Ithkuil: A Philosophical Design for a Hypothetical Language




Home   Introduction 4 Case Morphology 8 Adjuncts 12 The Number System
  1 Phonology 5 Verb Morphology 9 Syntax List of Abbreviations
  2 Morpho-Phonology 6 More Verb Morphology 10 Lexico-Semantics The Lexicon
Updates / Changes   3 Basic Morphology 7 Suffixes 11 The Writing System Texts


Updates / Changes

Supplement to Lexicon (updated March 27, 2015)

Ithkuil Grammar Book Errata

The character extension in Table 51 for the combination of ž + C is not valid. The character extension for the value ž + C should instead be shown by the value in Table 52 previously assigned to C + v.

ALSO: There are two new suffixes to deal with the issue of semantic frames. Here is a discussion of this topic and the details of the two new suffixes.


The following addresses the issue regarding ambiguous consonantal combinations in the Ithkuil writing system, specifically how to distinguish combinations such as -pg- from -bg-, -kt- from -gt-, etc. when writing the Cr root.

The character extension elements shown in Table 52 (in Section of the Grammar) are redundant, given that they can be much more easily shown using the subscript diacritics shown in Table 53. The original intent of these Table 53 diacritics was that they be used only for tri-consonantal and tetra-consonantal roots, however there’s no reason not to use them in biconsonantal roots as well, which then obviates the need for the character extensions shown in Table 52. By rendering these Table 52 extensions redundant, it makes them available for use to disambiguate the k/g, p/b, t/d problem.

Therefore, the Table 52 elements are hereby reassigned to indicate the following values:

The extension previously indicating C + w will now indicate b + C

The extension previously indicating C + y will no longer be used

The extension previously indicating C + l will now indicate d + C

The extension previously indicating C + r will now indicate g + C

The extension previously indicating C + ř will now indicate ż + C

The extension previously indicating C + m will now indicate j + C

The extension previously indicating C + n will now indicate dh + C

The extension previously indicating C + v will now indicate ž + C and the extension shown in Table 51 for ž + C will no longer be used

The extension previously indicating C + ň will no longer be used

As a result of the above, those character extension elements in Table 51 of the grammar which currently indicate dual/alternate values will now only be used to indicate their primary value.

Note that, using the subscript diacritics in lieu of the now-obsolete values of the Table 52 character extension elements, might at first glance give rise to ambiguities. For example does the consonantal character for /s/ plus an extension indicating prefixed /k/- plus a subscript diacritic indicating +/n/ mean -KNS- or -KSN-? However, no ambiguity exists, as -KNS- is not a valid combination for a Cr root. So when interpreting how to read such combinations, the reader must bear in mind Ithkuil phonotactical constraints.

Note also that, with the above changes, quite a number of the existing examples of Ithkuil script throughout the Ithkuil website and grammar book are now unfortunately erroneous.


Here is how Ithkuil handles mathematical expressions and units of measurement.


A new morphological category has been introduced: Register. Register indicates intra-sentence or intra-narrative changes in the mode of personal communication from a general narrative to instead indicate either one’s personal cogitation/deliberation, an unwilled or subjective impression, direct speech, or a parenthetical “aside”. Register is indicated phonologically by tone distinctions. The first word of a phrase carrying a specific register has one of five tones, and the last word of the phrase carrying that register has rising tone to indicate termination of the register. Here are the specifics:

Tone marking: falling (default)
Description: The default register, indicating a general narrative statement. Also used for formal narration, as when telling the events a story from an omniscient narrator’s perspective.

Tone marking: high
Description: Indicates a phrase/statement represents direct speech, as in ‘His wife turned to him and said “You’ve forgotten your hat.”’

Tone marking: low
Description: Indicates a phrase/statement is a parenthetical aside, or the equivalent to an in-line footnote, as in ‘All equine species in Eurasia (we needn’t bother with those in the Americas) can be shown to be quadrupeds,’ or ‘I generally prefer coffee to tea on summer afternoons – over ice, of course – but sometimes only a beer will do, ’ or ‘That artist’s landscapes (you should see his portraits!) are simply sublime.’

