The Dai Language: An Embarrassment

The Dai Language: An Embarrassment

Author: David J. Peterson

MS Date: 02-20-2017

FL Date: 03-01-2017

FL Number: FL-000042-00

Citation: Peterson, David J. 2017. «The Dai Language: An

Embarrassment.» FL-000042-00, Fiat
Lingua, . Web. 01
March 2017.

Copyright: © 2017 David J. Peterson. This work is

licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-
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The Dai Language:
An Embarrassment

David J. Peterson

February 20, 2017


Some time in late 2000 I came up with what I was sure was a brilliant idea. I had
recently discovered language creation, and had was a few months into my very first
language, Megdevi. Upon telling my relatives about my new pastime, they wondered if
it could be monetized. Liking the idea of money, I began to scheme. Since I was the first
person ever to create a language for art, as opposed to international communication (or
so I though at the time), what if I offered to create languages for others—for money? I
was certain I’d have a corner on the market; the only question was how I’d advertise my

At that time, to access the internet, I opened up the America Online (AOL)
application, logged in, waited for it to connect, and then was able to access the internet
via the AOL interface. I (and many others, at the time) rather thought of the world wide
web as one feature of AOL—i.e. as an AOL member, you could use their search engine to
find websites on the world wide web. Additionally, as a member you could create your
own website, using AOL’s webpage designer. This would be the perfect way to advertise
my new business! Naturally I assumed such a thing would only be available to other
AOL users, which meant that if I wanted other AOL users to visit my website, I had to
let them know about it.

Another byproduct of using a portal to the internet like AOL is that they could
offer extra functionality exclusively to their users. For example, if one AOL user sent an
email to another AOL user, the first user could check and see if the second had read it,
and, if they had, when they’d read it. Another bit of functionality AOL offered was the
ability to edit and share one’s personal profile with other users. Many users did this at
the time, and any given user was able to search AOL user profiles either by user names
or by keywords. This I did, searching for users whose profiles featured words such as
«fantasy», «scifi», «roleplaying», «rpg», «dragon», etc. Sifting through profiles thus, I
manually compiled a list of about 40 AOL users that I thought might be interested in
having me create a language for them. With that done, I composed an email advertising
my services. I called my «company» Languation.

After sending off my email to these random AOL users (something which I
would learn later is more commonly referred to as «spam»), I waited breathlessly,
logging back onto AOL every hour to see if the users I’d emailed had read my message.
Several had; many hadn’t. None responded. I continued to check back every day. More
and more recipients had read my message, but still no responses. Until one day when,
as luck would have it, someone finally did respond. It was a high school student from
Oklahoma who wanted a language for their D&D group. They had created a culture
and people whom they’d called the Dai, and had designed their look, their armor, their
weapons, etc., but to cement their aesthetic, they thought it would be perfect for them to
have a language.

I had a quick phone call with my brand new client and went over some of the
details of what kind of features the language could have, and then I set to work. I don’t
know how long I spent on the Dai language, but it probably wasn’t long enough. Either
way, once I had determined that I had «finished», I printed everything out, put it all in a
manila envelope, and mailed it off. A few weeks later, I received a check for my work:
$45. This, then, was my first ever professional language creation project. The result of this work is attached here for your consideration—not as an exemplar, but more as a curiosity. The work is terrible—something I’d figure out on my own not long later, after being a member of the Conlang-Listserv for a while. After coming to the crushing realization that I was not only not the first person to create a language for fun but was also quite bad at it, I quietly allowed my website to lapse and disappear into the void. I never heard from the person whom I made the Dai language for again, but I hope they felt like what I gave them was worth $45. If not, I’ll be happy
to refund their money.

The Dai language below is presented nearly unedited. I’ve added a few return
carriages here and there and fixed the margins in a few places, but the content is totally
unedited (not even the embarrassing typos, like the misspelling of «adjectives» in the
section on adjectives). Enjoy perusing. It is a train wreck.

a p b m e θ ð i t d s z ʃ
ʒ n r o k g ŋ u h (ʔ)

Introduction to Dai Phonology (Sound System)

Above are the sounds of Dai. I’ve put them in a particular order, though this
doesn’t have to be the official, alphabetical order for Dai—that’s up to you when you
create the alphabet and writing system. These, however, are the sounds, and they’re
written in the International Phonetic Alphabet. Some may seem familiar, some may not,
and some make different sounds than in English. I’ll explain what the exact sounds of
them are now:

[a] makes the «a» sound in «father»
[p] makes the «p» sound in «speak»
[b] makes the «b» sound in «boy»
[m] makes the «m» sound in «mother»
[e] makes either the «ay» sound in «hay», or the «e» sound in «met»—they’re so
close in articulation, that it doesn’t matter much which sound you make,
though the «ay» sound is more pure.

[θ] makes the «th» sound in «thin»
[ð] makes the «th» sound in «this»
[i] makes the «ee» sound in «see»
[t] makes the «t» sound in «steak»
[d] makes the «d» sound in «dare»
[s] makes the «s» sound in «sound»
[z] makes the «z» sound in «zoo»
[ʃ] makes the «sh» sound in «ship»
[ʒ] makes the «z» sound in «azure», or the «s» sound in «treasure»
[n] makes the «n» sound in «never»
[r] makes the «rr» sound in the Spanish word «burro»
[o] makes the «o» sound in «note»


[k] makes the «k» sound in «skin»
[g] makes the «g» sound in «give»
[ŋ] makes the «ng» sound in «hang»
[u] makes the «oo» sound in «boot»
[h] makes the «h» sound in «have»
[ʔ] makes the sound at the beginning of and in the middle of the phrase «uh-oh»

Okay, that’s how to pronounce the alphabet. Here are a few of the additional

sounds that will appear in Dai but won’t be letters by themselves:

[tʃ] makes the «ch» sounds in «church»
[dʒ] makes the «j» sound in «jam»
[ts] makes the «ts» sound in «cuts»
[dz] makes the «ds» sound in «kids»

The rest you should be able to figure out.
Now, I’ve put the glottal stop ʔ in parentheses above, because I don’t know how
you want to deal with it in the orthography. You might want it just to be an apostrophe
or a small diacritic, and so it wouldn’t be considered a full, real letter of the alphabet,
even though it is a sound. As I have it, the glottal stop is inserted automatically between
similar vowels (so, «ee» is pronounced [eʔe], and «iii» is pronounced [iʔiʔi], etc.), and is
used else-where as needed. The sound listed above are the way those letters are always
pronounced, without variation, as with the word «t» in the English words «hat», «top»,
«stop», «Latin» and «nation» (believe it or not, «t» has five different sounds in those five
different words). The only other thing to note for the phonology is that [i] doubles as the
letter «y» in English when it’s used in front of a vowel. So, if there were a Dai word «ian»,
it would be pronounced the same way as the English word «yawn». That’s the run-down
of morphology. Now, onto Morphology.

Dai Morphology

Morphology deals with some of the more important aspects of language. The
Morpheme is the smallest bit of meaning in language. An example from English is the
plural morpheme, or the bit of the word that indicates the plural. In English, the
underlying plural morpheme is [z], with the variants [s] and [ǝz] (examples with these
plurals: kids [kɪdz], cats [kæts], and bushes [bʊʃǝz]). As you can see, the morphs (the
examples) don’t look the same. However, they all have the same function, and that is
what a morpheme is. So, onto Dai morphology.


Noun Classes

The Dai language features five different noun classes, which each have their own


Class I) Humans who are Dai; end in [i]
Class II) Humans who are not Dai; end in [u]
Class III) Animals; end in [en]
Class IV) Plants and natural substances; end in [oθ]
Class V) Tools, instruments and things created by humans; end in [az]
Class VI) Everything else not listed; end in anything

What happens with these is that you can create different words by changing the
class of the verb. So, the word for fish is ʃramen. You’ll notice it ends in [en], as animal
nouns do. However, if you want a human who fishes, for instance, you drop the [en]
ending and add the [i] ending to get ʃrami, «a fish person», or «a person of fish», or, in
this case, «a person who fishes/captures fish». By adding the [az] you’d get ʃramaz, and
maybe a word like «fishing pole», or «fishing spear» (depending on how the Dai fish).
Also, if you strip off all the endings, you’re left with ʃram, which falls into Class VI,
which would mean «fishing», the action. Also, you can use this bare root ʃram as a verb
to mean «to fish». It all depends on how the words are used in the sentences; the
possibilities are limitless.

Taking another example, the word for mother is madi (as a side note, they’ve
found that about 98% of the world’s languages have words for «mother» that have an
[m] in them, as well as a [p] in the word for father. So, when creating a language, it’s a
pretty good idea to have an [m] and [p] in mother and father if one wants the language
to be authentic). So, you might strip off the ending and use the word mad as a verb to
mean «to mother, to act like a mother, to take care of, to nurture, to give suck» or even
«to give birth». In fact, the word can have all of those meanings, which would be
determined by context; it’s wide open.

