Tilya, a logical language

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Why another loglang?

The original motivation for designing Tilya was to provide a system to organize and make sense of the growing vocabularies of languages like Gjarrda and Tirehlat. Eventually, the Tilya dictionary will become a template for the lexicons of future Azirian languages, to avoid the common pitfall of relexifying English. I thought a logical language would be a good medium for organizing this vocabulary.

Although the idea of making Tilya a logical language was partly inspired by the Lojban project, Tilya has different goals. From time to time I will call attention to the similarities and differences between the two languages. In the long run, there will probably end up being more differences than similarities, but there are enough similarities that references to Lojban may help to clarify the intended meaning or usage of the corresponding features in Tilya.

Spelling and pronunciation

Tilya uses the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet. The letters are pronounced more or less with their IPA values except for the following: "c" is pronounced like English "j" (or Turkish "c"), "h" like German "ch" in "Bach" (or English "loch" as pronounced in Scotland), "j" as in French (or English "s" in "vision"), "q" like English "ch" in "chirp" (or Chinese "q"), "r" as the voiced equivalent of "h" (the Arabic sound transcribed as "gh"), "x" like the English "sh" in "shock" (as in some Central American languages), and "y" as in English "yard". Voiceless stops may be aspirated or unaspirated. The vowels "e" and "o" are mid-way between the nearest IPA cardinal vowels.
                     Consonants                  Vowels
              bilab. alv. postalv. velar   front unr. back rounded
stops         p b    t d           k g       i            u     high
affricates                  q c
nasals        m      n                       e            o     mid
fricatives    f v    s z    x j    h r
approximants  w             y                a                  low
lateral appr.        l
The next-to-last syllable of words containing more than one syllable is stressed. One-syllable words are unstressed. Each part of a compound word is stressed on the next-to-last syllable, with the strongest stress on the final root.

Basic syntax

The basic unit of Tilya syntax is the proposition, corresponding to the Lojban bridi. A proposition consists of a central word or phrase, the predicate (Lojban selbri), together with its arguments (Lojban sumti). These arguments themselves may be complex phrases or even entire propositions. Predicates and their arguments are delimited by one- or two-letter markers which indicate their roles in the sentence. Any structure of Tilya syntax may be joined together with similar structures by conjunctions.

The simplest predicate consists of a single root word with the suffix "-a". These roots, called qefqa in Tilya (Lojban gismu), always have a CVCC structure. The word qefqa itself is an example of this type of predicate, with the root "qefq-" and the suffix "-a". More complex predicates can be built by combining roots with the suffix "-i" between them. Thus, from the roots "hirk-" (rain) and "nofh-" (arch), the predicate "hirk-i-nofh-a" (rainbow) is constructed.

The main predicate of a sentence is indicated by the predicate marker a. The simplest kind of argument is a two-letter pronoun such as bo (I), ja (you), or re (he, she, or it). Names, which begin with the vowel i- and can be of any length, can also be used as arguments. Suffixes such as -a are added to names just as they are with predicates.

Predicates are categorized according to the kind and number of arguments they take. Some are more "noun-like", and others more "verb-like".

NOUN-LIKE: jexha [S ~] S is a doughnut.
Bo a  kenyi-jexha.
I  MP jelly doughnut
"I am a jelly doughnut."

VERB-LIKE: qenha [S ~ O] S (resident) resides (dwells, lives) in O (home).
Bo a  qenha  iberlina.
I  MP reside Berlin
"I live in Berlin."

VERB-LIKE: bilna [S I ~ D] S gives D to I.
Bo ja  a  bilna re.
I  you MP give  it
"I am giving it to you."
Predicates can be made into arguments in a number of ways. The simplest way is to use the particle ke. This particle takes a predicate as an argument and allows it to be plugged in to the argument slot of another predicate. In the examples it is translated as "some", although more literally it means "more than zero (at least one; a quantity of), but not all". It can be used as the equivalent of either the definite or indefinite articles of English.
Ke   racma a  qenha  ke   wetwa.
some bear  MP reside some forest
"Bears live in the forest."

Ke   qenha  a  racma.
some reside MP bear
"The resident is a bear."
The indefinite pronoun no in conjunction with the relativizer ga can be used to include more complex arguments.
No  ga   qenha  ke   lolwa a  huvga   no  ga   lugra   ke   logja.
one that reside some moon  MP require one that provide some oxygen
"Those who live on the moon require a supply of oxygen."
Predicates can be inflected for tense, aspect, and mood by adding prefixes such as "jei-" (past tense) or "tai-" (imperative).
Bo ja  a  jei- bilna ke   fokma.
I  you MP PAST-give  some water
"I gave you some water."

