A Course in Rawàng Ata: 1.3

LESSON THREE

Forming the Plural

Like English, Rawàng Ata can mark nouns to show that they are plurals. Unlike English, this is done not through a suffix but through reduplication of the initial syllable.

lutà, ‘ball’ > lulutà, ‘balls’

hàni, ‘mat’ > hafàni [NB. sandhi: ah > af]

As seen in the last example, reduplication does not copy accents. However, it can copy coda consonants, diphthongs, and long vowels. When this occurs, an original long vowel may be shortened.

taita, ‘nail’ > tataita, taitaita

runta, ‘floor’ > rurunta, rundunta [NB. sandhi: n+r=nd]

fōna , ‘foreigner’ > fofōna, fōfōna, fōfona

Which of the possible plurals will be used will depend on the individual’s whim, dialect and register, but none are incorrect.

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Using the Plural

Unlike in English, in Rawàng Ata the distinction is not between a plural and a singular, but between a plural and a ‘non-plural’. The plural is used only to refer to multiple, distinct, definite objects, and only when that distinctness is important. It is not used for universals, for generalisations, or for abstracts.

datta wohola fofōna

the sailor strikes these foreigners here (though he doesn’t strike all foreigners)

datta wohola fōna

the sailor strikes the foreigner/all foreigners/foreigners in general/foreigners including these ones/most foreigners/typical foreigners

However, although the plural requires a definite, actual object, only one representative object must be actual – other objects may be out of sight or hypothesised. So, if, in this example, one foreigner is struck while the others are out of the room, the plural is still allowable. The important thing is the definiteness, and the suggestion of a group of similar things.

Confusingly, this means the plural can sometimes be used for singular objects. In these cases, the speaker is imputing membership of a group of similar things, even though the speaker knows or suspects that there is no such group, or has no such group in mind. The intention is to separate out this particular object, in this case a particular foreigner, from other objects of the same kind by imputing a sub-group: similar roles are fulfilled by English phrases like ‘their kind’, or ‘that sort’ (‘the sailor hates that foreigner and their kind’, ‘the sailor avoids that sort of foreigner’). In this sense, this usage is usually derogatory or dismissive.

“Singular” plurals also occur to give the idea of progression, taking things as they come: in this case, the implication would be that the sailor is going to strike every foreigner, or every foreigner of that type, that he comes across, even if only one is actually present and struck so far. An English translation would be “the sailor is hitting foreigners”, which we might say even if only one foreigner has been struck so far, if we believe the trend will or may continue.

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Forming and Using the Singular

Rawàng Ata also has a genuine singular, but it is far more restricted in use than the English equivalent. It is used when one and only one object is concerned, and only when it is important to make that singularity clear.

datta wohola fōnaònga

the sailor strikes this one particular specific foreigner

It may also be used more colloquially to refer to only a small part of an object: in this case, the sailor may have struck the foreigner’s hand or foot.

As can be seen, the singular is formed from the non-plural by the suffix –ònga.

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Forming and Using the Perplural

A final, marginal number used in Rawàng Ata is the perplural. This is formed by repeating the reduplication process that creates plurals, and the construction is used to indicate an immense, uncountable, overwhelming, or excessive number.

fōna > fofofōna, fōfōfōna, fofōfona, fōfōfona, fōfofona, fofōfōna, ‘a sea of foreigners’, ‘a surfeit of foreigners’, ‘an excess of foreigners’.

In normal speech, perplurals use the same reduplication method for both duplications. So, fofofōna, fōfōfōna or fōfofona are all likely to be heard, but fofōfona is not. However, elaborate and confusing perplurals are common stylistic features in writing and poetry.

In normal speech, any perplural is emphatic, almost histrionic. Theoretically, the excess can be further emphasises by multiple reduplications, but this is usually used only with comic intentions, or in literature.

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LAST NOTE

Number will be returned to later. The above notes only address number of inanimate count nouns, and the situation for animates and mass nouns is more complex.

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Vocabulary

taka = to collide with

This is the verb used for unintentional collisions, and collisions between objects without planned trajectories.

ruaya- = wipe, clean, polish

This verb is used for the result of methodical or sustained friction between a hard thing and a soft thing. It need not be intentional – it is also the verb used for the action of water on a stone, for instance.

baryōng = house, estate

The baryōng is the fundamental manifestation of family and class. It is a house – but that word does not do it credit. A single baryōng can house dozens of individuals – not only the extended family of the owners themselves, but also the families of their servants, and sometimes semi-independent client families. Each baryōng is in turn divided into several different sà runta, “collections of floors”, each a building in its own right, each elevated in most cases above the ground, as well as several garden areas, and the walkways that connect the piers. An individual’s class is a function of their location within the baryōng. Furthermore, the largest sà runta, those of the families owning the baryōng, are themselves divided into several different ‘wings’, synecdochally known as runta, for different parts of the family.

= ‘heart-post’

If the baryōng represents the family, the represents the baryōng. It is a single wooden post, usually the rounded, debarked trunk of a tree, which extends from the ground beneath the house to the highest peak of its roof, and represents the continuity of the people and the world, and of the present, past and future inhabitants of the baryōng. The is the family; in the Discord, revolutionary groups would burn and hack apart the of the house to end all debts and obligations owed to the family and to express its illegitimacy – an act of vandalism still punished by death and worse.    

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