The Minidun Language




The People
The Land







Daily Life


Modern Minidun is a simple language.  Linguists recognize it as one of the easiest languages in the world to learn.  Its nouns have as little inflection as English, and its verbs have no inflection at all.  All verbal functions (e.g. tense, mood, number) are achieved by use of auxiliary words.  Only the peculiar variations in syntax present any difficulties to the foreign student.  But once the student memorizes the various syntactical formulas, he or she can go on to learn the vocabulary and speak with ease and even elegance.  The Minidun language has enjoyed use as a lingua franca, both in Pre-Colombian Bergonia and in modern times, perhaps because it has been so unburdened with inflection.  In the Medieval and Tanic eras the Nacateca, Pasan, Svegon and Faroi people used Minidun as the universal tongue, although during the Shufrantei era Nacateca served as the liturgical language.  Since Columbus, Minidun has interested Europeans decidedly more than Nacateca.  Minidun now serves as the language of national political debate, and Congress uses Minidun in all its proceedings.   72,272,000 people speak Minidun as their primary language in the 2000 census, more than any other.  Nacateca, second largest, speak 65,667,000.

Minidun has more speakers than any other language in Bergonia.  88 million Bergonians, 46% of the total population speak Minidun, compared to 37% that speak Nacateca.

In antiquity Minidun was a strictly analytical language, comprised totally of free morphemes and completely devoid of inflections whatsoever.   In this era Minidun resembled Chinese, in which all grammatical functions were achieved by the implications of the order of words in sentences. 

But after the fall of the Second Ceiolaian Empire the language underwent a significant transformation.   Minidun speakers developed a penchant for compounding new words from two or more existing ones.  This compounding in time produced contractions (e.g.  "do" and "not' yield "don't").  Out of this practice grew a limited number of inflections, particularly with nouns.  Undoubtedly, with the rise and domination of the Shufrantei religion, Minidun speakers experienced a thousand years of direct exposure to the Nacateca language that used inflections heavily.   Undoubtedly the exposure to inflections in the one language influenced the speakers of the other language.  Grammarians of the Tan Age commented on this historical trend.  However, after the arrival of Europeans, the trend reversed, and Minidun dropped inflections and reverted back to its prior analytical characteristics, though in an all new form.  With the drastic population reduction of the Plagues (1560-1650), Minidun (and all other Bergonian languages) experienced considerable flux.  However, in the early 1700s, when atrei populations began growing at a steady rate, Minidun stabilized into various dialects, some almost mutually unintelligible.  But as Minidun reemerged as a literary language in the late 1700s, the Dura dialect of Ceiolai became the standard for Minidun, just as Tuscan served as a norm for Italian.  With the advent of broadcast media, the sharp differences between the dialects have eroded, as the Dura dialect dominates.  (See language map, which shows dialects)


Minidun uses few diphthongs and many hard consonants (e.g. B, D and V), in contrast with Nacateca.

All multi-syllable words have the stress placed on the first syllable.

Words in the predominant Dura (spoken in Ceiolai) and Amota-Corifon dialects end in either a vowel, or a liquid (i.e. N, L, sometimes M, and rarely R) or either C or T.  Except in dialect, words never end in any other sound.  Thus, notwithstanding that Minidun employs many hard consonants, Minidun words never end with hard consonants.


Here are the general rules of syntax:

In a transitive sentence the verb comes at the end of a sentence, much like Japanese.The next thing to know is that the subject usually precedes the object (S + O + V).  This sentence order conveys active, transitive meaning, where a subject acts or causes motion that affects, moves or changes something else.  Grammarians sometimes call this the “dynamic” voice, as well as the “transitive.” 

Sometimes stylized writing permits an inversion of the subject and object (O + S + V), to provide emphasis and nuanced meaning.  But this inversion of the subject and object must somehow be marked, so as to avoid the presumption of S+O+V.There are two ways of doing this. One way has the subject followed by kla, a verb generally meaning “do,” “act,” or “make.”  This verb precedes the main verb and all its modifiers.  The second way uses a postposition (or two) to mark the objective phrases.  

