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In origin, Larua was the speech used by the Fair Folk of the White Island in the presence of humans. It is not known whether they used it among themselves originally, because communication in the Otherworld may have been achieved by means different from those we know. It may be that Larua was an early human language, otherwise long forgotten, that the Folk adopted at their first contact with humans, and simply retained over the centuries. Early in the historical period the language came to be used by all the peoples of the White Island for philosophical and religious discourse; its semantic structures correspond well with the system of attitudes that was spreading from the Fair Folk to the humans of the island during this same period. Later Larua was used as a language of literature and official documents, but in recent times its use has been mainly confined to treatises on religion and science. Larua is the name used by the human peoples of the White Island; it comes, via Ghiadarua, from the Larua word lorwa “to speak” (or “speech”).


The Larua vowel distribution
  front back
semivowels y w
high i u
low a o
The Larua consonant inventory
  labial dental alveolar velar
nasals m n (n)
b d g
p t k
affricates     tz  
fricatives f th s h
laterals     l  
rhotics     r  

Consonant clusters in Larua are highly restricted. At the beginning of a word, /s/ may precede a voiceless stop, and /k/ or /h/ may precede /w/, /r/, or /l/: stohi “to steal,” kwihsa “nephew.” In the middle of words, geminate (double) consonants frequently occur, and the sounds /l/, /r/, /w/, or /y/ may occur in contact with virtually any other consonant (kolba “wolf, dog,” murgal “pearl,” nakyo “mother,” morwi “ant”). Also, /s/ and /f/ may occur in contact with other voiceless sounds (iska “aunt,” oftara “the planet Venus”), and nasals may precede co-articulated stops (kandaya “snake”), or a fricative in the case of /ns/ (nonsin “seven hundred”). At the end of a word, the only permitted cluster is /ns/: mons “to be whole.” Note that /tz/ is considered a single sound: artzi “to dream,” tzimis “shirt,” matz “to rain.” Generally, it does not occur as the first element of a cluster (*atzri). Note on spelling: when the cluster /s/ + /h/ occurs, it is spelled s’h in order to avoid confusion with the English sound in shoal.

Larua has three diphthongs, /ai/, /oi/, and /au/: paiga “hand,” thoilu “woman, female,” laura “stone.” Any single sound can begin a word, but only vowels, diphthongs, the dental/alveolar series of consonants, or /m/ may occur at the end of a word. The actual pronunciation of each sound is relatively stable; there is hardly any phonetic variation, and the environment of a phoneme has little or no effect on its phonetic realization. Very often, a glottal stop is inserted between a vowel at the end of a word and another vowel at the beginning of the next word.


Larua is an entirely analytic (or isolating) language: there is no grammatical inflection whatsoever, so the root form of a word is the form in which it invariably occurs. Consequently, the language relies entirely on word order to express grammatical relations. Parts of speech are not marked. By far the largest word class is the verbs, but a member of this class may be translated with an adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, or abstract noun, depending on which word is in question and how it is used. Hence, lahan, with the absolute sense “to live,” can also mean “alive” (relative sense) or “life” (nominal sense). There is a small set of auxiliary verbs, which are mostly analogous to the English modal auxiliaries (such as can, should, and must). The subclass known as coverbs consists of verbs with relative senses that convey semantic relations between words or clauses. Rather than with adjectives and adverbs, the coverbs are best translated into English with prepositions and conjunctions. So tzoi, with the root verbal meaning “to enter,” can also mean “entry to” or “into.” Any word in the class of verbs may serve as the main verb (or head) of a sentence, and that is how this word class is usually defined.

The other major class of words is the substantives, which includes the words that can be used as the arguments of verbs, but not as verbs themselves; that is, the nouns and pronouns. Within this class is a subclass of determiners, substantives that can modify other substantives, including correlative pronouns (“this,” “all”) and quantifiers (“many,” “a pair”). Besides the verbs and the substantives, there are three smaller word classes, namely the sentence particles, sentence adverbs, and interjections. Sentence particles are words that have no lexical content, that is they cannot really be translated, but modify the entire sentence in some way, such as by turning it into a question. Sentence adverbs also modify the entire sentence, but they generally have particular semantic content. In Larua, they mostly describe situations in time (“tomorrow,” “seldom”) or levels of certainty (“maybe,” “unlikely”). Interjections, as in English, are words that carry emotive rather than semantic content: “ouch,” “yikes,” “woohoo,” “whoa,” and the like.