Bo a  tai-  bilna ke   wesma!
I  MP IMPER-give  some brain
"Give me the brain!"

Optional arguments

Some predicates take more than the usual one to three arguments. These extra arguments are optional, and are marked with a special case marker particle when they are used. In fact, the usually unmarked arguments may optionally take case markers (mo, ta, ta), which allows them to be rearranged for emphasis. A typical case marker is the particle qe, which marks a location. Since qe itself marks an argument, quantity particles such as ke (some) or na (all) are not required, although one may be added for emphasis.
zilma [S ~ qe L] S is blue at location L.
Ke   pasya a  zilma.
some bird  MP blue
"The bird is blue."

Ke   pasya a  zilma qe [na]  tijwa.
some bird  MP blue  at [all] wing
"The bird has blue wings."

rehka [S ~ O qe L] S bites O at location L.
Ke   jejda    a  rehka bo.
some mosquito MP bite  I
"A mosquito bit me."

Re a  rehka bo qe [ke]   rugla.
it MP bite  I  at [some] elbow
"It bit me on the elbow."

Compound predicates

Predicate words can be combined in a number of ways to form a compound predicate. One way is to use the modifier suffix "-u", which allows one predicate word to modify another. Compare the difference between the "-u" suffix and the "-i" suffix in the following example:
kerfu pasya    ... kerfipasya    ... tijwipozgu kerfipasya
black bird     ... blackbird     ... red-winged blackbird
"a black bird" ... "a blackbird" ... "a red-winged blackbird"
The phrase "kerfu pasya" can refer to any bird that is black (such as a black swan), but the word "kerfipasya" refers to certain kinds of black birds that form one or more defined categories. By convention, the phrase "tijwipozgu kerfipasya" can only refer to birds of the species Agelaius phoeniceus. Words and phrases composed of roots with the "-i" and "-u" suffixes are treated as single words for the purposes of assigning definitions, and their meanings cannot necessarily be predicted from the meanings of their components. Still, Tilya doesn't allow such idiomatic compounds as the English "ladybird", which is a beetle. A "reiyicdipasya", whatever it may be, is necessarily a warm-blooded animal with feathers, which hatched from a hard-shelled egg.

Long compounds may be abbreviated by substituting the suffix "-e" for any of the "-i" or "-u" suffixes. For instance, "bezlitijwu vejwa" ("rotating-wing aircraft") is a compound meaning "helicopter", but in actual practice, the short form "bezlitijwe" is used. Inexact, metaphorical compounds may be formed by using the suffix "-o" in place of the final suffix "-a".

jenha [S ~] S is a quantity of paper.
lolfa [S ~ O qe L] S folds O at location L.
jenhilolfe [S ~] S is origami (an art object of folded paper).

gimpa [S ~] S is an anteater.
lukra [S ~] S is a pig.
gimpilukro [S ~] S is an aardvark (metaphorically, an "anteater-pig").
Another way to combine predicate words is with the modifier particle so. The mnemonic "sort of" is useful in understanding the use of this particle: for instance, a "kerfa so pasya" is a "black sort of bird". That is, out of all the possible entities that can be described as "birds", it belongs to the subset that can be described as "black". Following the Lojban precedent, "black" in this case means "black in the way that birds are black". This kind of construction is analogous to what Lojban calls a tanru, and it is used for similar purposes.

But there is another way to combine predicate words: by simply combining them in sequence without any particles between them. This construction is analogous to the serial verbs of some languages, and also serves to translate adverbs in languages like English. Note that each predicate in the sequence may have its own arguments following it, but they all share the same subject.

A  tai-  hotsa mopma bo rozma ke   lolwa.
MP IMPER-fly   carry I  go-to some moon
"Fly me to the moon."

Ke   joxfirurta a  joxfa cucma kuhsa ke   joxfitovja.
some gazelle    MP quick run   flee  some cheetah
"The gazelles are running quickly to flee from the cheetah."

Adverbial modifiers

Various kinds of words and phrases can modify other words or phrases. The simplest modifier is a word such as le, "not", which negates the following word, or ka, "can" (is able to), which typically goes with predicates but can even modify arguments in Tilya. These modifiers can also be used in sequence, each one modifying the next.
Ke   pasya a  hotsa qe nahpa      ke   hirkinofha. Mema bo a  le  ka  dahwa?
some bird  MP fly   at area-above some rainbow     why? I  MP not can do
"Birds fly over the rainbow. Why can't I?"
Another kind of modifier is a prepositional phrase, which follows the phrase it modifies.
ke   zelva  a  zaxra ma     ke   jevga so      pasya
some gerbil MP thump due-to some scary sort-of bird
"The gerbils are thumping at the scary bird."