There’s some more information on noun classes in the section at the end entitled

«Creating New Words»


Adjectives can end in anything, if they’re natural adjectives. What I mean by
«natural adjectives» (and, indeed, «natural» anything) is the first word created in a
family of words. For instance, the words «lover», «loving», «lovely» and «beloved» all
come from the family having to do with «love», but none of these four is the natural
word; the natural word is «love», which is an abstract noun. So, the natural word for
love is the abstract noun; the rest are derived from that. Natural adjectives are words
whose basic, first forms are adjectives. For example, «happy» is a natural adjective, from


which «happiness» is derived. So, «happy» is an adjective which can end in anything,
and the Dai word for happy is heis. heisi, then, is a happy person, and heis by itself
(used as a noun) is happiness.

Another way to form adjectives is to add the prefix θi- to any noun. So, taking
our word for «mother», madi, θimadi would mean «motherly», or «like a mother».
Basically, adding θi- to any noun means «like that noun».

In addition to this, adjectives have six forms. I’ll explain them now:

Regular Form) kasuθ. The regular is merely the regular adjective, in this case,


Comparative Form) kasuθos. The comparative is equivalent to the English «-er»,

in «longer».

Superlative Form) kasuθin. The superlative is equivalent to the English «-est», in


Pejorative Form) ʒekasuθos. There’s no one-word equivalent in English, but it’s
the opposite of the Comparative (it’s merely the comparative with the
«opposite» prefix, ʒe-). In English it would mean «less long».

Sublative Form) ʒekasuθin. Like the pejorative, only ʒe- is added to the

Superlative form. It’s English equivalent is «least long».

Equative Form) kasuθeks. A somewhat foreign concept to English, this form
indicates that something is «as x as». So, for long, this would mean «as long
as», and one would follow it with whatever one was comparing it to. So,
for «a spear as long as a snake», you’d say «pagaz kasuθeks esen», where
esen is «snake».

Lastly, when using these forms of the adjectives, you’ll need the word «than»,
which in Dai is «koks». It’s used as can be expected: «kasuθos koks esen», longer than a

That’s it for adjectives. I’ll explain how they’re used in sentences in the «cases»



Adding -oi to any word turns it into an adverb. So, heisoi means «happily», for
example. Adding it to a adjective is similar to adding θi- to a noun. For example, if you
wanted to explain that you swim like fish, you’d say you swim ʃramoi. Again, adverb
use will be explained in the section on «cases».



Prepositions preceed the noun phrases they modify, as in most languages. They
do things unlike most languages, thouh, and this will be explained now, in the section
on «cases»

a.) The Cases: What «cases» are, more commonly referred to as «noun cases», are the
ways in which a noun is used in a sentence. Here are the endings for the Dai case
system, followed by an explanation of what each case is:

Nominative) no ending. The nominative case is the case that each
noun is listed in. It’s the case that the subject of the
sentence is in. Examples: akʔai (the human), ʃenoθ (the

Accusative) -n, -in. The accusative case is the case that the verb’s
direct object is in. So, in the sentence «I chased the cat»,
«the cat» is in the accusative case. Examples: akʔain,

Dative) -ʃ, -iʃ. The dative case is the case that the verb’s indirect
object is in. So, in the sentence «I gave the man the
letter», «the man» is in the dative case. In addition to this
function, the dative case is the case used for nouns that
are preceeded by prepositions. So, in the sentence «I
walk to the store», «the store» is in the dative, because
it’s preceeded by the preposition «to». Examples: akʔaiʃ,

Genitive) -m, -im. The Genitive case, sometimes called the
associative case, is the case that ties two nouns together.
So, in the phrase «the tree of the boy», «of the boy» is in
the Genitive case; same thing with «the boy’s tree».
Examples: akʔaim, ʃenoθim

Locative) -r, -ir. The locative case is used with prepositions of place,
such as «inside» and «on top of». Examples: akʔair,

Vocative) -o. The vocative case is the case a noun is in when one
addressed the noun directly. It’s not often used with
words such as people’s names. For instance, if one had
a Dai friend named «siras», one might address him as
«siraso». Examples: akʔaio, ʃenoθo


The way these cases are used is that every part of the phrase takes the
appropriate case ending. So, «the long spear» in the nominative is «pagaz kasuθ», since
adjectives follow the nouns they modify (when I get to syntax, I’ll explain why this isn’t
necessary). If you, for example, were going to take the long spear, then it’d be in the
accusative, so the phrase would be «pagazin kasuθin». If you were going to give
something to that same long spear, it would become «pagaziʃ kasuθiʃ». If you were
going to sit on that spear, it would become «kan pagazir kasuθir», where «kan» is the
word for «on». If this spear had a mother, than it would become «madi pagazim
kasuθim», where «madi» is «the mother» in the nominative, and «pagazim kasuθim» is
«of the long spear». And, finally, if you decided to up and have a conversation with this
long spear, you might address him as «pagazo kasuθo».

b.) Plurals: I have decided to include plurals for each case, but I don’t know if you’ll
want to use them. If, after all, the Dai are semi to fully telepathic, then they might be
able to figure out whether the noun is plural or singular on their own. So, you might not
need these. However, if they’ll make life easier on you, who is (I assume) not telepathic,
then here they are:

Nominative) -e, -ie or -i. If the word ends in a consonant, or ends in the vowels [i] or [u],
then simply add [e] for the nominative plural. If the word ends in the
vowel [e], then add [ie] for the plural. If the word ends in [a] or [o], then
add [i] for the plural. Examples: akʔaie (humans), ʃenoθe (trees), akʔaue
(non-Dai humans), hieie (yellow in the plural)

Accusative) -ne, -ine. If the word ends in [n], then use [ine]. Examples: akʔaine, ʃenoθne
Dative) -ʃe, -iʃe. If the word ends in [s], [z], [ʃ] or [ʒ], use [iʃe]. Examples: akʔaiʃe, heisiʃe
Genitive) -me, -ime. If the word ends in [m], use [ime]. Examples: akʔaime, ʃenoθme
Locative) -re, -ire. If the word ends in [r], use [ire]. Examples: akʔaire, ʃenoθre
Vocative) -oi. Examples: akʔaioi, ʃenoθoi

Pronoun Declension:

Like nouns, every pronoun is declined. I’m going to show you how you’d decline

the pronoun [si], or «you» as an example. All the rest decline in the same way:
















The only irregularity is that the Vocative of «o» (I) is just plain old «o», rather than

oʔo. Of course, you’d never use the vocative of «o» unless you were talking to yourself.

There’s just one point about this chart I’d like to make. The Genitive of any
pronoun is generally not used. Instead, you use the adjective marker «θi-» to make a
word meaning «your» rather than «of you». So, «θisi» is «your», and it declines as an

Some Examples with Prepositions:

Some of the above can be a bit confusing, so it’s always best to see some

a.) Prepositions often have two meanings: one is stative (meaning, no movement is
involved); and the other is motive (movement is involved). So, using a preposition
we’ve already seen, kan (which means «on»), here’s how one expresses the difference in
meaning between «on» and «onto»:

i.) «I sleep on a rock»: o kan goθir zi. («rock» is in the locative case)
ii.) «I walk onto a rock»: o kan goθin upaʃ. («rock» is in the accusative)
The reason for the two different cases is because, in (i), the rock is merely used as
a place to sleep. In (ii), however, something is happening to the rock; it’s state is
changing. Most importantly, there is movement involved. To show just how the chaning
of a case can change the meaning of the sentence:

iii.) «I sit on a rock»: o kan goθin kend. («rock» is in the accusative, again)
iv.) «I am sitting on a rock»: o kan goθir kend. («rock» is in the locative)
The difference here is that, in sentence one, you’re describing the actual motion of
crouching down and planting oneself on a rock. In the second, you’re just describing
what’s happening: the speaker is already sitting, and he happens to be doing it upon a
rock. This disambiguates lots of phrases that are ambiguous in English. For example,
what would you think of if I said, «I ran on the ice»? Would I be running from dry
ground onto ice, or would I already be on the ice when I decided to start running?
Using the locative and accusative helps to fix this problem.
b.) Prepositions that don’t have to do with relationship to physical objects take the
dative. These prepositions are prepositions like «for» (kasi), «about» (unu), «because
of» (tum) and «by means of» (gaŋ). Here are some examples with those particular

i.) «This dog is for you»: mai gen kasi siʃ i. («si», meaning «you», is in the Dative)


ii.) «He’s teaching about fire»: bi unu ʒedzoθiʃ tʃo. («ʒedzoθ», «fire», is in the


iii.) «I lead because of you»: o tum siʃ ʒod. (same as (i))
iv.) «I eat with/by means of a knife»: o gaŋ ʒozaziʃ kandʒ. («ʒozaz», «knife»,


