CHAPTER V — LANGUAGE, LAWS, AND LIFE.
Though treated with the greatest kindness and courtesy, I soon found reason to understand that I was, at least for the present, a prisoner. My host or his son never failed to invite me each day to spend some time in the outer enclosure, but never intentionally left me alone there. On one occasion, when Kevima had been called away and I ventured to walk down towards the gate, my host’s youngest child, who had been playing on the roof, ran after me, and reaching me just as my foot was set on the spring that opened the gate or outer door, caught me by the hand, and looking up into my face, expressed by glance and gesture a negative so unmistakable that I thought it expedient at once to comply and return to the house. There my time was occupied, for as great a part of each day as I could give to such a task without extreme fatigue, in mastering the language of the country. This was a much simpler task than might have been supposed. I soon found that, unlike any Terrestrial tongue, the language of this people had not grown but been made—constructed deliberately on set principles, with a view to the greatest possible simplicity and the least possible taxation of the memory. There were no exceptions or irregularities, and few unnecessary distinctions; while words were so connected and related that the mastery of a few simple grammatical forms and of a certain number of roots enabled me to guess at, and by and by to feel tolerably sure of, the meaning of a new word. The verb has six tenses, formed by the addition of a consonant to the root, and six persons, plural and singular, masculine and feminine.
Singular. | Masc. | Fem. || Plural. | Masc. | Fem. --------------|-------|------||----------|-------|-------- I am | ava | ava || We are | avau | avaa Thou art | avo | avoo || You are | avou | avu He or she is | avy | ave || They are | avoi | avee --------------|-------|------||----------|-------|--------
The terminations are the three pronouns, feminine and masculine, singular and plural, each represented by one of twelve vowel characters, and declined like nouns. When a nominative immediately follows the verb, the pronominal suffix is generally dropped, unless required by euphony. Thus, “a man strikes” is dak klaftas, but in the past tense, dakny klaftas, the verb without the suffix being unpronounceable. The past tense is formed by the insertion of n (avna: “I have been"), the future by m: avma. The imperative, avsa; which in the first person is used to convey determination or resolve; avsa, spoken in a peremptory tone, meaning “I will be,” while avso, according to the intonation, means “be” or “thou shalt be;” i.e., shalt whether or no. R forms the conditional, avra, and ren the conditional past, avrena, “I should have been.”