Compounding is not a formative process in the earliest recorded forms of the language, and any compounds that may once have existed had already evolved well beyond the possibility of identifying them. When Larua came into use as a literary language, many new compound words were coined; for instance, this is the normal mode of forming multiples of ten (and of powers of ten): nistau “twenty,” aspitau “thirty,” from nis “two” and aspi “three” with tau “ten.”


Traces of formative elements can be seen in a few pairs and groups of words, notably kun “to be” and kur “person,” and the negatives da “to not be,” din “to not exist,” and du “nothing.” But the relationships among these words are not clearly understood, and in fact very few productive affixes have been identified. The two main ones are the agent suffix -ko and the suffix -ns, -ons denoting object created or affected by an action or changed as a result, or objects that exist in a state or typify a quality. Some illustrative examples will help to clarify.

Examples of -ko
bakya “to ride” bakyako “rider”
oya “to celebrate” oyako “celebrant”
stohi “to steal” stohiko “thief”
tanaho “tin” tanako “tin-smith”
Examples of -(o)ns
arga “to make” argans “creation”
artzi “to dream” artzins “(a particular) dream”
gal “to give” galons “gift”
ruda “to be dark yellow” rudans “yellow ochre”
wila “to host, make welcome” wilans “guest”


Larua is strongly head-initial, and the main verb generally comes first in the sentence. A simple sentence consists of the verb and its arguments.

Artzi dream dohal. child

“The child dreamed.”

Ataro visit wilans guest sibur. healer

“The guest visited the healer.”

Tense is not marked grammatically in Larua. There are two optional sentence particles to indicate the aspect of action as perfective, lai, or imperfective, inya. These always precede the main verb. As can be seen from the examples, they do not correspond to absolute tenses, but rather refer to whether the action is considered as a whole, or is ongoing. Usually this is clear from the context, or from the meaning of the verb itself (“to find” is hardly ever an ongoing action, for instance), so these aspectual particles are generally only used for emphasis or to resolve potential ambiguity.

Inya ipfv artzi dream murau cat on about lautzi. mouse

“The cat is dreaming about mice.”

Lai pfv yun eat ni we thosko. soon

“We will eat soon.”

Equative and existential sentences

Two arguments may be equated using the positive copula kun “to be.”

Kun be kostia house nayas. home

“The house is a home.”

Kun be bai I iska aunt on of u. he

“I am his aunt.”

The existential verb rau has a number of uses. Its basic sense is “to exist.” Used with substantive arguments, it has the sense “there is, there are.”

Rau exist katzu hare is kostia. house

“There is a hare in the house.”

However, rau can also be used with a whole sentence as its argument. In this situation, it has a sense something like “it is the case that, I happen to know that (such and such is true).” This has the effect of emphasizing or drawing attention to the material in the main sentence, and is a technique often used to begin a spoken narrative.

Rau exist lagi fall kwihsa nephew on of bai I ro exit maranta. deciduous.tree

“So, my nephew fell out of a deciduous tree.”

The existential verb is also used in simple weather statements. Technically, weather verbs like matz “to rain” take no arguments, but to use one by itself as a complete sentence would be ambiguous: Matz. As an entire utterance, this could be a comment on the current state of the weather (“it’s raining”), or the answer to a question (“rain”), or a stifled sneeze (“mmAAH-tzz!”). Usually the meaning would be understood from the situation, but if the speaker should wish to make the statement unambiguous, rau can serve this purpose.

Rau exist matz. rain

“It’s raining.” literally, “It is the case that it is raining.”


The copula kun and the existential verb rau have their negative counterparts, da “to not be” and din “to not exist.” Between them, these two verbs can negate any statement. The negative copula da, like the positive copula, is generally only used in equative-type sentences; the negative existential din is basically a counterpart to the emphatic use of rau, and can thus be used to “negatively emphasize” any sentence not covered by da.

Da bai I wilans guest pas la. you

“I am not your guest.”

Din not.exist kafto basket is kostia. house

“There isn’t a basket in the house.”

