Akinam: A Language of Few Nouns

This is a sketch of Akinam, a conlang I started work on in 2018. Grammatically, it takes influence from Sumerian, especially in its limited stock of nominal roots and extensive use of compounding.

Demographic and ethnographic information

To be determined.



Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a


Labial Coronal Palatal Dorsal
Nasal m n
Stop p t k
Fricative f s x <h>
Tap/Flap ɾ <r>
Approximant w j <y>


The syllable structure is (C)V(C2), where C2 must be a stop, a nasal, s, or r. Consonant clusters, however, are disallowed, so coda consonants only appear word-finally.

Vowels in hiatus are also forbidden; this situation is usually resolved by deleting the second vowel. So the compound of ke arm + ota big is keta size.

The prohibition on CC sequences does not apply to the boundary between a stem and inflectional clitics, marked here with = for example: saram=fi Saram=DAT to Saram (a city). The prohibition on VV sequences does hold across clitic boundaries, but here the clitic host always retains its vowel: womafukukum (wo-ma-fe-i=uku-ku=um INTENT-VENT-2SG.IO.LOC-pour-IMPF-1SG.S_ I will pour for you.

Phonological processes

The epenthetic vowel is a: it only appears word-initially to repair initial #CC clusters which arise as the result of inflection: e.g. artutuna (r=tu-tu=na 3SG.O=build=IMPF-3PL.S) they were building it.


In words of three or more syllables, stress falls on the antepenult; otherwise, on the penult.

Morphological typology

Akinam is a predominantly agglutinative language.

Morphemes are maximally disyllabic.

Grammatical categories


Akinam has a restricted set of nominal roots. Further noun-formation occurs morphologically in one of the following ways:

  1. Noun-formation strategies
    • noun-noun compounds of various types
    • noun-verb compounds, e.g. manihur god < mani judgement + hur deliver
    • noun-adjective compounds, e.g. orokota hell < orok city + ota big.
    • verb-verb compounds, e.g. tarutan child < taru give birth to + tan make grow
    • affixation of derivational morphology
    • use of verbal phrases as nouns




Constituent order

Constituent order in main clauses

Akinam is an SOV language.

Fane Saramfi matowan.
fane Saram=fi ma-t-o=wan=Ø
holy Saram=DAT VENT-3SG.IO-IO-go-3SG.O
He went to holy Saram.

Huwasar ken um faneni famu womafukukum.
huwas=a-or ken um fane=na-i fam-u wo-ma-fe-i=uku-ku=um
custom-1SG.POSS-GEN star sky holy-3SG.POSS-LOC voice-ABS INTENT-VENT-2SG.IO-LOC-pour-IMPF-1SG.S
I will tell you about the holy stars of heaven which indicate my customs (lit. of my customs).

The finite verb

The Akinam finite verb consists of a verbal stem preceded by one or more prefixes and followed by one or more suffixes, although the suffix sequence may consist only of a single, phonologically empty suffix. The affixes fulfil a variety of grammatical functions, including indicating agreement with the subject and objects or expressing negation, or tense/aspect/mood.


The Akinam finite verb exists in two aspects: perfective and imperfective. These aspects determine not only the stem form but also the pattern of agreement marking on the verb. Specifically, perfective forms show ergative-absolutive alignment in their personal agreement, while imperfective forms show nominative-accusative alignment.

Imperfective aspect is often marked by reduplicating the final CV of the verbal root, but suppletive and affixal forms

Verbal agreement in the perfective

Perfective forms show ergative-absolutive alignment in their agreement morphology.

For example, note the different agreement suffixes used in the following two perfective verb forms. In the transitive form sutu they built it, the third person singular object is marked with the null suffix , while in the intransitive form opu it descended, the same null suffix marks a third-person singular subject.

they built it.

it descended.

The form opuna they descended shows us that third-person plural is marked on intransitive verbs not with the prefix su- but with the suffix -na.

they descended.

Person/Number Trans. Subj. Intrans. Subj./Obj.
1SG -um
3SG r-
3PL su- -na

Verbal agreement in the imperfective

Imperfective forms show nominative-accusative alignment in their agreement morphology.

In the imperfective equivalents, by contrast, the third-person plural subject is marked with -na in both transitive and intransitive clauses.

they were building it.

they were descending.

it was descending.

Person/Number Obj. Sub.
1SG -u
3SG r-
3PL su- -na

Non-finite verb forms


  • aki n. tongue, language
    • akinam n. the Akinam language (~ + nam civilized)
  • ama n. mother
  • apa n. father
  • epa v. walk, go, come
    • epapa v. wander (redup.)
  • fam n. voice, noise, sound; v. cry out, exclaim
  • fane n. silver; money; v. purify, cleanse; a. bright; pure; holy
  • hur 1. n. storeroom; v. store, accumulate | 2. v. deliver, deposit; put, place, set down upon | 3. v. make, establish; restore | 4. n. form, appearance
    • huwas n. customs; rites (hur form + was know)
  • ken n. star; v. shine
  • ke 1. n. arm; v. hold | 2. n. side; nearness; v. be near; p. with; conj. and | 3. v. protect
    • keta n. width, breadth; v. widen, enlarge; adj. wide, broad; copious (~ + ota big)
  • ku v. be equal to, be comparable to; rival, compete with; reach, attain; arrive
  • mani 1. n. lawsuit, case; judgement, decision, verdict; sentence; v. judge, decide | 2. v. to conduct oneself | 3. v. go
    • manihur n. god, deity (~ judgement + hur deliver)
  • mu n. grown man, male; gentleman; human being; pron. someone, anyone, no one
    • mupapa n. vagabond (~ + epapa wander)
    • muta n. king; owner, master (~ + ota big)
  • mete n. worry; v. be worried (ma mouth + ete fear)
  • nam adj. noble, civilized, domestic
  • ni adj. available (stub)
  • opu v. descend, set (of the sun); bring down; bring in, import; fetch
  • orok n. city, town, village
    • orokota n. the underworld, hell (~ + ota big)
  • ota a. big, great, mighty; n. chief; eldest son
  • pafas n. arm; wing; strength
    • kopafani n. strength (ko- abstract prefix + pafas arm + ni available)
  • ron 1. n. head; a. first, first-class; p. in front of, before | 2. n. person
  • sun v. go out, emerge; send forth; lead or bring out, bring up; rise (of the sun); sprout (of plants); be visible, become visible
  • ta 1. n. name; word; v. name; speak | 2. n. year | 3. n. line, entry | 4. n. oath | 5. conj. because; p. because of
  • tama n. eye; face; front; v. see; p. in front of, before
    • tamapa n. leader (~ + epa walk)
    • tama ...ak prep. in the presence of (~ -ak towards)
  • tan 1. n. song; v. sing | 2. v. blow; ignite, kindle; make grow
  • taru v. bear, give birth to; be born; make, create; be reborn, change, be transformed
    • tarutan n. child; son; daughter (~ + tan make grow)
  • tu v. build, make; work
  • uku v. throw; pour; place; adj. far
  • um n. heaven, sky; adj. high
  • wan v. go (stub.)
  • was n. wisdom; v. know; understand
    • wawas v. teach (redup.)

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