Tone marking: falling-rising
Description: Indicates a phrase/statement represents silent thoughts or beliefs. Equivalent to various devices in natural languages for indicating silent thoughts/beliefs within a narrative, as in the use of italics within a written paragraph, or the sudden interjection of a character’s disembodied voice on the soundtrack of a film/video while the character visually doesn’t open their mouth.

Tone marking: rising-falling
Description: I ndicates a phrase/statement represents the imagination, subjective impressions, or unwilled “wandering” thoughts of the party being referenced in the phrase/statement. Equivalent in natural languages to a narrator suddenly interjecting a subjective description within a statement, as in ‘The little girl ran down the hillside, a feeling of joy in her heart, then leaped into the arms of her father.’

NOTE: Since it is not possible for an Ithkuil word to carry more than one morphologically significant tone (see Sec. 1.3.2), if a non-default register (i.e., a register other than NAR) is to be applied to a single word only, this is indicated by the fact that there will be no subsequent indication that the Register has terminated, i.e., there will be no subsequent word carrying rising tone prior to the end of the sentence or prior to a new/subsequent change to a non-NARRATIVE register. It is this absence of the register-termination tone marker that retrospectively indicates that only the initial word of the previous non-NARRATIVE utterance/statement carried that particular register.


Changes in how the categories of Version and Validation are phonologically marked.

As a result of using tone to mark the new category of Register described above, the existing phonological markers for the category of Version (see Sec. 5.8) and Validation (see Sec. 5.9) are hereby changed. These changes will entail the creation of a new Hearsay suffix, as well as a revamping of the existing SCS suffix. The details are as follows:

Both Version and Validation are now primarily shown via a consonantal affix in Slot III. The affix for Validation continues to be labelled Cg and has priority over affixes showing Version. The Version affix is arbitrarily labelled Cn. If Slot III is already occupied by Cg, then Version must be shown by the SCS suffix (-rk/kr-) in Slot XI. The SCS suffix has been re-formulated to accommodate all six Versions.

The Cn Version affix in Slot III can only appear if the formative’s Validation is in its default value CNF-Confirmative. Conversely, the default Version, PRC-Processual is now completely unmarked, so that if a formative has both default CNF Validation and default PRC Version, it will be the CNF Validation that will occupy Slot III if required by the presence of a Valence affix in Slot II.

The number of Cg Validations is hereby reduced from fourteen to six. This is because the existing nine hearsay values are being collapsed into a single value; the Ithkuil speaker/writer will instead now have to option to specify the exact nature of the hearsay via a new Hearsay suffix in Slot XI. The six values for Validation are now as follows:

Cg affix: glottal stop + h
NOTE: CNF Validation is normally unmarked; this suffix only appears if a Valence prefix occupies Slot II of the formative. Also: this suffix is supplanted by any non-default Cn Version affix.

Cg affix: glottal stop + y

Cg affix: w-

Cg affix: glottal stop + w

Cg affix: hh-

Cg affix: y-
NOTE: This is the new affix that collapses the previous nine hearsay Validations into one. If exact specification of the hearsay source is desired, a new HSY-Hearsay VxC suffix is available for use in Slot XI. If this HSY suffix is employed, then use of the PSM Cg affix in Slot III is optional (i.e., it can be supplanted by a Cn Version affix or Slot III can be left unfilled if there is no Valence affix in Slot II).

The new HSY Hearsay suffix is -ňţ. Its nine degrees match the previous nine hearsay Validations shown in Table 13(b) in Sec. 5.9.

The six new Cn Version affixes for Slot III are as follows:


Cn affix: -h-

Cn affix: -hw-

Cn affix: -hm-

Cn affix: -hn-

Cn affix: -hr-

If necessary to show Version using the SCS suffix because of the presence of Cg, the new values of the SCS suffix are as follows:

SCS -rk / -kr Degree of Success/Failure
1. total failure in; utterly fail to
2. INC version
3. INE version
4. certain to fail in, expected to fail in; anticipated/expected failure to
5. CPT version
6. certain to succeed in, expected to succeed in; anticipated/expected success in
7. PST version
8. EFC version
9. overwhelming success in; overwhelmingly successful


Availability of new roots: As a result of the changes above to permissible values in Slot III, the number of impermissible Cr root forms as stated in Table 3 (in Sec. 2.1.1) and in Sec. 2.2.1 is now reduced from fourteen to eight. The remaining prohibited root forms are -w-, -y-, -h-, -hw-, -hr-, -hh-, -hn-, -hm-.


