Epiq Specifiers

There are two types of specifiers in Epiq: verbal and nominal. This section will deal with both.

Before we get to them, though, I should address one question: What are specifiers? Epiq doesn't have adjectives of any kind. Nor does it have words like "the" or "an". So if you're talking about two dogs wrestling in a field, how do you know which dogs doing what? Enter specifiers.

Specifiers are, in fact, much like adjectives, when it comes to nouns (and only certain types of specifiers). So, for example, to say "dog" in Epiq, you say qałpi. If you want to say "big dog", or "the big dog", what you do is you add a specifier suffix. As it turns out, the appropriate specifier is -suloqo, which is a kind of augmentative specifier. So, first you put "dog" into the accusative singular, which is qałpyâ, then you add the specifier, to get qałpyâsuloqo, "the big dog". Now if you're talking about two dogs, then one of them can be the big dog, and the other the little dog, and there you are.

That's a summary of one type of nominal specifiers. There are different types, though, and then there are verbal specifiers. I'll now discuss in more detail.

Nominal Specifiers I: Attributive Specifiers

Attributive specifiers are a lot like adjectives, so that's a good place to start off. Any noun can be modified by an attributive specifier. Here're a few common attributive specifiers:

  -pâpi   -papi   "yellow"
  -nâlya   -nalir   "beautiful"
  -lâsân   -lasan   "good"
  -âxon   -axon   "heavy"

As I mentioned before, all you have to do is basically combine the suffixes above with a noun to get a modified noun. In order to combine the two, though (and this goes for all nouns), the noun must be put into the accusative singular case. [I feel like I've said this before...] This works well for most specifiers, because a good number of them begin with consonants. However, if you look at the last on the list there, you'll notice that it begins with a vowel. So, if you wanted to say "the heavy rock", then you'd: (a) Find the word for "rock", ampak; (b) put it into the accusative singular: ampakâ; and (c) add the suffix, to get...ampakââxon? Nah, that doesn't look very good. What to do, then?

As I've mentioned before in other Epiq pages, there are two epenthetic phonemes in Epiq. The epenthetic vowel is a, and the epenthetic consonant is n. As such, when you add a vowel-initial suffix to a vowel-final word, you just insert an n to break up the hiatus, and thus "the heavy rock" is ampakânâxon.

An interesting note on this. Say you wanted to say "the beautiful rock" (and I've seen some, in my day). Following the rules, you get ampakânâlya. If you only had these two forms to go on, how would you know what each specifier began with? Is it â? Is it n? There's actually no way to tell, because you must put the noun, whatever it is, into the accusative singular (so, if you wanted to say "the heavy small rock", you'd get ampakâfapisânâxon, where both "rock" and "small rock" are in the accusative singular). As a result, lots of specifiers that originally began either with a vowel or with n are constantly being reanalyzed. This sort of thing happens in some of really exotic languages, like, say, English. For example, the word for "uncle" was originally "nuncle", apparently. People kept on saying "a nuncle" so much, though, that eventually people heard it as "an uncle", and here we are. It doesn't have to happen, though, because if you want to call that (n)uncle happy, you have to say either "a happy uncle" or "a happy nuncle", but a silly little thing like that could never stand in the way of Almighty Language Change (the ALC, or "alc" ['ʔæwk̚], I calls it).

Anyway, once you've added a specifier, you have yourself a new word. So, take fulânâlya, "the beautiful sky", for example. Once you've got this word, it acts just like a noun in the sentence. So, when you find out what role the noun is going to play in the sentence (e.g., "The beautiful sky fell down", or "I gazed longingly at the beautiful sky"), you decline it just as if it were a regular noun. All case endings are added to the very end of the word, and if any plurality's going on, plurality happens at the end of the word as well. You can also add further specifiers, as exemplified above. The order is logical order (e.g., there's a difference between "a sharp broad sword", and a "broad sharp sword").

Nominal Specifiers II: Numerical Specifiers

Numerical specifiers are much like attributive specifiers, but they deal with number. Number specifiers come last in a string of specifiers, and indicate specifically how many of the noun you're talking about. Number specifiers can only be added to count nouns.

Numerical specifiers are pretty straightforward, for nouns, except for the first two numerical specifiers. Because Epiq has a singular, dual and plural number, the singular and dual pretty much take care of singular and dual instances of a count noun, making the specifiers redundant. For that reason, the specifiers have taken on their own meanings. So, when you use the singular specifier, rather than getting the meaning "one x", you get "no more than one x", "exactly one x", "only a(n) x", or "just a(n) x". You get the same meaning with the dual specifier, but it's slighly rarer.

That said, here's a list of the numerical specifiers from one to ten:

  -qoli   "exactly, just"   -xassa   "six"
  -âku   "exactly two"   -tâpi   "seven"
  -poni   "three"   -kÿna   "eight"
  -qalma   "four"   -uli   "nine"
  -fanu   "five"   -sqoli   "ten"

As with the attributive specifiers, you must put the noun modified into the accusative singular before you add the specifier.

One final issue with numerical specifiers is number. Seeing as the specifiers that actually have numbers as their meanings (three and beyond) are plural, you'd think that you'd need to put all these into the plural. Not so. A noun that's had a number specifier added to it in the singular is considered to be one group of that number of the noun. So, kečâxassa, in the singular, means either "six caribou", or "one group of six caribou". If you put that into the dual, you get kečâxassó, which means "twelve caribou" or "two groups of six caribou". If you put it into the plural, though, the multiplication stops, and you get kečâxassé, which means "many groups/bands of six caribou each". There is a word for "group" or "grouping" in Epiq (qači), but this method is more convenient, where applicable. Further, since the larger numbers which aren't divisible by ten can get rather long and unwieldy, it's much easier to be able to round to the nearest even integer and multiply it by two, in some cases.

