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LotM - Jan 19: Numi
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Congrats to Elinnea for their incredibly detailed language Numi, a tripartite, heavily polysynthetic head-initial artlang with Japanese-inspired phonology and orthography and a wealth of comprehensive documentation!
This public article was written by [Deactivated User], and last updated on 1 Jan 2019, 19:37.

[comments] [history] Menu 1. Phonology and Orthography 2. Nouns and Noun Phrases 3. Verbs 4. Lexicon 5. More on Numi 6. A Note on LotM

Welcome 2019's first LotM,  Numi, by @Elinnea! Numi is a tripartite, polysynthetic, head-initial personal artlang with a phonology and orthography inspired by Japanese, and an abundance of both grammatical and lexical documentation— there are over 1,700 words at the time of writing, and many articles with an exceptional amount of detail illustrated by glossed examples. Its grammar is quite regular, but is characterized by a large number of bound morphemes and the ability to incorporate many words into the verb, which results in many appealingly detailed, long words.

There has been so much work poured into Numi that it really can't be done justice to in a single article. With that in mind, here are some highlights and quirks of Numi!

[top]Phonology and Orthography

The phonology and orthography are based on Japanese phonology and its hiragana syllabary. However, both have neat tweaks applied to them. One of the most striking of these tweaks is that the syllables /wi/ and /we/, which are not present in modern standard Japanese, are included in Numi, along with their associated glyphs ゐ and ゑ respectively, which are archaic hiragana.

Other interesting differences include:
  • Long mid vowels are notated differently in the script than they are in Japanese, instead being represented by a simple doubling of the glyphs for their short variants.
  • The mora ん can be not just a coda /n/ but also a syllabic nasal in its own right (actually, in calculating stress placement on verbs, coda /n/ isn't moraic, unlike in Japanese where coda /n/ is moraic, another underlying phonological difference between Numi and Japanese).
  • /h/ before /ɯ/ is realized as [ç], unlike in Japanese where it is [ɸ].

[top]Nouns and Noun Phrases

Numi nouns, while not as intensely synthetic as the language's verbs, still decline for number, case, definiteness, emphasis, and possession. There are also a set of neat demonstrative suffixes, which only attach to bare nouns— for fuller noun phrases, they instead have standalone word allomorphs.

Other nominal features include:
  • Tripartite case marking: subjects of transitive and intransitive clauses, as well as objects, each have their own case. (Subjects of intransitive clauses receive the unmarked case, while the other two are suffixes.)
  • Plurality marking is optional, but tends to be marked more often for humans and other animate nouns.
  • Modifiers can be incorporated into the nouns they modify.


Numi's polysynthetic verbs receive an impressive amount of inflection, not only in terms of how many morphemes are available to attach to them overall, but also in terms of how many morphemes may attach to them at a time. This allows entire sentences to be expressed in a single word, for example:

1First person (person)
speaker, signer, etc; I
.ABSAbsolutive (case)
TRANS object, INTR argument
-knife-INSInstrumental (case)
'with', 'using'
-fruit-eat-PSTPast (tense)
action occurred before moment of speech

'I ate fruit with a knife.'

Like the language's nouns, Numi's verbs are tripartite in alignment, meaning that subjects of intransitive and transitive clauses as well as objects are all marked using different affixes. Additionally, not only are pronominal objects marked on the verb, but entire full nouns can be sucked into the verb (such as in the example), as well as generic nouns that classify the overt object of the verb. In other words, Numi has both total and classifier noun incorporation.

Other neat features of Numi's verbs include:
  • Prefixes that indicate whether a non-finite verb has the same subject and object as the main verb or whether the roles have been swapped. This is known as switch-reference. Additionally, these prefixes express whether the action in the given verb happened at the same time or after the main verb.
  • The reflexive and reciprocal are both marked in the same way: an empty accusative slot with subject using the ergative affixes.
  • There are not just passives (several different constructions which can express volition), which, among other functions, can promote an object to a subject, but at least two antipassive constructions, which convert a transitive subject plus object into just an intransitive subject (the object can still be realized, but as an oblique).
  • Many applicatives which can allow various oblique arguments to be incorporated into the verb.


Numi's lexicon is as richly elaborated as its grammar. Apart from a lengthy and colorful set of idioms and interjections, it also has a large number of modals which range from すり suri 'obligation external to the actor, from the speaker, circumstances, or society at large' to ふわん huwan 'speaker is creeped or freaked out by it'.

Other fascinating aspects of the lexicon include:
  • More than 20 verbs of perception which differentiate activity from experience and are of various transitivities, along with a number of other interesting constructions for talking about perception.
  • Three words for 'first' which indicate different senses of the concept.
  • Tons of notes on usage throughout the dictionary entries, and etymologies marked using the word root system.

[top]More on Numi

If you want to check out Numi in more detail (come on, you know you want to), take a look at its many intriguing articles, comprehensive dictionary, phrasebook, LexiBuild sets, translations, grammar samples, or the awe-inspiringly long syntax samples article (218 glossed sentences!).

[top]A Note on LotM

Got suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something in Numi that wasn't covered and you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot us (dendana or protondonor) a PM with your questions, comments, and/or concerns. Also feel free to drop by the LotM clan if you have other feedback, want to join in the voting process, or nominate a language!
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on 01/01/19 19:37-5[Deactivated User]typo
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