A second syntax is called the "reposing" syntax.  Its sentences convey meanings that in English manifest variously as (a) the passive voice, (b) intransitive sentences, (c) transitive verbs of sense (“see, gave, scrutinize, smell, whiff, feel”), or (d) verbs of emotion and mental state (think, dream, am sad, feel elated, believe, recall).  The basic structure is S+V+O.

ð “I depend on you.”

ð “I am bitten by the dog.”  (A sentence construction that literally translates as “I bite by dog,” since the verb takes no

ð “I dreamed last night of goblins.”

ð This syntax can take as a dependant clause a whole sentence written in the dynamic syntax:  “I dreamed last night that the goblins ate all my corn.” 


With just a few, very well delineated exceptions, modifiers and conditioning words always precede the solid nouns and verbs they modify.   However clauses and indirect objects are marked and conditioned by postpositions. 


The Locus:

It is a very important part of Minidun communication to indicate the location or direction of an action.  This is done with a "locus" word or phrase (e.g. “upward,” “toward the north,” “in the forest,” “upon the rock” and “toward the shore”).   It usually precedes the verb.  Sometimes if the object is compound, it will precede the indirect object, even if the direct object comes between it and the verb at the end of the sentence.   

The locus involves a special class of word, similar to some of the prepositions of English that refer to location (e.g. “in,” “up,” “above,” “within,” “to-the-left-of”) or direction movement (e.g. “inside,” “into” “toward”), as well as a generalized sense of “this/here,” and “that/over there” and “meanwhile” (which means “at-the-same-time-but-in-another-place”).  These locus words work as postpositions.  The postpositions indicating place or position (e.g. up, inside) can combine with -me, a suffixing particle to mark a destination of travel or direction of movement; it translate into English as “to” or “toward.”  Thus, with -me, the word “in” becomes “into,” and “up” becomes “upward.”

The locus in this sentence order always refers to the subject, generally to locate the subject or identify the subject's perspective from:

transitive syntax:


+ gun

+ on top of the tower

+ shot  


+ [object]

+ [locus]

+ [verb]


reposing syntax:


+ on top of the tower

+ saw 

+  you coming  


+ [locus]



  Locus words likewise indicate the location or spatial orientation of the action that the sentence describes.  It usually refers to the location or movement of the subject, either in terms of direction (up, north, away) or relationship to an object.  The locus word always follows the object with which it connects.  If there is no object, then the locus word precedes the verb. 






+ house

+ into

+ walk. 

"I walk into the house."







+ soldier

+ past/by

+ run

“I ran past the soldier










“I walk on the grass.”

The locus need not have an object.  In such cases the locus before the verb and after the subject.




I +


+ walk.

    "I walk away" 

One shouldn't confuse the locus with an indirect object.  What in English is the indirect object may or may not be a locus.  “I hit the ball with the bat,” is a case of an indirect object that is not a locus, since it signifies instrumentality.  In English, instrumentality is often marked with the prepositions “with” and “by.”  The indirect object usually come after the direct object phrase, and is sometimes bound to the verb by the locus.  Thus: S + DO + IO + V.  



the ball           

at you                   



+ [direct object]

+ [indirect object]




+  the gun 

+ at you   

+  on top of the tower

+ shoot


+ [direct object] 

+ [indirect object]

+ [locus]

+ [verb]   

Compound Sentences: 

The independent clause is usually at the back end of the sentence, and the dependant clauses in front, with post-positions connecting the dependant to the independent:

“Last night they told me that you escaped from jail.”












last night








dir. obj.











*In this sentence, there is no need for locus in the second clause.  The word escape connotes the direction and locus, relative to the jail, so no explicit locus word is needed. 

