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Toaq has a system of grammatical animacy.

Any noun phrase belongs to one of nine classes, each with its own word for “he/she/they/it” that refers back to the most recent noun phrase belonging to that class. (This system of anaphoric pronouns is the only place in Toaq where this animacy distinction comes up, so the classes are known varyingly as animacy classes, anaphora classes, or pronominal classes.)

Grammatical, rather than natural animacy

Toaq's animacy being "grammatical" means that it is a property of expressions, not of their referents.

If you know some Spanish, it's like "grammatical gender" in that language. La persona is feminine, even if the person you're talking about isn't necessarily female.

Toaq's pronouns work the same way: if you describe a person as sa sảo (“someone big”), the appropriate pronoun to refer to them later in the sentence is (“itadj.”), because sảo is an adjective. It's not correct to use , because that's the pronoun for animate verbs, not animate referents.

Table of classes

Toaq animacy classes
Nr. Class Pronoun Example Meaning
Verb classes
I Animate verbs sa pỏq a person
II Inanimate verbs máq sa jỉo a building
III Abstract verbs hóq sa sỉo an idea
IV Adjective verbs sa dẻ something pretty
Syntactic classes
V rising-falling tone clauses róu dûa jí sıa rảı that I know nothing
VI lu phrases kúy lú tảo jí hóa what I do
VII po phrases pó sa gỉ a good one's
Odd-one-out classes
VIII Personal pronouns fúy nháo they
IX Demonstratives bóu this
0 Just raı ráı sa rảı something

Note the following distinction:

  • Classes I through IV apply depending on the "main" verb animacy class of a determiner phrase (animate, inanimate, abstract, or unspecified).
  • Classes V through VII apply when the expression has a certain grammatical form.
  • Classes VIII, IX, and 0 apply to specific closed sets of verbs.

Verb animacy classes

Class I – ho

For living beings and their actions.

🧒 🐕 🏊 🗣️
deo kune lıaı kuq
child dog swims says

Class II – maq

For inanimate tangible things.

🥝 ⛰️ 📦 🔥
zeo meı tıaı loe
fruit mountain box flame

Class III – hoq

For abstract (intangible) concepts.

🌃 🔠 ☯️ 🚭
nuaq laı chuaq juao
night letter ideology rule

Class IV – ta

For words that could apply to many things.

💨 🌈
suaı de loq reo
fast beautiful warm colorful
Lynn’s animacy poster,
outlining the main verb animacy classes.
See image version.

Every Toaq verb belongs to some verb animacy class:

  • If the verb necessarily implies animacy/sentience of its subject, it's in class I ().
    Examples: poq, naq, kato, che, be, deo, mıe, koı, moı, tao, fıeq, jaı…
  • If the verb describes some other tangible object, it's in class II (máq).
    Examples: cea, kıoq, haq, toq, nao, hoe…
  • If the verb describe an abstract concept or idea, it's in class III (hóq).
    Examples: noı, daq, dao, sıo, muı, zu…
  • Other verbs are in class IV ().
    Examples: doq, nuı, juı, lıo, muo, raq, daı, de…

Class 0 consists of just the verb raı. This is so that we can use raı as a dummy verb whose only role is to bind ráı for later use, e.g.,

Sa rảı bı, dủa jí bû bỏ jí ráı da.
There are some things I know I don’t own.

Which is the "main" class?

How do we determine the animacy class of a DP like sa dẻ pỏq — a serial of a class-IV and a class-I word?

An unofficially proposed rule seems to boil down to: "use the first non-class-IV word's class, if possible; otherwise use class IV".[1]


  1. Seoqrea’s formulation

    I've been thinking about how to determine the animacy class of serials. To me, both of Hỏemaı's original suggestions for how to do this lead to unexpected results, such as pủ zảı being class III if you just use the head's animacy, and chủa lỉq being class I if you take the most animate serial component. So, I've come up with the following system that I think works rather intuitively, using the concept of 'animacy strength', similar to the concept of 'class strength' first described here:

    The basis rule is that the the highest predicate determines the type of the whole phrase and therefore its adverbial behavior. With some predicates (call them weak predicates), it is more useful to say that the highest *strong* predicate determines the type. All non-Main Class predicates are strong. Some Main Class predicates are weak, such as, e.g. “jaq”. For example, if “lẽ” (“le” being a Modal) attaches high, then so would “jãq le”. It would be less useful if it had to attach low.
    • If the serial head is strong, use its animacy class.
    • Otherwise, use the animacy class of the tail.

    Then, by assigning words the appropriate animacy strengths, you can put e.g. tảq tủa sỉq in class I, dẻ rủa in class II, chủa lỉq in class III, etc. Generally, all verbs not in the main class would be weak, and all verbs of animacy class IV would be weak, while most other verbs would be strong.