Din not.exist dina see bai I lagi fall la. you

“I didn’t see you fall.”

Din not.exist matz. rain

“It isn’t raining.”

Yes/no questions and choice questions

Yes/no questions are formed by preceding a statement with one of two interrogative particles, wa and foi. The first, wa, forms a straightforward question, while foi implies that you expect the answer to be “yes.”

Wa q daron be.healthy dohal? child

“Is the child healthy?”

Foi q rau exist hasal? be.cold

“It’s cold out, isn’t it?”

The interrogative particles can be used with the negative verbs to form two more kinds of questions.

Wa q da la you mutz son on of u? she

“Aren’t you her son?”

Wa q din not.exist artzi dream bai I on of au? this

“Didn’t I dream about this?”

Foi q da so it yoha? iron

“It isn’t iron, is it?”

Foi q din not.exist lagi fall murau? cat

“The cat didn’t fall, did she?”

The answer to a yes/no question may be simply the corresponding one of kun, rau, da, or din, so that sometimes they can be translated as simply “yes” or “no.” For a fuller answer, the question’s verb is repeated.

–Wa q lagi fall la? you –Din –not.exist lagi. fall

“Did you fall?” “No, I didn’t.”

Sometimes a question offers a choice between two or more possible answers. In such cases, wa must not only begin the question, but immediately precede the second choice, and every choice thereafter.

Wa q yun eat kolba wolf wa q murau cat lautzi? mouse

“Did a wolf or a cat eat the mouse?”

Wa q yun eat kolba wolf katzu hare wa q lautzi? mouse

“Did the wolf eat a hare or a mouse?”

Wa q yun eat kolba wolf wa q murau cat wa q katzu hare wa q lautzi mouse so? it

“Did the wolf, the cat, the hare, or the mouse eat it?”

There are three ways to answer this type of question, depending on whether the question is about the subject or the object of the verb. First, in either case, the answer may be stated as a simple noun, with no verb. When the question is about the subject, the main verb may be repeated.

Yun eat murau. cat

“A cat did [eat the mouse].”

When the question is about the object, the existential and emphatic verb rau must be used instead.

Rau exist lautzi. mouse

“It was a mouse [that the wolf ate].”


Larua has an optional imperative particle, o “do!” and a prohibitive particle, mo “don’t!” These are sentence particles and occur at the beginning of the imperative sentence.

O imp star sit pas at au. this

“Sit down here.”

Mo proh lagi! fall

“Don’t fall!”

For commands that include the speaker, the inclusive personal pronoun ni is used as the imperative particle.

Ni incl-imp yun! eat

“Let’s eat!”

Embedded clauses

Some verbs, such as “say” or “believe,” can take an entire sentence as an argument. The argument sentence is known as an embedded or subordinate clause. In Larua, there is no equivalent of “that” as in “He said that I was pretty;” the only rule is that the subordinated sentence must come as the last argument of the main verb.

Yun eat kolba wolf katzu. hare

“The wolf ate the hare.”

Dina see bai I yun eat kolba wolf katzu. hare

“I saw the wolf eat the hare.”

Lagi fall dohal child on of u. he

“His child fell.”

Mona say u he bai I lagi fall dohal child on of u. he

“He told me his child fell.”

Pronouns and wh- questions

Personal pronouns

Larua does not distinguish gender in its personal pronouns, and distinguishes plural forms only in the first and second persons. In the third person, however, there is a distinction between the proximal and distal forms u and so, roughly the difference between “this one here” and “that one there,” or between “the one we were talking about first” and “that other one;” the two are known in Larua studies as third person and fourth person.

bai “I; me” bayu “we (not including you); us”
la “you (singular)” ni “we, you and I; us, you and me”
u “he, she, it, they; him, her, it, them” baila (rare) “we, you and I; us, you and me”
so “he, she, it, they; him, her, it, them” lau “you (plural)”

There is also an impersonal pronoun, si, which is the same as the word for the number “one.” This is also the only relative pronoun, corresponding to the English figure “the one that.” It generally gives the sentence a meaning somewhat different from the meaning a personal pronoun creates.

Dina see u she bai. I

“She saw me.”

Dina see si one bai. I

“Someone saw me.”

Dina see bai I u she yun eat so. they

“I saw her eating them.”

