Dha-Patu's essential grammatical principle is: one word = one idea. That is to say, unlike languages in which root-words are modified in various ways, as by prefixes, suffixes, etc., each carrying a bit of meaning, in Dha-Patu every meaning must be carried by a separate word. Therefore, the same word can be a noun, verb, adverb, or adjective, in any given sentence, depending on context.
Dha-Patu has two classes of words: radicals and particles. The "radicals" are those words which can serve indifferently as nouns, verbs, or modifiers; the "particles" are a few short words serving special grammatical functions. They are particularly important because they include the determiners that indicate whether and how a radical is used as a noun, verb, or modifier.
Nouns and verbs are formed by the combination of radicals with determiners, or derivational particles. Thus it is correct to speak, not of nouns and verbs as such, but of noun- and verb-phrases. The phrase consists of three consecutive elements: the determiner, the head, and any subsequent modifiers. Noun-phrases are determined by articles, verb-phrases by special particles called "agentives."
Words adopted from other languages are adopted to Dha-Patu morphology, or rather lack of morphology, being reduced to their roots and governed by Dha-Patu determiners.
Proper nouns, however, are altered only (where necessary) to fit the Dha-Patu alphabet: e.g., Inglënd, Espanja, Ďonggwo, etc. They do not take articles, nor can they be made into verb-phrases. However, they can and do serve as modifiers, in the sense of "of" or "from" such-and-such a thing or place.
Normally, no distinction is made between adjectives and adverbs (i.e., modifiers of nouns and verbs); but this can be done, if necessary for precision, by compounding the modifier with igen 'type, kind' (thus carrying the sense "characteristic of") or thrad 'way, manner' (thus, "in the mode of").
Because this specification is not obligatory, it has a sense of intensification, like the colloquial English use of "way" as an adverb (cf. orus 'other', órusigen 'strange', thradorús 'strangely'). There are also any number of more precise qualifications that can be made as necessary, e.g. with buek 'like/as' or ghoti 'having'.
Prepositions and conjunctions are subsumed under modifiers, being treated as adjectives or adverbs of place and relation.
There are three articles, each signifying one of three categories:
For example: dha patu means 'a language' (and idiomatically, Dha-Patu means 'the language', this particular language itself), as opposed to dhe patu 'languages', dhi patu 'language (in general)'.
An implicit distinction is made between count and mass nouns, i.e. groups of things or amounts of stuff. In referring to mass nouns, dha means a single sample of the stuff, e.g. a piece of gold or a glass of water. With food and drink (for instance), noun-phrases refer to the olakh 'food' itself: depending on the type of food, either a count or a mass noun (e.g. dha patat 'a potato', dha tavu 'a [piece of] bread').
With numeric roots, dha means a unit of n (cf. dha ptor sogha 'pair of hands', dhe sogha ptor 'two hands [of different people]'); dhe, groups of n (dhe ptor sogha 'pairs of hands'); dhi, n-ness (unity, duality, etc.).
Noun-phrases of body parts refer primarily to the parts themselves, abstractly (often metaphorically) to the function or use of the part (thus the names of the sense-organs produce the words for the senses: e.g. dha prash 'eye', dhi prash 'vision').
The definite/indefinite distinction -- i.e. between 'the' and 'a(n)' or
‘some’ -- is made by stress-emphasis, as in the example of Dha-Patu.
Primary stress for definite nouns is on the article: cf. dha
All modifications of the noun are indicated by separate adjectives, by syntactic relations, or by context. For instance, gender is indicated, where necessary, by the separate and distinct modifiers itun 'male' and deaz 'female'. Likewise, Dha-Patu has no inherent cases: it uses either syntax (as in English: "dog [nominative] bites man [accusative]") or relational modifiers.
Number is most simply and commonly expressed with dha for singular and dhe for plural. The plural can be expressed more specifically: either precisely, with the numbers 'two', 'three', 'four', etc., or vaguely, with the terms 'few' (d'nar) or 'many' (ezek).
The ordinal is expressed in two ways. When the noun is singular, a number alone suffices: cf. dhe dring lien 'three strikes', dha dring lien 'strike three'; dhe hora lien 'three hours', dha hora lien 'third hour, three o'clock'. When the noun is plural, the number must be compounded with moet 'order, sequence, chain': e.g. ue-itun ístimoet ones Luna 'the first men on the Moon'.
