Existential clause

Existential clause is the clause that declares existence, presence or absence of something. Typical existential clause in English starts with “There is …”, where “there” is a dummy subject and the predicate is verb “to be” (copula verb) in required form, while logical subject becomes grammatical object, therefore such construction may be counted as impersonal, however copula agrees in number with logical subject. Existential clauses often contain additional locative phrase: “There is monster under the bed”.

Existential clauses are often used when subject is a complex, wordy phrase, that is better to be shifted after the verb for clearance. For example: “Dreams about the bounty he wanted to find were slowing his work” ⇒ “There were dreams about the bounty he wanted to find slowing his work”.

Translation into Nûrlâm

Nûrlâm does not use typical short affirmative truly existential clauses. As some linguists distinguish locative clauses from existential (when there is no dummy subject like English “there is” or German “es ist”):

Example 1: “There is an army at the gates” should be transformed into “An army is at the gates” = “Ash khot (kulâ) hûmumir ” (verb “to be” could be omitted when there are no describers and existential clause is not the part of longer sentence).

Example 2: “There is monster under the bed” = “Uglauk (kûlâ) lata khau” (Monster is under the bed)

Example 3: “At the gates there is an army” = “Hûmumir kulâ ash khoth” (lit. At the gates is an army), but “Hûmumir ash khoth kulâ” (lit. At the gates an army is) is more preferable. The verb “to be” (kul-) is not omitted because of non-standard word order.

However, word-order starting with “there” = “zîgin” (and also “here” = “zin”) can be copied into Nûrlâm if there is no other locatives, but “there” do not become the subject and whole clause should be counted as locative.

Example 4: “There is a monster” = “Zîgin kulâ ash uglauk”. The verb “kul-” (to be) should not be omitted in such case and must agree with subject (“monster” in this example) in person and number.

Existential clauses can be combined with different modalities (but still do not became truly existential in Nûrlâm):

Example 5: “Let there be light!” = “Gâkh thîr kub”1) = “Gâkh thîr kubâ”2) = “Dâbh thîr kubut”3). Compare this with Latin “fiat lux”.

Some languages may have other copulas to express existential clauses, usually analogues of “have” and less commonly “give”. For example in Russian all three mentioned verbs can be used in existential clauses, though with slightly different semantic nuances, and considered very formal speech:

Russian Literal translation to English Nûrlâm
У ворот была армия At the gates there was an army Ash khoth kuzâ hûmumir4)
У ворот имелась армия At the gates had self an army Dakbrus ash khoth hûmumir5)
Воротам была дана армия (для охраны)6) To the gates was given an army (for guarding) Ash khoth throgâkuzâ hûmumûr tudat 7)
Throguzâ ash khoth hûmumûr 8)

Moreover, Russian existential clause with the verb “to be” may express possessive phrase like English “have”: “У меня есть нож” = “I have a knife” (lit. “There is a knife at me”). Nûrlâm uses “brus-” (to have) the same way as English: “Dabrus ash kirm”.

Longer sentences like examples from introduction to this article may be translated with non-standard word order which is allowed in Nûrlâm, but shifting of emphasis make the sentence less clear, as in this example “slowing his work” may be read as modifier of infinitive “to find”:

English Nûrlâm
Dreams about the bounty he wanted to find were slowing his work Taurum gus raunum amash tahizuz gimbut krampuzû bultab fûrz9)
There were dreams about the bounty he wanted to find slowing his work Krampuzû taurum gus raunum amash tahizuz gimbut bultab fûrz10)not recommended

Negative existential clauses

Negative existential clause states the absence of something. While Nûrlâm does not have direct equivalent of English affirmative existential clause replaced with basic clause, it has special impersonal construction to translate negative existential phrases like “There is no…”. However it is still not a direct equivalent.

So, negative existential clause is translated the following way:

  1. Dummy subject “there” is not used in Nûrlâm, as stated above;
  2. The verb “to be” (kûl) is usually omitted in present tense;
  3. Object is put into genitive case.

Example 1: “There is no joy” = “Nar glazob

Example 2 (complex sentence): “He runs like there is no tomorrow” = “Takhîg oth nar ârshabob”.

Other dialects

Existential clauses also absent in David Salo's reconstruction of Black Speech for The Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy:

David Salo's Black Speech English Nûrlâm
Gû kîbum kelkum-ishi, burzum-ishi. Akha gûm-ishi ashi gurum. No life in coldness, in darkness. Here in void, only death. Nar kîb grazumishi, burzumishi. Zin shadishi gurz tug

Other dialects copy English grammar in such clauses.

Optative/Benedictive, lit. “May the light exist!”
Jussive modality with gâkh, lit. “Let's the light will be”
Jussive modality with dâbh, lit. “Let the light to be”
An army was at the gates
We have an army at the gates
can be treated as regular clause in passive voice
An army was given for the gates to guard
using impersonal sentence, literally: Gave an army for the gates
Dream(s)-ART.DEF about loot-ART.DEF which 3SG=want-PST find-INF make-PST-3PL work=3SG.M-GEN slow
Make-PST-3PL dream(s)-ART.DEF about loot-ART.DEF which 3SG=want-PST find-INF work=3SG.M-GEN slow
syntax_existential.txt · Last modified: 2022/11/07 00:59 (external edit)