Dai Syntax

Since Dai is a fully inʃectional language, word order is largely unimportant.
What this means is that the sentence «The dog sees the wolf» can be written in each of
the following ways:

a.) gen aʃaθ kupenin (Subject «the dog», Verb «sees», Object «the wolf»)
b.) gen kupenin aʃaθ (Subject «the dog», Object «the wolf», Verb «sees»)
c.) aʃaθ gen kupenin (Verb «sees», Subject «the dog», Object «the wolf»)
d.) aʃaθ kupenin gen (Verb «sees», Object «the wolf», Subject «the dog»)
e.) kupenin gen aʃaθ (Object «the wolf», Subject «the dog», Verb «sees»)
f.) kupenin aʃaθ gen (Object «the wolf», Verb «sees», Subject «the dog»)

You’ll notice that in (f), the rough English gloss would be «the wolf sees the dog», which,
in English, renders the exact opposite meaning. However, since Dai marks cases, any
one of those six possible word orders is acceptable. I have been using the SOV word
order (in (b)), because that’s the word order I prefer. You, however, may prefer one of
the other six, which is perfectly fine; Dai allows you to do that. What might be
interesting for you to do is to have a formal word order (probably something odd, like
OVS or VOS) that, say, could be used in formal writing or recitation or chanting,
whereas when the people speak, they use a more common word order (the first two,
SVO and SOV are the most common in the world’s languages—(f) is probably the least
common). With Dai, you can do whatever you want, as long as you maintain the
integrity of the phrases. By this I mean that the adjectives that modify a noun can’t be in
one part of the sentence with its noun in the other—it just wouldn’t make sense. For that
matter, adjectives should «touch» the noun they modify, either being before or after the


Adverbs that modify the main verb of the clause can come anywhere in the
sentence. For instance, kapoi is an adverb meaning «yesterday». Here are some
examples with it:

i.) o kandʒ kampoi (I ate yesterday)
ii.) o kampoi kandʒ (I yesterday ate)


iii.) kampoi o kandʒ (yesterday I ate)

It doesn’t matter where it goes; it’s up to your stylistic preferences.

Adverbs that are a part of an adjective phrase, though, must come before the
adjectives they modify. What do I mean by that? You can’t say, «I really ate a bad steak»
when you mean «I ate a really bad steak»—the sentences have two different meanings.
The intended meaning involves the adverb being placed before the adjective it modifies.
Here’s a Dai example:

iv.) «I ate truly bad food yesterday»: kampoi o danidoi kandʒoθin ʃogzin kandʒ.
(«danid» means «true», adding -oi makes it «truly», and it comes before «bad food»,
«kandʒ» being the word for «eat», which, after adding the ending for natural substance
nouns -oθ, becomes «food», and «ʃogz» being the word for «bad»)


Before launching into a discussion about relative clauses, I’ll mention verbs. The
verbs in Dai, as you specified, are as simple as they can get: They consist of one word
which isn’t conjugated for person, tense or aspect. You’ve already seen the verb
«kandʒ» (to eat), «aʃaθ» (to see), «ʒod» (to lead), «tʃo» (to teach), «upaʃ» (to walk) and
«i» (to be). The verb should be easy to pick out, since it will be the only thing in the
sentence with no particular ending and no case marker.

You can turn the verb into a verbal adjective by adding the adjective prefix θi-.
So, the verb kandʒ, «to eat», becomes θikandʒ, «eating». Now, this is only an adjective,
used, for example, in the phrase «the eating man», «θikandʒ ʒi» («ʒi» is «man»). These
adjectives will never be the main verb of a sentence; they merely modify a noun. The
other form of a verbal adjective is when the passive particle (which is «se») is prefixed to
the verb itself. So, «θisekandʒ» means «eaten», and «θisekandʒ ʒi» means «the eaten man».
So, you might say «θisekandʒ ʒi θiadʒ», meaning «the eaten man dies/is dead».

Since verbs can’t be conjugated for tense, you must always use some sort of a
time indicator. So, when a Dai is describing when he ate, he would say «this morning»,
or «yesterday», or «last week». Without any time indicator, it will be assumed that the
verb is in the present tense.

To form the passive, you use the passive particle «se». Now, this can be used in

one of five ways:

i.) ʒi se kandʒ (the man is eaten)
ii.) ʒi sekandʒ (same thing, but the particle becomes a prefix)
iii.) ʒi kandʒ se (the man is eaten, the particle is behind)
iv.) ʒi kandʒse (same as above, but the particle becomes a suffix)
v.) ʒi se…kandʒ (you can string any number of adverbs in between «se» and



If you use the particle as a prefix or a suffix, it starts to look something like a
conjugation, so if you really want there to be no conjugation, you should leave «se» as a
separate word, but it’s totally up to you.

The imperative, or command form is simply the form of the verb without a

pronoun. So, «kandʒ!» is «eat!»; «tʃo!» is «teach!», et cetera.

Lastly, there’s a thing called aspect which has a lot to do with verbs. These
indicate how one does an action, or what one’s thoughts are about that action. So, these
are things like «to be able to/can» (e), «may/might» (ʃo), «would (but won’t)» (dub),
«would, if…» (haks), «want/desire» (kam), etc. There are tons, and there will be a list of
some common ones in the all-purpose reference section. Here are some examples with
the ones listed, though:

vi.) «I can walk» o e upaʃ. (These aspect verbs come before the main verb)
vii.) «You may go» si ʃo ris.
viii.) «I would go, but I don’t want to go» o dub ris, ros o ðu kam ris. (word-for-

word translation: I would go, but I no (don’t) want to go)

ix.) «I would go if you went» o haks ris kuθ si ris. («kuθ» is «if»)

Relative Clause Formation:

Relative clauses are sentences that, in English, use words like «that», «which»,
«who» and «where», or maybe «in which», «by which», etc. An example of a simple
sentence with a relative clause is «The man who sat on a rock yesterday is happy»:

a.) ʒi koi kan goθir kampoi kend i heis. (word-for-word: the man the one on a

rock yesterday sat is happy)

In Dai, for all relative clauses there are a particular bunch of words one uses which
translate to «the» whatever. So, in (a), it translates to «the one», or «the person». There’s a
whole list of these which are in the table of correlatives in the all-purpose reference
section, and they’ll be explained there. What needs to be addressed is the order of these
relative clauses. While word order is free in ordinary clauses, word order is not free in
relative clauses. The relative clause must begin with a relative clause word (they all
begin with [k]) and must end with the main verb, thus indicating the clause has come to
an end. Also, the relative clause word must have the case marking that it takes within
the relative clause. In (a), it acted as the subject of the relative clause, and thus was in
the nominative, so it took no ending. In the following example, though:

b.) ʒi koin kampoi o aʃaθ i heis. (the man I saw yesterday is happy)

The relative particle is the direct object of the relative clause, and so it’s in the
accusative. Next:

c.) ʒi koiʃ kampoi o ʒisazin beθ i heis. (the man to whom I gave a sword is happy)

In this sentence, the relative particle is the indirect object, so it’s in the dative. Next:
d.) ʒi koim boti tʃoi i i heis. (the man whose child is a teacher is happy)


This sentence is a bit tough. The relative particle is in the Genitive case and followed by
it’s possessed noun, boti (child). Since the relative particle must be the first word of the
close, the possessed must follow the possessor. So, whereas it would probably
ordinarily be boti koim (the child of the one), it is koim boti (the one’s child). Keeping
with the Genitive, but a bit more difficult:

e.) ʒi koim botin o aʃaθ i heis. (the man whose child I see is happy)

Here, the possessed, boti, is in the accusative, so it’s botin, but it still is subordinate to
«koim». One more example:

f.) goθ koθir kan kampoi o kend i begʒid. (The rock, on which I sat yesterday is

In this sentence, the relative particle is in the locative, and the preposition it is
subordinate to (kan) becomes a postposition and follows it.

Subordinate Clauses

These are the clauses that come with performative verbs, or verbs which perform
the action they entail merely by speaking them. «Think» is a performative verb in the
sentence «I think that it’s true.» Here, the speaker tells what he thinks by saying «I
think». In Dai, these types of sentences are relatively simple. The initial clause must
always end with the verb, but after that the rest can go on in any order; there is no word
that’s the equivalent of «that» in the above sentence. Some illustrations:

a.) o totʃ ne danid i (I think it’s true)
b.) o totʃ danid ne i (same)
c.) o totʃ ne i danid

d.) o totʃ i ne danid
e.) o totʃ i danid ne
f.) o totʃ danid i ne

Dai Pragmatics

There are just a few simple notes on pragmatics I have. Pragmatics largely deal
with how syntax allows one to alter ordinary word order to change the meaning of a
sentence (e.g.: «I have a cat» versus «It’s a cat I have». The second sentence would lead
one to believe that someone had suggested that the speaker had a different sort of pet,
maybe a dog). Since, however, Dai’s word order is totally free, there’s not much in the
way of pragmatics. There are a few things, though.


Remember how I said word order depends on stylistic preference? Well, if one
wants to emphasize a certain part of the sentence, merely have it come first. With free
word order, this can be done very easily.