Correction of Rule in Sec. 5.5

In Sec. 5.5, just above Table 11, there is a note indicating two methods by which one disambiguates (or correctly parses) the structure of a formative when Slots V and VI are filled. This information is overly complicated and not entirely correct. Specifically, the second note regarding use of the Slot IX infix -wë- in the presence of an incorporated root in Slots V and VI is both unnecessary and incorrect. Any incorporated root already mandatorily requires the presence of a Format/Context affix in Slot XII, so there is no need for any other means of indicating the function of Slots V and VI in that situation. It is also incorrect because the infix -wë- can also be used to increase the number of syllables in the word if necessary for purposes of applying antepenultimate or pre-antepenultimate stress (see the paragraph below Table 10 in Sec. 5.4.1).

As a result, the only rule needed is for when Slots V and VI are occupied by the Cv Phase/Sanction/Illocution affix and the VL Valence affix. Specifically, the note above Table 11 in Sec. 5.5 should be simplified and corrected to say that a glottal stop is required immediately following the Vr affix in Slot IV whenever Slots V and VI are filled by the Cv and the VL valence affix. No such glottal stop is required if Slots V and VI are occupied by an incorporated root Cx+Vp.


Here is a list of seven new suffixes. Also, it should be made clear that suffixes beginning with –l or –r can reverse their consonants for the sake of euphony if followed by a vowel (e.g., –rk can become –kr). While this is explicitly shown in the existing grammar for some such suffixes, for others it is not. Nevertheless, this reversal of consonants is applicable to any suffix beginning with –l or –r.


The example sentence at the end of Sec. 8.1.4 in the Grammar, illustrating use of the switch-reference suffix, has an error in it. The fourth word should be èkšülöt’ (not ekšüléňţ) and the morphological analysis below the sentence should show the suffix on this word as TPF1/2, not TPF1/3.



Case-Stacking Using Case Adjuncts

The Ithkuil grammar is hereby amended to allow case stacking—the ability to assign two cases simultaneously to a formative (or to a case-frame). This is necessary to accurately translate sentences like the following:

‘I jog every day except in case of illness.’ or ‘I jog every day except during (an) illness.’

In Ithkuil, “except (for) X” is expressed by the EXCEPTIVE case (Sec. 4.5.30), while the idea of “in case of X” is expressed by the POSTULATIVE case (Sec. 4.5.28) and “during X” by the CONCURSIVE case (Sec. 4.6.3). So how do we apply two different cases to the formative which translates ‘illness’ when translating the above sentence? Current Ithkuil grammar would require such a sentence to be expressed paraphrastically as something like ‘I jog every day except that I don’t jog during illness.’

To allow for two (or more) cases to be assigned to the same formative (or case-frame), case adjuncts are now introduced, a new kind of adjunct which signifies the case of the following case-frame (or formative if there is nothing but a formative between the case adjunct and the end of the sentence) which may, in turn have its own separate case. The form of these case adjuncts are based on Table 28 (in Section as follows:

For cases 1 through 48 (as per Table 28), the form of the adjunct is the consonant -w- plus Vc as indicated in Table 28. Alternately, a “full” form is available consisting of the Vc plus the syllable -wa. Examples: wa = OBLIQUE case (or awa), woe = REFERENTIAL case (or oewa), wëu = VOCATIVE case (or ëúwa), etc. Cases where Vc is -û- (i.e., the OGN case) or where Vc is a bisyllabic form beginning with -u- (i.e., the MED, APL, PUR, and CSD cases), must use the full form (in order to avoid phonetically undesirable forms such as or wuo, etc.)

Cases 49 through 96 (as per Table 28) take the same forms except that the consonant -y- is substituted for -w-. Cases where Vc is -î- (i.e., the ELP case) or where Vc is a bisyllabic form beginning with -i- (i.e., the LOC, ORI, PSV, and ALL cases), must use the full form (in order to avoid phonetically undesirable forms such as or yio, etc.)

