New Glyph Style

A while back I formatted the dictionary with a simpler glyph style. I thought it would be helpful to use a very basic style for the dictionary. You saw it was very blocky.

I’m trading it in for a more stylized format. After all, there’s no sense in being boring.

The beautiful thing is, it’s now actually easier.

Here’s how it looks.

p145964798915114.jpg  p145960441496276.jpg  p145964802529682.jpg  p145964785182321.jpg

Guess what this says.



Audio Samples Are Here!

Thank you Audiomack! Now I can add audio samples to Umu. It’s easy and free. I can do it from my phone 🙂

They’re in the posts already but here they are if you’d like to hear my first two.

I also added an ‘Audio’ tag to find them easily.



Kuru tato nnihaza nnu nezumora naj.
kuru tato nöni haza nönu nezu mora najö
riverhead GEN/river thing here from speak.of mountain here
The headwaters of these rivers are in the mountains spoken about.


Something new I tired reminiscent of Chinese. Nouns are incorporated by verbs, proposition, etc. Nothing intentionally grammatical. More so grouped by utterance.

In the Woods | Nanzimu

In this lesson you will learn about
• Agents, objects and subjects
• The cases
• Is and are

Umu is an inflected language. That means the vowels in a word will change depending on the way the word is being used in the sentence.

Agents & Objects

Kanzimu ‘ej.
kanö zimu ‘ej
watch forest ERG/horse.
The horse watches the wood.

Here the nurse is doing the watching. The wood is being watched. The horse is the agent or ‘doer’. The wood is on the receiving end and is the object or ‘done to’. Umu makes this clear by using different vowels for agents and objects.

Kanzimo ‘aj.
kanö zimo ‘aj.
watch ERG/forest horse
The wood watches the horse.

Now zimu has become zimo. And ‘ej has become ‘aj. This makes zimo the agent and ‘aj the object. English word order is more restrictive because we recognize the agent by its position’s in the sentence. Umu’s word order is more flexible.


In Umu a subject is the core argument of an intensive verb. These are sentences with a ‘doer’ but no ‘done to’. Like these.

She walks.
The boy falls.
Dad is sleeping.

English is different. In English every sentence has a subject.

There are a few words in English which change their form according to whether they are subjects or objects. These are pronouns, words that replace nouns. Complete the table with the missing subject and object forms.


In English, subjects and agents are the same. They use the same form. Objects use a different form. This is called nominative/accusative alignment.

I move.
I move him.
He moves.

In Umu, subjects and objects use the same form. Agents use a different form. This is called ergative/absolutive alignment.

Two sentences below are wrong in English but would be right in Umu.

Me move.
I move him.
Him moves.

The agent ‘I’ uses a different form. Objects and subjects use the same form. This is the opposite of English.

English does this only with pronouns. But Umu does this with every single noun and pronouns too. Also, sometimes Umu acts the same as English depending on tense. This is explained in later lessons.

Tira nanzimu Jan. Tira’aj wak Jan. Lapiza mna Jen tan wej. Tika Jan wa kwi ‘aj. Mnamjizimu ‘ej. Kanzimu ‘ej. Kanwaj zimo. Medu ‘aj.

tira nanö zimu Janö. tira ‘ajö ‘akö Janö. höna piza höra Jenö tanö ‘ejö. tika Janö ‘ö’a kö’i ‘ajö. höra möji zimu ‘ejö. kanö zimo ‘ ejö. kanö ‘ejö zimo. medu ‘ajö.

walk in forest Jan. walk horse with Jan. carry bag not ERG/Jan but ERG/horse. tired Jan and slow horse. not like forest ERG/horse. watch forest ERG/horse. watch horse ERG/forest. afraid horse.

Guess it’s an old horse.


Case is the name given to the different kinds of word forms.

Absolutive Case: subject, object
zimu, ‘aj
Ergative Case: agent
zimo, ‘ej

Is & Are

There is no verb to be in Umu. To say something is something, start with the comment and follow with the topic. The ergative case is not used because nothing is really being done, it’s just being described. So any ‘agent’ will be in the absolutive case.

Nut Jan.
nutö janö

Monk Jan
Jan is a monk.