The reposing syntax can combine with the dynamic syntax in compound sentences:

“Last night I dreamed that you and I attacked the charlatans.”








last night


you and I

the charlatans








[reposing clause, independent]

[dynamic clause, dependant]


Certain special verbs exist which only occur in the reposing sentence order.  These are called  "reposing" verbs and include verbs of sense, such as "see", "gaze", "scrutinize", "smell," "whiff" and "feel", and verbs of emotion and thought, such as "experience", "feel frustrated", "be sad", "dream," "remember" and "love."

The charging syntax is used for questioning, and also for emphasis, certainty, and for answering.  It transfers the subject to the end of the main clause of the sentence.












[the direct object]

+ [the locus]

+ [the verb]

+ [the subject phrase]

Parts of Speech:

A part of speech is identified by where within the sentence syntax one finds a word.  Very few inflections exist, but those that do exist are suffixes.  Positively no inflections exist specifically to identify parts of speech.  One must infer the parts of speech from the sentence order of words.  This is sometimes complicated by the fact that so many words function equally well as verbs, nouns and modifiers. 

Word roots typically function as either verbs of nouns. Trir can mean a spear or to spear.  Isama means to suck milk or breast.   Ther is either night or to become dark.  Only the context distinguishes the correct meaning.

Another example, sive means "beauty" or "beautiful"

--Here the word functions as an adjective:

dze sive dzar mlado  means "He beautiful flowers grow."

__ “She looks beautiful” (reposing)

--Here the word works as an adverb:

dze sive iudle  means "He speaks beautifully," or "He gives a beautiful speech.”

--Here the word works as a noun:

            Dze sive feit means “he extols beauty.”

--Here the word compounds with another morpheme and together they work as a noun:

Dze sivere beli means "He beautiful-person loves" or  "He loves a beautiful person."  This word is always implicitly understood to mean a young pretty woman.  Sivere would never be used to describe a male, except for a certain type of ga.

--The word can also work as a verb:  

dze sive means, roughly, "He feels beautiful."  (reposing)

dze va sive means, roughly, "He beautifies her."

Minidun relies very heavily upon the process of compounding to express new meanings and also to accomplish some grammatical functions.  See below.

The Negative:

The words zu and lo mean no in the broadest sense, and are used to convey the negative in every possible context.  will combine with almost any other word in the language.  Usually zu will immediately precede the word it modifies, but sometimes other modifiers are allowed between zu and the word modified, while lo always immediately precedes or follows the word it modifies.  lo is the result of an ancient borrowing from Nacateca.  The Nacateca word for no is ro, but in Proto-Nacateca it had been lo.  

One may permissibly use either word in just about any context, but lo is habitually used more often verbs (as in "not") or participles, and also in situations requiring emphasis.  Sometimes if someone asks, "You have zu-bananas?" the grocery clerk will answer "I have ro-bananas."

All classes of words, including verbs, nouns, modifiers and even the locus words, can take the negative. 


Verbs take no inflections whatsoever, save for an unusual set of internal inflections in one limited class of verbs.  Nearly all tenses, modes and moods are formed by the use of auxiliary words that almost always come before the verb.

A certain class of verbs exists, consisting of verbs of sense, emotion and thought, that occur only in the "reposing" sentence order.  Reposing verbs function according to slightly different rules than other, “active” verbs, but the main difference between these and the active verbs is that these verbs cannot occur in the “dynamic” or transitive syntax, unless in a compound with an active verb.  The most common "reposing" verbs are these:

sle            "stand", location, "I am here", "I stand here".

crat            feel, sense, "I feel your touch," “I feel bad/sick.”

vle            feel, emote, "I feel/am angry".

haret            believe, think.

sada            appear, seem, seems like.

kufet            becoming, changing into, transforming into

save            die

Tenses form in Minidun by the use of auxiliaries immediately before the verb:

ku             Now; this instant, “He now runs.”

bu             Past; once, did, “He did run.”  bu also means “go” and “flow away downstream.”

kro             Future general; will, shall, later.  kro also means “come,” “coming” and “flowing toward the speaker from upstream.”

vo             Progressive; ongoing, over time.   vo also conveys the sense of a river or stream flowing past.

sei             Just," close to present, soon, recently.  “He recently ran/ he did run,” and “He will run very soon.

go             Habitually; often, typically.  "He exercises three times a week."