So now the original English sentence can be translated as follows using the EXCEPTIVE case adjunct ya in conjunction with POSTULATIVE case on the following formative:

Aigwaloekç   tu   żo’aluqh   ya   egloi’löat.
DYN-‘run’-[OBL]-NRM/DEL/M/CSL/UNI-FRC2/4     1m-IND     (STA)-‘day’-ACS-NRM/DEL/M/CSL/UNI-INL1/9
EXC     STA-‘illness’-PTL-NRM/DEL/M/CSL/UNI-ATT/1m
‘I jog every day except in case of illness.’

The tone of these case adjuncts indicates which word following the case adjunct constitutes the topic of the following case-frame. Specifically:

falling tone = no specific element topicalized
high tone = the first word following the adjunct is topicalized
rising tone = the second word following the adjunct is topicalized
low tone = the third word following the adjunct is topicalized
rising-falling tone = the fourth word following the adjunct is topicalized
falling-rising tone = the fifth word following the adjunct is topicalized

This new ability to stack cases in Ithkuil also allows for alternative ways to construct case-frames which are potentially more elegant than what Ithkuil grammar previously allowed. For example, note the following English sentence:

‘She looks at the book about rats (that) I captured.’

The Ithkuil translation can be either of the following:

Ixal   qu   ultánļ   çt’oert   ikdai’rt   eçtho.
DYN-‘see’-NRM/DEL/M/CSL/UNI-IFL     3a-IND     STA-‘page.of.writing’-OBL-NRM/DEL/M/SEG/COA-FML

Ixal   qu   ultánļ   íkdoert   to   çt’ertût’.
DYN-‘see’-NRM/DEL/M/CSL/UNI-IFL     3a-IND     STA-‘page.of.writing’-OBL-NRM/DEL/M/SEG/COA-TPF1/3-FML

The first Ithkuil sentence above literally begins with “she looks at the book about rats” followed by a case-frame in CORRELATIVE case (equivalent to a relative clause in English) which states “I captured them.” So literally: ‘She looks at the book about rats that I captured them.’ The extra personal reference adjunct ua/ABS “them” is necessary, otherwise the Ithkuil sentence wouldn’t have a way to indicate that what was captured were the rats.

The second Ithkuil sentence literally states “she looks at the book”, followed by a case-frame in REFERENTIAL case which states “rats (are what) I captured” or alternately “it is rats (that) I captured” where the word “rats” bears a TPF suffix indicating it is the topic of the case-frame. So literally: ‘She looks at the book – it’s about rats (that) I captured.’ Without the TPF suffix on “rats”, the Ithkuil sentence would translate as ‘She looks at the book about me having captured rats’, which does not mean quite the same thing as the original English sentence.

With the new ability to stack cases using case adjuncts, we can render a new translation of the English sentence using the REFERENTIAL case adjunct woe (or oewa) as follows:

Ixal   qu   ultánļ   ¯woe   çt’ert   ikdart   to.
DYN-‘see’-NRM/DEL/M/CSL/UNI-IFL     3a-IND     STA-‘page.of.writing’-OBL-NRM/DEL/M/SEG/COA-FML
REF     (STA)-‘rat’-ABS-NRM/DEL/U/CSL/AGG-IFL     DYN-‘capture’-[OBL]-NRM/DEL/U/CSL/AGG-IFL     1m-ERG
‘She looks at the book about rats (that) I captured.’

Due to the presence of the case adjunct, there is no need to indicate FRAMED relation on the verb ‘capture’. Additionally, by using the case adjunct, it allows us to show ‘rats’ as the topic of the case-frame via tone (high tone indicates the word immediately following the case adjunct is the topic of the case-frame), eliminating the need to use a TPF suffix to indicate the topicalization. Note that use of the case adjunct to mark the beginning of a case frame also eliminates the requirement that case-frames have verb-initial word order, thus allowing pragmatic relations such as semantic focus and topicalization within the case-frame to be shown via word order.





Home   Introduction 4 Case Morphology 8 Adjuncts 12 The Number System
  1 Phonology 5 Verb Morphology 9 Syntax List of Abbreviations
  2 Morpho-Phonology 6 More Verb Morphology 10 Lexico-Semantics The Lexicon
Updates / Changes   3 Basic Morphology 7 Suffixes 11 The Writing System Texts