Let’s make a language – Part 7c: Adjectives (Ardari)

(Editor’s note: If you’re wondering about the odd posting time, well, there’s a simple explanation. I wrote this on September 14, but I noticed when I went to schedule it that it would appear on October 16. That’s my birthday, and 5:38 PM is what I’ve been told was my time of birth. So, when this goes up, I’ll be 32. I couldn’t resist the extra touch.)

For Ardari, adjectives look like nouns at first glance. They take all the usual inflections for case and number, with the additional wrinkle that they agree with their head nouns in gender. Because of this, the “dictionary” form of an adjective will always be the neuter form: dyet “good”, òlk “loud”, jysall “sad”, chel “young”.

We can add these adjectives into a noun phrase by placing them before the head noun: dyeta rhasa “good dog”; òlko blèdo “loud animals”; jysalla konatö “the sad man”; chelisèn nälisèntös “of the young women”. As you can see from the last two examples, adjectives modifying nouns don’t need articles.

In contrast to English (and Isian, for that matter), Ardari adjectives work just fine alone, without the need for a head noun. In this case, they inflect as if they were neuter nouns: dyetardös “the good ones”.

Predicate adjectives

We can go the other way, too, and make adjectives into verbs, although this only works with certain words. Three of our four examples work: dèblatö òlkda “the river is loud”; sèdardös jysalldiru “the children are not sad”; pwatö chelda “the boy is young”. (Note that these verbified adjectives act like inactive verbs, using patient concord markings for their subjects.)

For dyet and words like it, we use a different, more general, approach. This involves the copula verb èll-, and it’s just like making a normal sentence. The adjective agrees with the subject noun in gender, but it’s always in the nominative case: rhasatö èlla dyeta “the dog is good”.

In fact, any adjective can be used in this copula construction. It implies a more “permanent” state than directly using the adjective directly. So, instead of dèblatö òlkda, we might say dèblatö èlla òlka, which has the same meaning, but carries the connotation that this particular river is always loud.


Ardari doesn’t have special adjective versions for comparatives and superlatives, like English does. Instead, it has a general word am that can appear before an adjective. It does double duty, acting like both “more” and “most”, with the actual meaning depending on context.

In a simple noun phrase, it’s usually a superlative: am dyeto rhasodys “the best dogs”. The exception is when it’s being made into a comparative phrase, which we’ll meet in a future post.

When used on a bare adjective, am always means “most”: am dyetardös “the best”.

On a predicate, am implies the superlative unless it’s clear from context that it’s a comparison. As an example, we might have uswall tyèktö èlla grov “the blue house is big” followed by ajzhtö èlla am grov “the white house is bigger”. If we just said ajzhtö èlla am grov alone, the meaning would instead be “the white house is the biggest”.

Phonetic alteration

That just about does it for Ardari adjectives, except for one thing. Some of these words change slightly. In the neuter form, they have a regular, non-palatalized consonant. In the other genders, these can become palatalized.

One example of this is mil “happy”. In the neuter, it stays how it’s written: mil sèd “a happy child”. Otherwise, it changes: milya pwa “a happy boy*; milyi gli “a happy girl”.

This change can happen with many consonants in Ardari. The stops alternate with their palatalized versions (p becomes py, etc.), while l and n become ly and ny, respectively.

Ardari word list

Like with Isian, here’s a huge list of Ardari words. Verbs are always listed as stems (you can tell by the hyphen at the end), and adjectives are shown in neuter form.

There are three adjectives in the list that show the palatalizing change. These are shown with a following (y), as in mil(y) for “happy”.

Two specific words need to be pointed out. First, “not” is listed as -(r)u, which shows the two possible forms of the negative verbal suffix, -u after consonants and -ru after vowels. Second, the word for “friend” changes based on gender: neuter ast, masculine asta, feminine asti. This is shown as ast(a/i).

English Ardari
air impän
all laz
angry nyol
animal blèda
any by
arm kyem
back sur
bad gall
beautiful sli
bed mäs
big grov
bird pèdi
bitter nykh
black zar
blood chonga
blue uswall
boat druni
body apsa
bone oqa
book byzri
bottom tòn
boy pwa
bread nami
bright wich
brother emöna
car kolyi
cat avbi
chest ghall
child sèd
city präzda
closed nòp
cloth chill
cloud nawra
cold glaz
color kyos
correct rik
cup kykad
daughter tyeri
day jan
daytime tulyana
dim nyn
dog rhasa
door kopa
dress lesri
drink ach
dry khèv
ear mèka
earth dyevi
egg oghi
every ining
eye agya
face sòl
false ill
father aba
few ikön
field tevri
finger inda
fire aghli
flower afli
food fès
foot allga
forest tyëtoma
friend ast(a/i)
front chej
fruit zulyi
girl gli
glass träll
gold owènyi
good dyet
grass sèrki
green rhiz
hair zhaj
hand kyur
happy mil(y)
hard khòrd
hat sèla
head chäf
heart rocha
hill dyumi
hot fed(y)
house tyèk
ice sill
island symli
king kujda
knife yagha
lake oltya
leaf däsi
left fong
leg khära
light blis
long tur
loud òlk
man kona
many majos
meat arba
milk mechi
moon duli
mother emi
mountain antövi
mouth mim
name all
narrow will
net pèrta
new vän
nice tèch
night goz
nose khun
not -(r)u
old pòd
open owar
paper rhesta
peace ichuri
pen pyela
person ban
plant pämi
poor nydor
pot gyazi
queen kujvi
rain luza
red jor
rich agris
right leng
river dèbla
rock qada
rough dyaraz
sad jysall
scent ymin
sea oska
sharp krit
shirt tèwar
shoe saz
short (tall) nyan
short (long) nèr
silent däch
sister tamöni
skin prall
sky weli
small nèr
smooth chus
snow qäsa
soft èz
son era
sound onda
sour rukh
star pala
sun chi
sweet ojet(y)
sword èngla
table kombas
tail pija
tall vol
thick gwad
thin tip
to allow rhoten-
to ask mykhes-
to be èll-
to begin sòto-
to blow fu-
to build moll-
to burn secha-
to buy dyem-
to catch kòp-
to come ton-
to cook lòsty-
to cry ajn-
to cut okön-
to dance tatyer-
to die lo-
to do agh-
to drink kabus-
to eat tum-
to end jop-
to enter idyn-
to feel luch-
to give anyer-
to go chin-
to guard chud-
to have per-
to hear ablon-
to hit king-
to hold yfily-
to hunt kwar-
to kiss alym-
to know trod-
to laugh jejs-
to learn prèll-
to like lyeb-
to live derva-
to live in daran-
to look at tojs-
to look for tèlas-
to love salm-
to make grät-
to plant mäp-
to play rej-
to pray nyes-
to read proz-
to receive bèrill-
to run okhyn-
to say is-
to see ivit-
to sell vird-
to sing ajang-
to sit bun-
to sleep rhèch-
to smell aws-
to speak sim-
to stand minla-
to taste aty-
to teach sydon-
to think bejë-
to throw ghur-
to touch tejv-
to walk brin-
to want majtas-
to wash oznèr-
to wear ilya-
to write farn-
tongue lèta
tooth käga
top khaj
tree buri
true chäll
ugly qöbar
war idyaza
warm fynin
water obla
wet bol
white ajzh
wide wok
wind fawa
wise trodyn
woman näli
wood dräza
word non
world omari
wrong nej
year avèch
yellow mingall
young chel

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