Word Order

The rule of Dha-Patu syntax is that modifiers follow the word modified; sometimes, for the purpose of clarity or emphasis, joined to it by hyphenation. Adjectives follow nouns; adverbs follow verbs. Articles and agentives, however, precede the words they modify, to set them apart from regular modifiers, and to indicate in advance the grammatical function of the words that follow them.

Following this rule, the word-order in simple sentences is subject-verb-direct object-indirect object. Roughly speaking, a sentence answers the complex question "Who gives what to whom?" in just that order.

It follows, then, that in many instances, relations between words that, in English, are indicated by prepositions (and in languages like Latin and Greek, by case-forms), are represented not by other words, but by the respective functions and relations of the words themselves. In particular, 'to', 'for', 'of', and 'by', which indicate the relations between a subject and its objects, have no direct equivalents in Dha-Patu, nor are they needed.

The accusative relation is indicated by placing the direct object after the verb: dha-kan ta urai dha-om "The dog bites the man." The accusative also subsumes the relation 'by', which is indicated by the use of a passive subject with the agent as direct object: dha siol tu telo dha shob'd "A thing is made by a person," ia tu patu dha shob'd "I am spoken to by a person."

The dative relation, 'to' or 'for' someone or something, is indicated by placing the indirect object after the direct object (note that this is the opposite of the usage in English): ua ta sape io-pi io-pengo "We give this-him (i.e., a prisoner) to (that) him (of the) law," ia ta oliebóng dha sape io "I send him a gift." The concatenation of objects can be extended indefinitely: ia ta sape dha ukpe io Petrus "I give a book to him for Peter."

A special construction, called the instrumental accusative, is used to answer the question "Who does what to whom, with what?" In this case, the instrumental object takes the place of the direct object: e.g., ia ta dring dha baston dha-kan "I hit the dog with a stick," literally "I hit a stick (to) the dog" (cf. ia ta baston dha-kan "I stick (it to) the dog, I poke the dog with a stick, " ia ta rughm dha baston dha-kan "I throw a stick to the dog").

The genitive relation "of" is indicated by placing the pertinent noun or pronoun directly after the subject -- i.e., treating it as a modifier: e.g. io Inglënd 'Englishman', dha-sape ia 'my gift'. To prevent confusion with the direct/indirect object relation, this construction must be used:

  • before the verb: dha-sape uo tu ébongkmet uo "Their gift is sent to them"
  • after the verb 'to be': Georgos Uashington to khneu dha-prezident ístimoet Amerika "George Washington is (was) the first president of America"
  • when the indirect object is the same as the subject: ia ta iras dha atni ia "I choose my name, I choose me a name"
  • when possession is marked by hyphenation, e.g. prezident-Amerika or atni-ia. Thus one may say either ia tu sape dha-ntok io 'I am given the command by him' or ia tu sape dha-ntok-io 'I am given his command'.

When a verb is in the middle voice, a noun immediately following it is understood to stand in either a dative or genitive relation to the subject, depending on context: e.g. ia to dhoka io "I weep (for) him" (cf. io to oliebóng dha gsod dha-thome "He goes off to war for the nation"), io to telr dha-siol "I think of it."

All other relations between nouns are indicated by modifiers. Dha-Patu relational sentences appear similar to English prepositional phrases, but the "prepositions" are actually adverbs, which follow and modify the verbs. The most commonly-used is the all-purpose locative ones 'in/at a place': dha av to liat ones dha paeg "A bird flies in a room." The allative is formed by the adverbs veki 'inside,' k'met 'toward', or both: e.g. dha av to liat vékikmét dha paeg "A bird flies into a room."

Conjunctive Phrases

Dha-Patu has no exact equivalents to the conjunctions 'or, but', but has several approximate equivalents: e.g. khíte(thrad), -(gen), -(rus) 'other(wise), alternatively'; átnirus 'in other words'; siólorus 'another thing'. All of these terms follow the term which, in English, would follow the conjunction: e.g ua to patu, ua to aogr khite 'we speak or we write'.

The simplest way to form conjunctive phrases is simply to set the terms side-by-side: e.g. dhe zmoi, dhi ktai 'facts [and] justice'. The comma, or vocal pause, is adequate, especially when it is clear from the context that the relation is not genitive: cf. dha febu dhe gume 'color [of] hairs '. Alternatively, ensi may be used, with subtle differences in emphasis made by its position. When placed after the first term, it leaves the second term(s) open-ended: dha febu ensi ... 'color and ... [length, texture, whatever]'. Placed after the second (and any subsequent) terms, it is restrictive. If placed after the first term also, it has the emphatic sense of 'too, also, both ... and ...'.

Another way of expressing conjunction is by modifying the verb:

“Is that a bug or a feature?” – (Re) to khnéurus bëg, fichr (lo)?

“It’s not a bug, but a feature.” – (Re) to khitekhneú bëg, fichr.