There are two types of questions: yes/no questions, and WH-questions (so-called
because most of these questions begin with a word that starts with «wh» in English:
what, where, when, why…). Both involve the word that begins the sentence. WH-
questions begin with WH words (listed in the reference section), and yes/no questions
begin with the particle dʒei. It can be defined as the word «do» in the sentence «Do you
want to eat?» It begins every sentence where the answer is either «yes», «no», «maybe», «I
don’t know», etc. Questions can also be formed by simply saying a direct sentence with
a rising intonation.


Emphasis is used to assert the truth or falsehood of a claim. In Dai, the words for
«yes» and «no» («a» and «ðu», respectively) are used. So, while «o genin u» means «I have
a dog», «o a u genin» means «I do have a dog». This particle can be repeated for further
emphasis. So, «o a genin a u» means «I do have a (real) dog», and «a o a genin a u» means
«I do have a dog!» The same can work in the opposite way. «o genin ðu u» simply means «I
don’t have a dog», but you can emphasize it further with «o ðu genin ðu u», and further
than that with «ðu o ðu genin ðu u!»

Dai Semantics

I spoke of noun classes above, but there are a few more remarks I’d like to make,

mainly in reference to how you will create words of your own.

Creating New Words

The one thing that gives a language its ʃavor is the way it deals with meaning.

This will be your most important job in making Dai a successful, original language.

a.) When going from one language to another, you notice that where some
language uses one word, others use two or three, or don’t even have an equivalent. Take
the word «rainbow». In English, it comes from «bow» (it’s shape), and «rain» (the time
after which it comes). In French, it’s «arc de ciel», or «arch of the sky». Another examples
is the word «walrus», which in Hawaiian is «elepani o kai», or «elephant of the
sea» (though I marvel at how they saw elephants before walruses). So, you might try
giving unique names to what would seem to be common things in English. Maybe in
Dai society they hang traitors from oak trees, and so rather than giving the tree some
name meaning «oak», you could call it «the hanging tree». I’m just making these
examples up out of thin air, but these are things you should consider.

b.) Phrases make the color of the language. So, maybe the phrase «Don’t look at
the clouds when it rains» could be the equivalent to «don’t look a gift horse in the
mouth». An interesting French example is the term «esprit d’escalier» (the feeling of the


staircase). It refers to the feeling you get when you leave a room and only then think of
the perfect thing to say. They call it the staircase feeling because it’s the feeling you get
after you’ve gone down the stairs. You only need two and a half words to say that in
French, but you need a whole sentence to describe it in English. So this is another
avenue of exploration for you.

c.) Finally, you’ve got something very unique with these noun classes. Even if
many languages had them thousands of years ago, there are very few that still have
them, and even fewer that will keep them as the years go by. The words I’ve given you
all fall directly into certain classes without exception. You, however, might want to mix
things up a bit. The classic example of this is the Aboriginal language Dyirbal. In
Dyirbal, there are four categories which are pretty standard: Male, Female, Plants and
Everything else. Naturally, the word for «woman» falls into the Female class. But then,
so do «fire» and «dangerous things». So what do «women», «fire» and «dangerous things»
have in common? Radial, metaphorical extension, of course: The Dyirbal have an
ancient myth about the sun and the moon, and the moon is a man, and the sun is a
woman. So, the sun goes into the Female class. And, where does fire come from? The
sun. So, fire goes into the Female class. And, while fire can be helpful, it is, no doubt, a
dangerous thing, and so, dangerous things go into the Female class. Just by looking at
the words, though, you’d have no idea why they belong to the Female class. You can do
this type of thing with Dai, somewhere down the road.

d.) Oh, and just some general advice: When creating new words, start with the

natural term (be it noun, adjective, verb, etc.), then go from there.

Et Cetera

I created a base-ten number system (meaning, based on the numbers 0-9) for Dai.
It’s the most common in the world’s language, but not the only type. I didn’t know if
you wanted base-ten, but I can’t do anything like base-8 or base-6, so this is it. If you
want to change it (if you know how; I’m mathematically inept), you can.

Oh, and I didn’t mention it, but Dai has no definite or indefinite articles, like «the»

or «a/an». This is because they’re not needed.

Some more etc.:
The accusative, Genitive and locative endings can all be shortened, if you’d like.
By this, I mean they can all be syllabified. Take the word ʃenoθ (tree). The accusative
should be ʃenoθin, the Genitive ʃenoθim and the locative ʃenoθir. However, each of the
letters [n], [m] and [r] can be pronounced as syllables themselves: [n] like the /n/ in
Latin (notice how it hums); [m] like the /mmm/ in Hmmm… (it also hums); [r] like
the /r/ in «birth», except trilled like Spanish (notice how there really doesn’t have to be
a vowel sound). So, the forms could be ʃenoθn, ʃenoθm and ʃenoθr if you can pronounce


them. I find it easier and more practical, but you might not. The only place where an [i]
would have to be put in between is when the last letter is the same as the letter to
follow, so you wouldn’t get [nn], [mm] or [rr].

Also, when you start creating your own words, I recommend that you do it on
the computer—this isn’t something for pen and pencil. When you do, if you want to use
the IPA symbols I use in this document, then you can go to the following website:

At this website you can download to IPA font files for Windows. The first (the one I’m
using, the Kansas University Linguistics Departpment IPA font) allows you to use all
the capital letters and punctuation of English, though the IPA symbols are scattered
about. The SIL font has IPA symbols in recognizeable places, but you can’t use capital
letters or English punctuation. I would recommend the first font, and simply use a
Symbol finder program to find the symbols you want.

I’ve included a number of animals in the word list, but you may decide that such
animals either don’t exist in the world that the Dai exist in, or at least are not in their
area of the world, and so they wouldn’t have a word for it. If this happens, then just
don’t use the word.

Finally, I gave you words for the eleven basic color terms (black, white, red,
yellow, blue, green, brown, orange, purple, gray, pink), but a language like yours might
not use them all. For instance, there are many Native-American languages in which
there is no word, say, for the color «orange», or even for the colors «blue» and «green».
Instead, there are words that mean «any color on the scale from blue to green», or «any
color on the scale from yellow to red». Some languages actually have only two color
words: (1) warm colors (white, yellow, orange, red, pink), and (2) cool colors (black,
gray, blue, green, purple, brown). You may want to decide if you want such terms for
your language, and you may not have words for terms like «pink» or «brown».


Basic, All-Purpose Reference Section

INTERROGATIVE PARTICLE: dʒei (dʒei o ʃo ris? May I go?)


I.) Human, Dai: -i, akʔai (Dai human being)
II.) Human, Non-Dai: -u, akʔau (human being who isn’t Dai)
III.) Animal: -en, gen (dog)
IV.) Plant, mineral, natural substance/thing: -oθ, ʃenoθ (tree), goθ (rock), ʃeoθ (rain), kuθ
V.) Instrument, manmade thing: -az, pagaz (spear)
VI.) Everything Else: any ending, danid (truth)


Nominative: ———-
Accusative: -n, -in
Dative: -ʃ, -iʃ
Genitive: -m, -im
Locative: -r, -ir
Vocative: -o

akʔai (human), ʃenoθ (tree)

-e, -ie, -i

akʔaie, ʃai,

akʔain, ʃenoθin

-ne, -ine


akʔaiʃ, ʃenoθiʃ

-ʃe, -iʃe


akʔaim, ʃenoθim

-me, -ime


akʔair, ʃenoθir

-re, -ire


akʔaio, ʃenoθo



Adjective Prefix: θi- (turns any noun/verb into an adjective)

Comparative: -os, kasuθos (longer)
Superlative: -in, kasuθin (longest)
Pejorative: ʒe- -os, ʒekasuθos (less long)
Sublative: ʒe- -in, ʒekasuθin (least long)
Equative: -eks, kasuθeks (as long as)
¨»THAN»: koks


ADVERBIAL SUFFIX: -oi, as heisoi (happily)

Passive Particle: se, as se kandʒ (to be eaten)

Partial list of aspect and modal verbs:
aʔi (almost), as in o aʔi ris (I’m almost on my way)
pur (continue to), as in o pur ris (I keep on going)
e (to be able to), as in o e ris (I am able to go)
est (just), as in o est ris (I just went)
ez (habitual), as in o ez ris (I go all the time)
ðer (about to), as in o ðer ris (I’m about to go)
dub (would but won’t), as in o dub ris (I would go, but…)
zo (should), as in o zo ris (I should go)
ʃak (to stop), as in o ʃak ris (I stop going)
ʃo (may, might), as in o ʃo ris (I may go, I have permission to go)
nini (repetitive), as in o nini ris (I go and go and go and go…)
ro (must), as in o ro ris (I must go)
kam (desire), as in o kam ris (I want/would like to go)
haks (would, if) as in o haks ris (I would go, if…)



First Person

Second Person Dai

Second Person


o (I)

si (you)

su (you)