Kannut Jen.
kanö nutö jenö

watch monk ERG/Jan
Jan watches the monk.



nimi ‘öpu jime. 
cloud watch GEN/full.moon
The full moon watches a cloud.
cloud observation GEN/hope
Hope clouds observation.

New Entries

• full moon
• to hope
• to expect
• to visit
• to gaze (into the distance)
• to look towards
• towards

• cloud
• to obscure
• to confuse
• to mix up
• to blur
• to mislead


• to observe
• to watch
• to survey
• to examine
• observation
• view
• perspective

What Are They Called?

‘Opa haviwme.
‘opa havi ‘öme

hello grandfather GEN/1
Hello, my grandfather.

‘Opa tujöme.
‘opa tujö ‘öme.

hello grandson GEN/1
Hello, my grandson.

Zaj hwa’umuwme. Pawlmiwma.
zajö hö’a ‘umu ‘öme. pa’ö hömi ‘öma.

PROG learn Umu GEN/1. run for 1
I’m learning Umu. You help me

Da. Zaj pawlmiwtiwme.
töta, zajö pa’ö hömi ‘öti ‘ome.

alright, PROG run for 2 GEN/1
Alright, I (will) help you.

image image image image image image image image image
Jonazuk nnihaza? ‘Ul ijá nnihaza?
jona zukö nöni haza? ‘urö jöja nöni haza?

how as.such small.thing here? name what small.thing here?
How about this? What is this called?

image imageimage image
Hini ‘ul nnihaza.
hini ‘urö nöni haza.

car name small.thing here.
This is called a car.

image image image image image
Jonazuk irömvna?
jona zukö jörö ‘ömö vöna?

how as.such body PL there?
What about those?

image image image image
‘Aj’ul irövna.
‘ajö ‘urö jörö vöna

horse name body there.
Those are called horses.

image image image image image
Jonazuk irömhaza?
jona zukö jörö ‘ömö haza?

how as.such body PL here?
What about these?

‘a’a jörö haza.

cat body here.
These are cats.

‘Ul ijá munövna?
‘urö jöja munö vöna?

name what person there?
What is that man called

‘Ul Kij munövna.
‘urö Kijö munö vöna

name Kij person there.
That man is called Kij.

Kij, ‘ul ijá mariwti?
Kijö, ‘urö jöja mari ‘öti?

Kij, name what mother GEN/2?
Kij, what is your mother’s name?

‘Ul Pal mariwme.
‘urö Parö mari ‘öme.

name Pal mother GEN/1.
My mother is called Bal.

Aspect, Ergativity & Possession (Redundant)

I re-watched Jessica Coon’s presentation entitled Rethinking Aspectually Based Split Ergativity. It inspired some changes for Umu.

I learned that Mayan languages have two person-marking morpheme sets, traditionally labeled ‘Set A’ and ‘Set B’. Set A is used for ergatives and possessives—which are syncretic. Set B is used for absolutives.

I made Umu with vowel harmony. All words have two variations, based on their vowels. Words switch from one form to the other. Until now, I used this vowel shift to signal possession. But lets Mayan it up a bit.


Vowel Harmony
Light vowels: a, o
Dark vowels: e, u
Neutral vowels: i, ö

By default, Umu words end in a, u, i and ö. The vowels i and ö are neutral. They don’t change and can be in either light words or dark words.

  • Words ending in a can only contain a, o, and i and ö.
  • Words ending in u can only contain e, u, and i and ö.
  • By default, words ending in i and ö can only contain an a or a u—but not both—and other neutral vowels.

All of this applies to a word’s default form. When a word undergoes vowel-shift:

  • The final a becomes e and any o becomes u.
  • The final u becomes o and any e becomes a.
  • Neutral vowels stay the same.

Basically light words become dark words and versa vice. It’s nothing new. I did it to squeeze more than four vowels into the language but didn’t really know how to use this feature. In the end, I settled for possession.


iv (jövö)




iv (still jövö)

The examples above cover all the bases. As you can see, words with only neural vowels don’t change at all expert in writing. And that’s were we left off. Continue reading “Aspect, Ergativity & Possession (Redundant)”

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