These auxiliaries can occur in combination with one another.   Other temporal modifiers can appear as well just in front of the verb, such as

            der            the number 1, in this context meaning once, one time,

kano          the number 2, in this context meaning twice, two times,

tone           repeatedly.   San means month, and san tone means “every month.”

vret            start,  “He just started working.”

shatle        finish,  “He finished writing the book;”  “He just completed painting the house.”

zher           later, far, as in far into the future or far into the past.

Additionally, the reposing words can experience an alternative method of changing tense.  This method entails internal phonetic adjustments, a form of rare inflection in Minidun.  For example: 

thran means dream.

thrain means "dreamed" and

trin means "will dream."

mre is a verb that identifies a person. 

mrei is the past tense form and

mri is the future tense form.

One needn’t use the tense auxiliaries in every situation.  Often, in the telling of a story, the teller will identify and accentuate the tense of the action at the beginning, once or twice, and then proceed without ever using


A small class of words exist to delineate the subjective attitude or the perspective of the speaker toward the event described in the sentence.  It modifies the entire sentence or clause in light of how real the events seem in the eyes of the speaker, and in light of the events’ impact on the speaker. 

Because the modal modifies the entire sentence or clause, it occurs directly after the verb, that is, at the end of the sentence or clause.

--The speaker is certain it did not happen:  











"The sacrilege did not happen."













"It is not possible the sacrilege happened.

--The speaker adamantly insists it happened:

 Clu vrolem, "It happened definitely."

--He is not certain it happened:

 Zleton cru, "Dancing tonight maybe."

Sometimes in place of a single modal word, a "reposing" clause with a modal  may occur:















"I know definitely that the burro was stolen."
















"Maybe you know if someone stole the burro."


Minidun abounds in compound words-- the combination of two words to form another word with a third meaning. 

The class of words that compound most are verbs.  A basic group of simple broad verbs do a lot of compounding with more precise words.  These include: 

pre          give.  pre and srei “sword” mean surrender.

tle            take,  

lin            do or make, 

vrat         eat.  This word also means burn when used with fire. 

io             have, hold,    io and toc “illness,” means to be sick.  io and puta “money” means to be rich.

bet           know, or know how to, recall, remember.   bet and mase “cook,” means that someone is a chef.

eser         compare.   Eser and korot, “story,” mean “judge.”  

voret        change, transform.   voret and tre old means “to age.”

lit             die, fade away, decline.

sat           see.

When compounding is used to produce nouns, typically the word that describes the type of object or thing occurs second, while the word bearing the more specific meaning occurs first.

Ganpon means "library and consists of gan, “reading,” and pon, “public house.”  The latter word expresses the type of thing while the former word shows a specific, qualifying meaning.  

Besimsi means "Baseball", and consists of besi, a word borrowed from English meaning, of course, "base", and msi, "game."

Umetri means "hammer," which consists of ume, "pound", and tri "tool".

Some compounding involves implicit attempts to define the thing which the compound word names, and the process of definition may employ metaphorical means.  

Dzarvle means roughly "tenderness".  It includes the words dzar, "flower" and vle, "touch".   It implies that tenderness is like "touching a flower", or "as if touching a flower." 

In Minidun many such words are created by the contraction of two words, sometimes to the point that the original words become obscured and unrecognizable.  

gre means "contract". 

svaro means "roll back" or "undo". 

crin means "justification" or "just cause". 

In Tanic times these words were combined to produce the phrase gre-svaro-crin, which means "unilateral rescission of an agreement with legal impunity," which of course is a specialized term in the law of contracts.  In time, this phrase became a single word, Gresvarin.

bei means "animal" or, more specifically, "four legged animal,” a word related to ba, “four.”  