There are three agentives, which indicate the voice of the verb:
Thus, for example: ta patu 'say (something)', to patu 'speak', tu patu 'be spoken'.
As with nouns, the precise meaning of the derived term varies according to the meaning of the root. The verbal equivalents of mass nouns convey the sense 'to make of or like the substance', e.g. to fuet 'to liquefy, to melt'; of numerals, to make n of something (unite, double, triple ...); of food, to serving, consuming, or being served the food (hence ta olakh 'to feed', to olakh 'to eat,' tu olakh 'to be fed'); of body parts, to the activity of the part (the names of the sense-organs, therefore, produce the words for the acts of sensing: e.g. ta prash 'to see [something]').
The active and passive agentives always indicate transitivity, though the object might not be explicit, if it can be understood from context: dha shob'd ta telo (dha siol) "A person makes (a thing)," dha siol tu telo (dha shob'd) "A thing is made ([by] a person)." The subject may also be left implicit if it is understood from context, as in the English imperative: (ie) to ebong mrag "Don't move!" (literally, "(you) move not").
The middle-voice agentive, by itself, indicates simple intransitivity. It is also used to indicate reflexivity, with the repetition of the subject as the object of the sentence: ia to patu (ia) "I speak ([to] myself)." The middle voice is also used when the direct object is a part or property of the subject: ia to iral dha sogha "I raise my hand," ia to sape dha anzhe "I give my garment."
With khneu 'being', the active voice denotes 'to become (some thing)' and the passive voice 'to be made (some thing)', as used of nouns: e.g. ia ta khneu prezident "I become President." The middle voice is the simple verb 'to be, to exist': e.g. dha shob'd to khneu "There is someone." It connotes potential, as distinct from actual or positive, being: cf. Homo to khneu ásrutelr, "Man is a rational animal," dha om ta khneu telr" [some particular] human is [being] rational." These usages contrast with the normal middle voice: cf. dhe ros to khneu ithso "Roses are red," dha upan to ithso "A face reddens." The passive khneu also connotes accidental or artificial being: e.g. dhe ros tu khneu ithso "[white] roses are [painted] red."
The tense, aspect, mood, and other conditions of the verb may be indicated by various adverbial modifiers. As with number for nouns, the tense can be expressed precisely, i.e. stating the actual time -- yesterday, tomorrow, at three o'clock, etc. -- or vaguely, with tiuth '(in/of the) past' or aire '(in/of the) future'. Such modifiers are left out if understood from context. On the other hand, the present can be made explicit for emphasis: ia ta srot khove 'I do (that) now'.
Aspectual modifiers include oghub 'finally, completely'; ius'k 'currently, in the process (of doing it)'; zelo 'repeatedly, usually'; evne 'beginning (to do it)', etc. Mood, likewise, is normally expressed by adverbs, just as, for instance, English uses "maybe" or "hopefully" instead of a formal subjunctive. The indicative mood, like the present tense, is usually implicit, but can be emphasized with khneu 'truly, in fact'. In speech, tones are used instead of auxiliary words: ie to patu 'you speak', ie to patu? 'you might speak', (ie) to patu! 'speak!'.
There are six pronouns, which differ from the pronominal system of English in that they include an inherent distinction between 'you (singular)' and 'you (plural)', but make no distinction between 'he' and 'she'.
Pronouns are invariable; the different forms found in English pronouns -- me, my, etc. -- are replaced by variations in word-order, e.g. ia ta prash uo 'I see them', uo ta prash ia 'they see me'. Possession is indicated by placing the pronoun after the thing possessed, and there are two forms: definite and indefinite, e.g. dha-ekwu io 'his horse', dha ekwu io 'a horse of his'.
The third-person pronouns always refer to persons (regardless of sex), never to things. The sense of 'it (inanimate object)' is conveyed by the phrase dha siol 'thing'. When siol refers to a thing or things previously mentioned, the articles must be in agreement: e.g., dhe anzhe ... dhe siol.