Plural (Exclusive)

io (we, inclusive)

oni (we, exclusive)

eksi (you all)

eksu (you all)

Third Person Male

bi/bu (he)

ebi/ebu (they)

Third Person

Third Person

mi/mu (she)

emi/emu (they)

ne (it, or s/he)

ene (they)

The way these work is that:
1.) io includes the person that the speaker is speaking to, as well as others (if








2.) oni does not include the person the speaker is speaking to; just the group he’s


3.) si and eksi are used with people within the Dai; su and eksu for those


4.) bi, ebi, mi and emi are used with Dai; bu, ebu, mu and emu for non-Dai.
5.) ne and ene can refer to a person whose gender is not identified, as well as


Zero: ðuz
One: ren
Two: sop
Three: taʃ

Eight: got
Four: boθ
Five: kud Nine: hez
Six: peŋ
Ten: iren
Seven: dem Eleven: reniren Million: aren

Twenty: isop
Hundred: uren
Thousand: oren

Billion: eren
Trillion: iziren
Quadrillion: uzuren
Quintillion: ozoren

Numbers decline as adjectives. When you want to say «fourth» or «seventh», the
cardinal numbers, use the prefix θi-. So, 5,923,678 would be akud, ouzeʒ-taʃisop, upeŋ-


You use the following table you would the way you use the words «no one»,
«something», «everywhere», «this», «why», etc. Just match up the adverb on the left and
the number above, and you’ll come out with every combination. There’s some more
explanation to follow, so look at these examples below the table (which is on the next








































































1.) The WH words are the question words of dai. They translate (in order from top to
bottom) as: where, when, who/which, what, why, how and what kind of. ʃei can be
used by itself (which is the «who» translation), or it can be used as an adjective, in which
case it means «which», as in «which box is yours?» ʃet is used when, for example, you to
the clerk at a clothing store, «I want a jacket», and the clerk asks, «What kind of jacket do
you want?» In Dai, «what kind of» is translated as one word.
2.) The rest translate in predictable ways: ag (everywhere, each place), hoi (anyone,
someone), ðuθ (nothing), etc. You can find more information on each corelative in the
dictionary section. The relative particles are explained in the section on Relative
3.) The last three columns give three types of spatial references. The ones that start with
[ma] all refer to things that are close to the speaker. So, «maθ» means «this thing» which
is close to the speaker, and «mai», as an adjective, is used with things close to the
speaker. «mas» means «here», and is used just as it is in English, and «mag» means «now».
The next column refers to things that are close to the person or people the speaker is
addressing. So, you might say «give me that box», and the box is next to the person
you’re talking to, and so you’d use the adjective «rui». You’ll notice that there’s no form
for time in this column, even though it would be «rug». This is because it’s odd to think
of a time that’s close to the person you’re talking to and not you. So, it isn’t used. It can
be derived if you want to use it, though. The last column is for things that are neither
close to the speaker nor the listener, but which are off in the distance. Here there is a
word for time, which is «deg», and it means «then», as in a time far away from the
speaker. There, however, are not words for reason and manner because it would make
sense for there to be a reason far from both the speaker and the listener (maybe an
unknown reason?), and a manner just doesn’t make sense at all.


Dai to English Dictionary


a (particle) yes (a response), or an emphatic particle which indicates the truth of an
ab (adverb) everyway, each way, in every way, in each way
amoθ (noun, class IV) metal (remember, the natural term is listed first); ami (n., cl.I) a
Dai who works with metal, a blacksmith; amu (n., cl.II) a non-Dai blacksmith; am (n.,
cl.VI) metalwork; θiamoθ (adj.) metallic; amaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) metal thing, metallic
aθ (pronoun) everything, each thing
ai (pron.) everyone, each one, (adjective) every, each; θiai (possessive pron.) everyone’s
aimi (n., cl.I) (a/the) friend; aimu (n., cl.II) (an/the) ally; aim (n., cl.VI) friendship,
alliance; aim (v.) to befriend, to ally, to make friends, to be a friend, to make peace
at (adjective) every kind, every kind of
as (pron., adv.) everywhere, every place, each place, at every place, at each place
aʃaθ (verb) to see, to look at (transitive)
anoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) plant; ani (n., cl.I) one who plants, a farmer; an (v.) to plant, to
farm; anaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) farm
akʔai (n., cl.I) (a/the) human being (Dai); akʔau (n., cl.II) (a/the) human being (non-
Dai); akʔa (n., cl.VI) humanity
ag (adv.) every time, each time, always, forever
aŋ (adv.) every reason, each reason, for every reason, for each reason
aʔi (modal verb) almost, as in the sentence «I am almost gone»: o aʔi ris.


panaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) bow (as in a bow and arrow); pani (n., cl.I) (an/the) archer; pan
(n.,cl.VI) archery
pandi (n., cl.I) (a/the) father; pand (n., cl.VI) fatherhood; pand (v.) to father, to be a
father; θipandi (adj.) fatherly
pagaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) spear; pagi (n., cl.I) (a/the) spearsman; pag (v.) to spear; θipagaz
(adj.) spear-shaped, spear-like


pauen (n., cl.III) (a/the) raccoon
peti (n., cl.I) grandfather (Dai); petu (n., cl.II) grandfather (non-Dai)
pesen (n., cl.III) (a/the) ʃy (the bug); pes (v.) to pester (as a ʃy does a human)
peŋ (n./adj.) six; θipeŋ (adj.) sixth
pob (v.) to put, to place; pobi (n., cl.I) one who puts something into place
prai (n., cl.I) nephew
pur (v.) to continue to, to keep on, as in the sentence «I continue to sit/keep on sitting»: o
pur kend.


bat (v.) to beg; bati (n., cl.I) one who begs, a begger; bat (n., cl.VI) beggary; θibat (adj.)
bantsen (n., cl.III) (a/the) chicken
beθ (v.) to give; beθi (n., cl.I) one who gives, a giver; beθaz (n., cl.V) a given thing, a gift
begʒid (natural adjective) heavy; begʒidaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) heavy thing; begʒid (n.,
cl.VI) heaviness, weight; begʒidi (n., cl.I) (a/the) heavy person
bi (personal pron.) he (refers only to a Dai male); θibi (poss.pron.) his
bisi (n., cl.I) (a/the) baby, infant
bikaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) sack; bik (v.) to sack (something), to put something into a sack
braioθ (n., cl.IV) sand; θibraioθ (adj.) sandy; braiaz (n., cl.V) glass (do the Dai have
breien (n., cl.III) (a/the) turtle
boθ (n./adj.) four; θiboθ (adj.) fourth
bu (pers. pron.) he (refers only to a non-Dai male); θibu (poss.pron.) his
buti (n., cl.I) (a/the) child; but (n., cl.VI) childhood


mab (adv.) this manner, in this manner, this way, in this way
mamend (expression) today
maθ (pron.) this (close to me) thing
mai (pron.) this person/one, (adj.) this; θimai (poss.pron.) this one’s


maiki (n., cl.I) one who transgresses tribal law; maiku (n., cl.II) one who does damage
to the tribe (non-Dai); maiken (n., cl.III) an animal which does harm (a fox, for instance,
or a bear, a wolf, etc.); maik (n., cl.VI) wrong-doing, harm, danger; maik (v.) to do harm,
to transgress tribal law, to do wrong
mat (adv.) this kind, this kind of
matʃi (n., cl.I) (an/the) aunt
madi (n., cl.I) (a/the) mother; maden (n., cl.III) an animal mother; mad (v.) to mother, to
be a mother, to become a mother, to give birth (thereby becoming a mother)
mas (pron./adv.) this place, at this place, here
maʃoθ (n., cl.IV) powder
manaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) club; man (v.) to club (someone/thing)
mar (v.) to build, to construct; mari (n., cl.I) (a/the) builder; maraz (n., cl.V) (a/the)
building, or construction; mar (n., cl.VI) construction
mag (pron./adv.) this time, now
maŋ (adv.) this reason, for this reason
medʒ (preposition) near (to the speaker)
mend (n., cl.VI) (a/the) day; mendoi (adv.) daily
megi (n., cl.I) (a/the) wife; meg (v.) to become a wife
mi (pers.pron.) she (Dai); θimi (poss.pron.) her, hers
misoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) liquid; mis (v.) to liquify, to melt
mikoθ (n., cl.IV) poison; mik (v.) to poison; miki (n., cl.I) one who poisons; θimikoθ
(adj.) poisonous
mu (pers.pron.) she (non-Dai); θimu (poss.pron.) her, hers
muoθ (n., cl.IV) grass
muʃ (prep.) in between, between
munoh (adj.) purple; munoh (v.) to turn purple, to purple (something)
mukoθ (n., cl.IV) dirt; θimukoθ (adj.) covered with dirt, or, dirty