Oh, hey, and since we're on numbers, if you add an -l suffix to the end of any of these forms you'll get an ordinal number (i.e. "one" > "first", "two" > "second", "three" > "third", etc.). The practical effect of this will be to shift stress onto the final syllable.

Nominal Specifiers III: WH Specifiers

There are two WH or IN specifiers in Epiq. The equivalent of WH words in Epiq is IN words because all words which perform some kind of WH function begin with in-. There are only two IN specifiers in Epiq because the rest of the IN words are either pronouns or adverbs. The two IN specifiers are -inni, which means "what" or "which" (used as an adjective in English), and -inši, which means "how many" or "how much" (depending on whether it's added to a count or mass noun).

One unique feature of IN words is that most of them decline as if they ended in a consonant. So even though the two forms above are -inni and -inši, you decline them as if they were the two C final suffixes -inn and -ins. The only time the final i appears is in the nominative singular.

Here are a couple of quick examples:

  • Nwâwwâynsâ kâkânoxânâqe?, "How many eggs did you eat?" (note: "How many eggs" is in the accusative singular case, because the object of "how many/how much" is always singular).

  • Kečâynni akânomâsâqâ?, "Which caribou did you see?" ("which caribou" is in the nominative singular, because only one caribou is being seen. With more than one caribou, one simply pluralizes the noun, leaving the plural marking on the specifier and not the noun).

In both of the examples above, the initial i of the IN specifier suffix is reduced to y after the vowel. This is standard.


So far, I've introduced nominal specifiers. I call them nominal specifiers not because they're specifiers that are added to nouns, but because they're specifiers that produce nouns. This might make them sound like derivational affixes, but derivational affixes tend not to be so specific. There's no doubt that their function is a derivational function, but to what extent? Is the difference between "a rock" and "a black rock" somehow fundamentally different from the difference between "appease" and "appeasement", or, for that matter, "a dog" and "dogs"? I have no answer to these questions. And with that, we will move into murkier territory. That which I call "verbal specifiers" are specifiers which produce verbs—or, rather, whose end result is a verb. Keep these classificatory questions in mind as you look at them, and if an answer comes to you, let me know.

Verbal Specifiers I: Attributive Specifiers

Attributive specifiers for the verbal realm are a tad diffferent than nominal attributive specifiers. Verbal attributive specifiers qualify the action described by the verb. They are added only to verbs, and don't change the verb's class. Here are some common ones:

  -istak   "proportionally"
  -sul   (general augmentative)
  -âstak   "to plan to"
  t- -is   (lengthens the process of the verb)

As you can see from the examples above, some of these would be translated into English as adverbs, some as affixes, some as phrases, and some as auxiliary verbs. All fall under the same classification in Epiq, though.

The same rules apply to these affixes as all others (i.e., if an extra vowel is needed, a is inserted; if an extra consonant is needed, n is inserted), but all verbal attributive specifiers are added in the same way. Prefixes are added to the front of the verbal stem (if there's a preverb, the prefix will come in between the preverb and the stem), and if there's a suffixal part, it's added to the end of verb stem before the class vowel. The class vowel is suffixed to the specifier.

Verbal Specifiers II: Numerical Specifiers

These kinds of specifiers are (obviously) a closed set, but they work in a specific way, so I thought I'd devote a section to them. Basically, these are derived versions of the nominal numerical specifiers that are attached to verbs (suffixed to the end of the root before the class vowel) which indicate the number of times an action has occurred. So, if you want to say, "I've seen that movie four times", you use these guys. There's not much more to them than that. Here's what they look like (using those from one to ten):

  -qol   "once"   -xass   "six times"
  -âk   "twice"   -tâp   "seven times"
  -pon   "thrice"   -kÿn   "eight times"
  -qalm   "four times"   -ul   "nine times"
  -fan   "five times"   -asqol   "ten times"

This idea was inspired by ASL, so it deserves a shout out. Just a note: Obviously some of these forms are going to need some inserted a's in order to conform to coda constraints, but those that begin with consonants don't need them all the time. The specifier for "ten times", though, always needs an a, so I began it with a.

Verbal Specifiers III: Verbalizing Specifiers

These are specifiers that produce verbs from nouns, but specific kinds of verbs. They're generally circumfixes which completely surround a noun. Here are a couple examples:

  f- -laka   "to have x (part-whole relationship)"
  q- -musta   "to have a hurt x (where x is a body part)"
  m- -suna   "to make/produce x"
  q- -a   "to be a(n) x" or "be at a(n) x"

Each of the examples above is a Class 1 verb. This is the case more often than not, but it doesn't have to be. In either case, the final vowel of the specifier will be the class vowel (which is why all the examples above end in a).


I think that's all I have to say about specifiers in Epiq for now. Perhaps I should create a great big list of them... We'll see.

Back to Epiq Main

This page was last modified on Thursday, August 2, 2018.
This website was last modified on .
This page can be viewed normally, as a milk or dark chocolate bar, in sleek black and white, or in many other ways!
All languages, fonts, pictures, and other materials copyright © 2003- David J. Peterson.

free counters