The specific meanings 'he' and 'she' are conveyed, when necessary, by constructions with itun 'male' and deaz 'female': io-itun 'the man, he', io-deaz 'the woman, she'. Male and female animals are called dha itun or dha deaz, by analogy to dha siol.
In general, pronouns have a derivative function analogous to the articles, to form personal nouns: cf. io itun 'man', io deaz 'woman'; dha ntok 'command', io to ntok 'he/she commands', io ntok 'person (in) command)'. Names or titles of persons are formed this way, e.g. Io-deaz Tu-laorthrad [3p.s.]-'female' [passive v.]-'obey'-[intensifier] 'She-who-must-be-obeyed' -- cf. io-deaz tu láorthrad, 'she must be obeyed'; ia to khneu Ia To-khneu 'I am I-[Who]-Am'. The pronouns are also affixed to proper nouns whenever one has occasion to refer to oneself or someone else by name: e.g., Ia-Klaudius 'I, Claudius' or Ie-Klaudius 'O Claudius'.
The personal pronouns may be used as noun-phrases with the articles: e.g. dha-ia 'the I' or ego, dhi-ia 'ego(t)ism'. Likewise dha-ua signifies 'the we', or collective identity, the union of persons. Dha-io and dhe-uo have special meanings as, respectively, the indefinite pronoun 'one' (meaning 'a/some/any person'), and to signify 'people in general'.
Reflexive pronouns are formed by adding kabu 'self, same'. Their use is somewhat different from the English reflexive, most of the functions of which are performed simply by repeating the subject as object. One similarity is that kabu is used for emphasis: io-kabu ta patu "He himself says (it)."
In pronominal use, kabu is usually coupled with orus 'other'. They are used, primarily, to distinguish between reflexivity and reciprocity: ua to patu ua-kabu "We speak to ourselves," ua to patu ua-orus "We speak to each other." They are also used to form obviative constructions: io(-kabu) ta sape dha-siol io-orus "He(1) gives it to him(2)."
There are four demonstratives, which make no distinction of number (as with 'this/these', 'that/those'), but rather make two fine distinctions of relation unknown in English:
Combined with 'place/position' and 'time', they form ones-pi 'here' and ones-ko 'there'; zhazu-pi 'now' and zhazu-su 'then', etc.
The demonstratives are not used as pronouns in themselves, but only in combination with nominal determiners: e.g. dha-su 'that(2) (person or thing)', dhe-su 'those(2)'. They are also combined with personal pronouns, e.g. ua-pi 'we (excluding the person[s] addressed)' and ua-te 'we (including the person[s] addressed)'.
When used in the third person, the demonstratives are taken to refer to the first person mentioned:
“He(1) gives the money (to) him(2)”. - Io(-pi) ta sape dha-enia io-ko.
“He(1) gives his(1) money (to) him(2)”. - Io ta sape dha-enia (io-)pi io-ko.
“He(1) gives his(2) money (to) him(2)”. - Io ta sape dha-enia ko io-ko.
“He(1) gives their(1+2) money (to) him(2)”. - Io ta sape dha-enia te io-ko.
“He(1) gives his(2) money (to) him(3)”. - Io ta sape dha-enia ko io-su.
There is a single relative pronoun, re, meaning 'that' or 'which'. It is used as the subject of a subordinate clause, or to refer to a whole subordinate clause: ie ta kova re, ia ta patu lo? "What do you want me to say?" (literally, "you want that, I say what?"), ie ta srot, re to khneu trath "What you do is good" (literally, "you do (it), that is good").
In contrast to English, the relative pronoun is also used for 'it' when 'it' refers to propositions, prepositional phrases, infinitives, or anything else that is neither a person (for which a personal pronoun would be used) nor a particular thing (for which dha siol would be used): e.g. re to khneu "It is (true)," re to khneu trath, ie ta srot "It is good (that) you do it." (The impersonal 'it' ("it's raining," "it is n o'clock") has no literal equivalent in Dha-Patu, and can be translated only by paraphrase: dha-iral to eran "The sky pours," dha-hora to khneu lien "The hour is three.")