e (mod.v.) to be able to (can), as in the sentence «I can/am able to go»: o e ris.
eps (prep.) outside (with locative), out of/from (with accusative)
ebi (pers.pron.) they (masculine, Dai); θiebi (poss.pron.) their, theirs
ebu (pers.pron.) they (masculine, non-Dai); θiebu (poss.pron.) their, theirs
emi (pers.pron.) they (feminine, Dai); θiemu (poss.pron.) their, theirs


emu (pers.pron.) they (feminine, non-Dai); θiemu (poss.pron.) their, theirs
etres (adj.) green; etres (v.) to turn green, to make something green
esen (n., cl.III) (a/the) snake; θiesen (adj.) serpentine
est (mod.v.) just, as in the sentence «I just went»: o est ris.
esk (n., cl.VI) south (the direction); eskoi (adv.) south (as in, «I go south»)
eskroθ (n., cl.VI) southwest (the direction); eskroθoi (adv.) southwest (as in, «I go
eskhan (n., cl.VI) southeast (the direction); eskhanoi (adv.) southeast (as in, «I go
ez (mod.v.) habitual mood, as in the sentence «I go all the time»: o ez ris.
ene (pers.pron.) they (neuter, non-gender specific); θiene (poss.pron.) their, theirs
eksi (pers.pron.) you (plural, Dai); θieksi (poss.pron.) your, yours
eksu (pers.pron.) you (plural, non-Dai); θieksu (poss.pron.) your, yours
egz (prep.) in order to, so that, that, so, to (as in the phrase «In order to go»: egz ris)


θanaz (n., cl.V) (an/the) arrow; θani (n., cl.I) one who makes arrows, an arrowsmith
θendz (prep.) with (only with people), as in «I am with my mother»: o θendz θioʃ madiʃ
θiadʒ (v.) to die (when used intransitively), to kill (when used transitively), or to cause
to die; θiadʒi (n., cl.I) (a/the) killer; seθiadʒi (n., cl.I) one who has died; θiadʒ (n., cl.VI)
death; θiadʒaz (n., cl.V) an instrument of death, a weapon; θiθiadʒaz (adj.) deadly;
θiseθiadʒ (adj.) dead; θiθiadʒ (adj.) dead (no difference between this and the previous
θur (mod.v.) still, as in the sentence «I am still a teacher»: o tʃoi θur i.
θuʔasa (conj.) nevertheless, regardless, irregardless



ðande (n., cl.VI) (a/the) family; ðandei (n., cl.I) (a/the) family member; ðandeu (n., cl.II)
(a/the) new member of the family—one who has just married into the family from
another family; ðandeaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) house or home of a family; home, house
ðer (mod.v.) about to, as in the sentence «I’m about to go»: o ðer ris.
ðu (negative particle) no, or not
ðub (adv.) no way, no manner, in no way, in no manner
ðuθ (pron.) nothing
ðui (pron.) no one, (adjective) no (as in, ðui ʃenoθ, «no tree»); θiðui (poss.pron.) no one’s
ðut (adv.) no kind, no kind of
ðus (pron./adv.) nowhere, no place, at no place
ðuz (n./adj.) zero
ðug (adv.) never, no time, at no time
ðuŋ (adv.) no reason, for no reason


i (v.) to be; iʔi (n., cl.I) (a/the) being; i (n., cl.VI) life, existence, being
iabi (n., cl.I) grandmother
ipʔa (v.) to use; ipʔa (n., cl.VI) use
iesoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) moon
idzu (n., cl.II) (a/the) foe, villain, enemy, adversary (from outside the tribe); idzi (n., cl.I)
(a/the) traitor; idz (v.) to go against, to be a traitor
ine (conj.) and
inʔasa (conj.) therefore, so, and so, then
iren (n./adj.) ten; θiʔiren (adj.) tenth
io (pers.pron.) we (including the person one is speaking to); θiʔio (poss.pron.) our, ours


taiʃaz (n., cl.V) jewelry; taiʃi (n., cl.I) (a/the) jeweler


taik (n., cl.VI) art, artwork; taiki (n., cl.I) (an/the) artist; taikaz (n., cl.V) an artist’s tool
taʃ (n./adj.) three; θitaʃ (adj.) third
teʃ (prep.) across from (with locative), across (with accusative)
teʒi (n., cl.I) (an/the) uncle
tisi (n., cl.I) (a/the) son
tiʃen (n., cl.III) (a/the) bird
tisti (adj.) pink; tisti (v.) to pinken
tʃeien (n., cl.III) (a/the) chipmunk
tʃo (v.) to teach; tʃoi (n., cl.I) teacher
tʃup (v.) to cook; tʃupi (n., cl.I) (a/the) cook; tʃupoθ (n., cl.IV) cooked food
totʃ (v.) to think; totʃi (n., cl.I) (a/the) thinker; totʃ (n., cl.VI) thought
tub (prep.) away from (with accusative), from/of (with dative or locative)
tum (prep.) because of
tuŋ (prep.) because
tuʔen (conj.) or


daboθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) mushroom
dai (n., cl.I) a person in the Dai tribe; dai (n., cl.VI) the language of the Dai people; dai
(v.) to speak Dai
danid (n., cl.VI) truth; danid (nat.adj.) true; danid (v.) to tell the truth; danidi (n., cl.I) a
person who tells the truth, one who can be trusted
dak (v.) to make, to prepare; θisedak (adj.) made
daŋgoi (adv.) tomorrow
debi (n., cl.I) (a/the) husband; deb (v.) to become a husband, to marry
dem (n./adj.) seven; θidem (adj.) seventh
deθ (pron.) that thing, that
dei (pron.) that one, that person, (adjective) that; θidei (adj.) that one’s, that person’s
det (adj.) that kind of, that kind
dedʒ (prep.) far
des (pron./adv.) that place, there, at that place
deg (adv.) that time, then, at that time
diʔen (n., cl.III) (a/the) mosquito


dʒambu (prep.) together
dʒei (part.) interogative particle that begins a «yes/no» question
dʒomen (n., cl.III) (a/the) horse; dʒomi (n., cl.I) (a/the) horse rider; dʒomaz (n., cl.V)
(a/the) saddle; dʒom (v.) to ride a horse, to ride
doʃ (prep.) through
dondo (prep.) beyond
dub (mod.v.) would but won’t, as in the sentence «I would go, but I won’t»: o dub ris.
duken (n., cl.III) (a/the) cow


san (adj.) left; sanoi (adv.) left, as in «Go left!»: ris sanoi!
spek (conj.) while
se (adv.) already (also used as a passive particle to form passive constructions)
set (v.) to run; seti (n., cl.I) (a/the) runner
si (pers.pron.) you (used only with Dai); θisi (poss.pron.) your, yours
stagzen (n., cl.III) (a/the) rat
sop (n./adj.) two; θisop (adj.) second
sketsen (n., cl.III) (a/the) spider; sketsoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) spiderweb
su (pers.pron.) you (used with non-Dai); θisu (poss.pron.) your, yours


zami (n., cl.I) (a/the) cousin
zeð (nat.adj.) sharp; zeð (n., cl.VI) sharpness; zeðaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) sharp tool
zedi (n., cl.I) (a/the) brother; zed (n., cl.VI) brotherhood, fraternity
zedʒ (v.) to hunt; zedʒi (n., cl.I) (a/the) hunter; zedʒaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) hunting tool;
zedʒ (n., cl.VI) (a/the) hunt
zeʒ (adj.) red; zeʒ (v.) to redden, to blush
zi (v.) to sleep, to dream; zi (n., cl.VI) sleep, dream; ziʔi (n., cl.I) (a/the) sleeper/
dreamer; ziaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) bed or cot or bedroll


zigen (nat.adj.) big; zigenaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) big tool/instrument; zigeni (n., cl.I) (a/
the) big person; zigen (v.) to make (something) big
zo (mod.v.) should, as in the sentence «I should go»: o zo ris.