Dina see bai I si one yun eat u. they

“I saw who ate them.”

Correlative pronouns

There is a small set of pronouns which can either stand on their own or serve as modifiers for nouns, called correlative pronouns.

what?, who?, which?
nothing, no one, no
anything, anyone, any
something, someone, some
most things, most people, most
everything, everyone, every, all
another, other, else
last one, last
next one, next

Note that the word si “one, the one that” is the normal word for “someone, something.” Similarly, the word du “nothing, no one” is the normal word for “zero.” When used as pronouns, these words follow the syntax for nouns. When used as adjectives, they immediately follow the modified noun, just as relative-clause adjectives do. To form a question with fil in the sense of “what” or “who,” it is inserted into the normal place of the missing information in the sentence: there is no change in word order, although there may be a difference of intonation.

Is fil what kafto? basket

“What is in the basket?”

To answer, the verb may be repeated:

Is murau. cat

“The cat is.”

Or not:

Du. nothing


Correlative adverbials

Many languages have a number of adverbs built on the correlative pronouns, chiefly expressing time (when, always, sometime), manner (how, thus, otherwise), and place (where, nowhere, wherever); in Larua these are expressed by prefacing the appropriate pronoun with one of three coverbs: buho “during, while,” sau “by means of, with,” and pas “at, with.”

Dina see la you u she pas fil? what

“Where did you see her?”

Mona say u he rau exist matz rain buho during si. something

“He said it would rain sometime.”

Lorwa speak u they sau by.means.of au. this

“They spoke thus.” (this way, like this)

In some contexts, the coverb may appear as the main verb of a question.

Pas murau cat fil? what

“Where is the cat?”

Modifying substantives

Modifiers universally follow the head nouns they modify. Often, two or more modifiers are applied to the same noun. In order to avoid ambiguity, single-word modifiers must come before relative clauses, and proceed from the most to the least specific. (In poetic and mystical writings, these standards are sometimes ignored.)

Head Noun + Attribute + Numeral + Correlative + Relative Clause
kolba wolf losko gray aspi three tom that is kilau forest

“those three gray wolves in the forest”

Relative clauses

In Larua, states and qualities are described with verbs; instead of a word meaning simply “green,” there is a word meaning “to be green.” To say “the green leaf” is really to say “the leaf that is green.” Therefore, the syntax of adjectives is the syntax of relative clauses. When the modified noun is the subject of the relative clause, the verb and any objects immediately follow the noun.

lim man lagi fall

“the man that fell” (or “the falling man”)

kostia house tzisa

“the red house”

kolba wolf yun eat katzu hare

“the wolf that ate the hare”

murau cat is kafto basket

“the cat in the basket”

When the modified noun is not the subject of the relative verb, the noun that is the subject comes first in the relative clause, that is, directly after the main noun.

katzu hare kolba wolf yun eat

“the hare the wolf ate”

kafto basket murau cat is

“the basket the cat is in”

Comparisons are made using the verb skaro “to surpass.” Used adverbially, it means “more” or “more than.”

Uritz be.large murau cat skaro surpass lautzi. mouse

“The cat is larger than the mouse.”

Uritz be.large skaro surpass kolba wolf au. this

“This wolf is larger.”

Dina see murau cat uritz be.large skaro surpass si one pitzo be.small skaro. surpass

“The larger cat sees the smaller one.”

Superlatives are formed with the phrase sau mas’ho “with the most.”

Uritz be.large kostia house tom that sau with mas’ho. most

“That house is the largest.”

Correlative adjectivals

We have seen the correlative pronouns standing on their own as substantives. As previously noted, they may also serve as determiners modifying head nouns.

Yun eat kolba wolf fil what katzu? hare

“Which wolf ate the hare?”

Rau exist kostia house is kilau forest au. this

“There is a house in this forest.”