“It’s both a bug and a feature.” – (Re) to khnéunsi bëg, fichr.

If two (or more) verb-phrases are successive, the second (and subsequent ones) is presumed to follow the first sequentially, and/or as a consequence of the first, and must be set aside as a subordinate clause: ia to iral, to oliebóng "I get up, (then) go." If the two (or more) verbs occur at the same time, the second verb-phrase (and subsequent ones) must be compounded to form verbal modifiers: ua to shaln to-patu (uo-orus) "We walked and talked (to each other)."

Subordinate Clauses

Clauses are more carefully distinguished in Dha-Patu than in English. Words modifying clauses and entire sentences are set apart, either before or after, by commas. Ordinarily, such terms follow the standard pattern of modified-modifier. A term set aside at the end of the sentence or clause is one that modifies the sentence or clause as a whole. A sentence-modifying term at the beginning of the sentence or clause is one that links it to the previous sentence or clause: and, but, then, therefore, etc.

In logical or argumentative discourse, such expressions as 'on the one hand ... on the other hand', proceed as if the content of the proposition is a modification of the proposition: e.g. Dha khite, ...; dha khite, .... Once the two contrary propositions are stated, they are henceforth referred to as dha khítekabu and dha khíterus respectively. These phrases are also used, as modifiers, to mean 'either ... or ...': ... khítekabu ... khíterus.

Sentences sometimes conclude with certain interjections that essentially act as tone-carriers, indicating the emotive sense of the sentence, and as a kind of verbal punctuation: io to khneu dísoene, ê "He's crazy!"; dha-siol to khneu, â "It is?"; re to khneu, ô "Well, that's that." These interjections can also be used to form phrases such as dha shlif ê "What a monster!" or khins ê "How beautiful!"

Negative and Interrogative Sentences

Negative sentences are formed by placing mrag 'no(t)' immediately after the particular part of the sentence that is denied: ia mrag ta srot "I don't do [it (but someone else does)]", ia ta prash mrag "I don't see (but, e.g., hear) it"; ia ta srot iras mrag "I don't do it willingly."

Interrogative sentences, likewise, are formed by combining the interrogative particle lo directly with the particular part of the sentence to be questioned: dha shob'd-lo to khneu ones-ko? "Who is that/there?"; ie to atni-lo? "What is your name?"; ie to khneu dha shob'd-lo? "Who are you?"

Alternatively, negative and interrogative sentences can also be formed from statements by adding mrag or the interrogative particle at the beginning or end of the statement, which denies or questions it as a whole: mrag [ie] to irue "not to worry", ia ta srot, mrag "I do not do [it (at all)]"; lo, ie ta srot? "so, you do (that)?"; dha-siol to khneu, lo? "Is it (that)?"

Interrogative sentences can also be formed from statements by using khneu or mrag in place of lo. Such questions expect the answers "yes" or "no" respectively; they request confirmation: dha-siol ta srot, khneu? "It does (that), doesn't it?"; dha-siol to khneu, mrag? "It isn't (that), is it?"


Dha-Patu maintains a systematic distinction between comparisons of number and degree. While English distinguishes between 'much' and 'many', Dha-Patu continues this distinction through two complete series of comparative terms:

  • lzia 'most (in number)'
  • ezek 'many'
  • khmig 'average, middling'
  • d'nar 'few'
  • ngaush 'least (in number)'
  • ghaen 'most (in degree)'
  • omba 'much/very'
  • tain 'medium'
  • zh'ghao 'little'
  • akli 'least (in degree)'

Hence the contrast between ue deaz khins ezek 'many beautiful women', ue deaz khins omba 'very beautiful women'. The two comparisons can be made simultaneously: ue deaz khins gháenlziá 'most beautiful women' (i.e. the best-looking, and the most of them). The comparative terms are also used adverbially: e.g. ia ta dring ezek 'I hit (it) many (times)', ia ta dring ghaen 'I hit (it) to the utmost' or 'I really whack the hell out of it'.

Two objects are compared to each other with the terms buek or tura, meaning 'like, comparable to' or 'unlike, in contrast to', respectively. Thus, two is ézektura (more than) one, whereas one food may be tu-sáoktrath tura (better-tasting than) another, or one woman tu-práshtrath buek (as good-looking as) another. The degree of comparison is made with the normal quality-terms, e.g. buékomba 'much like' or túraghaen 'most unlike'.

Comparative sentences are formed with verbs in the middle voice, with the object of comparison following the verb and the terms of comparison: dhi kafe to saok tráthtura dhi tê "Coffee tastes better than tea" (cf. dha kafe tu-sáoktrath tura 'the better-tasting coffee', i.e. of two or more being compared); dhe fel to khneu turakhíns dhe kan "Cats are more beautiful than dogs." The object may be taken to stand in either a dative or genitive relation to the subject.