ʃa (v.) to speak, to talk; ʃai (n., cl.I) (a/the) speaker; ʃa (n., cl.VI) speech
ʃaʃ (n., cl.VI) north (the direction); ʃaʃoi (adv.) north (as in, «I go north»)
ʃaʃroθ (n., cl.VI) northwest (the direction); ʃaʃroθoi (adv.) northwest (as in, «I go
ʃaʃhan (n., cl.VI) northeast (the direction); ʃaʃhanoi (adv.) northeast (as in, «I go
ʃak (v.mod.) to stop, to finish, to end as in the sentence, «I stop playing»: o ʃak ʃopi.
ʃaŋoθ (n., cl.IV) hair
ʃeb (adv.) how, what/which manner/way, in what/which manner/way
ʃeθ (pron.) what/which thing, what
ʃei (pron.) who, what/which person/one, (adjective) what/which; θiʃei (adj.) whose
ʃeien (adj.) white
ʃeisoθ (n., cl.IV) rain; ʃeis (v.) to rain
ʃet (adj.) what/which kind, what/which kind of
ʃedek (adj.) gray
ʃes (pron./adv.) where, what/which place, at what/which place
ʃestoθ (n., cl.IV) water; ʃest (v.) to give water, to drink water, to put water on
something; θiʃestoθ (adj.) watery
ʃenoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) tree; ʃenaz (n., cl.V) wood; θiʃenaz (adj.) wooden; ʃeni (n., cl.I)

someone who works with wood; ʃen (n., cl.VI) woodwork

ʃeg (pron./adv.) when, what/which time, at what/which time
ʃeŋ (adv.) why, what/which reason, for what/which reason
ʃim (prep.) like, as, similar to
ʃtoioθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) ʃower; ʃtoi (v.) to ʃower, to grow, to grow ʃowers
ʃramen (n., cl.III) (a/the) fish; ʃram (v.) to fish, to capture fish; ʃrami (n., cl.I) (a/the)
fisherman; ʃramaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) fishing pole/spear
ʃo (mod.v.) may/might, as in the sentence «May I go?»: dʒei o ʃo ris?
ʃopi (v.) to play (as a child); ʃopi (n., cl.VI) play, playtime, childhood


ʃom (v.) to write; ʃomi (n., cl.I) (a/the) scribe; ʃom (n., cl.VI) writing, scripture, script;
ʃomaz (n., cl.V) writing implement
ʃoz (v.) to sing; ʃozi (n., cl.I) singer; ʃoz (n., cl.VI) song
ʃogz (nat.adj.) bad; ʃogz (v.) to make something bad, to be bad; ʃogz (n., cl.VI) badness;
ʃogzi (n., cl.I) a bad person; ʃogzaz (n., cl.V) a bad thing/tool
ʃuen (n., cl.III) (an/the) owl


ʒamaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) bowl
ʒad (v.) to mentor, to instruct; ʒadi (n., cl.I) (a/the) mentor; ʒad (n., cl.VI) mentorship
ʒagz (prep.) behind
ʒe- (prefix) opposite prefix. Attach this to the front of any word to get the opposite
meaning. So, take the word ʃogz, attach ʒe-, and you get ʒeʃogz, «good».
ʒeb (v.) to order (someone), to command; ʒebi (n., cl.I) commander; ʒeb (n., cl.VI) order
ʒem (n., cl.VI) love; ʒem (v.) to love, to be in love; ʒem (n., cl.I) (a/the) lover, one who
loves; θiʒem (adj.) lovely, or loving; θiseʒem (adj.) loved; θiʒemoi (adv.) lovingly;
seʒemi (n., cl.I) (a/the) beloved; se ʒem (v.) to be loved
ʒed (v.) to master, to be a master of (something); ʒed (n., cl.VI) mastery; ʒedi (n., cl.I) (a/
the) master; θiʒed (nat.adj.) masterful
ʒedzen (n., cl.III) (a/the) lizard
ʒi (n., cl.I) (a/the) man; ʒi (n., cl.VI) (irregular) manhood, manliness; θiʒi (adj.)
ʒisaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) sword; ʒisi (n., cl.I) (a/the) swordsmen; ʒis (n., cl.VI) swordplay;
ʒis (v.) to fight with swords, to stab, to slice with a sword, to use a sword; θiʒisaz (adj.)
ʒod (v.) to lead; ʒodi (n., cl.I) (a/the) leader; θiʒod (adj.) leading
ʒozaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) knife; ʒoz (v.) to stab, to knife



nas (n., cl.VI) peace; nas (v.) to make peace, to pacify; θinas (adj.) peace-making,
peaceful; nasaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) peace treaty, peace accord; nasi (n., cl.I) (a/the)
peaceful person
ne (pers.pron.) it (used as in English, but also to refer to a human whose gender is not
specified); θine (poss.pron.) its
nezoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) sun; nez (v.) to shine (like the sun), to be sunny
neʒoθ (n., cl.IV) (an/the) ocean; neʒ (n., cl.VI) ocean life, sea creatures and plants
neks (adj.) right (side, not «correct»); neksoi (adv.) right, as in «Go right!»: ris neks!
ni (n., cl.I) (a/the) woman; ni (n., cl.VI) (irregular) womanhood; θini (adj.) feminine
nieθ (adj.) orange (the color)
niti (n., cl.I) (a/the) niece
nini (mod.v.) repetitive marker, as in the sentence «I go again and again»: o nini ris.
no (part.) self, own (this particle is used to indicate reʃexive action. So, to say «I see
myself», you could say «o on aʃaθ», literally «I see me», but to indicate «self» you’d say «o
no on aʃaθ». It, however, has another more important use. Imagine the sentence «He
loves his wife». Well, whose? It could be anyone’s, unless you say «his own». That’s the
main function of «no». That sentence in Dai is: bi no θibin megin ʒem.)


rapaz (n., cl.V) cloth (to wear); rapi (n., cl.I) one who makes clothes; rap (n., cl.VI)
ram (adj.) old; rami (n., cl.I) (an/the) old person, elder; ram (v.) to age, to get older; ram

(n., cl.VI) age

radi (n., cl.I) (a/the) boy; rad (n., cl.VI) boyhood; θiradi (adj.) boyish
ragz (prep.) behind
redaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) belt; redoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) waist
redʒ (prep.) near (to the listener)
ren (n./adj.) one; θiren (adj.) first
reks (prep.) inside, in (with locative), into (with accusative)
ris (v.) to go, to travel; se ris (v.) to be forced to go, to be evacuated, to be driven out; risi

(n., cl.I) (a/the) traveler; ris (n., cl.VI) travel, movement

ro (mod.v.) must, as in the sentence «I must go»: o ro ris.
roθ (n., cl.VI) west; roθoi (adv.) west, as in «I go west»
ros (conj.) but
roʔasa (conj.) however


rub (adv.) that manner/way, in that manner/way
ruθ (pron.) that thing, that
rui (pron.) that one, that person, (adjective) that
rut (adv.) that kind, that kind of
ruŋ (adv.) that reason, for that reason


o (pers.pron.) I; θio (poss.pron.) my, mine
oðis (nat.adj.) new; oðisaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) new tool, new instrument; oðis (n., cl.VI)
-oi (suffix) the adverbial suffix, which makes an adverb out of whatever it’s suffixed to
od (prep.) by (as in, «That book is by him»)
oʃe (v.) to know, to understand; oʃei (n., cl.I) one who knows and understands, a wise
man; oʃe (n., cl.VI) knowledge, wisdom; θioʃe (adj.) wise, knowledgeable
oʃoθ (n., cl.IV) ice; θioʃoθ (adj.) icy
oni (pers.pron.) we (excluding the person one is speaking to); θioni (poss.pron.) our,
ok (n., cl.VI) cure, curing; oki (n., cl.I) (a/the) curer, doctor, medicine man, healing man;
ok (v.) to cure, to heal; θiok (adj.) curing, curative
ogen (n., cl.III) (a/the) beaver; ogoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) beaver’s dam
oʔos (prep.) above (with locative), over (with accusative)


kaben (n., cl.III) (a/the) bear; θikaben (adj.) bear-like, fierce
kam (mod.v.) want, as in the sentence «I want/would like to go»: o kam ris.
kampoi (adv.) yesterday
kasi (prep.) for (as in, «This gift is for you»)
kasuθ (nat.adj.) long; kasuθ (v.) to lengthen; kasuθaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) long weapon/


kadi (n., cl.I) (a/the) girl; kad (n., cl.VI) girlhood; θikadi (adj.) girlish
kan (prep.) on, on top of (with locative), onto (with accusative)
kandʒ (v.) to eat; kandʒi (n., cl.I) (an/the) eater; kandʒoθ (n., cl.IV) food; kandʒaz (n.,
cl.V) (a/the) eating utencil
kedi (n., cl.I) (a/the) sister; ked (n., cl.VI) sisterhood
kend (v.) to sit, to sit down; kendi (n., cl.I) (a/the) sitter; kendaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) seat,
keraz (n., cl.V) (a/the) shield; ker (v.) to shield, to guard, to cover; ker (n., cl.VI)
shielding, defense; keri (n., cl.I) (a/the) guard, defender
kioθ (n., cl.IV) skin
kras (prep.) below (with locative), under (with accusative)
krast (adj.) black; krast (v.) to blacken, to burn
kopoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) knee; kop (v.) to knee (someone) or to kneel
kob (adv.) the manner/way, in the manner/way (relative particle)
koθ (pron.) the thing, that which (relative pronoun)
koi (pron.) the one/person, that which (relative pronoun)
kot (adv.) the kind, the kind of (relative particle)
kodzen (n., cl.III) (a/the) bison
kos (pron./adv.) the place, at the place (relative pronoun/particle)
koks (conj.) than
kog (adv.) the time, at the time (relative particle)
koŋ (adv.) the reason, for the reason (relative particle)
kupen (n., cl.III) (a/the) wolf; θikupen (adj.) wolf-like, ravenous
kuθ (conj.) if
kud (n./adj.) five; θikud (adj.) fifth
kusen (n., cl.III) (a/the) squirrel
kur (v.) to work, to toil, to labor; kuri (n., cl.I) (a/the) worker, laborer; kur (n., cl.VI)
work, toil, labor; θikur (adj.) toilsome, laborous


gadʒi (n., cl.I) (a/the) soldier; gadʒ (n., cl.VI) war; gadʒ (v.) to go to war, to war; gadʒaz