Suffixed to a noun or pronoun, re serves as topic-marker, a construction with the sense of 'as for, about, concerning': dha-siol-re, ia ta zmoi mrag "I know nothing about it"; ua-re, ua to oliebóng "As for us, we're going (away)"; io-re, io ta srot "He's the one that does it".
There is a single interrogative particle, lo, meaning 'what' or 'which'. Like the demonstratives, it is never used by itself as a pronoun. The full series of interrogative terms is created by joining the particle with other words:
By itself, lo is used colloquially as an interjection: "huh?" "eh?" The interrogative is also used as an all-purpose question-former by being stuck at the beginning or on the end of a sentence.
In Dha-Patu as in English, there are three degrees of connection between words: simple juxtaposition, hyphenation, and combination into a single new word. Each signifies a subtly greater degree of closeness between the words, again as in English. The usage of the three degrees, however, is subtly different between the two languages.
In Dha-Patu, hyphenation is primarily used to combine particles with radicals (which may not be combined into a single word). In some cases, this is just an intensification, as in Dha-Patu 'the language', but in other cases it alters the sense of the connection. Participles are formed by compounding the agentive to the root (e.g. to-patu 'speaking' and tu-patu 'spoken, said'), and are stressed on the agentive: cf. ta pAtu, tA-patu.
Verbal phrases are nominalized by combining articles and agentives: e.g. dhi to-patu 'speaking, to speak', dha to-patu 'speaker, thing that speaks', dha tu-patu 'that which is spoken'. Proper nouns, like particles, can only be combined with other words by hyphenation: e.g. dha tê io Inglënd 'Englishman's tea'.
Compounding is primarily used to form syntactical units within larger units, e.g. adjectival phrases within nominal phrases. There are two kinds of compound words: determinative compounds, or those meaning 'x kind of y'; and copulative compounds, or those meaning 'both x and y'.
Modifiers that modify other modifiers are usually combined to form determinative compounds: e.g. nilithsó 'dark red'. Copulative compounds are used when more modifiers than one apply to the same word: e.g. dha ouli óstaghpúb 'strong (and) sharp blade'. Combinations of the two kinds of compounds can only formed with hyphens: e.g. áfoiptor-istí 'two tens (and) one'.
These distinctions are important in sentence-formation, for Dha-Patu syntax requires that the referents of all modifiers be absolutely clear. For instance, in the complex phrase Limpopo ómbakíosuitáreán 'great-grey-green-greasy Limpopo', omba 'much', uita 'grey', kios 'green' and rean 'greasy', are compounded to conjointly modify the proper noun Limpopo.
The distinction between determinative and copulative compounds is made by stress. In determinative compounds, the modified term is stressed; in copulative compounds, all compounded terms are stressed equally. If the compound has more than two syllables, the stress falls on the syllable(s) farthest from the join: cf. AfoiptOr 'ten-(and)-two, twelve'; Afoiptor 'two tens, twenty'; Afoiptor-istI 'twenty-(and)-one'.
The order of the elements in compound words is determined only by euphony. For this reason, no more than two words may be joined in determinative compounds, so that ambiguity may not arise. In copulative compounds, where all terms have equal significance, any number of elements can be compounded: e.g. áfivnirótudí 'ear-nose-(and)-throat'.
When a single modifier applies to more than one word, it is compounded with p'tor 'two, both' (if two words are both modified), or d'nar (if more than two), or ensi (for two or more): dhe gume dha ánzhegat io to khneu níloptor "His hair [and] hat are (both) dark." They may be dispensed with if the subjects are compounded: dhe gúmeprásh io to khneu nilo "His hair-and-eyes are dark."
When final and initial vowels are juxtaposed in compounds, that of the unstressed term is elided: e.g. anzhe 'garment' + agat 'head' > ánzhegat 'hat'. Although consonants are not elided (except in rapid, colloquial speech), juxtaposition of final and initial consonants is avoided or minimized, and clusters are broken up as often as possible by being juxtaposed with vowels. When two identical letters fall together, they are merged into one.
Whenever a final consonant is juxtaposed with an initial vowel, it shifts over to the next syllable: e.g. bers isti > ber·sis·ti. If an initial consonant is part of a cluster, and is juxtaposed with a final vowel, it shifts over to the preceding syllable: e.g. gume prash > gu·mep·rash.