it
gu,but
he,hey
ka,a
ke,okay
la,the
me,what
mu,just
na,no
pe,why
pa,then
pi,if
se,when
ta,at
te,who
tu,to
ve,how
vi,and
vu,or
we,where
wo,we
ya,yes
ye,cheer
zo,they
xo,should
ko,could
po,would
so,so

I can probably remove should/could/would from the list, and the expressions "hey" and "yeah", and yes and no. But that leaves us with basic logic (and/or), and the pronouns, and this/that, here/there, the question words (who what when, etc.), and "at", "of", and "the" and "a". That's mostly it.

I am thinking of making ma mean "I", and then maya mean "we" (-ya being a pluralizing suffix). But I haven't seen this multi-syllabic form of pronouns in other languages, so I feel like I'm going out on a shaky limb. Any inspiration in this regards?

But pretty much every other concept other than these I treat as 1 of 4 things: noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. But these last ones, they seem different. Especially the pronouns.

How else can these be handled and dealt with outside of the English paradigm? Not only in terms of where they exist in a sentence (or as part of a word variation), but if they are multisyllabic and/or built out of smaller parts, and/or are conjugated to have plurals or other forms. Are they always treated so specially in languages, or in some languages are they no different than nouns or verbs? That's the main crux of my question. How else can these be dealt with outside of English, treating them as more primary-focused "objects" than tangential "pronouns" or "determiners", etc.

Also sort of tangential, I am wondering why we have so many variations of "I" (me, my, mine, myself, I, at least!). Where can I find more information on why these exist, and how other languages treat them? Do other languages have more, or fewer, forms than these 5? Why or why not?

Side note, it is extremely hard to search the web for "how do other languages handle I", since it's only one letter, google is like Psht! remove it from the search param and find nothing haha.

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  • All the syllables in your example are CV and all vowels and consonants happen to be the ones found as single letters in English. This is perfectly fine, I just thought I'd alert you to this in case you would like more possible single syllable words :)
    – Edvin
    Dec 24, 2021 at 11:53
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    "treating them as more primary-focused "objects" than tangential "pronouns" or "determiners", etc." I really don't know what you're trying to say here. Can you edit to explain more?
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 24, 2021 at 12:35

2 Answers 2

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Wikipedia is a good place to start, and several languages such as Japanese and Chinese have dedicated pages for their pronoun system. Japanese, as it so happens, has the structure you seek where suffixes make pronouns plural: 'Watashi' means 'I', while 'watashi-tachi' means 'we', etc. For many other languages, like Swahili and Arabic, there are good sections on pronouns in the Wikipedia pages for their grammars.

It's worth noting also, that many languages don't use pronouns as much, or use them in a different way than English does. You could for instance use verb forms to convey who is doing the verb (like Spanish does to some extent), modify the nouns to signal that they are being possessed, and so on.

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Are they always treated so specially in languages, or in some languages are they no different than nouns or verbs? That's the main crux of my question. How else can these be dealt with outside of English, treating them as more primary-focused "objects" than tangential "pronouns" or "determiners", etc.

See Vietnamese, it almost does not have personal pronouns, using kinship nouns instead (one can imagine such a language can lose whatever pronouns remain and then we'll have a completely pronoun-less language).

Also check signed languages, their concept of pronouns is interesting (and not just personal pronouns).

Also sort of tangential, I am wondering why we have so many variations of "I" (me, my, mine, myself, I, at least!). Where can I find more information on why these exist, and how other languages treat them? Do other languages have more, or fewer, forms than these 5? Why or why not?

Of course, fully inflected languages usually inflect the pronoun, and often the possessive as well - e.g. in Slovak, you 6 cases for the pronoun, 6 cases times 3 genders times 2 numbers (=36 forms) for the possessive (in 1st and 2nd person, the gender is marked for the possessee, but in the 3rd person, for the possessor and the possessive does not inflect, to make things more interesting).

In Hungarian, the inflection of personal pronouns is turned head over heels - it is the agglutinative suffix that is inflected by the pronoun. E.g. the dative suffix is -nek (simpifying a bit), but the dative of én (I) is nekem.

Then there are languages with a 4th person (obviative) to mark "less important (than 3rd person)" entities in a sentence.

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