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Dependent clauses

XXX Write a short introduction.

Relative clauses

Relative clauses (also called adjectival clauses) follow the noun to which they refer (WALS 90; APiCS 7). They are introduced using the generic relative pronoun ke ‘that, who, which, whom’. If the head noun appears as subject or object of the relative clause, this pronoun is put at the start of the clause, while the other elements follow in their usual order.

If the head noun is the object of the relative clause, the object marker o can be placed before the ke to indicate this. However, like in most other positions, the use of this marker is optional – usually there is little risk of confusion, in which case it is usually omitted. In this document, we place the marker in parentheses in such cases, indicating that it may or may not be used.

ona ke ga mai mis [bike] – the woman who will buy my bike (the woman is the subject)
banana (o) ke mi li kula – the banana that I ate (the banana is the object)

This is also known as “gap strategy” since, if the noun is the object of the relative clause, there is a “gap” in the position where the object would normally be placed (after the verb) – in other words, this position is left unfilled.

XXX Explain details and give examples. Explain that other prepositions are likewise placed before ke. Deal with ‘whose’ as subject and object.

In English and some other languages, there are relative clauses without an explicit noun phrase or pronoun to which they refer (called “free” or “fused” relative clauses). This is usually not the case in Lugamun. So, if translating such expressions into Lugamun, don’t forget to add a suitable pronoun (such as ta ‘that’, yan '(the) one’, it ‘it’, or ya ‘he, she’).

Mi [like] ta (o) ke (mi) miru. – I like what I see.
Ta (o) ke ya li fa, li (xi) ingi [irresponsible]. – What he did was very irresponsible.
Mi xi yan ke li fa it. – I’m the one who did it.
Ya bisa dansa gen yan (o) ke (ya) yau. – She can dance with whom she wants.

However, when ke is followed by a noun which qualifies it further (such as ke ples ‘where’ or ke tem ‘when’), the clause can be used stand-alone without needing an explicit antecedent to which it refers (see Referring to times and places in dependent clauses below for examples). In such cases, the noun itself can be considered an implicit antecedent – ke tem ‘when’ could also be expressed as tem ke ‘the time that’.

Subordinate clauses

Subordinate clauses are typically introduced by a type of conjunction called subordinator (or subordinating conjunction). Subordinators are always placed at the beginning of the subordinate clause (WALS 94). The object marker o is usually omitted before subordinators.


In Lugamun, the most frequent and general subordinator is to ‘that’. Note that while English ‘that’ can often be omitted, this is not the case with to.

The most common case is that the subordinate clause is the object of the main clause.

Mi opin to ya (xi) inda. – I think (that) he/she is beautiful.
Mi jixi to jen ga lai. – I know (that) a person will come.

Generally subordinate clauses are assumed to share the same tense as the main clause, therefore there is no need to use tense markers if this is the case.

Nas li jixi to le bisa fa it. – We knew that they could do it.

Markers are only needed when the subordinate clause takes place at another time and the content of the clause is otherwise insufficient to express this.

Mi li fikir to ya (ga) xi si ples pre si tem. – I thought that he/she would be here by now.

In this case, ga may be used because, relative to the main clause (which refers to the past), the subordinate clause refers to this future. However, it’s also fine to omit it, because si tem ‘now’ already expresses this fact.

To clauses can also be used as subject of the main clause:

To yo [student] jixi tan malo, li [shock] mi. – That the students knew so little shocked me.

Or as complements of a noun:

[Fact] to Bumi [revolve] ni seronde Sol, ba debe bi jixi a kada [student]. – The fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun should be known to every student.

Another possibility is that the word order of the main clause is changed by fronting an element. If a to clause (or any other subordinate clause) used as object is moved to the front, it must be preceded by the object marker o to be recognizable as object.

O to jen ga lai, mi jixi. – That a person will come, I know it. / I know that a person will come.

Note: In English, ‘that’ clauses used as object are rarely fronted in such a way, but it’s fine to do so in Lugamun.

Note that in these and similar cases, the nested clause is typically terminated by a comma (when writing) or by a short pause (when speaking) to indicate where it ends and the main clause begins (or continues). This helps to clarify the sentence structure.

When the subject is a to clause, it may also be moved to the end of the clause by using the construction ta ke .. xi – ‘that which … is’. This can be translated into English by using ‘it’ as dummy subject at the start of the sentence.

Ta ke li [shock] mi, xi to yo [student] jixi tan malo. – It shocked me that the students knew so little. / What shocked me was that the students knew so little.

While such sentences with a dummy ‘it’ are very common in English, in Lugamun it’s fine to stick with the typical SVO order instead. So, while you can front the verb if you really prefer it, in Lugamun the most natural solution may be to start with the to clause:

To yo [student] jixi tan malo, li [shock] mi. – It shocked me that the students knew so little.

Reported speech

To is also used for reported speech. In contrast to English, verb forms never change when a clause is changed from direct to reported speech. Pronouns, however, may need to be adjusted.

Ya li xvo: “Sol bria.” – He/She said: “The sun is shining.”
Ya li xvo to sol bria. – He/She said that the sun was shining.

Ben li xvo: “Mi no ga fa [job].” – Ben said: “I will not do the job.”
Ben li xvo to ya no ga fa [job]. – Ben said that he would not do the job.


XXX List other subordinators such as se ‘if’ and explain their usage. Likely move the existing section here, since it’s probably better to do so here than in the chapter on conjunctions?

XXX Explain that the optional ‘then’ in ‘if – then’ pairs is generally left untranslated (‘If the door is locked, (then) we need the key.’). Compare similar sentences with ‘since’ where no such word is used in English either (‘Since the door is locked, we need the key.’).

XXX Explain that, except for to clauses, most subordinate clauses may also be used like adverbs (as adverbial clauses, e.g. ‘She met him when she was in Berlin’). Adverbial clauses express when, why, where, opposition, and conditions.

Referring to times and places in dependent clauses

XXX Probably group ke tem and ke ples together with the other conjunctions introducing subordinate clauses, explaining each one in turn.

When referring to the time when something takes place, ke tem ‘when’ is used in dependent clauses.

Mi li sai maxa [along the street], ke tem [suddenly] (li) kaixu ren. – I was walking along the street when suddenly it began to rain.

Den ke tem [wall] li [come down/collapse]. – The day when the wall came down.

Ke tem is also used in questions (when asking about a time).

When the nested clause is relative – explicitly referring back to a period of time mentioned in the main clause – it’s possible to reduce ke tem to just ke, since the context makes it clear that one is referring to a time.

Den ke [wall] li [come down/collapse]. – The day the wall came down.

As usual, subordinate clauses (but not relative clauses) can be placed before the main clause.

Ke tem li kaixu ren, mi (li) sai maxa [along the street]. – When it began to rain I was walking along the street.

XXX Document ke ples, which works the same way.

en/grammar/dependent_clauses.txt · Last modified: 2022-12-02 10:54 by christian

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