Hrira means "sitting up high".  This word is, itself, a contraction of har, “sit, pearched,” and rashe, “elevated.”

These words became Hribei, the name Bergonians gave to the horse after the coming of the Europeans.  Implicit in this word formation is a socio-political observation about the status, or presumed status, of the horse-riding colonizers.  

Many verbs are compounded with objects to form new verbs.  Many compounds employ just a few major verbs.  It is noteworthy that nearly all these common verbs end in r.

            jer means “use,” handle.”  jer also means “hand,” as a noun.  Examples of compounds:

jerota” means drive a motor vehicle.  ota means automobile—the etymology is obvious—but also means “motor” and refers to any motor vehicle.  Often such general verbs are used in conjunction with yet another verb, as in sia Ceiolai kor jerota, which means literally “we-use-automobile-go-to-Ceiolai.”   Kor is a verb meaning “go to, travel to,” distinct from bu, (see discussion of tense, above) meaning “to go, to leave.”

jerkiv means “use a knife.”  This broad compound verb actually functions as an adverbial phrase in sentences, sometime to provide a metaphor, like:

“we will knife-use kill the enemy.”

“we did knife-use send-away the disruptive employee.” 

“the doctor did knife-use repair bone.” i.e. “the doctor surgically repaired the bone.”

“she did knife-use stop talking,” i.e. “she suddenly stopped talking.”

clar means clean, wash, maintain, fix, and refers to any maintenance done to any object.  This includes such things as pruning, culling, tuning up, toiletries, trims, haircuts.  clarota means an automobile tune-up or automobile repair in general. 

tleir  means “make,” “generate.” 

Minidun builds many words by compounding simple words, some providing a concrete image of the work being done:

 “we did stretch-rope (surveyed) the lot.”  (For centuries, surveyors in pre-Colombian Bergonia used long ropes to measure off distances.)

“we draw-close walk-together.”

“I dress-bundle (bundle-up) 


The Minidun language has a tendency to apply a different word for every individual concrete perceptual experience.  In applying so many different words there is a preciseness of definition that to a European seems almost arbitrary.  For example, a different word is used to describe a human running as for a horse or other animal, and a different word is used for hooved animals like horses and deers than for cats and dogs.  For another example, the word used to mean "down" in "he runs down the hill" than in "he reached down" or the elevator went down."

The verb “to be”:

No verb exists in Minidun equivalent to the Indo-European verb "to be."  Likewise, the grammatical functions performed in English and other Indo-European languages by "to be" are in Minidun either performed by other means or nonexistent. 

Minidun has no passive voice.

Specifically, no passive voice exists in Minidun.  Equivalent meanings are achieved in several different ways.  

(a)    By use of verbs of sense and emotion, making Minidun a rather psychological or phenomenological language.  “I am hurt,” is rendered, “I suffer injury,” or “I feel pain.” 

(b)   The use of indefinite subjects.  “I’ve been hit,” becomes, “someone hit me.” 

(c)    There is an all-purpose pronoun, io, that connotes absolutely no information about the subject whatsoever.  It can substitute for virtually any subject in any sentence, and is usually translated as “something.”  It has several uses, one of which is to provide a passive meaning.  “I was cheated” becomes io pare cu, “someone cheated me.”

(d)   The complete absence of a subject.  

The verb to be in Indo-European languages serves a big function in identifying and describing a subject.  Minidun speakers use a variety of means to accomplish the same meaning.  

(a)    The word chava, which means “appear,” does heavy lifting to describe the characteristics of objects. 

“Violets are blue,” becomes “Violets appear (are seen to be) blue.”

So does the word sat, "see," as in “Violets see blue.”   It is obvious that violets do not have eyes; thus a varied meaning of see is implied.  A cat has eyes, but to say that “This cat sees orange” is rather absurd literally.  The speaker and listener both know that in the context see has a different meaning, so that the sentence would literally translate “the cat is seen as orange,” and figuratively translate into english as “the cat is orange.”  The meaning of sat, "see," is accordingly altered in the context of the reposing syntax.  