The earliest records show that Larua at first had no proper numeral system. Rather, it was an example of the type of system that preceded actual counting, when groups of things were tallied against beads, scratches on a stick, or some other convenient small record. In later periods, as Larua came into use as a language of literature by speakers of Kerizy and Pernais, there developed the need for a fuller system of numeral words. The old words du “nothing,” si “one, a single one,” and nis “a pair” were adopted for “zero,” “one,” and “two,” and the Perneza word aspis “a triad, a group of three” was borrowed as aspi “three.” The words for the numbers 4 through 10 and the powers of ten were borrowed directly from a late form of Kierozo, as was the decimal system. Multiples of 10 and 100 were then formed by compounding, a practice characteristic of later coinages in literary Larua.

du zero  
si one tau ten sin hundred
nis two nistau twenty nissin two hundred
aspi three aspitau thirty aspisin three hundred
sama four samatau forty etc.
pos five postau fifty  
mu six mutau sixty gar thousand
non seven nontau seventy dibol ten thousand
yo eight yotau eighty hofan hundred thousand
kagan nine kagantau ninety anahu million

Ordinal numerals are formed with the coverb pas “at”: pas nis “second,” pas yo “eighth.” Distributive numerals are formed with sau “by”: sau aspi “in threes,” sau tau nis “by the dozen.”

Other quantifiers

Remnants of the earliest system can be seen in the small set of words that refer to nonspecific and partitive quantities.

a lot, many
several, some, a group, a set
some (but not all), a selection
a few
the whole thing, whole
part, piece, component, shard
side, half
another, one more

Most revealing are the verb kilia “to tally, tally up, count up” and its frequent use with pas to mean “to tally with, correspond, be equivalent to, be as much as, be as big as, be tantamount to, amount to, add up to.” In later usage, kilia in its nominal sense is the regular word for “number.”


In cases when two nouns are placed together in apposition, the more general noun is placed first.

iska aunt Oya Oya

“Aunt Oya”

thoilu woman wilans guest tom that

“that lady visitor”


While they can be the main verbs of sentences in their own right, the coverbs very often appear in roles that are best translated with prepositions or conjunctions. This is because a coverb used in its relative sense, that is, as the head of a modifying clause, expresses a kind of semantic relation that corresponds to the kind expressed by prepositions and conjunctions in English. By way of illustration, some of the more common coverbs are described here.

Intransitive sentences with coverbial clauses are one of the few cases of variable word order, as the coverbial clause may be moved to follow the subject.

Lagi fall tzoi into kafto basket murau. cat

“The cat fell into the basket.”

Lagi fall murau cat tzoi into kafto. basket

“The cat fell into the basket.”

Auxiliary verbs

Auxiliary verbs take the position of the head verb in the sentence; the modified verb moves to follow the subject.

Ollan will bai I ataro visit nakyo mother on of bai. I

“I intend to visit my mother.”

Katz stop bai we lorwa talk buho when tzin approach kolba. wolf

“We stopped talking when a wolf came near.”

As has been noted, the majority of the Larua auxiliary verbs are modals, as in English.

However, a few are used to denote certain kinds of aspect relating to the beginning, middle, or end of an action.

Note: The auxiliaries dolmos “may,” ogyas “should,” and argas “must” show an obvious relationship to three non-auxiliary verbs, dolmo “to allow,” ogya “to urge,” and arga “to make, cause.” It seems clear that they were originally formed as compounds of these verbs with si “one, someone,” giving them passive-like senses (“is allowed to,” “is urged to”). This is virtually the only case of such transparent etymologies in the Larua lexicon.

Sentence adverbs

Some adverbs refer not just to the action of the verb but to the quality of the sentence as a whole. Much like the auxiliary verbs, the sentence adverbs very often refer to a situation in time or the speaker’s attitude toward what is said.

Temporal and aspectual sentence adverbs:

about to
a while ago
in a while
at the time, then, (when past) back then
no longer, not anymore

Modal and attitudinal sentence adverbs:

maybe, perhaps, possibly
surely, certainly, definitely
fortunately, happily, “thankfully”
unfortunately, unhappily
hopefully (hoped for)
contrariwise, despite appearances or expectations
miraculously, despite unlikelihood

Sentence adverbs are unusual in that they can be placed in various positions within a sentence, and more than one may be used in the same sentence.

Hayatz maybe rau exist matz rain masan. later

“Maybe it will rain later.”

Din not.exist lagi fall miraya fortunately u. she

“She, fortunately, didn’t fall.”

Lai pfv yun eat u they yausa already bolha. probably

“They’ve probably eaten already.”


Here is a sample lexicon of Larua words.

Sample texts are not yet available.