We've learned how to derive words in the different parts of speech, but we haven't learned how to recognize words in different parts of speech. What makes makan sometimes mean "to eat", sometimes mean "food" and sometimes mean "edible"? It all has to do with the position of the word in the sentence and what particles, prepositions or preceding content words are present.

Using Verbs

The most basic particle le marks the verb of a sentence, this can also be known as the "action" of the sentence. Without it, you could only describe things as they are without any change, movement, or activity.

  • mi le makan - "I eat "
  • tu le nin - "You are a person" (verb: to be a person)
  • ja le canu - "They are cold" (verb: to be cold)

This can be a bit confusing due to how English uses a helper verb (to be), but it's very important not to get confused thinking le means "to be".  It only serves to mark the content word following it as being in the verb form. That being said, when nouns and modifiers are used in their verb form, they do include "to be" (called the copula) in their definition.

Another thing to note about the above translations, the le particle alone does not say anything about the tense, such as past ("I was eating"), present ("I am eating"), or future tense ("I will be eating"); or about the aspect, meaning perfective (completed action, "I ate"), continuous (ongoing action, "I am eating"), or repeated (habitual action, "I eat"). These are all valid translations of the sentence mi le makan. Which one is meant must be inferred through context.

If tense and aspect are not clear from the context, there are ways to specify tense and aspect to remove this ambiguity (through verb modifiers).

Subject-less sentences

When using le without a subject, the sentence can be inferred to be a statement simply stating that an action is performed.

  • le makan in kuwosi - "Fruit is eaten"
  • le jamu - "Sleep is had", "Being asleep is done", "(it) is asleep" 

In English this sounds a bit awkward, but it is a clearly communicated concept and is completely acceptable in Kokanu. How often you might say such a thing is a different question.

Additionally, some uses of subject-less sentences are just continuations of an existing implicit subject.Through context, you can determine which style of sentence is in use.

Suggested action

The particle o works the same way as le, marking the verb, except that it turns the statement into a recommendation, suggestion, or what the speaker believes should happen.

Subject-less suggestions

Just as with the le particle, you can omit the subject. Although, with o, a subject-less sentence becomes a directive or command

  • o makan in kuwosi -  "Eat fruit!"
  • o pasan - "Be happy!" a very common phrase used to mean "Welcome!"

Using Nouns

Typically, a standalone content word functions as a noun, such as when it's placed at the start of a sentence (as the subject) or when it follows a thematic relation marker (as an object). Additionally, some verbs take what's called a direct object (these are called transitive verbs) and you specify the direct object using the preposition in.

Passive Voice

There is a subject marking particle men which is only needed if you place the subject in a non-leading position in the sentence. When the subject is the first word, you can omit this particle. Using this sentence form has the effect of emphasizing the action on the direct object and de-empasizing the subject, which effectively provides a form of passive voicing.

Using Modifiers

Modifiers are called an "adjective" when they are used to describe a noun, and they are called an "adverb" when they are used to describe a verb. Unlike in English, the modifiers go after the word they are modifying.

Genitive Particles

There are two particles that are used specifically for managing a chain of modifiers. They both allow you to group modifiers and they both cause the successive modifier immediately after the particle to be used in noun form. However, je only connects to the nearest noun (if that noun has a modifier chain in between, that's quite alright). Whereas, wo relates the connected noun phrase to the greatest open clause that it exists within.
"huwa inpali hunsi joli cina" "little beneficial red flower seed"

Using je

[Noun] je [Modifier] [Modifier] je [Modifier] [Modifier]
[Noun] je ( [Modifier][Noun] [Modifier] je [Modifier][Noun] [Modifier] )

huwa je inpali hunsi je joli cina "seed of the little-benefit red flower"
a je is isolating to just the most recent noun in the chain

Using wa

[Noun] je [Modifier] [Modifier] wa [Modifier] [Modifier]
( ( N je ( [Modifier][Noun] [Modifier] ) ) wa [Modifier] ) [Modifier]

huwa je inpali hunsi wa joli cina "seed of red flower of little benefit"
a wa is encompassing across the entire chain

Using Thematic Relations

Thematic Relation Markers are words that allow you to connect a noun phrase to the verb or "action" of the sentence by means of a (thematic) relationship. Each relationship is unique, thematic, and describes what, why, when, where or how the noun phrase is interpreted inside of the sentence (in relation to the verb). See the diagram for the thematic relation that each marker provides.

These words do not act like content words and (they cannot be derived into noun, verb, modifier forms) and content words can never work like thematic relation markers. You can place a thematic relation clause in any position in the sentence, although some thematic relations are more clear either prefixing or postfixing the main clause.



Marker Likanu Example Sentence
an an lana minuli men mi le canu
in ōı tu le makan in kuwosi
kan mi le lo kan nin suki mi ke jan te si po konpa
ke nin le lo ke kapaja
men ɞ̄ȷ le si men mi
nenka ƨ̄ȷx mi le pasan nenka ne
po ʜʃ mi le tun minuli in ne po tu
so ɤʃ mi le ju mese te makan so te jamu
sun ɤ̄ſ sin na le lo sun honja
wija ɕıɂ tu le kela in kela kiju wija jon kela mi
win ɕ̄ı ja o jatan in makan win niju lana te no junja in nula


Using Particles

The glue holding sentences together are the grammatical particles. Particles are words that don't have meaning on their own, but are used to affect other parts of the sentence. For example, le is a particle because it doesn't mean anything on its own, but it affects the next word. Kokanu uses particles like le and ta to modify the structure of sentences in various ways.

Particle Likanu Example
la ʋ tu o no tun in na la.
je ɂȷ na le je ato je matuwa mi.
le ʋȷ pawo le ju in te makan.
mu ɞſ ja le mu makan cenpo.
no ƨʃ mi le no suki in na.
o o no tun conca
peko ʜȷxʃ o akala in na po mi, peko.
ta ʌ ja le nin ta mi le kela kan
te ʌȷ mi le lo ke jan je te pese
we ɕȷ  
lun ʋ̄ſ ja le lun pasu in pata.

Click on each particle to go to an in-depth description of how to use it.

Using Connectors

Lastly, there are the connectors. Connectors are words that organize multiple sentences, clauses or individual words together into a compound form with different connective meanings depending on which connector was used. For example, un is a connector expressing that the multiple elements provided should be taken together or in addition to each other.

Connector Likanu Example

Click on each connector to go to an in-depth description of how it can be used.