(b)   In many cases the speaker will use a substantive verb, and the modifier operates as an adverb.

“He is disabled,” becomes cu otavre tre, literally meaning “He disabled lives.”

(c)    In other contexts, the speaker uses a substantive verb plus the reflexive marker va, which means “self” or “like.” 

“He is a carpenter,” becomes cu otavre va tre, “He carpenter self work.”

“He is a socialist,” becomes cu soshila va tret, “He socialist like believe.”

(d)   Sometimes the lack of a verb altogether serves the purpose.  In this instance a noun is paired with a modifier.

“I am Black,” becomes literally “I Black.”

“I am overweight,” becomes “I overweight,” although a more likely expression would be “I weigh too much.”

Likewise, “I have green eyes,” becomes “I green eyes.”

(e)    Sometimes a verb is implied by use of an auxiliary verb-modifier word with the noun and modifier. 

“He was once/used to be overweight,” becomes “He once overweight”

“He may be overweight,” becomes “He maybe overweight.”

“He might have been overweight,” becomes “He maybe once overweight.”

Semantic Gradients:

Perhaps as close as Minidun comes to a system of inflection is its system of sound changes within a single morpheme that produces a variety of words of similar meanings.  Nothing like this occurs in any Indo-European language, but something very similar occurs in the Dakota language.  See Traits of the Dakota Race, Language and Culture by Franz Boas (1937)

There are many sets of semantic gradients. 

First are gradients that expresses in intensity, generally intensity of a quality.  One set of such gradients is TH, T and  TS.  Another set is S, SL and SH.  Linguists generally agree that these gradients are the product of ancient prefixes that merged with root words.

Thic means "skewer”

Tic means "awl", and

Tsic means "needle,” and 

Thet means "pale”

Tet means "medium hue", and

Tlet means “dark. 

These words occur as modifiers of the names of hues.  Thus thet bar means “pale red, “pink, ” tet bar means “red,” and tlet bar means "burgundy" or "dark red". 

sei means "thin liquid",

slei means "thick liquid” and

shei means "set up,” as in custard, gravy, heavy sauce.  These are cooks’ terms.

Second are a class of gradients that express different intensities in force.  They involve the change of internal vowels.  One set of gradients are E, A and IU; another is OI, O and U. 

mei means "liquid flowing slowly,”

mi means "liquid running" and

mio means "liquid rushing forcefully”

Sometimes consonants come and go with these internal vowel gradients.  Thus,

bei means "fondness,"

bal means "love" and

biul means "passionate devotion."


vroi means "touch with palm of hand,"

vro means "push" and

vrut means "shove hard."

The Reflexive:

Either the particle va or the particle sfa appears whenever the object of the subject’s action is the subject itself.  It serves the purpose of reflexive pronouns.   dia-va-wash means “I wash myself” or “I bathe.”  Sia-va-wash means “you wash yourself.”  Va-kill means suicide.   Va-hand/stroke means masturbation. 

Plurals and Other Numbers:

Few languages imply plurality from the context of the sentence as much as Minidun.  Chinese is quite similar in this regard.  When Minidun does need to express plurality, it does so by the simple use of modifying words, never by any inflection.  For example, trel gai literally means "some cat," ser gai literally means "many cat," and thon gai means "a family of cats," e.g. a mother cat and her kittens. 

English marks plural number with the addition of the –s, even when a pluralizing modifier like “many” is present.  But in Minidun the noun gai remains the same for both the singular and the plural, since modifiers supply the number. 

There is also a specific use of der the number one to specifically denote the single number, and kan the number two to denote a pair.

Moreover, the word gai may, without any modifiers, also refers to cats in general, as in, “cats are carnivorous animals,” and "I am allergic to cats."  English and other Indo-European languages use the plural to discuss the species as a whole, while Minidun uses the unadorned indefinite form.