(n., cl.V) (a/the) weapon; θigadʒ (adj.) war-like

gaoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) stick
gaŋ (prep.) by means of, with (only with intsruments, as in the sentence «I hit you with
a bat»)


gem (n., cl.VI) music; gem (v.) to make music, to play music; gemi (n., cl.I) (a/the)
musician; gemaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) musical instrument; gemu (n., cl.II) (a/the) traveling
minstrel; θigem (adj.) musical
gen (n., cl.III) (a/the) dog
gib (prep.) at (with locative), to (with accusative)
gitʃi (n., cl.I) (a/the) daugther
greðen (n., cl.III) (a/the) mountain lion
grimoθ (n., cl.IV) clay; grimaz (n., cl.V) things made from clay; grim (n., cl.VI) claywork
go (v.) to believe, to take for truth; goi (n., cl.I) (a/the) believer, one who believes; go (n.,
cl.VI) belief
goθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) rock; θigoθ (adj.) rock-like, solid
got (n./adj.) eight; θigot (adj.) eighth
goʒ (nat.adj.) foreign; goʒi (n., cl.I) (an/the) outcast; goʒu (n., cl.II) (an/the) outsider;
goʒ (v.) to cast out, to be foreign, to estrange; goʒ (n., cl.VI) foreignness, estrangement
gun (v.) to swim; guni (n., cl.I) (a/the) swimmer


ŋasi (n., cl.I) a distant relation (second cousin and on)
ŋeien (n., cl.IV) (a/the) foot; ŋei (v.) to go by foot, to walk
ŋiðaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) quiver (for arrows)
ŋo (v.) to smell, to sniff; ŋo (n., cl.VI) smell, scent; ŋoʔoθ (n., cl.IV) (a/the) nose; θiŋo
(adj.) aromatic, fragrant
ŋuren (n., cl.III) (a/the) duck


u (v.) to have (only as far as possession, NOT as in «to have to», or «I have gone»); ui (n.,
cl.I) one who has; uaz (n., cl.V) (a/the) possession; u (n., cl.VI) possession
upaʃ (v.) to walk; upaʃi (n., cl.I) (a/the) walker; upaʃ (n., cl.VI) (a/the) walk, walking
uðats (v.) to argue; uðats (n., cl.VI) argument; uðats (n., cl.I) one who argues; θiuðats
(adj.) argumentative
usaʃ (adj.) blue; usaʃ (v.) to make blue, to bruise


unu (prep.) about (as in, «I talk about him», not «I walk about»)
uŋg (v.) to give birth; uŋg (n., cl.VI) birth; uŋgi (n., cl.I) one who gives birth; seuŋg (n.,
cl.I) (a/the) newborn
uʔuŋ (adj.) brown


hatʃ (prep.) off (with locative), off of (with accusative)
han (n., cl.VI) east; hanoi (adv.) east, as in «I go east»
haks (mod.v.) would, if, as in the sentence «I would go, if you went»: o haks ris, kuθ si
hauðen (n., cl.III) (a/the) coyote
hez (n./adj.) nine; θihez (adj.) ninth
heri (prep.) next to
hie (adj.) yellow
hopsen (n., cl.III) (a/the) donkey; hops (v.) to go by donkey
hob (adv.) some/anyway, some/any manner, in some/anyway, in some/any manner
hoθ (pron.) some/anything
hoi (pron.) some/anyone, some/any person, (adj.) some/any
hot (adv.) some/any kind, some/any kind of
hotsen (n., cl.III) (a/the) bee; hots (v.) to buzz like a bee
hos (pron./adv.) some/anywhere, some/any place, at some/any place
hog (adv.) some/anytime
hoŋ (adv.) some/any reason, for some/any reason
humen (n., cl.III) (a/the) badger



The best way to learn a language is to practice using it, so I’m going to list some
English sentences that you’ll translate into Dai, and then some Dai sentences you’ll
translate into English (if you want, of course). The answers are on the next two pages, so
DON’T LOOK until you’re done!

1.) Do you want to go somewhere?

2.) I must kill the bison with a spear.

3.) That’s a big tree.

4.) Yesterday I saw a sword that was sharper than the sharpest knife.

5.) The man who has a long bow is running away from me.

6.) o zeʒin ʒamazin aʔi ʃak ipʔa.

7.) ni koiʃ o gaoθin etresin beθ genin kam.

8.) o kan muoθir upaʃ; si zo kan muoθin upaʃ.

9.) ʃeg daŋgoi si kandʒ?

10.) pandio! o debi oðis gitʃim θisim i; dʒei θendz eksiʃ ðandeazoi ʃo ris?




1.) dʒei si/su hosin kam ris? «dʒei» is the question word that begins «yes/no» sentences;
«si/su» is «you», and either one is correct; «hos» means «somewhere/
anywhere», and it’s used as a pronoun here, so it takes the accusative
because you’re moving from one place to somewhere; «kam ris» means
«want to go», «kam» being the «want», «ris» being the «go».

2.) o kodzenin gaŋ pagaziʃ ro θiadʒ. «o» is «I»; «kodzen» is «bison», and it’s in the
accusative because it’s the direct object of «to kill»; «gaŋ» means «by means
of» or «with» when referring to instruments, and a spear is an instrument,
that being «pagaz», which is in the dative because it follows a preposition;
«ro θiadʒ» means «must kill». «θiadʒ» means «to die» when there is no direct

3.) deθ zigen ʃenoθ i. Word-for-word: That a big tree is. You can put the verb at the end
because «deθ» is a pronoun, not an adjective. So it literally means «that

4.) kampoi o ʒisazin aʃaθ, zeðos koks zeðin ʒozaz. «kampoi» is yesterday; «ʒisaz» is in the
accusative because it was seen, so it’s the direct object; the next phrase is
separated by a comma so that you know it’s a comment on the previous
phrase, like what I talked about with performative verbs; the last four
words translate word-for-word as «sharper than the sharpest knife», and
they’re all in the nominative.

5.) ʒi koi panazin kasuθin u tub on set. «ʒi» is «the man»; «koi» is the relative particle
meaning «who», and it’s in the nominative, so it takes no ending;
remember that an adjective can come before or after the noun—in this case
it comes after; «u» is to have and indicates the end of the relative clause;
«tub on» means «away from me»—[o] is in the accusative because «away
from» indicates motion, that the man is running in a direction away from
the speaker, not that he’s just far away from him; «set» is «run». Remember,
«set» means «he runs», «he does run» and «he is running». There’s no
difference in Dai.

6.) «I’m almost done with the red bowl.» You could probably figure out «I» and «red
bowl», but the three verbs are a bit tough. However, if you look at their
meanings and just go from left to right, you should get it: «aʔi» almost;
«ʃak» to be done, to finish; «ipʔa» to use. So, it translates literally as «I am
almost finished using the red bowl».

7.) «The woman to whom I gave a green stick wants a dog.» The main point of this one is
to show you that some of the modal verbs can be used as regular verbs. In
this one, «to want» can just mean «want», like in English. And so, she wants
a dog, so dog is in the accusative. And the relative pronoun was in the


dative because she was the indirect object of the direct object, which was
the green stick, which was in the accusative.

8.) «I’m walking on the grass; you should walk onto the grass.» This is just an illustration
of how the case of a word can change the meaning of the sentence or
phrase. In the first phrase, «kan muoθir» indicates that the speaker is
walking while on the grass; in the second, «kan muoθin» indicates that the
speaker thinks the listener should walk onto the grass.

9.) «When are you going to eat tomorrow?» Just a reminder that tense depends entirely

on the time words you use in the sentence.

10.) «Dad! I’m your daughter’s new husband; may I come home with you?» Several
points in this sentence. The first grammatical point is the use of the
Vocative. Here, the speaker is calling to Dad, so he uses the vocative. The
second grammatical point is the phrase «debi oðis gitʃim θisim». The first
two words make up a nominal phrase, meaning «new husband». The last
two are a bit different. «gitʃi» is in the genitive, so you have «daughter’s
new husband», and «θisi», remember, is strictly an adjective, and since it
modifies «gitʃim», it’s also in the Genitive, so it’s «θisim». Next, the usage of
the pronouns is important. As you can see, the Dad would probably be
annoyed because the beau is already addressing him with «si», the familiar,
even though he probably didn’t know he was a part of the family. Also,
there’s another word for «house», or a place where people live (ienaz), but
he specifically uses the word «ðandeaz», which, as you can see, is derived
from the word for «family», indicating that the beau already thinks of their
home as his home. So, an interesting situation. At least he used «ʃo» and
not «e». 🙂

36The Dai Language: An Embarrassment image

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