Tilya words with two initial consonants are variables. The use of variables allows a complex proposition to be broken down into simpler ones that may be easier to interpret.
Bla a  qujca  ke   peswa qelwa.
VAR MP assign some god   exist
"Consider the proposition that a god exists."

Meno   a  ka  yogya bla?
which? MP can know  VAR
"Who can know whether that is true?"
In this example, the variable "bla" is assigned the value "ke peswa qelwa" (someone's god exists). The predicate "yogya" (to know the truth value of a proposition) requires a complete proposition as an argument. Since "bla" stands for a proposition, it may be used as the second argument of "yogya". Of course, in this simple example, it's easier just to include the proposition "ke peswa qelwa" as the argument of "yogya".
Meno   a  ka  yogya ke   peswa qelwa?
which? MP can know  some god   exist
Who can know whether or not a god exists?
But in more complex cases, it may be difficult or impossible to embed propositions inside larger constructions without changing the structure of the sentence or adding delimiters. Since explicit delimiters were considered undesirable in the design of Tilya, I decided to rely on variables for such cases.


bezla       [S ~ O] S rotates around O (pivot, axis).
bezlitijwe  [S ~] S is a helicopter.
bilna       [S I ~ D] S gives D to I.
bla         (example of a variable)
bo          [pron] I; me.
cucma       [S ~ qe L] S runs at location L.
dahwa       [S ~ O] S (agent) does (performs) O (activity).
fokma       [S ~] S is a quantity of water.
ga          [conj] that (relativizer).
gimpa       [S ~] S is an anteater.
gimpilukro  [S ~] S is an aardvark.
hirka       [S ~] S is precipitation (typically rain).
hirkinofha  [S ~] S is a rainbow.
hotsa       [S ~ qe L] S flies at location L.
huvga       [S ~ O] S requires (needs) O.
iberlina    [name] Berlin.
ja          [pron] you.
jei-        [infl] (past tense).
jejda       [S ~] S is a mosquito.
jenha       [S ~] S is a quantity of paper.
jenhilolfe  [S ~] S is origami (an art object of folded paper).
jevga       [S ~ O] S frightens (scares) O; S is scary.
jexha       [S ~] S is a doughnut.
joxfa       [S ~] S is quick (fast, rapid).
joxfirurta  [S ~] S is a gazelle.
joxfitovja  [S ~] S is a cheetah.
ka          [adv] can, is able.
ke          [quan] more than zero (at least one; a quantity of), but not all.
kenya       [S ~] S is jelly.
kenyijexha  [S ~] S is a jelly doughnut.
kerfa       [S ~ qe L] S is black (color) at location L.
kerfipasya  [S ~] S is a blackbird (various species of Icteridae, or Turdus merula).
kuhsa       [S ~ O] S flees from O.
le          [adv] not.
logja       [S ~] S is a quantity of oxygen.
lolfa       [S ~ O qe L] S folds O at location L.
lolwa       [S ~ O] S is a satellite of O; S is a moon.
lugra       [S ~ O ko R] S provides O to R.
lukra       [S ~] S is a pig.
ma          [prep] due to, because of.
mema        [question] why?
meno        [question] which? who?
mopma       [S ~ O] S carries O.
nahpa       [S ~ O] S is the area above O.
no          [pron] one.
nofha       [S ~ qe L] S has the shape of an arch at location L.
pasya       [S ~] S is a bird.
peswa       [S ~ O] S is a god of O (religion, tradition, worshiper).
qe          [case] at (locative).
qefqa       [S ~] S is a basic Tilya root word (CVCC structure).
qelwa       [S ~ qe L] S exists at location L.
qenha       [S ~ O] S (resident) resides (dwells, lives) in O (home).
qujca       [V ~ P] Let V (variable) represent P (proposition).
racma       [S ~] S is a bear (animal).
re          [pron] he, she, it; him, her.
rehka       [S ~ O qe L] S bites O at location L.
rozma       [S ~ D de O sa R] S goes to D (destination) from O (origin) by means of R (route).
rugla       [S ~ O] S is an elbow of O (living being).
rurta       [S ~] S is an antelope.
so          [conj] sort of.
tai-        [infl] (imperative).
tijwa       [S ~ O] S is a wing (appendage for flying) of O (living being, aircraft).
tilya       [S ~] S is the Tilya language.
tovja       [S ~] S is a cat.
vejwa       [S ~] S is an aircraft.
wesma       [S ~ O] S is a brain of living being O.
wetwa       [S ~] S is a forest.
yogya       [S ~ P] S knows the truth value of P (proposition); S knows if P.
zaxra       [S ~] S thumps (makes noise by repeated jumping).
zelva       [S ~] S is a gerbil.
zilma       [S ~ qe L] S is blue (color) at location L.


Garrett's Links to Logical Languages